Mid-Round WR ADP Battle on Underdog
When looking to find either my 3rd-5th WR option I have a decision in the 7th round range between DeVonta Smith (ADP 77), Christian Kirk (ADP 79.7), and Kadarius Toney (ADP 80.7). For many people, this might be a tough decision, but for me, there is almost no debate as Kirk is my easy call. This might surprise several people, but if you look at the numbers and opportunity it shouldn’t.
Smith was the Eagles 1st round pick in 2021 and quickly became their top receiver as a rookie. Smith finished the year with 64 catches, 916 yards, and 5 TDs. That kind of production and pedigree is usually a strong indicator of a 2nd-year breakout for receivers, but Smith has two things working against him.
First Eagles QB Jalen Hurts is below average in terms of accuracy and arm talent. When you watch Smith you can see numerous times where Hurts’ inaccuracy or poor ball placement cost Smith yards and catches. This inaccuracy led the Eagles to focus on the run down the stretch last season, leaving Philadelphia as the team with the fewest passing attempts in the league last year.
The other big issue is Smith’s target competition for this season. Philadelphia went out and traded for star WR A.J. Brown from the Titans. For as much potential that Smith has, Brown is already among the top 10 WRs in the game and should be the number 1 option on the team. In addition, the Eagles have a premium TE in Dallas Goedert, who also will command a strong target share.
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Second-year breakout WRs are guys we get excited about because they typically are the Alpha option on their team. Smith might be tied with Goedert as the number 2 target, which limits the upside for both. Add in a lower volume offense, and an inaccurate QB and you don’t have a strong case for a guy who will pay off his ADP. Tyler Boyd averaged more points per game than Smith did a year ago, and he’s going 30 picks later. And Smith could even see his production fall from last season.
When the Jaguars signed Kirk this offseason they were widely mocked as overpaying, but Kirk’s production has been better than people have given him credit for. And just as A.J. Brown‘s new contract is a good indicator that he will be the number 1 option in Philadelphia, so should Kirk’s contract in Jacksonville.
Kirk will mainly run out of the slot in three WR sets, but all indications from camp and pre-season have Kirk as the clear primary option in Jacksonville. His relationship with Trevor Lawrence is also apparently very strong. In Kirk’s first preseason action he saw 8 targets on 22 routes. Last season Marvin Jones paced the Jaguars with 120+ targets, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Kirk meet or exceed that number. That is a boost from his role in Arizona and shows the potential upside for him this season.
If Kirk gets 120 or more targets he should easily exceed value and could be a low-end WR2 (18-24). Considering you are drafting him at WR40 he is a steal and that makes him the clear winner in this range. Kirk is also a classic “better in best ball” type of receiver given his deep threat ability. He will have some spike weeks, even if he doesn’t reach his full potential.
From a raw talent and ability standpoint, there is no question of Toney’s upside. He would also similarly be a potential 2nd-year breakout candidate and has been a favorite of drafters all offseason. It’s easy to see why, when he was on the field last season, Toney was electric and even overcame the poor QB play and offensive system.
Though the QB play is still highly questionable, the hope is that Brian Daboll’s system can make better use of Toney’s abilities. The Giants figure to be at least middle of the pack, if not better in terms of passing attempts, which can help make up for some of Daniel Jones‘ struggles.
If QB play was the only real concern Toney would probably be a fair pick in this range, as he likely will be the number one option on the team and his skill set could lead to a breakout. Unfortunately, there is just too much uncertainty here for me to get excited about taking Toney. Toney who struggled with injuries and off-the-field issues last season still has those red flags heading into this season.
Reports of the new coaching staff looking to trade him during the offseason died down, but, notably, they were even out there, to begin with. Toney has dealt with a myriad of offseason injuries, which has barely allowed him to practice during camp. While he’s avoided any PUP designation, it’s very unclear how healthy he will be to start the season. Also, given the new offense how much of a role will he have early in the season?
Toney can still maybe pay off if he puts it all together for some big weeks later in the season, but he is someone you probably want to take less of at his current ADP. Not only is Kirk an easy selection over him, but even some receivers behind him, offer better floor/ceiling combos at this range.