Every year there are teams that have to rebuild or “reload” a roster because they lost players to graduation and/or the NFL. One of the more difficult positions to gauge in terms of predicting individual fantasy production is wide receiver. Finding the right guy on those teams can be very rewarding in terms of a championship in your league. Here are five teams who have the potential for some great fantasy gems based on the offense they come from or the hyped talent they come into the season with.
Boise State- The Broncos have had a recent history filled with dominant wide receivers. Going back to the “Golden Years” of Boise State football from 2008-2010 gives you guys like Titus Young and Austin Pettis. They were followed by Tyler Shoemaker in 2011, Matt Miller from 2012-2013, Thomas Sperbeck from 2014-2016, and most recently Cedrick Wilson in 2017. The question is, who will be the go-to man in 2018? Based on experience alone, A.J. Richardson would be the first choice to take that role. Although he has played in each of his first three seasons at Boise State, he didn’t make much of an impact until last season where he caught 33 passes for 494 yards. The slot receiver to own would be Sean Modster. Modster may be the easiest of the Boise receivers to project as his role will remain the same while inheriting more touches. The Broncos also have some young guns ready to compete and possible take the spotlight from both Richardson and Modster, however. Octavius Evans (6’1”, 201 lbs.) and CT Thomas (5’8”, 172 lbs.) both showed promise in their freshman seasons in 2017. Both caught 15 passes for 131 and 121 yards respectively. The obvious separation of the two is size. Evans is a much larger target and will easily challenge for the WR1 role. Thomas is cut from the same mold that former Bronco Shane Williams-Rhodes was. The Broncos will try to get the ball in Thomas’ hands much like they did with Williams-Rhodes by using quick screens and end-arounds. The darkhorse in this receiver group would be incoming freshman Khalil Shakir. A 4-star recruit out of Murrieta, California, Shakir could force his way into playing time in 2018. I don’t necessarily expect him to carve out a major role just yet, but with the new redshirt policy in place, the Broncos will have four games to give him some live looks. This should be a fun group to keep in eye on this season for sure especially in fantasy as we know this offense has the tendency of putting up points.
Florida State- Things in Tallahassee changed quite a bit since the end of last season. First and foremost, former head coach Jimbo Fisher bolted to Texas A&M for a pretty ludicrous contract offer but that isn’t important here. What is important is that Willie Taggart has taken charge coming from Oregon. This could be an interesting transition for the Florida State program but the good news is that there is no shortage of talent. With that being said, talent doesn’t always equal success. Although a very talented group, last year’s wide receivers could have performed a little better especially for fantasy purposes. The leading receiver (Nyquan Murray) only managed to gain 604 yards. The most productive receiver in terms of fantasy value (Auden Tate) only mustered up 548 yards, but he managed to get into the endzone 10 times. Neither one of these guys caught more than 40 passes all season so this year’s group has the bar set quite low. As far as this year is concerned, the leading returning receiver is Murray. Much of the spring has been about transitioning to the new coaching staff and a focus on the run game because the Seminoles have a few guys in the backfield that you may have heard of in Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick. The offense will more than likely lean on these guys as the receivers develop, but a few names to watch are D.J. Matthews, Tamorrion Terry, and Keith Gavin. I’ll start with Matthews. The sophomore is only listed at 5’10”, 155 lbs. but was electric as a punt returner in his freshman season. His role should increase this season with the lack of proven options in front of him. Next is Tamorrion Terry, the redshirt freshman who has all the physical tools to be great at this level and possibly beyond. At 6’4”, 200 lbs, Terry could be the perfect Auden Tate replacement as he hauled in five passes for 129 yards and a touchdown in this year’s spring game. Freshman QB Bailey Hockman has been quoted saying “Nobody can guard him” in practice. Obviously he’s not going to talk down about his teammate but from the sounds of it, Terry could be in for a very nice season. If you are in a dynasty league, he is one to stash at the very least, that is, if you haven’t already. Finally, I want to talk about Keith Gavin. Probably the least intriguing of the three I have mentioned but he is the one who had the most production in 2017. He caught 28 passes in just 10 games which was good for third on the team. He is built much like Terry but going into his junior season. I expect him to be the veteran presence along with Nyqwan Murray to help bring this young group along. This group may be the most talented of the teams I list here today but I feel that there is a gem in this team. The challenge is taking a chance on the right one.
Memphis– The Tigers are coming off one of the most exciting seasons in school history. There was no drop off when quarterback Paxton Lynch left for the NFL. In fact, one could argue the Tigers got better. They still had one the best wide receivers in the nation in Anthony Miller. Miller racked up 3,590 yards in three seasons in Memphis while also finding the endzone 37 times. Things are looking bright for the Memphis program, however, it will have to move on without now Chicago Bear Anthony Miller. The Tigers also lost another top target, Phil Mayhue, to graduation. The good news for Memphis is that they have a ton of young weapons ready to show that they can pick up where things left off in 2017. Redshirt sophomore Damonte Coxie looks to be the breakout star for this offense. Coxie did contribute as a freshman in 2017, catching 21 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns. This isn’t overly impressive by any means but when you take into account that Miller accounted for nearly 33% of all receiving yards, it is very promising for a freshman to get the looks he got. Coxie is a big target at 6’3”, 200 lbs. and has the ability to pull away from defenders. He would be the name I targeted in drafts if no one else from this offense. If you are looking for another possible breakout performer, then junior Antonio Gibson would be my name to watch. He, along with Coxie, were really the only two receivers to deliver the goods. Also, like Coxie, Gibson is a larger target at 6’2”, 200 lbs. Finally, a more known name for fantasy degens, Tony Pollard could carve out a nice role in this offense. He is used as an all-around weapon so keep an eye on his position eligibility as Fantrax currently has him listed as only a running back. This may change as we get closer to the season but it’s not a guarantee. Pollard was actually the team’s second leading receiver behind Miller but his main claim to fame is his kick returning ability. He took four to the house in 2017 so the explosiveness is there to be had for this offense. If Memphis settles on the right quarterback this fall, I expect this offense to pick up where it left off and possibly lead this team to its first New Year’s Six bowl game.
Oklahoma State– The offense will be going through a major overhaul in 2018 as it sees its quarterback and top two receivers leave to the NFL. This offense is one the nation’s most exciting year in, year out and while it may take some adjusting, I expect it to pick up where 2017 left off. Once the Cowboys settle on a quarterback, the question becomes who will be the guys filling the major holes left by All-American James Washington and fellow senior receiver Marcell Ateman? The two combined for 2,705 yards last season so there’s definitely a void to fill. I’ve had my eye on Tyron Johnson for a couple of years now. I actually drafted him on my dynasty team when he was a true freshman at LSU. While hoping for the Odell Beckham-like performance in Baton Rouge, I was a little upset when he decided to leave for Stillwater. After sitting out the 2016 season due to transfer policy, Johnson played sparingly last season catching 18 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns. There just simply weren’t enough footballs to go around last year. I expect him to get his fair share of targets in 2018. The candidate that many argue to be the main breakout star is sophomore Dillon Stoner. As a freshman last season, he caught 44 passes for 576 yards and six touchdowns. Definitely a promising sign in a player’s freshman season. He’s roughly the same size as James Washington and should be used heavily from the slot in this offense. The other slot will be operated by senior Jalen McCleskey. He has contributed significantly in his first three seasons in Stillwater and should do so again this year. I think his ceiling has been reached but I think his floor isn’t much lower so he is a pretty safe guy to have on your roster this fall. I think this offense is going to explode over the next couple of years with incoming freshmen L.C. Greenwood, Jonathan Shepard, and sophomore Patrick McKaufman. These guys should get some good looks this year but may be a year too early to be considered in redraft leagues. Dynasty leagues however, should take note.
Syracuse– The Dino Babers effect has been real for the ‘Cuse the last couple of seasons. The former Bowling Green head coach took over at Syracuse in the 2016 season. Just to give an idea of how much Babers changed this offense practically overnight, I want to dive into the numbers from 2015, the season before he arrived. Syracuse threw for just 1,881 yards for the entire season with the leading receiver (Steven Ishmael) only racking up 570 yards. Move forward to 2016, and Syracuse threw for more than double the yards with 3,855. Two receivers cleared the 570 yard mark from the previous season comfortably and two others nearly matched it. 2017 was nearly identical to 2016 however, the top two pass catchers were both seniors (Steven Ishmael and Ervin Phillips) so there is a hole to fill in this offense. The immediate choice to fill that role is junior Devin Butler. He was third on the team in receiving in 2017 with 327 yards and is the only receiver with more than eight receptions in 2017 with 33. Recent reports have stated that Butler has put on weight this offseason from 194 to 208 lbs. I guess he is preparing his body for the workload he plans on getting. Now the question is, who else will be a significant contributor to this high powered offense? I personally like Jamal Custis, a 6’5”, 213 lb receiver that has made the move to the slot. As I stated before, he didn’t impress last season as he only had eight catches but the redshirt senior looks poised for his opportunity. He should present a lot of trouble for the defense with his size and playing on the inside. He could essentially be looked at as a pass catching tight end. The other name I like is sophomore Nykeim Johnson. He has been listed as the outside receiver opposite Butler. Despite being just 5’8”, 170 lbs. Johnson has the explosiveness to take the top off of a defense. He is also to be used in a variety of ways in this offense as there are plenty of touches to go around. As always with offenses like this one, there is a good possibility of other guys breaking through throughout the season so this situation is one to monitor all the way through.