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Antonio D'Arcangelis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Top 6 Free Agent Wide Receivers for 2018: Best-Case Scenario

With free agency still a couple weeks away let’s take a look each skill position and highlight some of the biggest names available. I’ll match each player with a team that I think would be a best-case scenario for his fantasy value in 2018. I’ve already discussed the tight ends here. Up next are the wide receivers.

Jarvis Landry

The Dolphins have slapped the franchise tag on Jarvis Landry but a trade could still be in the works.

1. Jarvis Landry

I’m including Landry as a bonus even though he’s got the franchise tag, because he’s still heading out of Miami, likely via trade – one that could happen before or during the NFL draft. Landry is less of an injury risk than most of the unrestricted free agents, and he’s a capable receiver who’s posted monster numbers during his time in Miami. We’ve seen the Browns announce their interest and project as a prime candidate for a trade, as they’ll need a similar target to buttress the younger receivers already in house. This is a huge need – a veteran presence for their 2018 starting QB, whomever that may be (Baker Mayfield/Josh Allen?), but I’m leaning toward a different team in that division.

Best Fit: Ravens

Draft trades mean that about half of the teams in the league could be trading partners, and I like the Ravens as a “best fit” given Ozzie Newsome’s legendary draft day prep/trade-seeking philosophy and desire to give Joe Flacco a middle-of-the-field target. Landry’s strengths pair well with Flacco, who can thrive throwing the game-breaking deep ball as long as he builds a steady base of completions to a reliable receiver. And Landry is less of an injury risk than most of the unrestricted free agents.

Other possibilities: Browns, Cowboys, Raiders, Bears

2. Allen Robinson

Robinson had a Grade 3 ACL tear last season, had surgery relatively early (September 2017), and is rumored to be able to pass a physical and play right out of training camp in 2018. He’s got elite potential. At 6-3, 220, Robinson can be a physical receiver with enormous upside (2015: 80-1,400-14), especially given the improvements that the Jags have made. The 49ers and Cowboys both need a former Pro-Bowler like him to bolster their struggling receiving corps, but I have a hard time seeing Robinson slipping out of the Jaguars grasp. Therefore…

Best Fit: Jaguars

This is the first guy I thought of as a risk coming off his injury, and while Robinson would see a ton of interest from the teams listed above and below, the word is that the Jaguars will likely franchise Robinson and get another year out of him during their first offseason as a legitimate contender. Still, it’s a major knee injury, and both parties would be doing themselves a favor if he ends up back in Jacksonville. Plenty of teams could use a guy with his ability, so there could be some kind of splash made where he heads out of town via trade – but the best fit is in his current wardrobe.

Other possibilities: Cowboys, Panthers, 49ers, Redskins

3. Sammy Watkins

The enigmatic Watkins has shown flashes of elite playmaking skills but hasn’t quite put it all together for more than a couple games here and there. As much as the franchise tag talk makes sense considering what the Rams gave up acquiring Watkins from the Bills, the 49ers are the best fit for him, and the Rams don’t really need him all that much. Once considered better than both Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans (the Bills traded up and took him 4th overall in 2014), Watkins could flourish with any skilled young QB (he did great with Goff) but might clash with a veteran signal caller who knows exactly what he wants.

Best Fit: 49ers

Who comes to mind when I think of skilled, accurate young QB on a team that desperately needs productive wideouts? Why, it’s Jimmy Garoppolo – who could really post big numbers throwing him and Marquise Goodwin the pigskin. Watkins doesn’t need a lot of room to make the catch, and if he stays healthy he could post career-high totals in 2018 –whether it’s with Jared Goff, Garoppolo or another maturing, talented QB.

Other possibilities: Titans, Rams, Redskins, Browns

4. Marqise Lee

At just 6-0, 190 pounds, Lee fills a versatile but limited role between the 20s; he doesn’t have the necessary size to contribute regularly in the red zone. The Jaguars have a glut of young, talented receivers they’re developing, and Lee’s history of soft-tissue injuries (his hamstring, specifically makes him expendable. Still – he’s made Bortles look good at times, and is coming off a productive season where he caught 56-702-3 (on 96 targets) in 13 games.

Best Fit: Bears/Ravens

If the Ravens end up with Landry via trade, they won’t likely nab Lee, but he’ll be on their radar. The Bears do have some decisions to make on potential free agents Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright, but they may target Lee because he’s 1) cheap, and 2) exactly the type of sure-handed receiver they need.

Other possibilities: Cardinals, Cowboys, Titans, Panthers

5. Paul Richardson

Word is, Richardson is looking for a deal in the range of $7 million annually this offseason, and that seems like a lot of money for a guy who’s a relative unknown as an NFL commodity and has some injury baggage. He’s in a strange place already, where Russell Wilson is such a monumental majority of the total offense. He’s improving as a route runner but hasn’t shown much consistency in terms of playing time and production despite career-high numbers in 2017 (44-703-6). Richardson is speedy, slick and capable of taking the ball through the defense on a well-timed throw, but he still drops the ball a lot and is a serious risk/reward signing if he doesn’t stay in Seattle.

Best Fit: Cowboys

2017 was a breakout year, and Richardson can make some decent scratch by leaving Seattle. He’ll likely find his best fit on a team where he’ll be targeted more and given more of an honest workload for assessing his skillset. Before Richardson went 45th overall in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, there were rumors that the Cowboys were interested – but a trade with the Redskins to move up from 47 to 34th overall (where they snagged DeMarcus Lawrence) negated any possibility of him heading to Dallas. Now, they might have the money, need and opportunity to take their shot and upgrade one of their WR spots.

Other possibilities: Browns, Redskins, Cards, Eagles

6. Terrelle Pryor

Pryor started off as a QB for the Raiders (bad decision) but found his niche in Cleveland (weird even typing that) as a WR after signing with the Browns in 2015. It was a rough transition during his first season, but in 2016 he settled in and hauled in 77-1007-4, commanding a decent amount of interest in a saturated market but failing to land a multi-year deal. The Redskins signed him, and he hoped to show the league enough to reward him with a legacy contract – but he busted, never fitting into the Redskins scheme. Regardless of his struggles, he’s in a good spot heading into 2018, and somebody like Jerry Jones might be willing to throw him money.

Best Fit: Browns

Yeah. I think the Cowboys will take a gamble and sign Richardson, so Pryor’s best fit is back with the only team that saw him flourish. They really took advantage of his 4.38 speed in 2016, when he had 11 plays of 20+ yards and four plays over 40 yards. With Josh Gordon under team control, a three-headed attack of Gordon/Pryor/Coleman could wreak all kinds of havoc (good and bad!) with a top draft pick QB and make for some wild offensive games. The paper of record in the North Coast is the Plain Dealer, and beat writer Mary Kay Cabot said the team wants him – and that she thinks he’d want to come back.

Other possibilities: Cowboys, Bears, Titans, Eagles