Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule: Wide Receivers
Now that we’ve gone through the quarterbacks and running backs, it’s time to dive into the most important position when it comes to strength of schedule, wide receiver. While most people will overvalue strength of schedule, something can be said for top-tier wide receivers.
I’ll be focusing on top-tier wide receivers in this article, the alpha-dogs, the clear-cut No. 1 receivers on their team, because they are the one’s who’ll be affected the most. They are the ones who will see the shutdown cornerbacks. In this study, we’re going to focus on teams that have a shutdown cornerback, or at the very least, a defense that severely limits opposing wide receivers. The teams included will be the Cardinals, Falcons, Broncos, Jaguars, Chargers, Vikings, Patriots, Giants, Seahawks, and Redskins.
As we have with the other positons, we’re focusing on Weeks 1-16, as most fantasy championships take place in Week 16. Hint: If your league is playing in Week 17, you’re doing it wrong. When you’re on the clock in the second-round of your draft trying to decide between two wide receivers, this article may help you decide.
Kevin White (WR – CHI)
There are some already writing White off as a bust, despite the fact that they’ve only seen him catch 19 passes in his short NFL career. This is, however, his make-or-break year because he’ll be relied upon as the No. 1 pass catcher in the Bears offense. Even better than the targets he’ll get is his schedule, where the only shutdown teams he’ll play are the Falcons in Week 1 and then the Vikings in Week 5. If we’re being honest, the Falcons were likely the weakest of the teams I placed in the conversation, though they are getting Desmond Trufant back. If something holds White back, it won’t be because his schedule was tough.
Stefon Diggs (WR – MIN)
When going through projections, it was hard not to put down at least 130 targets in 2017, as he saw 112 in just 13 games last year. Keep in mind that he was hobbled (on the injury report) throughout about half of those games. Not just that, but Diggs started playing the slot a lot more once Pat Shurmer took over as offensive coordinator. This helps him avoid top-tier cornerbacks, but there weren’t many matchups for him on the schedule to begin with. He’ll play the Falcons who don’t send Desmond Trufant to the slot, and the Redskins who don’t have Josh Norman go into the slot. Don’t sleep on Diggs after injuries limited his impact in 2016, even though he did finish as the No. 14 in PPR points per game.
Julio Jones (WR – ATL)
Not that he needs it, but Jones has one of the best schedules among wide receivers in 2017. There are three matchups to circle on calendars and none of them come in the fantasy playoffs. As a matter of fact, he plays the Saints twice in the fantasy playoffs, a team that he’s destroyed over the last three years. In the five games that he played and finished, Jones totaled 36 catches for 561 yards and a touchdown. His season should get off to a really big start when he plays the Bears, Packers, Lions, and Bills.
Dez Bryant (WR – DAL)
If there was a way to put Bryant in all three of the worst schedule slots, I would. His schedule is brutal, especially for a guy who doesn’t have a solid No. 2 on the other side of the field, which means there is no doubt about who’ll be covering Bryant. Of his 15 games from Week 1-16, Bryant will play nine of them against the teams on my list, including the Giants in Week 14 and Seahawks in Week 16. If you don’t recall how last year against the Giants went, Bryant totaled just two catches for 18 scoreless yards on 14 targets. He went up against Richard Sherman in 2015 and totaled just two catches for 12 yards. I don’t think Bryant is washed up like some, but his schedule may make him look like it.
Alshon Jeffery (WR – PHI)
You may be asking yourself how Jeffery is going to fare in Philadelphia with a new quarterback throwing him the ball, as well as whether or not he’ll actually be able to remain healthy. Those are legitimate questions, but now we get to add another question mark – his schedule. He’ll open the season playing against the Redskins where he’ll see Josh Norman, then the Giants in Week 3, Chargers in Week 4, Cardinals in Week 5, and then back to the Redskins in Week 7. All in all, he’ll play eight games against teams on my list, including one against the Giants in Week 15, semi-finals week. With all of these tough matchups and questions surrounding Jeffery, you’re better off letting someone else draft him.
Terrelle Pryor (WR – WAS)
Let me start this by saying that Pryor is not going to win you a fantasy championship this year. Write it down, get it tattooed, do something to remember that. Not to say he can’t help you get there, but you do not want him on your team after Week 8. His season starts out fairly strong with matchups against the Eagles and Rams, but there’s not much else to like about the remainder of his slate. Starting in Week 9, he’ll play six of his next eight games against top-tier pass defenses. Included in that, he has the absolute worst playoff schedule among No. 1 wide receivers, as he’ll see the Chargers, Cardinals, and Broncos in those weeks.