The Wide Receiver Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s main NFL slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit our NFL Content Dashboard.
Week 1 witnessed a smorgasbord of suckiness: 18 teams failed to surpass the 21-point threshold. While Antonio Brown went off for 11 receptions and 182 yards, Odell Beckham sat out and Julio Jones and A.J. Green collectively averaged 11.50 DraftKings and 9.25 FanDuel points per game (PPG) with -6.24 and -9.35 Plus/Minus values (per our Trends tool).
Maybe the best that can be said for Week 1 is that Kevin White made it through without suffering a season-ending injury. For analysis of the Thursday and Monday night games, see Joe Holka’s Thursday Night NFL Breakdown and Prime Time NFL Breakdown.
The Big Two
In Week 1 there was more uniformity at the top of the salary scale. This week, with Green and Beckham slated to play on Thursday and Monday, we have a smaller but clear top tier of two wide receivers:
- Antonio Brown ($9,400 DraftKings, $9,400 FanDuel)
- Julio Jones ($9,200 DraftKings, $8,800 FanDuel)
To quote Lord Tennyson: “Half a league onward.”
He’s Only as Good as His Home Favorite QB
No player since 2013 has more than Antonio’s 706 targets and 43 touchdowns receiving. Last week he turned 11 targets into an 11/182/0 stat line, leading the league with 92 yards after the catch. He also led the Steelers with a 30.6 percent share of the targets (per the Week 2 Market Share Report) and 39.0 percent share of the air yards (AirYards.com). Based on where on the field the Steelers were when he was targeted, Brown was third on the week with 12.7 receiving fantasy points over expectation (reFPOE, RotoViz). The brilliance of his Week 1 performance is notable. He led all qualified receivers with 4.92 yards per route run (YPRR, Pro Football Focus).
This week he’s at home, where the Steelers are 5.5-point favorites with an implied total of 25.25 points (per our Vegas Dashboard). His matchup isn’t great — last year the Vikings allowed the third-fewest PPG (30.8 DraftKings, 24.6 FanDuel) to wide receivers — but Brown is too good to ignore in any slate, especially when he’s a home favorite, as he’s been 19 times since 2014 with unbelievable per-game results:
- DraftKings and FanDuel PPG: 30.29 and 24.26
- Plus/Minus: +11.16 and +9.15
- Consistency Rating (percent): 84.2 and 84.2
Brown unsurprisingly has the highest ceiling projections in our Models. Historically, he has averaged DraftKings and FanDuel ownership rates of 21.2 and 20.9 percent as a home favorite, but we’re projecting him to have reduced ownership this week. Pro subscribers can review ownership trends across guaranteed prize pools of various buy-in levels with our DFS Ownership Dashboard after lineups lock. Use our Lineup Builder to stack Brown with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in GPPs.
Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant ($5,500 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel) also warrants GPP ownership. Although he disappointed with a 2/14/0 performance last week, he still managed a robust 39.0 percent of the team’s air yards on just 16.7 percent of the targets. The blowup games are coming. In 2014-15 (before Bryant’s season-long suspension), Roethlisberger’s production was most closely tied to that of his WR1 and WR2 with correlation coefficients of 0.49 and 0.60 (per our Correlations Matrix). In the Week 1 DraftKings Millionaire Maker, stacks of Roethlisberger, Brown, and Bryant were present in just 0.56 percent of lineups (per our DFS Contests Dashboard). It should be possible to stack the Steelers at home while also creating unique lineups.
The Moustachioed Assassin
Throughout his career, Julio hasn’t been especially great at home or as a favorite on a per-game basis:
- Home vs. Road/Neutral: 5.8/93.0/0.45 vs. 6.8/101.1/0.56
- Favorite vs. Underdog/Pick’Em: 6.1/92.6/0.52 vs. 6.7/105.1/0.48
- Home Favorite: 5.7/87.5/0.43
This week the Falcons are 3.0-point home favorites, so Julio’s an auto-fade — except not. They’re third with an implied total of 28.25 points, and Jones is in a sweet spot (per our NFL Matchups Dashboard), facing a Packers defense that last year allowed the most touchdowns (26) and second-most yards (3,017) to wide receivers and last week featured three starting cornerbacks who all earned poor PFF grades lower than 52. This week he has PFF’s top wide receiver matchup going against cornerback Damarious Randall.
Jones has the highest median projections among all wide receivers and is cheap on FanDuel, where he’s $600 less than Antonio and has a position-high 99 percent Bargain Rating. We’re projecting him to be the slate’s highest-owned wide receiver. If you’re bullish on the Falcons, you could look to create unique lineups by stacking Julio with quarterback Matt Ryan and another receiver, such as Taylor Gabriel ($4,000 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel) or Mohamed Sanu ($4,500 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel), both of whom are expected to be owned in less than five percent of GPP lineups. Amazingly, they have PFF’s second- and third-best receiver matchups against Davon House and Quinten Rollins.
Nine route, go.
Jordy Nelson ($7,900 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel), Davante Adams ($5,600 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel), and Randall Cobb ($5,900 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel): The Packers are implied for 25.25 points as 3.0-point road dogs against the Falcons, whose four starting starting defensive backs in Week 1 all had PFF grades of below 50. Although Adams (7) trailed Nelson (8) and Cobb (13) in Week 1 targets, he still led the team with 43.0 percent of the air yards. All three receivers are fine stacking options with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Nelson is tied for first with a position-high six FanDuel Pro Trends.
Brandin Cooks ($8,200 DraftKings, $7,900 FanDuel), Chris Hogan ($5,600 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel), and Danny Amendola ($5,100 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel): The Patriots are 6.5-point favorites implied for a slate-high 31.0 points at the Superdome (the Coors Field of fantasy football). The Saints just allowed Vikings wide receivers to turn 21 targets into an 18/278/2 line. It’s a #RevengeGame for Cooks. Hogan in Week 1 had a 1/8/0 receiving line but 20.6 average depth of target (aDOT). Amendola was an admirable fill-in for Julian Edelman with his 6/100/0 performance before suffering a concussion. He’s still in the league’s protocol and is questionable for Week 2 (per our Week 2 Injury Dashboard). Cooks and Hogan won’t have low ownership, but Amendola will be overlooked if he’s active.
Michael Thomas ($7,500 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel) and Ted Ginn ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel): The Saints are 6.5-point home underdogs implied for 24.5 points in a game with a slate-high 55.5-point over/under. Both have top-18 ceiling projections and are expected to have double-digit ownership rates.
Doug Baldwin ($6,700 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel) and Paul Richardson ($4,200 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel): The Seahawks are 14.0-point home favorites implied for 28 points against the 49ers, who last year were 28th against the pass in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA).
Amari Cooper ($8,100 DraftKings, $7,900 FanDuel) and Michael Crabtree ($7,100 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel): C&C are $900 and $1,100 more expensive on DraftKings this week than they were last. Of course, in Week 1 they weren’t playing at home against the Jets, over whom they’re favored by 13.5 points with a 28.5-point implied total. Neglected near the goal line for his first two seasons, Cooper had a league-high four targets inside the 10-yard line last week. Coop and Crabby should destroy this Jets funnel defense that last year was first in run DVOA but 31st in pass DVOA.
Mike Evans ($7,700 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel) and DeSean Jackson ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel): As mentioned in this week’s Rotoworld pivot piece, Evans is a top-tier alternative to the other high-priced receivers in shootout spots. Evans last year had a top-three ownership rate among wide receivers at 14.4 and 23.6 percent on DraftKings and FanDuel, but in a game with an over/under of just 43 points Evans could have reduced ownership. D-Jax is cheap at DraftKings, where he has a 91 percent Bargain Rating and seven Pro Trends.
Larry Fitzgerald ($6,500 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel), John Brown ($5,000 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel), and J.J. Nelson ($3,800 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel): Last week, I was on the right side of Fitz in my player props piece: Over 67.5 receiving yards (74). This week the Cardinals are 7.5-point favorites implied for 25.75 points at the fast track in Indianapolis. Fitz, Brown, and Nelson combined for 28 targets in Week 1; Fitz and Brown were both top-six on the week with 144 and 121 air yards, and Nelson scored yet again, giving him eight touchdowns in his last 10 games. Without David Johnson, the Cardinals could employ a pass-heavy game plan.
TY Hilton ($5,300 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): The Colts are 7.5-point home underdogs against the Cardinals, who last week were last in the league with 64.2 DraftKings and 52.2 FanDuel points allowed to opposing wide receivers. The Colts will need to throw the ball, and Hilton leads the slate with eight DraftKings Pro Trends. Last week he was third in the league with 45.0 percent of his team’s air yards. He’s a top-10 talent who will likely be available at less than five percent ownership.
Jordan Matthews ($3,900 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel): He leads the position with a 99 percent Bargain Rating on DraftKings, where he has an almost nonexistent ownership projection. The Bills are 7.5-point road underdogs against the Panthers. Buffalo will need to throw the ball; Matthews is likely to garner more than the three targets he got last week.
Sammy Watkins ($5,200 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel) and Cooper Kupp ($4,100 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel): Last week Kupp led the Rams wide receivers with six targets, 76 yards, and a touchdown in his NFL debut. This week of all the Rams receivers he has the most favorable PFF matchup going against Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller in the slot, where has fifth last week with 3.71 YPRR. He has a real chance to outproduce Watkins this year.
Terrelle Pryor ($6,000 DraftKings, $6,800 FanDuel) and Jamison Crowder ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel): Pryor disappointed in Week 1 with his 6/66/0 receiving line, but he had 11 targets and was second on the week with 166 air yards. Crowder’s 83 air yards look a lot better than his 3/14/0 Week 1 stat line. With a limited running game, the Redskins could rely on the pass as 3.0-point underdogs to the Rams.
Kendall Wright ($3,900 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel) and Markus Wheaton ($3,500 DraftKings, $4,700 FanDuel): If you liked Wright last week, don’t you have to love him this week? He’s more expensive, but he’s also now without the injured Kevin White. In other words: You probably shouldn’t have liked him last week. Also, if Wheaton plays in this game, consider having some speculative exposure: Wheaton looks a lot like post-Steelers Emmanuel Sanders.
Keenan Allen ($5,800 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel) and Tyrell Williams ($4,700 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel): This is an obligatory reminder that if you subscribe to FantasyLabs you’re required to like these two guys all the time no matter the circumstances.
Tyreek Hill ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): My bold call on the Week 2 Daily Fantasy Flex was that Tyreek will have another 100-yard, one-touchdown performance this week. His 75-yard touchdown in Week 1 was on busted coverage — but I have a theory: Wide receivers with sub-4.30 speed are better than average at exploiting defensive mistakes, and their speed causes defensive mistakes more frequently. Last week Tyreek turned eight targets and two carries into 138 yards and a touchdown. He ran routes from the slot (15), out wide (12), and even out of the backfield (5). He was third on the week with 4.16 YPRR and first with 14.8 reFPOE. This week he has PFF’s sixth-most favorable matchup against Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills. The Chiefs are implied for a respectable 26.5 points at home, and Tyreek is tied for second with seven DraftKings Pro Trends. As long as Hill has a salary outside of the top five, he warrants GPP ownership.
The Model Wide Receivers
Besides Julio, who’s the consensus top-ranked receiver on FanDuel, there are currently two wide receivers atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek):
- Adam Thielen ($5,000 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel)
- Marqise Lee ($3,800 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel)
Thielen had an inconsistent 2016 breakout season, but he’s been impressive so far in 2017, accumulating a 9/157/0 receiving line on 10 targets in Week 1, good for a 7.0 reFPOE. A versatile receiver, Thielen last week ran 26 of his 35 routes from the slot, but he still led the Vikings with 43.0 percent of the air yards. In fact, he led all qualified receivers with an absurd 6.08 YPRR from the slot. And as good as Thielen was, his teammate Stefon Diggs ($6,100 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel) was better. Diggs was a top-three fantasy receiver with his 7/93/2 line and 13.1 reFPOE, catching all three of his deep targets for 68 yards and a touchdown (PFF). On this week’s Daily Fantasy Flex I said that the Vikings offense isn’t for real. That assessment primarily has to do with quarterback Sam Bradford. Diggs and Thielen are real. The Vikings are 5.5-point underdogs implied for only 19.75 points at Pittsburgh. It’s not a great spot, but at least the Vikings should have a pass-heavy game script. Thielen is the top DraftKings receiver in the Levitan Model.
Lee this week is what Wright was last week: A subpar receiver on a subpar offense with limited receiving options. With Allen Robinson out for the rest of the year with an ACL tear and Allen Hurns ($3,900 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel) catching only 47.5 percent of his targets since last season, Lee seems to be the No. 1 receiver on the Jaguars after his 63/851/3 campaign in 2016. Last week Lee ran just 22 routes and had zero receptions on his four targets. He’s probably not a good receiver and Bortles definitely isn’t a good quarterback — but Lee will experience positive reversion at some point and he’s cheap on DraftKings, where he’s the top receiver in the Bales, CSURAM88, and SportsGeek Models partially because of his matchup against the Titans, who last year were top-two in PPG (44.6 DraftKings, 34.8 FanDuel) allowed to wide receivers.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to read the other Week 2 positional breakdowns:
Also, visit our suite of Tools to research all of the slate’s wide receivers for yourself.
Good luck this week!
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players herein mentioned. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our NFL news feed: