Fantasy Boom or Bust: Wide Receivers

Photo By: Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports

By: Jake Leicht

“Fantasy football is a game of talent, strategy and a whole lot of luck.” That was the first line of Jason Feiner’s Fantasy Boom or Bust: Running Back article, and I couldn’t agree more with that statement. When competing for a fantasy championship, you have to obtain the most talent that you possibly can on draft night. The players that you pick in the first round or so normally have immense upside and a high floor. That is why they are viewed as early round picks. While it is obviously important to nail those picks, it is almost as important to find players with high upside later on in your draft as well. The problem with drafting players with high upside after the first few rounds is that they normally come with a very low floor. Navigating which players have a chance to explode or bust in 2018 is going to be critical for you if you want to win your league.

Here are a few wide receivers that could boom or bust on your fantasy team in 2018. Please read carefully.

Allen Robinson – Chicago Bears

Boom: One of the receivers that I am most excited about this season is Allen Robinson. For the past several seasons, Robinson has had to play with a below average quarterback in Blake Bortles, and he has had to play in offenses that are almost prehistoric in their route trees. He has shown the ability to make big plays down the field throughout his entire career. Robinson currently averages 14.1 yards per reception in his career, which includes one season (2015) that he averaged a staggering 17.5 yards per reception. During that 2015 season, ARob finished with 80 catches for exactly 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. That is incredible, and that potential is what fantasy owners will be salivating over on draft night. While his 2016 was rough, Robinson still proved that he could make big plays while facing double teams. After he lost his season due to a knee injury in 2017, I think that Robinson will go back to being a star receiver while playing on a Bears team that has more playmakers than Robinson's Jaguars ever had. Offensive coordinator Matt Nagy has stated that he will move ARob around the field more than he did with the Jaguars as well, which should make it harder for opposing teams to double team him. Robinson may not put up the same stats that he did during the 2015 season, but he will give fantasy owners better numbers than he did in 2016.

Bust: I'm not sure whether or not the Bears will be very good on offense. Sure, they should be better than they were in 2017, but The question is whether or not Mitchell Trubisky will develop in his second year in a new system. I do like the fact that Matt Nagy seems to have a better grasp on the modern day NFL offense than John Fox had last year, but the jury is still out on whether or not Trubisky is actually going to be a good NFL quarterback. If #10 has a rough year under center, Allen Robinson will probably have a bad fantasy season as well.

There are also questions about Robinson and his health. Robinson only played a handful of snaps in 2017 before he blew out his knee. Will he go back to being a borderline WR1 automatically? Another question I have is whether or not Robinson can be an efficient route runner in Nagy’s new scheme. In his last full season on the field (2016), Robinson was very disappointing for fantasy owners that spent a 2nd round pick on him. He only hauled in 73 catches for 883 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also only caught an abysmal 48.3% of the passes that came his way as well. Part of the problem was Blake Bortles, but I still believe Robinson could have done more. I want to see what he can do with better health and quarterback situation in 2018.

Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders

Boom: Cooper has some very tantalizing qualities that will have fantasy owners longing to take him in round 4 or 5 of their drafts. Cooper is a big wide receiver that has some speed to burn on the outside. Standing at 6’1" and 211 pounds, he creates mismatches on the outside versus smaller cornerbacks. Cooper has the speed to get past the quickest of cornerbacks, and when he does, big plays happen. He could be more of a red zone threat in the right system as well. During his first 2 seasons in the NFL, Cooper hauled in a total of 155 passes for 2,223 yards and 11 touchdowns. That was an incredible start to his career. His third season in the NFL yielded some unsavory results in terms of overall numbers, but Cooper was still able to catch a career high 7 touchdowns despite getting relatively poor quarterback play from Derek Carr and others. I fully expect him to get back to being a big time playmaker in Jon Gruden’s new offense. Gruden has an outstanding track record in terms of getting maximum value out of his number 1 receivers throughout his career, and Amari Cooper is certainly Oakland's best receiver heading into the 2018 season. His rare combination of size and speed make for huge boom potential that fantasy owners could grab after the first few rounds of their draft. I will definitely have a fair amount of exposure to Cooper on my fantasy rosters this season. He is very fun to watch, and Derek Carr will certainly play better this season as well. Sign me up for the Amari Cooper hype train.

Bust: For all of the positives that I see in Amari Cooper, there are some glaring negatives as well. For one, I am not entirely sure that Jon Gruden will do wonders for Cooper’s value. Sure, Gruden has a good track record of using his best wide receivers, but that data is officially old considering he last coached in 2008. It's rumored that Gruden has been showing highlights of “the good ol’ days” to the Raiders’ offensive unit. I don't think that screams elegance in the passing game. Cooper has also shown an inconsistency of actually catching the football as well. He dropped a staggering 18 passes last season, a couple of which were wide open touchdowns. I should know, I drafted him almost everywhere last season. Cooper was viewed by many to be a top 3 to 4 round fantasy draft pick last year. The problem is that he performed like a WR4. Cooper only caught 48 balls for 680 yards, but he did have 7 touchdowns. He also only hauled in half of his targets. If Cooper's hands don't become more reliable, all of the other positives won't really matter.

Josh Gordon – Cleveland Browns

Boom: The talent that Josh Gordon displays on the field is breathtaking. At 6’3" and 225 pounds of nearly pure muscle, Gordon has very good footwork coming in and out of routes. He's able to get open due to his threat of going over the top, and even when he is covered, he provides a big frame for quarterbacks to throw to in the passing game. Gordon’s skills and size provide an ideal red zone target for all quarterbacks, and he has shown the ability to go up and get jump balls. In his last “full” season on the field in 2013, Gordon posted 87 catches for 1,646 yards and 9 touchdowns. His quarterbacks that year were Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer. While that was 5 long seasons ago, Gordon still has shown that ability to make plays in his limited time on the field. Last season, he garnered double teams nearly every game, even though the Browns were just kind of getting his feet wet. Teams around the NFL are still taking notice of Gordon, and that tells me that fantasy owners should be taking notice of him as well. He gets to play with either Tyrod Taylor of Baker Mayfield (maybe both) this season, which would easily be the best quarterback situation he has ever had. Baker would probably take more chances than Taylor would downfield, but Taylor’s accuracy in the intermediate passing game would fit perfectly with Gordon’s strengths in the route tree. While his ceiling probably is not quite as high as Robinson’s or Cooper’s, drafting Josh Gordon could still provide huge upside in the middle rounds of your fantasy draft this season.

Bust: Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the bust potential for Josh Gordon is off of the charts. It is well documented that Gordon has had trouble with the league’s substance abuse policy. I personally believe that he has overcome many of the demons that haunted him during his time in the NFL, but he is also literally one mistake away from probably being kicked out of the league. At the beginning of training camp, Gordon made the tough decision to stay home and make sure that everything in his personal life was in order before reporting to the Browns. He did not fail a drug test, and I think that he made a very mature choice in the matter. With Hard Knocks being at the Browns’ facility, it would be all too easy to have a lapse in judgement or be tempted by marijuana. If Gordon does stay out of trouble with the league, he still needs to prove that he can go back to being one of the NFL’s premier receivers. Last year, he struggled a little bit to get separation on routes. The fact that the Browns added Jarvis Landry to take some pressure off of Gordon should do wonders for the young man, and I hope he is able to stay on the field for the Browns in all 16 games this season.

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