Fantasy Football Today: WR draft guide; Ask FFT mailbag about rankings, how to draft from No. 1


So, Rhamondre Stevenson is the new must-have sleeper RB, right? The rookie rushed for 127 yards on 10 carries in his Patriots preseason debut with two touchdowns, including a 91-rush that showed that the big fella has more speed than his 4.64 40-yard time might make you think. He was physical and shifty at the same time, and certainly looked like the best player Thursday night for the Patriots against the WFT second- and third-stringers.

That’s the thing you have to keep in mind this weekend as the first preseason games kick off. You have to keep it in mind with Mac Jones, too. The Patriots rookie QB looked poised and completed 13 of 19 passes, but also did it against primarily backups. That’s a little different than having Chase Young shoving aside your left tackle and bearing down on your blind side

Of course, that’s not to say you can’t learn anything from the preseason. But it is to say we need to keep things in perspective, especially this week, where few starters will play. I said I wanted to see how Ben Roethlisberger looked in the Steelers new-look offense in yesterday’s newsletter, only for the veteran to sit out the game. That’ll happen! Stevenson certainly helped his fight for playing time with his performance, and another two like that in the final two warmups may see him start to push for a real role. But it’s still early. So, no, I’m not worried that we didn’t see Antonio Gibson on any of the five third downs the first-team played. Yet. 

We’ll have a rundown of everything noteworthy from this weekend’s preseason action right here for you Monday morning, so make sure you keep an eye out for that, as Jamey Eisenberg, Heath Cummings, Dave Richard and I will be reacting throughout the weekend to any news that comes up. 

In today’s newsletter, I’m going to recap our wide receiver preview week, with everything you need to know about how to approach the position for 2021, along with the latest news from around the NFL. Plus, I’ve got answers to your emails to close out the week — remember, if you have any questions, hit me up at Chri[email protected] with the subject line “Ask FFT” to get your questions included. 

And, just as a reminder, we’ve still got our Fantasy Football Today Draft-A-Thon auctions going on. We’re raising money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital all month leading up to our all-day event Sept. 1 on CBS Sports HQ and the FFT YouTube channel, and there’s a ton of great experiences for you to bid on. Like a spot in the 2022 Scott Fish Bowl where you’ll get to play against me — that one’s up to $261 right now, by the way, so thanks to everyone who has bid so far! — or a pre-draft Zoom call where you can hang out and chat with me about your strategy and anything else! You can head to the St Jude eBay page to see everything you can bid on, and we’ll be adding new stuff throughout the month. Remember, it’s for a great cause! 

A wide receiver may not be your highest-scoring player this season, but there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get more points from your wide receivers than any other position. You’ll probably end up starting one in your flex more often than not, after all. So, while you may not feel as much pressure to nail every pick like you do with running backs, you’ll need to know how to approach the position from every angle. 

Here’s everything the Fantasy Football Today team produced for our WR preview week:

Injuries, news and notes

  • Seahawks new offense coming into focus? As The Athletic’s Michael-Shawn Dugar notes, the Seahawks “have treated the details of Shane Waldron’s new offense like state secrets.” However, one thing that is starting to become clear is that this offense is going to get to the line a lot faster than it has been in the past, which makes sense. When Russell Wilson has talked about his preferences for the offense in the past, it’s often been interpreted as him asking them to call more passes — to “let Russ cook”, in the parlance of our times. However, what he’s really talked about is a desire to be in more hurry-up or up-tempo situations. It sounds like that’s going to be a focus in 2021. It may not be a panacea to everything that went wrong in the second-half, but it sounds intriguing.  
  • Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler won’t play in the preseason — The Chargers are adopting a, “If you’ve got nothing to prove to us, you don’t need to play in the preseason.” It’s a solid strategy, and these guys don’t have anything to prove us — though it does mean we won’t necessarily be able to gauge Mike Williams’ fit in the new offense until we see him next to Allen. That won’t come until Week 1, outside of training camp reports. 
  • Urban Meyer is still saying the Jaguars have an “open” competition for quarterback — And it’s not just coach-speak; it’s coach-action. Trevor Lawrence has been splitting first-team reps with Gardner Minshew so far in training camp. Meyer hasn’t even committed to which one will start the preseason opener against the Browns Saturday. This is almost certainly a motivational ploy, the kind Meyer was known for in college, but I would be stunned if Lawrence wasn’t starting in Week 1. 
  • The Titans want Darrynton Evans to be more than a third-down back — He’ll have that role, to be clear, likely coming into the game in most obvious passing situations. But they’ve also apparently talked about using him as a kickoff returner and as a receiver occasionally split out wide. There were comparisons made to Alvin Kamara during last year’s training camp, but Evans never really had a chance to get involved due to a hamstring injury during camp. Behind Derrick Henry, there won’t be much room for him, but if they trust him as more than just a passing specialist, he becomes a must-roster player in the event of a Henry injury. 
  • Mike Boone left practice with a quad injury — The Broncos have consistently been talking Boone and the role he is going to have in the offense up, but he had to be carted off the field after a particularly hard landing. We’ll know more about the extent of the injury in the coming days, but if he isn’t available, that could further concentrate the touches between Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, which will be necessary for Williams especially if he hopes to live up to his top-24 RB price. 
  • Justin Jackson has a “stranglehold” on the RB2 job for the Chargers — That comes from CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones, who spent time at Chargers camp and came away with the conclusion that the team views Jackson as the best complement to Ekeler. He should be on your late-round lists, because whoever that No. 2 guy is may just lead the team in carries. 
  • Michael Thomas is working to move past his issues with the Saints — He and coach Sean Payton apparently had a discussion in recent days where they put whatever weirdness that was there behind them. That’s good to hear, because I still think Thomas can be an elite Fantasy WR in this offense if healthy. Hopefully his recovery goes smoother than his relationship with the Saints honchos has over the last year. 
  • Rashod Bateman will undergo surgery on his core muscle injury — Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters he expected Bateman to be back in September, which is just specific enough to be frustrating. Allen Lazard had surgery for a core muscle injury last September and returned in late-November — a span of 56 days. 56 days from now is Oct. 8, so he’ll need to beat that timeline. And then he’ll need to get back up to speed to become Fantasy relevant. If he only misses three games, Bateman will be worth a late-round pick, but you’ll have to be patient, potentially even after he is able to return to action. 
  • Elijah Moore left practice with a quad injury — That’s not a great sign. He’s set for an MRI on the injury, and hopefully we’ll get some good news Friday. But I’ll be holding my breath until that happens, because I’ve drafted him in a lot of leagues so far. 
  • Left tackle is a “major problem” for the Colts — With Eric Fisher coming back from a torn Achilles, the Colts have been cycling through several options to find a fill-in until Fisher is healthy enough to play. That may not take long, but if he does have to miss time, it could get pretty ugly, given the apparent performance of the team’s options through camp. Remember, Carson Wentz really struggled in the face of pressure in 2020, and Indy’s starting left guard Quenton Nelson is also at risk of missing the start of the season. There’s a chance all are there by Week 1, but this is a non-position player thing you’ll want to keep an eye on. 
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Everything you need to know about WR

Ask FFT Mailbag

Want to get a question answered? Send them to [email protected] to be featured in a future newsletter!

Ayush: I was looking at the WR top-75 PPR rankings you put out Tuesday, and I wanted to ask you about rankings vs. draft philosophy. For example, I noticed you have Jarvis Landry ranked ahead of players like D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Mike Williams. I assume your rankings are based purely on statistical projections and the points that result from those, but I have done a fair number of mock drafts and have come out with zero shares of Landry and a bunch of Shenault simply because of upside.

Is this just an example of preferring certain players in a tier, or is this indicative of a strategy to draft higher upside players once you get outside the top 36 WRs? There is definitely value in rostering players that have high floors, but Fantasy Football is a weekly game and I don’t see Landry providing upside to be started over some of the players around him if he’s being drafted as a borderline flex or bench WR (this may also relate to the fact that I mostly do 0.5 PPR).

Chris: This is a great question, and I’m glad you asked, because it’s an important point. The rankings I sent in the newsletter this week are based on my projected point totals for the wide receiver position. I did that for two reasons: Because it’s the baseline from which I base my drafting decisions and because it’s the best way to split the various draft approaches you might take down the middle. 

Which is to say, I don’t necessarily just make my draft choices based on the best player available in my rankings. There’s more nuance to the decision-making process than that, as I’m sure you are well aware. Generally speaking, I am more likely to end up with Williams or Shenault than Landry, sure, but that’s because I’m usually prioritizing upside at that point in the draft when I choose wide receivers, and those guys have more of it. But the most-likely outcome is that Landry will outscore them, in my opinion, and there are times when having that kind of player makes sense. 

This is, of course, the problem with strict ordinal rankings. I know you guys sometimes just want us to tell you one player will be better than the other, but life is more nuanced than that. If I could come up with a way to accurately reflect how I actually view player rankings, it would be more like this: Landry would have a relatively narrow band of possible outcomes, say from around WR30 to WR45, while Williams’ might stretch from an upside as high as WR15 or so to something more like WR60. What kind of drafter you are, what kind of team you’re building, and what kind of league you are in can all influence which one you should prefer. 

That being said … I should have Williams ranked higher. You talked me into it!

Jared: In Jamey, Dave, and Heath’s top-200 rankings, is it based off who is projected to score more fantasy points, or a players positional overall value, or some sort of combo? 

Chris: You’ll get a different answer from everyone, but generally speaking, it’s a combination of both. If you just ranked every player by how many points they are projected to score, I would have a whopping 39 wide receivers and 25 running backs ranked before Mark Andrews, my No. 4 projected tight end. How you weigh each position depends on what approach you choose to take and how you prefer to draft, but last week on the podcast Heath went deep on the concept of value-based drafting and how to figure out how to apply those principles to your draft research. It’s a great listen. 

Bill: Somehow I drew the No. 1 pick in both of my leagues. One is 10 teams and the other is 12. I was thinking about Christian McCaffrey in one and Patrick Mahomes in the other. Or should I take the same player in both? 

Chris: I get the idea of wanting to diversify your portfolio, so to speak, but you don’t need to overcomplicate this. McCaffrey has demonstrated untouchable upside, and we saw it even in his three games last season. If you were picking seventh in both and you wanted to take two different players to avoid the risk of one injury hurting both teams, but when you have the chance to take McCaffrey, don’t overthink it. You’ll have the opportunity to spread your risk around starting in Round 2. 

Randall: I’m in two PPR 10 team Keeper leagues where we are allowed to keep 3 players from last year’s roster. Is there any general rule of thumb such as you should always keep a top-XX, QB, WR or RB?

Chris: It’s always going to depend on your specific leagues, which players you have, and how much they cost. But I will say, unless you’re in a 2QB/SuperFlex league, you should probably almost always prioritize WR and RB over QB, even if there’s a big difference in cost. I’ll also say, if you’re getting an elite RB or WR at any kind of discount and the alternatives are sub-elite players at better deals, you should prioritize the elite players. The other guys might be better values, but the elite players are irreplaceable at any price. 

Steve: I’m in a non-ppr keeper league that can keep two players. I’m keeping Alvin Kamara and had hoped to keep Darren Waller. If Waller’s injury is serious, do I keep A.J. Brown or J.K. Dobbins? I pick 12th since I won the league.

Chris: You’re on the right track with preferring Waller, and as long as he’s there or we get any kind of update on his status before your deadline, he should be the pick. For what it’s worth, we don’t actually know if Waller is even injured, we just know he hasn’t participated in practice. I’m operating under the assumption he’ll be there in Week 1 until I get some more concrete details, but if you don’t feel comfortable with that, Brown is a clear value over Dobbins, who doesn’t have elite upside in my eyes, while Brown does. 

Jeff: I have three scenarios for my keepers:

  • I can keep Travis Kelce for my first-round pick
  • Or A.J. Brown and Robert Woods for my third- and sixth-round picks
  • Or Brown and Austin Ekeler for my third- and fourth-round picks

Which of the three options sounds best?

Chris: As much as I love having Kelce on my team, he’s out of the discussion here. I would go with Brown and Ekeler, both of whom I view as elite players at their positions. Woods is a better value than Ekeler, so I get the hesitation — and, seeing as I have Woods as my No. 8 WR, I share it! — but I think you can look at it this way: There’s a chance you could get Woods with one of your other picks if you throw him back out there. If you throw Ekeler back, he might be a top-five pick if a lot of elite players are kept. You’ve got a better chance of ending up with all three of them if you keep Brown and Ekeler, so go that way. 


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