Fantasy Football Preseason Preview: Receivers

Fantasy Football Preseason Preview: Receivers

Team Analysis

Fantasy Football Preseason Preview: Receivers

OTHER POSITIONS:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs

Never get too comfortable with the NFL. Like hot stocks, bouncy blondes and cold beer,   good things never last long enough. Wideouts set historic highs in 2015 much as they did for the previous four years. But 2016 was the correction period with fewer fantasy points from the top studs and an overall drop in touchdowns by the position.

Wide Receiver Totals by Year

Year Targets Comps Receiving Yards Receiving TD Runs Rush Yards Rush TD
2007 10,231 5,915 77,272 483 208 869 4
2008 9,690 5,563 73,039 416 240 1,642 9
2009 9,846 5,648 74,564 431 317 2,102 7
2010 10,098 5,764 76,403 485 331 2,108 7
2011 10,031 5,681 78,470 473 283 1,775 6
2012 10,481 6,040 80,755 491 265 1,572 2
2013 10,556 6,098 81,395 481 197 1,387 6
2014 10,540 6,309 82,608 483 288 1,806 9
2015 10,547 6,310 82,405 519 262 1,668 10
2016 10,836 6,490 83,087 498 284 1,930 11

The overall targets and catches set yet another new record while the yardage inched up to another new high. But touchdowns decreased from the all-time high of 519 down to only 498. That’s only about one touchdown per week less but was the only spot that the position did not make more gains.

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Top Ten Wide Receiver Totals

Year Targets Comps Receiving Yards YPC TD FF Pts
2007 1,559 938 13,191 14.0 124 2,063
2008 1,420 845 12,778 15.1 93 1,836
2009 1,398 861 12,417 14.4 103 1,860
2010 1,409 835 12,337 14.8 105 1,871
2011 1,355 839 13,592 16.2 97 1,962
2012 1,541 963 14,233 14.7 91 1,975
2013 1,532 922 14,062 15.3 106 2,062
2014 1,487 980 14,408 14.7 109 2,110
2015 1,627 1,046 14,463 13.8 109 2,102
2016 1,416 913 12,521 13.7 96 1,834

In 2016, the first three picks in most fantasy drafts were wideouts. This year they are running backs (to reflect their good 2016). 2015 was a monster year for wideouts and that translated into at least five or six going in the top ten of fantasy drafts. But while the positon continues to post record stats in catches and yardage, that’s being spread out among more players.

The top ten fantasy wideouts fell back six years worth to levels more akin to 2010.  Interesting too was the lowest yards-per-catch of only 13.7 for those elite receivers. The long ball is less a part of their games and yet catching touchdowns are down for them as well. It is still a healthy contributor among fantasy positions but just a bit less astronomic as defenses adjust and offenses evolve.

Tight End Totals by Year

Year Targets Catches Yards TD
2007 3,257 2,095 22,131 183
2008 3,250 2,085 22,658 189
2009 3,558 2,274 24,960 193
2010 3,554 2,252 24,902 190
2011 3,658 2,310 26,672 197
2012 3,746 2,397 26,122 197
2013 3,713 2,390 27,374 237
2014 3,538 2,310 25,505 216
2015 3,841 2,517 27,532 211
2016 3,748 2,488 27,300 189

The same phenomena happened with tight ends. Their overall catches and yardage remain high but there was a dip in touchdowns in 2016. The increase in usage is less about tight ends suddenly becoming bigger parts of the game plan and more about the fact that teams throw more passes in recent years.

Top Ten Tight End Totals

Year Targets Catches Yards YPC TD FF Pts
2007 1,053 683 8,267 12.1 66 1,223
2008 961 652 7,524 11.5 55 1,082
2009 1,157 779 8,947 11.5 77 1,357
2010 959 628 7,551 12.0 70 1,176
2011 1,106 740 9,327 12.6 78 1,413
2012 1,088 749 8,328 11.1 66 1,088
2013 1,084 723 8,686 12.0 85 1,387
2014 1,030 698 8,476 12.1 80 1,327
2015 1,015 683 8,539 12.5 70 1,277
2016 1,017 687 8,172 11.8 59 1,173

Like wide receivers, a drop in production happened with the elite tight ends and it was even more severe. The loss of Rob Gronkowski had an obvious impact but the total yards fell back to 2010 levels and the drop in touchdowns was the worst in eight years. The drop in yards-per-catch also signals that the position was being used more as tight ends and less as downfield receivers.

The tables below show the split between all passes thrown to either a tight end or a wide receiver and what their respective percentages are. Their ranks relate to their total fantasy points for the position.

Arizona Cardinals

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 20% 50 588 1 27 80% 194 2740 15 13
2015 14% 43 567 6 25 86% 249 3515 25 3
2016 18% 54 595 3 29 82% 236 2860 21 5

Michael Floyd was released in December last year and wide receiver stats dropped from the big 2015 season. the year started well but Larry Fitzgerald went flat in the second half of the season and scored just once over the final 11 games. John Brown flopped after a 1,003-yard season and was held to only 39 catches for 517 yards. He battled hamstring issues and complications from his sickle cell trait. J.J. Nelson was the only receiver that improved when he ended with 566 yards and six scores.

The Cardinals have been among the worst teams for using tight ends for many years. This is a mature offense that OC Harold Goodwin directed for the last four years. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are back for at least this year though both are among the oldest at their positions.

John Brown carries the most upside here. He’s replaced Floyd and is not expecting to have the same medical issues. If Palmer is injured, it could all fall apart. Fitzgerald hangs on for one more year despite coming off his first sub-ten yard-per-catch average. Nelson and the rookie Chad Williams won’t be relevant for fantasy purposes but are worth tracking, especially if Brown has problems again and/or Fitzgerald succumbs to his age.

Best Value: John Brown

Check out our receiver sleepers for this fantasy season.

Atlanta Falcons

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 11% 33 241 3 32 89% 284 3687 19 3
2015 20% 69 759 2 28 80% 244 3068 14 10
2016 20% 58 788 10 12 80% 223 3226 22 3

Kyle Shanahan moved on to run the 49ers and Steve Sarkisian left Alabama to run the Falcons offense. There is not much change expected but there is also no guarantee about receiver usage other than knowing Julio Jones will receive a major share of the targets. Encouraging too is that Sarkisian said he wanted to use Jones more in the red zone. His yardage has always been high but he’s been stuck at six to eight touchdowns per year. Any increase there could make Jones the overall highest scoring fantasy wideout.

The other starters remain Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel who both carried moderate fantasy value last year. Sanu is just another 700 yard-per-season sort of player and only scored four times last year. Gabriel ended with 596 yards but scored six times during his first year in Atlanta. The ex-Brown is only 5-8 and 167 pounds so he’ll never be worth much more than three or four catches per game.

Optimism lies with the second-year tight end Austin Hooper who was selected in the third round of 2016 out of Stanford. He only caught 19 passes for 271 yards and three scores as a rookie but also had a touchdown in the Super Bowl (the first rookie tight end to ever score there). But his usage will be harder to gauge with Sarkisian running the offense.

Best Value: Austin Hooper

Baltimore Ravens

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 27% 76 800 5 18 73% 192 2587 21 9
2015 27% 91 915 5 15 73% 208 2655 10 21
2016 31% 110 929 5 15 69% 211 2689 13 19

The Ravens enter the second season for OC Marty Mornhinweg with a very favorable schedule but changes in the receivers that have to be sorted out. Steve Smith retired and Dennis Pitta’s comeback is over with yet another hip injury that likely ends his career. That leaves only Mike Wallace as a receiver with more than 33 catches last year.

Wallace (72-1017-4) rejuvenated his career with the move to Baltimore in 2016 and now he’s the starter with the most tenure. Jeremy Maclin was acquired after his surprise release by the Chiefs. Maclin’s production fell off dramatically last year but was only recently explained by his playing with a torn groin muscle. Breshad Perriman enters his third season still trying to make good on his first round selection in 2015. He was limited to only 33 catches last year.

The tight end depth chart is still not firm. Benjamin Watson missed 2016 with a torn Achilles and is already 37-years-old. Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams will also vie for playing time.

Despite a favorable schedule, the Ravens are never better than average when passing and there are enough changes this year to limit expectations. There will be several fantasy relevant receivers here but little chance they will be difference makers.

Best Value: Mike Wallace but either Jeremy Maclin or Breshad Perriman could surprise.

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Buffalo Bills

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 23% 69 705 5 19 77% 180 2291 16 18
2015 27% 66 719 3 27 73% 168 2390 16 19
2016 28% 67 680 4 23 72% 146 2017 11 27

This below average passing offense struggled last year with a team that was imploding and just not talented enough when it passed. The best receiver was Charles Clay with only 57 receptions. Sammy Watkins was limited to eight games because of his foot injury and did little all year. Robert Woods is gone and the Bills have all new coaches. Rick Dennison will direct the offense having lasts held the same job for the Broncos.

This is a rebuilding team with Tyrod Taylor at the helm despite less than complete confidence that he’s up to the task. The receivers have been completely made-over other than Watkins. Zay Jones was their second round pick and they added Andre Holmes, Philly Brown, Jeremy Butler and Rod Streater because you can never have enough mediocre talent (no wait, you actually can).

Clay returns as the starting tight end but Dennison used the position sparingly in Denver. No tight end there had more than 517 yards or three scores under him. The biggest hope is that Watkins somehow remains healthy and Jones matures very quickly.

Best Value: Zay Jones

Carolina Panthers

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 32% 98 1167 7 6 68% 176 2236 14 23
2015 35% 95 1235 9 4 65% 154 2263 22 15
2016 31% 91 1217 4 11 69% 170 2373 16 23

The magic of 2015 became the struggle of 2016. After losing the Super Bowl, the Panthers faced a bad schedule and the offense took a big step in reverse despite the return of Kelvin Benjamin. The receivers of 2015 were mostly Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn Jr. who had a career year with 10 touchdowns. Olsen remained solid last year but the offense was mediocre at best. Benjamin (63-941-7) failed to reach the marks of his rookie season (73-1008-9). Devin Funchess regressed from his rookie season as well.

But the offense is being rebuilt and the schedule is more akin to 2015. Benjamin started the offseason already overweight but has since returned to shape. The Panthers used their 1.08 draft pick to get Christian McCaffrey who could consume plenty of receptions if used to his potential. But the team has historically not used running backs as receivers so it will require a change from the previous four seasons of OC Mike Shula.

The Panthers also added Curtis Samuel with their second round pick. The ex-Buckeye was accomplished as both a rusher and a receiver but will stick as a wideout. He’s a multi-talented athlete who should add a new aspect to the passing game but how he is used is hard to call. He ended with 172 rushes and 107 receptions in college. He’s also a great returner.

Both rookies could change the offense in significant ways and offer talents that have not been present. Both bring more talent and pedigree to the team.

Best Value: Curtis Samuel

Chicago Bears

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 32% 106 1032 6 12 68% 182 2139 20 17
2015 32% 91 912 8 11 68% 173 2234 8 28
2016 22% 71 672 5 22 78% 220 2956 12 14

Alshon Jeffery left and this team is going to be vastly different for 2016. OC Dowell Loggains is back for his second season but there are changes all over this offense. Mike Glennon will try to hold off Mitchell Trubisky as the starting quarterback. That alone would be enough change to cast risk over the receivers.

Cameron Meredith was undrafted in 2015 but stepped up last year and ended on a high note. He’ll be joined by Kevin White who is yet another 2015 first-rounder that is still trying to meet expectations. Like Breshad Perriman with the Ravens, he missed his rookie year and then played little last year thanks to yet more injury. His potential has to filled this year or he’s just another bust.

The Bears brought in Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, and Victor Cruz to battle for playing time. Expectations are lower this year with the quarterback situation and all the question marks at receiver. Zach Miller is not considered a lock to remain the starting tight end and the position is little used anyway.

Best Value: Kevin White (Part III) 

Cincinnati Bengals

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 24% 70 518 5 24 76% 162 2289 12 25
2015 24% 64 748 14 9 76% 187 2581 15 16
2016 22% 64 720 6 18 78% 220 2806 11 20

Ken Zampese ran the offense in 2016 but his first year saw all the stats drop for the receivers outside of A.J. Green. And they were never more than mediocre anyway. Green missed six games with a severe hamstring strain but was otherwise the only notable wideout. Tyler Eifert missed eight games with a back injury and needed offseason surgery.

Brandon LaFell (64-862-6) was solid though unable to replace the missing production when Green was out. The Bengals drafted John Ross with their 1.09 pick to snag another playmaker to pair with Green. Ross ran a 4.22/40 at the combine to set the all-time record. He instantly upgrades the offense but needs to remain healthy which has been a problem in his past. He’ll bring the deep ball into play more and open the field up for Green as well.

The Bengals also added Josh Malone in the fourth round. He’ll have a quiet rookie season but could figure in next year. Johnson will still command the most targets. Eifert’s back is still an issue and makes him riskier.

Best Value: John Ross

Cleveland Browns

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 22% 54 822 3 20 78% 187 2620 8 21
2015 30% 87 1117 9 7 70% 196 2299 8 26
2016 24% 68 760 5 19 76% 168 2029 10 28

The Browns miss Terrelle Pryor, Gary Barnidge, and Andrew Hawkins from last year and they combined for well over 50% of the receptions, yards, and touchdowns by receivers in 2016.  The starting quarterback could be constantly changing during the season. This looks, once again, like a rebuilding year with a struggling offense.

Corey Coleman returns for his second season and becomes the primary receiver. Kenny Britt and James Wright were added as free agents. Coleman is the lowest risk receiver here but his production depends on how well the quarterbacks play. Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer are rarely considered in any fantasy drafts for a good reason.

David Njoku was the 1.29 pick and the ex-Miami tight end should have a bright future but all these players come with tremendous risk.

Best Value: Corey Coleman

Dallas Cowboys

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 29% 77 856 9 11 71% 171 2495 28 7
2015 31% 95 856 4 21 69% 160 2165 12 25
2016 28% 79 772 4 21 73% 188 2490 20 12

There are no changes from last year other than drafting Ryan Switzer with their 4.27 pick as the slot receiver of the future. Dez Bryant had a second straight season battling injuries but was a lock for 1,200+ passing yards. Dak Prescott may have been a rookie, but he improved the wideout stats from 2015 and tossed 20 scores to the position. Five different receivers ended with at least three touchdowns.

Jason Witten hangs on for his 16th season but is three years past being a fantasy starter. Terrance Williams was re-signed but is just another complement to an elite wideout and yet never takes much advantage of the lesser coverage. Cole Beasley (75-833-5) ended as the top receiver last year but offered inconsistent results from week to week. The biggest hope is that Bryant can remain healthy and connect with the Cowboys’ luckiest draft pick ever.

Best Value:  Dez Bryant

Denver Broncos

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 19% 63 672 15 7 81% 268 3557 22 2
2015 23% 78 891 4 19 77% 235 2980 15 11
2016 18% 53 591 2 31 82% 225 2777 15 13

The post-Manning era of the Broncos took a toll on the fantasy fortunes of the receivers. The tight ends are almost afterthoughts and primarily block.  Both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders remain good and yet are never great. And beyond those two is almost nothing. Both wideouts ended with over 1,000 yards (barely) but no other player received for more than 265 yards or two touchdowns last year.

The quarterback situation remains the same – waiting for Paxton Lynch to take the job away from the veteran Trevor Siemian.  That could happen this year but there’s no reason to expect the receiving stats to increase and they are already limited to only two wideouts.

Carlos Henderson became their 3.18 draft pick and the Louisiana Tech product hopes to become the slot receiver but that won’t ever be better than No. 3 in the pecking order. And this is no longer a top passing unit. Thomas and Sanders remain good (and not great) fantasy options. If there is anyone else that could draw fantasy notice, it would be the rookie.

Best Value: Carlos Henderson

Detroit Lions

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 19% 41 392 2 30 81% 210 2959 14 10
2015 23% 63 681 8 18 77% 221 2572 20 14
2016 20% 67 756 1 27 80% 232 2872 17 9

The loss of Calvin Johnson did not have a major impact on total production by the wideouts in 2016. Their touchdowns decreased but they combined for 300 more yards than in 2015. Golden Tate topped 1,000 yards but only scored four times. Marvin Jones first year out of Cincinnati was a career best with 930 yards and four scores. Anquan Boldin was limited to only 584 yards but scored a team-high eight touchdowns. Overall, solid numbers but no individual receiver with elite production.

Eric Ebron ended with a career-best 711 yards but only scored once. He spends every season seemingly about to become elite and yet falling short. He has also missed at least two games every year. The Lions brought in Keshawn Martin and Jared Abbrederis as free agents though neither are expected to crack the starting lineup.

The only addition that carries hope is the 3.32 pick of Kenny Golladay. Early reports on the Northern Illinois product have been positive. Boldin was able to make the No. 3 role pay off last year. The rookie is at least worth watching since Jones faded badly in the second half of 2016.

Best Value: Kenny Golladay

Green Bay Packers

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 18% 51 551 6 23 82% 233 3295 28 1
2015 23% 73 643 9 17 77% 190 2392 15 20
2016 20% 64 683 3 25 80% 259 3191 34 1

So long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, there will be elite numbers from the Packers receivers. Jared Cook is gone but he only accounted for 377 yards and one score. The Packers tight ends have long been mediocre but bringing in Martellus Bennett at least offers optimism for the position. Any increase there comes from the wideout totals.

Jordy Nelson was out in 2015 with an ACL tear but reassumed his primary role with 1,257 yards and 14 scores. Randall Cobb declined even further with only 643 yards and four scores while Davante Adams had a breakout year with 997 yards and 12 touchdowns. This team already has plenty of targets even without using the tight end.

Nothing new here other than Bennett.

Best Value: Martellus Bennett

Houston Texans

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 13% 32 316 3 31 87% 199 2585 10 20
2015 15% 41 448 4 31 85% 231 2967 20 8
2016 36% 115 1094 7 9 64% 168 1963 7 30

After a monster 2015 season, DeAndre Hopkins flopped last year due to the quarterback woes. That may not improve this year. Tom Savage is the only veteran but his two games last year failed to produce any touchdowns. The Texans drafted Deshaun Watson with their 1.12 pick who will become the starter sooner than later. How quickly he integrates at the NFL level will determine his success but he comes off a national championship and experienced plenty of high-pressure games.

The results from 2016 were so bad due to Brock Osweiler that forecasting 2016 is a challenge. In either case, an inexperienced quarterback will be throwing the ball and yet still is almost certain to be better than last year.

Will Fuller was a first round pick last year but only ended with 47 catches for 635 yards and two scores. Braxton Miller was their third round pick but only caught 15 passes and battled hamstring issues. Miller is a speedster who can stretch the field. There should be plenty of wideout talent here if only a quarterback can take advantage.

What had been one of the worst teams with tight ends became a top ten unit because Osweiler was unable to connect with the wideouts. C.J. Fiedorowicz (54-559-4) was far better than expected but should see fewer targets if the wideouts come through as expected. This set of receivers all come down to how well Savage or Watson can throw with minimal or no NFL experience.

Best Value: Will Fuller

Indianapolis Colts

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 31% 98 1287 18 2 69% 219 3004 16 8
2015 25% 82 672 5 24 75% 211 2790 17 13
2016 32% 109 1287 12 1 68% 177 2612 15 18

Andrew Luck shoulder issues limited him last year but he still managed 31 passing touchdowns. He underwent surgery and may not be ready for training camp. That will have an obvious effect on the receivers. The Colts ranked No. 1 in fantasy points by tight ends but that came by mixing three players. Dwayne Allen left for the Patriots but otherwise, all the receivers are back again for 2017.

T.Y. Hilton set new highs for himself with his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season though his scoring is limited to only seven touchdowns. Donte Moncrief failed to follow up a promising second year when he posted only 307 yards on 30 carries while playing in only nine games because of hamstring issues. He did score a team-high nine touchdowns.

Phillip Dorsett has yet to develop into a suitable No. 3 wideout despite his first round selection. He enters his third season more likely to become a bust than a breakout.

The departure of Dwayne Allen opens the door for  Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope to assume a bigger workload. Doyle was already the second best receiver last year with 59 catches for 584 yards and five scores. Swoope only caught 15 passes but had more work at the end of the year. The schedule is tough and it all depends on the health of Luck. But the tight ends are where the depth chart reshuffle happens with Allen gone.

Best Value: Jack Doyle

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 16% 47 519 4 26 84% 202 2347 10 26
2015 28% 77 836 6 16 72% 210 3083 28 4
2016 24% 84 732 6 17 76% 207 2618 15 17

 Julius Thomas left but neither of his seasons in Jacksonville came close to matching his success in Denver. 2015 was wildly encouraging when a soft schedule helped Blake Bortles to throw for 4,482 yards and 35 touchdowns.  But 2016 was the flip side of that record. Bortles only managed 3,905 yards and 23 scores.

That sent Allen Robinson into the tank for much of the year.  After posting 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015, he was held to 883 yards and six scores on nearly the same number of receptions. Allen Hurns plummeted from 1,031 yards and ten scores to only 477 yards and three touchdowns. Hurns would also battle hamstring issues and a concussion.

But the second round pick from 2014 stepped up, especially in place of Hurns. Marqise Lee turned in 851 yards and three scores with most of that coming later in the season. He has since taken the No. 2 role while Hurns drops to No. 3. Lee is in line for more work than last year as the starter.

There’s nothing special at tight end with Marcedes Lewis and newly acquired Mychal Rivera.

Best Value: Marqise Lee

Kansas City Chiefs

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 35% 96 1111 9 5 65% 152 1744 0 32
2015 32% 86 1042 6 10 68% 171 1997 12 27
2016 35% 107 1262 5 7 65% 187 1973 10 29

The Chiefs jettisoned Jeremy Maclin largely on salary cap terms but he became as ineffective as the other wide receivers. The lone bright spot was the fifth-round rookie Tyreek Hill who presented a multi-faceted weapon for the Chiefs. Hill ran for 267 yards and three scores on 24 carries, added 61 catches for 593 yards and six more scores, He was a devastating returner though he won’t reprise that role this season.

Travis Kelce took the final step up into being elite when he caught 85 passes for a team-high 1,125 yards and four scores. With Alex Smith under center, this will never be an effective passing game beyond Kelce and Hill. The Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes as well but he won’t challenge for the starting quarterback spot until next year.

Maclin’s departure ensures only Hill and Kelce merit any fantasy attention.

Best Value: Tyreek Hill

Los Angeles Chargers

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 27% 90 1052 13 4 73% 207 2620 17 14
2015 33% 104 1132 10 5 67% 204 2576 14 17
2016 32% 91 1051 15 2 68% 184 2642 15 16

The Chargers have ranked well in tight ends for many years thanks to Antonio Gates but he passes that baton. Gates remains this year solely to get one touchdown and beat Tony Gonzalez for the most by a tight end in NFL history (112), He may just walk out of the stadium after he catches that score. Hunter Henry only caught  36 passes for 478 yards but scored a team-high eight touchdowns. Hunter takes over as the starter in an offense that has long been top five with the position.

Stevie Johnson is gone but this set of wideouts were wracked by injuries over the last two years. Keenan Allen is the starter despite playing in only nine games over the last two seasons. The Chargers ran through eight wideouts last year and the undrafted second-year Tyrell Williams was the sleeper. He caught 69 passes for 1,059 yards and scored seven touchdowns as the lead receiver. Travis Benjamin was unable to deliver on his promise after four years in Cleveland.

The Chargers also drafted Mike Williams with the 1.07 pick and the lanky Clemson star should provide an immediate upgrade. The Chargers are moving this year to Los Angeles and that’s already a challenge that the Rams showed was tough to face in 2016. Allen has to hope he can somehow, finally, remain healthy but both Williams present other options.

Best Value: Hunter Henry

Los Angeles Rams

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 36% 84 929 9 9 64% 157 2077 9 29
2015 31% 69 752 2 29 69% 137 1635 9 32
2016 26% 61 584 3 30 74% 188 2261 11 26

The Rams moved to Los Angeles last year but left most of their offense back in St. Louis. And there wasn’t that much to bring in the first place. New head coach Sean McVay stripped this team and kept little more than Todd Gurley. Kenny Britt, Lance Kendricks, Case Keenum and Brian Quick are gone. First-rounder Jared Goff remains as the starting quarterback but his rookie season was less than promising. But the same could be said for almost any offensive player with the Rams in 2016.

Tavon Austin is still the receiver that no one can decide exactly how to use. He’s joined by Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp (3.05) and Josh Reynolds (4.10) to rebuild the wideouts. There’s plenty of promise there but just as much risk. Woods never rose above an average wideout with the Bills. The biggest positive here is that McVay ran a great offense for the Skins and production has to be better. Jeff Fisher and his revolving door at offensive coordinator were everything that the Greatest Show on Turf was not.

McVay brings in a tight-end friendly offense and drafted Gerald Everett with the 2.12 pick plus Tyler Higbee holds promise in his second season.  Both are likely to need more time to develop into fantasy relevancy.

Best Value: Cooper Kupp

Miami Dolphins

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 25% 85 910 5 14 75% 234 2550 20 11
2015 21% 58 560 6 26 79% 225 2961 15 12
2016 19% 55 551 6 24 81% 195 2635 18 11

The first season with HC Adam Gase and OC Clyde Christiansen did not have a much different effect than 2015. The same team returns this year other than adding Julius Thomas who worked with Gase for two seasons in Denver. Both years produced 12 touchdowns by Thomas who never had the same success in Jacksonville. And early reports have Thomas looking more like the Jaguars version. Apparently, Peyton Manning helped receivers play better. Go figure.

Jarvis Landry comes off back-to-back seasons with around 1,100 yards and four touchdowns.  Devante Parker was improved in his second year though still only ended with 744 yards and four scores. Entering his third NFL season, Parker is generating buzz in offseason workouts that he looks ready for a breakout.

Kenny Stills stepped up with nine scores on his 42 catches for 726 yards. He re-signed with the Fins so that the same set of wideouts get a second season together in the same scheme.

Best Value: Devante Parker

Minnesota Vikings

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 25% 67 713 4 22 75% 173 2326 12 24
2015 31% 70 708 6 22 69% 148 1916 6 31
2016 31% 94 908 7 13 69% 237 2637 11 24

The Vikings saw increased passing stats for 2016 only because there was little rushing offense and passing was the only way to move the ball. Even then the team remained below average. Losing a quarterback before the season started was no help. Losing Adrian Peterson and the offensive coordinator walking out at mid-season was more than the offense could handle.

Peterson left and the rushing effort belongs to the rookie Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray. The offensive line should be better. And more importantly, Sam Bradford knows which offense he is going to play in this year and has experience with the team. Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson are gone and only Michael Floyd was picked up.  Floyd is no lock to make the roster let alone contribute.

Stefon Diggs surprised early on with a few big games but then did little for the second half of the season.  Undrafted third-year Adam Thielen went from only 20 career catches over two years to lead the team with 69 receptions for 967 yards and five scores. The first round pick Laquon Treadwell was a bust with only one catch. He fought finger, hamstring and foot injuries as a rookie.  Diggs and Thielen are the starters unless Treadwell can assert himself.

Kyle Rudolph had a career-best season with 83 receptions for 840 yards and seven scores and he was a bigger target later in the year. But that resulted from a lack of other targets, no rushing game, and poor blocking. If Rudolph repeats his good year, it means the receivers disappointed.

Best Value: Laquon Treadwell

New England Patriots

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 35% 111 1427 18 1 65% 207 2298 13 22
2015 35% 99 1462 15 1 65% 201 2271 12 23
2016 27% 82 1263 11 3 73% 195 2472 16 21

Even with Rob Gronkowski missing half the season, the Pats still ranked top three in tight end fantasy points. Martellus Bennett left but Dwayne Allen was added. Gronkowski appears healthy again and if so will dominate the targets and fantasy points.

This year will be different. Julian Edelman was the security blanket and most targeted wideout for a few seasons. He comes off a 98-catch, 1,106-yard effort last year. But the Pats added Brandin Cooks from the Saints. The move casts a new light on how the wideouts are to be used. The Pats used Wes Welker and Edelman to control the ball for many years. But for three seasons ending in 2009, Randy Moss dominated as a wideout with Brady. Cooks will cut into Edelman’s workload and has the chance for special numbers in this offense.

Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Andrew Hawkins will fight for leftover scraps. Allen becomes the fantasy football’s only tight end handcuff.

Best Value: Brandin Cooks

New Orleans Saints

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 37% 119 1201 17 3 63% 196 2700 12 16
2015 31% 101 1021 11 6 69% 232 3120 18 7
2016 22% 70 812 4 20 78% 275 3562 24 2

This is a transition year. In 2016, the Saints dropped to all-new lows for tight end production. That was more about the increased use of wideouts than phasing out the position. Coby Fleener’s first season with the Saints wasn’t any better than the mediocre years he had with the Colts.

But Brandin Cooks stats remained stagnant from 2015 with around 1150 yards and eight scores in both years. The rookie Michael Thomas blew up in Week 3 and never stopped.  He ended with a team-high 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns. Willie Snead was hot for the initial weeks but cooled significantly. Cooks was sent to the Patriots and now Thomas becomes the clear No. 1 receiver. Willie Snead will complement him and hope for better results in his third season.

The Saints also added Ted Ginn to mix in with Brandon Coleman. Thomas is appropriately taken high in fantasy drafts and the next best option will be Snead unless the 32-year-old Ginn surprises. It is bothersome that Snead faded last year but he gets a chance to improve while playing with Drew Brees.

Best Value: Willie Snead

New York Giants

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 24% 84 861 11 8 76% 237 3140 19 5
2015 27% 88 828 5 20 73% 211 2858 26 5
2016 23% 79 609 3 28 77% 215 2796 22 6

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? The Giants are going to find out.  Odell Beckham comes off his third straight 1,300+ yard season with at least ten scores in each. And he is only 25 years old. The second round pick Sterling Shepherd wasn’t quite as productive as hoped with 683 yards but he scored eight times. And he while he impressed in the offseason, he’s moving to the slot thanks to Brandon Marshall landing on the team.

Marshall comes off a bad year with the Jets, not unlike every other player they had. He had a career-best 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 and broke 1,000 yards eight times in his career. And he’ll line up across from Beckham who gets the most attention. That will be a first for Marshall.

The Giants also added Evan Engram with their 1.23 pick in the hopes that a receiving tight end could finally become a part of the offense. Engram will require the usual time to develop and won’t be better than the No. 4 option for Eli Manning even when he gets up to speed.

There’s plenty of upside on this team. Beckham is already an elite player and Marshall very recently was as well. Shepherd is yet another talent that appears to be ready to take the next step albeit now as a slot receiver.

Eli Manning has failed to capitalize on a seemingly good set of receivers in the past so that carries risk. But all three starting wideouts could become worth a fantasy start.

Best Value: Brandon Marshall

New York Jets

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 27% 66 677 5 21 73% 164 2098 8 30
2015 5% 8 95 1 32 95% 259 3356 29 1
2016 7% 18 173 0 32 93% 202 2794 13 15

This is almost hard to comprehend. The team that ranked No. 1 in 2015 for wide receiver fantasy points dropped to only 15th. And the principles responsible for that magic season – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker – are no longer with the team.  OC Chan Gailey is also gone and John Morton heads up the offense after last coaching the wideouts in New Orleans.

The starting quarterback is not yet certain and may change more than once. The Jets did not consider the position in the draft. They will either rely on a 38-year-old journeyman in Josh McCown who has never played a full 16 game season on any of his seven other teams. Or Christian Hackenberg who never played as a rookie. Or Bryce Petty who started four games last year with three scores and seven interceptions.

Quincy Enunwa becomes the No. 1 receiver and he gained 857 yards and four scores last year. It only gets worse. Robby Anderson ended with 587 yards and two scores as a rookie and becomes the No. 2.  The No. 3 guy – who may have very little production anyway – will be between Charone Peake, ArDarius Stewart and Marquess Wilson.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins only had three catches for the Jets last year but will be the starter for a team that ranked No. 32 in the position for the last two years.

There is a chance that the Jets produce no receivers that merit fantasy consideration.

Best Value: Quincy Enunwa

Oakland Raiders

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 23% 60 548 4 25 77% 189 2165 13 27
2015 23% 72 679 5 23 77% 204 2681 24 9
2016 18% 57 580 4 26 82% 226 2713 21 7

Derek Carr was a bit less productive last year than in 2015 but he still threw for almost 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. The bulk of his production goes to only two players – Michael Crabtree (89-1003-8) and Amari Cooper (83-1153-5). No other receiver gained more than 397 yards (Seth Roberts). The Raiders released OC Bill Musgrave last January and promoted up QB coach Todd Downing so not much is expected to change.

The only change – if it matters – is that Mychal Rivera is gone and Jared Cook was signed. It is an upgrade but Cook is already 30-years-old and his best season was back in 2011 in Tennessee when he had 759 yards on 49 catches. The Raiders could use more diversity with their receivers beyond Cooper and Crabtree and there will be a new play-caller.

But relying on anyone beyond the starting wideouts makes no sense so far. The talent level is too heavily skewed to those two players. They signed Cordarrelle Patterson from the Vikings but he’s never been more than a good returner.

Best Value: Jared Cook (sort of)

Philadelphia Eagles

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 28% 93 1101 6 10 72% 221 2922 21 6
2015 34% 105 1305 5 8 66% 172 2158 15 22
2016 38% 129 1298 5 6 62% 170 1839 8 31

There are good reasons to expect the Eagles to pass better this year and to improve their lowly ranking with wide receivers. Carson Wentz enters his second NFL season with the same coaches and scheme. He already threw four games for 300+ yards as a rookie. He’s poised for at least an incremental increase. Maybe more.

Zach Ertz was the safety blanket with 78 receptions for 816 yards to lead the team. Jordan Matthews was next with 73 catches for 804 yards. No other wideout had more than 400 yards. Dorial Green-Beckham was acquired but failed to impress along with the rookie Nelson Agholor.

But the Eagles have added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to add to what should already be improved passing. Jeffery impressed the coaches during OTA’s and should become the No. 1 receiver so long as he remains healthy.

The schedule is tougher and the wideouts have much to build on after only eight scores last year. But more and better pieces are in place. Matthews and Jeffery should start to outpace Ertz as the most productive receivers.

Best Value: Alshon Jeffery

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 21% 70 808 5 17 79% 237 3216 25 4
2015 19% 70 601 3 30 81% 252 3673 23 2
2016 27% 75 840 6 16 73% 208 2765 23 4

The sixth year for OC Todd Haley means stability and consistency. Martavis Bryant was suspended last year but returns. Antonio Brown dominated the passing game again with 106 receptions for 1,284 yards and 12 scores despite missing a week. No other wideout had more than 435 yards (Sammie Coates). Markus Wheaton left and Bryant already drew positive reviews. Eli Rogers never did enough to hold onto the slot position and Darrius Heyward-Bey and Coates are still mixed in.

The Steelers used their 2.30 pick on Juju Smith-Schuster out of USC and he’s been good enough in OTA’s that he’s in the running to become the new slot receiver. This offense hasn’t produced consistent stats from the No. 3 role but Smith-Schuster offers yet another viable target for Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger lobbied for a new tight end in the draft but none was taken. Jesse James and Xavier Grimble fall short of fantasy consideration barring injuries to the wide receivers. There are too many mouths to feed with the wideouts to allow a tight end to offer much.

Best Value: Martavis Bryant

San Francisco 49ers

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 18% 39 433 2 29 82% 209 2595 15 15
2015 32% 82 892 6 13 68% 152 2071 10 29
2016 27% 59 839 7 14 73% 160 1777 8 32

Kyle Shanahan left his offensive coordinator job in Atlanta to become the new head coach and he will call the plays.  Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton are gone. Vance McDonald may not make it to Week 1 still on the roster.  Colin Kaepernick is still sitting waiting for his agent to call. The passing attack of 2016 is gone.

Shanahan’s offensive scheme is complicated and 2018 likely brings a new quarterback anyway. Brian Hoyer is the starter despite never playing a full 16 game season with any of his five previous teams. Even with the Falcons, Shanahan took two years to install this offense and that was with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

There are all new receivers with Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson joining Jeremy Kerley and  Bruce Ellington. This is a rebuilding year that won’t offer consistency and likely only provides too few games of any note by any of the receivers.

The 5.02 pick of George Kittle is so far the only tight end that seems certain to make the team. 2016 is just Phase One of a long process of Shanahan creating his team. There will be slim pickings for fantasy shoppers this year.

Best Upside: Pierre Garcon 

Seattle Seahawks

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 24% 48 757 6 16 76% 181 2120 7 31
2015 32% 82 977 4 14 68% 193 2650 26 6
2016 27% 85 1120 8 5 73% 206 2663 12 22

The Seahawks surprised in 2015 when they suddenly featured a top passing offense. That did not last long, Russell Wilson battled through the lingering effects of a knee injury.  Doug Baldwin fell from 14 touchdowns to only seven last year. Tyler Lockett dropped from six scores to only one. Jimmy Graham was the only receiver with notable increases when he went from 48 catches for 605 yards in 2015 to 65 receptions for 923 yards last year.  Graham is a big part of the passing scheme now and at 31-years-of-age, he still has gas in the tank.

There was little rushing support last year as well and the Seahawks spun through eight different running backs. That should be fixed this year so that defenses won’t load up against the pass.

The same receivers return in one of the most mature offenses in the NFL. Jermaine Kearse is no lock to remain the No. 3 receiver with Paul Richardson stepping up in the final weeks of 2016. The second round pick of 2014 caught 29 passes as a rookie but missed 2015 with a torn ACL. He’s back on track now and ready to challenge for more playing time.

Best Value: Paul Richardson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 19% 51 469 2 28 81% 183 2587 18 12
2015 24% 65 814 8 12 76% 158 2367 9 24
2016 24% 78 824 11 10 76% 211 2792 17 10

The Buccaneers enter their third season of Dirk Koetter’s offense and Jameis Winston ended with over 4,000 passing yards in each. He threw 28 touchdowns last year and should take another step forward after the receivers were upgraded. DeSean Jackson brings in the deep threat after topping 1,000 yards last year in Washington. Vincent Jackson aged out and  Adam Humphries stepped in last year with some success.

The Buccaneers used their 3.20 pick to draft Chris Godwin who drew rave reviews from Koetter and Winston. He’s considered for the slot role despite playing outside in college. Early returns suggest the trio of wideouts this year will take the offense to the next level.

Mike Evans improved in each of his three seasons and after posting 1.321 yards and 12 scores last year, he’s showing up in the first round of many drafts. And he is just 24 years old.

Cameron Brate replaced Austin Seferian-Jenkins and ended with a very credible 57 catches for 660 yards and eight touchdowns. The Buccaneers also spent their 1.19 pick on O.J. Howard as the best tight end in the draft. He’s expected to upgrade both the blocking and receiving though he’ll need the standard year before starting to realize his role catching passes. That reality still hasn’t stopped him from being drafted in most fantasy leagues.

The Buccaneers are expected to turn in a better season and the receivers will benefit. Jackson will be an immediate contributor but he’s already being taken higher in drafts. Brate has the upside as the “oh yeah” player not likely to be obscured by a rookie tight end.

Best Value: Chris Godwin

Tennessee Titans

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 31% 73 1004 5 13 69% 150 2168 12 28
2015 45% 139 1572 10 2 55% 130 1665 11 30
2016 31% 80 1004 9 8 69% 159 2178 16 25

Marcus Mariota enters the second year of Terry Robiskie’s offensive scheme. The focus on rushing detracts from the passing stats but Mariota was able to throw 26 touchdowns last year and is expected to increase yet again for 2017.

Kendall Wright left but the Titans added Corey Davis with their 1.05 pick as the first wideout taken in the NFL draft. He’s an immediate upgrade who should quickly become the No. 1 receiver and then grow old with Mariota. The Titans also acquired Eric Decker after his release by the Jets in their purge of all receiving talent. Decker is only 30-years-old and gained over 950 yards in four straight seasons before being lost for 2016 with a shoulder injury.

Rishard Matthews was the lead receiver with 945 yards and nine scores last season. Delanie Walker cooled after his 1,088-yard 2015 season but still managed 800 yards and a career-best seven touchdowns.

Davis, Matthews, and Decker are a significant upgrade for Mariota and should further decrease the reliance on Walker. The Titans will still lean on their rushing game but the wide receivers should help Mariota to a career year.

Best Value: Corey Davis

Washington Redskins

Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2014 30% 102 1050 2 15 70% 178 2564 11 19
2015 31% 104 1093 12 3 69% 203 2496 15 18
2016 30% 114 1306 8 4 70% 222 3109 14 8

There’s plenty of change with the Redskins offense this year. The two of the leading receivers – DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon – are gone. But Jamison Crowder became a productive slot receiver with 67 catches for 847 yards and seven scores. Jordan Reed declined from his strong 2015 season and for his fourth straight year suffered an injury that made him miss several weeks. Reed only averages around 12 games per year.

Joining Reed and Crowder is 2016’s  first round pick of Josh Doctson who suffered an Achilles injury that limited him to only two catches. He’ll assume the flanker role that was vacated by Garcon. Terrelle Pryor was also acquired after his breakout season in Cleveland.

Despite the loss of two starting wideouts, there’s no shortage of receivers here with Reed, Crowder, Pryor, and Doctson. Reed still has to remain healthy which he has never done.  And Pryor must learn a new scheme with all new players. Crowder is the most established but is already drafted as a fantasy starter. Doctson offers promise after a lost rookie year but must prove his worth among the other viable receiving options.

Best Value: Josh Doctson

OTHER POSITIONS:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs

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