Taking Advantage of Undefined WR Rooms in Best Ball: AFC East and North

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As we get into the heart of Best Ball season, we still have several teams where their wide receiver depth chart of the first couple of positions is very “murky” at best. This can lead to some clear values and inefficiencies to take advantage of, as well as some guys to maybe stay away from. Here are the situations in the AFC East and North to keep an eye on, where either the first or the 2nd WR is currently unclear.

 

Buffalo Bills- Keon Coleman (ADP-76.2), Curtis Samuel (ADP-92.8), Khalil Shakir (ADP-107.2), Chase Claypool (ADP 213.7), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ADP- 215.5)

This is a potentially huge value spot as we can land Josh Allen‘s number 1 and 2 WRs this late in the draft, that’s simply unheard of the past few seasons with Stefon Diggs. Even if TE Dalton Kincaid takes over as the primary target, all three of Coleman, Samuel, and Shakir could return value at these prices. They offer a bit different skills and value, but they are all worth taking. I would completely avoid the Claypools and MVS’s at this point in the draft process.

Coleman- Big rookie WR, currently going in the same range we saw Gabe Davis go a year ago. Davis has been the quintessential better in bestball WR, and still returned value in this spot as the Bills number 2 WR. Coleman, will probably be a spike week guy, more reliant on TD production.

Samuel- Samuel is probably the safest of the three, with the best floor. He’s got the most experience, and has worked with OC Joe Brady before. He could see some carries as well, but will mainly be a slot-only guy, and could be a lesser Cole Beasley (who was pretty productive). He probably will have a lot of usable WR3/Flex-type games, but won’t have many ceiling performances.

Shakir- He’s the wildcard, worked in this offense down the stretch, and had some big performances. He also has 2 years of experience with Josh Allen. Shakir can play in the slot, but he can also be more explosive down the field. He won’t be a true number 1 WR, but he could end up with some big spike weeks, and may end up leading this team in yards.

Advice:

Given the prices, I’m drafting all three, and in Allen stacks, I don’t mind having two of these pass catchers (assuming I didn’t already land Kincaid). Shakir I think is the best value, Samuel the best floor, and Coleman the best upside. I think a lot depends on how your WR room is being built. If you went WR heavy early, maybe you just need a reliable Samuel as your 5th WR, but if you need more upside, maybe Coleman or Shakir make more sense.

 

New England Patriots- Ja’Lynn Polk (ADP- 142.4), DeMario Douglas (ADP- 168.3), Javon Baker (ADP-193.4), Kendrick Bourne (ADP-214.5), K.J. Osborn (ADP-215.9), JuJu Smith-Schuster (ADP-216)

This is perhaps the most undefined WR room in the league, which on one hand could lead us with a real opportunity, but also the potential to find some major duds. Rookies Polk and Baker are the most intriguing as there is a clear path for one or both to step into a top 3 role.

Polk being the higher-drafted receiver, is generally thought to be the one who will earn that role, but Baker has some talent as well. Second-year DeMario Douglas is the 2nd highest Patriots WR being drafted and that is probably a mistake. He is a slot-only guy, and there is no guarantee he will win that job over veterans like Bourne, Osborn, and Smith-Schuster. Even if he does, he doesn’t have much in the way of TD upside.

Among the veterans right now I can be talked into some Bourne. Yes, he’s coming back from an ACL injury, but before he got injured, he was playing pretty well, and had a similar pace to his 2021 year of 800 yards. He could take over as the primary slot guy, and become a safety blanket for rookie Drake Maye this season. Overall though, I do want to see what happens with Smith-Schuster, and how the recovery goes with Bourne.

Advice:

I’m taking some Polk and Baker at their current prices, but I don’t want to go overboard. If I take Maye, I’d consider Bourne as well, but will likely wait on him. I think Douglas is mainly a fade right now, as I still see this as one of the weaker offenses in the league.

 

Baltimore Ravens-Rashod Bateman (ADP-164.9), Devontez Walker (ADP- 201.2), Nelson Agholor (ADP- 215.9)

So we all know Zay Flowers will be the top WR, but who will be the 2nd and 3rd, and will they factor into fantasy this year? The good news is it’s not expensive to figure out, the bad news is, it’s definitely risky. If Mark Andrews is healthy, Isaiah Likely has a role in two TE sets, and Flowers is the primary WR, what will be left for everyone else?

For the most part, we are probably hunting for spike weeks and WR 5/6 type production. That’s around where you’d be taking Bateman, and Walker would probably be your WR 7 or 8, so even some more value there. Bateman probably has the advantage, especially early in the season, but he’s just not lived up to his 1st round pedigree. His big play ability has not been consistent or reliable. He might start the year as the WR 2, and could split the role a bit with Agholor who is more just a steady vet than fantasy-relevant. Long term though, Walker is the more interesting name.

Not only are you drafting Walker in the 16th-18th round, but he has the size/speed combo to be that guy who Lamar hits for a couple of big throws in a game. He’s a raw player, and might barely play early in the season, but he’s the type of rookie who could hit down the stretch. I wouldn’t go overboard with him because he’s super volatile, and even his spike weeks are going to be in the 17-22 point range.

Advice:

I’m taking Bateman some in Lamar builds, but Walker is the player I’d rather have in most builds. Not only do you save 3.5 rounds of ADP value, but he might have the better skill set to pair with Jackson. I do think either way you are taking a high risk/high reward type of player.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers- Roman Wilson (ADP- 158.9), Calvin Austin III (ADP-215.3), Van Jefferson (ADP-215.9)

This is another case where there is no question who the number 1 WR is in George Pickens, but beyond that, we don’t know how this WR is going to break down. While some might be concerned about the value this room could have beyond Pickens, Diontae Johnson last season had 717 yards and 5 TDs in 13 games. Now the Steelers have an upgrade at both offensive coordinator and QB, and their number 2WR is very obtainable.

Wilson being a pretty highly drafted rookie should have the first crack at the role, and as a 13th-round pick there is a lot of value here. He has a similar skill set to Johnson, and can be a nice underneath target for Russell Wilson. He could get pushed a little by Austin and Jefferson, but neither are as good as route runners as Wilson.

Both do offer some big speed, so could see some deep ball usage if one can firmly establish themselves as the 3rd WR. The biggest concern is the 2nd and 3rd receivers become almost a committee approach, which could make it tougher for any one guy to give more than 3-5 useable weeks. If any guy can it is likely Wilson, who can mix in usable weeks with a couple of decent spike weeks. There is also a little concern that the Steelers look to bring in a veteran via a trade.

Advice:

Wilson could end up being one of the absolute steals of this draft, comparable to a Tank Dell last year (3rd Round WR who operates as a WR 2, but has a ton of fantasy upside). As your 6th or 7th WR you are drafting, the upside is really strong here. I wouldn’t go overboard because there is some risk that it’s more of a committee approach or a trade happens. Also while less likely, perhaps Austin or Jefferson simply beats him out for the role. In deeper 8 or 9 WR builds I wouldn’t mind taking shots on Austin or Jefferson, just for some speculative value, but it’s pretty thin at this point.

 

 


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