2015 Fantasy Retrospective: Wide Receivers

2015 Fantasy Retrospective: Wide Receivers

By John Paulsen (Senior Editor), last update Jan 27, 2016

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in both 2012 and 2015 for a total of five Top 5 seasons in the last six years. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-15 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

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Below is a table providing a snapshot of the receiver position in 2015.

Key columns to note…

FP: Fantasy Points (PPR)
PPG: Points Per Game
Playoffs: Total FP in Weeks 14-16
RV: Relative Value (difference between that player’s points and the positional baseline, or WR24)
ADP: Approximate round in which the player was drafted
Positional ADP Rank: Rank at his position on draft day (e.g. A.J. Green was the 8th WR off the board, on average)

 

2015 Actual Relative Value (PPR): Wide Receivers
# Player Team G FP (PPR) PPG Playoffs RV ADP Pos ADP Rank ADP Diff
1 Antonio Brown PIT 16 378.2 23.6 75.7 169 1.4 1 0
2 Julio Jones ATL 16 369.1 23.1 75.4 160 1.9 3 1
3 Brandon Marshall NYJ 16 339.2 21.2 67.4 130 6.1 26 23
4 DeAndre Hopkins HOU 16 329.1 20.6 50.3 120 3.9 15 11
5 Odell Beckham NYG 15 319.3 21.3 55.2 110 2.0 5 0
6 Allen Robinson JAX 16 304.0 19.0 49.2 95 7.0 29 23
7 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 16 280.5 17.5 29.3 71 8.3 34 27
8 A.J. Green CIN 16 273.7 17.1 46.6 64 2.6 8 0
9 Doug Baldwin SEA 16 268.9 16.8 78.5 60 14.2 60 51
10 Jarvis Landry MIA 16 268.4 16.8 52.4 59 5.6 22 12
11 Demaryius Thomas DEN 16 267.4 16.7 53.5 58 2.0 4 -7
12 Calvin Johnson DET 16 261.4 16.3 25.2 52 2.3 6 -6
13 Brandin Cooks NO 16 253.6 15.9 58.6 44 3.3 11 -2
14 Eric Decker NYJ 15 252.7 16.8 51.6 43 10.1 41 27
15 Jeremy Maclin KC 15 242.9 16.2 46.5 34 5.6 23 8
16 Michael Crabtree OAK 16 231.2 14.5 34.8 22 13.5 57 41
17 Jordan Matthews PHI 16 230.7 14.4 57.2 21 3.8 14 -3
18 Allen Hurns JAX 15 225.0 15.0 56.5 16 16.1 74 56
19 Emmanuel Sanders DEN 15 224.4 15.0 54.9 15 3.8 13 -6
20 Sammy Watkins BUF 13 218.8 16.8 60.7 9 5.8 25 5
21 Amari Cooper OAK 16 212.7 13.3 33.0 3 4.7 16 -5
22 T.Y. Hilton IND 16 211.4 13.2 33.5 2 3.0 9 -13
23 Mike Evans TB 15 210.8 14.1 41.7 1 3.5 12 -11
24 Golden Tate DET 16 209.4 13.1 60.9 0 4.8 17 -7
25 John Brown ARI 15 207.5 13.8 42.1 -2 9.0 38 13
26 Randall Cobb GB 16 202.9 12.7 32.5 -7 2.6 7 -19
27 Kamar Aiken BAL 16 197.4 12.3 55.4 -12 19.1 88 61
28 Tavon Austin STL 16 192.7 12.0 37.0 -17 17.6 84 56
29 Travis Benjamin CLE 16 191.8 12.0 18.6 -18 - - -
30 James Jones GB 16 187.0 11.7 38.7 -22 15.6 72 42
31 Pierre Garcon WAS 16 185.7 11.6 43.6 -24 11.7 50 19
32 Rueben Randle NYG 16 184.7 11.5 47.5 -25 14.4 62 30
33 Ted Ginn CAR 15 183.9 12.3 54.9 -26 - - -
34 Willie Snead NO 15 183.4 12.2 48.3 -26 - - -
35 Marvin Jones CIN 16 173.9 10.9 31.3 -36 14.8 66 31
36 Donte Moncrief IND 16 173.3 10.8 27.8 -36 15.5 71 35
37 Michael Floyd ARI 15 172.9 11.5 50.3 -37 10.9 45 8
38 Julian Edelman NE 9 172.5 19.2 0.0 -37 4.9 18 -20
39 Martavis Bryant PIT 11 170.2 15.5 32.7 -39 7.3 30 -9
40 Anquan Boldin SF 14 169.9 12.1 31.3 -40 10.0 40 0
41 Keenan Allen SD 8 161.5 20.2 0.0 -48 5.0 20 -21
42 Alshon Jeffery CHI 9 158.7 17.6 30.7 -51 3.3 10 -32
43 Terrance Williams DAL 16 154.0 9.6 20.3 -55 12.0 52 9
44 Tyler Lockett SEA 16 153.4 9.6 51.2 -56 15.0 67 23
45 Stefon Diggs MIN 13 149.3 11.5 29.6 -60 - - -
46 Markus Wheaton PIT 16 148.9 9.3 35.8 -61 11.7 51 5
47 Danny Amendola NE 14 148.3 10.6 9.9 -61 16.6 76 29
48 Jermaine Kearse SEA 16 147.5 9.2 45.2 -62 - - -
49 Nate Washington HOU 14 136.8 9.8 23.9 -73 - - -
50 Rishard Matthews MIA 11 133.6 12.1 0.0 -76 - - -
51 Cole Beasley DAL 16 131.6 8.2 17.1 -78 16.9 80 29
52 Steve L Smith BAL 7 131.0 18.7 0.0 -78 - - -
53 Jamison Crowder WAS 16 129.6 8.1 8.7 -80 - - -
54 Torrey Smith SF 16 123.3 7.7 18.3 -86 10.3 42 -12
55 Kenny Britt STL 16 122.1 7.6 34.5 -87 16.6 75 20
56 Marques Colston NO 13 121.0 9.3 33.5 -88 11.1 46 -10
57 Robert Woods BUF 14 118.2 8.4 24.0 -91 20.8 98 41
58 Andre Johnson IND 16 115.3 7.2 18.0 -94 5.0 19 -39
59 Stevie Johnson SD 10 112.7 11.3 0.0 -97 12.7 56 -3
60 Dorial Green-Beckham TEN 16 110.9 6.9 25.6 -99 13.7 58 -2

 

It was a good year for early-round receivers. Of the first 15 receivers off the board, 11 finished within 12 spots of their positional ADP. Of the eight receivers drafted in the first two rounds – Antonio Brown (WR1), Dez Bryant (WR81), Julio Jones (WR2), Demaryius Thomas (WR11), Odell Beckham (WR5), Calvin Johnson (WR12), Randall Cobb (WR26), A.J. Green (WR8) – six finished with WR1 numbers.

Assuming a 12-team PPR league with a starting lineup of 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR and 1 TE, no one had a higher relative value (169) than Antonio Brown, my #1 PPR pick in 2015. Making Brown’s season even more impressive, Ben Roethlisberger missed four games and was limited in a few others. In the 11 games in which Roethlisberger attempted at least 25 passes, Brown averaged 9.8 catches for 136 yards and 0.91 TD. That translates to 157 catches for 2,176 yards and 14.6 touchdowns over a full, 16-game season. So yes, Brown will once again be my no-brainer #1 pick in 2016 even though his numbers tend to dip a bit with LeVeon Bell in the lineup.

Julio Jones (160) and Odell Beckham (110) also returned elite production after being drafted in the 1st round. Both players are shaping up as very solid top 5 picks next year.

As always, there was good value available in the middle rounds, with Brandon Marshall, Allen Robinson, Eric Decker and (personal favorite) Larry Fitzgerald offering WR1-type value at a 6th- to 10th-round price.

The best late-round values were Doug Baldwin (14th round ADP, WR9), Michael Crabtree (13th, WR16) and Allen Hurns (16th, WR18), who all turned into every-week starters in 2015. These three players are poised for similar seasons in 2016, though Baldwin’s year will be tough to repeat with the return of Jimmy Graham and the development of Tyler Lockett. Baldwin was WR45 through the first nine weeks, but from Week 10 to Week 17, he was the #1 overall receiver. It would be hard to trust him with an early round pick given that wild swing in production.

Let’s not forget about Kamar Aiken (19th, WR27), Tavon Austin (17th, WR28), Travis Benjamin (undrafted, WR29), Willie Snead (undrafted, WR34), Donte Moncrief (15th, WR36) and Lockett (15th, WR44), who all had stretches of starter-caliber play and are under the age of 27.

 

The Bottom Line

While there is always wideout value in the middle and late rounds, stud receivers generally provide safer return than stud running backs. The 2015 season only served to support the two offseason studies (1, 2) that convinced me to go WR-early in PPR formats last year. This offseason I plan to take a closer look at standard scoring systems to see if a WR-early strategy is the best way to go in those formats as well.

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