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How to play T.O.

If you are looking for value in this year’s drafts, how can you not consider a perennial Top 10 receiver who has broken 200 fantasy points six times in 13 years and whose ADP has dropped into the WR 12-15 range? There are many arguments for and against T.O. going into this season, but if you do decide to roll the dice, I would like to venture some advice on how to properly construct your team to minimize the fall out and maximize the benefit.

Normally drafting a player with question marks like T.O. would require getting a solid, predictable backup in case it gets messy that you can count on to keep your team in contention. I don’t believe that is the case with T.O. as his downside is of a type that wouldn’t make holding such a replacement that valuable. To begin with, T.O. is unlikely to miss a lot of games as he has averaged 14.5 games per season for 13 years and has only once missed more than two games in an individual season. You can count on him 90 percent of the time (90.6 percent to be more exact) this season and his production will probably be high enough that your No. 1 reserve receiver won’t eclipse it by much. For one,

Buffalo
has no other credible redzone threat, either across from T.O. or behind him on the depth chart, and the Bills finished the season tied for 26th in the league in passing TDs with a woeful sum of 14. Even if he struggles to get off the line at times and continues to suffer the dropsies, T.O. stands to take the majority of looks inside the opponents’ 20. Because T.O. is likely to be on the field and likely to see passes in the endzone, it is hard to imagine his production dropping below 800 or 900 receiving and six or seven TDs over a 16-game season.

Those are the type of numbers you are generally going to get from your steady bench players, and there won’t be much relief plugging one in for the other. What you want in your bench player is someone with the possibility of surpassing those numbers easily, a Chris Henry or Percy Harvin-type player with lots of upside this year but enough question marks to get them cheap enough to fill out the rest of your squad. If you do go this route, though, be wary when you choose your No. 1 receiver. If picking between Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin, you would be wise to go with Wayne who has five straight years without missing a game over the more frequently absent Smith or Boldin. Having a boom-or-bust bench player should also make your favor a steady player for your No. 3 slot should you play in a 3-WR league. This player will help you maximize your upside when both T.O. and your bench player have great years as you can plug your bench player into your 3-slot as well while also contributing when only one of them has the season that you hoped for.

In general, I view the best move after deciding to take T.O. is to go with more steady contributors at the WR No. 1 and No. 3 spot while taking higher upside players for your bench. This should mitigate some of the risk in taking T.O. with a fourth-round pick while also giving your team some more absolute upside.

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