It looks like a lean offseason for wide receivers. Unlikely that any will be any selected in the top 10 of the draft (maybe none in the top 20). And there aren’t any can’t-miss superstars who are available in free agency.
Those wanting to sign a free agent will kick the tires on Sammy Watkins, but he’s had injury problems in the past and comes off a down season. Allen Robinson, Terrelle Pryor and Cameron Meredith missed almost all of last season. Donte Moncrief, Paul Richardson, Marqise Lee? Jarvis Landry is an effective slot receiver, but he’s tagged, so any deal will involve compensating the Dolphins.
Not a good year to be looking for a wide receiver. If Watkins isn’t protected by some kind of tag (which hasn’t happened yet) I’m guessing some receiver-hungry team will sign him to the largest deal of this group.
Looking through the numbers from past years, I note that the hit rate hasn’t been great with free agents at this position. Over the past 10 years, only about half of the high-profile transplants have performed like people were expecting.
This is a subjective exercise, of course, but by my count, there have been 31 coveted wide receivers who have switched teams in the last 10 years. That includes trades. And by “coveted”, I mean guys who were drafted in most fantasy leagues with the expectation they would put up starter-quality numbers. There are 12 teams in most fantasy leagues, so with these guys, the hope was they would put up top-24 type numbers.
Again, this is a mixture of fact and opinion, but I think that have been 11 wide receivers in the last 10 years that pretty everybody was really excited about. I’ve got those guys tagged with black dots. I don’t think either Watkins or Landry will wind up in a city where there will be that kind of sizzle. They’re more likely to be like the other 20 on my list – where they were multiple owners in most fantasy leagues who feel they will put up good enough numbers to be a starter.
When you look at how things played out for these receivers, the results are less than stellar. Of the 31 players I’ve listed, five put up top-10 numbers (that includes Brandon Marshall twice). Another five put up top-20 numbers, so that’s about a third of the group where they’re definitely meeting expectations.
Another seven ranked in the 20s, so that’s 17 of the 31 total who at least ranked in the top 30. Three more rank in the low 30s, then you’re down to the remaining 10 (about a third) who definitely missed the mark – eight of those didn’t even rank in the top 55.
Here’s my list, and I’ll admit it’s a little mushy. For 25 years I’ve been tracking free agent receivers, but my numerical grading system has changed over the years, and with some of these guys, it’s difficult to remember how much people were expecting of them. Chad Ochocinco, for example, didn’t do much of anything with the Patriots, but when they traded for him in 2011, there were some who were thinking he’d be the best wide receiver on that team.
Anyway, consider it a ballpark list, and I’ve got the top 31 as follows, with catches, catches, touchdowns and fantasy points (which include rushing yards and 2-point conversions). The “Rank” shows where they finished among wide receivers in that season using standard fantasy scoring.
|HOTTEST FREE AGENT WIDE RECEIVERS (2008-2017)|
|2012||• Brandon Marshall, Chi.||118||1,508||11||216.6||2|
|2015||• Brandon Marshall, NYJ||109||1,502||14||234.2||3|
|2012||• Vincent Jackson, T.B.||72||1,384||8||188.4||6|
|2017||• Brandin Cooks, N.E.||65||1,082||7||156.2||6|
|2014||Emmanuel Sanders, Den.||101||1,404||9||200.8||7|
|2008||Bernard Berrian, Minn.||48||964||8||155.0||13|
|2013||Anquan Boldin, S.F.||85||1,179||7||161.0||15|
|2017||Alshon Jeffery, Phil.||57||789||9||138.9||15|
|2015||Jeremy Maclin, K.C.||87||1,088||8||158.2||17|
|2014||• DeSean Jackson, Wash.||56||1,169||6||153.6||17|
|2013||• Wes Welker, Den.||73||778||10||137.8||21|
|2013||Mike Wallace, Mia.||73||930||5||126.3||25|
|2010||Anquan Boldin, Balt.||64||837||7||125.9||25|
|2014||Eric Decker, NYJ||74||962||5||126.2||28|
|2009||• Terrell Owens, Buff.||55||829||6||124.3||26|
|2012||Brandon Lloyd, N.E.||74||911||5||121.1||28|
|2010||• Brandon Marshall, Mia.||86||1,014||3||119.7||29|
|2016||Marvin Jones, Det.||55||930||4||117.3||39|
|2010||Santonio Holmes, NYJ||52||746||6||112.3||33|
|2009||• T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Sea.||79||911||3||109.1||31|
|2017||Sammy Watkins, LAR||39||593||8||107.3||32|
|2013||Greg Jennings, Minn.||68||804||4||104.4||40|
|2016||Travis Benjamin, S.D.||47||677||4||91.4||56|
|2017||DeSean Jackson, T.B.||50||668||3||88.6||44|
|2009||Laveranues Coles, Cin.||43||514||5||82.4||58|
|2013||• Danny Amendola, N.E.||54||633||2||75.4||61|
|2011||Sidney Rice, Sea.||32||484||2||60.7||73|
|2017||Pierre Garcon, S.F.||40||500||0||50.0||79|
|2011||Chad Ochocinco, N.E.||15||276||0||33.6||---|
|2017||Terrelle Pryor, Wash.||20||240||1||30.0||---|
|2013||• Percy Harvin, Sea.||1||17||0||1.7||---|