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Boom or Bust - Doug Baldwin, Jordan Matthews, and Golden Tate

We all know who the top receivers in the league are and they will be gone sooner than ever this season in fantasy drafts. When the middle rounds come, it will be time to choose between receivers who are expected to lead their respective teams in targets, but aren't proven in that role. In this piece, we'll look at three wide receivers who are being drafted in the middle rounds, but have question marks surrounding their ADP value. Will these pass-catchers provide good return of value or should they be left alone on draft day?

Average Draft Position Data (12 team Standard, non-PPR) taken from Fantasy Football Calculator as of August 2nd.

Editor's Note: RotoBaller has the best Premium NFL Subscription, only $29.99 for the full season. We have all the preseason tools to help win your drafts, and in-season tools to win your seasonal and daily leagues: Draft Kit, Premium Rankings, ADP Sleepers Tool, Matchup Ratings for every player, Daily DFS Cheat Sheets, Lineup Picks, Expert Lineups, Stacks and Avoids.

 

2016 Draft Day - Booms or Busts?

Doug Baldwin (WR, SEA): ADP: 4.10

With a four-year, $46 million contract under his belt, there is no doubt that Baldwin will be the top target in Seattle. His second-half numbers took everyone by surprise when he suddenly put up 12 TD and 47 receptions in the last eight games, compared to 31 REC and two TD in the first eight games. In the final rankings of standard leagues, Baldwin was the seventh-ranked WR. Yet, he is being consistently placed outside the top 20 in pre-season rankings and is available as late as the fifth round in many formats. Many owners are smelling bust here, but is this justified?

Baldwin's explosion didn't come out of nowhere - it was a direct result of a change in offensive philosophy that may continue this season. Jimmy Graham was brought in as a free agent last season to stretch the middle of the field, but it didn't exactly work out. Once he suffered a patellar tendon rupture in week 12, Baldwin became the undisputed red zone target and deep threat for the Seattle offense. Additionally, the end of the Marshawn Lynch era caused the Seahawks to rely more on the passing offense to put up points. Unless Mr. Skittles makes a stunning reversal, it is likely that Russell Wilson's arm and legs will be counted on more than ever. With Graham's recovery in question as well, there is no reason to think Baldwin won't continue to be a target magnet. Of course, 14 TD will be extremely hard to match, but if he can finish with another 1,000 yards and double-digit TD, he is well worth his current ADP.

Verdict: Boom!

 
Jordan Matthews (WR, PHI) ADP: 6.08

Jordan Matthews would seem to be a prime breakout candidate this season. He is entering his third year, he increased his receiving yardage up to 997 and was targeted a team-high 126 times. Those numbers seem very sustainable, but will he increase those numbers or stay static? Matthews is a reliable target, but he may not be suited for the WR1 role in Philadelphia. The Eagles drafted Nelson Agholor in the first round last year to be that featured receiver. Agholor's production this year is another matter entirely, but the point is that the Eagles may not view Matthews as worthy of top receiver status. There have been rumors that Philly may be among the teams ready to swing a deal for embattled Josh Gordon if the Browns decide to deal him and his baggage away for a draft pick. Giants fans will surely scoff at this next statement, but early reports indicate the Rueben Randle has been standing out early in training camp and may see a fair amount of targets as well.

Other warning signs are the continued drops that Matthews seems to suffer from. A hand ligament injury may be to blame for last year's batch of drops. He was credited with six drops, ranking in the top 20 among all receivers. He will need to improve on his 67.5% Catch% to be considered a top receiver option. Matthews should play predominantly in the slot this year, which shouldn't hurt his targets or lead to a down year per se. What I'm looking at here is value in return from ADP and pre-season expectations. Expecting him to repeat last year's totals is totally reasonable and he may even reach 1,000 yards. Expecting him to far eclipse those stats and take a leap to WR1 status is not recommended. The possibility of rookie Carson Wentz seeing significant time behind center doesn't help either. While Matthews is a somewhat safe pick as a low-end WR2, I don't think he will quite live up to his current ADP and would prefer targeting someone with more upside on a high-scoring offense, so I am labeling him a mild bust.

Verdict: Bust!

 
Golden Tate (WR, DET) ADP: 4.07

Tate is entering his third year in Detroit after four in Seattle, so he is more of a proven commodity than our first two cases. Tate is in the unique position of being expected to be the top receiver on his team for the first time in his career. The addition of Anquan Boldin bolsters the receiving corps, but he is obviously past his prime and won't be on the field each and every series. Marvin Jones, the Lions' main offensive free agent addition (I will not refer to him as a replacement for Calvin Johnson because that would just be wrong) is a WR2, but no more. Tate has been targeted 272 in his two seasons with Detroit and that number could climb with Megatron out of the picture. But what about his sudden, dramatic drop in production last year despite the high number of targets?

Tate had increased his receiving yardage every single year of his NFL career since 2010, culminating with 1,331 YDS in 2014. Last season, however, that total plummeted to 813 YDS even though he caught only nine fewer passes. This also dropped his Y/R to 9.0, giving him a lackluster 50.8 Y/G. Tate is not a big red zone threat - his season high for TD is seven - which makes his yardage production crucial to have fantasy value. Tate's usage last year and subsequent drop in production can be partially blamed on injury, but not one of his own. Megatron's prolonged absences last year and the lack of any semblance of a running game hurt the entire Lions offense. Theoretically, this should have helped Tate by making him the focal point of the passing game, as is expected this year.

The problem is that Detroit finished 32nd (dead last) in total rushing offense at 83.4 yards per game. The passing totals look fairly good on paper (278.9 YDS/G receiving - 8th place), but Matthew Stafford was too often forced to settle for short passes as a substitute for running plays. With Tate forced to be a chain mover, rather than the deep threat he is best suited to be, his fantasy value evaporated. How bullish you choose to be about this year's Lions is a matter of perspective, but with the same running backs, a porous offensive line that will be breaking in three rookies and a swap of Johnson for Boldin, I am not putting any chips in Detroit's proverbial table when the cards are dealt.

Verdict: Bust!

 

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