Last week my top free agent running back piece was headlined by Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard. This week with wide receivers? Well, let’s just say the list isn’t as pretty. After Saquon, Jacobs and Pollard at RB, we even had strong alternatives like Miles Sanders, Kareem Hunt, David Montgomery, Jamaal Williams and Jerick McKinnon. Here at WR? In my mind, there isn’t a single fantasy star on the list. Let’s dive in and take a deeper look.
1. JuJu Smith-Schuster: He jumps out as a “name” player right off the bat, but is he really necessary to Kansas City’s success on the offensive side of the ball? Sure, he’s a nice asset to have, but he isn’t truly a WR1, as he’s slated within Andy Reid and Eric Bienemy’s high-powered attack. I’m giving him my No. 1 spot here because he’s an established veteran with some good seasons under his belt, but I really see him as a WR2 or 3 league-wide. I can sort of see a lesser team overpaying for his services. I’m thinking JuJu to Indianapolis as the Colts’ WR2 behind Michael Pittman Jr.
2. Allen Lazard: If you ranked him first here, I really wouldn’t fight ya. Lazard has always shown flashes in Green Bay, but what he really needs is an organization that will fully commit to his talent and natural ability. Last week I wrote that Saquon finally took his game to the next level because Brian Daboll puts him in the correct positions to succeed. Daboll makes Saquon as focal as he needs to be to shine. While he isn’t as talented or dominant as Saquon, Lazard still needs similar-type treatment anywhere away from Green Bay. I’m thinking WR1 for the Baltimore Ravens if they can remain competitive at the quarterback position.
3. Jakobi Meyers: You know it’s bad when Jakobi Meyers is the third-best wide receiver on the market. That’s not a knock on the kid – he’s a nice young receiver with some versatility and good technical skills – but he simply isn’t a WOW player. Could see him back with New England or maybe somewhere like Tennessee where WR is a deficiency.
4. DJ Chark: It pains me to even rank him this high. I’ve always liked Chark’s natural ability and overall potential, but he can’t seem to stay healthy nor find fantasy consistency. I’m thinking maybe he becomes Deshaun Watson’s WR3 with the Browns, behind Amari Cooper and the improving Donovan Peoples-Jones.
5. Sterling Shepard: Speaking of not staying healthy… here’s the king of that category. Shepard could be a very productive fantasy option in full-point PPR, but he simply can’t seem to stay on the field. Still, this is a weak free-agent class, and Shepard could deliver four-to-eight receptions per game in the right offense. How about becoming one of the only legitimate options for the Houston Texans?
6. Demarcus Robinson: This ranking is on pure potential. I was always surprised that Robinson wasn’t elevated into a more prominent role with the Chiefs – he has some explosive ability – nevertheless, his opportunity finally came with the Ravens this season. Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay were both down, and Robinson played quite well in their absence despite the QB carousel of Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown. I could see Robinson being a potential WR2 with the Carolina Panthers.
7. Noah Brown: One of the best WR3s in the NFL, in my opinion. CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup are strong at the top of Dallas’ heap, but Brown is sneaky good when his opportunities increase. I like his surprising toughness and overall game. He’d fit nicely in a spot with more available opportunities: How about the Atlanta Falcons?
8. Richie James: To me, he’s like the poor man’s Sterling Shepard. James has shown a lot of great things this season with the Giants, but he also has a propensity for untimely drops in brutal spots. He’s a nice little player, but I doubt anyone is breaking out the Brink’s truck for him. It really makes the most sense for him to stick with the G-Men and continue developing with Daniel Jones, Wan’Dale Robinson and Isaiah Hodgins.
9. Marvin Jones: If you had Marvin Jones as high as No. 6 on this list, I wouldn’t really argue with you. He’s a solid veteran at this point in his lengthy career, and I think he’s particularly good in the red zone in tight windows. Still, what’s the upside here? I just think Robinson, Brown and James potentially offer a bit more fantasy upside. As a seasoned vet, I could see Jones ending up with the Rams as a WR3/4. They need the WR depth, while Sean McVay is still in win-now mode with Matthew Stafford on his way back.
10. Take your pick:
I’m actually going with the last man on that list because I like the potential I saw in the absence of both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Carter can be a solid WR3 if given more opportunities. I like him as a fit in Arizona because I haven’t been impressed by Rondale Moore’s development to date.
I’ll see ya right back here next week for my top free-agent tight ends!
John Frascella is a published sports author who has been covering the NFL for 19 years. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy football, basketball and baseball.