The NFL season officially begins tonight! With that in mind, we give our takes on some of the more high risk/high reward wide receivers being drafted and see if we are buying or selling them on certain criteria.
A special thanks to Buddy Carlson for co-authoring the article.
1) Tyreek Hill as a Top-10 WR
Buddy: Last year, Tyreek Hill had what we would call a “breakout” year. He amassed 75 receptions for 1,183 yards and 7 receiving TDs, which allowed him to become the 8th overall scoring receiver in standard PPR leagues. He also showcased his blinding speed by pacing the league for nine catches of over 40+ yards. So why are we debating whether he can be a top-10 option? The answer is that nobody knows what to expect from second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He’s only started one NFL game, and has struggled at times with his decision making during the preseason. What he does have though, is one of the strongest throwing arms in the league, as evidenced by his 69-yard Bomb over triple coverage to Tyreek Hill for a touchdown earlier this preseason. While this is obviously a small sample size, it certainly gives us a taste of potential things to come. Tyreek Hill will also have help from his supporting cast in second year RB Kareem Hunt, TE Travis Kelce, and newly acquired WR Sammy Watkins. With this talent surrounding Hill opposing defenses will have a hard time picking which weapon to focus on each week, potentially freeing up Hill to capitalize on more one-on-one situations. in conclusion, I’m definitely buying Tyreek Hill’s stock as a top ten receiver. With Mahomes’ huge arm and the talent around him, I think Tyreek will have an even better year than last year.
Ryan: Sell, sell, and sell again. I don’t see a bigger regression candidate in football than Hill. Not only will he be getting passes from a new quarterback who has little experience, but the Chiefs added another big play guy in Sammy Watkins. While the addition of Watkins may open up the field a little bit, I still think defenses will focus on Hill and not Watkins. Another reason for regression is his touchdown pace is unsustainable in my opinion. He had only four red zone targets all season last year. No that is not a typo- FOUR! His shortest TD from last season was from 30 yards out. In a nutshell, if the same big plays don’t happen again he’s in for some major regression this coming year. The safe play here is Hill as your number two guy in the 15-25 range, not as a top 10 receiver.
2) Brandin Cooks Being the Top Receiver on the Rams
Buddy: Playing for his third team in as many years Brandin Cooks now finds himself in last years highest scoring offense with the Los Angeles Rams. Obviously one would think adding a receiver of Cooks’ caliber would rearrange the pecking order of the rams receiving corps, but that might not be the case given the way the Rams use their receivers. Essentially Cooks is going to fill the Sammy Watkins role, which is basically the field stretcher of the Rams offense. Comparatively, last year Watkins only had 39 receptions, while the Rams other two starting receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp had 56 and 62 respectively. While many would probably argue that Cooks is better than Watkins, it’s hard to see a much different outcome for Cooks. This offense is obviously run through Todd Gurley, who commands a very healthy number of touches per game. Last year alone, Gurley had 64 receptions, which is one less then Cooks had last year with the Patriots. I’m selling Cooks as the team’s number one receiver. After all that’s said and done I think Cooks will be either the third or fourth option in targets given the likely role that he’ll have.
Ryan: I’m going to start with that I’m very down on Brandin Cooks in general. It more or less comes down to value as you have to use a 4-5 round pick to acquire his services while there’s others in that range I feel have a higher/safer ceiling. However, I’m going to buy Cooks as the number one receiver on the Rams this year. My reasoning is that I just don’t see anyway a team trades for a guy giving up what they did (first round pick), and paying him the amount of money they did (5-year, $81 million with $50 million guaranteed), to not have him be a focal point of the offense. Even though he’s been inconsistent week to week, he’s finished between WR 10-15 the last three years which is actually pretty impressive. While I see Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp finishing very close to Cooks, I think by season’s end Cooks will have just squeaked out the WR1 for the Rams.
3) Josh Gordon Finishing as a Top-20 WR
Buddy: Josh Gordon has been an enigma since he entered the league in 2012. His off the field issues have greatly overshadowed his enormous potential making Gordon one of the most polarizing players in quite some time. While there is still worry around the league about where Gordon’s head is at, he seems to be taking a serious approach to his health after leaving the team earlier this preseason to follow his treatment plan. Last year, Gordon ranked as the number 21st receiver during the 5-week stretch that he played which is an encouraging sign given all the time he missed from 2014-16. He also has a current ADP of 21 among wide receivers this year, which at least puts him in the discussion for a top-20 campaign. The Browns have also bolstered the quarterback position by trading for former Bills QB Tyrod Taylor and taking Baker Mayfield with the number one overall selection. Josh Gordon is the most high risk/high reward pick one could probably make this year. If he continues to keep his head on straight and with his improved quarterback situation, there’s no reason to think Gordon won’t return to his former elite self. I’m definitely buying Gordon as a top-20 receiver, maybe even a fringe top-10.
Ryan: While the talent is there, I just can’t seem to get behind Gordon. He’s played in a total of 10 games the last four seasons including missing the entire seasons in 2015 and 2016. He’s also playing with a new quarterback and in an offense that has a lot more playmakers than when he had his career year in 2013. Another point to add is I don’t think he’ll even be the number one receiver on his own team, Jarvis Landry anyone? With that in mind, I just don’t see this offense being high powered enough to support two top-20 options on the outside. He’ll also be competing with David Njoku who’s been a red zone beast for the Browns and is a popular break out candidate. All of this leads me to sell Gordon as a top-20 receiver this year. There are far better and safer options in the 4th round.