Week 1 in the NFL was filled with dominant performances from wide receivers, as 12 difference receivers scored over 20 fantasy points, including three over 30 and Sammy Watkins setting the pace with a ridiculous 42-point effort.
Teams continue to become more efficient in their approach to throwing the ball, which means high-scoring outbursts like we saw in Week 1 may become more common.
Hopefully, we can identify a few of those outbursts in this wide receiver breakdown.
Receivers to Build Around
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (£8,500) — The New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams met twice last season — a 45-35 Saints victory in the regular season, followed by the controversial 26-23 Rams win in the NFC Championship Game. The first game featured 80 total points and 970 yards of offence, proving these two teams have shootout potential.
If this turns into a back-and-forth game, expect Thomas to be the focal point of the Saints’ offence. In last year’s regular-season meeting, he caught 12 of 15 targets for 211 yards and a touchdown. Thomas lighting up the Rams secondary wasn’t a fluke, either — they allowed seven 20-fantasy-point games to wide receivers in 2018, tied for the second-most in the league.
Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys (£7,800) — There’s some risk in playing Cooper because this game could turn into a blowout, but his upside makes him worth the gamble. In his one game against Washington in 2018, Cooper went off with eight receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns. In Week 1 against Washington, DeSean Jackson (31.4 points) and Alshon Jeffery (19.6 points) each had strong games. Targeting receivers facing the Redskins’ secondary could prove to be a profitable strategy this season.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (£7,600) — Hilton didn’t appear to miss Andrew Luck in Week 1, as he caught eight of his nine targets, including two touchdowns, from Jacoby Brissett. In this week’s matchup against the Tennessee Titans, Hilton will frequently draw coverage from Adoree’ Jackson, whom he abused in their Week 11 matchup last season
The Titans used Adoree Jackson to shadow T.Y. Hilton. Jackson was on Hilton 78% of his routes. Hilton caught all 8 of his targets for 146 yards and 2 TDs against Jackson.
— Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe) November 19, 2018
To be fair, Jackson contributed to Tennessee holding Hilton to two receptions for 61 yards in Week 17, but clearly Hilton has the potential to dominate this matchup. According to Sports Info Solutions, Jackson allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per coverage snap in 2018 (out of 90 qualifying players).
John Brown, Buffalo Bills (£6,300) — Brown is coming off a big game (7 receptions, 123 yards and a touchdown) against the New York Jets, and another dominant performance is possible against a pitiful New York Giants secondary. Brown is the primary deep threat in Buffalo’s offence and was on the receiving end of three targets of 20 or more yards in Week 1. The Jets’ secondary limited him to one catch on those deep balls (a 38-yard touchdown), but the Giants are unlikely to be so lucky. Last week, Dak Prescott was 5-6 for 155 yards and three touchdowns on throws of 20 or more yards against the G-Men, according to Sports Info Solutions.
D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks (£6,100) — Metcalf was the Seattle Seahawks’ primary deep threat in Week 1, seeing three targets at 20 or more yards downfield. Sunday’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers is particularly enticing because Metcalf will frequently be lining up across from cornerback Steven Nelson. In 2018 with the Kansas City Chiefs, Nelson allowed a league-high 11 receptions when targeted 20 or more yards downfield, according to Sports Info Solutions. Additionally, Nelson ranked dead last with a deserved catch rate allowed of 80 per cent when in coverage against the deep ball.
Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars (£5,900) — In Week 1, five of Westbrook’s six targets, including his touchdown, came while lined up in the slot, according to Sports Info Solutions. On Sunday, he draws a Houston secondary whose Week 1 starting slot cornerback, Aaron Colvin, was so dreadful he was released following the game. Keion Crossen will likely replace Colvin this week, but if he couldn’t beat out Colvin in training camp, he’s unlikely to be a substantial upgrade.
Demarcus Robinson, Kansas City Chiefs (£5,200) — Following the news that Tyreek Hill will miss four to six weeks due to injury, there’s been a lot of speculation this could be rookie Mecole Hardman’s time to shine. There’s little doubt Hardman will see an increase in his workload, but Robinson may actually be the receiver to see the most significant fantasy boost.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Hill led the NFL with 42 targets on throws 20 or more yards downfield in 2018 (31 per cent of his total targets). While Robinson finished sixth on the team in targets a season ago, he was the only other wide receiver the Kansas City Chiefs appeared to trust downfield. Robinson finished second among Chiefs wide receivers with seven targets of 20 or more yards, 21 per cent of his total workload. Meanwhile, Hardman struggled on the deep ball at Georgia, finishing the 2018 season with almost as many drops (four) as receptions (five) on deep throws. Here’s a comparison of Robinson and Hardman on deep-ball targets in 2018, via Sports Info Solutions.
Hardman is also cheap (£4,700), so you can still take a flier on him — just don’t expect him to step right into Hill’s role as the consistent downfield threat.
Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills (£5,000) — Beasley finished second on the team with nine targets in Week 1, but the New York Jets held him to just 40 yards and kept him out of the end zone. With that same workload against the Giants, however, Beasley could make a fantasy impact. According to Sports Info Solutions, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was 8-11 for 132 yards and a touchdown throwing to the slot in Week 1. That follows a trend from last season — when the Giants allowed the second-most yards per attempt (9.4) to slot receivers. Beasley has first-hand knowledge of this weakness in New York’s secondary, having hauled in six receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown versus them in Week 17 last year as a member of the Cowboys.
Receivers to Avoid
Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (£8,200) — Adams turned in a dud against the Chicago Bears in Week 1, catching just four passes for 36 yards. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have an ideal matchup for a bounce-back game this weekend, as the Minnesota Vikings have always played him well. Adams has never eclipsed the 100-yard mark against Minnesota and has salvaged a few decent fantasy outings due only to reaching the end zone. Here’s a look at his most recent games against the Vikes.
Most of those performances are perfectly fine results, but you’ll be hoping for more from the third-highest priced receiver on the main slate. Consider Adams for cash games, but in tournaments, you can find higher ceilings at cheaper prices.
Will Fuller, Houston Texans (£6,100) — With Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey likely to shadow DeAndre Hopkins, Fuller will probably draw consistent coverage from A.J. Bouye. In most defences, Bouye could be the number-one cornerback, which makes him a bad matchup for most number-two receivers playing against Jacksonville. According to Sports Info Solutions, Bouye allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per target among cornerbacks in 2018.