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Fantasy Football 2019: Wide Receiver Busts to Avoid

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2019

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green practices before an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)
Frank Victores/Associated Press

Now that the 2019 NFL offseason is officially underway, it's time for fantasy football enthusiasts to fully focus on their drafts. No matter which selection format you prefer—snake draft or auction draft—you want to be sure to get good value while not overpaying for players who won't consistently produce.

With wide receivers—perhaps more so than any other position—this can be a difficult challenge. Not only are receivers heavily dependent on their quarterbacks and the offensive systems they play in, their production can also be affected by the other pass-catchers on the roster.

Unlike starting running backs—who almost always see the bulk of the carries when healthy—even No. 1 receivers will sometimes cede targets to other pass-catchers when coverages and situations dictate. This isn't usually an issue for high-volume receivers who are the centerpieces of their passing attacks—think DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas—but even elite receivers have off weeks.

Kansas City Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill, for example, had four different games last year with fewer than 55 receiving yards.

With receivers, the trick isn't so much to identify those who will rack up points every single week. It's to identify those who are going to disappoint as often as they excite, and to avoid them.

With this in mind, here is a look at some high-profile fantasy receivers you may want to avoid in your fantasy draft.

        

Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders

Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown has been a fantasy mainstay and a justifiable early first-round pick for several years. In points per-per-reception (PPR) formats, he has often been considered a legitimate candidate for No. 1 overall. Part of the reason has been that Brown's production has largely been independent of his fellow pass-catchers. 

In 2017, running back Le'Veon Bell caught 85 passes. Brown still had 101 receptions, 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns. Last season saw the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster in the Steelers offense. Brown had a 1,297-yard, 15-touchdown campaign. The issue for Brown moving forward isn't one of talent or even his age (31) but of the system and circumstances he's facing.

Brown is no longer playing in the high-powered Pittsburgh offense or with future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. He's a member of the Oakland Raiders playing with a quarterback in Derek Carr who is merely above average at his best. 

The chemistry Brown had with Roethlisberger isn't there, and Brown himself hasn't been there for most of Raiders training camp. He has been absent after suffering frostbite on his feet following exposure in a cryotherapy machine. According to ESPN's Michele Steele, there is no timetable for his return:

Michele Steele @ESPNMichele

The Raiders have no timetable on Antonio Brown after he was found with extreme frostbite on his feet from cryotherapy. Wow. SalPal reporting just now on SportsCenter.

Obviously, a double foot injury is problematic for a wide receiver. There's no telling if or when Brown will be back on the field and at 100 percent. On top of that, he's missed valuable time in camp with Carr that could continue to affect his season even once he is healthy.

If you can grab Brown for a mid-level draft pick or a low auction cost, he's probably worth a flier for later in the season. He isn't worth drafting high, however. It could be months before he's 100 percent healthy and up to speed in his new offense, and by then, you could already be out of fantasy playoff contention.

        

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green should be viewed similarly to Brown. He's probably worth a low-cost flier, but he shouldn't be expected to make an early-season impact.

Like Brown, Green is dealing with an injury that could sideline him early in the season. He suffered an ankle injury at the beginning of Bengals camp, underwent surgery, and is now expected to miss regular-season games.

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Another update on #Bengals WR AJ Green: Following surgery, based on what they found cleaning out the ankle, he’s now expected to miss a few games, I’m told. Not ideal.

Also like Brown, Green is learning a new offense—one brought to Cincinnati by new head coach Zac Taylor. This makes the time he has missed during training camp all the more problematic.

What also has to be considered with Green is the fact that he isn't the same dominant receiver he once was. Unlike Brown, who continues to thrive when healthy, Green has seen a dip in production in recent years. His 2018 season was cut short due to injury, but when healthy in 2017, Green barely topped the 1,000-yard mark.

Last season—admittedly largely due to injury—Green wasn't even the most productive receiver on his own team. Tyler Boyd racked up 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games. That's nearly identical to what Green produced in 2017 (1,078 yards, eight TDs) in a full 16-game slate.

Again, Green can be a valuable fantasy option later in the season, but he should be viewed as a draft-and-stash target, not as someone who is going to carry your team early and often.

        

Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns

Gail Burton/Associated Press

Possession receiver extraordinaire Jarvis Landry is going to play a valuable role for the Cleveland Browns this season. He isn't as likely, however, to be a game-breaker for your fantasy team. While he still has tremendous value in PPR formats, he isn't a player you want to target early.

The days of Landry racking up triple-digit receptions are probably over. As the Browns' No. 1 receiver last year, he hauled in 81 passes for 976 yards and four touchdowns. Those are fine numbers, but they placed him 13th among receivers in receptions and 18th in receiving yards for 2018.

Landry won't be the No. 1 receiver this year either, now that Cleveland has added Odell Beckham Jr. to the equation. He's also likely to lose targets to No. 3 wideout and Baker Mayfield favorite Rashad Higgins.

"Thus far, Higgins, who has an undeniable chemistry with Mayfield, has been the exclusive third receiver with the first-team offense in camp and seems to have a firm grip on that job," Nathan Zegura of the team's official website wrote during training camp.

Cleveland's trade of Duke Johnson to the Houston Texans does help Landry's value a bit. The receiving back was often utilized as an outlet for Mayfield, a role Landry may fill more frequently. However, Landry is still going to share that role with Higgins and tight end David Njoku.

Feel free to target Landry in the middle rounds as your WR3 or as a high-end FLEX option. Just don't expect him to be the PPR monster he was a couple of seasons ago or to carry your fantasy team weekly.

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