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Road to #1 Receiver - NFC East


Each year, elite wide receivers are some of the mainstays of fantasy football rosters. With high target shares and production values, these consensus top-tier wide receivers are some of the first names off of draft boards and consistently perform well throughout the season.

However, there is also a good amount of unpredictability at the position, with breakout players appearing from out of nowhere year-in and year-out. Whether they dominate for stretches over the year or end up as top-level talents themselves, unproven or underrated wide receivers represent a very good opportunity for fantasy owners entering drafts due to their lower draft capital and high production premiums.

In this series, we will go through each NFL division and point out one wide receiver on each team in that division that is currently ranked outside of the top-12 at the position who could finish among the league's best when all is said and done. Today, let's look at the NFC East and see who could be that next elite fantasy receiver.

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Wide Receivers - NFC East

Alshon Jeffery, PHI

Alshon Jeffery has certainly had a career of ups and downs. After exploding onto the scene in 2013 with the Chicago Bears - a season where he accumulated over 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns - Jeffery was a mainstay of the teams offense for a few seasons before injuries and suspensions put an end to his stay in the Windy City. Seeking a change of scenery, Jeffery left the Bears and ended up winning the Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles last year. Although his stats were rather modest - 789 yards and nine touchdowns - Jeffery put a lot of work in as the team's top receiver and was able to sign himself to a lucrative contract extension for the foreseeable future. Additionally, the veteran receiver was able to snag 12 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs, making him a very valuable asset for his team when it counted.

Although the Eagles wide receiver room features the likes of Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor as well as tight end Zach Ertz, Jeffery is still the team's top receiver - on paper. There should be a lot of competition for targets coming from whoever starts at quarterback (veteran Nick Foles or returning-from-injury Carston Wentz). Additionally, the team showed last year that they were able to function incredibly well by distributing the ball around. However, Jeffery's redzone prowess makes him a very interesting candidate to enter the ranks of WR1, even though he will most likely end up as a high-priced WR2 at his current 4th round ADP.

Allen Hurns, DAL

After being taken as an undrafted free agent in 2014, Allen Hurns broke out in his sophomore season with a 1,000 yard, ten touchdown campaign behind fellow receiver Allen Robinson. However, the following two years have been less than ideal for the veteran wide receiver, as his lucrative contract extension with the Jaguars did not translate to on-the-field performance. Hurns has missed six games over the last two seasons and has scored a combined five touchdowns over that time period. Additionally, the now ex-Jaguars receiver wasn't able to cross the 500 yard barrier in either season.

Since the end of last season, Hurns has moved over to Dallas in free agency in the hopes of replacing Dez Bryant as the team's alpha receiver. So far, it looks as if he will be the team's number one option heading into the year, making him the main target for quarterback Dak Prescott. Given the lack of competition in the receiver room for the team, Hurns should get plenty of opportunities for a rebound season and should be considered a good mid-round pick in the 9th round who could return much higher value as a fringe WR2. If Hurns is able to once again become the dominant receiver that he was in 2015, we could see him approach WR1 numbers this season as well.

Josh Doctson, WAS

Due to injury, Doctson largely redshirted his rookie year after being selected as a first round pick by the Washington Redskins in 2016. Last year, while fighting for snaps with Terrelle Pryor (now with the Jets), Doctson was able to record over 500 receiving yards and six touchdowns despite disappearing at times during games. Now entering his third season, Doctson is challenging for the team's top receiver role and potentially even the top offensive option (if tight end Jordan Reed can't stay healthy again), making him a good late round pick on a team that likes to pass the football a lot. Doctson may finally break out this year and show everyone why he was selected so highly in 2016 as well as why he was such a dominant receiver in college at TCU.

Sterling Shepard, NYG

One player who has certainly impressed in his time in the league has been Sterling Shepard. A former second round pick, Shepard came into his rookie season playing behind Odell Beckham Jr. and amassed 683 yards as well as eight touchdowns. All signs were pointing up, yet in 2017 the Giants were decimated by injuries to their wide receivers, including Shepard (who missed five games). Despite this setback, the young receiver was able to lead the team in receiving yards with 731 and score another two touchdowns. Now, with the return of Odell Beckham Jr. to the mix as well as tight end Evan Engram, Shepard will once again be competing for targets in an offense that should have a rebound year. However, with Beckham Jr. taking away most of the double coverage, there could be space and target volume for the receiver entering his third year, making Shepard an ideal late round pick with very high upside due to the nature of the team's passing attack. Although WR2 returns are much more likely than WR1 numbers (especially given the presence of new running back Saquon Barkley's receiving ability), Shepard could surprise us all and put up great numbers in an offense that is tailored to his skill set.

 

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