4 Overvalued Top-20 WRs (2019 Fantasy Football)
Predicting next season’s big stars in late June is a difficult task, and it’s easier to pick out potential ADP busts. Roster additions or coaching changes may not bode well for some players, while others may be affected by year-to-year touchdown regression. Although these should be obvious considerations for fantasy players, the inflated ADPs of some bust-candidate wideouts suggests otherwise. To be fair, some of these players may succeed in 2019, but their production is unlikely to justify the high cost of drafting them.
Adam Thielen (MIN): WR9
Thielen began 2018 as the WR1 before his Week 10 bye, only to finish as the WR18 after his bye week. The performance put him seven slots behind Vikings teammate Stefon Diggs over that six-game stretch, and Thielen’s dip in production wasn’t due to an injury. Instead, the Vikings’ Week 14 decision to replace offensive coordinator John DeFilippo with former quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski may have hurt Thielen.
Head coach Mike Zimmer had expressed frustrations with DeFilippo’s inability to develop a ground game, and Stefanski addressed the issue by calling 82 rushing attempts over the Vikings’ last three games. Thielen had his worst three-game performance during this stretch, as he failed to see more than six targets in any of the three games, earning a 10-137-0 stat line. Meanwhile, teammate Stefon Diggs caught 14 passes for 106 yards and added three touchdowns.
Thielen’s abysmal finish to 2018 should scare you, because Stefanski will be the Vikings’ offensive coordinator next season, despite speculation that he might leave for Cleveland. If 2019 plays out anything like Stefanski’s three-game interim period, Thielen won’t match his impressive start to 2018. He carries too much risk to be anyone’s WR1.
Brandin Cooks (LAR): WR15
Of the three big-name Los Angeles Rams wideouts, only Cooks failed to lead the team in targets over the eight games that the three played with each other. Oddly, Cooks is the first of the trio going off of draft boards, as players are taking Woods at WR18 and Kupp at WR19. When Kupp’s Week 10 ACL tear gave the other two wideouts more opportunities, Woods outperformed Cooks, earning 51 targets to Cooks’ 45. Cooks’ deep-threat potential did not make up for his lack of targets, as he finished as the WR30 in the six weeks without Kupp. In contrast, Woods finished at WR14.
Next season, the Rams’ offense must adapt to an injury-limited Todd Gurley. The team also lost quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor to the Bengals, but there’s little reason to suspect much change within Sean McVay’s offensive scheme, and there’s even less reason to expect that Cooks will have an increased role in 2019. Cooks, Woods, and Kupp were all decent fantasy options last season, but there are only so many targets to go around. In their eight weeks together, only Woods and Kupp ever notched double-digit targets, and only Woods ever earned double-digit receptions. Cooks’ relative lack of volume makes him an unsafe selection at WR15.
Kenny Golladay (DET): WR16
Golladay may have had a breakout sophomore campaign, but he’ll have to be much more consistent next season to justify his high ADP. Although Golladay put up 70 receptions for 1,063 yards and five scores to finish as the WR21, opposing defenses held the wideout to five or fewer receptions in half of his appearances. Three of these performances came after Marvin Jones‘ Week 9 knee injury, which inflated Golladay’s stats for the back half of 2018.
Next season, Golladay will again have to compete with Jones for perimeter looks from Matthew Stafford. And it’s not just Jones, as the Lions drafted tight end T.J. Hockenson and signed free agents Danny Amendola and Jermaine Kearse. If the Lions’ front office had the same confidence in Golladay that fantasy players do, it’s unlikely they would have spent so much on upgrading their alternatives to him.
The other knock on Golladay is the Lions’ new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell. After his dismissal by the Seahawks following an ineffective 2017 campaign, Bevell sat out 2018, only to re-emerge as a candidate to replace Jim Bob Cooter. The coordinator’s smashmouth philosophy looks to benefit running back Kerryon Johnson, and that could limit the Lions’ passing attempts.
A receiver only earned 100-plus targets three times in Bevell’s seven-year stint with the Seahawks, and all of those campaigns were put together by slot wideout Doug Baldwin. Last season, the Lions rarely featured Golladay in the slot, and incoming slot receiver Amendola seems primed to take that role in Bevell’s offense. With more mouths to feed in Detroit and fewer targets to feed them with, Golladay’s WR16 ADP is far too high.
Calvin Ridley (ATL): WR20
Ridley is a prime regression candidate in 2019. His 10 receiving touchdowns may have boosted him to WR18 last season, but they came on just 92 targets and 64 receptions. Ridley managed to score on 15 percent of his catches, an unsustainably high number. Only four wideouts scored more touchdowns than he did last season, and they required an average of over 100 receptions apiece to cross the plane so often.
The Falcons did not even pass to Ridley in the red zone that frequently, as he earned only 11.5 percent of the team’s red-zone targets. The receiver just happened to score on six of his nine red-zone looks. In contrast, Julio Jones earned 17 red-zone targets, but the star wideout could only score on five of them.
Every year, fantasy players overdraft players based on their luck in the red zone. And every year, the same players are let down by touchdown regression. Next season, the Falcons welcome back Dirk Koetter to Atlanta, whose three-year stint with the Falcons catapulted Julio Jones to superstardom. If Koetter can once again capitalize on Jones’ massive frame and red-zone potential, it’s even less likely that Ridley could repeat his impressive 2018, especially with continued competition from Mohamed Sanu, who earned more targets, receptions, and yards than Ridley did last season. Calvin Ridley is a high-risk flex-play masquerading as a WR2 this season, so don’t make the mistake of drafting him at WR20.