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Overvalued and Undervalued Wide Receivers



By Jason Katz | 8/11/20 |


Rest assured someone at some point during each of your drafts will utter some variation of the words ďvalue pick.Ē But what exactly is a value pick? What is value? Value is a relative term that changes based on public perception. When I consider value, Iím looking for a positive return on my investment. Just because a player has an a fourth round ADP and is still sitting there in the sixth round does not make him good value. At the same time, taking a player a round or two above his ADP is not necessarily bad value. Again, everything is relative.

My goal in every pick I make is to take a player I believe will perform at a level above where I drafted him. Last season, Allen Robinson had a seventh round ADP. This year, he has a third round ADP. Robinson gave owners one hell of a positive return on investment. On the flip side, JuJu Smith-Schuster had a second round ADP. This year, heís going in the fourth round, which is much higher than his 2019 production would suggest he should. Thatís the type of pick we all hope to avoid.

Letís take a look at which WRs I expect to outperform their ADPs and which I expect to fail.

Undervalued

D.J. Chark

D.J. Chark, Jaguars
ADP: 5.04, WR23

The case for Chark being undervalued: Heís the undisputed WR1 on a team that will need to throw a lot.

The case against Chark being undervalued: The Jaguars project to be a bad team, which could cap Charkís scoring upside.

Verdict: Irrelevant coincidence: D.J. Charkís overall and positional ADP are exactly the same as Tyler Lockettís (my first undervalued for 2019) at the time I wrote this article last year.

Early in the pre-draft process, I liked Chark. By the middle of July, I loved Chark. After a lackluster rookie year marred by injuries, Chark broke out in his second NFL season, finishing as the overall WR13. He was almost a WR1 and now heís being drafted as one of the last WR2s. Yes please.

Chark’s target competition is virtually nonexistent. Dede Westbrook is nothing more than a role player who was misevaluated by many in the fantasy world. Laviska Shenault Jr. is electric, but heís a rookie without a true position. Chris Conley and Keelan Cole are just rotational guys.

Although this offseason is unlike any other, it was still a full offseason knowing Gardner Minshew would be the starting quarterback. Minshew and Chark in 2020 smell an awful lot like Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson in 2015. This just strikes me as the perfect setup of a quarterback that is willing to just chuck it to his alpha WR1 and a super athletic receiver prepared to see 150 targets. Chark averaged 7.8 targets per game in 2019, a total of 117 targets and he didnít drop a single pass. Chark has 96th percentile speed and 93rd percentile burst. Heís going to be a WR1 this year and is a must draft once you get to the fourth round. I would take him before guys like Odell Beckham Jr., JuJu Smith-Schuster, and (spoiler alert) A.J. Brown.

Adam Thielen, Vikings
ADP: 3.09, WR14

The case for Thielen being undervalued: Heís well established as an excellent receiver with absolutely no target competition in 2020.

The case against Thielen being undervalued: Heís now 30 years old and dealt with a series of nagging injuries last season that could rear their ugly head again.

Verdict: The only way Adam Thielen isnít a screaming value in 2020 is if he gets hurt. I havenít been more confident that a wide receiver is being slept on since Tyreek Hill in both 2017 and 2018.

How quickly weíve forgotten that Thielen was the overall WR5 in 2018 and WR10 in 2017. He may be 30 years old, but wide receivers donít really start to worry me until they reach 32/33 and Thielen is a young 30 because he didnít break out until age 26.

I am willing to completely toss aside last season for Thielen. His low target share (17.8%) was a product of the Vikings running the ball too much and Thielen attempting to play through injury. In 2018 and 2017, Thielen saw 153 and 142 targets and Stefon Diggs is gone. Justin Jefferson is no slouch, but heís not coming in as a rookie posing any threat to Thielenís status as the alpha in this passing game.

If Thielen stays healthy, he is a lock for at least 140 targets and given how poorly the Vikings defense is expected to be, Thielen has a real shot to lead the NFL in this category. While it is unrealistic to expect the Vikings to attempt 606 passes like they did in 2018, Thielenís WR10 finish in 2017 came on just 527 total pass attempts. The volume is there. The talent is there. Not only is Thielen a steal in the third round, heís on the short list of receivers with at least a chance to finish as the overall WR1.

T.Y. Hilton, Colts
ADP: 5.05, WR25

The case for Hilton being undervalued: Heís been a true WR1 for years and has shown no signs of decline.

The case against Hilton being undervalued: He has a lengthy history of soft tissue injuries, including a hamstring strain prior to any team activities beginning.

Verdict: The 2020 season is going to be a mess. The lack of on field work for these players combined with the inevitable positive tests throughout the season will result in a bunch of relevant players missing time. Predicting who those players will be is an exercise in futility. Just give me the best fantasy players and I will take my chances.

How the hell is T.Y. Hilton the WR25? Really? Over the first seven weeks of the 2019 season, Hilton was the overall WR5, averaging 18.1 FPts/G. Had he maintained those numbers, he wouldíve finished as the overall WR3, ahead of DeAndre Hopkins and just behind Julio Jones. Hilton is still the same WR1 heís been for the past five years.

Philip Rivers is not good anymore, but he will still be an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. And if you recall, Brissett got thrown into the fire last season after Andrew Luckís abrupt retirement very close to the season meaning Hilton was putting up WR1 numbers under difficult circumstances. His health is a concern. There is no denying that. But in the fifth round, I will gladly roll the dice that I can get even 10-12 games from Hilton because he is a lock to produce above his draft position if heís healthy.

Overvalued

DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals
ADP: 1.09, WR3

The case for Hopkins being overvalued: Heís on a new team with little opportunity to develop a rapport with Kyler Murray.

The case against Hopkins being overvalued: Heís one of the most talented WRs in the league and if anyone can overcome the circumstances of 2020, itís Hopkins.

Verdict: Last year, my first overvalued receiver was also going at 1.09 as the WR3. It was Michael Thomas. That turned out to be a terrible call. Will history repeat itself with DeAndre Hopkins? I donít think so as Hopkins is being valued as if nothing has changed this offseason

There are a number of things working against Hopkins living up to his elite WR1 billing. First, thereís the trade to Arizona. I love Kyler Murray as a player. I love Hopkins as a player and he is going to make the Cardinals a better team. But heís still a wide receiver switching locations and history has not been kind to even the most talented of receivers in this scenario. Most recently, we saw Odell Beckham Jr. go from overall WR8 in 2018 to overall WR33 in 2019 and Allen Robinson average a measly 11.8 FPts/G in his first season with the Bears. Robinson is still the same elite WR heís always been and he proved it in 2019, but he still struggled that first season in Chicago. Hopkins is not only switching teams, but he is doing so in the worst of circumstances.

Which brings me to the second issue: the pandemic. Hopkins will not have the benefit of a normal training camp and the preseason to develop chemistry with Murray. Their first live action together in pads will be in mid-August and their first real game together will be Week 1 of the regular season. They may need time to get on the same page and thatís time fantasy owners canít afford.

The third issue is the way Kliff Kingsbury designs his offense. Hopkins is accustomed to being a target hog. Heís seen at least 150 targets every season since 2015 and I donít see that happening in Arizona. The Cardinals run a lot of three and four receiver sets and their offense is designed to spread the defense out. Hopkins will lead the Cardinals in targets, but this isnít an offense designed to force feed one guy 150+ targets. Hopkins could be looking at a much flatter target distribution with Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald with both likely to see over 100 targets, leaving Hopkins 120-130 targets of his own. He is still very much capable of producing WR1 numbers and I think he will, but they may be more mid-to-low WR1, making him a bad value in the first round of fantasy drafts.

Cooper Kupp, Rams
ADP: 4.03, WR15

The case for Kupp being overvalued: He was the WR45 over the second half of last season while seeing his snap share cut.

The case against Kupp being overvalued: Heís a very talented receiver and was the ovearll WR3 over the first half of last season.

Verdict: Cooper Kuppís 2019 was literally a tale of two halves. He went from elite WR1 to ďyou need to bench himĒ seemingly overnight. So the question for 2020 is which Kupp is the real Kupp? Itís a very tricky situation because normally I favor players that are good at football and Kupp is definitively good at football. Kuppís ADP reflects fantasy gamersí uncertainty. If we were sure of either outcome, Kupp would be a second round pick or a double digit round pick. Instead, he falls in the middle. His price is fair; I just believe I know the answer the question and want no part of Kupp in 2020.

In order to illustrate my point, Iím going to use Derrick Henry as an example. In 2018, Henry spent half the season sharing snaps with Dion Lewis and was genuinely droppable. Henry wasnít getting work and wasnít playing well Then, he started seeing more volume and and played phenomenally. It would stand to reason that his coaches would take note of the improvement not just for Henry, but their offense, and carry that over into the following season, which they did. His final four games should have more weight than the first 12 because they were the more recent data points.

Circling back to Kupp, Sean McVay saw what Kupp did over the first half of the 2019 season. He knows how talented Kupp is (I think?). Despite all of that, he decided that the Rams offense was better without Cooper Kupp. The Rams started running more 12 personnel and even when Brandin Cooks was out, Kupp was not part of two receiver sets. Josh Reynolds played ahead of Kupp and there were games where Johnny Mundt, the third string tight end, out-snapped Kupp. In Weeks 13-17, here were Kuppís snap counts: 73%, 34%, 92%, 58%, 64%. That is wholly unacceptable for a fourth round wide receiver. We have every reason to believe the second half of 2019 is what we should expect in 2020 because of McVayís decision to curtail Kuppís snaps late in the season.

A.J. Brown, Titans
ADP: 4.05, WR16

The case for Brown being overvalued: He was unsustainably efficient as a rookie and is in a run heavy offense.

The case against Brown being overvalued: Heís a talented receiver and will improve in his second season now that he enters as the undisputed WR1.

Verdict: I like A.J. Brown as a player. He is good at football and he has the talent to exceed his ADP. My fade of Brown is based on situation and opportunity and you are paying for the improvement in advance.

Brown was the overall WR29 last season at 13 FPts/G. However, after Brown became a full time player (Week 10) he was the overall WR6, averaging 18.6 FPts/G from Week 10 through Week 17. The ceiling is there but a ton of things broke right for Brown that seem unlikely to repeat in 2020.

The Titans attempted just 448 passes last season and while itís reasonable to project that to increase, thatís the type of offense they want to run making Ryan Tannehillís pass attempts ceiling is likely around 500. Brownís absolute target ceiling is likely around 120.

Then thereís the part where Brown and Tannehill were both hyper efficient. Brown posted WR7, WR2, and WR6 finishes last season in games where he saw just five, seven, and eight targets. He scored nine touchdowns, which can be attributed to his 447 yards after the catch, sixth in the league despite only being a full time player for half a season.

From Week 10 through their first two playoff games, which encompasses Brownís entire run as a full time player, the Titans scored 43 touchdowns against just one field goal. That will never happen again. The Titans are going to score significantly fewer touchdowns in 2020.

Brown was top three in yards per reception, yards per target, and yards per pass route. Itís all unsustainable. He will not average 20.2 yards per reception again and even 15 would be impressive and likely be the result of his after the catch ability as Tannehill averaged just 3.3 deep pass attempts per game.

Brownís 16 game pace after he became a full time player would put him at around 95-100 targets. For Brown to be worth his cost, he would need to average about 15 Fpts/G. In order to get him there, we need to project a substantial increase in targets while preserving his efficiency. If his yards per reception dips below 15; or his target count doesnít reach 120; or his catch rate stays around 60%; or he doesnít get to at least eight touchdowns, Brown is going to be no more than a low end WR2.

There is absolutely a world where Brown hits 120 targets with a 65% catch rate, 15+ yards per reception, and eight touchdowns or more. The problem is he needs a lot to break right with the Titans offense and his own efficiency in order to do so. A more likely outcome is Brown only sees around 110 targets with a 60-65% catch rate, around 15 yards per reception and eight touchdowns. That would put him at roughly 14 Fpts/G, right on the WR2/3 borderline. Brown has WR1 upside for sure, but I donít see it happening in 2020.






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