I’m a value seeker when looking for futures. I’ll take a few of the most obvious bets on the board, but I’m also out there looking for the rare +500 bets and above to throw a few bones at and hope it skyrockets into a large sum.
One of my favorite futures I found while working on our 2019 Bold Predictions was scrolling through the list of receiver props. Most notably, “Most Receiving Yards” was one that caught my eye.
Expecting any of these receivers to stay healthy for 16 games is a tall task in itself. If a player were to miss a month –in one of the most dangerous sports — he’d have slim chances at taking home this award back four games. In a study done by Journal of Physical Activity & Health, the wide receiver position (11.9%) was the second-most likely offensive position to see an injury after the running back position (16.3%) at the high school level. That ranking was also confirmed by a study at the NFL level by FootballOutsiders. They concluded the wide receiver position trailed only running backs in percentage of weeks on the injury report, with at least one week missed, and with at least four weeks missed among offensive positions.
I’m stating this information just to show how risky these bets are from the start. There’s a reason the “favorite” is still marked at a wild +600.
Okay enough with the preamble, let’s get right to it.
Note: All odds listed below are from 5Dimes.
The early favorites for this bet include Julio Jones (+600) and DeAndre Hopkins (+700).
Julio is coming off a 2018 campaign where he led the league in receiving yards with 1,677 yards. He has ranked top-three in most-receiving yards each of the past five years. Last season he led the league in Air Yards (2,420) while tied for the highest market share of his team’s Air Yards (45%). Last year the Falcons defense was decimated with key injuries early in the year. That forced them to pass often in their matchups, with them dropping back to throw 65.3% of the time (third-highest rate) largely due to them allowing 26.4 points per game to their opponents (eighth-most). With the offseason moves Atlanta has made — particularly along the offensive line — in addition to the return of last year’s injured players, Atlanta may turn into a more well-balanced squad running the ball. While I certainly believe Julio can lead the league in receiving yards this year, I’m not sure gamescript will force Atlanta to throw as heavily in 2019. I’ll pass at +600.
One team I do project to throw early and often is the Houston Texans. Hopkins ranked second to only Julio in receiving yards (1,583) last year while tying him with a whopping 45% of his team’s Air Yards. Injuries to quarterback Deshaun Watson (partially collapsed lung, broken rib) also hampered the ceiling of this passing attack. A healthy Watson could mean more passing volume after he averaged just 23.3 pass attempts per game during his first month of injury, compared to 32.4 passes per game in all other career games. The backend of the Texans defense also remains a work in progress after last year’s unit allowed the fifth-most passing yards against (4,167 yards). Fighting in a tough division, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Texans passing heavily in 2019 and Hopkins at the top of the leaderboard in most receiving yards. I’m in for +700.
The next wave has some hit-or-miss prospects that have the potential, but I just can’t find myself putting a bet on most of them.
Michael Thomas (+1000) may have set the league’s record for catch rate last year (85.6%), but the Saints’ run-heavy nature (45.7%, fifth-highest) makes him an easy fade for me at +1000.
Odell Beckham (+1200) and Mike Evans (+1500) could be in play, but both have quality WR2’s behind them that merit targets and will likely keep them from turning into league leaders.
I don’t buy the new fit for Antonio Brown (+1600) in Oakland as one where he can continue his league dominance. Derek Carr is a massive step down in terms of arm talent from Ben Roethlisberger and I wouldn’t be shocked if Brown fell down to the WR10-WR12 range this season.
Brown’s former teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster (+1600), is a better bet at the same odds. Smith-Schuster finished his sophomore season with the fourth-most receiving yards in the league (1,375). He now inherits Brown’s old role and we can expect Smith-Schuster to move all over the formation picking up yardage. At +1600, I can think of worse way to spend half a unit.
Adam Thielen and T.Y. Hilton both stand at +2000 odds. Thielen has Stefon Diggs to contend with for targets and one of the league’s best defenses backing them up. I’m not too keen on taking that bet for a squad that likely won’t be forced to pass often. Hilton has quite a few new faces joining him in the wide receiver room this year and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Andrew Luck distribute the targets around to the open guy rather than force to his WR1.
If you took a sneak peak at my link in the intro on our 2019 Bold Predictions, then you already know where this column is headed.
The Packers finally have a head coach that isn’t going to hamstring one of the current era’s best quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers. We’ve all seen the tumultuous reporting of the past relationship between Rodgers and former HC Mike McCarthy this offseason. Matt LaFleur has been a breath of fresh air since arriving into town, with positive news already coming out of Packers camp. The passing game has the chance to be rehashed with LaFleur in town, adding elements he learned while with the Falcons, Rams, and Titans.
Last year Davante Adams saw 169 targets. Only Julio Jones saw more (168). That volume could be on the rise if Rodgers gets his way. Rodgers stated after OTA’s earlier this week that he’d, “like to throw to Davante more. He’s that open.” Adams finished the year top-five in just about every statistical category — targets (second), receptions (fifth), receiving yards (fifth), Air Yards (fourth), and touchdowns (second). Adams remains the clear-cut alpha receiver on this depth chart. That being said, last year’s youth and inexperience at the wide receiver position (outside Adams) was a major hindrance to the team’s offensive success. Now with a year of experience under all these second-year wideouts, we could see this offense grow and help sustain drives rather than kill them with crucial drops.
Adams could easily contend for the most targets in the league this year. Given his physical profile and skill set, he could pile up the yardage in 2019 for the Packers. At +2500 to lead the league in receiving yards, Adams is one of my favorite futures bets currently available.