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Wide Receiver Fantasy Football Strategy 2012

Updated on July 20, 2012

Consistency or Upside?

TrevorBasile just recently posted a Hub listing his top 25 Wide Receivers for 2012. In the comments section, I asked about his ranking strategy. He argued that, particularly in leagues of 3 starting wide receivers, he prefers consistency over upside for his top two WRs. His rankings reflect that philosophy. This Hub is the counter-point to TrevorBasile's point. I am not suggesting that his philosophy is foolish (actually, I see tremendous wisdom in it!), but I put forth mine for conversation. It is also the first in a series of Hubs discussing draft and auction strategy for each position. Already live are Wide Receivers (this Hub), Quarterbacks and Running Backs.

In 2012, the list of legitimate #1 Wide Receivers in fantasy football is strong. Arguably, it's about twelve deep. The list of potential #2 WRs, however, is even stronger, going perhaps another 20-25 deep -- and that is beyond the initial twelve! In other words, it is very easy to get one or two reliable #2 WRs, from guys like Dez Bryant to Percy Harvin to Brandon Lloyd -- all in the top-35 WRs. Thus, when I target my top WRs, I am not, in 2012, looking for consistency. Consistency will be available nearly 40 WRs deep. Instead, I am looking for difference-makers.

Demaryuis Thomas

Depending on your scoring system and personal preference, the aforementioned Bryant, Harvin and Lloyd could go in any order. They will all likely be consistent. But, unless you see any of them as a potential top-8 wide receiver, I would argue not to focus on them. Instead, I would target someone like Demaryius Thomas (pictured here and also, ironically, in TrevorBasile's Hub), a WR much less "consistent" than any of those guys since he is a relative unknown. But, his upside is higher than any of them. Thus, I would rank Thomas higher than each of them, even though he is more likely to underwhelm than those guys. Why? Because you could still get any of them (or a comparable player) later in the draft!

Once you have your #1 WR locked in, should your #2 be a Consistent WR or an Upside WR in 2012?

See results

Let's put this into practice. Say you have the third pick in a draft and select a RB. You plan to wait on a QB. Your first WR selected at the back-end of Round 2 is the 10th taken and, fortunately, one that you consider a definite #1 WR. Coming back in the third round, you plan to select another WR. All the studs are gone. Do you take the most consistent player or the WR with upside?

If you go consistency, then you get a solid #2. Your remaining WRs would then be a couple of upside, long-shot guys and maybe another consistent #2. Your best-case scenario: you have a legitimate #1 and a roster four-deep of great #2s. Your worst-case scenario? A #1, a #2 and a hole at #3 -- and missing the opportunity to get the break-out WR of 2012. Still, not bad at all.

Going for the potential break-out player in the third round, however, makes your WR crew much better at no risk. How? Even if you draft the upside guy in Round 3, coming back in the fourth, fifth or even sixth rounds, there will still be a consistent #2 WR available!! So, drafting the upside guy as your second WR gives you a best-case scenario of TWO #1s and roster three-deep of great #2. Your worst-case scenario? A #1, a #2 and a hole at #3 -- the same as above!

In other words, there is no downside in 2012 to taking the gamble on upside over consistency with WRs 12-25+ and only the possibility of hitting on the break-out WR of 2012.

The ultimate strategy for WR, though, gets complicated by two factors. First, is tiers. Again, that second group of WRs is VERY deep. If you think that they are pretty close to the first group, the elite 10 or so, then there is no reason to draft one of the elite early or spend big money. In fact, the biggest value in your draft or auction this year will be the last of the big second tier of WRs. If you consider tiers 1 and 2 to be close, then load up on number two guys, since you're bound to find one (or two) who jump up to be a #1 at a #2 price.

On the other hand, if you think that the point differential between those top two tiers is significant, then I would urge you get two -- not one -- of the elite WRs. That way, you can take any of the top-35 or top-40 WRs who fall to you (heck, you could even gamble on late-round fliers, $1 players and waiver wire players) and still probably have the best WR crew out there by doubling-down on your #1 WRs.

Calvin Johnson showing his might

My strategy this year is based on the fact that the #1s are predictable and the #2s, by-and-large, hit-or-miss. So, I want the #1s, and I'll aim to get them. I feel confident enough in myself that I can scout out lower-ranked WRs and get solid production out of them that I am willing to go with the two-WRs-and-get-what's-left strategy.

That being said, I have a hard limit on how high I will draft them or how much I will spend: predictability is not the same as overwhelming dominance, and no one but Calvin Johnson has the possibility to truly dominate. Accordingly, I will NOT overreach or overspend on the top WRs (or on any) since the WR pool is particularly deep. If I need to spend more than I think that the elite WRs are worth, then I'll draft other positions or bid higher on other positions, stack myself up there and then let some productive WRs fall to me later.

Questions or thoughts? Please let me know below!


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