Fantasy Football Mailbag: Tuesday 8/23/16

Outside of the 2014 season, rookie wide receivers don't have the most dazzling record of fantasy football success. Can we believe in Sterling Shepard for 2016?

Fantasy football research never stops, and offseason news can really complicate things, especially when coaches talk up second- and third-string players. That's why we're starting up a fantasy football mailbag.

Have a question about a certain player, team, draft strategy, or anything football? Shoot us a question on Twitter or send an email to, and we can talk anything fantasy football related -- even daily fantasy football.

Don't forget to check out our initial NFL projections and our fully customizable fantasy football draft kit to jumpstart your fantasy football season.

Now, let's answer some questions.

Email submission from Darionn James-Trigg

Which Wide Receiver has the biggest break out potential? New Orleans WR Micheal Thomas, Cinncinatti WR Tyler Boyd or New Yorks WR Sterling Shepard?

There's reason to believe in each and every one of those guys. Michael Thomas has one of the league's best quarterbacks in Drew Brees, and he has been slinging sauciness in training camp. Tyler Boyd should have an easy path to targets with the Cincinnati Bengals, another efficient offense. It's just hard to pass on Sterling Shepard's situation.

Before the draft, numberFire's and RotoViz's Kevin Cole formulated opportunity scores that showed the best landing spots for volume for rookie wide receivers. Shepard came out smelling like roses when the New York Giants selected him in the second round.

It's easy to get enamored with a guy's situation early on, but this opportunity has carried over into the preseason, as well.

Shepard is going to get snaps, he has a monster in Odell Beckham across the field from him, and Eli Manning has been an efficient quarterback when he has had Beckham in the lineup. Boyd is in a largely similar spot, meaning the gap between the two may not be as large as their respective ADPs would indicate, but Shepard has the edge here from a straight-up mindset.

In most situations, Lamar Miller would be an easy guy to keep if the cost is a third-round pick. That's a great value for a player who currently has a first-round ADP, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, and a cushy new situation with the Houston Texans. Antonio Brown is just too good.

If we take a look at numberFire's season-long draft kit and plug in the scoring rules for a 12-team, half-point-per-reception league, we can quantify his lead over everybody else. Brown's FireFactor -- which includes both projections and value over replacement -- is 204.49, easily the best on the board. Julio Jones has the second-best mark at 178.33, and he's the only other guy above 170. That shows you how big Brown's lead is over everybody else.

The projections love Miller, putting him at 10th overall for these league types and sixth among running backs. However, his Firefactor is 148.89, a mark that cowers relative to that of Brown. No matter whom you take with that fourth overall pick, it seems unlikely that they'd be able to produce enough to outscore Brown plus the third-round pick you receive from dropping Miller.

Again, this isn't to toss shade at Miller, who is a good value there. But if you have your grip on a guy like Antonio Brown, you had better not let go.

This would all depend on what type of league you're in, which is why numberFire's draft kit is a sick tool. It allows you to customize for the scoring rules of your league so you know exactly whom to take in situations like this. Here, we see convincing victories for Jamaal Charles and A.J. Green.

With Charles now back and practicing with the Kansas City Chiefs, he suddenly finds himself atop the cheat sheet for 12-team, half-PPR leagues at running back. Doug Martin is respectable in 13th, but with Charles' role in the passing game, his track record of utter destruction, and a top-tier team that should have plenty of opportunities to run the football, Charles is not a guy you want to fade.

As for Green, he has the potential to be truly special this year. Last season, there were 24 wide receivers who saw at least 120 targets. Of those, only two finished in the top eight in numberFire's Reception Net Expected Points per target -- the efficiency metric we use for wide receivers -- among wide receivers with at least 80 targets. One was Odell Beckham, and the other was Green. He combined volume and efficiency in a way that only one other player was able to duplicate, and that volume may only increase in 2016.

The Bengals lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in the offseason, and Tyler Eifert could miss the beginning of the season with an injury. That's a lot of targets left for the taking, and if Andy Dalton is smart, he'll funnel a healthy number Green's way. Green has the potential to become an efficient target hog on a quality offense, and that's a combo you'll want in your life when Week 1 rolls around.

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