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Dynasty Draft Strategy, Rankings & Tiers: Wide Receivers (2024 Fantasy Football)

Dynasty Draft Strategy, Rankings & Tiers: Wide Receivers (2024 Fantasy Football)

The startup draft in a dynasty league is a big deal.

Once it’s over, you’ll have ample opportunities to trade, and annual rookie drafts will give you the chance to reshape your roster, but the startup draft will largely determine the fate of your new dynasty venture for the next four years.

That’s a long time — the length of an Olympic cycle, a World Cup cycle, a presidential term. In other words, don’t screw it up.

One way to screw it up: not drafting enough high-quality wide receivers.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

Dynasty Startup Strategy, Rankings & Tiers: Wide Receivers

The wide receiver position is of the utmost importance in dynasty leagues.

Most dynasty leagues use PPR scoring, and most require you to start at least three wide receivers every week (usually with the option to start additional receivers in flex spots). These settings make it imperative to get your fair share of WR talent.

And because dynasty is a long-term format, loading up at wide receiver is the prudent thing to do. The average NFL lifespan of a wide receiver is longer than the average NFL lifespan of a running back, and top receivers are often productive well into their 30s.

Receivers are also more predictable than running backs. Go find a set of RB rankings from 2-3 seasons ago and marvel at how ludicrous those rankings seem now. But a set of WR rankings from 2-3 seasons ago won’t seem that silly at all. Every year we get major surprises at running back, whether a sudden emergence or an unexpected collapse. Such volatility is less frequent at wide receiver, where what you pay for is generally what you get.

Spending down is a viable strategy at running back, and I advocated that approach in my article on startup draft strategy for the RB position. Taking a cheapskate approach at RB gives you more draft capital to spend on the WR position and, in superflex leagues, the critical QB position.

Hammer the WR position early in startups, because the supply of good ones will run low before long. Don’t fall for the “wide receiver is deep” myth. It’s only deep in the sense that there are more usable WRs than usable RBs, QBs and TEs. But again, you’re starting at least three WRs every week in most dynasty leagues, and potentially more. You need depth — especially when you factor in inevitable injuries.

It’s not enough that your best and second-best wide receivers in a dynasty league are good players. Ideally, your fourth- and fifth-best receivers in a dynasty league are good players.

Early in a startup, fill your shopping cart with young receivers who have either achieved stardom already or have a reasonable chance to attain it.

That isn’t to say you need to be completely obsessive about age. Good receivers generally have long careers, so investing in an established 28-year-old receiver — say, for example, Terry McLaurin — is perfectly defensible. Investing in a 28-year-old running back is as risky as eating gas-station sushi.

Dynasty Startup Draft Strategies

Let me repeat something I wrote in earlier articles about how to attack the various positions in dynasty startups: Before you start drafting, you need to chart a course and then build a coherent draft strategy around it.

Charting a course means deciding when you expect your team to establish its dynastic reign over the league. Here are the three options:

  • Win now: Establish your dominance immediately. While your competitors focus on youth in the startup draft, scoop up proven veterans at discounted prices and build a roster that will be a favorite for the league title in Year 1.
  • Win in Year 2: Focus on youth but mix in some proven veterans. Your young roster might not have the juice to win right away, but you’ll have a collection of players whose value is likely to be higher a year from now, positioning you to contend in Year 2.
  • Productive struggle: (Hat tip to Ryan McDowell of Dynasty League Football for coining the term.) Commit to a slow build that will put you in title contention in 2-3 years. Focus heavily on youth in the startup draft and be willing to trade startup picks for picks in future rookie drafts.

The course you choose will determine how you attack the WR position — particularly when it comes to your willingness to draft older receivers.

Wide Receiver Dynasty Startup Draft Strategy

If you’re in win-now mode, Davante Adams is a logical draft target. Adams is 31 but still a high achiever. He’s coming off what many perceive to be a down season, yet he still had 103 catches, 1,144 yards and eight touchdowns while playing most of the season with a fourth-round rookie at quarterback.

Adams won’t come off the board as early in dynasty startups as he will in redraft leagues because of his age, so you might be able to get him as late as the sixth round of a 1QB startup, or the seventh or eighth round of a superflex startup. But if you’re aiming to win in Year 2 or committing to a productive struggle, Adams probably shouldn’t be on your radar.

If you’re building your team to win in Year 2, favor WRs over RBs in the early rounds. The young receivers you draft in the early rounds are highly likely to maintain or increase their value over the next year, providing a strong foundation for your playoff-ready 2024 squad.

If you’re committed to a productive struggle, heavily favor WRs over RBs in the early rounds. RB value is often fleeting. James Cook is an attractive option in the early rounds. He’s only 24, coming off a strong season that could have been even better if he’d had better TD luck, and he seems poised for a fruitful career. But RB is such a volatile position. A couple of years ago, Denver’s Javonte Williams was an attractive target in startup drafts. Williams could still prove to be a valuable asset, but a major knee injury and committee usage have diminished his outlook.

2024 NFL Draft Guide

Wide Receiver Rankings & Tiers

Here are the top 40 wide receivers in my dynasty rankings. I’m going to sort them into categories and offer thoughts on a few of the players in each category.

Cornerstones

You might order these three differently than I do based on their QB situations. I like to put on horse blinders and mostly ignore QB situations when assessing the dynasty value of receivers, so I’m not concerned that the Vikings are in a transitional period at quarterback. Justin Jefferson is probably QB-proof. But, hey, Ja’Marr Chase and CeeDee Lamb are awesome, too, so I won’t browbeat you if you have either of them as your dynasty WR1.

Foundational

Pretty amazing group, huh? And to think that I’m labeling these dudes as “second tier.” Amon-Ra St. Brown could lift himself into the cornerstone category with a repeat or near-repeat of his sterling 2023 campaign. Marvin Harrison, Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze are the “Big Three” in a once-in-a-decade rookie WR class. Garrett Wilson just needs better quarterbacking to help him attain star status. Puka Nacua passed every eye test in his rookie season; he’s no fluke. A.J. Brown had a career-high 106 catches last year and has posted back-to-back 1,400-yard seasons.

Established Stars and Young Studs

This group offers a nice mixture of studly veterans and up-and-coming young bucks. Chris Olave and Drake London are better than their 2023 stats would suggest. Both need better quarterbacking and play-calling. Tyreek Hill is undeniably awesome, but he’s on the record as saying he’ll retire after the 2025 season. The underrated Jaylen Waddle has opened his career with three straight 1,000-yard seasons, and he’s had to share targets with Tyreek for two of them. The Eagles showed us how highly they regard DeVonta Smith when they gave him a lavish contract extension in April.

The Next Generation

Jordan Addison and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are abundantly talented but are currently facing headwinds in their respective situations. Take advantage of the discounts you’re likely to get on them in 2024 dynasty startups. You might get a similar discount on rising stars Nico Collins and Tank Dell now that Stefon Diggs has arrived in Houston to threaten their 2024 target shares. Diggs might only be with the Texans for one year, however. George Pickens and Rashee Rice both come with some risk. Pickens hasn’t been a consistent target earner. Rice’s fine rookie season may be hard to replicate now that the Chiefs have upgraded their WR room. But Pickens and Rice are young players with undeniable talent.

Reliable Veterans

I had higher hopes for the career of D.K. Metcalf, but what we’ve gotten through five NFL seasons is still very, very good. There aren’t many questions about Tee Higgins’ talent, but he’s struggled with soft-tissue injuries, and the presence of Ja’Marr Chase limits Higgy’s target potential. Stefon Diggs is an interesting case: He’s had six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons but was shockingly unproductive over his final 10 games last season. Perhaps a change of scenery will reinvigorate him.

Building Blocks

This tier includes five rookies from what should prove to be an outstanding rookie WR class along with Christian Watson, a third-year veteran who’s given us some exciting flashes but has struggled with injuries and consistency.

Final Thoughts

A few final thoughts about drafting wide receivers in dynasty startups:

  • Do not let this all-important position slip through your fingers in the early rounds of a startup. By all means, pounce on core players and early-round values at other positions, but don’t fall so far behind at wide receiver that you’re unable to catch up.
  • Focus more on talent than situation. Don’t dismiss a receiver just because he’s tied to a mediocre quarterback or stuck in a run-heavy offense. That receiver might be in a completely different situation a year from now. The opposite holds true as well: Don’t overpay for a receiver whose value is propped up by a star quarterback or a pass-happy offense.
  • It’s fine to draft older WRs if your goal is simply to get short-term value from them. Just realize that older WRs can be hard to trade and are at risk of rapid depreciation.

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