Evaluating the 2018 WR Draft Class (Fantasy Football)

As I immerse myself deeper and deeper into dynasty leagues, I find myself evaluating fantasy football from a bigger picture point of view. But I’m not just doing this to try to improve as a dynasty player. I believe these kinds of exercises can help us grow as fantasy players of all formats – redraft, best ball, DFS, etc. because they allow us to better project and predict career breakout seasons.

In a three-part series, I’m comparing all first-year players over the past three seasons in receiving yards per game. All players that hit at least 20 yards per game are listed in the below table. I’m evaluating notable players from all three years separately. See my breakdown of the 2017 class here.

I’m discussing trends and how I see values heading into 2020. All ADPs were gathered from FFPC Best Ball Classic drafts over the past two weeks. Some notable players that didn’t make the 20 receiving yards per game cut will also be addressed. Now let’s break down the 2018 class:

Player Year Age G Tgt Rec Yds Y/G
A.J. Brown 2019 22 16 84 52 1051 65.7
Terry McLaurin 2019 24 14 93 58 919 65.6
JuJu Smith-Schuster 2017 21 14 79 58 917 65.5
Cooper Kupp 2017 24 15 94 62 869 57.9
D.K. Metcalf 2019 22 16 100 58 900 56.3
Deebo Samuel 2019 23 15 81 57 802 53.5
Preston Williams 2019 22 8 60 32 428 53.5
Darius Slayton 2019 22 14 84 48 740 52.9
Calvin Ridley 2018 24 16 92 64 821 51.3
D.J. Moore 2018 21 16 82 55 788 49.3
Christian Kirk 2018 22 12 68 43 590 49.2
Dede Westbrook 2017 24 7 51 27 339 48.4
Keke Coutee 2018 21 6 41 28 287 47.8
Keelan Cole 2017 24 16 83 42 748 46.8
Hunter Renfrow 2019 24 13 71 49 605 46.5
Courtland Sutton 2018 23 16 84 42 704 44
Kenny Golladay 2017 24 11 48 28 477 43.4
Diontae Johnson 2019 23 16 92 59 680 42.5
Marquise Brown 2019 22 14 71 46 584 41.7
Robert Foster 2018 24 13 44 27 541 41.6
Duke Williams 2019 26 4 19 12 166 41.5
Dante Pettis 2018 23 12 45 27 467 38.9
Antonio Callaway 2018 21 16 79 43 586 36.6
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 2018 24 16 73 38 581 36.3
Greg Ward 2019 24 7 40 28 254 36.3
Corey Davis 2017 22 11 65 34 375 34.1
Mecole Hardman 2019 21 16 41 26 538 33.6
Chris Godwin 2017 21 16 55 34 525 32.8
Michael Gallup 2018 22 16 68 33 507 31.7
Codey McElroy 2019 27 1 1 1 30 30
Trent Taylor 2017 23 15 60 43 430 28.7
Deontay Burnett 2018 21 5 15 10 143 28.6
Tre'Quan Smith 2018 22 15 44 28 427 28.5
Anthony Miller 2018 24 15 54 33 423 28.2
Equanimeous St. Brown 2018 22 12 36 21 328 27.3
Keith Kirkwood 2018 25 8 21 13 209 26.1
Trey Quinn 2018 23 3 10 9 75 25
Jakobi Meyers 2019 23 15 41 26 359 23.9
Kendrick Bourne 2017 22 11 34 16 257 23.4
Kelvin Harmon 2019 23 16 44 30 365 22.8
Marcell Ateman 2018 24 7 31 15 154 22
Brandon Powell 2018 22 6 17 11 129 21.5
Zay Jones 2017 22 15 74 27 316 21.1
Jake Kumerow 2018 26 5 11 8 103 20.6
Michael Clark 2017 22 2 14 4 41 20.5
Ricky Seals-Jones 2017 22 10 28 12 201 20.1
Scott Miller 2019 22 10 26 13 200 20
Notable 2018 Players That Make The List

Calvin Ridley
Ridley ranks ninth on this list and first out of all WRs from the 2018 class. He followed up his rookie year with an improved sophomore season posting 66.6 receiving yards per game in 13 contests. His outlook couldn’t look much better heading into 2020. Ridley plays for an average Falcons team that will need to throw a lot to remain competitive and is in an offense that can get it done through the air as they ranked second in the league in passing yards per game in 2019. His target projection looks strong with Mohamed Sanu long gone and Atlanta downgrading at TE from Austin Hooper to Hayden Hurst.

Basically the entire fantasy football community understands this as Ridley has a fourth-round (45.2) redraft ADP. I don’t have an issue with that cost but don’t feel comfortable pushing him up any higher. Ridley is a strong player but not an elite one. Julio Jones has at least one more alpha-male WR1 season in him. I prefer Julio to Ridley, even when factoring in ADP. In dynasty, Ridley is a solid hold but also an intriguing sell at possibly the highest value he’ll ever have. Yes, Julio is getting older but so is Matt Ryan. Ryan is 35 years old.

D.J. Moore
I’m not sure I could have any Moore love for D.J. from a dynasty perspective and I’m a big fan in redraft as well. Moore followed up a solid rookie season with an incredible sophomore year, totaling 1,175 receiving yards playing with Kyle Allen of all QBs. Only 23 years old, Moore’s talent will collide with an almost perfect fantasy environment to crush in 2020.

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New Head Coach Matt Rhule brings excitement to the offense, Teddy Bridgewater is an upgrade at QB, and Carolina’s defense is set up to be historically bad. You’d have to pry Moore away from my cold, dead hands in order to get him from me in dynasty. And smash the draft button every time at Moore’s early fourth-round (37.6) ADP in redraft.

Christian Kirk
Kirk is a really intriguing evaluation at this point. Kirk posted over 1,000 receiving yards as an 18-year old freshman at Texas A&M and has started his NFL career with 590 and 709 receiving yard seasons, respectively. There’s no doubt in my mind Kirk can play and the third-year breakout could very well be coming this season.

However, things are a bit messy as DeAndre Hopkins was brought in this offseason, Larry Fitzgerald just won’t go away, and second (Andy Isabella) and fourth-round (Hakeem Butler) picks from 2019 are waiting in the wings. That normally would be enough for me to pass in redraft. However, his current ADP is in the tenth-round (117.7) and at that cost, I’m willing to take a chance.

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The Cardinals’ offense is exciting and trending up in Year 2 with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray steering the ship and their defense, although improving, projects to be average at best. I’m a big fan of owning Kirk in dynasty and think now is a great time to buy.

Keke Coutee
Coutee is a sad case for me. He only posted 287 receiving yards as a rookie but he did it in only six games due to injuries and even posted 11 receptions for 110 yards and a TD in his only playoff game. He did this after totaling 2,319 receiving yards in his age 19 and 20 sophomore and junior seasons. So I had high hopes for him heading into 2019.

Unfortunately, he only played in nine games and totaled 254 receiving yards. Stuck behind Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, and Randall Cobb, Coutee is completely off the redraft radar. Health is a major concern but Coutee is still an intriguing dynasty stash because when he’s been on the field, he’s proven he offers weekly upside.

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Courtland Sutton
Sutton is that dude. A true alpha WR1, Sutton has totaled 1,816 yards through his first two seasons in the NFL playing with these QBs: Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, and Drew Lock. He has plenty of target competition at this point with Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, and Noah Fant but make no mistake, Sutton is still currently the Broncos’ WR1.

Sutton is a strong asset in dynasty and is acquirable due to his questionable QB situation and target competition. Go get him now as I see him being a star for years to come. Things are murky in redraft due to the issues highlighted above but his fifth-round (54.2) ADP is more than fair.

Michael Gallup
Gallup proved he’s the real deal last season, blowing up for 1,107 yards in the league’s #2 passing offense. His immediate value took a few hits this offseason, with Dallas signing Amari Cooper long-term and drafting CeeDee Lamb in the first round.

But these developments have made Gallup more acquirable in dynasty and mean he now has an eighth-round redraft ADP. Drafters really seem to be on top of things this offseason because once again, that sounds right to me. The Cowboys lost numerous defensive stars, including Byron Jones and Robert Quinn, this offseason and project to lean heavily on their passing game for the second year in a row.

Tre’Quan Smith
Tre’Quan is worth mentioning because he plays for the Saints in Sean Payton‘s offense and totaled 427 yards as a rookie. With Emmanuel Sanders in town, he’s off the redraft radar entirely but he’s an intriguing low-cost stash in dynasty. His stock would increase dramatically if he became the Saints’ WR2 in the future with possibly Jameis Winston at QB.

Anthony Miller
Miller is the perfect dynasty target this offseason. He posted seasons of 1,434 and 1,462 receiving yards respectively as a junior and senior at Memphis and then followed that up with totaling 1,079 receiving yards in his first two years in the league playing with Mitchell Trubisky.

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Taylor Gabriel was released, no legitimate WRs were brought in this offseason, and Nick Foles is likely going to provide an upgrade at QB for the Bears. As the clear-cut WR2 in an offense with questionable TEs, Miller’s 14th-round (161.3) ADP makes for a great value.

Notable Players Not Listed

James Washington
After totaling 4,016 receiving yards in his final three years at Oklahoma State, Washington surprisingly only had 217 receiving yards as a rookie. However, he was able to turn that around last year and post 735 receiving yards while competing with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson and dealing with a horrible QB situation.

Ben Roethlisberger returns this season and that improves the outlook of the entire Steelers’ offense, Washington included. I’m a huge fan of JuJu and really like Diontae Johnson just like everyone else but it’s funny how we’ve all collectively decided Washington is the odd man out, especially since he led the Steelers in receiving yards last year.

I’ll just leave these numbers here. 2020 Redraft ADP: JuJu fourth-round (38.3), Diontae ninth-round (102.1), and Washington 21st-round (251.2). 2019 targets and receiving yards per game: JuJu 5.8 and 46, Diontae 5.8 and 42.5, and Washington 5.3 and 49. Chase Claypool beating James Washington out for snaps is an extreme assumption at this point.

D.J. Chark
The contrast between Chark’s rookie season and last year is actually pretty hilarious. Chark went from posting 174 receiving yards as a rookie to 1,008 yards last season. Chark runs a 4.34 40-yard dash, plays on a horrible Jaguars’ team that will have to throw a ton on a weekly basis to stay competitive, and now has passing-game friendly, Jay Gruden, as his Offensive Coordinator.

Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook, and second-round pick Laviska Shenault don’t provide the toughest target competition either. His sixth-round (61.4) ADP is more than fair. Chark isn’t a target of mine in either redraft or dynasty, but I don’t fault others getting more aggressive.

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Comments

Ben Cummins says:

Great points all around. Thanks for reading Jacob!

Jacob Wayne says:

Calvin Ridley – It’s worth noting that Austin Hooper’s 16-game pace last season was 119 targets. I’m also not so sure Hayden Hurst is a downgrade from Hooper – he was a higher draft capital player and also has a better career YPR.

DJ Moore – Totally agree on all of these points but it’s worth mentioning Joe Brady is the new offensive coordinator who previously led the Saints’ offense and last year led the LSU offensive to historic numbers.

Christian Kirk – He could be benefitted from a dynasty perspective by the retirement of Larry Fitz as Kirk would spend more time in the slot where he could get more and easier targets.

Anthony Miller – If Nick Foles takes over I could see Miller finishing with low-end WR2 value.

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