best ball

Five Undervalued Wide Receivers in Best Ball

05/08/2019Jack Miller

Every year, there are wide receivers who outperform their ADP and give their owners an edge in Best Ball leagues. Last year, Tyler Lockett, Tyler Boyd, and Kenny Golladay broke out and were important pieces on many championship teams. Here are a few wideouts who are undervalued at their current DRAFT Best Ball ADP.

Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams

Woods quietly finished as the WR9 in DRAFT Best Ball leagues (half-PPR) last season. He led the Rams in target share and weighted opportunity rating (WOPR) and trailed only Brandin Cooks in air yards share. As the highest-volume wide receiver on one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, Woods is a value at his current ADP of WR17.

You might think that Cooper Kupp’s injury freed up more targets for Woods and Cooks, but both were notably more productive with Kupp in the lineup. Woods averaged 0.1 more targets per game after Kupp tore his ACL, but his efficiency dropped significantly, along with the rest of the Rams offense. The team averaged 34.9 points per game and 7.5 yards per play with Kupp compared to 31.4 points per game and 5.6 yards per play without him.

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Kupp is expected back for the start of the 2019 season, so expect Woods - and the Rams offense - to get back on track. You should not be able to get a 130-target wide receiver in an elite offense at WR17, so grab Woods while his ADP is still low.

Robby Anderson, New York Jets

After a slow start, Anderson turned on the jets (pun intended) late in the year to finish as the WR35 in Best Ball leagues. Kind of tough to get excited about a low-end WR3, right? Anderson’s end-of-year numbers definitely don’t inspire confidence, but he actually got WR1 volume in the second half of the season. Over the final six weeks of 2018 (i.e. after the Jets' bye week), Anderson ranked 11th among wide receivers in target share, seventh in air yards share, 10th in WOPR, and 13th in fantasy points.

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Anderson’s turnaround coincided with Sam Darnold’s breakout, as the rookie quarterback posted much-improved numbers in the final four games of the season after his return from injury. In the first nine games of the season, Darnold completed just 55% of his passes for 1,934 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. In the last four games of the year, he completed 64% of his passes for 931 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception. In those four games, Anderson had 23 catches on 39 targets for 336 yards and three touchdowns. It’s a small sample, but the Darnold-to-Anderson connection was clearly working down the stretch in 2018.

Anderson is exactly the type of player you want in Best Ball with a career aDOT of 15.0 and an average of 14.7 yards per reception, a boom-or-bust option with weekly splash play upside.

Le’Veon Bell will steal a good amount of targets, but Anderson enters 2019 as the Jets' clear WR1. At his current WR30 price tag, he stands out as a value.

Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions

Kenny Golladay is getting all the hype - and rightly so - but don’t forget about Jones. The Lions have the seventh-most vacated targets in the league, and the only major additions to their receiving corps are Danny Amendola and T.J. Hockenson. Amendola figures to soak up a few targets per game in the slot, but he’s not much of a threat to a downfield receiver like Jones. And the rookie tight end Hockenson likely won’t be a major contributor. Since 1992, first-round tight ends have averaged only 50.0 targets in their rookie season (minimum 10 games played). Jones is the clear-cut WR2 in an offense with a lot of available opportunity, but his current ADP of WR32 doesn’t reflect it.

Jones actually operated as the WR2, ahead of Golladay, in the Lions' offense last year before his injury. Through the first nine weeks of the season, he was second on the team in target share and WOPR. Golladay’s breakout in the second half of 2018 cements him as the team’s WR1 for 2019 and beyond, but Jones was actually getting fantasy-relevant volume before he got hurt.

Jones, like Anderson, is the type of player you want to go after in Best Ball formats. He averaged 14.5 yards per reception last year with an aDOT of 14.6, so he clearly has big play upside.

James Washington, Pittsburgh Steelers

James Washington had a less-than-stellar rookie year, but he is in prime position to break out following the departure of Antonio Brown. Brown’s trade to Oakland frees up 168 targets in the Steelers' passing game, and there is some uncertainty about who is going to absorb those vacated looks. JuJu Smith-Schuster is locked and loaded as the WR1 in Pittsburgh, but Washington will have to fight it out with recent signing Donte Moncrief for the WR2 job.

I’m betting on Washington winning it because of his college production; at Oklahoma State, Washington had a 97th percentile breakout age and averaged 20.2 yards per reception. The Steelers also picked Washington in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, so they have incentive to give him a chance to succeed. Moncrief had success a few years ago as Andrew Luck’s primary red zone target but has been pretty unremarkable since then.

The Steelers' WR2 has finished as a top-36 wide receiver in fantasy in 11 of the last 15 seasons. If Washington can fend off Moncrief, he could be in for a very successful season. He posted an aDOT of 16.6 last year and was one of the best deep threats in college football two years ago, so he is worth more in Best Ball formats just like the aforementioned Anderson and Jones. At WR50, Washington’s ADP does not reflect his upside.

Albert Wilson, Miami Dolphins

With an ADP of WR69, Wilson is basically free in Best Ball leagues. Once you get that deep into drafts, there is almost no one left with guaranteed volume on a weekly basis, so you might as well shoot for upside. Through the first six games of 2018, Wilson led the Dolphins in target share and was second in WOPR even though he started the year as a backup. Wilson played just 44.0% of snaps and saw 11 targets in the first three weeks of the year, but the Dolphins quickly realized what they had in him. Over the next three weeks, he played 75.4% of snaps and got 21 targets before a hip injury ended his season.

This uptick in usage was likely brought on by Wilson’s league-leading and likely unsustainable efficiency. He led all wide receivers in Player Profiler’s Production Premium metric and fantasy points per route, finished second in fantasy points per target, and scored four touchdowns on only 35 targets. Those numbers are likely to nosedive next year, but that regression could be offset by an increase in volume. The Dolphins obviously noticed Wilson’s talent, as demonstrated by his increased usage as the season went on, so he might have earned himself more playing time in 2019 by being so efficient in 2018.

The Dolphins cut Amendola earlier this offseason and made no real effort to add another wide receiver through free agency or the draft, leaving 79 targets free for the taking. Wilson should start the year as the second or third receiver for the Dolphins, so he will have a good chance to soak up a lot of those vacated targets.

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