We’re in the midst of Training Camp Season. With about a month before the regular season begins, these practices, combined with pre-season games, will help determine the depth chart heading into the regular season. Over the next four pieces, I’ll be looking at a few battles at QB, RB, WR, and TE, considering the competitors, the situation, and offering a prediction. Today, I continue with wide receivers, looking at four competitions that could impact the 2021 NFL season.
- Tyrell Williams: 64 targets, 42 receptions, 641 yards, 6 TDs (2019 with the Las Vegas Raiders)
- Breshad Perriman: 60 targets, 30 receptions, 505 yards, 3 TDs (2020 with the New York Jets)
- Quintez Cephus: 35 targets, 20 receptions, 349 yards, 2 TDs (2020 with the Detroit Lions)
- Amon-Ra St. Brown: 178 receptions, 2,278 yards, 16 TDs (Three seasons at USC)
Situation: I have to be honest; this post features four different competitions that are a little dicey for fantasy purposes. All off-season, we’ve known it was going to be rough for Detroit. Going into 2020, the team had Matthew Stafford at quarterback and a receiving corps led by Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. Now, all three of those guys are in different spots. The team has a great tight end in T.J. Hockenson and a couple of good pass-catching backs in D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. But this is the core four at wide receiver for new quarterback Jared Goff. In addition to struggles to stay healthy (Williams is fresh off missing all of 2020 and is already banged up), it’s a question of who rises to the top in this group.
Prediction: Williams has shown flashes with both the Raiders and Chargers but never risen above the level of WR4. Perriman’s best season arguably came in 2019 with the Buccaneers when he filled in for an injured Mike Evans. Those are the veterans. Meanwhile, the team returns last year’s Day 3 pick Cephus and this year’s Day 3 pick in St. Brown. I thought St. Brown was a steal and felt like he could end up being the top finisher among this group. Still, I’d be surprised if any receiver on Detroit cracks the Top 60. St. Brown is the one I like in dynasty, but I’m not set any of these four as a stable weekly option.
- TY Hilton: 93 targets, 56 receptions, 762 yards, 5 TDs (2020 with the Indianapolis Colts)
- Michael Pittman: 61 targets, 40 receptions, 503 yards, 1 TD (13 games in 2020 with the Indianapolis Colts)
- Parris Campbell: 9 targets, 6 receptions, 71 yards (1 game in 2020 with the Indianapolis Colts)
- Zach Pascal: 71 targets, 44 receptions, 629 yards, 5 TDs (2020 with the Indianapolis Colts)
Situation: For the Colts, it’s not about new receivers. In fact, all four of these guys were on the team in 2020. The team has a veteran (Hilton), a journeyman (Pascal), and a couple of young players (Campbell and Pittman) drafted the past few seasons. The new addition is Carson Wentz, traded from the Eagles. Of course, Wentz is injured and may not be available to start the season. Health has also been a challenge with this receiving group. Pittman was taken out of USC in the 2020 NFL Draft to bolster the receiver group but was limited to 13 games and eight starts. Campbell was snagged out of Ohio State in the 2019 Draft, but he’s only appeared in nine games over two seasons. Can this group stay healthy? If they do, who rises to the top?
Drafters seem confused about where the upside lies as well. Hilton, the veteran, is going as WR58. Pittman goes as WR47 while Campbell goes as WR78. Pascal, meanwhile, has been the guy there to fill the holes every time there’s a need.
Prediction: Pittman carries the highest ADP, but I think he’s the best bet for 2021 and in dynasty. I like Pittman to land between WR36 and WR45, slightly beating his ADP at least for this year. I think he has the most upside, especially as it might well be Hilton’s last year. Hilton feels like a better play in Best Ball than any other format in 2021. The wild card is Campbell. He was featured in the offense in his one game last season, but it’s a different quarterback in 2021. It was also too small a sample size. Still, if he stays healthy, I feel like he’s a steal at his current ADP.
Las Vegas Raiders
- John Brown: 52 targets, 33 receptions, 458 yards, 2 TDs (9 games in 2020 with the Buffalo Bills)
- Henry Ruggs III: 43 targets, 26 receptions, 452 yards, 2 TDs (13 games in 2020 with the Las Vegas Raiders)
- Bryan Edwards: 15 targets, 11 receptions, 193 yards, 1 TD (13 games in 2020 with the Las Vegas Raiders)
Situation: I know some are going to look at this list and ask about Hunter Renfrow. I realize he’s still on the team, but I don’t see him as the top receiver. He’s not someone I believe in long-term, so I chose to focus on the team’s free-agent signing (Brown) and two young receivers (Ruggs and Edwards). Last year the Raiders focused on improving the receiving corps, drafting Ruggs in the First Round and Edwards in the Third Round. Instead, it was journeyman Nelson Agholor who finished at the team’s best wide receiver. The Raiders’ pass offense still flows through all-world tight end Darren Waller, but there is room and a need for some receivers to step up. The team has Ruggs and Edwards back for year two, with veteran Brown coming over from the Bills. But who is the best bet?
The question really comes down to the young players. Edwards didn’t get on the field much, while Ruggs seemed to be a one-trick pony. Can one or both of them establish themselves with a year under their belt, a full off-season, and plenty of opportunity? Fantasy players and Raiders’ Head Coach Jon Gruden are certainly hoping that will be the case.
Prediction: I don’t believe Ruggs will ever be a No. 1 receiver. He’s likely to take a step forward, but I don’t think he’s The Guy. In dynasty, I’m still not ready to quit Edwards. I liked his selection last year, but it didn’t really materialize. Gruden has raved about Edwards in camp this year, so hopefully, that translates into a more meaningful role. If not, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brown end up as the team’s top-scoring wide receiver. I also suspect the Raiders will be hard-pressed to have a WR crack the Top 50 in 2021.
New Orleans Saints
- Tre’Quan Smith: 50 targets, 34 receptions, 448 yards 4 TDs (14 games in 2020 with the New Orleans Saints)
- Deonte Harris: 25 targets, 20 receptions, 186 yards, 1 TD (9 games in 2020 with the New Orleans Saints)
- Marquez Callaway: 27 targets, 21 receptions, 213 yards (11 games in 2020 with the New Orleans Saints)
Situation: Life without Drew Brees was always going to be rough. But things got even rougher for the Saints when it came to options at receiver. Veteran Emmanuel Sanders, who led the team in 2020, left in free agency and signed with the Buffalo Bills. Then star Michael Thomas, who struggled with injuries in 2020, had ankle surgery in June, meaning he’ll miss the first few months of the 2021 season. That left little in the way of depth for either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill. While the team converted running back Ty Montgomery back to receiver and signed veteran Chris Hogan, the three mentioned above are the most likely options to lead the team in receiving. With Harris facing a potential suspension, things could be even trickier for the Saints.
Smith was a Third-Round pick who is entering his fourth season. This year was always going to be a chance to step up but he may now face even greater pressure, with his numbers in 2020 serving as the best of his career. Still, aside from Hogan, he’s arguably the most experienced player in the receiver room until Thomas returns.
Prediction: Smith and Callaway will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting for the Saints, likely until November. I liked Smith to take a step forward this year, and I think he’ll end up as the top-scoring receiver for the Saints in 2021, though Thomas could well be the best weekly value in the latter part of the season. I suspect Smith ends in the WR4 range, while Callaway has some good moments and ends up as a WR6/7.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, part of the Campus2Canton Network.