New Wave Wideouts
This year, we’ve seen a rejuvenating influx of talent and production across the NFL. We have more breakout Tight Ends than we’ve ever had, the Quarterback ranks are experiencing some turnover as Rodgers and Brady hand the fantasy torch over to the likes of Mahomes, Watson, and Lamar Jackson. Even the stable of running backs has been given a shot in the arm with the emergence of Dalvin Cook and Nick Chubb. Each position group is littered with fresh faces trying to stake their claim as a top flight performer. Nowhere has this been more prevalent than at the Wide Receiver position.
We’ve seen breakout after breakout after breakout this season when it comes to Wide Receiver production. In previous years, building depth at the wideout position in fantasy has been somewhat of a guessing game. With many owners taking on a streaming-like philosophy when it comes to the WR3 or Flex spot on their rosters. This year, owners have benefitted from a gaggle of new pass catchers who went from dart throw to dynamite. Emerging stars have cropped up all over the league and vaulted into near set and forget territory when it comes to fantasy production. Here, I’ll take a look at some emergent youngsters who have dropped their anchor into the ocean fantasy stars.
D.J. Chark has become a fantasy darling this season. Potentially overshadowed by a certain moustached gunslinger, Chark currently sits as the WR5 in PPR formats through week 7. His 5 touchdowns are tied for 3rd in the league, and he’s 4th with 581 yards receiving.
In looking deeper at Chark’s wildly unexpected production, he’s quickly become a favourite target for Gardner Minshew. With the most receptions on the team, he’s handling a 21% target share and he leads the team with 6 targets in the red zone, catching 3 of those for 2 touchdowns. D.J. Chark has also shown the versatility to operate in all areas of the field for the Jaguars offense. The Chark Attack has delivered QB ratings over 100 whether targeted to the left, middle, or right side of the field, on both deep targets (past 15 yards), and short (inside 15 yards). His Air Yards total ranks 10th at 650, and at 14.5 yards, his average depth of target ranks 13th among receivers with at least 40 targets.
The best part about Chark for fantasy owners is the value they’re currently reaping. He was drafted in the 17th round of drafts per fantasydata.com’s ADP, essentially undrafted in plenty of leagues. This may be one of the best draft values in recent fantasy memory as he now resides firmly in must start territory, with no sign of slowing down. With the chemistry and production that we’ve seen from this QB-WR battery, it could be a bright future in Duval.
I’ll cut right past the nickname conundrum, Terry McLaurin burst onto the scene in this, his rookie season. Through 3 weeks, McLaurin was the WR11 in PPR with 16 catches for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns. A magnet for deep targets, McLaurin’s 368 Air Yards going into the week 4 bye were good for 7th in the league over that span. Impressively, his production was on only 24 targets, the 23rd most in the NFL at that point in the season.
Since then, McLaurin has cooled off a bit. His quarterback play has been spotty, and offensive ineptitude has taken the forefront in Washington, leading us to temper our short term expectations for the Ohio State product. Of course, this backpedal has been strictly due to his situation, and not his talent. With a head coaching change, and quarterback uncertainty, McLaurin’s opportunities just haven’t been what they were coming out of the gate.
In his first 3 games, McLaurin gobbled up 6 red zone targets, good for second in the league. In the 3 games after their week 4 bye, he fielded 0 targets inside the 20. The past 3 weeks have seen only 8 receptions on 16 targets for McLaurin. That’s almost 3 less targets per game and half of the total catches he had in the first 3 games.
Even amidst continued quarterback turmoil, on display again Thursday night against the Vikings, McLaurin remains a stellar dynasty asset. His quarterback of the future, Dwayne Haskins, seems lost in the NFL to date. But let’s not forget that he, too, came into a tumultuous situation with the shell of an NFL roster around him. While McLaurin never eclipsed 1000 yards in college, he did catch 11 of Haskins’ 50 touchdowns with the Buckeyes in 2018. So there is chemistry there if some cookies can crumble in their favour.
Admittedly, a speedy return by Case Keenum is ideal for McLaurin’s value the rest of this season. Whether Keenum or Haskins, McLaurin’s value can stay afloat with expected game script and a lack of target competition squarely in his favour. McLaurin’s only dud games have come against the vaunted defenses in New England and San Francisco, and Thursday night’s game in Minnesota where Keenum left with a concussion and Haskins only attempted 5 passes.. If anything, we could see a buy window open up - across dynasty and redraft formats - that savvy owners should capitalize on.
It’s been a treat to watch Terry McLaurin operate with such a polished game. He’s been a rock solid WR2 most weeks and he came at a great value for fantasy owners. If Washington could secure quarterback stability, he could be downright Scary!
Somewhat unexpectedly, we’ve seen an incredible second year breakout in Denver. Courtland Sutton has taken a stranglehold on the lead Wide Receiver role for the Broncos. Coming into the year, Sutton was labelled by some as a one dimensional, jump-ball receiver who’s opportunities would come on low percentage, deep targets. Well, the former SMU Mustang has come out this season and bucked that narrative.
Stepping into a prominent role in his offense’s pecking order, Sutton is the WR11 through 7 weeks, and he’s shown the diverse skillset of a well-rounded veteran stud. He currently sits top 20 in important categories such as: Receiving Yards (7th - 564), Receptions (13th - 36), Targets (13th - 54), and YAC (13th - 175). While he has taken advantage of his deep opportunities, 78% of Sutton’s targets have come within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. He’s turned those targets into 30 receptions for 315 yards. On top of that, Sutton has been a focal point for Denver’s red zone passing game. In 7 games, he’s amassed 10 targets inside the opponent’s 20 yard line, catching 8 of those for 2 of his 3 total touchdowns. Courtland Sutton is no joke.
Overshadowing the incredible comeback of the now departed Emmanuel Sanders, Sutton is paying huge dividends on his 12th round ADP in Redraft leagues. A WR1 through half the season, his opportunities only look to increase with Sanders, and his 19% target share in Denver, going to San Francisco. If he can continue his current pace of efficiency, Courtland Sutton’s ceiling looks to be Mile High.