In this piece, I take a look at some of the early risers and fallers at the WR position in the fantasy landscape.
Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders
An Edwards truther since his sophomore year at South Carolina, I’ve patiently been waiting for the day when we’d have the chance to watch him on Sundays. Fortunately, that day will be coming very soon.
Selected in the third round of the 2019 draft by the Raiders, Edwards posted gaudy receiving totals at South Carolina along with a 48.4% (94th) dominator and a ridiculous breakout age of 17.8 years (100th). Below are his NCAA receiving totals.
Initially, there were questions as to whether or not Edwards would play meaningful snaps in the early stages of the season. Following Tyrell William’s placement on IR, those questions can be safely put to bed. As it stands now, the Raiders are likely to start Edwards and Ruggs on the outside with Renfrow manning the slot.
Even more encouraging, is the praise that Edwards has been receiving in training camp from his coaches, reporters and even QB Derek Carr. Conceivably, Edwards could lead all Raiders WRs in targets this year and as we know, fantasy production goes hand in hand with volume. With a current ADP of WR75, fantasy owners are getting a high upside receiver for cents on the dollar.
Henry Ruggs, Las Vegas Raiders
With higher draft capital (12th overall) than Edwards, Ruggs is no stranger to football fans or fantasy players. Known for his speed, Ruggs was part of a stacked receiving core at Alabama that also included the likes of Jeudy, Smith and Waddle. While he wasn’t the most productive receiver in that quartet, he was undoubtedly the fastest, blazing a 4.27 (100th) in the 40-yard dash. Not only that, Ruggs posted a 110.0 (90th) speed score and a 136.9 (98th) burst score. Simply put, he can fly.
With game breaking speed, Ruggs only needs a handful of opportunities to explode for a big fantasy week. As mentioned earlier, he’ll enjoy the luxury of being a starter on a team that should see a healthy dose of fantasy friendly game script. Additionally, there were reports prior to the Williams injury that Ruggs would be spending time in the slot where the Raiders could find more creative ways to manufacture him touches.
With a chance to lead his team in targets and an ADP of WR49, Ruggs is another high upside receiver whose stock is on the rise.
Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
Seemingly slept on every year, Boyd is another receiver whose stock has been steadily on the rise since training camp. Over the past two seasons, Boyd has finished as the WR20 (13.1) and WR31 (11.1) in fantasy points per game in 0.5 PPR scoring. This season, Boyd will team up with new QB and #1 overall pick Joe Burrow.
In his one season as starter at LSU, Burrow enjoyed tremendous success throwing to slot receiver Justin Jefferson. Just how much success? Well, Jefferson dropped a nutty 111-1540-18 receiving line in 15 games. Who plays the slot in Cincinnati? None other than Tyler Boyd.
Speaking the other day, Burrow made a point of mentioning he has a strong connection with Boyd and predicted a big season for him. Given the notable absences of A.J. Green and Tee Higgins through portions of camp this year, Boyd has an excellent opportunity to enter the season as Burrow’s favorite target.
Currently, Boyd is tagged with an ADP of WR32 and I would put that somewhere around his floor barring injury. While his stock is on the rise, he can still be had for a reasonable price.
Preston Williams, Miami Dolphins
Undrafted out of Colorado State last year (where he posted a 45.3% (91st) dominator), Preston Williams stood out in the preseason and quickly carved out a role opposite DeVante Parker as the Dolphins #2 WR. By Week 2, Williams was seeing greater than 70% of offensive snaps and that trend continued until his devastating ACL injury in week 9 against the Jets.
On a fantasy points per game basis, Williams finished as the WR45 in 0.5 PPR last season. In addition to that, he received a 21.4% target share (37% rz) and an aDOT of 13.6. This season, Williams will resume his post as the Dolphins #2 WR and should benefit from more time in their system.
In addition to that, the Dolphins have one of the thinnest WR rooms in the NFL, and Williams will be the recipient of all the targets he can handle. At 6’5”, Williams also proved to be a reliable red zone threat and will continue to benefit from looks down there. Since his return from injury, beat writers have been wildly positive on Williams’ performance in camp. To top it off, DVP is currently banged up and any missed time from him would put Williams in line for monster volume.
At an ADP of WR54 right now, Williams is a screaming value who’s being drafted below his floor.
Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers
Since being drafted 40th overall in 2017 out of Ohio State, Samuel has been nothing short of a fantasy disappointment. Blessed with elite speed (4.31 40-yard dash), Samuel has been unable to find consistent success despite seeing a 91.0% snap share last season on a team that attempted the second most passes per game in the NFL. Below are Samuel’s receiving stats from last season.
This offseason, the Panthers not only changed head coaches with the addition of Matt Rhule but also added LSU’s passing game coordinator Joe Brady as their new offensive coordinator. While the regime change can be argued as positive or negative, the Panthers decision to sign free agent WR Robby Anderson to a two year $20 million contract certainly bodes poorly for Samuel.
To make matters worse, reports out of camp have suggested that not only has Samuel been unimpressive but he’s somehow managed to regress. The commentary can be taken with a grain of salt however, it looks as if Samuel will be fighting for scraps behind CMC, Moore, Anderson and even Thomas. Bottom line: Samuel’s stock is down.
Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
An enigma up to this point in his NFL career, the 7th overall pick in 2017 has yet to live up to expectations in the pros. Through his first three seasons, Williams has averaged 1.7, 9.9 and 9.1 fantasy points per game in 0.5 PPR, respectively.
This season, Williams loses the only quarterback he’s ever known and will likely be catching the majority of his passes from journeyman Tyrod Taylor. I’ve heard the bull thesis for why Taylor is a better QB for Williams than Rivers but I’m certainly not buying it at this juncture. For those who don’t remember the last time Taylor took the field as a starter in Cleveland, it was really, really ugly.
Furthermore, the Chargers threw the ball on 63.29% of offensive plays last year, good for 6th in the NFL. With Taylor under center, the more probable outcome is something closer to a 55-45 split. This seems increasingly likely when you take into account the Chargers stout defense and head coach Anthony Lynn’s current job security.
Finally, Williams was recently diagnosed with a sprained shoulder and is in danger of missing the Chargers opener. It’s hard to imagine a world in which his stock is up. Somehow, he still carries a WR46 ADP.
Breshad Perriman, New York Jets
Ah yes, prized free agent acquisition and perennial fantasy heartbreaker Breshad Perriman. Fresh off his weeks 13-17 explosion in Tampa Bay last year, Perriman signed a one-year $8 million deal with the Jets this offseason. While I can’t argue the situation is rife with opportunity, Perriman has missed over a week of practice with a knee injury. For reference, Perriman tore his right PCL in 2015 and partially tore his left ACL in 2016. It’s unclear as to which knee the current swelling belongs but regardless, it’s not great.
Outside of that magical five game stretch last year, Perriman has struggled to produce with any sort of consistency when on the field. Upon his return, Perriman will do battle with the likes of Crowder, Mims, Hogan and Herndon for targets in the Jets offense. When he does return, it’s likely the best case for his role will be something like Robby Anderson’s the previous two seasons.
For now, Perriman is worth monitoring but his inability to practice certainly has his stock trending down.
If you enjoyed this article, you can read my previous one on Risers and Fallers at the TE position here: https://fantasyfuru.com/2020/09/01/risers-and-fallers-te-edition/