Fantasy football preseason preview: Receivers

Fantasy football preseason preview: Receivers


Fantasy football preseason preview: Receivers


Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Other Positions: Quarterbacks | Running Backs

Last year was a banner one for the receivers. The overall explosion in scoring included wideouts while tight ends kept their typical small range of relevant studs. Whatever it was that caused significant declines in offenses in 2017 stopped, caught the ball and then raced into the endzone.

Wide Receiver Totals by Year

Year Targets Comps Receiving Yards Receiving TD Runs Rush Yards Rush TD
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
2017 9,859 5,791 74,768 435 308 1,566 4
2018 10,080 6,349 81,501 532 406 2,594 12

The wide receivers took a nosedive in 2017 and it appeared that the glory of the passing game was over. Not so. Not only did 2018 wideouts account for near record levels of catches and receiving yardage, but they also set high marks for both receiving and rushing touchdowns and both carries and rushing yardage. The era of the pass remains strongly in force.

Top Ten Wide Receiver Totals

Year Targets Comps Receiving Yards YPC TD FF Pts
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
2017 1,505 953 12,673 13.3 70 1,687
2018 1,541 1051 14,358 13.7 98 2,071

The elite in the position trended up as well and accounted for a record 1,051 receptions. That means the top ten fantasy wideouts averaged 105 catches each though their average of 13.7 yards per catch signals that the receiver position is more about possession, shorter throws than the longer completions of the past. We come off a season with very healthy total targets thrown to the position and the most receptions ever from the top ten.

Tight End Totals by Year

Year Targets Catches Yards TD
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
2017 3,583 2,297 25,418 197
2018 3,427 2,333 26,557 190

The increases that were seen in all other scoring positions did not extend to the tight ends.  Overall, the position remains almost static from year to year, if not in slight decline. Teams are more likely to use three or even four-wideout formations than to load up with two tight ends that can catch the ball.

Top Ten Tight End Totals

Year Targets Catches Yards YPC TD FF Pts
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
2017 1,012 669 7,368 11.0 66 1,140
2018 1,035 720 8,589 11.9 65 1,255

There was a slight increase from 2017 to 2018 but nothing dramatic or in line with the highs of previous seasons.  The fact that the position remains mostly unchanging in both overall and top ten measurements shows that the same phenomena always happens – only about five or six tight ends really matter in any given season.

Arizona Cardinals

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Larry Fitzgerald: 69-734-6
WR Christian Kirk: 43-590-3
TE Ricky Seals-Jones: 34-343-1

The receiving stats disintegrated last year along with the collapsing offense. Bringing in Christian Kirk helped a bit but one of the worst offensive lines paired with a changing quarterback situation and a new offense being installed. Larry Fitzgerald was aged one more year which led to yet another declining season. The tight end slot has never meant much in Arizona… ever.

There is another new offensive scheme to install this year and it will be dramatically different. HC Kliff Kingsbury’s intention is to produce a wide-open passing attack that uses multiple receiver sets. Four or even five wide receivers on the field mean that tight ends, yet again, matter little in this system.

While Fitzgerald hangs on to bury personal records, Kirk holds the most promise here as a second-year player taken as the fifth-overall wideout in the 2018 NFL draft. Behind him is where training camp needs to establish order and while most teams don’t do much with their No. 3 and No. 4 wideouts, that isn’t so in this offense.

The Cardinals drafted Andy Isabella (2.30), Hakeem Butler (4.01) and Keesean Johnson (6.01) to join Chad Williams and Trent Sherfield. They also brought in Kevin White who has been a bust since his first-round selection by the Bears in 2015 but has drawn positive reviews by the new coaching staff.

This will be worth watching in camp. The No. 3 receiver has the potential to be a lower-end fantasy starter. If Fitzgerald is injured, that boosts everyone up the depth chart as well. Going in, the speedy Isabella has the lead but camp will determine how they all end up.

Atlanta Falcons

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Julio Jones: 113-1677-8
WR Calvin Ridley: 64-821-10
WR Mohamed Sanu: 66-838-4

The Falcons moved on from OC Steve Sarkisian and ex-Buccaneers HC Dirk Koetter takes over the offense. But there no reason to expect any notable changes since the exact same set of receivers (and quarterback) return from last year. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are the two starters and Mohammed Sanu figures in when they go three-wide. Austin Hooper enters his fourth season and flirted with fantasy relevance when he caught 71 passes for 660 yards and four scores last year.

Despite a change in coordinators, this should be one of the least changing teams in the NFL. Devonta Freeman is back and Tevin Coleman left for the backfield but that won’t impact the number of passes thrown to running backs. Jones and Ridley are one of the most productive receiving duos in the NFL. Ridley had a hot start and then cooled in 2018. If he can maintain a high level of play, then the pair could be the most productive in the league. But nothing in training camp will change the depth chart or roles.

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Baltimore Ravens

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR John Brown: 42-715-5
WR Willie Snead IV: 62-651-1
WR Michael Crabtree: 54-607-3

There is some potential for fantasy value here that may be overlooked simply because the Ravens under Lamar Jackson had one of the worst passing offenses. That may not change much in his second season and even in the best case, the receivers here will offer inconsistent results from week to week.

The offense will be new under OC Greg Roman mainly because it was felt he could do a better job with Lamar Jackson than Marty Morinwheg did. But this was one of the worst passing offenses with Jackson so there’s nowhere to go but up. With Jackson playing, no receiver gained more than 58 yards in any game other than Mark Andrews who caught a freak 68-yard touchdown in Week 16. In almost all cases, receivers remained safely below 50 yards per game.

Jackson only passed for six touchdowns over his eight games. Just two of those ended up with a wide receiver.

This is a depth chart that will be quite different from 2018. Michael Crabtree and John Brown are gone and the Ravens relied on the draft to restock by taking Marquise Brown (1.25) and Miles Boykin (3.30). Brown was the first wideout selected this year and offers a diverse set of skills but at 5-11 and 165 pounds, he’s not a 100-catch monster over the middle.

Willie Snead and Chris Moore are the best veterans in the group and both could start. But lower expectations for the Ravens receivers until Jackson proves he can be more than a running back that sometimes throws the ball.

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Buffalo Bills

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Zay Jones: 56-652-7
WR Robert Foster: 27-541-3
WR Kelvin Benjamin: 23-354-1

Overall, the Bills passing stats were among the worst in the NFL under the rookie Josh Allen but there was a major improvement over the season. This was already one of the worst offenses with Tyrod Taylor at the helm but Allen was their first-round pick last year.

Zay Jones was the second-round pick in 2017 and turned in a terrible first season. He started 2018 only marginally better yet by the end of the year, he showed all new life. Jones scored five times over the final five games and even ended the year with a career-best 93 yards and two touchdowns versus their divisional rival Dolphins.

Robert Foster was an undrafted free agent last year who came to life once he started in Week 10. He went on to register three 100-yard performances over his final seven games.

The Bills picked up John Brown and Cole Beasley.  Brown and Foster will compete for a starting spot and that bears watching in the preseason.  Foster was a delightful surprise last year but Brown brings more experience and possibly faster speed. Beasley will end up in the slot although the position never accounted for much last year.

OC Brian Daboll started last year and with that, the end to any fantasy value for the tight ends. As a group, they only totaled one score. Training camp will help determine if Foster holds onto the starting spot or yields it to Brown.

Carolina Panthers

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR DJ Moore: 55-788-2
WR Curtis Samuel: 39-494-5
WR Devin Funchess: 44-549-4

The receiving stats rose last year with OC Norv Turner taking over and creating a more traditional offense that relied heavily on passing to Christian McCaffrey in particular and the wideouts in general. Greg Olsen came off a lost 2017 season and while he played in nine games, he was hampered by his foot all year. After a three-year stretch of 1,000-yard seasons, the 34-year-old Olsen is in steep decline even when healthy.

The wide receivers had no stars and five different players mixed in during the year. Devin Funchess is gone now and that leaves a big opening for someone to step up into starting every week. DJ Moore turned in 55 catches for 788 yards and two scores as a rookie but improved as the season progressed and will be the clear No. 1 wideout with a shot at a breakout season.

This summer will help determine the order of the depth chart beyond Moore. Torrey Smith, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, and the newly acquired Chris Hogan will be in the mix but it could well end up as it did in 2018. Where four or more wideouts end up with a role at least occasionally but none offer reliable fantasy value.

Chicago Bears

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Allen Robinson II: 55-754-4
WR Taylor Gabriel: 67-688-2
TE Trey Burton: 54-569-6

The first season with HC Matt Nagy had a positive effect on the receivers though 2017 was a nightmare season where everyone was injured, some before the season ever started.  Mitchell Trubisky improved in his second season and overall, the Bears offense started to become average again. Now, onto being better than most.

There have been no notable changes to the receivers and the same offensive scheme enters its second year. Trubkisky was mostly average last year when this six-touchdown game was removed but he threw for over 300 yards in five games including the playoff loss to the Eagles.

Trey Burton did not blow up as hoped due to Matt Nagy’s experience with tight ends. He remained average in his first season away from the Eagles and actually did almost all his damage in the first half of the season before disappearing down the stretch.

There is no expectation of any changes to the starting wideouts but optimism that they could all improve on their 2018 season. Allen Robinson (55-754-4) was best of the bunch and missed three games with a groin injury. He later had a rib bruise as well but was thrown at least seven targets in ten of his thirteen games. He has a chance to turn in a big year now a full year removed from his knee injury and with the Bears schedule turning lighter.

Taylor Gabriel plays the flanker and his 67 catches for 688 yards was a career high. But after six years in the league, he’s never going to be much more than he is already. The Bears spent their 2.19 pick on Anthony Miller last year and his rookie season was predictably slow with only 33 catches for 423 yards. But he snagged a team-high seven touchdowns and starts in the slot.

The hope for this year is that Robinson returns to the high production of his early years in Jacksonville and that Miller takes a step up in his second season with more catches and yardage to match an already impressive touchdown total.

Cincinnati Bengals

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Tyler Boyd: 76-1028-7
WR A.J. Green: 46-694-6
TE C.J. Uzomah: 43-439-3

There is hope that the Bengals rise above their annual average status when it comes to receivers. A.J. Green comes off the worst season of his career thanks to missing seven games because of a toe injury and the reality is that he misses time in every odd-numbered year anyway. But he’s been a lock for just over 1,000 yards each healthy season though his touchdowns lagged in recent years.

Tyler Boyd enjoyed a breakout in his third season with the Bengals thanks in large part to Green missing most of the year. He’ll remain the starter and shouldn’t see any decrease. What impacts the offense the most is that the Bengals finally parted ways with HC Marvin Lewis and opted for Zac Taylor who had been the quarterback coach for the Rams. He should infuse more passing into the offense but it may start slowly as the new system is installed.

The No. 3 wideout isn’t clear and may not matter much even in the new offense. Alex Erickson, Josh Malone, and John Ross will compete for snaps but so far there’s no expectation that the fantasy world needs to pay attention.

The Bengals also drafted tight end Drew Sample (2.20) and C.J. Uzomah remains the starter. Nothing in Taylor’s past says he’ll use tight ends much so training camp and preseason are mostly for filling out the wideout depth chart below Boyd and Green.

Cleveland Browns

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Jarvis Landry: 81-976-4
TE David Njoku: 56-639-4
WR Antonio Callaway: 43-586-5

Maybe this will be too good.

Baker Mayfield’s rookie season helped the wideouts to total up above average stats in just his first season that was marked with dissension and upheaval in the coaching ranks during the year. Now the offense starts the season controlled by HC Freddie Kitchens. That alone would be reason enough to expect another step up.

But the Browns added Odell Beckham to the fold that already had Jarvis Landry,  Antonio Callaway, and Rashard Higgins. And  David Njoku also saw a solid improvement in his second season when he caught 56 passes for 639 yards.

Beckham, Landry, and Njoku are locks to see plenty of playing time.  There isn’t much about the preseason that should matter other than if Callaway looks unusually sharp but even then it only means the pie could be divided a bit more. Beckham and Landry should be pass sponges and those two could end up decreasing the production for all the rest.

Dallas Cowboys

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Amari Cooper: 53-725-6
WR Cole Beasley: 65-672-3
WR Michael Gallup: 33-507-2

What to expect?

The Cowboys switched to new OC Kellen Moore who only coached for one season ever. He was the quarterback coach last year after a mostly quiet career as a backup quarterback in the NFL. He obviously impressed the Cowboys enough to take this risky plunge and there is HC Jason Garrett to step in should it be needed. But the offensive scheme and how it employs receivers are anyone’s guess.

Amari Cooper is a lock to remain the No. 1 wideout. Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams are gone and Randall Cobb was added to replace Beasley in the slot. The early reviews are positive. And Michael Gallup enters his second season that gave promise to a normal step up this year. Gallup’s final game had six receptions for 119 yards in the loss to the Rams in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Jason Witten also returned which will help third down but no one expects him to offer much fantasy value. He’ll offer a veteran presence and will help out as needed. But Cooper, Gallup, and Cobb should end up as the top three receivers (aside from potentially Ezekiel Elliott).

The preseason could show Cobb and Gallup as likely to set up in the new offense, and there are reasons to expect that. But Cooper will be the primary receiver and Elliott will dominate touches. How much is left over for Cobb and Gallup is likely game situation dependent.

Denver Broncos

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Emmanuel Sanders: 71-868-4
WR Courtland Sutton: 42-704-4
WR Demaryius Thomas: 36-402-3

This offense is in transition with new coaching by first-time offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and a change in quarterbacks with either Joe Flacco or Drew Lock. All that throws the roles and outlook for the receivers into question.

Emmanuel Sanders tore his Achilles tendon in December and his status for the start of the season is not certain, let alone the effects of missing out on training in the new offense. Courtland Sutton was the second-round pick that showed flashes of ability as a rookie but he’s been, and may still be, limited by his quarterback situation. He’s sure to become the No. 1 receiver whenever Sanders is not there and at least eventually take over for Sanders.

DaeSean Hamilton was a fourth-round pick last year and he saw more use at the end of the year when he caught 25 passes over the final four games but he only averaged 8.1 yards per catch and this offense is not certain to offer any fantasy value from the No. 3 wideout. He’ll figure in as Sanders replacement whenever that needs to happen.

There is upside too in rookie tight end Noah Fant (1.20) that should play out well if only by next year when the Broncos are behind Drew Lock and Fant has a year under his belt.

The only watch this summer is how well Sanders returns from his Achilles tear. If he is slow to recover, it means better things for Hamilton.

Detroit Lions

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Kenny Golladay: 70-1063-5
WR Marvin Jones Jr.: 35-508-5
WR Golden Tate: 26-322-3

The Lions under Matt Stafford have usually produced at least average stats for receivers if not some of the better marks in the league for wideouts. The first year with HC Matt Patricia was the career worst for Stafford and that naturally trickled down to the receivers. At least what was left of them.

The Lions parted ways with Eric Ebron for 2018 and eventually, Golden Tate left during the season. Marvin Jones injured his knee and played only nine games. The only player of any note to emerge was Kenny Golladay who broke out in his second year with 70 catches for 1,063 yards if only because all other receivers were injured or gone.

The Lions are going with OC Darrell Bevell who last ran the offense for the Seahawks.  2019 should be a better year though the only additions were Danny Amendola and Jermaine Kearse. The Lions did use their 1.08 pick on T.J. Hockenson to replace the hole left by Ebron but even the top tight end in the draft usually requires a full season before contributing fantasy stats.

Training camp and the preseason are essential to get the team more on the same page in the offense. Golladay and Jones will continue to man the outside providing that Jones’ knee is healthy again from the surgery. He missed OTA’s while recovering. The only notable feature is how well Amendola can integrate into the offense though Bevell’s scheme hasn’t made great use of the slot receiver in the past.

Green Bay Packers

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Davante Adams: 111-1386-13
TE Jimmy Graham: 55-636-2
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling: 38-581-2

This will be one of the most interesting and important preseasons for the Packers in many years. While Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams return with their well-defined roles, the same is not true for any other receiver.

The Packers parted ways with Randall Cobb but added no notable receivers. But – the pecking order needs to be established in a new offense that will be installed by HC Matt LaFleur and OC Nathaniel Hackett along with more than a little influence by Rodgers.

Jimmy Graham is back despite a very disappointing first season for the one-time touchdown machine. He may improve or may just be in a final decline.

The noteworthy part of the summer is where Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison and Equanimeous St. Brown end up. Early speculation has St. Brown on the outside and Allison in the slot with Valdez-Scantling mixing in but that could all change. And anyone playing with Aaron Rodgers bears following.

Houston Texans

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR DeAndre Hopkins: 115-1572-11
WR Will Fuller V: 32-503-4
TE Jordan Thomas: 20-215-4

There are no changes here other than OC Tim Kelly being promoted up from being the tight end coach. DeAndre Hopkins continues to be the top wideout in the NFL for the second season and the only thing the receivers lack is health. Will Fuller has been a scoring machine when on the field but three years have him missing a total of 17 games. He tore his ACL last year but is on track for Week 1, so it would be encouraging to see him in the preseason.

Keke Coutee missed ten games as a fourth-round rookie but still managed a couple of 100-yard games including 11 catches for 110 yards and a score in the playoff loss to the Colts. His hamstring has been an issue as is common in some rookies. Jordan Thomas is still the top tight end but that doesn’t reach fantasy relevance.

The only part of the preseason that is worth noting is that both Coutee and Fuller back to health. There are no changes here or new players to consider.

Indianapolis Colts

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR T.Y. Hilton: 76-1270-6
TE Eric Ebron: 66-750-13
WR Chester Rogers: 53-485-2

The first season for HC Frank Reich and OC Nick Sirianni coincided with the return of Andrew Luck – nice timing. Eric Ebron went from a first-round bust for the Lions to leading all tight ends with 14 touchdowns for the Colts. Jack Doyle was limited to only six games because of a hip injury but is healthy again. The tight ends accounted for a total of 21 touchdowns as a sign of a less effective backfield and a set of wideouts that Luck wasn’t as successful with when throwing deep.

The Colts dropped Ryan Grant and Dontrelle Inman and added Devin Funchess. They drafted Parris Campbell (2.27) to bring some deep speed to bear in an offense that lacked the threat in 2018. T.Y. Hilton ended as 1,270 yards and six scores while missing two games.

Hilton, Ebron, and Doyle (to a lesser extent) return to certain roles. The preseason needs to sort out the wide receivers and in this offense with Luck passing, the No. 2 and even No. 3 receivers are worth following.

Devin Funchess is the early favorite to be the starting flanker but Parris Campbell will look to earn playing time. Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal could also be in the mix. The important part of this summer is watching how well Funchess appears to fit in and if Campbell can get up to speed fast enough to merit enough targets to yield fantasy starter value.

Jacksonville Jaguars

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Dede Westbrook: 66-717-5
WR Donte Moncrief: 48-668-3
WR Keelan Cole: 38-491-1

The Jaguars passing offense has languished for several years but they finally parted ways with Blake Bortles and brought in Nick Foles. There’s no one to push Foles, so the 30-year-old lands on his fourth NFL team still looking to become a full-season starter for the first time. He’s likely an upgrade to Bortles but not necessarily by much.

This offense lacks a true No. 1 wideout, and that was true last year as well. The same cast of wideouts returns with Dede Westbrook, Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, DJ Chark and Terrelle Pryor. They also added Chris Conley to ensure they would have an NFL-high number of moderately-talented wideouts.

Going into camp, Westbrook and Lee are the likely starters but Lee is returning from an ACL tear and may be limited to start the year. That will give Cole, Conley, and Chark a chance to earn playing time but there’s a new offense being installed by OC John DeFilippo and a new quarterback. And still – all those average wideouts. Westbrook is the only receiver with any sense of reliability but training camp could shake up the depth charts.

The tight ends carry no fantasy interest so far. They were among the worst last year and no real upgrades were made.

Kansas City Chiefs

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Tyreek Hill: 87-1479-12
TE Travis Kelce: 103-1336-10
WR Sammy Watkins: 40-519-3

Swapping out Alex Smith for Patrick Mahomes really didn’t hurt the production. Travis Kelce ended with 103 receptions for 1,336 yards and ten touchdowns. Tyreek Hill blew up for 1,479 yards on 87 catches for 12 scores. The backfield was in transition but the receivers came through with great years.

Tyreek Hill’s legal situation ended without charges and he’s expected to return to the team. There is still a chance that the NFL hands down a suspension but barring that, the same receivers return from last year when Mahomes’ first season resulted in 50 passing touchdowns. Sammy Watkins continued to be unable to last for all 16 games in a season this time because of a foot injury. But he turned in three 100-yard games along the way and could be huge if Hill gets suspended.

The Chiefs let Chris Conley go but added Mecole Hardman (2.24) who ran a 4.33/40 at the NFL combine. That’s a speedy upgrade to what Conley provided. Preseason will be useful to see how well Hardman adjusts and if Mahomes looks likely to start throwing deep strikes to him.

Los Angeles Chargers

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Keenan Allen: 97-1196-6
WR Mike Williams: 43-664-10
WR Tyrell Williams: 41-653-5

This is one of the least changed teams for 2019 running the same offense for the last three years and maintaining consistency with the receivers. The loss of Hunter Henry in 2018 led to an obvious drop for the tight ends and Antonio Gates is finally undeniably over the hill and gone.

Henry’s return allows him to finally take the final step up into being an elite tight end and there’s no Gates to get into the way. His torn ACL is healing though he needs to show this summer that his recuperation is complete.

The Chargers parted ways with Tyrell Williams which should allow Travis Benjamin to see more playing time. But Mike Williams had a breakout of sorts last year with ten touchdowns and will play as the split end. Keenan Allen has a firm grip on the flanker. The expectation is that Williams sees a dramatic increase to the 43 receptions last year.

Training camp and preseason won’t disclose anything new other than a bit more game time for Benjamin who will see at least incrementally more work.

Los Angeles Rams

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Robert Woods: 86-1219-6
WR Brandin Cooks: 80-1204-5
WR Cooper Kupp: 40-566-6

Tight ends haven’t meant much in the two seasons with HC Sean McVay and there’s no reason to expect any change. But – the wideouts have consistently been one of the best units in the NFL during his tenure. With the apparent decline in Todd Gurley’s rushing ability, the passing offense should be no worse and likely better.

There are no changes to the depth chart for this year. Cooper Kupp is returning from a torn ACL and is expected to be ready for Week 1. That bears tracking this summer since without him, the other wideouts are busier and Josh Reynolds flirts with fantasy relevance.

Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are firmly entrenched as the starters and both totaled over 1,200 yards last year. The summer is just for a tuneup and to make sure Kupp is ready to play.

Miami Dolphins

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Kenny Stills: 37-553-6
WR Danny Amendola: 59-575-1
WR Albert Wilson: 26-391-4

The Dolphins are expected to redefine “rebuilding year” and a very average set of receivers are not changing. There’s a new offense being installed by ex-Patriots receiver coach Chad O’Shea and a change in quarterbacks to either Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick. A questionable offensive line only makes matters even worse.

Tight ends could see an uptick in the new offense since they were the worst in the NFL last year. The Fins drafted Mike Gesicki with their second-round pick in 2018 so he should ready for an increase but he’s been a blocking tight end and only logged 22 catches and no touchdowns as a rookie.

Danny Amendola left and Albert Wilson will take the slot with Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker on the outside. None of the three starters have even logged a 1,000-yard season and that’s not likely to change with all the transition in 2019.

It would be nice to see one of the wideouts connecting well with Rosen or Fitzpatrick but expectations are low for this season.

Minnesota Vikings

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Adam Thielen: 113-1373-9
WR Stefon Diggs: 102-1021-9
TE Kyle Rudolph: 64-634-4

The addition Kirk Cousins paid off for the wide receivers. Both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen logged 100-catch seasons while No. 3 wideout Laquon Treadwell continued to underperform with only 35 catches. This is a very traditional offense that employs two wideouts and one tight end. Anyone else just doesn’t matter much.

There could be a challenge to Treadwell for the No. 3 role but that’s only worth a catch or two per game and doesn’t matter in fantasy terms. Diggs and Thielen are locked into heavy use.

The only change is more for 2020 than this season. The Vikings drafted Irv Smith Jr. (2.18) who will figure in as both a blocker and receiver. But they also re-signed Kyle Rudolph to a 4-year, $36 million deal so he’ll continue to supply the primary tight end role.

New England Patriots

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Julian Edelman: 74-850-6
TE Rob Gronkowski: 47-682-3
WR Josh Gordon: 40-720-3

This is a year of much transition for an offense that has longer tenure of coaching and quarterbacking than any other in the NFL. But there will be plenty of changes to the receivers beginning with the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. Benjamin Watson was signed but the 39-year-old veteran is suspended for the first four games and his days of high-volume targets are over. Matt LaCosse is only 27 years old but totals only 33 receptions over his three previous seasons. Chances are high that the tight ends won’t matter much this year as they did not in 2018.

The wideouts are where all the interest is. Julian Edelman is the only certainty and Josh Gordon may be reinstated which would be a significant upgrade. Of course, how long Gordon would play in the best scenario could be debated.

The Patriots signed N’Keal Harry with their 1.32 pick as the second wideout taken in the NFL draft. That’s sparked a lot of optimism in the fantasy world (and likely too much) but he’ll be in line for a starting spot and potentially a fantasy-relevant rookie year. If Gordon doesn’t return, then all the better for Harry.

Demaryius Thomas was also signed but he’s been in steep decline. Dontrelle Inman was also brought on to join Phillip Dorsett and Mattew Slater in this always-crowded receiver group. The Patriots will run at least as much as last year and they featured the best backfield in the NFL in fantasy terms. This summer is mostly about getting Harry up to speed and determining if Gordon is available or not.

New Orleans Saints

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Michael Thomas: 125-1405-9
WR Tre’quan Smith: 28-427-5
TE Benjamin Watson: 35-400-2

The Saints added Jared Cook who was coming off a career-best year in Oakland when he caught 68 passes for 896 yards and six scores. Cook lands on his fifth NFL team and is already 32 years old. He may not rekindle Jimmy Graham numbers but he’ll be an upgrade from last year. His big 2018 stemmed mostly from the Raiders running out of receivers.

Michael Thomas dominates the receiving stats with 125 catches last year. There were few changes to the wide receivers for 2019 so Tre’quan Smith and Ted Ginn are expected to take the biggest chunk. But Rishard Matthews and Cameron Meredith have an outside chance of rising in the depth chart.

There hasn’t been a decent complement to Thomas in New Orleans since Brandin Cooks left and no one in this grouping is likely to produce “startable” numbers in fantasy terms. Smith has the best chance if he can remain healthy and it will be encouraging if Cook can bring life back into the tight end position.

New York Giants

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Odell Beckham Jr: 77-1052-6
WR Sterling Shepard: 66-872-4
TE Evan Engram: 45-577-3

This will be different.

The HC Pat Shurmur offense enters the second season but the quarterback situation is less certain with Eli Manning on shaky ground and the Giants spending their 1.06 pick on Daniel Jones as the heir apparent. That alone would throw more risk onto the wide receivers.

But the loss of Odell Beckham is an obvious downgrade to the offense. Golden Tate was brought in as a replacement but the 31-year-old wideout wasn’t good enough to stick with the Lions or Eagles. He’s been good in the past but never great. Now, he may not return to being good. Tate’s never been much for scoring and at 5-10, he’s not a possession guy over the middle.

Sterling Shepard remains the starter from last year and should see an increase if only because of the departure of Beckham. This will be an offense that will need to throw a lot by the fourth quarter of most games. The No. 3 wideout is open but Russell Shepard will likely take the role that doesn’t merit any fantasy attention anyway.

Evan Engram enters his third season and he saw his targets cut in half last year from his rookie year when the Giants ran out of receivers. He did miss five games though with a knee injury so his stats would have been better than the 45 receptions. His 16 game pace would have ended with 80 catches for 1,025 yards and that shouldn’t change much with Beckham out.

New York Jets

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Robby Anderson: 50-752-6
TE Chris Herndon: 39-502-4
WR Quincy Enunwa: 38-449-1

The Jets parted ways with HC Todd Bowles and brought in new HC Adam Gase and OC Dowell Loggains fresh from their same jobs with the Dolphins. Maybe it will work better in New York?

The receivers have long been sub-standard with the Jets but there are reasons to expect at least incremental improvement for 2019. Sam Darnold enters his second season in the NFL and even in a new offense, he’ll be improved and familiar with his receivers.

Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa both return as the primary starters and each missed time in 2018 to depress their stats. Anderson was as good as 941 yards just in 2017 while Enunwa managed 857 yards in 2016 before missing 2017 due to injury and being limited last year with a bad ankle and a worse offense surrounding him. The addition of Le’Veon Bell should have at least incremental benefit for the receivers as he’ll command more attention by the defense than any running back from last year.

Jamison Crowder comes over from the Redskins to assume the starting slot role and Chris Herndon spawns optimism after his rookie season produced 39 receptions for 502 yards and four scores. Gase doesn’t have a lot of history using the position but Herndon was a fourth-round pick last year and already showed some chemistry with Darnold.

There are no changes to the depth charts expected coming out of the preseason but a chance to see how the new offense will use the various receivers and Crowder can work with getting comfortable with Darnold.

Oakland Raiders

2018 Top 3 receivers
TE Jared Cook: 68-896-6
WR Jordy Nelson: 63-739-3
WR Seth Roberts: 45-494-2

We’ve seen what happens when HC Jon Gruden disassembles the team. Now we’ll see what happens when he’s built it all back up. The receivers are completely redone from 2018 and all three of the top receivers – Jared Cook, Jordy Nelson, and Seth Roberts – are no longer with the team.

The Raiders offense will be all new and deserves careful tracking this summer. Jared Cook is gone but much of his career-year in 2018 was because the Raiders had few other options when then passes. That is no longer the case. The Raiders did nothing to replace him other than draft Foster Moreau in the fourth round and bring in Luke Willson – neither will offer fantasy value this year (or likely ever).

But the wide receivers are completely made over. Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams were signed to become starters. J.J. Nelson and Ryan Grant were added and Grant takes the slot with Nelson figuring in on four-wide sets. Hunter Renfrow was the 5.11 pick to add depth to holdovers Marcel Ateman and Dwayne Harris. This will be an entirely remade set of receivers with Brown and Williams sure to dominate the targets.

Philadelphia Eagles

2018 Top 3 receivers
TE Zach Ertz: 116-1163-8
WR Alshon Jeffery: 65-843-6
WR Nelson Agholor: 64-736-4

Zach Ertz helps ensure that the Eagles remain the No. 1 team for tight ends and the addition of Dallas Goedert only makes the unit even more productive. There are no changes to the tight ends.

The wide receivers dropped last year from 2017 but upgrades should get the unit back at least to average or better. The tight ends accounted for 155 receptions last year, so there are fewer passes to go around for the wideouts. The Eagles parted ways with Jordan Matthews, Golden Tate, and Mike Wallace. They added DeSean Jackson and drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (2.25).

Alshon Jeffery remains the No. 1 wideout and is joined by Jackson. The No.3 role belongs to Nelson Agholor but he has to hold off Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson. Agholor enters his fifth season and final year of his rookie contract as a first-rounder. He’s disappointed and was the subject of trade speculation around the NFL draft that never happened.

This summer should get Jackson familiar with Carson Wentz and determine who will be the No. 3 wideout. Since the tight ends and top two wideouts command so many targets, it may not matter much anyway.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Antonio Brown: 104-1297-15
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: 111-1426-7
TE Vance McDonald: 50-610-4

One guy leaves and it changes everything. At least when that guy is Antonio Brown.

This is the second season for OC Randy Fichtner and he doesn’t automatically start the season with two of the most elite receivers in the NFL. JuJu Smith-Schuster actually had more catches and yards than Brown though his 15 touchdowns will be very sorely missed. Smith-Schuster only ended with seven.

The Steelers drafted Diontae Johnson (3.02) but he’s a project and no direct replacement for Brown. Donte Moncrief and James Washington will battle it out for the split end spot. Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer will take the slot though that position was little used in 2018.

The Steelers also used their tight ends far more under Fichtner than they did with Todd Haley.  At best, the Steelers tight ends were average but Jesse James (30-423-2) and Vance McDonald (50-610-4) combined for one of the better outputs of any tight end group. The loss of Brown will likely see the tight ends at least maintain that if not see even more targets. James is gone and Xavier Grimble steps up. It likely means more passes for McDonald, who has already proven himself as a valuable target.

The summer will help decide if Moncrief or Washington play the split end but there is a chance that they just mix in during the season, along with the rookie Johnson.

San Francisco 49ers

2018 Top 3 receivers
TE George Kittle: 88-1377-5
WR Kendrick Bourne: 42-487-4
WR Dante Pettis: 27-467-5

There are new receivers here though just having Jimmy Garoppolo healthy for a season would be new enough. This is the third year for HC Kyle Shanahan’s offense and it should take better form if the quarterbacking can be consistent. Pierre Garcon wasn’t re-signed and Jordan Matthews was brought in to replace him. The 49ers also drafted Deebo Samuel (2.04) as the third wideout selected this year and added the versatile Jalen Hurd (3.03).

George Kittle turned in a monster 2018 performance. For most of the second half of the season, he was caught six or more passes each game. Some of that reflected the troubles with the wide receivers. No wideout caught more than 42 passes or gained more than 487 yards.

Heading into this season, second-year flanker Dante Pettis is considered the No. 1 and Matthews takes the split end at least to start the preseason. The rookie Samuel is expected to take the slot with Hurd and Marqise Goodwin mixing in.

Shanahan has spoken about his “positionless” offense that will use the receivers in many different ways. That makes forecasting them more difficult unless one or two clearly takes a high volume of targets. Pettis is the most likely if that happens, but last year this scheme used five different wide receivers with more than 20 catches on the year. And only one ended with more than 27.

Seattle Seahawks

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Tyler Lockett: 57-965-10
WR Doug Baldwin: 50-618-5
WR David Moore: 26-445-5

OC Brian Schottenheimer’s first season saw the tight ends plummet in use (with Jimmy Graham gone) and not much change for the average wide receivers. But their running back group went from ranked No. 31 in carries (301) in 2017 to No. 1 (451) in 2018. Russell Wilson went from being the No. 1 scoring fantasy quarterback to only No. 16.

Doug Baldwin is retired and Tyler Lockett is the clear No. 1 receiver in this offense. Last year, that only meant 57 catches. The Seahawks added D.K. Metcalf with their 2.32 pick and he projects to be the starting split end. David Brown and Jaron Brown will compete for the No. 3 role that meant nothing last year and likely won’t improve for 2019.

The only summer watch needed is to see if the rookie Metcalf can lock down the starting spot. He will if only eventually, but until he does, Lockett is the only Seahawks receiver with much fantasy value in the run-heavy scheme they now use.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Mike Evans: 86-1524-8
WR Adam Humphries: 76-816-5
WR Chris Godwin: 59-842-7

The Buccaneers parted ways with Dirk Koetter and Todd Monken and 2019 installs a new offense by HC Bruce Arians with help from OC Byron Leftwich. Both worked together in Arizona though this is Leftwich’s first move into being the offensive coordinator.

That could throw some question marks onto the tight ends given that Arians has a spotty past with the position in his stints in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Arizona. But O.J. Howard was having a breakout 2018 before injuring his ankle and missing six games. Cameron Brate lost all his fantasy value in the process and didn’t do much even in the final stretch when Howard was out. During offseason work, Howard and Jameis Winston have connected constantly.

Mike Evans remains as the No. 1 receiver but DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries are gone. Chris Godwin showed improvement in his second season when he ended with 59 catches for 842 yards and scored seven times. Evans and Godwin will dominate the wideout workload and Howard factors in as another heavily targeted receiver.

The No. 3 wideout role isn’t going to amount to much. Breshad Perriman and Justin Watson should compete for the job but it isn’t worth tracking.

Tennessee Titans

2018 Top 3 receivers
WR Corey Davis: 65-891-4
WR Taywan Taylor: 37-466-1
WR Tajae Sharpe: 26-316-2

The Titans move onto their fifth new offensive coordinator in the last six years with the promotion of Arthur Smith up from coaching the tight ends and he’s never led any offense so this is harder to forecast. The Titans have languished with ineffective receivers for many years although the quarterbacks are equally to blame. And the constant churning of offensive coordinators.

It’s not as if they haven’t tried. Their attempts over the last seven years to land an elite wideout found Kendall Wright (1.20 – 2012), Justin Hunter (2.02 – 2013), Dorial Green-Beckham (2.08 – 2015), Taywan Taylor (3.08 – 2017), Corey Davis (1.05 – 2017) and now A.J. Brown (2.19 – 2019).

Davis is the starting flanker and he turned in an encouraging stat line of 65-891-4 last year. Tajae Sharpe is the split end and free agent acquisition Adam Humphries should take the slot although the position hasn’t done much in Tennessee in many years. The focus on rushing that saw Derrick Henry succeed to end 2018 won’t make these receivers any more valuable.

Delanie Walker is back after breaking his ankle in Week 1 and missing the season. But the 35-year-old veteran suffered ligament damage and has slowed down. Jonnu Smith should figure in more but he was lost at the end of 2018 with an MCL injury and he sat out of preseason minicamps.

The summer should help A.J. Brown to earn playing time if not displace a current starter. Sharpe hasn’t been anything special. But in the end, there are not enough passes to go around from the No. 30 passing attack of 2018.

Washington Redskins

2018 Top 3 receivers
TE Jordan Reed: 54-558-2
WR Josh Doctson: 44-532-2
WR Jamison Crowder: 29-388-2

There wasn’t any set of wide receivers that were less productive than the Redskins group last year. Julio Jones alone gained only 17 fewer yards than all of the Redskins wide receivers totaled. And he had the same amount of touchdowns. There were ten NFL wideouts with more receiving touchdowns than nine Redskins wide receivers could total.

Josh Doctson returns as the No. wideout thanks to his team-high 44 catches for 532 yards and two touchdowns. No other receiver managed more than 388 yards. Paul Richardson remains in the slot while the rookie Terry McLaurin (3.12) is penciled in as the starting flanker.

Jordan Reed only missed three games last year but scored just twice and ended with 562 yards. The 29-year-old oft-injured tight end blew up in 2015 but never again. Bringing in Case Keenum as the starting quarterback won’t likely ignite anything more in this offense and the rookie Dwayne Haskins may if only in future years.

This is one of the worst receiving units in the NFL, has a fluid quarterback situation and didn’t add any known talent.


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