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Early Round Fantasy Receivers and the Road to WR1 (Rounds 3-5)

doug baldwin
Photo Credit: Anthony Quintano

After doing many mock drafts, a rough spot is knowing which early round receivers to target. All major sites like ESPN and Yahoo have had mock and live drafts up for a while, which has helped me get lots of practice in. A lot of experts have published their own rankings (FlurrySports Rankings), sleepers, busts, and breakouts, which along with mock drafts have helped us already perfect our drafting strategies. However, after a lot of mock drafts, I’ve noticed that rounds three, four, and five have been tough for me.

It’s important to understand what players you’ll be looking for in rounds three and four. Now ideally, the goal is to take the best player available of either running back or wide receiver. Even though there are other positions like quarterback and tight end, it isn’t recommended that you draft them this high. With the abundance of running back committees in the league, I strongly recommended that you grab a bellcow back in either the first or second round. If this is how your first two rounds go, then wide receiver is definitely a position to look at in rounds three or four.

Fortunately, there are a lot of talented wide receivers in these two rounds, the downside is that everyone has some issue or risk involved. Whether there is concern regarding injury history, quarterback play, or added competition at the position from last season, every receiver listed below has something working against them to make them a WR1. Now some of these receivers may overcome their obstacles, but it’s not always easy to predict.  

Below I have a chart of all receivers going in rounds three through five of most mock drafts. I have organized the receivers into rankings based on ADP, and my recommended rankings for standard and PPR scoring systems. I will dive into the rankings, explain why players are ranked differently under certain formats, and why some players are ranked far differently from their ADP.

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Standard Scoring

Alshon Jeffery
Credit: Lori M. Nichols/

For those who need a refresher, standard scoring is a very basic scoring system for fantasy football. Every ten yards rushing and receiving is one point. This scoring system generally favors running backs more than wide receivers, simply because backs get more touches. Since this is the case, I usually try to get two bell cow backs to carry my team. However, if there is too much value in a WR1 that has fallen in the draft, I’ll snatch him up. This will cause you to look to draft receivers in rounds three and four to balance your roster.

It’s important to first understand what kind of receivers you’re looking for in standard leagues. Since you don’t get any points per reception, it’s important to look for big play receivers and red zone threats. This would theoretically move receivers like Alshon Jeffery, Demaryius Thomas, and Brandin Cooks up this list. The reason that they aren’t higher up this list isn’t because of their play styles, but their injury histories and situations.

After two seasons of playing 16 games, 85+ catches, and over 1,100 yards, Jeffery has dealt with various injuries the last two seasons. Jeffery has only played 21 games over the last two seasons, and hasn’t totaled over 850 yards in either season. Demaryius Thomas had a solid year with 90 catches and almost 1,100 yards, but quarterback is still an area of concern. Brandin Cooks hasn’t been able to prove himself outside of dome stadiums, and is now on a team where they get the ball out quick. Cooks also has a ton of competition with all of the pass catchers in this Patriot offense. Even though all of these receivers have the ideal play style to target in standard scoring, be wary of their concerns and what could prevent them from hitting WR1 numbers.

Now since you don’t get points per reception in standard leagues, many receivers lose their appeal. Receivers that are good for close to 100 receptions each season, but don’t produce many touchdowns, are not the most ideal to draft in standard leagues. Examples of these receivers are Jarvis Landry, Julian Edelman, Golden Tate, and Emmanuel Sanders. These are players to avoid unless they fall far down your draft board.

PPR Scoring

Jarvis Landry
Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The difference between PPR scoring and Standard scoring is that in PPR formats, players get an additional point for each reception. If a receiver catches five passes for 50 yards, he gets 10 fantasy points in PPR formats. For the same performance, he’ll earn only five in Standard formats. This scoring system changes not only the importance of wide receivers and pass-catching running backs on draft day, but also the kind of receiver you’re drafting.

Even though big play receivers are huge in standard formats, they aren’t as valuable here in PPR scoring. It’s the receivers who have a high number of receptions that jump up in value. Receivers that catch 100 passes a season award you 100 free points in this format. This increases the value of players like Jarvis Landry, Julian Edelman, Golden Tate, and Emmanuel Sanders. It also helps with receivers Doug Baldwin and DeAndre Hopkins, who both catch touchdowns and catch a lot of passes.

The major concern with the PPR receivers listed above is that they aren’t great touchdown producers. This gives them a high floor each week, but not a consistent high ceiling. However, this value is still very important in your weekly matchup. Being able to pencil in 15 fantasy points a week from Landry or Edelman is definitely useful.

This format hurts big play receivers that only catch three or four passes a game, but they are deep passes. This includes receivers like Brandin Cooks and Allen Robinson. Brandin Cooks could be used as a big play threat and an over the middle hybrid under Bill Belichick. However, we won’t know more about this until the start of the season. Allen Robinson has had most of his success when the Jaguars are behind, but their additions on defense, the new coach, and the drafting of Leonard Fournette might limit his potential. These are receivers to be cautious of in PPR formats.

One Final Note

To sum everything up, I just wanted to list out the concerns for each receiver going in rounds three through five. Take this information into consideration as you like, but these are all concerns that experts see in these players.

Amari Cooper
Credit: Getty Images

Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders

Only totaled 21 combined fantasy points in standard scoring over his last four games. Cooper is the least of our worries, and should have a big year.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Quarterback will be another issue, but it can’t get much worse than Brock Osweiler. The Texans also have one of the most complex route trees for receivers, which can confuse both the receiver and the quarterback.

Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks

Definitely was inconsistent week in and week out, which can be attributed to Russell Wilson’s injury. Seahawks are also always a second half team, so he should be an interesting buy low candidate at some point.

Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins

Great PPR receiver, but not a great touchdown producer.

Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos

There is still a tough quarterback battle between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. These receivers are so good that they will still produce, especially if the run game struggles again.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

The lack of touchdowns and the number of weapons in the offense is concerning, but he’s still a favorite of Tom Brady.

Brandin Cooks, New England Patriots

An elite receiver, but we’re not sure how he’ll be used by Belichick. High ceiling but a fairly low floor.

Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

Lack of touchdown production, but with Anquan Boldin gone, this should go up. Tate also has a really tough schedule early on, so he might be a great buy low candidate.

Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders

Touchdown count might come down a bit, but no big concerns other than not being the WR1 in the Oakland offense.

Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles

Even though Jeffery could be huge for Carson Wentz and this pass-heavy offense, he has only played 21 games over the last two seasons, so injury is the biggest concern.

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

Allen absolutely has WR1 talent, but he’s only played half a season over the last two years.

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars 

Robinson gets most of his fantasy points when Jacksonville is losing. Their additions to defense, the new coach, and the drafting of Leonard Fournette should hurt his value.

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