Certainly, 2016 has been a strange year. We've lost Harambe, Prince and Lenny Kilmister. Cleveland won a championship in a sport that matters. The best fantasy football option on the board is a wide receiver - which, truthfully might be the strangest happening of the year thus far. Even stranger than Pawn Stars' newfound relevancy.
If you own the first pick in your fantasy league, Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown is, without question, the guy who you should take. After that, however, is a different story. Thankfully, we've taken the opportunity to make some pretty educated guesses regarding boom and bust candidates:
Green and Allen have similar boom potential, so rather than writing essentially congruent entries for both dudes, I went ahead condensed this section. First, I would like to point to one of my favorite statistics ever: In eight games in 2015, Allen caught 67 passes for 725 yards. that's roughly eight catches and 90 yards per game. If Allen does that for an entire season, he finishes with 132 catches and 1,440 receiving yards. Based on sheer volume, his touchdown floor would be somewhere in the eight-ish range. Those are top-five fantasy numbers. Philip Rivers absolutely will throw the ball in Allen's direction as much as possible this season, and I think the former Cal standout has a legitimate shot at 200 targets. He's currently going in the third round...
Green, like Allen, will be an absolute target hog. Cincinnati's No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, Mohammad Sanu and Marvin Jones, signed elsewhere in free agency, while Tyler Eifert, who finished second in the NFL with 13 touchdown receptions last season, will likely miss the first few games of the 2016 season. Rookie Tyler Boyd will command some of Andy Dalton's attention, but Green is primed for his best season as a pro. It's worth mentioning that Green has never had fewer than 1,000 receiving yards in any of his five professional seasons to date, so he has one of the highest floors of any player in the NFL. In most drafts, you can draft Green at the top of the second round. He has top-three upside.
Bust: Any Broncos receiver
In my last column, I wrote that avoiding Denver's backfield situation is probably a wise decision, and now I'm offering similar advice concerning their receivers. On paper, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are the best receiving duo in the NFL. By a lot. On the field, on the other hand, sub-par quarterback play can sink even the most talented receivers (re. Mike Vick). Trevor Seimian may very well be the next Tom Brady. Maybe Mark Sanchez has decided that he will try to be good at football for a change. I am not willing to bet a fourth-round fantasy pick on Thomas or Sanders in order to find out. They will go as their quarterback (whoever it is) goes.
Boom: Buccaneers WR Mike Evans
Odell Beckham Jr. kind blew up Evans' spot a little bit by turning into the second coming of Jerry Rice, but Evans has quietly distinguished himself as the second-best receiver to come out of the 2014 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, Evans caught 68 passes for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns. In 2015, Evans caught 74 passes for 1,206 yards and...three touchdowns. Generally, touchdowns are incredibly flukey and difficult to predict, but I would expect Evans to approach double-digit scores this season, especially if Jameis Winston continues to target him on a regular basis. I'm not a huge fan of predictions, but I think Evans is a lock for at least 70-1,000-10 if he stays healthy (which hasn't been an issue yet).
Bust: Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin
The polar opposite of Evans. Baldwin is due for a big-time regression in 2016 after leading the NFL in touchdown catches (14) one year ago. Notably, Baldwin scored 10 of his touchdowns during a four-game stretch toward the end of the season. Needless to say, that type of torrid pace is not sustainable. In fact, Baldwin's value in 2015 was almost entirely touchdown-dependent, as the former Stanford star only surpassed the 90-yard mark in seven games last season. Russell Wilson is a decent quarterback, but Seattle is still a run-first team. In addition, Baldwin will be forced to battle Darrelle Revis, Stephon Gilmore, Patrick Peterson (x2), Desmond Trufant and Malcolm Butler, as well as top-10 pass defenses overall in Green Bay and Carolina. Baldwin is going in the fourth or fifth round in certain drafts, ahead of Jarvis Landry (who had 110 catches last season), Eric Decker (who has had at least 960 yards in fourth straight seasons) and Golden Tate (who is now the No. 1 receiver in a pass-heavy offense).
Boom: Packers WR Randall Cobb
After Jordy Nelson tore his ACL last preseason, Cobb inherited the Packers No. 1 receiver job. As Aaron Rodgers' de facto main target, Cobb finished the 2015 season with 79 for 829 yards and six touchdowns. In 2014, Cobb caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. As of writing, I cannot assuredly say which of these seasons is the outlier. I can, however, reasonably assume that Nelson routinely commanded more defensive attention than Cobb throughout the 2014 season, which allowed Cobb to thrive as arguably the best two-man in the NFL. With Nelson back in the mix, Cobb should be able to return to his Pro Bowl form. If you're in a PPR league, Cobb's floor appears to be about 70-75 catches, so he is worth the risk.
Bust: Cardinals receivers
Unlike Denver, I think Arizona's top three receivers - Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd - are going to have fantastic seasons. The problem with the Cardinals, unfortunately, is the fact that they have so many weapons. Carson Palmer has yet to develop a Brady/Gronk or Brown/Ben type of rapport with Fitzgerald, Brown, or Floyd, so it's easy to imagine that Arizona's top receiver will vary on a week-by-week basis, which substantially reduces their upside.