The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without the services of wide receiver Martinis Bryant this season. He is going to miss the entire 2016 campaign for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Gone are 50 catches for 765 yards and 6 touchdowns. Numbers Bryant put up in only 11 games after serving a suspension to start the 2015 season due to a similar offense. A spot is open in the dynamic Steelers offense and there are three options that fantasy owners can target. The question becomes which one should they target?
*ADP via Fantasy Football Calculator
Darrius Heyward-Bey has the size and speed to be the guy that stretches the field for the Steelers. All you have to do is look back to last season to see what the Steelers did without Martavis Bryant. Heyward-Bey filled his role and did so admirably. In the five games Bryant missed, he caught 21 of his 26 targets for 209 yards and two touchdowns. The second Bryant came back, Heyward-Bey was all but useless, getting only 13 targets the rest of the season.
There are doubts with Heyward-Bey and for good reasons. His hands are very suspect but seemingly have improved. He had zero dropped passes in 2015 according to Sportingcharts.com. In his two seasons prior where he got any kind of workload, his drop rate was 9.4% in 2013 and 6% in 2012. With a full 16 game workload DHB would have had 84 catches. Even if you knock 7 catches off the total with his 9.4% drop rate from 2013 it’s still a 77 catch season. Something fantasy owners could get behind especially with the routes DHB tends to run.
Heyward-Bey is a guy for his career catches 47% of his targets and has been hovering around 50% each of the last four seasons. That wide receiver spot had 131 targets and that was with Ben Roethlisberger playing only 12 games. Based up on DHB’s catch rate and targets to that position he would have caught 65 of is 131 targets for 982 yards. While I don’t want to assume that is exactly what he would get, it gives you a decent idea of what his final numbers could look like as the WR2 in this offense. He’s absolutely worth drafting towards the end of drafts. You will know early if Heyward-Bey will be apart of this offense. If he is not you can move on and potentially to the next name on the list.
WR60 | ADP 13.10
At the end of drafts often look to add players to their roster with “upside.” Sammie Coates is name many dynasty owners have been excited about for the past season plus. He has a SPARQ score in the 99th percentile per Player Profiler. He is not the biggest or fastest guy but is a player that uses his body well in traffic. Player Profiler has his best comparable as Torrey Smith. A player that has excelled during his career as the deep threat in the passing game and one that would get a ton of buzz if he was in the Steelers offense. Coates filled a similar role during his time at the Auburn averaging 21.8 yards per reception which puts him in the 97th percentile.
I do have questions with Coates hands but it’s the same issue many have with his teammate Heyward-Bey. Coates was only targets twice last season leaving little idea to what he may look like or how much they plan on using him. If you are shooting for the moon and a guy who could produce a Martavis like season Coates isn’t the worst bet to make. His end of the 13th round ADP makes the risk very minimal and the reward sizeable.
WR39 | ADP 8.09
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Markus Wheaton is the Steelers wide receiver coming off the board first from the trio and but is the last guy I would draft. Can he have value in 2016 sure, but the 8th round price he is currently commanding feels steep. He had two massive games a season ago that made up for a huge chunk of his numbers. One was against the Seahawks where he put up nine catches for 201 yards and a score. The other came against the Broncos where Wheaton caught six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. In both games the Steelers got down big, early in the game and they needed to pass. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 55 times, 16 more throws than his season average. The rest of his games were much more underwhelming. If you look at his numbers for the games not against Seattle or Denver, he caught 29 passes for 486 yards and 3 touchdowns. His big games also came with both Brown and Bryant on the field. There will probably be a big game or two from Wheaton in 2016, but good luck figuring out which week that will be.
Not only would I prefer taking my shot with another Steeler, but guys like Michael Crabtree, Marvin Jones, Stefon Diggs and Sterling Shepard are all going in that range and are all players I would prefer. If you look at other positions beyond wide receiver Philip RIvers and Gary Barnidge are both in the range and two players I love for 2016. The value of the pick combined with the potential reward just isn’t there for me with Wheaton. I will let someone else take that gamble.
If I am taking my shot with one of the Steelers wide receivers not named Brown, it’s going to be with Darrius Heyward-Bey, a sentence i genuinely never thought I would type. The best part about taking DHB is you will know very quickly if he is going to be someone you can rely on. He should be the starter Week 1 opposite Brown. Best case scenario is a season much like Ted Ginn produced in 2015, 44 catches for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns. Now I’m not saying it is likely but something in that range is also not crazy. I’d probably say 6 or 7 touchdowns would be his ceiling with Brown and Le’Veon Bell in the picture.