WRs That Can Make a Tier Jump In 2016

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Hope springs eternal. Especially with less than three months until football starts! Right now, every NFL team believes they will win the Super Bowl, every NFL player believes they will have a successful season, and every one of us fantasy football competitors believe we will win our league championship in 2016.

With so much hope floating around, an argument could be made for just about any NFL player being a potential fantasy stud in 2016. Don’t rely on hope and potential, though. Target players who possess an increased probability of success. The relentless pursuit of value is a never-ending journey in the fantasy football world, so I will identify 5 WRs who currently represent great potential value, and could make a significant statistical jump in 2016.

Donte Moncrief

Andrew Luck and Moncrief were only on the field together 7 times in 2015. During those 7 games, Moncrief scored 5 of his 6 TDs and appeared to be heading towards a monster sophomore year. However, a lack of elite level targets coupled with Luck’s injury-riddled 2015 campaign proved too difficult a hurdle for the breakout some were hoping for. Later in the season (mid-December) Moncrief suffered a turf toe injury, which he played through, showing toughness and grit. Unfortunately, it all added up to an underwhelming fantasy performance in 2015.

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Some may have soured and view Moncrief as an average player. Not me. Many factors worked against Moncrief in 2015, but all arrows seem to be pointing up now.

  • Health: Both Moncrief and Luck are expected to be full participants in training camp and fully recovered from their 2015 injuries.
  • Target Increase: The departures of Andre Johnson and Coby Fleener will open up a plethora of targets for Moncrief.
  • 3rd Year WR Jump: This is more a faith-based argument, but we have seen many examples of it in the past.
  • Compliments: With T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen and a hopefully improved Phillip Dorsett, the Indianapolis Colts have many fine weapons to choose from, meaning Moncrief could be working in more open spaces.

With a healthy Luck available to continue the TD love, a surgically repaired foot and a potential increase in targets, Moncrief is a prime candidate for a tier jump in 2016.

Torrey Smith

To say that Smith is the most accomplished WR on the San Francisco 49ers roster is a gross understatement. With the departure of Anquan Boldin, the rest of the WRs on the team have a combined total of 207 NFL receptions (150 from Jerome Simpson) compared to 246 for Torrey Smith alone. We all know by now that Chip Kelly coaches a run-oriented offense, but the fast pace and increased amount of plays, lead many to believe that the opportunity to post elite WR numbers does exist. Jordan Matthews was able to post quality numbers (85/997/8) as the #1 target in Chip Kelly’s final season as head coach in 2015.

Smith has proven to be fantasy relevant in the past. He ranked as the 23rd, 23rd, 22nd and 19th fantasy WR in his first four seasons before falling to 49th last year. His current ADP is 11.01, the 48th WR. His value at that spot is incredible!

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The 49ers were an absolute disaster in 2015 and the passing game took the brunt of the damage. The outlook for 2016 isn’t much better, but at least they have identified a head coach and staff who seem to have a longer leash. If the negative perception of Smith and the 49ers offense continues, grab him at or slightly above his ADP in your draft and reap the benefits.

Eddie Royal

Eddie Royal could be primed for a quasi-breakout in 2016. He is basically free right now going mostly undrafted and ranked as the 83rd WR at absolute best. Royal just turned 30 and is coming off of a 37/238/1 performance in his first year as a Chicago Bear. 2015 must have felt like a cursed year for Royal who suffered a litany of physical setbacks (back, hip, ankle, knee, and illness) and was on a team who ran the ball more than all but 7 other teams. I know what you are thinking…where is the good news? Well, I created a handy list to show just how probable a big statistical 2016 could be for Royal:

  • Commitment: The Bears paid Royal $15M over 3 years in 2015 and have shown no indications of severing ties prematurely.
  • Health: Royal participated in offseason workouts and is reportedly fully healthy.
  • Offensive philosophy: Head coach, John Fox, and offensive coordinator, Dowell Loggains, haven’t revealed much about their 2016 offensive strategy (as to be expected). Though, anyone who paid attention to the Bears in 2015 understands that they ran the ball as much as they did, as much out of necessity as anything else. Jay Cutler was reined-in and taught how to control the offense, and the WR position was a revolving door of injuries and inconsistencies. Now that Cutler is a year deeper in the offense (Loggains is reportedly operating a very similar offense to departed OC Adam Gase), a safe assumption is that he will have more flexibility to throw and attempt his vintage high risk/high reward throws.
  • Chemistry: When Royal and Cutler were together in Denver (2008) they made fantasy magic. Royal burst onto the fantasy scene with a 91/980/5 rookie campaign.
  • Opportunity: Operating out of the slot with monster WRs Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White occupying attention outside and speedy Zach Miller navigating the middle of the field, should create lots of space for Royal.
  • History of success: Royal has never topped 1,000 yards in a season but he did have 8 and 7 TDs in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Many may scoff at this pick, but the upside of a late round flier is undeniable. Before getting hurt in 2015, Royal was tearing up training camp. Keep an eye on him in the preseason, and if his quickness and burst appear to be back, laugh your way to big numbers from this unsuspecting fantasy contributor in 2016.

Mohamed Sanu

Making a statistical jump in 2016 following a 33/394/0 performance in 2015 may not seem like a bold statement on my part, but the size of the jump I see coming compels me to share my thoughts on Sanu.

Sanu will turn 27 shortly, which is an absolutely prime age for a physical peak. He is on a new team, the Atlanta Falcons, which is clearly set on featuring him as the new #2 WR behind superstar Julio Jones, in an offense that is fixing to open up drastically in 2016. A recent quote by Jones that, “We are going to take a lot more chances and shots down the field,” excites me for Sanu as much as it does for Matt Ryan and Jones. What my eyes actually read is, “Defenses better back off, or I will burn you all day!” With softer cushions and the constant threat of arguably the best WR in the game going deep, Sanu should have a lot more room to operate than most #2 WRs. Couple this with the fact that Ryan is more comfortable in his second year of OC Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and I see Sanu as a huge beneficiary in 2016. 75/900/7 would not surprise me, making Sanu a fantastic value pick based on his current ADP at the beginning of the 11th round.

Sanu posted 56/790/5 in 2014 for the Cincinnati Bengals, his only season as a true #2 behind A.J. Green, with Marvin Jones out injured. A severe case of the dropsies prevented him from a monster season that year. If he can hold onto the ball, 2016 may provide a significant statistical jump for Sanu.

Kendall Wright

I feel alone, as if in a slowly sinking raft in the middle of the sea. I have been gobbling up Wright shares in any format I can this offseason because I see a very significant statistical jump coming, and no one seems impressed.

Wright came into the league in 2013 with just as much hype that fellow Baylor Bear, Corey Coleman, is receiving right now, and he delivered! 94/1079/2 as a rookie with shaky QB play at best was a fantastic way to start his career. The past two seasons have proven to be more challenging for Wright, who has been plagued by injuries and more shaky QB play. Furthermore, Tennessee brought in Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe, plus many believe that Dorial Green-Beckham could breakout in 2016. Hence, public opinion of Wright is nose-diving.

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Regardless, I see some positive signs pointing towards a potentially massive statistical jump for Wright.

The consensus opinion is that Mariota appears well positioned to break the curse of Titans QB struggles in 2016 and beyond. When Mariota and Wright shared the field in 2015, they showed great chemistry and with a full offseason to grow more, I feel like the sky is the limit for these young players.

Competition breeds success. I like the hype on Matthews, Sharpe, and DGB. It will push Wright to his limits if he wants to prove his mettle to the team and the league. Wright’s pedigree is undeniable; now he just needs to set it free.

On the surface, I don’t like hearing recent reports that new OC Terry Robiskie plans to limit Wright’s ability to freelance. With a deeper dive though, I see this as a positive. Like all aspects of life, you need to put in your time and hard work to improve your craft and should not deviate too far from standard operating procedures until you have developed a high level of comfort within said craft. In other words, Wright shouldn’t be freelancing right now. Rather, he ought to trust the system, his OC, and his young QB.

I wish I could provide you insight into Wright’s mindset entering the season, but I cannot. The one piece of information I do know is that he has worked hard in the offseason to add 12 pounds of muscle to his frame in order to lower the chances of injury. This is a good sign pointing toward Wright, entering 2016 with a positive demeanor.

Money talks, and if Wright wants to cash in on a sizable second contract, the time to perform is upon him. I, for one, plan to cash in right alongside him by drafting him before his current ADP spot in the late 13th round.

Check out the other articles in this series RBs That Can Make a Tier Jump and TEs That Can Make a Tier Jump.

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