News & Analysis

Wide receivers to target in best-ball leagues

By Dan Schneier
May 24, 2018

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Nov 19, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) is introduced before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Season-long fantasy football mock drafts have resurfaced, but these way-too-early drafts no longer have to be for fun. The emergence of best-ball fantasy football leagues has changed the game. Now, fantasy football enthusiasts get a chance to be rewarded for the most important day of their season-long fantasy football season — the draft. Best-ball leagues feature the skill of fantasy football players on draft day. Earlier this week, we broke down our running back targets in best-ball drafts. Today, we’re breaking down the wide receivers you should target in particular for best-ball. For a further breakdown on general best-ball strategies, Tyler Loechner has you covered.

Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Blake Bortles bias has spilled over into Lee’s ADP, which is 132 overall on Draft and 102 on MFL. While Lee’s projected volume makes him a better bet for MFL, he is one of the best values on the board in both formats relative to his ADP. Bortles and Lee developed a rapport in 2017. Lee finished with the 21st-most targets per route run (91 targets on just 421 snaps in route). If Lee can continue his recent upward trajectory of staying on the field for more snaps, he offers WR2 upside with the ability to take another leap forward based on his talent, age, and chemistry with his quarterback. You can get him outside of the top 100 picks.

Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco 49ers

Goodwin is flying under the radar despite emerging as a target hog during the Jimmy Garoppolo stretch run. The 49ers have added talented options at the skill positions, but Goodwin’s rapport with Garoppolo and his volume on both deep targets and overall targets per route run help him stand out as a value at an ADP or 64 (overall) on Draft and 75 on MFL. We like him more on MFL where you get rewarded for volume (full-point PPR). Goodwin finished in the top-25 in yards per route run and the 17th-most deep targets (passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air). If the 49ers offense takes the step forward many are projecting, Goodwin could end up as this year’s Robert Woods.

Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions

Jones and teammate Golden Tate are coming off the board very close together in best ball Drafts, but Jones offers the highest upside entering his third season with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Jones saw just the 59th-most targets per route run, but he still finished in the top-20 among wide receivers in yards per route run and total targets. More importantly, on deep passes, Jones finished with the sixth-most targets, the third-most yards, and third-most touchdowns. This makes Jones the perfect target in best-ball leagues, where the weeks he is less involved in the offense won’t hurt you nearly as much. Jones doesn’t come as much of a bargain, but he’s a great player to target at his ADP of 52 on Draft and 56 on MFL.

Martavis Bryant, Oakland Raiders

Early best-ball drafters have been hands-off Bryant after a disastrous 2017 season and his trade to an Oakland Raiders team that already has Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper at wide receiver. However, the Raiders brought Bryant in with a clear objective in mind and that is to make big plays down the field and provide the deep speed to fit quarterback Derek Carr’s ability to flick the ball down the field. The Raiders didn’t have a big-play threat like Bryant in 2017, and although he didn’t play a major role in the Steelers offense, Bryant was still a big-play threat. On deep passes, he finished with the 15th-most targets, 16th-most yards, and 14th-most touchdowns. At an ADP of 125 and 123 on Draft and MFL, respectively, his blow-up weeks will make him well worth the modest investment.

Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins

Stills signed a long-term contract with the Dolphins and he was their most efficient big-play threat in 2017, but he is being drafted in best-ball leagues like he’s not the offenses’ No. 1 deep target. Managers in MFL leagues are a little more aware of Stills’ upside, as he comes off the board 33 picks earlier (ADP of 107 vs. 140). On deep passes, Stills finishes with the fifth-most targets, ninth-most yards, and fifth-most touchdowns, but he’s not just a deep threat. Stills also finished with the 23rd-most total targets among all wide receivers. In Draft leagues, you can reach multiple rounds ahead of his ADP to secure him and you still won’t be overpaying.

Paul Richardson, Washington Redskins

Jamison Crowder is expected to take the reins as the king of targets in Washington, but with new quarterback Alex Smith entering the fray, we would prefer to bet on the receiver the Redskins just handed a lucrative multi-year contract. Richardson has flashed throughout the first four years of his career with the Seahawks, but injuries and a lack of volume have capped his ceiling. In Washington, he has the opportunity to make an impact similar to Robert Woods if Derrius Guice proves to be the missing piece that can take the Redskins offense to the next level. Both Richardson and Woods are similar players who win in similar ways.

Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders

Cooper is starting to gain steam as a best-ball target following an offseason of overwhelmingly positive coach speak from Jon Gruden, who has even suggested the offense will run through the fourth-year receiver. Gruden also compared him to Tim Brown. Cooper has been wildly inefficient in the red zone (and for the most part, overall) as a fantasy entity up until this point in his career, but there is reason to believe in Gruden’s scheme, and if Cooper can emerge as the passing game’s focal point, he will be an excellent return on his ADP of 49 on Draft and 39 on MFL. This is one you might have to move fast on, however, as his ADP continues to rise.

Rishard Matthews, Tennessee Titans

While it’s more fun to bet on Corey Davis, PFF’s sixth-best player on their entire 2017 NFL Draft board, Matthews is the wiser investment in best-ball leagues. For starters, and most importantly, it’s too early to know what role the Titans wide receivers will fit into new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur’s scheme. What we do know is that LaFleur comes from the Gruden-McVay offensive coaching tree and he could look to mimic the Titans offense to the Rams offense from 2017. In addition to the role uncertainty, Matthews has developed a better rapport with quarterback Marcus Mariota and he has worked with him longer. Davis is coming off the board at an ADP of 89 and 74 on Draft and MFL, respectively, while you can grab Matthews at an ADP of 139 and 125, respectively.

Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs

Early best-ball drafters have exercised caution on Watkins after the list of managers who have been burned by Watkins’ upside has grown in consecutive seasons. However, the Chiefs signed him to a massive contract because they believe his big-play skill set fits perfectly with the big-play arm of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Watkins has always been one of the most efficient deep wide receivers in the NFL, and when you pair him with one of the most exciting arm talents in the NFL, you have a floor — random breakout weeks that fit the best-ball format — and a ceiling — becoming Mahomes’ No. 1 option in the passing game. Watkins has an ADP of 84 on Draft and 63 on MFL.

Tre’Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints

If you’re looking for a dart throw at the very end of your best-ball drafts, look no further than the Saints’ rookie third-round pick. Smith averaged 16.4 yards per catch at UCF in 2017 and he consistently won down the field on deep passes. Smith finished with second-most deep pass yards, the third-most deep pass receptions, and the second-best deep catch percentage in the entire Draft class. At 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, Smith ran a 4.49 40-yard dash with explosive numbers in the vertical (37.5-inch) and broad (130-inch) jumps. You can do a lot worse than snagging a big play-threat with a proven track record in a Drew Brees offense with the last pick of your draft. Smith has an ADP of WR117 overall.

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