Third-Year Wide Receivers (Fantasy Football)
Wide receivers who are going into their third NFL season are often heavily criticized. Fans, analysts, and experts of the game consider the third season to be a “make or break” year. I guess it’s fair to say that in the rookie season (depending on the situation) a player may not be on the field enough to show all of their potential. Year two could turn out to be what most would excuse as the infamous “sophomore slump.” So by year three, their production (or lack of production) on the field should uncover the truth of that wide receiver’s value.
I have listed some of the most relevant third-year WRs for the 2017 season. I will give you my perspective on whether I consider them to be a “value,” someone that will give you a return on investment or a “reach,” a player you will likely overpay for at their current ADP.
Amari Cooper (OAK) – Value
As mentioned in my article about Amari Cooper back before the 2016 season began, he became the first Oakland Raiders’ wide receiver to reach 1,000 receiving yards his rookie year in 2015. Michael Crabtree does have more targets and receptions in each of the last two seasons but Cooper has more yards, showing he can produce more with less opportunity. Cooper’s touchdowns can only rise from his six in 2015 and five in 2016. Derek Carr continues to praise Cooper and will certainly look to cash in on his developed chemistry with him in what will be the third season for both players. For a young wide receiver who has given us enough to show he is on the rise, Amari Cooper is a safe bet as the number 10 WR off the board in the very end of the second round.
Stefon Diggs (MIN) – Value
Stefon Diggs has played in 13 games in each of his first two seasons. It’s typically hard to form an opinion on a player that hasn’t completed a full 16-game season, however, 26 games in two seasons are more than enough to evaluate a player’s worth and potential. Diggs improved in his sophomore season, increasing his targets by 33% and receptions by 62%. He accomplished this despite an emerging Adam Thielen and a healthy Kyle Rudolph. Diggs still led the team in receptions (84) while playing in three fewer games than both Thielen and Rudolph. Regardless of whether or not Diggs stays on the field for a full 16 games, his production per game is worth his current ADP somewhere in the 6th round.
Jamison Crowder (WAS) – Reach
The Washington Redskins coaching staff has been very vocal about their love of Jamison Crowder this offseason. I believe that hype has played a role in Crowder’s current, early 6th round ADP. Crowder could prove to be a valuable asset to your fantasy team, but he’s got a steep hill to climb in order to collect enough targets from this congested receiving corp; Terrelle Pryor, who is expected to take on the WR1 role, “rookie” Josh Doctson, newly acquired Brian Quick, not to mention, tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis. Everyone keeps talking about the combined 214 targets from DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon and how they have to go to someone. Well, they have plenty of mouths to feed in 2017, and Crowder is likely the third option in the passing game. Crowder has upside but his floor may be much lower than his current 6th round ADP.
DeVante Parker (MIA) – Reach
Probably one of the most intriguing third-year wide receivers heading into the 2017 season, DeVante Parker is getting a lot of hype from the Miami Dolphins’ coaching staff. To be fair, literally everyone is getting hype from the coaching staff on their offense. There is plenty of talk of this being Parker’s “break-out” year. Truth is, it won’t take much for this to happen as he has only started 12 of the 30 games he played in his first two seasons. In his best season (2016), Parker started in only eight of the 15 games he played, had 56 receptions on 88 targets and finished the season averaging 6.56 fantasy points per game. Like I said, it won’t take much for him to have his best season yet. He does have attractive upside but his ADP will likely rise from his current 9th round projections. For that reason, I consider DeVante Parker a reach in 2017.
Tyrell Williams (SD) – Value
Yes, I know he is in an offense with plenty of weapons, but he was the most consistent wide receiver last year for Philip Rivers in the absence of Keenan Allen, and I don’t expect him to forget that so quickly. Allen and rookie Mike Williams will likely demand the most attention from defenses leaving Tyrell with an open field on most plays. Even if Tyrell Williams doesn’t begin the season strong, it’s only a matter of time before Rivers looks his way and finds him more open and ready to take advantage of his opportunities than the QB’s other options. His current ADP is in the 13th round, an absolute steal on a wide receiver with a lot of proven upside.
Cameron Meredith (CHI) – Reach
The Chicago Bears offense will be a mess in 2017. They will need to throw a bunch so I can see the reasoning here. However, the 9th round seems like a potentially devalued pick for a couple of reasons. Guys like Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Adam Thielen, and John Brown are being drafted after Meredith. These players come with huge upside and better quarterback situations. Meredith is on a terrible offense and may not even be the WR1 for the Bears by the time the 2017 season begins. I’d rather pass on Meredith and draft these other wide receivers later.
Kevin White (CHI) – Value
Kevin White is another big reason to pass on Meredith’s ADP. Currently going in the 13th round as the 55th wide receiver off the board, White provides tremendous upside given his ADP. A healthy Kevin White would likely mean he would be the WR1 on the Bears offense. If you are drafting potential in the later rounds, why wouldn’t you pass on Meredith in the 9th to get the potential WR1 in the 13th? You don’t want both of these guys on your team, so go with the one that will cost you less despite carrying as much upside.