Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Shuffle Up: Adam Thielen, screaming draft value

Fantasy football draft season is here. Time to sort through the positions and hash out the tiers and the salaries. In the No. 3 slot is the receivers; we previously ran through the tight ends and quarterbacks.

A few of the usual caveats upfront. The salaries are unscientific in nature, merely used as a way to compare players within their position. I do not compare salaries outside of position — the salary of a wide receiver is only meant to be considered within his positional class. I am generally far less expectant with injury returning players, so don’t be surprised when I like them less than you do. (Waving at you, Michael Thomas.) 

Every Shuffle Up is done from scratch. I think it’s counterproductive to justify an old, dated list.

Players with the same salary are considered even. Assume a half-point PPR scoring system. Next week we’ll tackle the granddaddy of them all, the running backs. 

The Big Tickets

$39 Tyreek Hill

$38 Stefon Diggs

$38 Davante Adams

$34 DeAndre Hopkins

$33 Calvin Ridley

$32 Justin Jefferson

$31 DK Metcalf

$29 Keenan Allen

$28 A.J. Brown

$28 Terry McLaurin

I would have raked Ridley a shade higher a month ago, but he’s coming off a minor foot surgery and Matt Ryan is on the back nine of his career. I still might nab Ridley as a second-round pick, but I’m not quite as proactive about the idea as I previously was . . . McLaurin is a quick snap-call in the third round, and I might push him into the second at times, seeing Ryan Fitzpatrick as a clear upgrade over WFT’s previous mess at quarterback. And keep in mind McLaurin enters his third season; although it’s common to see young wideouts produce right away, Year 3 is still a perfect spot for a production spike . . . Adams’ fantasy value is buoyed by the Rodgers drama getting settled, but Adams is also staring major touchdown regression in the face, and he hasn’t played a full season since 2016. Second round, I’ll strongly consider him. I won’t push him into the first.

Set and Forget 

$25 CeeDee Lamb

$25 Allen Robinson

$24 Mike Evans

$23 Robert Woods

$21 Amari Cooper

$20 Cooper Kupp

$20 DJ Moore

$20 Adam Thielen

$19 Julio Jones

$19 Chris Godwin

$18 Tyler Lockett

$17 Diontae Johnson

$16 Robby Anderson

Thielen is one of my favorite targets, a boring but effective veteran who can regress from last year’s touchdown count and still return value at ADP. The Vikings have an especially narrow passing tree, and Thielen’s touchdowns often come from short distances, the type of thing that’s repeatable. No one makes you pay for 14; he can go 75-980-8 and still return a profit (and his ceiling is higher than that) . . . Lockett’s frame is similar; Seattle has a narrow tree, and Metcalf’s shadow obscures Lockett somewhat. Lockett’s inconsistency last year is not something that’s bettable year-over-year — heck, 90 percent of this position could be called boom-and-bust — and there isn’t a significant support receiver on Seattle’s roster. I’m excited to see what the Seahawks can do with Brian Schottenheimer mercifully gone . . .

Tyler Lockett #16 of the Seattle Seahawks
Tyler Lockett, like Adam Thielen, represents a serious draft value in 2021. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Lamb has a clearer medical file and a better place on his career arc, which makes him the preference over his teammate, Amari Cooper . . . Robby Anderson and Sam Darnold actually clicked just fine in New York, and I’m not ready to say Darnold is completely a lost cause. Maybe the post-Adam Gase bounce will strike again. And Anderson was a profit player last year despite Carolina’s ordinary quarterback play . . . I’ll probably be underweight on Julio, which makes me sad. He’s obviously a walk-in Hall of Famer. But he’s likely the No. 2 wideout in Tennessee, the offense is unlikely to be heavy in pass volume, Jones has always been a high-attrition player, and he rarely has the touchdown count that fits a player of his talent. He’s basically the upgraded version of Andre Johnson. 

Talk them up, talk them down 

$15 Kenny Golladay

$14 Ja'Marr Chase

$14 Tee Higgins

$14 Brandon Aiyuk

$14 JuJu Smith-Schuster

$14 Courtland Sutton

$14 DJ Chark

$14 Jerry Jeudy

$13 Odell Beckham

$13 Tyler Boyd

$13 Deebo Samuel

$12 Chase Claypool

$11 DeVonta Smith

$11 Will Fuller

$11 Brandin Cooks

$10 Curtis Samuel

$10 Laviska Shenault

$10 Antonio Brown

$10 Marquise Brown

$9 Michael Pittman

$8 Mike Williams

$8 Jarvis Landry

If the Broncos had a quarterback I felt good about, Jeudy would bounce to the second tier. I can't get that 90-yard touchdown against the Raiders, Week 17, out of my head. And it's never been a matter of getting open for Jeudy, just a matter of cutting down that drop rate. He's a destination player for me . . . Golladay makes his living with contested catches, and I’m not confident those are throws Daniel Jones is good at making — or eager to make. And do you feel comfortable spending a pricy wideout draft pick on someone that forces you to ride shotgun with Jones and Jason Garrett? . . . Samuel and Aiyuk probably look out of place, but the Niners have an overload of skill talent, and yet it’s tied to an ordinary incumbent quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo) or an uber-talent who’s young but inexperienced (Trey Lance). I expect the Niners could have a Top 5 real-life offense, but somehow be a disappointment for fantasy . . . 

Pittman late is my Indy target, feeling his so-so debut was an excused absence. I like the pedigree, and I like that Pittman did have a few signature games in 2020, including 90 yards in the playoff loss . . . Cooks can’t have a high upside given the burning building in Houston, but someone has to lead that team in targets, and not all of your picks have to be wild swings at the fences . . . It’s the first year I’ve been proactive drafting OBJ, as you can get him at a cost where he slides into your WR4 or even WR5 slot. There’s still enough plausible upside, and the Browns finally have the right answers at head coach and quarterback. Give Beckham one more chance to make this work. 

Get lucky

$7 *Michael Thomas

$7 Michael Gallup

$7 Jaylen Waddle

$7 Darnell Mooney

$7 Mecole Hardman

$7 DeVante Parker

$6 Corey Davis

$5 T.Y. Hilton

$5 Marvin Jones

$5 Jalen Reagor

$5 Breshad Perriman

$4 Russell Gage

$4 Henry Ruggs

$4 Elijah Moore

$4 Gabriel Davis

$4 Rashod Bateman

$4 Nelson Agholor

Given that Hardman wasn’t even a dedicated offensive player when he first arrived in college, I’ll cut him some slack and see if something notable can pop in Year 3 . . . Thomas now is a long-term wait-and-see guy, and it’s tied to new quarterbacks coming off a messy year (zero touchdowns, zero catches in the playoff loss). And the relationship between Thomas and the Saints has extra strife in it. There’s a fair chance he won’t be on the Saints next year . . . Mooney’s become a trendy breakout player, if you can sell yourself on a few Andy Dalton games or Justin Fields getting in quickly and hitting the ground running. The reps will be there . . . Jared Goff was justly run out of LA, but he’s still close to league average. Perriman has the most likely chance at 900 yards and 5-8 touchdowns of this Lions receiver group . . . Gage doesn’t have a lofty ceiling, but he quietly produced a 72-786-4 line last year, and now there’s probably additional opportunity. It’s okay for some of your late picks to be singles and doubles. 

Bargain Bin 

$3 Tre'Quan Smith

$3 Cole Beasley

$3 Sterling Shepard

$3 Emmanuel Sanders

$3 Jamison Crowder

$3 Christian Kirk

$3 Jakobi Meyers

$3 Darius Slayton

$3 Randall Cobb

$2 Rondale Moore

$2 Parris Campbell

$2 John Brown

$2 Terrace Marshall

$2 A.J. Green

$2 Amon-Ra St. Brown

$2 Sammy Watkins

$2 Denzel Mims

$2 Bryan Edwards

$2 Marquez Valdes-Scantling

$2 Tyrell Williams

$2 Demarcus Robinson

$2 Byron Pringle

$2 Marquez Callaway

$2 Quintez Cephus

$1 Van Jefferson

$1 Allen Lazard

$1 Amari Rodgers

$1 Tim Patrick

$1 Nico Collins

$1 Josh Reynolds

$1 DeSean Jackson

$1 Rashard Higgins

$0 Kadarius Toney

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