• TrueNorth FantasyFootball

Trending, Pending, or Condescending - Wide Receivers

WR John Brown: Condescending

John Brown has been straight fire this season. I’m too old to use that phrase but it fits so well for a player who has earned the nickname Smokey. If you love John Brown, that makes 2 of us. Please don’t forget that as I dive in.

John Brown was in a smash spot in week 11. In week 11 John Brown smashed. His 34 point game was the stone cold nuts at wide receiver (WR 1 overall). This season, only two players have both 4 catches and 50 yards in every single game. Michael Thomas is one of them, John Brown is the other.

He’s having a renaissance season. John Brown’s set to hit the 1000 yards receiving mark for the first time since 2015. He could set new career highs across the board. He was a strong buy for fantasy owners weeks ago with Buffalo looking ahead at a great schedule. Brown has paid dividends for fantasy rosters over that stretch. Brown’s 47% of team targets over the past 3 weeks are good for third in the NFL over that stretch, putting him just behind Tyreek Hill and Deandre Hopkins in that category.

As hard as I pumped the tires mid-season, now I’ll have to let some air out. John Brown has not been as good as we’ve been led to believe, and his worst weeks are ahead of him. John Brown is 15th in points per game among Wide Receivers in fantasy. So it’s not unfair to expect more boom weeks than what we’ve seen thus far.

Smokey Brown’s 34 point outing this past week was his 1st 100 yard receiving game and the 1st time he topped 20 PPR points since week 1. He’s only scored 15 PPR points in 3 of 10 games. John Brown is 2nd in the NFL among wide receivers in Air Yards but has just 4 touchdowns. That seems like the discrepancy. Josh Allen is the leading example of the difference between a strong arm and deep ball accuracy.

John Brown is a borderline WR 1 who’s performed as a WR 1 in just 30% of his games. His value for fantasy owners is undeniable, the price was cheap and utility has been spectacular. It’s important however, to abandon sentiment in regards to our fantasy drafts and “our guys” at this point in the fantasy season.

Smokey Brown cutting a rug after a big play for the Buffalo Bills.

Brown has seen most of his production against the bottom of the barrel defenses. He’s scored in 3 of 10 games this year. 75% of his touchdowns have come in the 2 games against Miami, while the other came against the Jets in week 1. He’s even disappointed in individual matchups this year. Against the Bengals in week 3 he had less than 10 PPR points. Playing the Eagles in week 8 and Washington in week 9, he delivered less than 12 PPR points in both contests.

Heading forward, John Brown probably owns the toughest schedule for any wide receiver in football. He plays Chris Harris and the Broncos next, immediately followed by the Cowboys. Once the fantasy playoffs commence, Brown has the Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and they go to Foxborough for a date with the Patriots in week 16. A.k.a. the fantasy Superbowl.

Knowing that almost 50% of John Brown’s fantasy points have come against the Dolphins and Jets is disparaging. I’m flakin’ on John Brown. I’ve already made other plans. If you can’t escape his clutches, temper your expectations as he looks to be a WR3 at best.

WR Deebo Samuel: Pending

Deebo Samuel’s recent surge now has him leading rookie wideouts in catches, and he’s started to come into his own over the second half of the season. As the WR11 over the past 4 weeks, Fantasy owners have taken note. The addition of Emmannuel Sanders has lifted this offense from one that was scared to pass, to a team supporting multiple options in the passing game, and Deebo has stepped up big.

Sanders and George Kittle are banged up currently. While they both look to be on the mend, the risk of re-injury remains. Without Kittle on the field, Deebo Samuel has been lighting it up. In week 10 against the Seahawks he saw 11 targets for 8 catches and 112 yards. This past week, facing Patrick Peterson at times, Deebo managed 10 targets for another 8 catches and 134 yards.

Deebo leads the 49ers in red zone targets and targets inside the 10 yard line. The touchdowns will come- he has just the 1 score in 2019, despite being tied for 14th in the NFL in red zone receptions. If Sanders was to get injured again Samuel’s upside increases immensely.

Deebo Samuel riding the choppa to fantasy production in the second half of the season.

Get used to hearing this: Deebo Samuel is a low end WR 2 and he’s more valuable in PPR.

Deebo Samuel has been widely described as a running back with the ball in his hands. His threat in space has been on display. For fantasy, I love players who can make it happen for themselves. Right now he’s 12th in Yards after the catch among wide receivers. Among players with 30+ catches, Deebo ranks 2nd behind only Cooper Kupp in Yards after the catch per reception.

Deebo Samuel appears to be fighting an uphill battle to realising his fantasy potential. He’s seeing less than 20% team targets on one of the run heaviest teams we’ve seen in years. The 49ers wideouts have the 6th fewest targets as a position.

Detrimental to Deebo’s fantasy upside is the inevitable return of George Kittle. Emmanuel Sanders is still acclimating to the team and, health pending, could easily be the 2nd option behind Kittle for Jimmy Garropollo. Deebo Samuel does lead the team in red zone targets but those 2 returnees could threaten that by seasons end.

The Niners’ rest of season outlook is quite nuanced. Their difficult schedule moving forward could provide game scripts that compel them to pass the ball. If San Francisco does steer towards the pass- will the strength of their opponents suppress the weapons’ productivity for fantasy? Can Kyle Shanahan do what he does best and scheme for his wide receivers?

The 49ers play Green Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans, Atlanta and the Rams in their final 5 matchups of the fantasy season. Outside of the game against the newly energized Falcons, those are four brutal matchups on paper for fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. When you look closer, they all have cornerbacks used to shut down opposing top wideouts. Jaire Alexander, Marlon Humphrey, Marshon Lattimore, and Jalen Ramsey in fantasy championship week. Yikes!

My contention is two-fold. All of those matchups should be Emmanuel Sanders’ problem. His fantasy owners should have contempt for me by now as I think he’s set up for a letdown. Meanwhile, Deebo Samuel could be peppered with targets as defenses key on Kittle and shut down Sanders. In PPR Deebo is a top 30 wideout who is hitting his stride during his rookie season. Behind only George Kittle, Deebo looks like the 2nd most valuable piece in this San Francisco offense for the foreseeable future.

WR Odell Beckham Jr: Trending

The Cleveland Browns were encased in excitement heading into this season. It’s been one of the more interesting fantasy stories to follow up to this point in the year.

Odell Beckham Jr. offers us a couple of lessons. Drafting wide receiver at the end of the first round doesn’t ensure an elite wideout for fantasy. Odell falls into a bucket of players changing teams that don’t pay off their average draft position in their first year with a new uniform. He could be the most talented example in recent years.

Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, head coach Freddie Kitchens, and plain old bad luck have all conspired against OBJ this season. If we want to hurl blanket statements, Beckham is a fantasy bust! OBJ is the WR 28 right now, and he’s outside the top 36 in PPG.

Below are Beckham’s PPR fantasy points per game over his 6 year career:

2014: 24.6 PPG

2015: 21.3 PPG

2016: 18.5 PPG

2017: 18.5 PPG

2018: 19.2 PPG

2019:........12.3 PPG

He continues to see volume and looks down the field, yet the big weeks we’ve been accustomed to from Odell haven’t shown up in Cleveland. He has to shoulder some of the blame for his lack of production this year.

Odell Beckham Jr. has taken time to acclimate to his new situation, but the recipe is there for fantasy success.

Volume is not always king. Odell has a 26% target share. Only Davante Adams, Michael Thomas and Nuke Hopkins have a higher share of their teams targets. Beckham has seen double digit targets in 50% of games this season. With that, he’s just 21st in catches and 18th in yards. He’s behind teammate Jarvis Landry in receptions, receiving yards and in fantasy scoring!

That’s the crust and mantle of Odell Beckham’s fantasy problems. The core is touchdowns. Odell has just 1 touchdown! Just for fun - Odell has a 1% TD rate in his 10 games as a Brown. He had a 7% TD rate as a Giant. The Browns have run the 11th most plays from inside the red zone this season but rank 19th in Touchdown %. Heading into this season, Beckham had the 3rd most touchdowns since entering the league in 2014 among wide receivers. Even though he’s missed over 20 games. Through 11 weeks of this season, Odell Beckham has 6 red zone targets!? He ranks 64th in targets inside the 20 yard line. In 10 games OBJ has only a single catch in the red zone.

Meanwhile, Jarvis Landry has dominated the work in close for Cleveland. He leads the league in red zone targets since week 9. Landry has seen over 30% of the Browns red zone targets this season. Only Mike Evans has a higher target share for his team inside the 20 yard line. (Oh and Jarvis has a revenge game in week 12… Landry day just sayin’)

Right now, Odell Beckham is struggling through a dry spell (Get your head out of the gutter) He’s gone 8 games straight without a score. His last touchdown came in week 2. In his first 5 seasons, Beckham never endured more than 4 consecutive games without a touchdown.

The Browns have experienced the toughest schedule for wide receivers in the NFL this season. In the next 4 weeks we see some huge regression in strength of opponent. That will translate to fantasy production. Miami, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Arizona lie ahead on the Browns calendar. Odell Beckham should produce top 3 wide receiver digits for fantasy over that stretch. All could be forgotten if OBJ does what we know he can down the stretch.

DJ Moore: Trending

From a fantasy telescope Carolina has an odd timeline in 2019. I didn’t anticipate that from a team that had very little change from the season before. In the offseason we were forced to decide who was better between D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. Ignoring their roles and how differently they’re used.

We had Cam Newton and his injury. Kyle Allen and his early success. Not to be outdone by the Christian McCaffrey chatter. His continued historic pace can only be conveyed by his elevation to a 99 overall ranking in Madden!

Through the forest of Panthers (How scary would that be), I hope D.J. Moore paying off his average draft position doesn’t get lost on fantasy gamers. D.J. Moore has quietly been the WR 17 to date in PPR.

Over the last 4 weeks D.J. Moore leads the NFL in targets. He’s on pace for over 150! Last year only 6 wide receivers qualified for the 150 target club. This year 8 are on pace to hit that mark.

D.J. is playing Moore this season! He’s been on the field for 93% of the Panthers snaps. In his rookie season he played under 60% snaps, however we saw his snaps increase significantly down the stretch last year. In the 6 weeks to start his career, Moore played less than 40% snaps. In the following 4 weeks he played on 80% snaps. In the last 5 weeks of 2018 D.J. Moore was an every down player. He was the clear number two priority behind McCaffrey in the offense.

D.J. Moore makes people miss. He’ll always be compared to Golden Tate. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest this profile of player is used as an extension of the run game, but it’s a fine line. Their fantasy value is contingent on how frequently their team feeds them the ball.. For a dude like D.J. Moore- volume, often, is king.

6 of 10 games this year D.J. Moore has double digit targets. Last year he had zero such games. Moore has 5 or more catches or 50+ receiving yards in every game this season.

Before week 8, D.J. Moore had played 23 career games. He had one game with over 95 yards receiving. He’s hit that mark in 3 consecutive games since.

I won’t ignore the concerns. D.J. Moore’s high end performances have been non existent. His floor is cemented but he’s hit 20 PPR points only once this year. D.J. Moore has just one touchdown, bringing his Career total through 26 games to a whopping 2 scores.

His red zone usage is fine. Recently he’s had targets in the end zone as well. He’s just one behind for the team lead in red zone targets but has a team worst catch rate inside the 20. His 66% catch rate drops to 38% in the red zone. Most concerning is he’s without a single target inside the 10 yard line.

DJ Moore is quietly moving closer to the WR1 ranks. He's paid dividends for teams recently and looks to keep it up into the fantasy playoffs.

I ain’t scared though. D.J. Moore’s production recently could have longevity. The reason I’m still bullish is the same reasons we’ve seen the uptick. The quarterback play in Carolina continues to deteriorate. In those instances the ball tends to come out quicker and to the easiest targets. The coaches’ game plans surely account for a quarterback’s limitations and scheme accordingly. That’s narrowed Kyle Allen’s attention to D.J Moore.

The other trend is Greg Olsen. He averaged over 8 targets a game in the first 3 weeks this season. Since then he’s been fairly absent for fantasy, outside of 3 specific matchups against teams that cannot defend the tight end (ARI/ TB/ GB)

The schedule has some blow up games ahead for D.J. Moore. Depending on draft strategy, Moore is likely a WR 3 in your fantasy lineups. Confidence is warranted. He could be a top 15 WR in 2019 when looking back. He can certainly be a WR 2 with upside down the stretch, his recent performance is about to trend.

Calvin RIdley: Trending

Rewinding to fantasy draft season, Calvin Ridley was a candidate to elevate into a higher realm for fantasy. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter historically offers the second option in the pass game huge fantasy value. Ridley looked to see an increase in snaps and with that, volume. Oh, and he’s a sophomore wide receiver who broke out in year one - Fantasy gold.

Regardless of being the WR 19 I’m not sure owners are satisfied with Calvin Ridley. His perception in fantasy has been a rollercoaster. In recent weeks his situation has drastically improved. Mohamed Sanu is out of the picture in Atlanta. Devonta Freeman is injured and sadly, Austin Hooper is as well.

After the Sanu trade we assumed Ridley’s volume would increase. We may not have seen his targets increase, but last week, with new coaching changes taking effect, a team with a newfound energy, and without some key pieces, we finally saw Calvin Ridley explode. He had his best fantasy game of the season against the Panthers in week 11. He has lit Carolina up in his young career.

After playing just 60% snaps in his rookie season, Ridley’s sophomore campaign had not produced the increase in snaps we were expecting before the injuries. Now, Calvin Ridley is coming off his two highest snap totals of his career in weeks 10 and 11.

The volume has been frustrating. Ridley is on pace to barely break 100 targets.He’s only on pace for about 10 more targets and 6 more catches than his rookie season. The Falcons offense is the pass heaviest offense in all of football. The frustration is rooted in Ridley’s 16% share of the Falcons passing attack. That’s the 74th highest target share in the NFL! It looks disconcerting but given the flux state of this offense, it shows the growth Calvin Ridley can see for fantasy owners via an increased share of the biggest passing pie in the league.

With that optimism, I’ll note that Ridley epitomizes the boom or bust label. His volume is hard to predict every week, he is very streaky, and walks the line of being touchdown dependent. In the 14 games in his career when Calvin Ridley has not scored, he averages under 7 points in PPR.Ridley accumulates a majority of his points in a minority of his games. This season, Over 50% of his fantasy points have come in 3 games.

Austin Hooper being out is the upside for Calvin Ridley. Austin Hooper leads the Falcons in red zone targets and targets inside the 10 yard line. Ridley has seen just 4 red zone targets. Only 2 inside the 10 yard line. He’s been very efficient though. He’s caught both of those targets in close for touchdowns. Ridley’s use in the red zone is too low, it has to increase (assumption of rational coaching).

His efficiency should be known by the staff. He was 4th in red zone targets in Atlanta last year and caught 7 of those 8 targets. 6 of which went for Touchdowns. Inside the 10 yard line Ridley caught 3 of his 4 targets, all 3 for touchdowns!

Calvin Ridley's emergence has been long amongst fantasy gamers. Was week 11 a flash in the pan, or a precursor of what's to come?

Here’s the dilemma. You have to take a stance. Accuracy in expectations allows you to manipulate your roster and starting lineups. I have faith in Ridley over the next 3 games. The injuries should lend to Ridley’s target share increasing as he sees sustained high snap rates. He plays Tampa Bay, Carolina, and New Orleans. The Buccaneers are a smash spot and Ridley has tremendous success against both the Panthers and Saints. Actually almost 40% of Ridleys fantasy points have come against those 2 teams in his career. Wild right? He averages over 20 points per game vs the Panthers and Saints.

We’ll need to make a U-turn come week 15. Ridley plays the 49ers. They’re top 5 in points allowed to wide receivers. They allow less than 18 points per game to the position and Julio Jones is 1st in line. It’s possible that weapons like Austin Hooper and Devanta Freeman are being incorporated back into the offense again as well. Atlanta plays Jacksonville in fantasy championship week.

I expect Ridley to have multiple top 12 performances over the next few weeks. I also expect him to have a very low win rate (The % of league winning fantasy teams who had player X on their roster). Calvin Ridley’s Semi Final and Championship matchups set him up to fail fantasy owners. Although his contributions over the next 3 weeks could help get you to the dance, you may want to find a new partner when you get there.

Tyrell Maclachlan