The NFL's 2017 wide receiver group is as dynamic and deep a group as we have had in some time. In the top tier of wide receivers, we find three who could be worthy of the number one wide receiver selection, and if you get any of these three, you are likely going to be thrilled with the results.
The three I'm talking about are Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., and Julio Jones.
Currently over on FantasyPros.com's consensus rankings, those three make the up overall numbers four-six. Each of the above mentioned guys also is considered the number one wide receiver on at least one person's rankings.
Let's first take a look at the numbers:
Some notes from the Chart:
- Each of these three ranked in the top-five in receiving yards.
- Only Jones was outside the top-five in reception touchdowns, tying for 25th (along with 2016 yardage leader, T.Y. Hilton).
- As you can see, Jones and Brown were much more efficient with their targets than Beckham Jr. was, and arguably they have the better quarterback play. Catch percentage can be a limited number in that it's a catch per target number. A lot will depend on accuracy.
- Beckham was the only one to fumble the ball.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown has been the consensus top wide receiver in fantasy football drafts for some time now. He has been as consistent as they come in the NFL over the last four seasons, putting up at least 100 catches and eight touchdowns.
His yardage total in 2016 was his least amount in the four years. In the previous three seasons he averaged 1,677 yards with a high of 1,834 and a low of 1,499.
A wide receiver would be happy to have a single season approaching 1,500 yards and Brown has a three-season average of over 1,600 yards. That is straight ridiculous.
In a down year, by his standards, Brown is still a major focal point in the Pittsburgh offense. While Le'Veon Bell is going to get 300+ touches, Brown seems to be a lock for 100 catches a season at this point.
The yardage dip could be related to fewer big plays and a little more help from the other wide receivers around him as well as Bell's huge season. Projecting Brown over 16 games (adding one more game), he would have eclipsed Beckham's yardage total.
One thing you can count on with Brown is that he is going to get the attention of his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. No matter the weapons they add, Brown is the top guy and will actually see more favorable coverages because of the return of Martavis Bryant and the drafting of JuJu Smith-Schuster.
With Bell taking a ton of attention in the run game, teams have to pick their poison and Brown -- even entering his age 29 season -- can still kill teams.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
Like with Brown, one thing you can appreciate about Odell Beckham Jr.'s situation is that he is the top dog in the offense. Despite the additions of formerly elite receiver Brandon Marshall and move tight end Evan Engram, Beckham's target share is unlikely to decrease.
If anything, it's going to give him much more favorable coverages, which should allow him to be more efficient on the field.
Before you lay into me about the negatives I'm about to offer, let me tell you this, Odell Beckham Jr. is an elite wide receiver and someone I'd gladly have on the Cowboys across from Dez Bryant.
My two issues with him.
1. His quarterback play can -- at times -- be horrendous. Yes, I'm talking about Eli Manning. Before you give me the "he's an elite quarterback because he won two Super Bowls" speech, let me ask you how you feel about his interception a game career average and his completion percentages under 60% (59.1%).
Manning's best season for completion % is 63.1. Compared to some of his contemporaries; Drew Brees (66%), Aaron Rodgers (65.1%), Phillip Rivers (64.4%), Tony Romo (65.3%), and Carson Palmer (62.5%). While Eli Manning is a good quarterback, his inaccuracy will hinder Beckham.
2. Beckham can get rattled in-game. We've all seen his battles with Josh Norman. I'm not going to call him a diva, because a lot of wide receivers are divas but you have to have a little of that swagger and confidence to be a legit number one NFL wide out.
My issue is that it seems to go beyond that. If you challenge him physically and mentally, he seems to get caught up in showing he isn't going to be intimidated, as opposed to just going out there and playing football and letting his game speak for itself. Again, if you draft Beckham in the top six of your fantasy football drafts, you should be thrilled. He is as sure a thing to provide WR1 numbers throughout the season as any.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones, like Antonio Brown, has been an elite WR for a long time. Ever since the Atlanta Falcons traded up in the NFL draft to select Jones, he's proven to be an elite wide receiver.
What you love about Jones is his ability to use size, speed, and route running ability to win in all areas of the field.
Over his last four seasons, he's averaged more than 100 yards per game in each season.
His catch number dropped off in 2016, in large part due to the emergence of running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman in the passing game. Also factoring into Jones' first sub-100 catch season in three years was the development of Matt Ryan as a passer.
In 2016 Matt Ryan seemed to be a passer who began trusting his progressions and spreading the ball around. Despite the more team-centered passing game, Jones had his highest yards per reception since his rookie year when Roddy White played more of the possession role.
The knock on Julio Jones is that he's only played a full season one time. He's suffered nagging injuries every other season of his career. That one time he played a full season is also the only time he's scored double-digit touchdowns.
Julio Jones offers elite potential and is someone who can finish as the number one receiver in fantasy, but he does come with some injury risk.
So, Who is Number 1?
To me it's Antonio Brown in re-draft and even in dynasty formats. Only entering his age 29 season gives him three-five more years of prime wide receiver production.
Trying to settle these debates is difficult. I have my hunches and, like I said in my running back article, I usually go with my gut, but let's try to separate these three using some non-scientific analysis.
Based on five criteria: Quarterback Play, Supporting Cast, Offensive System, Offensive Pecking Order, and Injury Risk; I ranked the three players and here's how it came out.
So as you can see, Brown hits either first or second in my subjective criteria, while Beckham and Jones tie for second.
When it comes to ties, I look at two things. Injury history (even though it's not an accurate predictor of future injuries) and age. On both accounts, Beckham has Jones beat.
So ranking the three, I'd go...
- Antonio Brown
- Odell Beckham Jr.
- Julio Jones
Who's missing from the conversation? Who's your top wide receiver in fantasy?
Is Dak Prescott a Player to Avoid in Fantasy Football in 2018?
For the Dallas Cowboys, the plan is to stick with Dak Prescott to hopefully turn him into a successful long-term franchise quarterback. Going into his third year in the league, this could be a season that defines his future on America's Team.
However, after the entire team struggled in 2017 while trying to overcome several key absences (including Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith), Prescott's level of play has been questioned by plenty around the league. Fans, analysts and writers everywhere aren't as sure as they were in 2016 about the quarterback's future.
And now, according to NFL.com, Fantasy Football players should beware of drafting Dak Prescott once their "friendly" (we all know they're anything but friendly) seasons begin.
Earlier this week, NFL.com Fantasy Editor Marcas Grant published an article telling us ten players to avoid for the 2018 Fantasy Football season. Perhaps it may come as a surprise to some that Dak Prescott is in there among names like Ty Montgomery and Jack Doyle. You can read his full article here.
To be honest, I see his point here.
It's more than fair to say that it's not going to be an easy year for Dak. He's got to prove a lot in a year that could have a juicy extension at the end of it. After going through a sort of an expected sophomore slump, Prescott's third year in the NFL should be his best one yet.
There's a big but, though. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are long gone, leaving Dak Prescott with a promising yet unproven set of pass catchers.
Will a dominant running game led by five great offensive linemen and Ezekiel Elliott be enough to help Dak and the rest of the offense? Probably. but how much will Prescott be able to accomplish?
Through a painful 9-7 season in which the Cowboys never seemed to be able to find a steady pace, #4's stats took a hit. Here are his numbers from his two years in the pros:
- 2016: 311 completions, 67.8% completion percentage, 3,667 yards, 23 TDs and 4 INTs.
- 2017: 308 completions, 62.9% completion percentage, 3,324 yards, 22 TDs and 13 INTs.
- He also ran for six touchdowns in each of his two seasons.
Per FantasyData.com, his fantasy points dropped from 286.88 in 2016 to 260.66 in 2017.
Despite his numbers dropping, Dak certainly took huge strides as a passer. From taking command of the offense as a captain to making throws he wouldn't make as a rookie, Prescott was able to demonstrate improvements during a rough sophomore slump.
Even with Dez gone, the receivers the front office brought in throughout the offseason are expected to be Dak-friendly. If the receiving corps actually make his strengths shine, the Cowboys' offense will take a huge step in 2018.
Maybe, as Jason Witten mentioned on Adam Schefter's Podcast, Dez is as good as anyone going up for the football. But that's not what will make Dak shine. This revamped WR room might be just what he needs, though.
At the end of the day, even though I truly believe he'll have a good career in the NFL and that he's the future of the Dallas Cowboys, I doubt he should be marked as an early target in the Fantasy Football world.
As of right now, from a Fantasy Football perspective, I would barely rank him as a Top 15 quarterback for many reasons.
First of all, the Cowboys' game will revolve around Ezekiel Elliott. Secondly, it doesn't matter how much faith we put into these pass catchers, they haven't proved anything yet.
Dak is not a bad player at all. But taking Prescott in the middle or even late rounds of a Fantasy Draft might be the safest way to go right now.
Lastly, I leave you with some "Fantasy Nuggets" from fellow Inside The Star writer and Fantasy Football Guru John Williams:
- Dak failed to score 10 standard format fantasy points only four times last season. He scored 15+ points nine times and 20+ six times in 2017.
- In 2017 - even with a down second half - he finished as the 13th best QB in points per game and as the tenth best in total QB scoring.
- In 2016, he was in the top 10 in both categories mentioned in the previous bullet point.
- His ability to run and score touchdowns on the ground easily make him one of the best 12 QB options for fantasy football.
Fantasy Football Implications of Ezekiel Elliott’s Suspension
Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended by the NFL for 6 games for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy. This will leave a void in the backfield for the Dallas Cowboys and on many fantasy football rosters around the world. As it is with the real league, it's a next man up philosophy in the world of fantasy football as well.
At the moment, that next man up is Darren McFadden.
Just two years ago, with Dallas still clinging to playoff hopes in the wake of Tony Romo's injury, McFadden rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He finished fifth in the NFL that season despite not seeing more than 10 carries a game until week six. From week 6 until the end of the season, McFadden had 7 games with more than 90 yards rushing.
McFadden's touchdown total from that season leaves a lot to be desired, but let's not forget the quarterbacking chaos that went on that season. Between Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore, defenses weren't worried about being beat in the passing game.
Frankly, it's a miracle that McFadden rushed for 1,000 yards.
Over 11 games from weeks 6-17, McFadden averaged 21.45 touches per game and 108.27 total yards per game. At that pace, stretched over a 16 game season, McFadden would have totaled 1,732 yards, which would have led all running backs in total yards that season.
If you still have to draft, I would take a chance on McFadden around the 7th or 8th round in 10 or 12 team drafts.
As for Alfred Morris, he will get some touches as much as the Dallas Cowboys will look to run the ball. That being said the second half of 2016 showed who the coaches preferred as the backup.
The last time Morris ran for more than 1,000 yards was in 2014. In 2015, if you'll remember, he lost his job to Matt Jones who has since lost his job to UDFA Rob Kelley, who is starting but is being threatened by 2017 draft pick Samaje Perine.
When Morris played last year he was pretty ineffective averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per carry.
With McFadden's injury history, you can take a shot on Alfred Morris late in your fantasy drafts around the second to last or the last round.
How Should You Value Ezekiel Elliott in Upcoming Fantasy Drafts?
That's a difficult question to answer, because a lot will depend on your league settings. My simple answer is, if you can get any discount on Ezekiel Elliott from his average draft position of 3.0, then you're getting a good value for at least the second half of the season.
Just a week ago I wrote to not allow this absence to sway you too much. I stand by that.
Fantasy football is about getting as much value as you can with each draft pick. Elliott is a top 5 value in any setting, even if he has to sit out. I think you can comprise a roster good enough to get into the playoffs, then you'll want Elliott for a playoff run.
Just like the Dallas Cowboys, all you need to do is tread water while he's out. If you can make it through the suspension at or around .500, you will still be in good position to win your fantasy football league.
When Elliott comes back, he will be the starter.
Even if they make him earn it, it won't take long. He's just better than McFadden and Morris. If your league lets Elliott somehow slip outside of the first round, snatch him up and make sure you draft McFadden. You'll thank me for it later.
While many will look at this situation as a detriment to Dak Prescott and may feel deterred from drafting him as the 9th quarterback in your league, I actually see it the opposite. While Dak was very efficient in Dallas' run-first offense, he showed throughout the 2016 season that he could be leaned upon in a shootout or to bring the team back from a large deficit.
In fact, Dak might have played his best game of the season during the playoff loss to Green Bay when the team got down 21-3. Forced to pass, Prescott completed 63% of his passes for 302 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in nearly leading the team back to victory.
With a full offseason in the Dallas offense and a really good compliment of receivers led by Dez Bryant, I fully anticipate Dak to have an excellent sophomore campaign.
Dallas may lean more on the pass during Elliott's absence, which will make Dak more valuable to me. Remember fantasy football is about acquiring stats and with Elliott out, Dak will have a great chance at putting up even bigger numbers. Especially if the run game is ineffective.
Fantasy Football: Draft Ezekiel Elliott Early, Don’t Be Swayed
Plenty of fantasy football drafts have come and gone, but many still remain as training camp is in full swing. The question has come up in the fantasy football Twitter community; what do you do with Ezekiel Elliott amidst rumors of a suspension? And the short answer is nothing.
Investigations into whether or not Ezekiel Elliott has violated any of the NFL's policies have persisted. Supposedly, those investigations have come to a close. The personal conduct policy, the domestic violence policy, and the substance abuse policy seem to all be in play as the league decides on the appropriate punishment for the Dallas Cowboys' star running back.
You could go the safe route and drop Ezekiel Elliott down your draft boards or you could take a chance at having one of the top scorers in fantasy football on your roster.
Say a suspension does come down. At worst, a drug suspension would be four games.
The domestic violence issue seems to be circumstantial evidence that even the Columbus Police and District Attorney declined to pursue. The NFL's personal conduct policy could apply, but that seems to be more of a threat than anything. So the question is, if Elliott is out for four games, does he lose his value somehow. I'd say no.
We don't have to go back very far to see a similar star running back with a similar suspension. In 2016, Le'Veon Bell was suspended for the first three games of the season and many people slid him down their draft boards. In some mocks, I saw him going outside of the first round.
Sure he missed the first three games of the season, but he finished as fantasy football's No. 3 running back and was there when you needed him most. Playoff time.
Bell only had three games where he failed to score less than 15 standard fantasy points during his 12 game season (didn't play in the season finale). The point being, anyone who drafted Le'Veon Bell in the first round or the top of the second was quite happy with the results.
If Ezekiel Elliott misses time, it will be at the beginning of the season, but like Bell, he will be around at the end of the season when you're trying to put away a championship win.
If you're drafting at the top of the first round, don't let Ezekiel Elliott's consistency and scoring ability get by you because of a threat of suspension. He'll be available to you when you need him most.
The first few weeks of the season are tough matchups for Elliott anyway.
Dallas will face the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Rams in the first four weeks--all teams with tough defenses. Though Elliott is a guaranteed starter for those four weeks, it's likely you're lowering expectations for him against some of the top run defenses in the NFL.
For me in 2017, the reward of having Ezekiel Elliott on my roster far outweighs the risk of any potential suspension. Draft Zeke and reap the benefits.
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Should Cowboys DT Jihad Ward Be Getting More Attention?
Star Blog4 days ago
Cowboys Trade For DT Jihad Ward Already Paying Off?
Star Blog1 day ago
ESPN Proposes Trade Offer To Bring Earl Thomas To Dallas
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Could Connor Williams Actually Define the Cowboys’ Season?
Star Blog3 days ago
Tavon Austin, the Cowboys Best Playmaker Not Named Ezekiel Elliott?
Player News2 weeks ago
Report: Cowboys Sign OL Zack Martin To 6 Year Deal
Star Blog6 days ago
Should Cowboys Add Another Safety Before Training Camp?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
4 Reasons Terrance Williams Won’t Be a Cowboy