Wide Receiver Shuffle Up: Get some steak in early rounds of your draft

Scott Pianowski
·9 mins read

The receiver board is very deep top to bottom, but don’t let that trip you up. Yes, you can find an interesting value at any point in the draft, but you can’t let your receiver group be mostly a collection of scrappy underdogs. You need some steak, man. The more set-and-forget stars, the better.

Don’t misunderstand — if you can figure out this year’s D.J. Chark before the rest of the room, good for you. Some of the cheaper options here will graduate to stardom and every-week status. But just make sure you have a few automatic studs for your weekly deployment.

Before the salaries, we add the boiler-plate disclaimer section:

A few caveats upfront. The salaries are unscientific in nature, merely used as a way to compare players within their position. I do not compare salaries outside of position — the salary of a running back is only meant to be considered within his positional class. I am generally far less expectant with injury-returning players, so don’t be surprised when I like them less than you do.

Every Shuffle Up is done from scratch. I think it’s counterproductive to justify an old, dated list.

Previously, we shuffled the quarterbacks and running backs. Tight ends come next week.

Players with the same salary are considered even. Assume a half-point PPR scoring system.

The TL;DR Takeaway: Don’t let the overall depth of this position screen you from drafting some obvious every-week stars. There are plenty of singles and doubles here, but you need some home runs, too.

The elite group

$42 Michael Thomas

$40 Davante Adams

$38 Tyreek Hill

$38 Julio Jones

$35 Chris Godwin

$33 Kenny Golladay

$33 Mike Evans

I’m probably not going to draft Thomas much this year, only because bell-cow backs are rare and so important. But his floor and upside need no defense . . . Adams is one of the rare members of the Aaron Rodgers Circle of Trust, and as much as we need to be mindful of the variance of touchdown rates, there are obvious and tangible reasons why Adams is an elite touchdown guy. College Matt Harmon has Adams at the top of his receiver board, and I can’t say he’s wrong . . . The only downside to Jones is all the attrition and the stage of his career. But Atlanta has all the looks of an obvious Carnival (bad defense, fun, pass-driven offense), and the usage tree is narrow. I can easily sign off on Julio . . . Godwin’s style and skills seem to obviously fit 40-something Tom Brady better than the skills of Evans, but when has anyone ever been disappointed to roster Evans? Six years, six productive returns. I’ll have shares of both of these guys.

The “apologies to Hopkins” group

$31 DeAndre Hopkins

$29 A.J. Brown

$28 DJ Moore

$27 Amari Cooper

$26 Allen Robinson

$26 Adam Thielen

$25 Calvin Ridley

$24 JuJu Smith-Schuster

$24 Robert Woods

$24 Cooper Kupp

$23 Odell Beckham Jr.

$23 Tyler Lockett

$23 Terry McLaurin

$23 DK Metcalf

$22 D.J. Chark

Fantasy managers who added A.J. Brown midway through 2019 were smiling thereafter. (Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Fantasy managers who added A.J. Brown midway through 2019 were smiling thereafter. (Tim Warner/Getty Images)

It’s always a little dicey when a name wideout changes teams, and given the unique challenges to 2020 preparation, I have to let Hopkins pass in Round 2. I also suspect the Cardinals won’t overload Hopkins with targets every week; the Texans would lean on Hopkins no matter the coverage or level of openness. Arizona is an offense more focused on the juicy matchup, chucking to the open guy. This is not to suggest Hopkins will wreck your team or be a mess, but I can’t draft him proactively . . . Brown’s 2019 efficiency was too good to be true, but he can lose a lot of those ratios and still provide a fantasy profit because his targets are sure to rise. We’re seen this setup before, it’s the Tyler Lockett 2018-2019 profile. Don’t let the Regression Police talk you out of Brown in the third round . . . Teddy Bridgewater isn’t an exciting quarterback in Carolina, but Moore is one of those guys who can succeed no matter what’s around him . . . Nick Foles might not start opening day, but I’m expecting him to make the most QB starts in Chicago. And although Foles can’t really be considered a savior, he’s a welcome sight for Robinson, who has played with awful quarterbacks for just about his entire post-HS career.

We have a chicken-egg case with Thielen; we love him being the obvious No. 1 in Minnesota, but we also know defenses will devote max attention to him. When breaking this tie, I’m content to side with opportunity, assuming I have faith in the OC and quarterback. Gary Kubiak and Kirk Cousins are good enough to push Thielen to a profit . . . Woods is an obvious positive regression case with touchdowns, but keep your feet on the ground. We’re thinking 5-8 scores, not 10-plus. But he’s also a safe bet for 100 or more rushing yards, and the Rams might have a tighter usage tree this year. There’s a little upside here, and an especially sturdy floor . . . Any primary Seattle wideout you want is fine with me, although they have very different styles. Russell Wilson targets are plated in gold. Lockett runs away from people, while Metcalf is effectively open even when he’s covered. Don’t sweat the pass volume here; Wilson’s elite efficiency masks it to some extent . . . McLaurin is universally beloved, and count me in, too. It can be difficult to make a profit on that type of player, but I’m still going to approach him proactively, no matter who the quarterback is.

Obviously upside, looming downside group

$21 Courtland Sutton

$21 DeVante Parker

$20 Stefon Diggs

$19 Keenan Allen

$19 Marquise Brown

$19 Tyler Boyd

$18 Michael Gallup

$18 Jarvis Landry

$17 T.Y. Hilton

$14 A.J. Green

$14 Julian Edelman

$13 Marvin Jones

$13 Will Fuller

$12 Mike Williams

$11 Brandin Cooks

I could write an endless love letter to Sutton, but Denver also stocked the offense with several other good pass-catchers, and we don’t really know if Drew Lock is good. I hate to consider Sutton more reactive than proactive pick, but context is that important . . . Parker would rise 2-4 bucks if I knew Ryan Fitzpatrick and his DGAF playbook were starting the entire season . . . Diggs is a documented route-running dream, but how quickly will that mesh with the erratic ways of Josh Allen? I’d like to give Diggs a get-acquainted season before I go for him again . . . Boyd is likely to be Cincinnati’s best receiver again, but the salary is mitigated by the public’s fascination with Green. Green is likely a fantasy rake; once a player gets on the back nine of his career and has an injury-riddled mess or two, stop drafting them proactively . . .

Edelman’s career was built off a mind-meld with Tom Brady and a ton of volume. Cam Newton is more of a see-it, throw-it quarterback; anticipation throws aren’t really his thing. And Edelman’s also entering his age-34 season. I’ll sit it out . . . Hollywood Brown is another America’s Sleeper type, to the point that you have to draft him as an expectant player. I can sign off on that sort of play a few times, but I’d hate for my entire draft to be structured that way. To some degree, you have to be market-driven and market-savvy.

You could start them, but better as a playable WR4+

$11 John Brown

$10 Christian Kirk

$9 Darius Slayton

$9 Diontae Johnson

$9 Jamison Crowder

$7 *Deebo Samuel

$7 Emmanuel Sanders

$7 Sterling Shepard

$6 Anthony Miller

$6 Curtis Samuel

$5 CeeDee Lamb

$5 Mecole Hardman

$5 Jalen Reagor

$5 Henry Ruggs

I’d be a little higher on Slayton if the Giants receiver group wasn’t so crowded. And admit it, Jason Garrett makes you a little nervous . . . I don’t like to draft injured players unless the room gives me a gigantic coupon when doing so. Thus, I will be sitting out Deebo Samuel in most leagues, reluctantly. He’ll be a star someday . . . Curtis Samuel has some post-hype juice, as last year’s face-plant wasn’t entirely his fault, and Carolina obviously cleaned house . . . Crowder is a good bet to be New York’s best wideout again, and don’t forget Sam Darnold is just 23. I know, Adam Gase is a difficult coach to line up with. But Crowder’s salary lines up with a fair floor and still has a twinge of upside . . . Hardman’s per-snap and per-target numbers are too good to be true, and his highlight tape will make you dizzy. But Kansas City has so many superstars ahead of him, and the maddening Watkins (who was, admittedly, very good in the playoffs) was brought back. It’s the cheapest copout in the world to say a player makes more sense in best-ball and dynasty than he does in seasonal, but that’s the only way I can frame Hardman. He’ll be an overlord someday. I don’t want to play guess-the-week on him in 2020, not unless the depth chart gets tidier in front of him.

Dare to dream

$4 Preston Williams

$4 Golden Tate

$4 Jerry Jeudy

$4 Breshad Perriman

$4 N'Keal Harry

$4 Allen Lazard

$4 Brandon Aiyuk

$4 James Washington

$3 Justin Jefferson

$3 Robby Anderson

$3 DeSean Jackson

$3 Sammy Watkins

$3 Parris Campbell

$3 Hunter Renfrow

$3 Randall Cobb

$3 Larry Fitzgerald

$2 Michael Pittman

$2 Laviska Shenault

$2 Russell Gage

$2 Andy Isabella

$2 Chase Claypool

$1 Alshon Jeffery

$1 Corey Davis

$1 Dede Westbrook

$1 Tyrell Williams

$1 Steven Sims

$1 Denzel Mims

$1 Kenny Stills

$1 Cole Beasley

$1 Tee Higgins

$1 Kendrick Bourne

$0 John Ross

$0 Mohamed Sanu

$0 Josh Reynolds

$0 Danny Amendola

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