Wide receiver is probably the position where you can gain the most on the field during a draft. Analyzing things like new scenery, strength of schedule, and overall market share is typically more important to WR’s than most other positions on the field. There are a bunch of fliers that will be viable plays each week that may not even be in the top 50 of big boards. Let’s try to identify spots that will be of value during the draft season.
The top of the board is littered with names that most people know, so identifying value will have to come with finding a situation that may be underrated. Doug Baldwin is the guy at the top that I think could jump to being even a top 5 option by years end. The Seahawks lose a significant part of their TD receptions in Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson, which should open up Baldwin to seeing even more red zone targets than he already did. Baldwin also should benefit from things that are completely out of his control. The Seahawks defense doesn’t seem like it should be very good anymore and the division is getting much better. The Rams and the 49ers figure to be two of the league’s most potent offenses. The schedule the Seahawks have this year should force them to be in higher scoring matchups and trailing more than they have in recent memory. This is all a perfect storm for Doug Baldwin’s production and it’s why I like him to be a top 8 WR this year, if not better.
Chris Hogan seems to be disrespected on draft boards. Before being hurt last year, he was the WR 8 or better based on most fantasy football scoring through 7 weeks. Hogan has the chemistry with Tom Brady to score multiple touchdowns in a game and also is reliable to see targets each and every week. The situation for Hogan has only gotten better. Danny Amendola is gone, so the touchdown numbers should only increase. Julian Edelman is out for 4 weeks, which gives Hogan a solid potential at a great early start. Sony Michel going out even helps Hogan because it probably takes Rex Burkhead out of the passing game a little bit more before Edelman comes back. Burkhead can play as a slot receiver, but the Michel injury probably forces the Pats to use Burkhead out of the backfield more, opening up even more opportunities for Hogan.
Marquise Goodwin has the opportunity to explode this season if he has improved his hands. Goodwin gets a great situational upgrade with full-time Jimmy G at the helm and Shanahan calling plays. Goodwin has the athletic ability to burn anyone in the league and break an 80-yard catch at any time. Generally, with Goodwin, that ability comes with the risk of a 0 or at least a low catch rate. Once Jimmy G showed up in San Fran, Goodwin seemed like he felt a little more comfortable running some routes as a possession receiver. If Goodwin can increase his floor with better QB play, the upside will always be there.
Dede Westbrook has the potential to explode this year. He is impressing in camp, an elite athlete, and capable of making a lot of plays on a football field. The context around Westbrook also allows me to see an upside. By the end of the year, it is very viable that Westbrook is the WR1 on a playoff caliber team. Would you take that at WR66? I think I would. I also think the Jaguars defense will be tested more and that the Jags will need to pass more than they did last year. If that is the case, Dede can become a top 30 WR this season.
John Ross is probably the deepest flier I can recommend. You should be able to get him super late in drafts, and he does have the athletic potential to pop. Ross set a combine record 2 years ago in the 40-yard dash and he has the ability to pop at any given time. Ross struggled to get onto the field last year, but if he flashes his potential. He may see the benefits of lining up against a weaker corner because of the attention that A.J. Green draws. Ross has the opportunity to become a WR 2 this season with big-play upside.