Fantasy Football: One analyst says these WRs are being drafted too early

ECR stands for “Expert Consensus Ranking,” which means the average ranks of many members of the fantasy football industry and is typically similar to ADP (which differs from site-to-site). This will be an ongoing series highlighting some big differences between ECR and my own ranks. Knowing your league’s ADP/scoring remains equally important when drafting, but I rank the following wide receivers lower than the general fantasy community.

Players who should go higher: Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End

Players going too early: Quarterback | Tight End | Running Back 

Hopkins isn’t a bad fantasy pick. There are just other receivers who are younger with more upside typically going after him. Kliff Kingsbury had Hopkins lined up outside on the left part of the field 85% of the time last season, a staggeringly high number compared to all other WRs in the league, who have moved around. Of course, he was still able to produce, but Hopkins has averaged a modest 6.5 touchdowns over the last two seasons despite seeing 155.0 targets, so any decrease in elite volume could be a problem as he approaches age 30.

Hopkins has put up Hall of Fame stats and has a nice fantasy floor, but he won’t be on any of my teams if he’s being drafted ahead of an Arthur Smith-coached Calvin Ridley who’s now without Julio Jones. Imagine taking Hopkins over this 23-year-old, or A.J. Brown with two functional knees. I’d rather receive a severe form of punishment (like missing the finale of “The White Lotus”) than draft Hopkins ahead of CeeDee Lamb, who could easily double up his TD production. It’s safer to project better stats for DHop, but Terry McLaurin (now with competent QB play) has more fantasy upside. I’d have to lose a bet or be hallucinating (both admittedly possible) to draft Hopkins over someone who turned 81 targets into 773 yards over his final eight games as a rookie. 

Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings (ECR = WR22 vs. DDD = WR27)

One could easily argue Thielen is underrated not being drafted as a top-20 wide receiver after just scoring 14 touchdowns over 15 games, but fantasy managers have been reluctant to buy last year’s stats — for good reason. He’s 31 years old, has an injury history, and is now without question behind Justin Jefferson on a run-first team. Thielen is due for major TD regression, and that’s before Irv Smith started emerging as a dominant force in the red zone. Kirk Cousins quietly got 8.3 YPA last season, Dalvin Cook could get hurt (and Jefferson is currently sidelined), so more targets could open up for Thielen, but he’s highly unlikely to match his TD production from last year when no other receiver’s fantasy value relied more on scoring.

Kenny Golladay, New York Giants (ECR = WR25 vs. DDD = WR42)

Golladay is still being drafted as a top-30 WR in NFFC Online Championship leagues over the last five days, which is too high for someone who missed the final nine games last season with a hip injury and is currently sidelined with a hamstring strain (an injury that also cost him two games early last season). While receivers who signed big contracts while changing teams during the offseason have seen big targets right away recently, Golladay will have to do so while missing a bunch of camp time and entering a situation in New York with plenty of capable receivers (including a new first-rounder) and Saquon Barkley returning.

He also goes from indoors/Matt Stafford to outdoors/Daniel Dogecoin. Golladay typically relies on a terrific contested-catch ability, and we’ll see if Jones gives him the same deep opportunities (with a shaky offensive line) as Stafford. Dealing with another soft tissue injury already, I’m passing on Kenny G. 

DJ Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars (ECR = WR33 vs. DDD = WR46)

I was down on Chark compared to ADP before he suffered a broken hand, and I remain so even if he’s expected to be ready Week 1. Chark has no ties to Jacksonville’s new coaching staff, best displayed by Urban Meyer saying the WR is a “big guy who played little last year, and that can’t happen.” The team wanted to spend its first-round draft pick on WR Kadarius Toney (but settled on receiving back Travis Etienne instead), and newly signed Marvin Jones has a history with OC Darrell Bevell and has reportedly looked like Jacksonville’s WR1 throughout camp. Laviska Shenault also appears ready to break out in Year Two and is certain to open the season ahead of Chark on the target tree.

Chark has impressive workout metrics, is one year removed from a big season, and now has a potential generational talent taking over as his quarterback, but fantasy managers are making a leap drafting him as a top-35 WR. Put differently, Chark is hurt, in his new staff’s doghouse and might be the No. 4 option on a team coached by a donkey who wants to run the ball heavily and is threatening to start Gardner Minshew over Trevor Lawrence.

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (ECR = WR46 vs. DDD = WR57)

Something hasn’t been right with Thomas and the Saints since last year, and his delayed offseason surgery suggests he may never play for the team again. Thomas not only has an uncertain timetable while recovering from ankle surgery, but he’ll be returning to a team no longer helmed by Drew Brees. Thomas can no doubt be a helpful PPR asset down the stretch, but realize this is someone who’s never scored double-digit touchdowns in his career (even while seeing 185 targets in 2019), and he’s now approaching 30, coming off major surgery, and has a huge downgrade at QB (no matter who ends up starting). Over 12 career games without Brees, Thomas has recorded three touchdowns.

Maybe your league has deep benches and/or an IR spot, but if not, it might very well prove tough to hold onto Thomas. And he may be playing elsewhere when he does return, as the fractured relationship with the team may be irreparable, even if Thomas and Sean Payton reportedly had a recent, productive meeting. I’d actually prefer the following WRs to Thomas, who all have lower ADPs: Darnell Mooney, Jaylen Waddle, Mecole Hardman, Marvin Jones, Corey Davis, Jakobi Meyers, Marquez Callaway, and Bryan Edwards, among others.

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