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.

Update: On Wednesday, August 27th, Bovada posted an incredible number of player specific props including an over/under on receiving yards for nearly every notable wide receiver in the NFL. While most of the yardage totals matched up with the odds to lead the league in receiving, there were a few notable discrepancies including AJ Green, Jordy Nelson and Victor Cruz.

Player Yardage O/U (8/28) Odds (7/26) Yahoo! WR Rank 2013 Receiving Yards
Calvin Johnson 1500.5 +275 1 1492
Demaryius Thomas 1350.5 +1000 2 1430
AJ Green 1250.5 +1500 3 1426
Dez Bryant 1250.5 +500 4 1233
Julio Jones 1200.5 +1200 6 580
Brandon Marshall 1200.5 +1500 5 1295
Antonio Brown 1200.5 +2000 9 1499
Jordy Nelson 1150.5 +2800 8 1314
Alshon Jeffery 1100.5 +2500 7 1421
Vincent Jackson 1100.5 +2500 T-12 1224
Andre Johnson 1100.5 +2500 15 1407
Jimmy Graham 1100.5 +6000 1 (TE) 1215
Victor Cruz 1050.5 +5000 17 998
Randall Cobb 1050.5 +5000 T-10 433
Michael Crabtree 1000.5 +10000 18 284
Roddy White 1000.5 +5000 22 711
Keenan Allen 1000.5 +5000 T-10 1046
Torrey Smith 1000.5 +5000 27 1128
Michael Floyd 1000.5 +10000 24 1041
Julian Edelman 1000.5 +9000 25 1056
Larry Fitzgerald 1000.5 +5000 T-12 954
Cordarrelle Patterson 950.5 +15000 19 469
Pierre Garcon 950.5 +3500 14 1346
Mike Wallace 950.5 +5000 35 930
TY Hilton 950.5 +5000 23 1083
Rob Gronkowski 950.5 +10000 4 (TE) 592
DeSean Jackson 950.5 +7000 21 1332
Marques Colston 950.5 +7500 30 943
Golden Tate 900.5 +15000 29 898
Emmanuel Sanders 900.5 +15000 36 740
Kendall Wright 900.5 N/A 28 1079
Jeremy Maclin 900.5 N/A 26 857
Wes Welker 900.5 +7000 16 778
Rueben Randle 900.5 +15000 46 611
Percy Harvin 875.5 +10000 20 17
Brian Hartline 875.5 +15000 54 1016
Dwayne Bowe 850.5 +9000 T-40 673
Sammy Watkins 850.5 +10000 44 N/A
Reggie Wayne 850.5 +20000 31 503
Eric Decker 800.5 +10000 33 1288
Anquan Boldin 800.5 N/A 43 1179
Cecil Shorts III 800.5 +5000 34 777
Julius Thomas 800.5 +30000 2 (TE) 788
Riley Cooper 800.5 +15000 37 835
Terrance Williams 800.5 N/A 32 736
Brandin Cooks 800.5 N/A T-40 N/A
DeAndre Hopkins 750.5 +15000 48 802
Steve Smith 750.5 N/A 56 745
Mike Evans 750.5 +25000 37 N/A
Hakeem Nicks 725.5 +20000 42 896
Marqise Lee 700.5 +20000 63 N/A
Greg Jennings 700.5 +15000 55 804
James Jones 700.5 +15000 47 817
Kelvin Benjamin 700.5 N/A 53 N/A
Tavon Austin 650.5 +20000 49 418
Justin Hunter N/A N/A T-59 354
Robert Woods N/A N/A T-59 587
Kenny Stills N/A +20000 52 641
Marvin Jones N/A N/A 39 712
Danny Amendola N/A N/A 49 633
Jarrett Boykin N/A N/A 57 681
Nate Washington N/A +20000 73 919
Odell Beckham Jr. N/A N/A 58 N/A
Markus Wheaton N/A N/A 51 64
Aaron Dobson N/A +20000 45 519

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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David Solar

David Solar is the Content Manager at Sports Insights. He specializes in sports betting analytics and creating data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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