The season is finally here, and the Week 1 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Sep. 13, 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 our FantasyLabs Models, and I include plenty of actionable analysis relevant to season-long fantasy as well.
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Top Wide Receivers in the FantasyLabs Models
There are eight 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.
- Julio Jones: $7,700 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel
- Davante Adams: $7,300 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel
- Calvin Ridley: $6,100 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel
- Odell Beckham Jr.: $5,900 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel
- D.K. Metcalf: $5,800 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel
- Terry McLaurin: $5,600 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel
- Marquise Brown: $5,100 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel
- DeSean Jackson: $4,900 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel
Odds as of Thursday afternoon and via DraftKings. For sports betting, get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today. For daily fantasy, sign up now at DraftKings and get free entries to both Thursday’s $2.5M contest and Sunday’s $5M contest for Week 1!
Julio Jones: Atlanta Falcons (+1.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks, 49 Over/Under
There’s not a lot that needs to be said about Jones: He’s one of the best wide receivers in NFL history. He’s No. 1 with an all-time mark of 96.2 yards receiving per game (regular season only) — and since his 2013 third-year campaign that number has been an atmospheric 102.8.
Jones often gets knocked for not scoring touchdowns, but that’s not really fair. Even if we ignore his 2012 season with 10 touchdowns and look only at the past seven years, Julio has scored in 32 of 97 regular season games: This guy gets a touchdown about a third of the time he steps on the field. That’s not bad.
Also, it’s not as if he’s horrible when he doesn’t score. In such games, he has still produced (per RotoViz Game Splits App).
Who turns their noses up at 89.5 yards on 6.2 receptions and 10.1 targets per game?
This might seem like a #hottaek, but it isn’t: I have Julio projected as my No. 1 fantasy wide receiver for 2020 (in our Action Network Fantasy Football Tools).
Since 2013, Julio has exactly 10,000 yards from scrimmage, which comes out to an average of 1,428.6 yards per year — and he played only five games in 2013!
Each season, this guy just puts up points.
Week to week, Julio can be volatile. Over the past half-dozen years, he has been a fantasy WR3 or worse (42%) almost as often as a WR1 (43%, per RotoViz NFL Stat Explorer).
As great as he is, Julio is a boom-or-bust producer. The bad comes along with the good.
But the bad still isn’t all that bad. Since 2014 — as far back as our FantasyLabs database goes — Jones has hit salary-based expectations in 50% of games, and that’s quite the feat when one considers how expensive Julio usually is.
Because Jones last year broke his streak of five straight seasons with 1,400 yards receiving — he had only 1,394, oh my! — and because he scored only six touchdowns and is now 31 years old, there’s a popular undercurrent of thought within the industry that Julio is now on the decline.
I don’t see it.
Last year, he was No. 2 in the league with 151.8 air yards and yards after the catch (AirYAC) combined per game (per AirYards.com). The guy is still getting his opportunities and doing something with them.
I think the biggest problem with Julio might be that we’ve gotten used to him. Last year his numbers (yards per route, FanDuel points per snap) were a tad lower than usual, but they were still in keeping with what he has been doing for years (including playoffs, per Pro Football Focus).
- 2019: 2.44 (4th) | 0.28 (2nd)
- 2018: 2.93 (2nd) | 0.33 (1st)
- 2017: 3.04 (1st) | 0.28 (2nd)
- 2016: 3.23 (1st) | 0.34 (2nd)
- 2015: 3.04 (1st) | 0.31 (1st)
- 2014: 2.72 (3rd) | 0.28 (4th)
- 2013: 2.75 (1st) | 0.30 (1st)
As long as Jones is out there running routes and playing snaps, he is getting his yards and fantasy points.
It helps that he is on a team that plays fast and throws frequently. Last year, the Falcons were No. 2 with 68.5 plays per game and No. 1 with a 67.0% pass-play rate, and they will likely play with similar offensive aggression in 2020 given how poor their defense is.
Since 2013, Jones has averaged 10.6 targets per game, and it’s easy to see how he could hit that number again this year, perhaps as early as Week 1.
A home underdog, Jones is hitting the sweet spot of his splits (per our FantasyLabs Trends Tool).
- Home (46 games): 16.6 FanDuel points | +1.77 Plus/Minus
- Away (51 games): 15.6 FanDuel points | +0.90 Plus/Minus
- Underdog (40 games): 18.3 FanDuel points | +3.68 Plus/Minus
- Favorite (58 starts): 14.4 FanDuel points | -0.46 Plus/Minus
- Home Underdog (eight games): 25.2 FanDuel points | +10.77 Plus/Minus
He’s expensive — but how can you not have this guy in your lineup?
Julio Jones: Fantasy points per game since 2014 …
At home: 16.6 ✅
As underdog: 18.3 ✅
As home underdog: 25.2 ✅✅
Julio: Home dog vs. Seahawks in Week 1.
You know what to do.
Data from @FantasyLabs Trends Tool.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) September 9, 2020
There’s nothing about the matchup that worries me. The Seahawks have bolstered their secondary over the past year by trading for cornerback Quinton Dunbar and safeties Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, but neither Dunbar nor cornerback Shaquill Griffin are elite defenders, and Jones will run the majority of his routes against them.
For Jones, this matchup is basically business as usual, and he has historically handled himself in his six previous matchups against head coach Pete Carroll’s defense, even going back to the Legion of Boom days.
- Week 8, 2019: 20.2 FanDuel points | 10-152-0 receiving
- Week 11, 2017: 9.6 FanDuel points | 5-71-0
- Divisional Round, 2016: 15.7 FanDuel points | 6-67-1
- Week 6, 2016: 23.4 FanDuel points | 7-139-1
- Divisional Round, 2012: 8.8 FanDuel points | 6-59-0
- Week 4, 2011: 18.2 FanDuel points | 11-127-0
I’m betting on the Seahawks to cover: You couldn’t pay me to back Falcons HC Dan Quinn anyway, and the West Coast Carroll is 12-7-3 against the spread (ATS) in early East Coast games, good for a 21.4% return on investment (ROI, per our Bet Labs database).
But even if the Falcons lose, Julio should still get his targets. Quarterback Matt Ryan has to get his yards somehow.
Jones is the No. 1 wide receiver in our Week 1 fantasy football rankings and the top option in the Freedman and Bales Models for FanDuel.
Davante Adams: Green Bay Packers (+2.5) at Minnesota Vikings, 46 O/U
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Adams are like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: As far as the Packers passing game goes, it’s just them against the Bolivian army.
Given what happened in the draft, they apparently don’t even have the support of their head coach.
Rodgers: Hey, wait a minute.
Rodgers: You didn’t see Matt LaFleur out there, did ya?
Adams: LaFleur? No.
Rodgers: Oh good. For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.
Sometimes the writing handles itself.
Over the past two years, Adams has unquestionably been one of the best wide receivers in the league on a per-game basis (including postseason).
- Fantasy Production: 22.0 DraftKings points | +4.23 Plus/Minus | 75.9% Consistency Rating
- Football Production: 92.4 yards and 0.69 touchdowns on 7.3 receptions and 11.0 targets
Those numbers are unreal, especially his target volume and Consistency Rating, with which he compares favorably to Michael Thomas (10.4, 60.0%).
In each of the past two years, Adams has been a top-three producer in DraftKings points per snap, and that’s not a fluke.
- 2019: 0.37 (2nd)
- 2018: 0.36 (3rd)
This offseason, some people have nitpicked Adams by noting how often he has failed to hit the 1,000-yard threshold in the regular season.
If I hear one more person say that Davante Adams has just one 1,000-yard season, I will cancel the internet.
Since 2016, he has 1,066.2 yards on 14.3 games per year, not including the postseason (515 yards, 5 games).
Be real about how great @tae15adams is or stop talking.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) July 29, 2020
But that milestone is meaningless. Thomas with 22.7 DraftKings points per game is the only wide receiver to outproduce Adams over the past two seasons — and the difference between them has been negligible.
Adams is an All-Pro receiver without the recognition.
For 2020, there’s little reason to think he won’t continue to see an unholy number of targets, given that the Packers didn’t add any significant pass-catching talent in the draft or free agency. Are wide receivers Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and tight end Robert Tonyan Jr. really going to keep Adams from getting his targets?
Over the past two years, Adams has been a splits-agnostic producer thanks to his volume, averaging 22.1 DraftKings points per game as a road dog, and his matchup against the Vikings is intriguing. HC Mike Zimmer is a no-nonsense tactician who tends to get the most out of his players by scheming to their strengths — but the Vikings are without 2019 starting cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, all of whom left in free agency.
With three new starters in the secondary, the Vikings could be extremely vulnerable to start the year, and Adams has dominated his divisional rivals over their past six matchups.
- Week 16, 2019: 26.1 DraftKings points | 13-116-0 receiving
- Week 2, 2019: 20.6 DraftKings points | 7-106-0 receiving
- Week 12, 2018: 17.9 DraftKings points | 5-69-1 receiving
- Week 2, 2018: 20.4 DraftKings points | 8-64-1 receiving
- Week 6, 2017: 16.4 DraftKings points | 5-54-1 receiving
- Week 16, 2016: 14.4 DraftKings points | 4-44-1 receiving
This year the Packers could go with more of a run-heavy approach: In the draft, they selected quarterback-of-the-future Jordan Love in Round 1, non-receiving running back A.J. Dillon in Round 2 and tight end/H-back hybrid Josiah Deguara in Round 3.
But even if the Packers shift away from the pass, Adams has had top-three target shares of 28% and 29% over the past two years (per RotoViz Screener). With that kind of aerial workload, Adams should still have elite volume, and for Week 1 he remains a high-end WR1 in seasonal leagues and a pay-up option in both cash games and guaranteed prize pools.
Adams leads all receivers in the slate with his ceiling projections, and he’s the No. 1 option in the Raybon Model for DraftKings, where he has a position-high +3.04 Projected Plus/Minus.
Calvin Ridley: Atlanta Falcons (+1.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks, 49 O/U
If you think Julio Jones is a boom-or-bust receiver, wait until you see what Ridley has done since entering the league two years ago.
In 62% of his games, Ridley has been no better than a fantasy WR3.
If you complain about touchdowns while talking about Julio, you better do the same when it comes to Ridley, because he’s been nothing but a touchdown-dependent producer to this point in his career.
- Touchdown (14 games): 18.4 FanDuel points, 7.8 targets, 5.5 receptions, 82.8 yards, 1.21 touchdowns
- No Touchdown (15 games): 5.5 FanDuel points, 5.1 targets, 3.3 receptions, 35.2 yards, zero touchdowns
With touchdowns in 48.3% of his career games, Ridley has run hot in the NFL, but what happens if his scoring luck dries up in 2020?
To be clear, I’m projecting Ridley for a big season: Thanks to Koerner, I have a 90-1 ticket on Ridley to lead the league in receiving yards.
With how fast the Falcons play and how frequently they throw, Ridley could have 120-plus targets — and that might be low given that a league-high 258 targets from the 2019 Falcons have been vacated, namely by the departures of tight end Austin Hooper, running back Devonta Freeman and wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy over the past year.
Against the Seahawks, it’s reasonable to expect him to surpass the 4-70-0 receiving line he put on them in Week 8 last year.
But given his heretofore touchdown-driven volatility, Ridley is probably best used as an upside WR2 in seasonal leagues and GPP play in DFS until he exhibits more week-to-week consistency.
Ridley is the No. 1 wide receiver in the CSURAM88, Levitan, Koerner and SportsGeek Models for FanDuel, where he has a position-high six Pro Trends.
Odell Beckham Jr.: Cleveland Browns (+8) at Baltimore Ravens, 48.5 O/U
Last year, Beckham was more of a No. 2 than a true alpha — and, yes, that’s a little bit of apropos potty humor for you.
But it’s also accurate.
In his first year with the Browns … trying not to laugh …
I guess it’s fitting that Odell Beckham plays for the Browns.
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) September 8, 2020
… Beckham was a complement to Jarvis Landry and not vice versa.
- Odell Beckham Jr. (2019, 16 games): 133 targets | 74-1,035-4 receiving
- Jarvis Landry (2019, 16 games): 138 targets | 83-1,174-6 receiving
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that OBJ stunk up the joint, but his performance had more than a whiff of the malodorous.
In fact, after opening his career with three consecutive 1,000-10 campaigns, Beckham has seen his per-game play tail off over the past three years.
- 2014-16 (43 games): 22.6 DraftKings points | 96.0 yards and 0.81 touchdowns on 6.7 receptions and 10.6 targets
- 2017-19 (32 games): 16.5 DraftKings points | 74.7 yards and 0.41 touchdowns on 5.5 receptions and 9.3 targets
But it’s worth noting that OBJ’s play most notably declined last year (20.0 DraftKings points in 2017-18 to 13.0 in 2019), when he was playing with a new quarterback in a bad system and had a sports hernia for most of the season.
Now, Beckham has had more time to form a connection with quarterback Baker Mayfield, new HC Kevin Stefanski should improve the offense and a surgery has repaired OBJ’s core muscle injury.
In all probability Beckham will have a bounceback season: If a guy averages 8.8 yards per target for the first half decade of his career and then has a career-low mark of 7.8 in his sixth year — and if his subpar performance can be explained away by the Occam’s razor of circumstance — then he’s a decent bet to regain his long-term form (or something close it) in his seventh year.
And it helps that Beckham’s underlying numbers from 2019 are probably better than people think. He was No. 6 with 132.9 AirYAC per game and a 0.63 WOPR (Weighted Opportunity Rating, which combines a player’s market share of targets and air yards, created by Josh Hermsmeyer).
What really dragged down OBJ’s production last year wasn’t so much the efficiency with which he turned targets into yards. It was the efficiency with which he turned yards and targets into touchdowns.
- 2014-18 (59 games): 124.5 yards per touchdown | 0.07 touchdowns per target
- 2019 (16 games): 258.8 yards per touchdown | 0.03 touchdowns per target
With just a little positive regression as a scorer, Beckham could look a lot like his former self in 2020.
Under Stefanski, the Browns seem likely to use a Vikings-style two-tight end offense that plays slowly and funnels the ball to the running backs, which might cap Beckham’s ceiling.
But any volume OBJ loses might be countered by a surge in efficiency: Last year under Stefanski, the Beckham-similar Stefon Diggs easily hit career-high marks with 12.0 yards per target and 2.50 yards per route.
Beckham has a tough matchup in Week 1, without question. The Ravens have PFF’s No. 1 secondary, and their cornerback trio of Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters on the perimeter and Marlon Humphrey in the slot is probably the league’s best.
Beckham was mediocre against the Ravens last year. In Week 4, he was shadowed on 83.3% of his routes by Humphrey, who held him to 2-20-0 receiving on six targets. And although Beckham did better against Peters and Smith in Week 16, his 4-44-1 stat line would’ve been a modest mess if not for the touchdown.
Even so, Beckham is an intriguing GPP option this week: He’s likely to have an ownership rate below 5% — maybe even approaching 2% — and his upside rivals that of the league’s best receivers. With his high ceiling and low ownership projections, Beckham is No. 2 in our DraftKings Models with a 97% leverage score. If he goes off in tournaments, he will be a significant lineup differentiator.
Beckham is the No. 1 option in the Freedman Model for DraftKings and an upside WR2 in redraft leagues.
D.K. Metcalf: Seattle Seahawks (-1.5) at Atlanta Falcons, 49 O/U
UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Seahawks WR Phillip Dorsett (foot) did not practice on Friday. He is technically questionable but probably will not suit up. WR David Moore will likely play in his place. TE Will Dissly (Achiles) has practiced on a limited basis this week and might play.
Metcalf is a constrained receiver. He’s almost exclusively a perimeter player, and his route tree has been pruned to mainly slants and flies. He’s a one-dimensional producer.
But within that dimension, he can dominate.
In a slow-paced, run-focused offense, Metcalf last year as a rookie had 900 yards and seven touchdowns on 100 targets in the regular season. And then in two playoff games he balled out with an 11-219-1 receiving line on 14 targets.
With his combination of size (6-foot-3, 228 pounds) and speed (4.33-second 40-yard dash), Metcalf looks like a smaller, rawer Calvin Johnson, and nothing he did in 2019 would lead anyone to believe that he can’t develop into a superstar in his second season.
It should also be noted that Metcalf had perhaps the all-time ugliest 900-yard rookie season for a receiver. He was no better than a fantasy WR3 a not-so-nice 69% of the time, and in only two games did he submit a WR1 performance.
He led the NFL with 18 end-zone targets in 2019, so he always has the potential to turn even a minimal number of opportunities into viable production, as he did against the Falcons in Week 8 with his best-not-watched 3-13-2 receiving performance on five targets.
But if he doesn’t become more efficient or doesn’t see a volume increase — remember, it’s not guaranteed that the Seahawks will actually #LetRussCook — then Metcalf could disappoint in 2020.
In Week 1, though, he is intriguing. Last year the Falcons were No. 30 with a 29.4% pass-defense DVOA against No. 2 wide receivers (per Football Outsiders). Against nondescript cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Isaiah Oliver, Metcalf could have a massive game.
Priced as the WR20 on FanDuel, Metcalf is likely to be a popular option in GPPs, especially in game stacks with teammate Tyler Lockett and either Julio Jones or Calvin Ridley.
A volatile WR2 with overall WR1 potential, Metcalf is the top option in the Raybon Model for FanDuel, where he has a position-high +3.34 Projected Plus/Minus.
Terry McLaurin: Washington Football Team (+5.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 43 O/U
Despite playing on a 3-13 team that was dead last in the league with 16.6 points per game, McLaurin balled out last year as a rookie with a 58-919-7 receiving performance on 93 targets in 14 games, finishing as the No. 10 wide receiver overall with 9.9 yards per target.
Some fantasy investors are worried about McLaurin in 2020 because of how poorly quarterback Dwayne Haskins played in his seven starts last year. But Haskins should improve in his second season, especially with new offensive coordinator Scott Turner guiding him instead of interim HC Bill Callahan, who oversaw an incredibly slow ground-based attack after HC Jay Gruden was fired in Week 6.
And it’s not as if McLaurin was all that horrible in his seven games with Haskins as the starting quarterback.
- Weeks 9-16 with Haskins (seven games): 30-461-2 receiving on 47 targets
- Weeks 1-8 with Case Keenum & Colt McCoy (seven games): 28-458-5 receiving on 46 targets
Additionally, McLaurin’s splits with Haskins are almost identical with the exception of three touchdowns — and touchdowns are very random. In other words, McLaurin’s splits with Haskins are almost meaningless.
What matters most for McLaurin in 2020 is not his quarterback situation. What matters is that the offense under Turner will be less antiquated: It will play faster and throw at a higher rate.
And what matters — at least from a predictive standpoint — is that McLaurin was just so darn good last year. If you look in the RotoViz Screener, you can sort through all the rookie wide receivers of the past 20 years to find guys comparable to McLaurin, who excelled with his 23% market share of targets per game (MS) and his 0.38 receiving fantasy points over expectation per attempt (reFPOEPA).
Based on those marks, the five rookie wide receivers of the past two decades most comparable to McLaurin is quite a cohort.
- Julio Jones (2011): 20% MS | 0.47 reFPOEPA
- Michael Thomas (2016): 19% MS | 0.45 reFPOEPA
- Mike Evans (2014): 25% MS | 0.37 reFPOEPA
- Michael Clayton (2004): 27% MS | 0.36 reFPOEPA
- Chris Chambers (2001): 19% MS | 0.35 reFPOEPA
Maybe McLaurin will turn out to be another Clayton, but it’s worth betting that he’ll be more like Jones, Thomas, Evans and Chambers, each of whom has at least one top-eight fantasy season to his name.
McLaurin is the only established wide receiver on the team, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get at least 25% of Washington’s targets this year: I am betting on McLaurin to lead the league in receiving yards at +6500.
In his two games against the Eagles last year, McLaurin dominated.
- Week 15: 27.0 DraftKings points | 5-130-1 receiving
- Week 1: 26.5 DraftKings points | 5-125-1 receiving
The Eagles should be better in pass defense this year thanks to the offseason additions of perimeter cornerback Darius Slay and slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman — but the Footballers will likely need to throw to stay in the game: McLaurin’s ceiling is intact.
I’m probably bullish on McLaurin relative to most industry analysts, but I view him as a low-end WR1 in redraft leagues and a strong DFS option for both cash games and tournaments.
McLaurin is the No. 1 wide receiver in the Bales, CSURAM88 and SportsGeek Models for DraftKings, where he has seven Pro Trends.
Marquise Brown: Baltimore Ravens (-8) vs. Cleveland Browns, 48.5 O/U
UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Browns starting CBs Greedy Williams (shoulder) and Kevin Johnson (liver) are both out, and backup CB M.J. Stewart (hamstring) is questionable. Cleveland is extremely thin at corner.
Hollywood almost seems destined to break out this year, and like McLaurin, he’s someone I’m betting on to lead the league in receiving (at +10000 odds) — but he has a tough matchup in Week 1 against cornerback Denzel Ward, who is one of the few NFL defenders with the raw speed (4.32-second 40-yard dash) to hang with him.
In his two-year career, Ward has held receivers to a 49.7% catch rate and just 5.8 yards per target, and in Hollywood’s two games against Cleveland last year he had a combined 5-28-0 receiving line on nine targets. Not good.
There’s a real chance that the Ravens as big favorites get a lead in this game, pound the rock with their multitude of rushers and leave Hollywood with nothing to do but run fly patterns. In 71% of his regular season games last year, Brown was no better than a fantasy WR3.
Hollywood at times was absolutely electric: In his NFL debut, he had a 4-147-2 receiving performance against the Dolphins, and in Baltimore’s postseason loss, he put up a 7-126-0 stat line on 11 targets.
But he was an extremely inconsistent and touchdown-dependent producer.
- Touchdown (five games): 19.7 DraftKings points, 5.0 targets, 4.0 receptions, 67.2 yards, 1.4 touchdowns
- No Touchdown (10 games): 7.3 DraftKings points, 5.7 targets, 3.3 receptions, 37.4 yards, zero touchdowns
Brown was hampered by a foot injury for most of his rookie campaign: He missed two games and played just 51.0% of the team’s offensive snaps during the regular season. Now that he’s healthy and ready to be a full-time contributor, he’s likely to be more consistent and less dependent on long scores.
With his speed and talent and OC Greg Roman’s strategic intelligence, Brown could be schemed open for a couple big plays that might result in long touchdowns. The Ravens have a slate-high 27.75-point implied Vegas total: They need to get those points somehow. But Brown also might have 35 scoreless yards on five targets.
If Hollywood goes off, he might break the slate. If he doesn’t, he’ll probably break your lineup.
A high-end WR3 in season-long leagues, Brown will be a popular GPP candidate as the No. 1 option in the Koerner Model for DraftKings.
DeSean Jackson: Philadelphia Eagles (-5.5) at Washington Football Team, 43 O/U
UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery (foot) is out, but rookie first-round WR Jalen Reagor (shoulder) practiced in full on Thursday and Friday and seems likely to play. Washington CB Kendall Fuller (knee) is doubtful to play.
He’s going to be chalky, but if you’re not rostering D-Jax in at least one GPP lineup this week, are you even alive? His #RevengeGame history would make Hamlet jealous.
- Week 1, 2019 (PHI vs. WAS): 38.4 DraftKings points | 8-154-2 receiving on nine targets
- Week 10, 2018 (TB vs. WAS): 11.7 DraftKings points | 5-67-0 receiving on nine targets
- Week 2, 2018 (TB vs. PHI): 25.9 DraftKings points | 4-129-1 receiving on four targets
- Week 14, 2016 (WAS at PHI): 22.2 DraftKings points | 3-102-1 receiving on four targets
- Week 6, 2016 (WAS vs. PHI): 9.5 DraftKings points | 4-55-0 receiving on nine targets
- Week 16, 2015 (WAS at PHI): 8.0 DraftKings points | 4-40-0 receiving on six targets
- Week 16, 2014 (WAS vs. PHI): 19.6 DraftKings points | 4-126-0 receiving on six targets
- Week 3, 2014 (WAS at PHI): 25.7 DraftKings points | 5-117-1 receiving on 11 targets
With Jackson, the primary question is health. The dude can definitely still play. Over the past two years, Jackson trails only A.J. Brown and Tyler Lockett with his 11.1 yards per target (among players with at least 50 targets). In his most recent (mostly) healthy 16-game stretch from Week 13 of 2017 to Week 1 of 2019, Jackson put up 1,004 yards receiving,
When healthy, Jackson can put up fantasy points — and it’s Week 1, so he’s healthy. What’s more, starting wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (foot) and Jalen Reagor (shoulder) are expected to be out, so D-Jax could have wonderfully inflated target volume.
Jackson has a great matchup against Washington cornerbacks Fabian Moreau and Ronald Darby, both of whom are liabilities. Moreau has PFF pass coverage grades of 42.2, 58.3 and 56.4 in his three NFL seasons, and last year Darby was one of the worst starting corners in the league with his mark of 39.8.
A long D-Jax touchdown feels like an inevitability. [See the best sportsbook promotions for NFL Week 1, including how you can win $100 if the Eagles score a touchdown!]
Despite being a late-round selection, Jackson is a no-doubt Week 1 fantasy starter in redraft leagues and a low-cost high-upside play in DFS, especially on DraftKings, where he’s the No. 1 wide receiver in the Levitan Model.
Upside Wide Receivers for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints ($9,000 DK, $8,800 FD): Over the past two years, Thomas has led all wide receivers with an average of 22.7 DraftKings and 17.1 FanDuel points in 35 games. His 81.8% catch rate since 2018 is incredibly elite. Last year, Thomas put up a 19-296-3 receiving line on 23 targets in two games against the Buccaneers. At the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Coors Field of fantasy football, the Saints-Bucs game could shoot out with its slate-high 49.5-point over/under. With quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints home over is an A-graded 66-48-2 (13.5% ROI).
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($7,100 DK, $7,700 FD): Teammate Mike Evans (hamstring) missed practice on Wednesday and could be a game-time decision for Week 1. In his breakout campaign last year, the superstar was No. 2 with 21.0 DraftKings and 16.7 FanDuel points and No. 4 with 134.1 AirYAC per game. In the slot, Godwin has an exploitable matchup against cornerback P.J. Williams, who has PFF coverage grades of 47.6 and 48.0 over the past two years. In two games against the Saints last year Godwin went off for 10-172-3 receiving on 15 targets. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Evans (hamstring) has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable but should still be approached with extreme skepticism.
UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Bucs WR Mike Evans (hamstring) got in a limited practice on Friday after not practicing on Wednesday and Thursday, but he is still doubtful for Week 1. WR Justin Watson seems likely to replace Evans in three-wide receiver sets, although he might play in the slot with Godwin shifting to the perimeter, where he could face Saints CB Marshon Lattimore. The Bucs also might play more two-tight end sets without Evans. Saints slot CB P.J. Williams (hamstring) is questionable after being downgraded to limited Thursday and Friday practices.
Thoughts on the TB WR situation w/out Mike Evans.
1. In 3-WR sets, Justin Watson will play.
2. Watson could be in slot, kick Godwin to perimeter.
3. On outside, Godwin faces CB Marshon Lattimore.
4. Saints SCB P.J. Williams is injured, so Watson could have best WR/CB matchup.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) September 12, 2020
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($6,900 DK, $7,500 FD): If he actually plays through his soft-tissue injury, Evans (hamstring) will likely be shadowed by shutdown cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Over the past two years, Evans is 15-302-1 receiving against the Saints in three games. An elite deep receiver, Evans was No. 1 last year with 158.9 AirYAC per game, and is one of only two players in NFL history (along with Randy Moss) to open his career with six consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Evans (hamstring) has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable but should still be approached with extreme skepticism.
UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Evans (hamstring) got in a limited practice on Friday after not practicing on Wednesday and Thursday, but he is still doubtful for Week 1. WR Justin Watson seems likely to replace Evans in three-wide receiver sets, although he might play in the slot with WR Chris Godwin shifting to the perimeter, where he could face Lattimore. The Bucs also might play more two-tight end sets without Evans. Saints slot CB P.J. Williams (hamstring) is questionable after being downgraded to limited Thursday and Friday practices.
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings ($6,700 DK, $6,800 FD): With former teammate Stefon Diggs now in Buffalo, Thielen is positioned to be the true No. 1 receiving option on a team that might be forced to throw more frequently this year. Much of his 2019 season was lost to a hamstring injury, but when he was healthy in Weeks 1-6 he averaged 17.0 DraftKings and 14.3 FanDuel points per game, and when he returned to full-time action in the playoffs he put a 12-179-0 receiving line on 16 targets in two games. In his three healthy games against the Packers under DC Mike Pettine, Thielen is 25-331-2 receiving on 30 targets.
D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers ($6,600 DK, $7,100 FD): It’s hard to know what to expect from Moore in 2020 with new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, new OC Joe Brady and new HC Matt Rhule, but if Bridgewater hits Moore in stride and Brady and Rhule translate their dynamic LSU and Baylor offenses to the NFL, then Moore should be able to leverage his catch-and-run ability into some massive performances. With a dominant Evans-esque 22-year-old second-season receiving yardage total of 1,175, Moore established himself as a true No. 1 receiver last year, and he’s poised to become a superstar if the constellations call for it. He has a great matchup against the Raiders, who last year were No. 29 with a 46.3 PFF coverage grade and will be starting rookie cornerback Damon Arnette on the perimeter.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks ($6,500 DK, $6,800 FD): The second half of Lockett’s 2019 campaign was hindered by a leg injury, but before the issue in Weeks 1-9 he was a top-six fantasy wide receiver with 20.0 DraftKings and 15.7 FanDuel points per game, and he finished the year strong in the playoffs with a 13-198-1 receiving line on 18 targets in two games.
In Lockett’s two years as a full-time receiver, quarterback Russell Wilson has been most efficient when throwing to Lockett, putting up an elite mark of 12.8 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) on such targets (per RotoViz AY/A App). Against the Falcons last year, Lockett was his usual efficient self with a 6-100-0 receiving performance on six targets. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Seahawks WR Phillip Dorsett (foot) did not practice on Friday. He is technically questionable but probably will not suit up. WR David Moore will likely play in his place. TE Will Dissly (Achiles) has practiced on a limited basis this week and might play.
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers ($6,400 DK, $7,000 FD): No Allen stan am I, but he will likely have diminished ownership with an advantageous matchup against the Bengals, who were No. 29 with a 30.5% pass-defense DVOA last year. Even though the Chargers will likely have a slow run-focused offense with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Allen should still see sufficient target volume given that the team is expected to be without teammate Mike Williams (shoulder) in Week 1 and possibly beyond. Only Julio Jones, Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins have more than Allen’s 3,888 yards from scrimmage over the past three seasons.
Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills ($6,400 DK, $6,600 FD): Coming off a year in which he set career-high marks with 12.0 yards per target and 2.50 yards per route, Diggs is almost certain to regress in Buffalo, where quarterback Josh Allen in 2019 was No. 33 with a 70.6% accuracy rate and No. 35 with a 28.4% accuracy rate on targets 20-plus yards downfield. But Diggs is an elite playmaker with 1,012.2 yards per season over the past four years, and his Week 1 matchup is too good to ignore. The Jets have PFF’s worst secondary, and perimeter cornerbacks Pierre Desir and Blessuan Austin in particular are coverage liabilities.
D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars ($6,300 DK, $6,600 FD): Despite playing with a sixth-round rookie quarterback, Chark enjoyed a second-season break out in 2019, putting up a 73-1,008-8 receiving line on 118 targets. In two games against the divisional rival Colts last year, Chark went for 12-168-2 receiving on 20 targets, and he’s on the positive side of his splits, which saw him average 17.3 DraftKings and 13.9 FanDuel points in 11 games as an underdog. With new OC Jay Gruden, Chark could take another big step forward in his third year.
Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions ($6,200 DK, $7,300 FD): One of just two players last year with at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving, Babytron became a star in 2019 despite playing eight games with quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and David Blough. A big-play machine, Golladay is yet to have even 120 targets in a season, but with the high-protein opportunities he actually gets — last year Golladay was No. 1 with 36 deep targets and No. 2 with 14 end-zone targets — his lack of target volume is less crucial. In his four games against the Bears over the past two years, Golladay is 18-383-3 receiving on 35 targets. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Golladay is doubtful after missing Thursday and Friday practices. Even if he plays, he cannot be trusted for Week 1.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots ($6,000 DK, $6,700 FD): With quarterback Cam Newton, the Patriots seem likely to utilize a run-focused two-tight end offensive attack, but that doesn’t mean that all of Edelman’s target volume will vanish, and since the 2013 season he has averaged 9.9 targets per game (including playoffs). The only real competition Edelman has for targets is running back James White, as second-year wide receiver N’Keal Harry is still raw and tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene are rookies. In the slot, Edelman could give a rudely educative NFL welcome to rookie cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Patriots WR Gunner Olszewski (foot) is out. TE Dalton Keene (neck) is questionable after limited practices on Thursday and Friday.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts ($5,800 DK, $6,400 FD): The 2019 season with quarterback Jacoby Brissett was one to forget — as was the 2017 season — but in his past five campaigns with someone other than Brissett throwing to him, Hilton has averaged 1,254 yards and 5.8 touchdowns on 80 receptions and 135.8 targets. Granted, that someone else throwing to him was Andrew Luck — but new quarterback Philip Rivers will likely be closer to Luck than to Brissett in 2020. In his four Brissett-less games against the Jaguars under DC Todd Walsh, Hilton has averaged 72.8 yards on six receptions and 10.5 targets — and now the Jags don’t have cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.
John Brown, Buffalo Bills ($5,600 DK, $6,100 FD): Now that Stefon Diggs is in Buffalo, Jo-Bro will see fewer targets as the No. 2 receiver in the offense, but it’s worth remembering that quarterback Josh Allen has been his most efficient in the NFL when throwing to Brown, who has gifted the scattershot passer with a 9.6 AY/A on his targets. Last year Brown was No. 11 with 126.5 AirYAC per game, and he’s still more than capable of scoring multiple touchdowns thanks to his field-stretching ability. In his one game against the Jets last year, Brown was a fantasy WR1 with a 7-123-1 receiving performance on 10 targets.
Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions ($5,500 DK, $6,200 FD): Over the past two years, Jones has been a strong arbitrage play on Golladay, and that will likely continue into 2020. Since 2018, Golladay has averaged 15.5 DraftKings and 12.5 FanDuel points per game; Jones, 14.5 and 11.9. Over that time, Jones has finished as a fantasy WR1 in 23% of his games and always has the capacity for a big performance thanks to his 13.7-yard average depth of target (aDOT) and 9.2% touchdown rate. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Lions WRs Kenny Golladay (hamstring) and Danny Amendola (hamstring) are uncertain. Golladay is doubtful after missing Thursday and Friday practices. Amendola is questionable after limited practices each day. Without Golladay, Jones approaches must-start status.
Jamison Crowder, New York Jets ($5,200 DK, $6,000 FD): New teammates Breshad Perriman (knee) and Denzel Mims (hamstring) both missed most of training camp, so their rapport with quarterback Sam Darnold is nonexistent. Playing in the slot, Crowder should continue to be the team’s No. 1 receiver: In his 13 games last year with Darnold, the jitterbug receiver averaged a respectable 8.3 targets. Against the Bills last year, Crowder had a pseudo-impressive 22-165-1 receiving line on an outrageous 27 targets in two games. UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Jets WR Denzel Mims (hamstring) is out.
Henry Ruggs III, Las Vegas Raiders ($5,100 DK, $5,100 FD): With teammate Tyrrell Williams (shoulder) on injured reserve, Ruggs is in line to be the No. 1 wide receiver for the Raiders in Week 1. Ruggs has slate-breaking speed (4.27-second 40 time), and in college he turned literally one out of every four touches into a touchdown. He has a good matchup against the Panthers, who are without three of the four top cornerbacks from last season, including No. 1 corner James Bradberry.
Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers ($4,600 DK, $5,500 FD): A Percy Harvin clone with his physical profile and college production, Samuel has teased fantasy investors for three years with his promise, but he’s yet to turn his potential into significant production. Maybe with a new quarterback and offense, that will happen. He has maybe the slate’s best matchup against slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, who last year had a career-worst 44.4 PFF coverage grade and allowed a gaping 73.9% catch rate.
Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders ($4,500 DK, $5,200 FD): The ownership rate for Renfrow will be nearly nothing, but he should see regular playing time in the slot, where he seems likely to face fourth-round rookie cornerback Troy Pride Jr. Oh boy. In his eight games after the Week 6 bye last year, Renfrow had a solid 37-504-4 receiving line, and after returning from injury in Week 16, he had back-to-back 100-1 games to close the year.
Laviska Shenault, Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,400 DK, $4,600 FD): A bruising after-the-catch dominator who might best be described as “Davante Adams with an extra 15 pounds of muscle,” Shenault has the potential for an Anquan Boldin-like NFL debut with 100-plus yards and multiple touchdowns. He led all wide receivers in the 2020 rookie class with 3.5 yards per route across his two final college seasons, and he could see goal-line carries as a wildcat quarterback given his 42-280-7 rushing production at Colorado. He could be a primary beneficiary of a pass-heavy game script if the underdog Jags find themselves trailing.
John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals ($4,200 DK, $5,200 FD): After teammates A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, Ross very well could be the No. 3 wide receiver for the team, and he’ll have an ownership rate approaching 0%. Last year, Ross was No. 5 in the NFL with 134.1 AirYAC per game, and in his eight games he put a not insignificant 28-506-3 receiving line on 56 targets. With Green and Boyd likely to be covered by shutdown cornerbacks Casey Hayward Jr. and Chris Harris Jr., Ross could get extra targets in a soft matchup if the Chargers go with Michael Davis as their No. 3 corner.
Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders ($4,200 DK, $4,500 FD): The reports out of Raiders camp have been strong for Edwards, who will start immediately as a rookie in Week 1. Edwards never had a massive college season, but he was a strong contributor as early as his age-18 freshman campaign, and he has the athletic profile and physical playing style to be an impact receiver. Perimeter cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Rasul Douglas are both beatable: Jackson was benched in the middle of last season, and Douglas had a 50.2 PFF coverage grade for the Eagles.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Philadelphia Eagles ($3,900 DK, $5,300 FD): Just a year ago, JAWS entered the NFL as a big-bodied second-round rookie with a near-elite athleticism, a senior-year 63-1,059-14 receiving campaign to his name and the long-term potential to replace veteran Alshon Jeffery. After seeing just 22 targets last year, he’s being left for dead. With his high 18.1-yard aDOT and above-average matchup against perimeter cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Fabian Moreau, the underappreciated Arcega-Whiteside could go off with a long touchdown.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Chicago Bears ($3,400 DK, $5,000 FD): The Bears reportedly view C-Patz as both a wide receiver and running back, and he could see some significant action as a rusher if starting running back David Montgomery (groin) is unable to play. A three-time All-Pro kick returner with true playmaking ability and between-the-tackle size (6-foot-2, 238 pounds), Patterson has averaged 5.7 yards after contact per carry for his career. He has a position-best 93% Bargain Rating on DraftKings, and if he somehow goes off in Week 1, all the C-Patz haters will never hear the end of it.
If Cordarrelle Patterson were named the starting RB of the Bears, he would be a high-end fantasy RB3 right away with room for significant upside.
He’s an older Antonio Gibson with a history of some NFL success and a less productive David Johnson with a fully functional body. https://t.co/OKifGlm2sM
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) September 6, 2020
UPDATE (Sat. 9/12): Bears RB David Montgomery (groin) is questionable, but he practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and is likely to play.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
Pictured above: Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley
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