(In this article, WR1 and WR2 refer to the following rather than a specific Depth Chart Position:
WR1 = Highest performing receiver on a team in a given stat category
WR2 = Second highest performing receiver on a team in a given stat category)
It’s free agency time again and the NFL Draft is within sight. While last year’s wide receiver class is a tough act to follow, the 2021 class appears to have plenty of talent at the position as well.
These prospects will soon be scattered across depth charts all over the league. Is it better to have the WR1 on a bad team or the WR2 on a good team in a dynasty league? As the NFL becomes saturated with such elite receiving talent, the pressure to succeed early is also increasing. We will continue to see a decent sample size for both of the above scenarios. A rookie can step right into a WR1 role in the right system and do well with high target volume. However, this does come with a lot of attention from opposing defenses. A solid WR duo, on the other hand, requires defenses to get creative.
Benefits of WR duos
While there’s certainly some give and take involved in these relationships, both parties stand to benefit overall.
With CeeDee Lamb’s addition in 2020, Amari Cooper added 13 receptions on 11 additional targets than 2019. Cooper did finish the season with three fewer touchdowns, but it’s worth noting that Dak Prescott only played in five games. Even without Prescott, the duo finished 7th in receptions and 8th in receiving yards. With Prescott officially re-signed, it goes without saying that this pair’s expectations are high in Dallas this year.
In Minnesota, Adam Thielen finished the 2020 season with a career-high 14 touchdowns, shattering his personal best of 9 touchdowns in 2018. In 2020 he also played one less game and had thirty-nine fewer receptions. Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson finished 2nd in touchdowns, 3rd in receiving yards, and 10th in receptions.
Twice as nice
Here are some more examples of the success of good WR duos from the 2020 season:
In the receptions category, the top six WR2s were paired with a top ten WR1.
Five of the top six scoring WR2s were lined up across from a top ten scoring WR1. (One more Stefon Diggs touchdown would have made this 6 of 6).
Eight of the top ten combined receiving yardage duos featured a top ten WR1 in the category. Of those eight duos, only two included a WR2 who finished outside the top 50 in yardage: Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Christian Kirk.
Best Rookie Landing Spots
Based on the above stats and the disparity between their WR1 and WR2, the Packers and Cardinals are my two favorite landing spots for any top-tier rookie receivers in this year’s draft.
Green Bay Packers
There may not be any better QB for his receivers’ fantasy production than Aaron Rodgers. Also, who better for a rookie to learn from than Davante Adams? Adams finished the 2020 season 1st in touchdowns, tied for 2nd in receptions, and tied for 4th in receiving yards. While Rodgers had a career season in 2020, the talent surrounding Adams hasn’t been promising in recent years. If the Packers draft a WR in the first two rounds, they will be worth a late first-round pick in your dynasty rookie draft.
Not long ago, a rookie named DeAndre Hopkins was drafted by the Houston Texans to play alongside one of the NFL’s best receivers in Andre Johnson. In his first season with the Cardinals, Hopkins finished 2nd in receiving yards and tied for 2nd in receptions. While a Fitzgerald-Hopkins combination would have been almost unfair a few years back, the Cardinals are likely looking to get some more target options for Kyler Murray very soon. With the kind of coverage required to slow down Hopkins, this would be an ideal landing spot for any day one or two WR in this year’s draft. An early 2nd round pick in your dynasty rookie draft would make sense here.
Other Key Landing Spots
Washington Football Team
While there is less certainty at the quarterback position in DC, there is a big opportunity for one of these receivers to start early across from a great vertical threat in Terry McLaurin. This role should be perfect for a receiver with a larger WR1 frame to help whoever ends up throwing the ball in Washington this year. Keep an eye on the quarterback position here, and this may be a bigger role than it appears.
Like Washington, the Ravens don’t have much at the WR position except for a top talented field stretcher in Marquise Brown. Lamar Jackson is still a top-tier talent at the quarterback position and could use a bigger target with a wide catch radius. The combination of Cam Newton and then-rookie Kelvin Benjamin comes to mind when picturing a match for Jackson. Watch for the Ravens to grab one of this year’s larger receiving options, and if you like the receiver’s talent, there’s a lot to like about the opportunity.
Upward Trending Duos
Before Courtland Sutton’s knee injury, he was coming off of 2019 with over 1,100 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. In 2020, rookie Jerry Jeudy was forced to get acclimated to the NFL without Sutton and with insufficient quarterback play by Drew Lock. Jeudy was still able to post 856 yards and 3 touchdowns on 52 receptions. (Hypothetically, had Sutton not been injured and repeated his numbers from the previous season, the duo would have finished 11th in yards). It’s worth noting that Sutton is only 25 heading into his fourth NFL season. Regardless of what happens at the quarterback position in Denver, this preseason may be the last chance to buy low on either of these players in your dynasty league.
San Francisco 49ers
With Deebo Samuel unavailable for over half of last season, rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk recorded 60 catches for 748 yards and 5 touchdowns. As the two are heading into their second and third seasons, they will be one to watch for years if Samuel can stay healthy. While Samuel’s injury history is concerning, Aiyuk is still a good player to request at the back end of a trade if you want to cash in on this duo.
Joe Burrow’s knee injury derailed a very impressive rookie season, especially considering the kind of pass protection he was working behind for his 10 games. What he did have going for him was a solid pair of targets in Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. This duo finished the 2020 season 10th in receiving yards, 13th in receptions, and tied for 15th in touchdowns. The future looks bright for these two in Cincinnati if Burrow recovers quickly. The rumor around the league now is that Burrow is pushing for the team to take his college teammate Ja’Marr Chase in the first round. This is hard to believe considering they should have a shot at Penei Sewell. However, the possibility of a Burrows-Chase reunion makes Higgins the better dynasty option at this time.