Evaluating the Fantasy Impact of Wide Receivers on New Teams

Antonio Brown figures to be Derek Carr's No. 1 target in Oakland

This offseason, several wide receivers changed names, which is normal in the NFL. However, some of the biggest names at the position were involved in these transactions, which surely got everyone's attention. For fantasy owners, the challenge is to gauge how the change of scenery will impact specific players. In the case of Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown, the expectation is they will remain the No. 1 options for their new teams. But for others, the picture may not be as clear.

 

In all cases, however, switching teams usually leads to some sort of impact on that player's fantasy value. It can be a good thing or it can be a detriment. Sometimes this won't be known until a few weeks or months into the season. But waiting is not a luxury fantasy owners have with drafts around the corner.

 

Note: Players below are listed in alphabetical order.

 

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Browns

It became clear that Beckham and the Giants were heading for a separation near the end of the 2018 season when Beckham sat out the last four games with a quad injury. He topped 1,000 receiving yards and had six touchdowns in 12 games.

 

Impact: In Cleveland, with Baker Mayfield, Beckham's arrow is pointing up. Mayfield is a better QB than Eli Manning has been over the past few years, and the Browns have more pass-catching weapons. This should help Beckham, as defenses cannot just focus on taking him out of the game. He's a solid WR1.

 

Antonio Brown, WR, Raiders

Something happened between Brown and the Steelers after Week 16 last season that caused Brown to skip out on an MRI of his knee and be deactivated for Week 17. In the 15 games he played, he had a career-high 15 TDs, although his receiving yardage was down a little.

 

Impact: By leaving Ben Roethlisberger and joining Derek Carr, Brown has seen his fantasy value take a hit. Carr isn't nearly as strong as Roethlisberger, and it's going to be tougher for Brown to mesh well with a new quarterback (Brown struggled to catch touchdowns when Big Ben had to miss a game). He's still being drafted as a low WR1, but not until the third round.

 

John Brown, WR, Bills

After four years in Arizona, Brown spent 2018 in Baltimore, where he had 715 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Aside from a breakout season in 2015, those numbers seem to be his norm. He's only 29 years old, and he is fast, so it is possible that Brown can become a fantasy option in deeper leagues.

 

Impact: Brown and Zay Jones will be the leading wide receivers in Buffalo. Josh Allen can certainly get Brown the ball, and he has the speed to excel, but it's hard to envision what this offense will look like. Robert Foster didn't start to excel until midseason last year, but Brown has easily passed him on the depth chart already. Reports from training camp show Brown as one of the most impressive players. He's currently being drafted low, but has potential to be a solid WR3.

 

Randall Cobb, WR, Cowboys

Even though Cobb will be only 29 at the start of the season, he has earned a reputation of being injury-prone. He dealt with hamstring issues over the past year and managed to play in only nine games in 2018, finishing with a disappointing 383 yards and two touchdowns. The 2014 season was the only campaign in which he had more than 1,000 yards and the only one with double-digit touchdowns.

 

Impact: Cobb will play the slot in Dallas, filling the void that Cole Beasley left. However, this offense revolves around Ezekiel Elliott. With Amari Cooper still in the picture and Michael Gallup stepping up, Cobb's fantasy value is low. As a slot receiver, he will have some value in PPR leagues, but his health is always a question as well.

 

Jamison Crowder, WR, Jets

Crowder’s ankle forced him to miss nearly half the 2018 season. However, in the nine games he played with Washington, he had 388 yards and two touchdowns. If those numbers were projected to a full season, his yardage would be about the same as the previous three years, but his touchdowns would be the second highest.

 

Impact: With the Jets, Crowder joins fellow wideouts Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. However, he also has to contend with a still-inexperienced Sam Darnold at quarterback and new arrival Le'Veon Bell transferring the focus to the running game. His fantasy value is low and his injury risk is high (he already had to leave the practice field with a foot injury, but was then cleared to return to play).

 

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Devin Funchess, WR, Colts

Funchess has been in the league for four years but has yet to make an impact on offense. In Carolina, the most yards he had in a season was 840 in 2017. While most of the pass catchers were negatively affected by Cam Newton's 2018 performance, Funchess had only 549 yards and four touchdowns. He had eight touchdowns in 2017.

 

Impact: In Indianapolis, Funchess gets to work with Andrew Luck. He slides into the No. 2 slot, opposite T.Y. Hilton. However, the Colts just drafted Parris Campbell, who can challenge Funchess for that role. Funchess is a WR4 as the Colts will also utilize their running backs in the passing game, taking targets away from receivers.

 

Adam Humphries, WR, Titans

Humphries' 2018 season was the most productive of his four years in Tampa Bay. He had 816 yards and five touchdowns (his previous high was two touchdowns). While his receptions and yardage totals were also his highest, he had a better receptions-per-target ratio in 2017. Humphries worked well with Jameis Winston, but he now heads to Tennessee to try to find a rhythm with Marcus Mariota.

 

Impact: Corey Davis is the No. 1 in Tennessee, and rookie A.J. Brown was drafted to likely be the No. 2. This doesn't leave a lot of room for Humphries in an offense that can barely support two wide receivers in terms of fantasy value. Humphries does play in the slot, but it is still going to be tough for him to find room for receptions in this crowded pass-catching corps. He's a late-round flier on draft day.

 

DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles

D-Jax will turn 33 this season and returns to the team where he had the most success of his career. He’s had five 1,000-yard seasons, three of which were in Philadelphia. His 2013 season was his best, with 82 receptions and nine touchdowns. In two years in Tampa Bay, he combined for just over 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns.

 

Impact: Alshon Jeffery will be the No. 1 WR for the Eagles with tight end Zach Ertz not far behind in the pecking order. But Jackson will factor into the passing offense. Carson Wentz can get Jackson the ball, and if he still has the speed, he can be a solid deep threat. The reports from training camp is that Wentz and Jackson are on the same page and that D-Jax hasn't missed a step. D-Jax has always been a boom-or-bust player, and this year he'll certainly have some monster games - it's just predicting when those will be that is the struggle.

 

Golden Tate, WR, Giants

Tate, who was traded to Philadelphia last year, had a rough season. However, he has had 1,000 yards receiving in three of the past five years. His touchdown rate has been low, with seven being his season high (back in 2012). In four of the past five years (the outlier being 2018), he has had at least 90 receptions.

 

Impact: The Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. and replaced him with Tate. While they clearly are not the same player, the team is catering to Eli Manning's strengths at this point. Manning can't get the ball downfield, and Tate will be the perfect target for short passes. Expect plenty of 9/50/0 games from him, which is just fine in PPR leagues. Keep following his possible suspension, however. He's currently facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy, although he's appealing it. Corey Coleman is out for the year (ACL) and Sterling Shephard suffered a thumb injury (but should be ok for the first week or so of the season). The Giants need Tate, and he will be an asset once he is back from his probable suspension.

 

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Patriots

Thomas will turn 32 at the end of this year and is coming off a torn Achilles tendon. The Patriots likely added him for depth and to see what the former stud wideout has left. In 2018, with Denver and Houston, he had 677 yards and five touchdowns. Back in Denver, he had a string of 1,000-yard seasons with double-digit touchdowns (2012-14). Thomas isn't the player he used to be. He's coming off injury, so it's tough to predict how much he's going to help the Patriots this season.

 

Impact: The Patriots also added Dontrelle Inman and rookie N'Keal Harry to the WR corps. Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett are the other wideouts. The offense seems to be lacking, but somehow Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will find a way to make it work. Thomas is currently on the PUP list with no clear timeline of when he's going to come off. He's worth a very late-round flier.

 

— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

 

(Top photo by Tony Gonzales/Oakland Raiders, courtesy of www.raiders.com)

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