The 2016 fantasy football season is just around the corner, which means draft season is even closer. With the increased value in wide receivers, it’s more crucial than ever that you don’t get burned by your early picks. Let’s take a look at some of the top guys who could be riskier than others in 2016.
Brandin Cooks (New Orleans Saints)
The sophomore brokeout last season in the Big Easy in a huge way. However, I’m not buying Brandin Cooks to repeat his success in 2016. The former Oregon State Beaver finished as the 12th fantasy WR in 2015 thanks to the high volume passing attack he was drafted into. The sub 6 footer went off for over 1,100 yards through the air and even chipped in with 9 TDs. For some reason, I was never able to buy into the hype, despite the production.
Looking at the bolstered Saints’ WR corps in 2016, I don’t think Cooks will see the 129 targets he saw a year ago, or even amass 100 for that matter. The drafting of Michael Thomas in the 2nd round brings a legitimate #2 WR on the outside who will produce from day one and take looks away from Cooks. Willie Snead will occupy the slot, another guy who exceeded 100 targets last season and was close to the 1,000 yard century mark. While Benjamin Watson proved to be the security blanket for Drew Brees and even now finds himself with another team, Coby Fleener serves as an upgrade and brings a pure receiver to the TE position. Even Brandon Coleman will produce in a depth role.
At the end of the day, I just don’t buy Cooks in the early 3rd round as his current ADP would indicate. He could serve as a solid WR2, but I’d feel more confident with him in a FLEX role. I know he plays in one of the highest volume passing offenses in the league, but Brees will spread the ball around to guys like Thomas, Snead and Fleener and I don’t think Cooks will be able to sustain weekly production in a WR1 role. Don’t get me wrong, Cooks will be a fantasy producer, but he won’t match last year’s production. He’s not a #1 NFL WR.
Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals)
Before I start, let this sink in. Last season Larry Fitzgerald caught for 1,215 yards and hauled in a career-high 109 catches at the age of 32. Remarkable numbers from a guy who seemed to be on the regression over the past few seasons. He undoubtedly saw a bit of a revival last season, but its just impractical to think he can come close to last year’s production, especially at this stage in his career. His hands and route running ability will never leave him, but his explosiveness will – as it has in these past years.
Fitzgerald is joined by guys like Michael Floyd and John Brown, two youngsters primed for big 2016 seasons which leaves Fitzgerald on the backburner. With the emergence of David Johnson out of the backfield, that will take targets away from Fitz along with the rest of the WRs. However, the Cardinals will stay a pass-heavy team as long as Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer are around.
What made Fitzgerald so special during his prime was his ability after the catch, which he doesn’t quite have anymore as his 11.1 yards per catch from 2015 would indicate – the lowest of his career. Floyd and Brown will continue to get better, while Fitz will see his production dip, as it did at the end of last season. In the final 7 regular season games last year, he averaged just over 54 yards per game with only 1 TD catch during that span.
Marvin Jones (Detroit Lions)
One of the two guys on this list to cash in over the offseason with a big free agent deal, Marvin Jones finds himself in a good situation with the Detroit Lions. Jim Bob Cooter has worked wonders with Matthew Stafford and has helped revive the passing attack in Mo Town – a team already known for passing the rock.
Did Jones deserve the contract he received? That’s debatable, although you always see teams overpaid in the market nowadays – especially in Detroit’s case as they desperately try to ‘replace’ a Calvin Johnson, if that’s even possible. Fact of the matter is, Jones played in A.J. Green’s shadow during his days in Cincinnati, and is coming off the best season of his career where he eclipsed 800 yards. However, he didn’t post a single 100 yard performance and caught only 4 TDs on the season – not ideal production from a player benefitting from Green double-teams week in and week out.
I do expect Jones to produce, considering the team he’s with. However, his 8.11 ADP is far too early in my eyes. There are other WRs in that vicinity who would be better options such as Stefon Diggs, Dorial Green-Beckham and even Sterling Shepard. Jones will see big weeks, but he won’t be consistent enough to be a reliable WR2. A solid FLEX option.
Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins)
One of the most if not the most overhyped fantasy player this year in my eyes is none other than Jarvis Landry. The Miami Dolphins’ WR brokeout during his sophomore campaign as he led the team with 1,157 receiving yards and made a highlight reel worth of eye-popping plays on his way to being a top 15 fantasy WR. So what’s not to like about this WR on the ascension?
Two words, DeVante Parker. The 2nd year WR out of Louisville is the Dolphins receiver I’m eyeing this year in fantasy. He’s a better talent and more reliable as a #1 WR. As we saw down the final stretch of last season, Ryan Tannehill took a liking to Parker which should translate into this season. Ultimately, cutting into Landry’s production along with the addition of Leonte Carroo – a rookie many are hyping up. Also, don’t forget about Kenny Stills who will see a fair amount of targets as well.
Landry is averaging a draft slot at 4.04 which I feel is way too early. He could fill in as a solid WR2, but he doesn’t have any business being listed with guys like Julian Edelman and Randall Cobb. Every year we expect a breakout from Ryan Tannehill, and while he was solid in 2015, I expect him to see similar production as last year. Parker will be the new guy in Miami as Landry takes a backseat. Like most guys on this list, I still expect him to produce at a somewhat high level, but it won’t quite match the hype.
Brandon Marshall (New York Jets)
Like Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall is another seasoned vet coming off a revived 2015 season. Marshall enjoyed tremendous success in his first season with the Jets as he came up just short of a career high in receiving yards (1, 502) but did catch a career high 14 TDs. The rapport he established with Ryan Fitzpatrick was more than visible. But will Fitzpatrick come back to the Big Apple?
With the Fitzpatrick/Jets situation still in lingo, the fantasy state of Brandon Marshall finds itself in the same boat. It’s hard to imagine Marshall putting up similar production with a guy like Geno Smith throwing him the ball, if that turns out to be the case. Marshall is a rare talent and is still playing at a high level despite his 11 years in the league, but he can only do so much with lackluster QB play.
The 3rd ranked fantasy WR from 2015, there’s no way Marshall gets back on that level, especially if Geno Smith is under center. Currently going atop the 3rd round, Marshall’s fantasy value will continue to slip the longer Fitzpatrick remains a free agent. This doesn’t have as much to do with Marshall’s actual ability, but more-so with the current QB situation in New York. The earliest I would touch Marshall right now is the late 4th round range.
Mohamed Sanu (Atlanta Falcons)
The other big free agent signing to appear on this list is the new Atlanta Falcon receiver, Mohamed Sanu. The former Bengal is coming off an extremely disappointing season in which he saw dips in all major receiving categories. He caught only 33 passes for under 400 receiving yards and failed to haul in a TD catch in all 16 games.
Sanu heads to Atlanta looking to bounce back in a change of scenery. While I like his odds in the Falcons offense with Matt Ryan leading the charge, his past production just doesn’t jump at you and surely doesn’t entice me at his 11.09 draft slot. High expectations face Sanu this season and I don’t expect him to top his best season which came in 2014 where he caught for 790 yards with 5 scores – expect something more along the lines of 500 receiving yards with a few TDs, not bad production, but not worthy as an every week starter.
The Falcons will see a balanced offensive attack this season with Devonta Freeman in the backfield along with an expected emergence from Tevin Coleman. Sanu will get his share of looks as the team’s 2nd WR, but he won’t be the next Roddy White for the Dirty Birds. Julio Jones will continue to dominate and have the majority of production through the air.
Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos)
With both Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler gone, Demaryius Thomas finds himself in a bit of a tough situation this year. As if playing with Mark Sanchez isn’t bad enough, Thomas’ receiving yard total last season dipped to the lowest it’s been since 2011, although he still managed over 1,300 yards through the air. He saw a huge dip in production in the final 9 weeks as he eclipsed 100 yards just once in the 2nd half of the season.
We’ve seen what Sanchez is capable of, and we all know that’s not much – a big play here and there, but mostly inconsistency. Thomas’ big play ability took a hit last year as he compiled a career-low yards per catch of 12.4 – not bad, but not a good indication heading into the 2016 season considering who is now under center. Sanchez struggles to distribute the ball efficiently which will force a hit to Thomas in the fantasy scene.
I expect Gary Kubiak to transition more into a running-style offense as we’ve seen in previous stints in order to cut down mistakes from Sanchez, ultimately leading to a hit in Thomas’ target. With an ADP of 3.07, I’d wait it out for Thomas as I see a lot of uncertainty with his current situation. I can even see Emmanuel Sanders outperforming him this year as he’s better in the short passing game.
Have a potential WR bust of your own? Let us know in the comments below!