This post will focus on wide receivers and will be the first in a three-part collection (WRs, RBs, and QBs/TEs). I will discuss which players could see their value increase or decrease as a result of movement in free agency in 2017, as well as where some of their potential landing spots might be, and in doing so identify targets for trades or waiver wire pickups.
Potential Landing Spots:
Before we look at the players themselves, let’s take a look at the likely market for WRs in 2017 and what roles specific teams are looking to fill.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans have a strong offensive line, a talented young quarterback, an elite veteran running back and a young, talented running back waiting in the wings. All the ingredients are there for a elite offensive unit for many years- all except for a true WR1. Expect the Titans to try and remedy that through either the draft or free agency. Tennessee would be close to an ideal situation for a free agent or rookie receiver, and landing there would cause an immediate and considerable spike in value.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns will likely look for some pass-catching depth behind Corey Coleman in the offseason, whether that be through re-signing Terrelle Pryor, through drafting, or through free agency. Coleman is their WR1 of the future so they will likely be looking for more of a complementary piece than a true WR1. Despite Cleveland generally being where talent goes to die, the fact that they are always playing catch-up has allowed pass-catchers to put up good fantasy numbers there in the past, so while it would not be the best destination for a free agent player it would not be the worst, either.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are mostly devoid of talent on the offensive side of the ball and they need to address their QB issues before they could be considered a friendly landing spot, but they could be in the market for offensive playmakers this offseason. Any player unfortunate enough to land in San Francisco is likely to see their value dip.
Philadelphia Eagles: According to Adam Schefter, it looks like the Eagles have already targeted their offseason WR acquisition in DeSean Jackson- http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/18199497/philadelphia-eagles-look-sign-desean-jackson-offseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs this year have basically been the Mike Evans show, as far as pass-catchers go. His target share is unsustainable and Winston needs more options to throw to outside of emerging TE Cameron Brate, so Tampa will be in the WR market in 2017. With Evans locked in as the WR1 indefinitely, they will likely be searching for a complementary WR2-type piece. Tampa is an offense with a strong young core, and would marginally increase the value of any free agent WR who landed there.
Chicago Bears: With it looking highly unlikely that Alshon Jeffery will be wearing a Bears uniform next year and Kevin White still a big question mark, Chicago could be players in the WR free agent market in 2017. Like San Francisco, their QB situation is in flux and their offense is a mess, so landing in Chicago would cause any given free agent to lose value.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs WR1 Jeremy Maclin had an extremely disappointing season that has been unproductive when not marred by injury, and may be in need of replacement. Rookie Tyreek Hill has been a revelation, but the Chiefs could be looking for another passing threat to keep defenses honest. KC has not historically been a very friendly landing place for WRs in terms of fantasy, though, as Alex Smith is a competent but not prolific passer.
Free Agents (in ascending order by age at the start of the 2017 season):
Now on to the players. These are the ten wide receivers I believe are the most likely to see a significant change in value due to 2017 offseason activity.
Note: Buy/Sell pick values are based on the author’s own relatively shallow league (10 teams 9 starters), so they may not sync with reasonable value in deeper leagues (but player values relative to one another should still be accurate).
Kenny Stills (25)
History: Stills has been the definition of a boom-or-bust receiver this season, posting seven games with 10+ fantasy points and 6 games with sub-5. He has significantly bettered his numbers from what he achieved last year with the Dolphins, however, and has done so in an offense with a lot of receivers to feed.
Speculation: With the glut of WRs in Miami and the money that Stills would command given his production, it seems unlikely that he will remain a Dolphin. If he lands in an offense that needs a complementary WR2 and is a good fit for his skill set, he could see a considerable rise in value.
Buy if: you think he will land with a team that will use him more than Miami did and that he hasn’t reached his ceiling, or if the owner will sell for a 24th pick or lower.
Sell if: you think that the inconsistent WR3 in Miami represents Stills’ ceiling, or if you can get a top 18 pick or higher.
Hold if: you think he will land with a team that will use him more than Miami did and that he hasn’t reached his ceiling.
Note: Stills’ likely departure could open up targets for 2016 rookie Leonte Carroo, who has been buried on the Dolphins WR depth chart all season.
Cordarrelle Patterson (26)
History: Has a first-round draft pedigree and has demonstrated explosive talent as a kick returner, but has never shown any ability to produce consistently as a fantasy WR and has yet to match the numbers he achieved as a rookie in 2013 (627 rushing/receiving yards and 7 all-purpose TDs).
Speculation: With the emergence of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell in the wings, the Vikings likely won’t shell out for Patterson in the offseason. His talent will make him hard for some GM to resist so he will almost certainly sign elsewhere, but how he will be used by his new team could vary from kick-return specialist to WR2 depending on his landing spot.
Buy if: he’s on the waiver wire and and you can spare a roster spot, or if his owner will sell him for a 24th pick or lower.
Sell if: you can get a top 18 draft pick and believe that Patterson will be used primarily as a gadget player wherever he lands.
Hold if: you believe that Patterson will become the WR2 in a new city and consequently a startable flex player with upside in fantasy.
Alshon Jeffery (27)
History: Jeffery is unquestionably the big fish in the free agency pond, as he has multiple seasons of elite WR1 production under his belt and will only be 27 at the start of next season. He does have a few major concerns, however, as he recently served a suspension for a drug violation and has an extensive history of injury problems.
Speculation: Elite free agents are rare, so the bidding on Jeffery will likely go quite high despite the concerns attached to him. Whoever ends up buying him will have invested so much that they will have no choice but to feature him heavily, so his perceived value (and likely his actual value) should get a significant bump when he signs somewhere, unless it’s a hopelessly bad situation.
Buy if: you believe he will return to form and provide 2-4 more years of WR1 production wherever he lands, or if you want to buy while he’s at his lowest right now and sell when the hype catches up, or if the owner will sell for any draft pick.
Sell if: you think the drug violation is a sign of bigger problems or you don’t trust him to stay healthy, or if you can get multiple early 1st-round picks.
Hold if: you think that he will shake off the injuries and thrive in a new offense and is currently at his point of lowest value.
Michael Floyd (27)
History: Like Patterson, Floyd was a first round NFL draft pick, but unlike Patterson, he had three straight seasons of 800+ yards and 5+ TDs leading into 2016. This year he struggled, however, and gave up targets to younger receivers, eventually leading to his being cut due after being charged with a DUI. He was later signed by the Patriots, but it is considered likely that he will not be resigned in the offseason and Belichick picked him up for the compensatory draft pick.
Speculation: Due to his draft pedigree and history of production Floyd will likely still be a somewhat sought-after free agent, and his recent DUI may counterintuitively increase his fantasy stock because now a more competitive team may be able to buy him more cheaply than his talent would usually dictate.
Buy if: you believe he will get his head on straight in a new city and now is the time to buy low on his talent, or if you want to buy while he’s cheapest and profit on the hype train when he signs a new contract, or if he’s free on the waiver wire, or if the owner will sell for a 24th pick or lower.
Sell if: you can get a top 16 draft pick and don’t want to wait on a frustrating WR project.
Hold if: you think his value will rise significantly when he signs somewhere new, or if you want to gamble fairly cheaply on a pedigree guy with red flags.
Kendall Wright (27)
History: Another FA with first-round pedigree like Patterson and Floyd, Wright averaged 806 yards over the past three seasons to get his 5th year option exercised in 2016. He then fought through injury at the start of the season and had a period of decent sustained production from Weeks 6-11, but has lately fallen into the bad graces of his coach and was even benched last week for missing team meetings.
Speculation: The relationship with his coaching staff and his UFA status next season all but guarantee that Wright won’t be in Tennessee next year, but his pedigree and production likewise guarantee he’ll be somewhere else. Wright isn’t talented enough to succeed regardless of where he goes, but he may be talented enough to succeed because of where he goes. A friendly landing spot could lead to a decent increase in value, but a bad landing spot could render him close to useless.
Buy if: you think he will land in a friendly situation and he is on the waiver wire, or if the owner will sell him for a 24th pick or lower.
Sell if: you think he will end up in no better situation than he had in Tennessee and will languish as a middling WR3/4, or if you can get a top 24 draft pick.
Hold if: you can not get a top 24 draft pick, or if you think he will land in a friendly situation that will increase his value and allow you to sell (or roster) him.
Terrelle Pryor (28)
History: Had a bit of an unusual path to his current situation, coming into the NFL as a QB but eventually finding his way to the WR position via freak athleticism. Pryor exploded onto the scene earlier this year at the tender age of 27, was a top fantasy WR from Weeks 3-12, then trailed off to end the season as he struggled with an injury. Some are still a bit hesitant of his age and small sample size, but Pryor’s extreme talent makes him one of the gems of this free agency class.
Speculation: It is likely that Cleveland will attempt to re-sign Pryor, although some feel his lack of attention in the offense this past week could be cause for concern. Pryor is a valuable dynasty asset regardless of where he plays, but his value could see an extremely significant spike if he goes elsewhere, especially if he goes somewhere he would be designated as the unquestionable WR1.
Buy if: you believe in Pryor’s talent and think he will be able to continue his success or possibly expand on it in a new city, or if you think you can buy low now and sell when the hype catches up after he signs a new contract, or if the owner will sell for the 4th pick or lower.
Sell if: you think that Pryor will get stuck in Cleveland and cede targets to an emerging Coleman, or if you think that he is a flash in the pan, or if you can get the 1st or 2nd pick for him.
Hold if: you believe in Pryor’s talent and think he will be able to continue his success or possibly expand on it in a new city
Kamar Aiken (28)
History: Had a quietly productive season last year (75 receptions for 944 yards and 5 TDs) when there was little competition for targets due to injuries at WR, but was quickly buried this year beneath Wallace and Smith and Perriman and has not been fantasy relevant for months.
Speculation: Aiken could return to WR3 form if given a chance in a new offense that’s thin at WR, or he could simply get buried again elsewhere beneath superior talent.
Buy if: he’s free on the waiver wire and you have an open roster spot.
Sell if: you can get a top 24 draft pick.
Hold if: you can’t get a top 24 draft pick and you can spare a roster spot, or if you’re related to Kamar Aiken.
Dontrelle Inman (28)
History: Inman was a decent WR3 for the Chargers in 2015 but was not particularly fantasy relevant, but he has broken out in 2016. Over his last nine games he averaged just under 70 yards, with a TD in three of five outings.
Speculation: With Keenan Allen returning and Tyrell Williams looking like the heir to the WR2 role, the Chargers may not want to pay Inman what his production demands. If this is the case, he may go elsewhere and settle into a permanent WR2 role, which would give him considerably more value than he would have staying with the Chargers.
Buy if: you think that his breakout will propel him to greater success with another team, or if the owner will sell for a 24th pick or lower.
Sell if: you think that he is a product of Phillip Rivers and will be a Just-A-Guy WR3 with another team, or if you can get an 18th pick or higher.
Hold if: if you think that his breakout will propel him to greater success with another team, or if your league has a lot of WR starters and you need cheap WR depth.
Kenny Britt (29)
History: The veteran put up his first 1,000 yard season this year despite a struggling offense, and looked especially strong mid-season with a stretch of 5 TDs in 8 games.
Speculation: Britt could either be resigned and remain a solid WR2 option with a year or two of upside tied to the growth of the Rams offense, or he could be signed elsewhere and become the feature WR in a more friendly situation, increasing his value.
Buy if: you’re looking to contend next year but are in need of WR depth, or if you believe he will gain value due to a move and want to buy now and sell after he signs elsewhere, or if the owner will sell for a 20th pick or lower.
Sell if: you’re in a rebuild and can get a younger WR with less proven production but more upside, or a top 14 draft pick.
Hold if: you believe that his value will go up in free agency and want to wait to sell him, or if you’re imminently contending and he represents your WR depth.
DeSean Jackson (30)
History: Has a history of explosive talent and week-winning performances mixed with a frustratingly streaky and inconsistent nature. Struggled with injuries early in this season but had a strong finish, topping 100 yards in four of his last five games and scoring three TDs in that same span.
Speculation: According to Adam Schefter, Jackson seems likely to go to Philadelphia- http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/18199497/philadelphia-eagles-look-sign-desean-jackson-offseason.
Buy if: you think his recent production is indicative of how he plays when healthy and that Wentz will be able to throw the touch deep balls necessary for Jackson’s success, or if the owner will sell for a 24th pick or lower.
Sell if: you are in a rebuild, or if you can get a top 18 draft pick.
Hold if: you are imminently contending and need WR flex depth, or if you think that hype when he moves to Philadelphia will drive his price up and you can sell him then.
And that’s it! If you enjoyed this, feel free to check out my similar pieces on the other positions and load up on players with rising free agency stock.