Eat Your Vegetables: Wide Receivers
If you’ve been listening to The Fantasy Footballers, then chances are that you’ve heard them refer to certain players as fantasy vegetables. I interpreted the definition to be a player that isn’t exciting to own, but will help to fortify your roster by providing reliability. For instance, Shaun Draughn became known as “The Big Salad” for being the epitome of a vegetable last year after Carlos Hyde and Colin Kaepernick went down with injuries. There was nothing special about him as a player, however, even with the limited upside, you knew that his role as the pass-catching RB was bound to yield fantasy points with Blaine Gabbert, the check-down machine, leading the offense. He was a “just give me something this week” type of option that you knew probably wouldn’t have a huge week under any circumstances. The concept of fantasy vegetables has become a comical and apt metaphor that I’m choosing to run with and apply to the act of drafting, rostering and starting second option receivers.
Eat Your Vegetables
There is something about facing the decision of whether or not to draft a receiver that I do not believe can win the role of the #1 option in the passing game, that brings out my inner 4-year-old. That’s a vegetable pick and those are icky. I know that they are good for me, having value that stems from having an established role in an offense that will surely target them regularly. However, when there are potentially “high upside” players still on the board, the DeVante Parker/Dorial Green-Beckham/Breshad Perriman/Tajae Sharpe/Torrey Smith’s of the world, these bland, safe but boring options seem less appealing.
Build a Well-Balanced Roster
There’s a part of me that wants to believe that every WR on my roster can be the featured receiver for their respective offense without requiring an injury to make it happen. The thing is, my inner 4-year-old is an idiot and I do my best to ignore that little rug rat. Statistically speaking, offenses in the NFL are throwing more than ever and as a result, some second option receivers have become true fantasy assets; a nutritious and wholesome component of any healthy and well-balanced roster. After I draft my studs in the earliest rounds and before I start drafting longshots, hopefuls, and flyers, I try to solidify my roster with something green.
Here are some more than garden variety second option receivers that I’m targeting this year, and why.
Eric Decker (ADP 48)
Or I should say, Eric “Freaking” Decker. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not sure if that’s actually his middle name, but here’s what I do know: He has put up double-digit touchdowns and over 1000 yards in 3 of the last 4 seasons. He also played well through some injuries last season which is a trait that I love in a WR2. He may be the second option in the Jets offense, but he will give you a stable floor each week with higher than usual touchdown upside.
Michael Crabtree (ADP 91)
Crabtree is somewhat the tomato in this vegetable salad in that he doesn’t technically belong on this list since he led his team in targets and receptions last year. However, he gets grouped into this category because most believe as I do, that Amari Cooper is an ascending talent that will likely flip that script in 2016. Still, the 28-year-old veteran tied his career high in receptions and touchdowns last year and was targeted 5 more times in the red zone than Cooper.
Willie Snead (ADP 120)
Currently one of the biggest steals in deeper drafts in my humble opinion. Drew Brees is not known to pepper any one receiver with targets; quite the opposite in fact. Last year Snead and Benjamin Watson on a per game basis averaged only 1.3 and 1.2 less targets respectively per game than Brandin Cooks. Snead may not have as much flash and Cooks, but he should receive a reliable share of targets in that offense and produce for your team when you need it.
Emmanuel Sanders (ADP 78)
The best part about Emmanuel Sanders right now is that the uncertainty around the QB situation in Denver should continue to drive his stock downward. It’s certainly not going to rise. He’s going into his 6th year and coming off of the best two seasons of his career, playing the #2 role behind Demaryius Thomas.
Vincent Jackson (ADP 134)
V-Jax is flying firmly under the radar of most drafts as his ADP suggests. There was some news that broke during the offseason that stated he could play less on the outside and more in the slot in 2016. It’s not unheard of for an older receiver who has presumably lost a step to make this transition, see Larry Fitzgerald as an example. He missed 6 games last year due to injury and is 33 years old, but when he was healthy and on the field he was a major contributor to that offense. If he does move to the slot it could certainly result in him being used as less of a big play option and more of a possession type receiver. Either way, his 6’5” frame should warrant plenty of red zone looks.
Note that I did not include Marvin Jones, Donte Moncrief, Allen Hurns, or any rookies in that list. I legitimately think that Marvin Jones and Donte Moncrief have an opportunity to become the #1 receivers and red zone options for their offenses which takes them out of contention. As far as Allen Hurns is concerned, it’s not that I don’t like him as a player. I’m staying away from him because I think he may be the odd man out this year in terms of targets, as Bortles continues to develop, Robinson continues to ascend, the ground game becomes more prevalent, and the defense improves. There are simply some offenses that can support multiple receivers (see 2015 Arizona Cardinals), and some that can barely support one (see 2015 Tennessee Titans). I left the rookies off this list because let’s face it, drafting an unproven first-year player is way too exciting to land them on this list.
As a final note, I would advise against going overboard with loading your roster plate with too many second option vegetables. That is, unless you’re like Jeff Fisher and aiming to finish with a .500 winning percentage and miss the playoffs.