Preseason - 2013 Fantasy WR Handcuffs: A Viable Strategy? Part Two
In Part 1 of this series, you may have noticed that all the best receivers were mentioned. My list was sorted by average draft position and will continue in order through Parts 2 and 3. As one might expect, the Top 10 receivers in the game are all in very favorable offenses with good or better quarterbacks. Therefore, when we move further down the list, the situations begin to become less favorable and the handcuff WRs aren't quite as desirable.
Here's my problem with DeAndre "Nuk" Hopkins. Although he is very good, he wasn't even the best wide receiver at Clemson (shout-out to Sammy Watkins). That said, Hopkins is trending up in fantasy drafts as the shining, shimmering promise of a rookie has taken hold. To his credit, he had a monster senior season, catching 82 balls for 1,405 yards and 18 TDs. Nuk has seen rave reviews from Houston's coaching staff and let's not forget, having Andre Johnson lined up on the opposite side should help tremendously. Hopkins is the clear favorite to take over the No. 2 WR spot in Houston. After two down years dealing with injuries, Johnson picked up right where he left off in 2012. If you disregard a small drop in his touchdown production, Johnson's numbers were on par with his career highs back in 2008 and 2009. Johnson is an incredible value pick since he's typically the ninth or tenth WR coming off the board.
If Hakeem Nicks could promise the fantasy community that he will play 16 games, I might prefer him over Victor Cruz. Unfortunately, Nicks has never played a full season, while Cruz hasn't missed a game over his two seasons. Both of these guys need each other to play to their full potential. With Nicks dinged up for most of the year and unable to play to his full potential, defenses clamped down on Cruz (illustrated by his yards per reception average plummeting from 18.7 to 12.7 in 2012). Cruz still had a very good year; however neither player was able to replicate their previous success. This is where Rueben Randle could become a fantasy commodity. If at any point either Nicks or Cruz is forced out of the lineup, Randle has the height, length and speed to challenge defenses. He played well when given limited snaps (six catches for 82 yards in Week 5 & four catches for 58 yards and two TDs in Week 17). Grab Randle around the 13th round and stash him on the bench.
This is a sneaky one because each of the players involved intersects in an interesting way. Vincent Jackson really overachieved in his first year with Tampa. Everyone knew he was an excellent downfield threat, but he made a ton of big plays and finished the year as fantasy's sixth-best WR. Mike Williams once again had an excellent season, showing amazing consistency in his third season. Finally we have Josh Freeman. Some in the fantasy community are throwing him under the bus because of his poor finish over the Bucs' final six games and his relative up-and-down play. Not so fast, my friend. Freeman still finished the year as a borderline QB1 and while he must take better care of the football, the Bucs have a fantastic running game and one of the more underrated offensive lines to fall back on. Unless the wheels completely fall off, both Jackson and Williams can outpace expectations. VJax is being drafted as a WR2 and has already proven he can play like a WR1. Williams was a Top 20 WR a year ago and he is now barely drafted among the first 40 WRs. Tons of value to be found in Tampa Bay. With no established tight ends on the roster, the receiving touchdowns should go to either Jackson or Williams, making them an interesting duo to target for your roster.
To read more about Lance Moore and the New Orleans Saints' passing attack, check out my article: Lance Moore: The Ultimate Handcuff.
You really have to give a lot of credit to Dwayne Bowe. Even with next to nothing at quarterback and wide receiver for many years now, Bowe has earned his big numbers. 2012 was a disappointing year for him, whether it was the musical chairs at QB or the injuries that slowed him down. Looking ahead, there's a new sheriff in town named Andy Reid and Alex Smith will be under center. Pairing Jonathan Baldwin with Bowe might not be a great strategy. Baldwin is entering his third year, which is supposed to be the magic number for young receivers. The former Pittsburgh Panther showed little improvement in his sophomore season and this slow development may push Donnie Avery into more starting snaps. Until the Chiefs put their offense on display and prove they can support multiple fantasy receivers, it is probably best to stick with Bowe and leave the rest of the group on the ol' waiver wire.
Having more than one New England WR would probably be a mistake. Everybody still loves Tom Brady, but don't ask us which receiver will pick up the slack left behind by Wes Welker's departure and Aaron Hernandez' drama. If I had to choose, I like Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. That said, all three of the aforementioned receivers have their risks. Amendola can't seem to stay healthy, Aaron Dobson is a rookie and Edelman has yet to play significant snaps. This also ignores the fact that the Pats brought in a number of free agents and used their fourth round draft pick on Josh Boyce. Any number of guys, including former Minnesota Vikings receiver Michael Jenkins, could break out. There are also rumors that New England may bring back Brandon Lloyd. If there's one guy to own, it has to be Amendola. Beyond that, all of them have their problems and you take on that risk by adding them to your roster.
Given his advancing age, Reggie Wayne managed to put up a surprisingly good 2012 campaign. Something to notice though is that the 13-year vet slowed down, if only slightly, in his final few games. T.Y. Hilton on the other hand caught two touchdowns in his final three games and was the Colts' primary vertical threat throughout the season. This obvious contrast is a perfect example of an ideal handcuff situation. Wayne can be counted on to catch at least 85 receptions for over 1,200 yards, while Hilton sprinkles in big plays whenever he connects with Andrew Luck. The intruiging sleeper in Indianapolis is Darrius Heyward-Bey. The fifth-year receiver is finally out of Oakland and he presents a difficult matchup. Hilton will work the slot and DHB could surprise while playing the outside. The Colts have a ton of offensive firepower when you also factor in tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. If Wayne goes down for an extended period of time, his big-time production will diffuse among the Colts' playmakers, possibly making DHB a quality in-season acquisition.