Wide receiver was a popular position as soon as the non-tampering period of NFL free agency got started. Much of the attention and buzz centered around two of the top targets on the market — Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins. They weren’t the only ones who have found new homes or will because of additional moves (Jordy Nelson being released by Green Bay on Tuesday for example), but they were the two everyone was waiting to see where they landed.
In the case of Robinson and Watkins, both are coming off of rocky 2017 seasons (for different reasons) and both have well-documented injury histories. However, both also are set to be paid handsomely by their new teams as they are expected to step into significant roles right away. And the same could be true for fantasy purposes as well.
Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
Arguably the best wide receiver available in free agency, Robinson reportedly agreed to a three-year, $42 million deal with Chicago. It was no secret that the Bears desperately needed to address the position as the team had to give second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky some weapons to throw to. If healthy, Robinson certainly fits the bill, but he’s coming off of a torn ACL. He should be ready for the start of this season considering the injury happened in Week 1 last year.
In 2015, Robinson was one of the most productive wide receivers in the league after recording 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. His numbers dipped in 2016 to 73, 883 and six but plenty of people point to the inconsistent play of quarterback Blake Bortles as a reason for that. While fantasy owners and certainly Bears fans would love to see Robinson replicate his 2015 numbers, even coming close to his production two seasons ago would represent an upgrade for Chicago’s passing game.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Similar to Robinson, Watkins has reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with the Chiefs for $48 million ($30 million guaranteed). Unlike Robinson, Watkins will be joining a Kansas City roster that already boasts Pro Bowl-caliber pass catchers in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. But the Chiefs’ offense is expected to put a little more emphasis on the passing game now that second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes is set to replace Alex Smith, who was traded to Washington. Mahomes has a much stronger arm than Smith and appears to be a better fit for Watkins’ skill set as a receiver. Watkins hasn’t had more than nine touchdowns in a season and he’s only played all 16 games just once. But if he can stay healthy, Watkins should be in a position to put up decent numbers with his new team.
Early Fantasy Outlook for 2018
In terms of fantasy value, Robinson appears to be the clear leader for 2018. Both receivers will be dealing with inexperienced quarterbacks, but Robinson has less competition for targets compared to Watkins. In Kansas City, Watkins has to battle a trio of Pro Bowlers in Hill, Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt for looks. However, in Chicago, Robinson’s competition consists of Cameron Meredith and Kevin White, both of whom are returning from serious injuries, as well as new additions Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton. Even though Robinson is coming back him his own injury, he will be the most talented pass catcher on the Bears’ roster. Both Robinson and Watkins will be 25 at the start of the season, and assuming both can stay healthy, Robinson will be a high WR2 and Watkins will be a WR3. The knocks against Watkins are his teammates, a first-year starter at quarterback, and his injury history.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.