2010 Fantasy Football's Most Under & Overrated Wide Receivers

TheFantasyFix.comAnalyst IAugust 20, 2010

2010 Fantasy Football's Most Under & Overrated Wide Receivers

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    Every season, we under or overvalue players in the offseason; it’s the nature of the beast. Whether it is personnel changes around them, scheme changes, or injury concerns… something jumps out and makes us either love or hate a player before the season even begins. Last week, we looked at a few of the running backs who are undervalued and overvalued, based on their Average Draft Position (ADP). Today, we’ll consider some wide receivers whose ADP doesn’t quite match their value.

    (Note that just because I think someone is overrated, doesn’t mean I don’t think they will perform this season. I just think the cost of drafting them is too high. Likewise, if someone is underrated, it doesn’t mean they will be the top fantasy scorer at their position, just that they will outperform their draft position.)

    *Average Draft Picks taken from mockdraftcentral.com

Larry Fitzgerald (ADP 12, WR2) - OVERRATED

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    By general consensus, he is no worse than the second best receiver in the NFL. Unfortunately, the man responsible for getting him the ball this year is no longer a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback--he may not even be a starting-caliber quarterback.

    With Matt Leinart taking over for the retired Kurt Warner, the degree of difficulty has increased exponentially. The coaching staff has no misconceptions about the change at quarterback, and is responding by shifting from a pass-heavy system to a more balanced offense.

    The end result of all this is that Fitz will see fewer targets this season, and they will be coming from a less talented quarterback. If any receiver in the NFL can make the best of this situation, it is Fitzgerald, but history shows that his best isn’t good enough to make him the second WR drafted.

    The last time someone other than Warner led the Arizona offense was in 2005, when Leinart started 11 games. Fitzgerald finished the season with 946 yards and six TDs, logging 100+ yards only twice in 13 contests.  He finished the season as the 24th WR in fantasy.

Greg Jennings (ADP 29, WR10) - UNDERRATED

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    After turning in the third best campaign for any wide receiver in 2008 and playing for the offensive juggernaut that was the 2009 Green Bay Packers, Jennings’ numbers from last year were a huge disappointment.

    Drafted as a top-five WR, he ended the season outside of the top-20. But Jennings’ drop off in production should not be taken as a sign of his decline; he is 26-years old and entering the prime of his career with a top-tier quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, throwing him the ball.

    The Packers’ plethora of weapons, with the emergence of TE Jermichael Finley and WR James Jones alongside veteran Donald Driver, will prevent defenses from focusing too much attention on Jennings.

    In a year with plenty of middling talent at WR, Jennings will be taken as a low WR1 who could carry your team.

DeSean Jackson (ADP 28, WR9) - OVERRATED

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    After an impressive rookie season in which he set a handful of franchise records, Jackson showed no signs of slowing down last season, racking up 1,167 receiving yards for nine TDs. Those numbers – both top 10 throughout the league – combined with his explosive ability in the return game, should make Jackson a solid WR1.

    While the return game ability isn’t going anywhere, let’s take a closer look at the receiving numbers.  

    Jackson caught only one more pass in 2009 than he did in his rookie season, relying more on the long ball to boost his stats. Of his ten offensive TDs last season (one rushing), eight of them went for 50+ yards. For any player, this should raise a few red flags.

    In Philadelphia this season, with a noodle-armed first time starter Kevin Kolb under center, there are more red flags than a communist parade. Jackson has a tremendous ability to get yards after the catch, but shouldn’t see as many deep balls as he has in the past. While his yardage may dip a bit, a drop in touchdowns will be the main source of frustration for fantasy owners.

    Expect a similar season to the one Greg Jennings had in 2009 when his TDs went from nine to four, knocking him from fourth to 21st at his position.

Mike Wallace (ADP 73, WR26) - UNDERRATED

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    It may seem a bit incongruous of me, after all my long-ball bashing, to tout a receiver whose short career has been built on streaks and who owns a ridiculous 6.5:1 TD: catch ratio (compare that to Andre Johnson’s 11.2:1 and Reggie Wayne’s 10:1 in 2009). But, unlike DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace has yet to assume a starting role.

    With Santonio Holmes shipped off to the Jets, Wallace will start opposite Hines Ward. Despite this promotion, the 27th WR in fantasy last season is 26th this year.

    Playing in a system in which offensive coordinator Bruce Arians hopes to produce a 4,000 yard passer, Wallace has more upside than Hakeem Nicks, but is going 20 spots lower. While the big plays may not come as frequently as they did in 2009, his targets will skyrocket.

Mike Sims-Walker (ADP 53, WR18) - OVERRATED

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    The Jaguars have not produced a 1,000 yard receiver since Jimmy Smith, who averaged 1,117 yards per season in Jacksonville, and retired after the 2005 season.

    If Mike Sims-Walker hopes to break that streak, and become a fantasy celebrity, he’ll need to be a lot more consistent in 2010. Just glancing at his totals from 2009, Sims-Walker appears to be a star on the rise, but managers who owned him last season can attest that he often left you pulling your hair out as he regularly disappeared from games. Including a Week 5 benching in Seattle, Sims-Walker recorded less than five fantasy points in eight games last season.

    If you think you can do without your WR2 for half the season, feel free to drop an early-mid round pick on Sims-Walker.

Wes Welker (ADP 77, WR29) - UNDERRATED

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    The surprisingly quick recovery that Wes Welker has made from a torn ACL and MCL in Week 17 of last season has turned heads around both the NFL and fantasy circles. A low WR1 in standard leagues and a goldmine in PPR leagues, Welker’s recovery is being treated with skepticism by fantasy owners weary to roll the dice on a player whose game is heavily reliant on quick cuts.

    And for all the praise coming out of Foxborough, don’t expect the Patriots to rush Welker back prematurely. With budding star Julian Edelman waiting in the wings, delaying Welker’s return to the starting lineup may be the best thing for the team and fantasy owners.  Slowly easing him into the starting lineup would allow him to get back to full strength and prevent further injury.

    In the middle rounds when most owners are scratching their heads deciding which ho-hum WR is least distasteful, I won’t hesitate to snag Welker and leave him on my bench until he’s back midseason.

    Note: This strategy is an absolute steal in keeper leagues, but you may have to grab him a round earlier.

Hakeem Nicks (ADP 54, WR19) - OVERRATED

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    The axiom that fantasy football, like its real life counterpart, is about this season – not last season – is absolutely true. Every season, former studs become duds and previously unknowns explode into fantasy stardom.  Uncovering these gems before they become household names is every fantasy manager’s dream. Hakeem Nicks is not one of those players.

    The 28th WR in fantasy last year is priced at a premium in 2010 drafts on speculation, going ahead of players like Percy Harvin (ADP 58) who caught more balls than Nicks in 2009 while also contributing in the return game, and Pierre Garcon (ADP 61) who is starting for arguably the most consistent offense in NFL history.

    Like DeSean* Jackson, Nicks’ production is heavily dependent on the big play, with three of his six TDs coming on 50+ yard receptions. Nicks could eventually develop into a great deep threat and fill the void left by Plaxico Burress, but speculative owners are driving his price too high for the likely return.

Malcom Floyd (ADP 101, WR36) - UNDERRATED

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    If Vincent Jackson makes good on his threat to holdout through the entire 2010 season – and all reports are that he will – how does his replacement fall this far in drafts?

    Last year, as a fourth option behind Vincent Jackson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, Floyd posted modest but consistent numbers.

    Working as the WR1 all offseason, Floyd should be in for a vastly increased workload in an offense that will rely on the arm of Philip Rivers to setup the run for rookie Ryan Mathews.  

    If Jackson returns, Floyd’s value takes a bit of a dive, but even then Floyd’s status as WR1 will be safe for a time as Jackson serves his three game suspension.  

    Drafted immediately before Antonio Bryant (buried in a surprising talented depth chart in Cincinnati) and Lee Evans (buried in a disastrous Buffalo offense), the risk is well worth the potential reward for Floyd.