3rd Year Wide Receiver Theory

The third year wide receiver theory has been around for quite a while now, and whether you believe in it or not is up to you. History has suggested that it is in year 3 of an NFL wide receiver’s career in which they begin to” break through” to the next level. The wide receiver position is arguably the most difficult position to make the transition from college to pro level football.  Hall- of -Famer Jerry Rice is one person who suggests that is in the third year that a wide receiver “gets it” and can show what type of player he will be for his career. Perhaps the recent play of some rookie wide receivers such as Keenan Allen (2013), Odell Beckham Jr, Kelvin Benjamin, and Mike Evans (2014) has put a damper on the

third year theory. For 2017, the 3rd year wide receiver group is coming from the 2015 draft class, which is less talented

than the 2014 class that is arguably the best WR draft class ever.  In last year’s edition of this article, we had to leave out

Amari Cooper is entering his 3rd season already as a top 10 fantasy wide receiever. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

players such as Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry, and Allen Robinson, since they were already at or towards the top of their position, and were high draft picks in every league. We don’t have that situation so much this year. For those that still believe, or at least want to have another tool to use for your draft, here are some third year wide receivers that could break out for your fantasy team in 2017, just as DeVante Adams and Willie Snead did a season ago.  (Some of these players have already broken out, but that extra year could be even more beneficial.)

Best of the Best

Amari Cooper, OAK– Not much to discuss here. He’s a WR 1 and should continue to get better along with his quarterback, Derek Carr.

Stefon Diggs, MIN- Shown some flashes in his rookie year and continued to improve in 2016. While the touchdowns were low (3) he didn’t produce a game with under 5 targets. Still not getting the love I think he deserves, I think he’s a prime candidate to break out and take that next step in year 3.

**Martavis Bryant, PIT– Bryant is not technically in his 3rd year, but since he missed all of last season due to suspension I feel inclined to put him on this list. If Bryant can stay out of trouble and on the field, it wouldn’t be shocking if ends up as high WR2 playing alongside Antonio Brown.

Devante Parker, MIA- The talk of the NFL draft in 2015 said that Parker was the most talented wide receiver in the class. We have yet to see that potential on a regular basis but he has shown he does have that ability to be a number 1 wr. Injuries and perhaps QB play have been factors for his late development, but he’s an intriguing player and his talent alone puts him on the “best of the best” list.

Jamison Crowder,  WAS–  Crowder came out of nowhere in his sophomore season, putting up  numbers that made him at the 31st best wide receiver in ppr formats.  With DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon no longer in the picture (they did sign Terrelle Pryor), Washington is looking to get Crowder even more involved for 2017. Currently being drafted in the 6th round of ppr leagues, his stock is likely to rise as the summer goes on. Crowder has the opportunity and abilities to end up in the top 24 for 2017.

Tyrell Williams, LAC– Williams did a nice job coming and when Keenan Allen went down with a season ending injury. Showing big play ability, Williams ended up as 1 wr2 (#18 overall) in ppr leagues last season. Due to the Chargers selecting Mike Williams in the first round of the NFL Draft, Tyrell seems to be a forgotten man so far in drafts. Not being drafted until 12th round in early in drafts, a lot of fantasy owners are making a big mistake. While he may not end up as wr2 in 2017, it is not out of the question for him to put up similar production as last year (  63 rec, 989 yards, 7 TD’s), even with Mike Williams in town.


Next of the Best

Cameron Meredith, CHI– Meredith was a frustrating player in 2016. He became a hot waiver wire add after his week 5 performance of 9 receptions, 130 yards and a TD. Fantasy owners that were awarded him on the wire had to excited when he backed that up the following week with 11 rec and 113 yards. Then….he disappeared until reemerging in 14. He did however end the season on a positive note from weeks 14 through the end of the season. While the quarterback situation is a bit unsettling in Chicago, Meredith sits atop the Bears depth chart and is looking at the 5th easiest schedule for wide receivers.

Tyler Lockett, SEA– Lockett has been a big disappointment so far and made a lot of people look really bad (including myself) when he was projected as a 4th round pick in 2016. He has all the tools to be an impact-full wide receiver in the NFL, but needs to have a large role in the Seattle offense. Perhaps it’s in year 3 that he becomes the player we thought he was going to be last. It is not unusual for the industry to be a year early on a player, and those that are drafting him in rounds 12+ could reap significant dividends because of it.

Breshad Perriman, BAL–  Maybe he belongs on the list below, but to me, Perriman seems like a typical wide receiver that is just waiting for that third year breakout. He should be starting opposite Mike Wallace (although it is possible they sign another WR) and hopefully the injuries are behind him. I wrote after the 2015 draft that he was very raw and needed a couple of years to develop in the NFL. Well here we are.

Chris Conley, KC- Conley is interesting in that he hasn’t done all that much in his brief NFL career, but with the release of Jeremy Maclin, he currently sits as the team’s #2 wide receiver. We still believe that the Chiefs will sign another wide receiver, but if they don’t, he could be a name to keep an eye on late in drafts. Though we don’t see a breakout performance from him.

Kevin White, CHI- Maybe. Just maybe we’ll get to see the talent of Kevin White for a full season. It could be hard for him to “breakout” in year three since he hasn’t really had a year 1 or 2 yet, but no doubt the talent and opportunity is there for him.


On The Way?

J.J. Nelson, ARI

Devin Funchess, CAR

Dorial Green-Beckham, PHI

Jalen Strong, HOU



Notables/Has a chance

 Nelson Agholor, PHI
Adam Humphries, TB
Phillip Dorsett, IND
Rashad Greene. JAC
Justin Hardy, ATL
Sammie Coates, PIT
Eli Rodgers, PIT
DeAndre Smelter, SF


The Rest
Mario Alford, CLE
Dres Anderson, CHI
Kenny Bell, BAL
Quan Bray, IND
Damiere Byrd, CAR
Kaelin Clay, CAR
Geremy Davis, LAC
Titus Davis, CHI
Donteea Dye, TB
Rannell Hall, CLE
Dezmin Lewis, BUF
Bradley Marquez, LAR
Vince Mayle, BAL
Tre McBride, TEN
Jordan Taylor, DEN
Lucky Whitehead, DAL
Kasen Williams, SEA
Shane Wynn, JAC

** If you notice a player we may have missed, please let us know**