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Bounce-Back Candidates: Wide Receiver (Fantasy Football)

by Ethan Sauers | @ethansauers | Featured Writer
Jul 22, 2018

Recency bias is always something that interferes with our fantasy football opinions. It can make one down year look like a downward trend or a flash-in-the-pan look like the next breakout star. To combat this, it’s important to look at the situation and analyze the variables in which success or the lack thereof was had and compare them to that in which they are heading into in 2018. This article will take a look at five WRs who saw a significant drop in performance from 2016 to 2017 that should be considered as having a chance to make 2018 their return to glory.

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Cole Beasley (DAL)
2016 PPR Finish: WR33 | 2017 PPR Finish: WR72
In my previous article, I discussed the massive opportunity Beasley walks into while a part of the 2018 WR Corps. Allen Hurns and Deontay Thompson join the team as veterans who have yet to really step into a primary receiving role and Michael Gallup jumps in as a rookie looking to transition his game to the next level but Beasley remains as one of the few players in this rotation who has chemistry with QB Dak Prescott. Beasley’s game is one predicated on out-working his competition and this new opportunity to thrive in an open offense should suit him well. His veteran status should also allow the opportunity for him to rise up in the locker room as a much-needed leader on this offense.

2018 Apex Potential: If everything goes Beasley’s way, he could end up WR25-35, in PPR leagues, at seasons’ end.

T.Y. Hilton (IND)
2016 PPR Finish: WR5 | 2017 PPR Finish: WR27
There may be no other player in the NFL whose stock is closely tied to the health and production of another player than T.Y. Hilton to Andrew Luck. At the start of last year, Hilton was coming off his 4th straight 1,000-yard season and the highest production of his career. However, with Jacoby Brissett at the helm Hilton’s targets dropped by 46, his catches dropped by 34, and he wound up with his worst receiving-yard total since his rookie season, in 2012. Because of this, Hilton is likely the most excited about Andrew Luck‘s recent strides in his return to the field. Though, when Luck returns, both he and Hilton will be stepping into a new offense, designed by former Eagles’ Offensive Coordinator, Frank Reich. The change will likely see Hilton showcasing his skill in a “quick-strike” offense and running more slants and timing routes. With Hilton’s speed and athleticism, anything that gets the ball in his hands more quickly or frequently should be exciting to see and could be the spark to return Hilton to his WR1 potential. 

2018 Apex Potential: WR5-15 in PPR leagues

Kelvin Benjamin (BUF)
2016 PPR Finish: WR27 | 2017 PPR Finish: WR47
Benjamin’s move from Carolina to Buffalo saw a sizable decline in production, despite retaining a title of primary receiver. Benjamin’s dip, on the field, is likely attributed to learning a new system and acclimating to a QB (in Tyrod Taylor) that rarely looked for the deep ball and was primarily concerned with minimizing turnovers. Enter: Josh Allen. The one thing that could bring Benjamin’s stock back to 2016-levels would be a coaching staff that is willing to let Josh Allen fling that football. Despite the accuracy and efficiency concerns that followed him through the draft-process, Allen’s raw talent could provide Benjamin with a great opportunity to stretch the field and solid chances to showcase his own ability. If Allen isn’t behind center, early in the season, Benjamin’s starting role as the number one receiver in Buffalo will buoy his production with a large target share. All-in-all, his second year in the system should see results closer to his 2016 finish.

2018 Apex Potential: WR24-36 in PPR leagues

Emmanuel Sanders (DEN)
2016 PPR Finish: WR20 | 2017 PPR Finish: WR60
As mentioned with Kelvin Benjamin and T.Y. Hilton, an improvement at QB gives a great opportunity at increased production and Emmanuel Sanders is a prime candidate to be included in the conversation. Last year, he dropped 60 spots in the final WR rankings (from WR20 in 2016 to WR60 in 2017), after suffering an ankle injury and only playing in 12 games. This year, Sanders is healthy and has a QB who, by his standards, puts in a high-level work ethic and, by all standards, is an upgrade from Trevor Siemian. Naysayers may point to the drafting of Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton that Sanders and Demaryius Thomas may be phased out. Though, the counterargument would be that the rookie WRs still need a year or two to develop their NFL game. Regardless, Sanders has proved that he’s able to adapt his game to new QBs and different roles and 2018’s outlook shows opportunity is definitely there for him to capitalize on.

2018 Apex Potential: WR20-30 in PPR leagues

Michael Crabtree (BAL)
2016 PPR Finish: WR12 | 2017 PPR Finish: WR30
Last year, the Ravens had one of the worst sets of WRs in the NFL. A prime example of this can be seen by the fact that Mike Wallace, their leading WR, finished tied for 72nd in the league in receptions. This is not because of scheme or a lack of passing by the Ravens — Flacco finished 7th in the league in passing attempts — but just a lack of skill at the position. Their answer to this problem was to sign Michael Crabtree as their new, primary, receiver. Crabtree comes to Baltimore and comes to a surprising upgrade in opportunity. Not only is he now a number one receiver, no longer in competition with Amari Cooper, but he’s also going to a team with a QB that should be throwing the ball more frequently and more efficiently than the 2017 Raiders. Over the past two years, Joe Flacco has averaged 610.5 passes per year. Over that same stretch, Derek Carr has averaged 537.5 passes per year. Additionally, in those years, Flacco’s completion percentage was 64.5, compared to Carr’s 63.25. Crabtree’s new role in the Ravens’ offense is a prime opportunity for him to regain the production of a true fantasy WR1.

2018 Apex Potential: WR10-15 in PPR

Variance is an accepted part of fantasy football and WR is a position that embraces variance on a week-to-week and season-to-season basis perhaps more than any other. As such, there is always opportunity for receivers to yo-yo from one season to another– especially when their situations or circumstance changes. The five WRs, above, all have a new set of variables parameters that combine to project the potential for a resurgence to their former glory.


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Ethan Sauers is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Ethan, check out his archive and follow him @ethansauers.

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