The production from the traditional No. 2 wide receiver on NFL teams has been trending downward the last several seasons. This is due to a few factors; including the evolution of the TE position, an increased emphasis on the slot receiver, and growing utilization of RBs in the passing game.
When referring to the “No. 2 wide receiver”, I’m talking about the receiver who typically lines up outside the numbers opposite the No. 1 receiver, not the second best receiving option on the team. Randall Cobb is a great example. Cobb is clearly the second best receiver on the Packers next to Jordy Nelson, however he is primarily a slot receiver. Devante Adams is technically the Packers No. 2 wide receiver.
Guys like Jarvis Landry, Julian Edelman, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandin Cooks, and Doug Baldwin were all the most productive receivers on their team last season, but they all did most of their damage lined up in the slot position.
Last season, only four No. 2 wide receivers went for over 1,000 yards (none had more than 1,087 yards). Those four receivers were
- Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos)
- Eric Decker (Jets)
- Allen Hurns (Jaguars)
- John Brown (Cardinals)
They are considered the top end No. 2 wide receivers. All of these guys remain solid mid round selections, and weekly starters in most leagues. Although Sanders and Decker do have serious QB concerns.
There are seven teams (Patriots, Browns, Titans, Panthers, Chiefs, Rams, and 49ers), whose starting No. 2 wide receiver is unclear, and not worth a draft pick.
There are another six starting No. 2 wide receivers who aren’t really worth consideration, except maybe in the deepest of leagues. Those receivers are
- Pierre Garcon (Redskins)
- Kenny Stills (Dolphins)
- Devante Adams (Packers)
- Robert Woods (Bills)
- Ruben Randle (Eagles)
- Steve Smith/Mike Wallace (Ravens)
If Steve Smith can prove his Achilles is healthy entering Week 1, then the ageless wonder could be a nice late round sleeper.
The remaining fifteen No. 2 wide receivers deserve further examination. I’ve separated them into three groups; Those with a large talent gap between themselves and the No. 1 receiver, those with a small talent gap compared to the No. 1 receiver, and those who are in unique situations.
Evaluating The Remaining 15 No-2 Wide Receiver Positions
Large Talent Gap Group
You may notice all of these receivers are playing alongside an elite No. 1 WR. There’s a common misconception that playing second fiddle to an elite WR is a good thing. The simple logic is that they will draw the extra coverage, often leaving the No. 2 wide receiver in one-on-one coverage.
The flaw in this logic is that even if an elite receiver like Julio Jones is being double or triple covered, he’s so talented that the QB is going to force him the ball anyway. The concept holds true for Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, Dez Bryant, and Mike Evans. There’s a reason these guys are consistently the most targeted wide out’s in the game.
That said, there is still some value and potential in this group. The two rookies Will Fuller and Tyler Boyd are the most intriguing to me.
Will Fuller, Houston Texans
Fuller has some serious talent, particularly his 4.3 speed. He can be a great deep threat, and will be a nice compliment to Hopkins. I’m not sold on Brock Osweiler as a quality QB, but he does have a big arm. Fuller will not need a ton of targets to make an impact. I see him as a John Brown type player.
Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
Boyd still has to beat out veteran Brandon LaFell for the starting job, but all indications are that he will. Marvin Jones had moderate success playing opposite Green. Jones had 65 catches for 816 yards and four TDs last season. I think you can expect a similar stat line from Boyd this season.
Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers
Wheaton showed flashes of ability last season, especially in a week 12 performance versus Seattle, where he went off for 201 yards and a TD. That single game accounted for over 1/4 off his season totals though. Plus, in addition to Antonio Brown, the Steelers still have Le’Veon Bell, Sammie Coats, Darius Heyward-Bay, and new TE Ladarius Green all vying for touches.
Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys/Vincent Jackson Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Williams and Jackson, you kind of know what you’re getting. Neither are high volume receivers, but both have big play ability. They’ll each have a couple big games, but good luck guessing when those games are going to come.
Mohammed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons
Sanu is the last name in this group. Sanu mainly played the slot in Cincinnati. In Atlanta, Justin Hardy is more suited to play the slot, and I expect Sanu to assume the No. 2 wide receiver spot. Either way, I’m not a big fan of Sanu. He’s a very average talent playing alongside the most dominant WR in the game.
Small Talent Gap Group
This is the group you want to target. All these No. 2 wide receivers have enough talent to make a significant impact. They should all get an ample amount of targets as well. Most importantly, several of the them have a chance to unseat the No. 1 WR on their respective teams.
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts
Moncrief is the best of the bunch.
Last season when playing with Andrew Luck, Moncrief came out of the gate hot, catching three TDs and receiving nine targets a game in the first three games of the season.
Luck had an injury riddled season, that ended Week 9 with a lacerated liver.
The Colts also made the mistake of signing Andre Johnson and drafting Phillip Dorsett in the first round. This cluttered up their receiving corps.
I look at last season as a wash for the Colts. With Luck healthy and slinging them the ball, Moncrief and TY Hilton have the potential to be the best 1-2 WR punch in the league.
Laquan Treadwell, Minnesota Vikings
Treadwell was the hands down best rookie WR prospect, yet he ended up being the fourth WR taken (all because he ran a 4.6). Treadwell has special ball skills and excellent hands. He’ll be a beast in the red zone.
Minnesota was a great spot for him to end up in. He should eventually surpass Stefon Diggs as the No. 1 WR. Treadwell and Diggs should both benefit from the eight man boxes most teams will use to limit Adrian Peterson. The only concern is if Teddy Bridgewater is capable of getting them the ball.
Kevin White, Chicago Bears
White is a boom or bust pick. Last year’s 7th overall pick missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL.
Without seeing White play one NFL down, and only one year of high level college football at West Virginia, You’ll be drafting White on pure potential. He could come in and pick up right where Brandon Marshall left off in the Bear’s offense, or he could just as easily fall by the wayside.
Travis Benjamin, San Diego Chargers
Benjamin is one of my favorite sleepers this year. He’s flying way under the radar.
Benjamin is in the prime of his career. He’s coming off a breakout year, compiling 966 yards with the likes of Johnny Manziel, Josh McCown, and Austin Davis throwing him the ball. Now, he ends up in a nice spot in San Diego with Phillip Rivers.
Benjamin will still be the third option in the Charger offense behind Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates. However, the Chargers throw the ball so much, he still has a chance for a big year.
Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders
Crabtree resurrected his career last year in Oakland. He actually outscored Amari Cooper in fantasy points. Cooper had 150 more yards than Crabtree, but Crabtree had 13 more catches and three more TDs. As Cooper’s numbers should go up, Crabtree’s numbers will decline. While Crabtree isn’t a weekly fantasy starter, he’s a nice match-up player.
Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions
Jones lacks the ability to be a true No. 1 WR in this league. On the other hand, so does Golden Tate. Life without Calvin Johnson in going to take some adjustment from the Lions.
Since Matthew Stafford came into the league, the Lions have been near the top of the board in pass attempts every year. So, based on pure volume, Jones has the opportunity to post a solid stat line.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
Lockett had a very solid rookie campaign as both a receiver and a return man. The Seahawks stole Lockett at the end of the second round in last years’ draft.
With an expected increased role in the Seahawks offense this season, Lockett could flourish. I put him in the unique situation category because of the way Seattle likes to line up their receivers unconventionally. Much like Doug Baldwin, Lockett is capable of playing both inside and outside the numbers. Lockett’s ceiling is as high as any No. 2 wide receiver.
Willie Snead/Mike Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Similar to the Seahawks, the Saints like to move their receivers all over the place. Their best receiver Brandin Cooks is limited to the slot position. Snead ans Thomas will likely be the primary outside receivers. Both have significant upside.
Snead is a young, big play threat. He compiled 984 yards in his sophomore season with the Saints. He only scored 3 TDs though. He’s small, and not much of a red zone presence.
Thomas possess the complete opposite skill set of Snead. He’s not all that fast or explosive, but he’s a big body receiver with monster sized hands. He could very well be the next Marques Colston in this offense.
Sterling Shepard, NY Giants
Shepard is in an interesting predicament. I believe his value is tied to the questionable health of Victor Cruz. If Cruz is healthy, he will reprise his role in the slot, and likely be the second option next to Odell Beckham. That would leave Shepard lined up outside the numbers, where he could struggle.
If Cruz has issues though, Shepard will slide into the slot, and could thrive in the Giants wide open passing attack.
Due to the recent decline in production from the No. 2 wide receiver position, approach all these names with caution. Don’t expect any of them to have a monster season. It appears the days of elite WR duos, such as Randy Moss/Chris Carter, Isaac Bruce/Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison/Reggie Wayne, Jimmy Smith/ Keenan McCardell, and Jerry Rice/Terrell Owens, may be coming to an end.
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