Finding 2014 Fantasy Value: WRs and TEs
This week we’ll take a look at the second and final part of my 2014 Finding Fantasy Football Value series (the first part can be found here). Last time we looked at some value players at the quarterback and running back positions. This week we tackle wide receivers and tight ends. Before we get to the list I wanted to give brief explanations of how I’m defining value for these positions, it all comes down to windows.
The wide receiver position is deep, very deep. Given that you usually need to start at least three wide receivers this depth doesn’t result in the devaluing of the position like it does for quarterbacks. Instead we’re actually seeing more and more people drafting wide receivers earlier. In my opinion going after a wide receiver in the first or second round is a flawed strategy and I almost never do it. I’m an advocate of taking your wideouts in the third through seventh rounds and really maximizing the value you get, that’s where the wideouts on this list will generally hail from. None are clear cut WR1 types, instead I usually end up with three very solid WR2s to make up my wide receivers.
Josh Gordon (above) didn’t make the list because of a looming suspension but if you’re really gutsy he represents a pretty good value right about now.
Tight ends are much, much more difficult to come by than wide receivers … obviously. I’ve always advocated taking two tight ends in that same third through seventh window. You’d be surprised what kind of value you get for Jason Witten in a trade when Owen Daniels breaks his leg and there’s really no viable tight ends on the waiver wire. Instead of looking at your options in those rounds though I’m going to spotlight a few tight ends that can be grabbed somewhere in the eighth through twelfth rounds of your draft and represent excellent value. Unlike last season I feel that this window is where the real value lies for tight ends this season.
Welker is an aging slot receiver with injury concerns, there’s no denying that fact. He also plays for the Denver Broncos and has the potential for 90 or more catches and double digit touchdowns.
Last season Welker played in only 13 games and was on pace for almost exactly 90 catches, a little under 1,000 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Not exactly what you would traditionally want from your WR1 but when you do the math (and assume one PPR) that averages out to a little more than 16 points per game which is great production.
This season Eric Decker is gone and Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer have been added to the Broncos receiving corps. Neither Sanders (talent gap) nor Latimer (rookie) will be able to fully replace Decker’s stats. Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas will see a bump without Decker and so will Welker. He’s a great value in the fourth or fifth round.
Garcon is another wide receiver that can be had for a similar price. Last season he was the only show in town and he managed 113 catches for over 1,300 yards. What’s keeping him from going much, much earlier is his lack of touchdown production, he only had five last year. Even so he averaged right around 17 fantasy points per game last season.
This season the Redskins have brought in DeSean Jackson which may seem to hurt Garcon but should in the long run only help him. As I’ve already said, Garcon was the only show in town last season. With Jackson lining up opposite him he’ll face less double coverage which will actually result in a boost in production. I don’t think he’ll match his catch total from last season but the yardage and touchdown numbers could both go up. A healthy Robert Griffin III won’t hurt his cause either. Again, getting a guy like this in the fourth or fifth round of your draft is a steal.
While another manager is using their fifth or sixth round pick on Cordarrelle Patterson you’d be smarter to go with the veteran, Roddy White. Prior to last season he was an iron man, never having missed a game in his eight previous seasons. He’s on the wrong side of 30 but he showed down the stretch last season that when healthy he’s still got it.
For most of last season Roddy stubbornly played through injury, mostly because of pride and Julio Jones not being on injured reserve. Once he got right he was back to his old self. During weeks 13 through 17 of last season he averaged 9.2 catches and 100.4 yards per game, that’s 19 points without factoring in touchdowns. Do we have any guarantees that he’ll stay healthy this season? Absolutely zero, but that’s true of any player. Is he worth risking a sixth round pick on? Definitely. Most leagues aren’t won or lost with first, second, or third round pick. Most leagues are won by teams that have calculated risks pay off in other rounds. Round six is the perfect time to take one of those risks.
Kendall Wright is one of my favorite young wideouts. I had him in just about every league last season and I more than likely will again this season. Much like Pierre Garcon he’s a PPR machine, he also seemed to be allergic to the end zone last season.
With Kendall Wright we have to remember that he’s a very young player, still only 24 he just scratched the surface of his potential in his breakout 2013 campaign. Entering 2014 his quarterback situation is still a mess (sorry Jake Locker fans), but that didn’t stop him from catching 94 passes for over 1,000 yards last season.
Whether or not he takes a step forward or a step back this season doesn’t matter given his current ADP. According to Yahoo’s ADP you can grab him at the end of the ninth or the beginning of the tenth round in your draft. Let’s say he takes a teeny, tiny step forward this year and posts a 100/1,100/5 line, that’s still 15 points per game from what ought to be the fourth or fifth wideout that you take. That’s a phenomenal value.
This is a stretch, he could be gone by round eight but he could just as likely still be sitting on the board. Greg Olsen finds himself in a great position to produce yet again this season with Carolina’s wide receiver corps in shambles.
Olsen won’t ever be Jimmy Graham or even Jason Witten but he’s a reliable low-end TE1. This season he could see a nice little bump in his numbers, nothing drastic but 85/975/8 is a very realistic projection for him heading into 2014.
I’d love to have him with my eighth round pick.
Dennis Pitta entered last season with high expectations but had to sit out most of the year after injuring his hip in camp. When he came back he averaged a respectable five catches and 42 yards per game. It’s safe to assume that Pitta wasn’t yet 100-percent healthy when he played last season but he’ll be all-systems-go this season.
The Ravens brought in Gary Kubiak to run the offense which means tight ends will be featured prominently in Baltimore’s gameplan. Like Olsen he’ll never be a Top 5 type of guy but low to mid TE1 numbers are almost a guarantee if he stays healthy. Given my propensity to draft two quality tight ends I’d be thrilled to have Pitta at his current price tag.
I’d love to say Jordan Reed is a “sleeper” but in reality he’s not and neither is anybody else. In the age of Twitter there’s no such thing as a sleeper anymore, there’s just hype. Reed is one of several young tight ends hyped up heading into this season. Unlike Ladarius Green (who is also currently sporting a very attractive ADP) Jordan Reed has a clear path to touches this season, which is why I tend to prefer him when drafting.
At this very early stage of drafting you can still nab Reed in the twelfth or thirteenth round and have the potential for winning the lottery. Realistically, Jordan Reed is going to be a Top 12 tight end this season, that much I can guarantee. He has the potential to be a Top 5 tight end though and that’s why I love him.
With a healthy Robert Griffin III the sky’s the limit for this guy. There’s no downside to taking him in the twelfth round, there’s really no downside in taking him in ninth or tenth round either. People put too much stock in their ninth and tenth round fantasy picks, there’s great value available for the astute drafter but this is where I’m taking my fliers. This exact window is where I took Rob Gronkowski in his sophomore season, and I’ve kept him for a pittance ever since.