Pass catchers, wide receivers and tight ends, can provide an immediate counterbalance in a fantasy matchup. When Julio Jones went for 12 catches, 253 receiving yards, and two touchdowns for a combined 50.8 fantasy points (PPR), he cosmically shifted the balance of any matchup.
They can be your quarterback’s go-to guy like an Antonio Brown or Rob Gronkowski and give your opponent a matchup nightmare. Alternatively, they can be a dud when you need them the most. Shout out to Odell Beckham Jr. for getting suspended in 2015 for the fantasy football championships after his scuffle with then Carolina Panther Josh Norman.
With potentially new quarterbacks throwing them the ball or fellow pass catchers joining them, the NFL draft can lead to some of the biggest moments in the NFL season.
Which wide receivers stock went up or down?
Post draft stock report: UP
Since his first season in 2004, Larry Fitzgerald has led all pass catchers in fantasy points (PPR) by 593 over the next closest player while averaging 16.6 points per game. Over a 14-year career the level and the consistency at which he plays is truly incredible. Not to mention the quarterback situation he has dealt with pales in comparison to the talent of other top wide receivers in the history of the game.
Aside from Kurt Warner from 2005-2009 and Carson Palmer – kind of – from 2013-2017, including two seasons where he played seven or fewer games, Fitzgerald dealt with 10 quarterbacks outside of those eight years with Warner and Palmer.
With a revitalized offense that sees the return of premier running back David Johnson and the drafting of a skilled wide receiver, Christian Kirk, I see the field opening up a lot more and with less focus on Fitzgerald compared to 2017.
Although I think Josh Rosen should and will be playing sooner rather than later, Sam Bradford could be the third best quarterback under center in the Larry Fitzgerald-era. He’s got the arm and talent to be successful on the Cardinals, much like Warner and Palmer had, which in turn led to some of Fitzgerald’s most productive seasons.
Fitzgerald has proven he’s quarterback and matchup proof, but his tender age of 34 is somewhat of a concern. I see him more as a high-end WR2 or a low-end WR1 despite his year-to-year consistency.
Coming off an ACL injury in Week 1 of the 2017 season, Allen Robinson will be catching passes in a new jersey now. After playing four seasons as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Robinson will now be representing the Windy City for the Chicago Bears.
Despite dealing with Blake Bortles, a below-average NFL quarterback under center, Robinson produced at a promising level with 201 catches, 2831 yards, and 22 touchdowns in his three healthy seasons, including an 80 catch, 1400 yard, 14 TD season in 2015.
From one former top-3 pick in Bortles to another top-3 pick in Chicago Bears’ QB, Mitch Trubisky, Robinson really has a chance to flourish in this potentially potent offense.
Under new head coach Matt Nagy, who was very successful in Kansas City when given the opportunity to call the offense, the combination of Trubisky under center, Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in the backfield and Allen Robinson with Anthony Miller (Bears second-round pick wide receiver) lining up on the outside could lead to a big year for fantasy owners.
Given what I believe to be a significantly better situation than where he was in Jacksonville, Robinson has WR1 potential but coming off a serious ACL injury he should be treated as a WR2.
After a nearly four-year hiatus from the NFL due to suspension, Josh Gordon returned for what fantasy owners hoped would be the hidden gem to bring home a championship.
Gordon returned for the final five games of the season and, despite a train wreck situation at quarterback, he still averaged 11.5 points per game (PPR), which ranked in the top-40 amongst pass catchers.
With a new face throwing the ball in veteran Tyrod Taylor – I don’t think Baker Mayfield plays much if at all in 2018 – as well as an upgraded supporting cast that now includes Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb, this offense should be a lot more explosive and efficient, something they were missing under rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer’s disposal last season.
Although there are a lot of mouths to feed on this offense now, and the potential for a more run-heavy approach, I think this helps Gordon more than hurts him.
There’s no denying his supreme talent and, with more proven talent around the offense, defenses won’t be able to key in on him or the passing game which should allow for more one-on-one coverage – where he has the ability to beat any corner in the league.
Similar to Allen Robinson, Gordon should be treated as a WR2 with WR1 ceiling, and in Gordon’s case, he has overall No. 1 receiver potential.
Honorable Mention: Devin Funchess
Post draft stock report: Down
After a very impressive rookie year, Evan Engram won’t be a “diamond in the rough” anymore, as he will be highly sought after this year with a revamped New York Giants offense.
Engram was in elite company last year as he finished fifth and fourth in fantasy points (PPR) (173.6) and points per game (11.57) amongst tight ends respectively.
Engram is already in the conversation with some of the elite talents at the position in the NFL despite having just entered the league. While Engram’s production in 2017 was a bright spot on a team that was 3-13 and without many of its top players.
With the return of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and the drafting of Penn State running back Saquon Barkley to go with Engram, I see the second-year tight end struggling to put up similar numbers with the number of premier players on the field.
After Week 5, when OBJ went down with a season-ending broken ankle, Engram saw a noticeable increase in his production (1 TD in weeks 1-5, 5 TD from weeks 6-16) as the targets started to pile in at a higher clip (6.8 targets per game in weeks 1-5, 8.1 from weeks 6-16).
With Barkley eating into the check down targets and OBJ and Shepard taking the intermediate routes, it’s going to be harder to trust on a week-to-week basis.
Entering his eighth year in the league, Demaryius Thomas is coming off a very underwhelming campaign with him finishing with the lowest catch total, yardage total, and touchdown totals since 2011.
All the blame cant be on the poor quarterback play, though it was a factor, as Thomas was tied for second in the league with seven drops on the season.
The good thing for Thomas is that he’s got improved quarterback play with the addition of Case Keenum, but he also has two skilled wide receivers in DaeSean Hamilton and Cortland Sutton waiting in the wings to show what they can do.
I’m not the biggest fan of Case Keenum where I think he can really elevate Thomas to the high points in his career, but he’s better than what he had before.
I also think both the rookies are talented enough to warrant playing time at some point in the season if not right out of the gate. Thomas can provide a steady production, 8-12, if he can get some chemistry with Keenum, but shouldn’t be relied on for big production of 15-plus points on a consistent basis.
He should be looked at as a low-end WR2 with high-end WR2 upside if he and Keenum click.