Houston, We Have a Problem: NFL Teams With Multiple Star Fantasy Wideouts Is Rare

Houston, We Have a Problem: NFL Teams With Multiple Star Fantasy Wideouts Is Rare

The evolution of fantasy football has seen the wide receiver position take on added value in recent seasons. It’s obvious in early average draft position (ADP) data, as seven of the top 10 overall players being picked in 2024 drafts are wideouts. This, of course, has increased the value (and craze) at the position. That does beg the question, however: how much is too much? After all, there’s just one football right? There’s only so many targets a team can spread around, so sometimes true value comes down to simple math.

This is important when we look at NFL teams that have multiple wide receivers who are projected to make a fantasy impact. Heading into 2024, there are several teams with what I would call a talented but crowded receivers’ room that comes with fantasy question marks.  

The first team that comes to mind is the Houston Texans, who have Stefon Diggs, Nico Collins and Tank Dell all ranked in the top 36. The Chicago Bears are in the same boat, as the team features DJ Moore, Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze.  The Seattle Seahawks also have three solid receivers in DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and the Miami Dolphins added Odell Beckham Jr. to incumbents Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

There is no shortage of other teams that have three or more receivers who will compete for targets in training camp and the preseason, too. The Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, and New England Patriots all fall into this category.  

That’s going to bring a lot of speculation as to who will earn the most targets and ultimately, make the biggest fantasy impact. But looking at the past (as you know I love to do), I found that more often than not, it can be almost impossible for an offense to boast two or more consistently productive wide receivers at the same time and in the same season.

In fact, you’ll be shocked at the data I found over the last 20 years.

In order for a receiver to qualify, he had to average at least 14 PPR points per game (low-WR2 level in 2023) and play in at least eight games in any given season. First, let’s take a look at the offenses that have fielded three receivers who have scored at least 14 points during the same statistical campaign.

Notes: Season-long points-per-game averages and finishes among WRs are listed first. When one or more WRs played in less than a full season, the points-per-game averages in games where all three were active is listed under “ALL.”

2004 Indianapolis Colts
Marvin Harrison: 17.8 (WR5)
Reggie Wayne: 16.9 (WR9)
Brandon Stokley: 14.6 (WR17)

2013 Denver Broncos
Demaryius Thomas 18.2 (WR1) – ALL 19.4
Eric Decker 16.8 (WR9) – ALL 16.7
Wes Welker 16.1 (WR21 – 13 games) – ALL 16

2018 Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp 16.9 (WR51 – 8 games) – ALL 16.1
Robert Woods 16.6 (WR11) – ALL 16.4
Brandin Cooks 15.2 (WR13) – ALL 19.8

2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chris Godwin 15.9 (WR31 – 12 games) – ALL 15.8
Mike Evans 15.5 (WR11) – ALL 17.4
Antonio Brown 14.6 (WR65 – 8 games) – ALL 14.6

2020 Carolina Panthers
Curtis Samuel 14.1 (WR27 – 15 games) – ALL 14.1
DJ Moore 14.1 (WR28 – 15 games) – ALL 14.1
Robbie Anderson 14.0 (WR29) – ALL 13.4

There were just five teams over 20 years of data encompassing 32 NFL teams (or 640 opportunities) where an offense fielded three receivers who averaged at least 14 points. In three of those cases, it took all-time great quarterbacks (Peyton Manning – 2004, 2013 and Tom Brady – 2020) to accomplish this feat. And, in the case of the 2020 Panthers, none of their three wide receivers who scored at least 14 points finished higher than WR27.

So, even with the talent on their rosters, this trend doesn’t bode well for the Texans, Bears, Seahawks (and to a lesser degree, the Dolphins) of boasting three receivers who are regular fantasy starters. Digging a bit deeper, 14 of the 32 teams have failed to produce more than two seasons where its offense has had two wideouts averaging more than 14 points in the same calendar year.

Here’s a look at each team and the number of seasons it’s had at least two wide receivers averaging 14 or more fantasy points (eight games min.).

Six Seasons:
Steelers

Five Seasons:
Bengals, Broncos, Cardinals, Falcons, Packers, Vikings

Four Seasons:
Buccaneers, Lions, Rams

Three Seasons:
Colts, Cowboys, Eagles, Patriots

Two Seasons:
Dolphins, Raiders, Seahawks, Texans

One Season:
49ers, Bears, Chargers, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Panthers, Saints, Titans

No Seasons:
Bills, Browns, Chiefs, Commanders, Ravens

Some of these results aren’t surprising, as the Steelers had Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson. The Falcons have fielded great likes Julio Jones, Roddy White and Calvin Ridley (maybe Drake London joins the list), and the Bengals have had Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Terrell Owens, A.J. Green, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.  The Broncos have also had five seasons with multiple wideouts at 14 or more points, but that hasn’t happened since 2018.

What’s surprising is the bottom half, where the Bills, Browns, Chiefs, Commanders, and Ravens have never had two receivers averaging 14 or more points. Keep that in the back of your mind when you’re drafting Keon Coleman, Curtis Samuel, Jerry Jeudy, Xavier Worthy, Jahan Dotson and anyone in Baltimore not named Zay Flowers (and he didn’t average 14 points per game last season). Sorry, all of you Rashod Bateman truthers!

The data that I’ve compiled tells a story that in most cases (since 2004), an NFL team can’t support three wideouts who average at least 14 points a game.

Taking that a step further, 44 percent of teams have had one or fewer such wideouts in a single season in the last 20 years. So, in the cases of teams like the Bills, Panthers, Browns, Packers, Colts, Jaguars, Chiefs, Chargers, and Patriots, all of whom have major depth chart questions among their wideouts, I wouldn’t expect to find more than one receiver on each team that becomes a reliable and productive fantasy starter for the entire season.

MICHAEL FABIANO

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Formerly of CBS Sports, NFL Network and SirusXM, Michael was the first fantasy analyst to appear on one of the four major TV networks. His work can now be found on SI, Westwood One Radio and the Bleav Podcast Network.

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