2014 Fantasy Football: WR Preview

On Wednesday we published an article previewing which quarterbacks are being undervalued and which are being overvalued by fantasy football analysts by comparing the Yahoo! Sports rankings with oddsmakers’ projections. Today, we examine the wide receiver and tight end position to determine which sleepers managers should circle on their draft board and which future busts should be avoided at all costs.

In last season’s Fantasy Football preview, we highlighted Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas as a potential sleeper, and the Georgia Tech product responded by tallying 92 receptions for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns — good for the third best season among fantasy receivers (behind Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson).

We also highlighted fellow Broncos WR Wes Welker who entered the season as the 24th ranked fantasy receiver. Although he finished the season with the #22 ranking among eligible receivers, his 10 touchdowns set a new career-high. Factor in the three games missed due to injury, and Welker could have easily finished the season ranked much higher — perhaps even cracking the top-15.

Earlier this week Sportsbook.com posted a prop bet to determine which wide receiver would lead the league in receiving yards. By comparing this yardage prop with the consensus Yahoo! wide receiver rankings, we were able to discover some major disparities.

Yahoo! WR Rank
2013 Receiving Yards
Calvin Johnson +275 1 1492
Dez Bryant +500 4 1233
Demaryius Thomas +1000 2 1430
Julio Jones +1200 6 580
Brandon Marshall +1500 5 1295
AJ Green +1500 3 1426
Antonio Brown +2000 9 1499
Alshon Jeffery +2500 7 1421
Vincent Jackson +2500 T-12 1224
Andre Johnson +2500 15 1407
Jordy Nelson +2800 8 1314
Pierre Garcon +3500 14 1346
Larry Fitzgerald +5000 T-12 954
Mike Wallace +5000 35 930
Victor Cruz +5000 17 998
TY Hilton +5000 23 1083
Torrey Smith +5000 27 1128
Cecil Shorts III +5000 34 777
Keenan Allen +5000 T-10 1046
Randall Cobb +5000 T-10 433
Roddy White +5000 22 711
Jimmy Graham +6000 1 (TE) 1215
DeSean Jackson +7000 21 1332
Wes Welker +7000 16 778
Marques Colston +7500 30 943
Dwayne Bowe +9000 T-40 673
Julian Edelman +9000 25 1056
Eric Decker +10000 33 1288
Michael Floyd +10000 24 1041
Rob Gronkowski +10000 4 (TE) 592
Sammy Watkins +10000 44 N/A
Michael Crabtree +10000 18 284
Percy Harvin +10000 20 17
Greg Jennings +15000 55 804
DeAndre Hopkins +15000 48 802
Golden Tate +15000 29 898
Rueben Randle +15000 46 611
Cordarrelle Patterson +15000 19 469
Brian Hartline +15000 54 1016
Emmanuel Sanders +15000 36 740
Riley Cooper +15000 37 835
James Jones +15000 47 817
Aaron Dobson +20000 45 519
Reggie Wayne +20000 31 503
Tavon Austin +20000 49 418
Hakeem Nicks +20000 42 896
Kenny Stills +20000 52 641
Marqise Lee +20000 63 N/A
Nate Washington +20000 73 919
Mike Evans +25000 37 N/A
Julius Thomas +30000 2 (TE) 788
Brandin Cooks N/A T-40 N/A
Kendall Wright N/A 28 1079
Jeremy Maclin N/A 26 857
Anquan Boldin N/A 43 1179
Steve Smith N/A 56 745
Terrance Williams N/A 32 736
Kelvin Benjamin N/A 53 N/A
Jarrett Boykin N/A 57 681
Danny Amendola N/A 49 633
Robert Woods N/A T-59 587
Justin Hunter N/A T-59 354
Markus Wheaton N/A 51 64
Odell Beckham Jr. N/A 58 N/A
Marvin Jones N/A 39 712

One of the first things that should be noted is that for fantasy purposes, receiving yardage is not the only factor that should be considered. Many of these players, such as Percy Harvin, Desean Jackson and Cordarrelle Patterson, gain additional value due to their roles as a kick returner or in the rushing game. However, these comparisons do give us an excellent opportunity to see how the opinions of oddsmakers differ from the supposed fantasy experts.

One of the first names that jumps out is Jaguars 4th-year receiver Cecil Shorts III. Last season the 6’0″ receiver tallied 66 receptions for 777 yards and 3 touchdowns despite missing three games due to injury. This season, Shorts is just the 34th ranked fantasy receiver despite being tied with Larry Fitzgerald any many others for the 13th best odds to league the league in receiving. Considering that RB Maurice Jones-Drew departed via free agency and the team drafted QB Blake Bortles with the third overall pick, Jacksonville could be passing far more frequently this season and Shorts appears primed for a breakthrough season.

Another potential sleeper is Dolphins WR Mike Wallace. Just like Cecil Shorts, Wallace’s 50/1 odds to lead the league in receiving yards puts him in a 9-way tie for the 13th best odds, yet according to Yahoo! he is barely own-able in a standard 12-team league. After signing a massive free agent deal, Wallace recorded 73 catches for 930 yards and 5 touchdowns in his first season with Miami.

The speedy receiver is also just 2 years removed from back to back seasons of 1,100+ receiving yards (1,257 in 2010 and 1,193 in 2011). When you factor in the steady improvements by young QB Ryan Tannehill and the fact that Wallace is still just 27-years old, the former Ole Miss product could be an excellent late round selection.

So if Shorts and Wallace look like potential steals, who should fantasy football managers steer clear of? According to oddsmakers, Packers WR Jordy Nelson and Chargers WR Keenan Allen.

Last season as a rookie, Keenan Allen shocked the league by posting 71 catches for 1,046 yards and 8 touchdowns. Although this was unbelievable production (particularly for a third round draft pick), it would seem that fantasy experts are overvaluing the young receiver.

Allen ranks ahead of established wide receivers like Vincent Jackson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Pierre Garcon and Victor Cruz despite having just one NFL season under his belt. Furthermore, the odds for all five of those players to lead the league in receiving are either greater than or equal to Allen’s.

Another player being overvalued according to oddsmakers is Jordy Nelson. Though the 6’3″ receiver finished last season 9th in receiving yards, much of that production came with fellow receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb sidelined. Furthermore, Sportsbook.com lists Nelson as the 11th best receiver while Yahoo! has him listed at number 8. While Nelson should post another productive season, managers should be targeting like likes of Antonio Brown and Vincent Jackson first.

Which receivers will you be targeting? Do you agree or disagree with our selections? Make your voice heard by commenting in the section below.

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