Ryan McDowell (@): Although we’ve seen an explosion in passing games across the NFL through the first month of the 2018 season, that hasn’t helped everyone produce at our expected levels. Many of the top wideouts across the league have been disappointing for a variety of reasons. Some are dealing with subpar quarterback play while others simply have a great deal of competition for opportunity in their own offense.
Each of these star WRs currently rank outside of the top 30 fantasy scorers entering Week Five: Odell Beckham, Amari Cooper, Keenan Allen, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, Demaryius Thomas and Larry Fitzgerald.
Which of these do you have the most confidence in turning things around as we begin the season’s second month? On the other hand, which are you ready to throw in the towel on before they cost you another game?
Raymond Summerlin (@): Odell is low-hanging fruit, so I will pass on him. I do think there is a case for Larry Fitzgerald turning his season around. The Cardinals will be forced to run more plays at some point — they are currently on pace for just 792, which would be 135 fewer than the league-low Bengals last season — and that alone will help Arizona’s skill players begin to turn things around, especially with Josh Rosen looking good in his first start. It would not be a surprise if that turnaround began this week against a 49er secondary which has given up six 10-plus point fantasy games to receivers already this season.
On the other side, I am concerned about Demaryius Thomas. He showed signs of slowing down the last few seasons, but I allowed myself to believe better quarterback play and a locked-in target share would see him through another year. It now appears expecting better quarterback play was optimistic — Case Keenum has not thrown a touchdown pass since Week 1 despite a couple good matchups — and the target share is not as solid with rookie Courtland Sutton playing well. I would look at selling if I could get back WR3 value for him.
Jesse Pantuosco (@): I’m not ready to press the panic button on Keenan Allen. He hasn’t dominated the way Michael Thomas or some of the game’s other top receivers have in the early going, but he’s still on pace for a 96-1,128-4 receiving line, which equates to WR1 production. Allen’s target share is slightly down from last season—Philip Rivers has looked to him on 24.5 percent of his passes compared to 27.7 in 2017. Mike Williams has taken on an increased role this year after battling injuries as a rookie, which could be to blame for Allen’s slightly reduced workload. But keep in mind, Allen has weathered slow starts before. In fact, we saw it happen last year when Allen scored five of his six touchdowns in the second half. His receiving line through four games this year (24-282-1) is almost identical to where he was through four games last season (24-334-1) when he finished as the overall WR3 in PPR. Translation—don’t sweat it.
I wouldn’t say I’m concerned about Odell, but I do think we need to lower our expectations. Beckham still checks off a ton of boxes—he’s getting huge volume (eighth in the league with 45 targets) and his yards per game average (82.8) is about where you’d expect it to be. But with Eli Manning showing little confidence in his deep ball—he’s spent most of the year dumping off to Saquon Barkley—I think Beckham’s ceiling is lower than it’s been in past years. To that end, he’s averaging a Jarvis Landry-esque 10.7 yards per reception, easily the lowest of his career, and also hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 5 of last season. That streak will end sooner or later but only three teams—the Bills, Cardinals and Cowboys—have averaged fewer points per game than the Giants this year. With Eli on his last leg and a subpar offensive line in front of him (Ereck Flowers’ benching was long overdue), this just simply isn’t a good offense and that’s going to limit Odell’s scoring opportunities.
John Daigle (@): Larry Fitzgerald is hobbled and stuck in a backward-thinking offense that runs in the off-chance they’re within 14 points of their opponent. Amari Cooper, albeit playing in a surprisingly efficient offense, remains a boom-bust style of player who doesn’t receive red zone looks since 2018 TE1 Jared Cook is apparently a thing. Sammy Watkins runs fly routes only to receive the occasional target, Demaryius Thomas drops whatever inefficient opportunities he gets, and I’m genuinely concerned Melvin Gordon’s increased 8.4 targets and 23.7 routes this year are what’s eating int Keenan Allen’s weekly peppering. That, unfortunately, leads me, much like everyone else, to ODB himself.
Yes, the decreased aDOT, swiss-cheese O-line, and Eli Manning’s existence are all concerns. Recall, though, that Beckham recorded
39 targets, 22 catches, 303 yards, and no scores through his first four games in 2016 when he finished as the WR4 with 100-plus catches, 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns. He’s quietly mirrored that start this season, seeing 45 targets, 31 catches, 331 yards, and again, no scores. It obviously isn’t ideal and you don’t always want your universally acclaimed top-10 fantasy pick beginning each and every year as the third-best receiver on your roster. But there’s clearly hope for Beckham, and that alone is reason to hold for better days. Just don’t watch the game.
Ryan McDowell (@): Let’s just examine these players’ weekly results for more information…
In weekly order…
Odell Beckham– WR11, WR59, WR15, WR35
Amari Cooper– WR82, WR13, WR87, WR7
Keenan Allen– WR9, WR41, WR74, WR38
Sammy Watkins– WR72, WR21, WR16, WR115
Allen Robinson– WR44, WR23, WR52, WR49
Demaryius Thomas– WR18, WR77, WR41, WR72
Larry Fitzgerald– WR29, WR81, WR93, WR78
Based on this alone, we have to be worried about Fitzgerald. As John said, not only are their concerns for Fitzgerald himself but that coaching staff as well. At least Fitz doesn’t have a ton of competition for targets. That’s part of the trouble with Thomas. There’s a real possibility that Thomas is now just the third-best option on his own team, behind WRs Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Courtland Sutton.
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