Thursday - Jan 17, 2019

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Fantasy Forecast: Wither the WR3?

One of the benefits of being a long-time fantasy writer is that I’ve heard just about every cliché there is when it comes to drafting:

  • “Never draft a kicker or defense before you have to”
  • “Always know the rules of the league before sitting down to draft”
  • “Running Back by Committee = Fantasy Death”
  • “Thinking of Lena Dunham prior to drafting causes stomach aches”
  • “Pull my finger, something funny always happens”

One maxim that I’ve been thinking about recently is the old “It’s better to draft the WR1 of a bad team than the WR3 of a good team; at least he’s the clear starter.” And when I start thinking about fantasy football maxims, two things happen: (1) I start to think of ways to test the validity of said maxim, and (2) so much smoke comes out of my ears that family members think a new Pope has been elected.

I asked my trusty supercomputer, Mighty Max, to rank wide receivers from 2014 using a points per reception scoring system and by team. To keep things manageable, I instituted a 32-catch minimum (two receptions per game over a full season). As always, Max responded quickly and efficiently:

2014 Wide Receiver Fantasy Production by Team

WR3vsWR1-1

What’s interesting to note is that 18 teams managed to field at least three receivers who met the search criteria (fairly low number), while only one team failed to supply even two receivers who met the search criteria: the Kansas City Chiefs.

There were some noteworthy WR3 performances in 2014, but the main guys were Jordan Matthews, Eddie Royal and Rueben Randle.

2014 Production by Guys that Began the Season as a WR3

WR3vsWR1-2

WR_Allen_Hurns_JAC_2
The Jaguars’ Allen Hurns was one of the biggest WR surprises in 2014. (Notice in photo that it is Allen tackling Hurns)

Pretty impressive, right? I suppose that means we should all run out and grab that WR3 on pass-happy offenses, right? Well … maybe not. Let’s compare the WR3 guys to the WR1 guys:

2014 Production by Guys that Began Season as a WR1

WR3vsWR1-3

Note that I took the guys who were the projected WR1 of their respective teams in 2014 at draft time.

The point to note here is that the average WR3-type produced 128 points (pretty similar to last season’s WR3 average of 124) — which bested the performance of just two WR1 in the NFL — both of whom were playing for teams with known weak aerial attacks. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the odds of my drafting a WR3 who will out-produce roughly 6 percent of the WR1 in the league.

So the bottom line here is that this is one fantasy football maxim that seemingly deserves its hallowed status: Draft the WR1 on a bad team ahead of the WR3 on a high-powered offense.

 

About John Georgopoulos

John T. Georgopoulos is a 23-year veteran of fantasy sports journalism. John’s Fantasy Forecast series has won the prestigious Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) award for Best Series, and he’s been nominated as an FSWA Award finalist on nine occasions. You can also listen to his weekly, non-sports NSFW opinions at The Riot.