Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders
I promised I wouldn’t say through gritted teeth, “Carson Wentz is the best quarterback Terry McLaurin has ever played with" and end up green-lighting him in fantasy this year. I've lived that life with Allen Robinson and dusty veterans in Chicago many times before. But based on my WR14 ranking of McLaurin, it looks like I’ve done it.
We often forget that Taylor Heinicke, God bless him, was a backup quarterback in the XFL before finding himself on Washington’s roster. Whatever you think of Wentz, he’s better than that and lifts the ceiling of this unit.
McLaurin presents an excellent floor because he’ll own a dominant target share in this offense and is truly an excellent player. He’s an elite separator and wins in the contested catch game down the field. He could be a top-five receiver in the right situation.
Of course, I’m worried that Wentz has enough volatility to crater this entire situation. McLaurin is too good and volume-insulated to completely wash away with him but sadly, I won’t be shocked if we’re left wanting more at the end of far too many weeks.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chris Godwin has been one of my favorite receivers since his Penn State days. I’ve almost always been ahead of consensus on him.
Not this year. I hate this one but I have been multiple spots lower than ADP on Godwin this season. My issues are three-fold.
For starters, even with solid reports about his progress coming back from a torn ACL I’m still not totally convinced he will be fully ramped up until mid-October. The most valuable weeks in fantasy football are the final few chapters during a playoff push but you need to be good to get there. Getting off to a fast start just makes everything easier. Taking a player you know you’ll have to wait on typically isn’t part of my plans.
We also need to consider that the Bucs have sort of hedged their bets on Godwin this year by signing Julio Jones and Russell Gage. Godwin might not have his usual full role or volume even when he gets ramped back up.
Lastly, he goes in a draft range where I just always find myself more interested in plucking potential breakout receivers. Whether it’s the Amon-Ra St. Brown-Elijah Moore-Rashod Bateman second-year group or third-year players like Darnell Mooney or Gabe Davis, I’m more tempted by them in this tier. There are risks with those players but they’ll walk into big immediate roles.
However, Godwin is a proven baller and for that reason, I hate to fade him. If I get this one wrong, I’ll be happy about it.
Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
I’ve been banking on Trey Lance lifting the ceiling on this 49ers offense essentially since the moment he was drafted. Lance’s vertical-passing potential and mobility can theoretically take an offense that’s been wildly efficient under Kyle Shanahan and make it certifiably dangerous.
Since we haven’t seen Lance start an extended stretch of games, all that does still exist only in theory. I’d be lying if I said the 49ers bringing Jimmy Garoppolo back on the roster at the 11th hour didn’t give me some pause. I think this move is more about kicking the trade can down the road while also keeping a viable backup quarterback in the building.
But it does give a slight pause.
I still think Lance is going to start every single game this season; the team has fully moved on to him and he’ll be good sooner than later. That trickle-down effect is going to be huge for the other players in this offense, especially Brandon Aiyuk. If Lance flops, it’ll be a tough scene for me.
Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
I’m not ranking Wilson as if the worst is going to happen but there’s a part of me that can’t shake the feeling we’ll be near the middle of the season for Denver and be thinking, "This is it?”
The narrative of Russell Wilson arriving in Denver and suddenly being surrounded by excellent offensive players just ready to be elevated is one I'm not so sure I buy.
We like Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon to provide a strong rushing attack but the receiver corps is murky after the Tim Patrick injury. Right now it looks like a top-heavy group with Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy leading the way. And let’s not forget neither of them are coming off good seasons — even when you isolate them from their quarterback play — although you can make a health excuse for both. There’s no proven WR3 and it sounds like the exciting Albert Okwuegbunam isn’t fully ramped up just yet at tight end.
So we’re looking at Wilson on an offense with a good running game and a (theoretically) good wide receiver duo with little depth behind them. Where have we seen that before?
Wilson himself is a specific type of quarterback who typically turns every offensive system into the “Russell Wilson offense.” We should also be ready to ask some questions about how his game will age. Wilson has built much of his best moments through his ability to improvise off scrambles.
Those moments are evaporating.
If Wilson is a slightly declining player and Sutton and Jeudy don’t take another leap, this whole operation is going to be quite ordinary. I’m not expecting that to be the case but we could all look very wrong about the Broncos this year.
Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
Any time I love a player’s talent but am fading them at ADP for situational circumstances, I’m never comfortable. Jaylen Waddle is that guy this year.
I just can’t square two top-20-ranked Dolphins receivers on a likely run-first offense captained by a questionable quarterback. The math doesn’t work out, especially since I’m projecting Tyreek Hill to not only lead the team in targets but also high-leverage looks. I believe that Waddle can win more down the field than his rookie year usage suggests. However, Waddle is still paired with the same quarterback from last year and is now sharing the passing game with the NFL’s most prolific downfield receiver.
All that said, Waddle is an awesome player. If he proves my low ranking (WR22) wrong this year, I won't be surprised. He’s one of the best young talents in the league. I’ll just have to watch him do his thing on exactly zero of my fantasy teams.