2014 Fantasy Football: WR Preview

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.

PlayerYardage O/U (8/28)Odds (7/26)Yahoo! WR Rank2013 Receiving Yards
Calvin Johnson1500.5+27511492
Demaryius Thomas1350.5+100021430
AJ Green1250.5+150031426
Dez Bryant1250.5+50041233
Julio Jones1200.5+12006580
Brandon Marshall1200.5+150051295
Antonio Brown1200.5+200091499
Jordy Nelson1150.5+280081314
Alshon Jeffery1100.5+250071421
Vincent Jackson1100.5+2500T-121224
Andre Johnson1100.5+2500151407
Jimmy Graham1100.5+60001 (TE)1215
Victor Cruz1050.5+500017998
Randall Cobb1050.5+5000T-10433
Michael Crabtree1000.5+1000018284
Roddy White1000.5+500022711
Keenan Allen1000.5+5000T-101046
Torrey Smith1000.5+5000271128
Michael Floyd1000.5+10000241041
Julian Edelman1000.5+9000251056
Larry Fitzgerald1000.5+5000T-12954
Cordarrelle Patterson950.5+1500019469
Pierre Garcon950.5+3500141346
Mike Wallace950.5+500035930
TY Hilton950.5+5000231083
Rob Gronkowski950.5+100004 (TE)592
DeSean Jackson950.5+7000211332
Marques Colston950.5+750030943
Golden Tate900.5+1500029898
Emmanuel Sanders900.5+1500036740
Kendall Wright900.5N/A281079
Jeremy Maclin900.5N/A26857
Wes Welker900.5+700016778
Rueben Randle900.5+1500046611
Percy Harvin875.5+100002017
Brian Hartline875.5+15000541016
Dwayne Bowe850.5+9000T-40673
Sammy Watkins850.5+1000044N/A
Reggie Wayne850.5+2000031503
Eric Decker800.5+10000331288
Anquan Boldin800.5N/A431179
Cecil Shorts III800.5+500034777
Julius Thomas800.5+300002 (TE)788
Riley Cooper800.5+1500037835
Terrance Williams800.5N/A32736
Brandin Cooks800.5N/AT-40N/A
DeAndre Hopkins750.5+1500048802
Steve Smith750.5N/A56745
Mike Evans750.5+2500037N/A
Hakeem Nicks725.5+2000042896
Marqise Lee700.5+2000063N/A
Greg Jennings700.5+1500055804
James Jones700.5+1500047817
Kelvin Benjamin700.5N/A53N/A
Tavon Austin650.5+2000049418
Justin HunterN/AN/AT-59354
Robert WoodsN/AN/AT-59587
Kenny StillsN/A+2000052641
Marvin JonesN/AN/A39712
Danny AmendolaN/AN/A49633
Jarrett BoykinN/AN/A57681
Nate WashingtonN/A+2000073919
Odell Beckham Jr.N/AN/A58N/A
Markus WheatonN/AN/A5164
Aaron DobsonN/A+2000045519

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 was the Content Manager at Sports Insights. He has since moved on to greener pastures.

1 Comment
  • Keith
    July 6, 2015 at 3:27 am

    Sports Insights (@SportsInsights) | Twitter

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