The Week 2 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 1 p.m. ET. In this piece, I highlight the wide receivers who stand out in our large suite of analytical DFS Tools, most specifically the industry-leading FantasyLabs Models.
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Top Wide Receivers in the FantasyLabs Models
There are five wide receivers atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
- Keenan Allen: $7,600 DraftKings; $7,700 FanDuel
- Sammy Watkins: $7,200 DraftKings; $7,400 FanDuel
- Tyler Boyd: $6,500 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
- Tyrell Williams: $4,400 DraftKings; $5,900 FanDuel
- D.K. Metcalf: $4,300 DraftKings; $6,100 FanDuel
Keenan Allen: Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) at Detroit Lions, 47.5 Over/Under
I’m not an Allen truther — in fact I’m a longtime Allen skeptic — but he was great in Week 1 against the Colts with an 8-123-1 receiving line on 10 targets. He finished the week as a top-10 fantasy receiver with 22.3 FanDuel points. Running 20 routes from the slot and 16 out wide, he was as versatile and dominant as ever.
And since 2015, only six wide receivers have more than Keenan’s 14.2 FanDuel points per game (including playoffs):
- Antonio Brown: 18.5
- Julio Jones: 16.1
- Odell Beckham Jr.: 16.0
- DeAndre Hopkins: 15.4
- Tyreek Hill: 14.8
- Michael Thomas: 14.7
Basically, Allen has been at the top of the tier right underneath the league’s highest-tier wide receivers for most of the past half decade.
He’s pretty much unimpeachable.
But I’m going to try to impeach him, at least a little.
What I’ve disliked about Allen for years is that he’s a volume-based player. He’s not highly efficient with his opportunities, so if his volume slips — as it did last season — he goes from being a mid-tier WR1 to a low-tier WR2 because he has no ceiling.
Allen’s primary problem is that he’s more of a technician and less of an athlete — and that’s why he ran 57.2% of his routes from the slot in 2018 — but he’s paired with a quarterback in Philip Rivers who likes to throw the ball downfield and let his pass-catchers make plays. With wide receivers Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams, Rivers had two dynamic and deep-winning playmakers last year, and they compared favorably to Allen.
- Allen (2018): 211.6 FanDuel points, 136 targets, 97 receptions, 1,196 receiving yards, 1,183 air yards, eight end-zone targets, six receiving touchdowns, 9-75-0 rushing, 1.46 FanDuel points per opportunity
- Combined Williamses (2018): 276 FanDuel points, 131 targets, 84 receptions, 1,317 receiving yards, 1,753 air yards, 19 end-zone targets, 15 receiving touchdowns, 9-43-1 rushing, 1.97 FanDuel points per opportunity
That’s just unfair. On fewer targets and receptions, the Williamses outperformed Allen in every way imaginable. When Allen’s low 8.6-yard average depth of target (aDOT) is taken into account, he might have been the least explosive receiver Rivers regularly targeted last year — and that includes the dusty remains of tight end Antonio Gates.
But none of that is likely to matter for Week 2. Tyrell the Gazelle is now with the Raiders, and the remaining Williams (knee) missed practice on Wednesday and is uncertain to play. On top of that, tight end Hunter Henry (knee) is already 100% out.
As inefficient as Allen is, he’s going to get as many targets as he can handle in Week 2 against a Lions defense that last year was No. 31 with a 24.7% pass DVOA and just last week allowed 21.3 FanDuel points and an 8-113-1 receiving line on 13 targets to 36-year-old slot receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Based on how they’ve deployed him in the past, the Lions are likely to use cornerback Darius Slay to shadow Allen. Slay is a fine player: He’s had coverage grades in excess of 75.0 for each of the past four seasons (per Pro Football Focus), and that’s not an easy feat. It speaks to his consistency and overall ability.
But Allen’s route-running skills are elite, and I doubt that Slay will be able to hang with him. The Lions had a different coaching staff in 2015, and Slay wasn’t solely responsible for defending Allen when the Lions hosted the Chargers that season, but in Allen’s one game against Slay and company … pardon the pun … he slayed. He had a 15-166-0 receiving line on 17 targets.
He could have another game like that this week, and at a minimum he’s likely to see double-digit targets.
Allen is the No. 1 wide receiver in the Freedman Model on FanDuel, where he leads the position with his floor projection.
Sammy Watkins: Kansas City Chiefs (-7) at Oakland Raiders, 53.5 O/U
In the Week 2 fantasy rankings, I am pretty bullish on Watkins: He’s a top-10 fantasy wide receiver with Tyreek Hill (clavicle) sidelined for 4-6 weeks.
In his 11 healthy games with the Chiefs (excluding his injury-shortened outings in Weeks 11 & 14, including playoffs), Watkins has averaged 14.3 FanDuel points on 5.3 receptions, 80.8 yards and 0.55 touchdowns per game.
Yes, those numbers are a little inflated because they include his Week 1 onslaught — 42.3 FanDuel points with a 9-198-3 receiving line on 11 targets — but his performance last week highlights the upside he has now as the acting No. 1 wide receiver for the Chiefs.
As long as quarterback Patrick Mahomes is throwing him the ball and head coach Andy Reid is creating the offensive scheme, Watkins will have enormous upside in high-volume situations, and with Hill out, Watkins should see an increase in usage. It’s not a coincidence that last week, in his first Chiefs game without Tyreek, Watkins got the most targets he’s seen in any game since joining the franchise.
And the Chiefs are likely to throw a lot in Week 2. The Chiefs-Raiders game has a slate-high over/under of 53.5 points, and the Raiders are especially exploitable through the air. In his two games against the Raiders last year — both of which Watkins missed with injury — Mahomes had an outstanding mark of 10.5 adjusted yards per attempt.
The Raiders held the Broncos and quarterback Joe Flacco to just 16 points and 268 yards passing last week — but that probably doesn’t mean much. It’s just one game, and Flacco isn’t the passer he used to be. He’s not even close to being the passer Mahomes is at his stone-cold worst.
In 2018, the Raiders defense ranked dead last in the league with a 28.3% pass DVOA (per Football Outsiders), and it hasn’t been significantly improved this offseason.
No. 1 cornerback Gareon Conley (neck) suffered an injury in Week 1 and is likely to sit, so on the outside the Raiders will go with Daryl Worley and Trayvon Mullen. Last year, Worley had a below-average PFF coverage grade of 51.1, and Mullen is a rookie making his first NFL start: It will be almost impossible for Mahomes to be too aggressive in targeting their coverage, and Watkins has historically run the majority of his routes on the outside.
And if he plays more in the slot — in Week 1, he actually ran 55.9% of his routes from the slot — he’ll have a matchup he can win against Lamarcus Joyner, whom the Raiders have moved to slot corner. Although Joyner had above-average PFF coverage grades of 91.2 and 70.9 in the 2017-18 seasons, he played primarily as a safety in those campaigns. But before playing safety, he was a subpar slot corner for the first three years of his career, earning PFF coverage grades of 55.4, 60.1 and 66.9.
Last week in his return to the slot, Joyner gave up a 7-72-0 receiving line on eight targets. Wherever Watkins lines up, he’ll be going against a cornerback he can beat.
Any apprehension regarding Watkins is understandable: He’s a volatile producer with a history of injuries. Maybe he’s not safe for cash games. But he will absolutely be included in most Chiefs stacks for guaranteed prize pools.
Watkins is the No. 1 FanDuel wide receiver in the Levitan Model.
Tyler Boyd: Cincinnati Bengals (-1.5) vs. San Francisco 49ers, 45.5 O/U
I’m still a little skeptical, but there’s no denying that even without wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle), the Bengals offense looked much better than it has over the past few years. In his first game with HC Zac Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, quarterback Andy Dalton threw for a career-high 418 yards.
Perhaps most importantly, in a game they lost by just one point and in which they never trailed by more than a touchdown, the Bengals had an obnoxious 80% pass-play rate. Running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard had more pass blocks than carries (15 vs. 13).
With Mixon (ankle) very uncertain to play after exiting Week 1 early with an injury, the Bengals seem likely to rely on the passing game once again in Week 2, and that’s good for Boyd.
While teammate John Ross grabbed all the headlines last week with his 7-158-2 receiving breakout on 12 targets, it’s worth remembering that Boyd had a comparable 11 targets, which he turned into a respectable 8-60-0 performance. He also chipped in three yards on one carry.
Although I think Ross has the higher ceiling and might ultimately be the more talented player in the long term, he’s had an incredibly uneven start to his career. Just last year, he had a catch rate of 36.2%. It’s not reasonable to assume that Ross’ strong Week 1 automatically means that Boyd will start to lose significant target share to his teammate. In reality, Boyd is almost certainly still the No. 1 receiver in Green’s absence, given that last year the slot receiver led the Bengals with 108 targets, 76 receptions, 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games.
In an offense that plays at a faster pace, throws at a higher rate and is probably more inventive, Boyd could build upon last year’s numbers.
And for Week 2 he’s in a great spot. Against the 49ers, he’s on the positive side of the massive home/road and favorite/dog splits he exhibited last year, when he averaged 16.4 FanDuel points with a +8.45 Plus/Minus and 80% Consistency Rating across five games.
Plus, he’s facing a 49ers defense that was dead last with a putrefied 37.5 PFF coverage grade in 2018, and his matchup against slot cornerback K’Waun Williams is especially tasty. In his three seasons with the 49ers, Williams has allowed a catch rate of 74.5% on targets in his coverage.
With the additions of edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback Jason Verrett, the 49ers defense should be better than it was last year — but Boyd should still be able to run circles around Williams whenever they’re matched up in the slot.
Boyd is likely to be popular, especially on FanDuel, where he has a position-high 98% Bargain Rating and is cheaper than he’s been since Week 6 of last year.
Boyd is the No. 1 FanDuel receiver in the Bales, CSURAM88, Koerner, Raybon and SportsGeek Models.
Tyrell Williams: Oakland Raiders (+7) vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 53.5 O/U
For much of his career, the problem with Williams hasn’t been that he isn’t good: It’s that he’s been stuck behind Keenan Allen. In his 15 Keenan-less games in 2016, Williams had 14.5 DraftKings points per game. In 2017-18, Williams played 34 games with Keenan (including playoffs), and his DraftKings scoring average dropped to 9.0.
Now with the Raiders, Williams is unblocked, and he went off in Week 1 with a 6-105-1 receiving performance on seven targets, and he did so at great value. Week 1 pricing was set about a month before the slate, so Williams’ salaries reflected the belief that he would be the No. 2 receiver behind Antonio Brown. When Williams scored 25.5 DraftKings points on Monday Night Football at just $4,500 on DraftKings, he put up an astronomical +16.9 Plus/Minus.
And here’s the thing: Williams offers just as much value this week because of the Monday Night Football discount. Week 2 pricing was released on Sunday night — before the Raiders had their season opener — so Williams’ salaries were set presumably under the assumption that he wouldn’t look all that great or get lots of targets in Week 1.
On FanDuel, his price went up only $500. And on DraftKings, his price actually dropped $100. As a result, Williams will be heavily rostered. He’ll probably have a position-high ownership rate on DraftKings.
And he’s in a great spot. The Raiders will need to throw to keep up with the Chiefs, who just allowed Nick Foles and a sixth-round second-string rookie quarterback to combine for 350 yards and three touchdowns passing. And the Raiders passing game looked good in Week 1, as quarterback Derek Carr completed 84.6% of his passes with 10.7 adjusted yards per attempt.
On top of that, a significant amount of professional money seems to be backing the Raiders, who have gotten just 29% of the bets but 65% of the money as the spread has dropped from -8 to -7. Even though the Chiefs have the best offense in the league, the Raiders could put up some points.
In guaranteed prize pools, Williams will be a popular complement to Chiefs stacks.
Williams is the No. 1 wide receiver in the Bales, CSURAM88, Levitan, Koerner, Raybon & SportsGeek Models for DraftKings, where he leads the position with eight Pro Trends and a +4.87 Projected Plus/Minus.
D.K. Metcalf: Seattle Seahawks (+4) at Pittsburgh Steelers, 47 O/U
Metcalf is 100% absolutely not a cash-game play. He’s a speculative GPP option only.
But he is intriguing. In my dynasty rookie rankings, I noted his volatile upside.
In college he struggled to stay healthy: In only one of his three years at Ole Miss did he play an entire season.
Perhaps most importantly, Metcalf exhibited little nuance as a player: He lined up almost exclusively as the X receiver and ran a very limited route tree consisting almost entirely of flies, curls and fades. In the NFL, it’s unlikely that he will ever be an effective receiver out of the slot because he lacks the agility and route-running ability to operate in the middle of the field.
In other words, he’s basically a one-dimensional player.
But within the confines of that one dimension, Metcalf can be incredibly dominant. He has unbelievable playmaking potential as a downfield threat: His speed allows him to get past defenders, and his size gives him an edge on contested catches. And before a neck injury cut his season short, he was on pace for a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown performance in 2018.
A classic boom-or-bust player, Metcalf might have the widest range of professional outcomes of any receiver in this class.
In Week 1, we saw some of his potential as he led all Seahawks wide receivers with six targets, four receptions and 89 yards receiving. He was the player targeted on quarterback Russell Wilson’s one end-zone attempt.
It’s true that six targets isn’t a lot, but it was good for a 30% target share, which he leveraged into an outstanding 53% market share of air yards. As the downfield threat in the offense, Metcalf had an aggressive aDOT of 17.3 yards. If the Seahawks have more of a pass-leaning game script in Week 2, Metcalf could have a big game.
He doesn’t have an especially exploitable matchup, and this could be a low-scoring game, given that the Seahawks have a run-heavy offense and the Steelers managed only three points in Week 1. At first look, Metcalf isn’t in a great spot.
But this game has sneaky shootout potential. The Steelers were on the road last week, and over the past half decade they have been one of the most extreme teams in the league in terms of their home/road splits.
- At home (40 games, 2014-18): 29.9 points per game, 2.52 points per drive
- On road (40 games, 2014-18): 22.5 points per game, 1.94 points per drive
It’s not hard to imagine the Steelers offense coming to life in a bounceback spot at home.
As for the Seahawks, they have Wilson and two big-play wide receivers in Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and the Steelers just allowed Patriots wideouts to go off for 61.4 DraftKings points on 14-273-3 receiving. Like Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett last week, Metcalf could break loose for a couple of big plays. Points could be scored.
In fact, I think the odds are that we will see a high-scoring game. Since 2014, the Steelers have a 21-10 record to the over as home favorites in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s starts (per Bet Labs). For the past few seasons, the Steelers home over has been one of my favorite bets.
As an upside tournament play in a Steelers-Seahawks game stack, Metcalf has merit.
He’s the No. 1 DraftKings wide receiver in the Freedman Model.
Upside Wide Receivers for Guaranteed Prize Pools
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans ($8,100 DK, $9,000 FD): Nuk exploded for 8-111-2 receiving with a league-high 216 air yards in Week 1, and he has position-high median projections in our Week 2 Models.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints ($8,000 DK, $8,500 FD): Thomas entered the year with an all-time NFL-high 321 receptions through his first three seasons, in Week 1 he balled out with 10-123-0 receiving and for Week 2 he has a position-high ceiling projection on DraftKings.
Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers ($7,700 DK, $8,200 FD): Adams stalled out last week with just 36 scoreless yards on four receptions, and the Vikings have been tough on quarterback Aaron Rodgers under defensive HC Mike Zimmer, but Adams has averaged 15.2 points per game against them over the past two years on FanDuel, where he leads all receivers with his ceiling projection.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers ($7,500 DK, $8,100 FD): JuJu disappointed in Week 1 with a 6-78-0 receiving letdown, but the Steelers are favored against a Seahawks team that just allowed Andy Dalton to pass for a career-high 418 yards and JuJu has averaged 17.4 DraftKings points with a +4.95 Plus/Minus across his 24 games as a favorite.
Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys ($7,400 DK, $7,800 FD): Amari enjoyed a 6-106-1 receiving line in Week 1, in his 12 games with the Cowboys (including playoffs) he’s averaged 19.4 DraftKings points with a +5.59 Plus/Minus and this week he faces the Redskins, whom he punished with 180 yards and two touchdowns last season in Week 12.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts ($6,800 DK, $7,600 FD): Hilton went off for 8-87-2 receiving last week, and now he faces a Titans secondary he posterized with 216 yards and two touchdowns last year in two divisional matchups.
Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints ($6,300 DK, $7,000 FD): Cooks burned investors last week with just 39 scoreless yards on two receptions, but in Week 2 he gets a #RevengeGame as a home favorite against the Saints, whom he flamed last year with a 13-221-1 receiving line in two games.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks ($6,200 DK, $6,700 FD): Lockett hit pay dirt in Week 1 with his one reception, he should see more volume in Week 2 and he’s facing a Steelers team that just allowed Phillip Dorsett to turn four targets into 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Will Fuller, Houston Texans ($5,300 DK, $6,100 FD): Fuller had 33% of the Texans’ Week 1 air yards on just 10% of the team’s targets, and he’s facing a Jaguars defense that just allowed Sammy Watkins to go off for 9-198-3 receiving.
John Brown, Buffalo Bills ($5,200 DK, $6,300 FD): The Abolitionist turned 10 targets into seven receptions, 123 receiving yards, 133 air yards and a touchdown last week, and the Giants are fresh off a league-worst performance in which they allowed 70.1 DraftKings points to Cowboys wide receivers.
Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens ($5,000 DK, $5,700 FD): Hollywood played just 14 snaps in Week 1 but erupted for a 4-147-2 receiving line on five targets, and the Cardinals are without starting cornerbacks Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (leg, injured reserve).
John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals ($4,600 DK, $6,400 FD): Ross will be popular after last week’s 7-158-2 receiving performance, but he should continue to see steady targets, and the 49ers defense was No. 32 in the league with a horrid 37.5 PFF coverage grade last year.
Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals ($4,500 DK, $5,400 FD): Kirk had just 32 yards receiving in Week 1, but he also had 12 targets, a 12-yard carry and a two-point conversion, and he enters Week 2 with a position-high +3.26 Projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins ($3,800 DK, $5,300 FD): McLaurin led all Redskins wide receivers last week with seven targets, five receptions, 125 yards receiving, 143 air yards and a touchdown, and there’s no good reason for him not to lead the unit in opportunities against the Cowboys.
Travis Benjamin, Los Angeles Chargers ($3,200 DK, $4,900 FD): Benjamin had just three targets last week, but he should see more volume with tight end Hunter Henry (knee) out and Mike Williams (knee) uncertain to play, and the Lions last week allowed 56.5 DraftKings points to Cardinals wide receivers.
Phillip Dorsett, New England Patriots ($3,000 DK, $4,700 FD): Dorsett had a 4-95-2 receiving performance last week on 53 snaps, he could see more usage than expected if Antonio Brown takes a while to integrate into the offense and the Dolphins just allowed two long touchdowns to the stylistically similar Marquise Brown.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
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Pictured above: Sammy Watkins
Photo credit: USAToday Sports