Prior to last year's draft, it seemed unlikely there would be a wide receiver selected in the top 10, never mind three of them — Corey Davis (No. 5, Titans), Mike Williams (No. 7, Chargers) and John Ross (No. 9, Bengals).
Obviously all three endured injury-shortened campaigns, with only Davis providing any contributions to fantasy owners — and mostly to those owners who participated in custom leagues during the NFL playoffs. In Tennessee's divisional round loss in Foxboro, the MAC product scored his (and this trio's) only two rookie touchdowns.
Fast-forward a few months, and optimism abounds for all three of these pass catchers.
After being stymied by hamstring issues, Davis is finally healthy and flashing his WR1 upside regularly in practice, per reports. Last weekend, Williams turned the clock back to his Clemson days with an awesome leaping 25-yard touchdown grab, albeit over someone named Akeem King, and reportedly has bested starting CBs Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams with practice go routes that led to both cover men pulling up lame. Although Ross has only corralled two of his eight targets this preseason, they've gone for 20 and 29 yards, showcasing his world-class speed.
Of course we must take preseason results with a grain of salt. Just ask Brett Hundley, who set the world on fire in 2015, or Cameron Artis-Payne, the NFL's leading rusher last preseason. Still, because of the adverse 2017 debuts for the rookie pass-catching triumvirate, this is pretty much all we have to go on right now.
So let's take a quick look at where each of the three are being drafted using fantasyfootballcalculator.com and their specific circumstances in an attempt to set some reasonable fantasy expectations for the season.
Davis (WR29, 6.07)
Davis, who finished his rookie regular season with 375 receiving yards on 35 catches, is currently being picked as a WR3 a little more than halfway through the sixth round. The Titans are counting on him to be their WR1, particularly with Rishard Matthews' mysterious residence on the camp PUP list. With reports out of Nashville indicating that Davis has been a camp standout, getting work at all three WR spots in Matt LaFleur's matchup-based RAC-heavy offense, this seems like a reasonable cost, even if it's rich relative to our next two subjects.
Williams (WR43, 9.10)
Easily the biggest preseason riser of the three, Williams is being plucked a full round-and-a-half earlier than he was when the calendar turned to August. It's not surprising given the shows he's putting on in camp against some fully capable competition — including early on in Day 1 of joint practices with the Saints.
Although the excitement is certainly deserved, we still like the value of the "other" Williams, Tyrell, who can be had as WR63 at the start of Round 14. That's a bargain for a former 1,000-yard receiver (16.5-yard career average), especially when we see a slew of rookies — D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley, Anthony Miller, Michael Galliup and Courtland Sutton — all getting drafted before Tyrell.
Remember, Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon ranked fifth and seventh, respectively, in the league in overall targets at their positions last season. Throw in the Williamses and Travis Benjamin, and even with a TE void, someone will get lost in the shuffle here.
Ross (WR71, 14.07)
There are reasons to be encouraged by Ross, from his impressive two-point conversion against the Cowboys, one week after he couldn't get both feet down on a would-be touchdown vs. the Bears. The eight targets the former combine star has commanded lead the Bengals, who are determined to receive a better return on their investment in Year Two. Most importantly, he's healthy and showing the speed and separation that made him such a unique prospect.
And he might not have to fight for work as much as Williams will in a loaded Chargers attack, even sans Hunter Henry. The Bengals' release of Brandon LaFell likely frees up a starting spot for Ross, who's the biggest boom or bust of the three but with a negligible price tag reflecting that label.
As always, it'll be important to continue monitoring the ADP trends with all three as your drafts approach, but it appears there's opportunity here, especially with Davis and Ross, as fantasy players perhaps are a bit slow to get over last year's disappointment.