When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Donte Moncrief this summer, it was met with many shoulder shrugs and a “whatever” attitude. But this offseason, and since the start of training camp, Moncrief has left a positive impression on both the coaching staff and his new quarterback. Having quickly grown into his new surroundings, Moncrief is poised to start the season at the X receiver position.
When playing with a healthy Andrew Luck in 2015, Moncrief flashed his potential, pulling in 64 catches for 733 yards and six touchdowns even as the secondary target behind T.Y. Hilton. 2016 wasn’t as kind to Moncrief, but despite injuries, he still caught seven touchdowns in nine games. Though the arrow was pointing up, disaster struck in 2017 with Luck missing the entire season due to a shoulder injury, and Moncrief himself started just eight games due to various injuries. The 2018 season was dismal as well with an inept Blake Bortles leading Jackonsville’s offense to score an average of just 15.3 points per game, the second-lowest in the league.
Ben Roethlisberger has pled for another big, fast target since the departure of Martavis Bryant and now has a suitable replacement in Moncrief. With defenses likely to focus their attention on Juju Smith-Schuster, Moncrief could have plenty of opportunities to make plays against opposing teams’ number two cornerbacks. With his 4.40 40-yard dash speed (87th percentile), Moncrief is a threat to score deep if he can beat the cornerback one-on-one with the safety focused on Smith-Schuster. And at 6’2 and 220 lbs with a 132″ broad jump (95th percentile), Moncrief can make contested catches in the end zone when the Steelers get close to the goal line.
Roethlisberger’s gunslinger mentality gives Moncrief the same fantasy potential that Bryant had but at a much cheaper price. Despite mostly disappointing his dynasty owners over the years, Moncrief will still be just 26 years old at the start of the 2019 season and in his athletic prime. Per Player Profiler, Moncrief’s best comparable is Andre Johnson, and now he has a veteran quarterback who will target him accordingly.
With Antonio Brown shipped off to Oakland, he took 168 targets with him. While Smith-Schuster will be the primary beneficiary, likely to see even more than his 166 targets last year, both Moncrief and sophomore receiver James Washington will benefit as well. The Pittsburgh beat reporters have noted Moncrief taking the majority of snaps with the first-team offense in training camp thus far, and as long as Moncrief’s recent finger injury doesn’t keep him out for too long, he should be the incumbent number two receiver behind Smith-Schuster to open the season.
Moncrief is currently valued at 2.7 points in the trade calculator, which would be equal to the 2.10 rookie pick. Players going around the 2.10 spot in 1QB formats include Dwayne Haskins, Alex Mattison, and Irv Smith. Coming in at WR70 in the DTC rankings, Moncrief falls into a group of players such as Devante Parker, Albert Wilson, Miles Boykin, Josh Reynolds, and Diontae Johnson.
While these players all have potential, Moncrief arguably has the highest ceiling, as we’ve seen the fantasy potential of Pittsburgh’s offense. On the other hand, Parker has been struggling to stay relevant for years in dynasty and has uncertainty at the quarterback position. Likewise, Wilson is returning from injury and faces the same quarterback concerns. Boykin is an exciting rookie to watch, but his ceiling may be capped on a run-first offense. As for Reynolds, he’ll be fighting to see targets barring an injury to the Rams’ top three receivers ahead of him. And while fellow Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson has similar upside in that offense, I’d rather gamble on Moncrief’s experience and athleticism over the smaller, slower rookie.
Pittsburgh’s offense has shown that it can support two productive wide receivers for fantasy purposes. My 2019 projection for Moncrief is somewhere in the range of 80 receptions for 875 yards and 10 touchdowns, which totals 227.5 fantasy points in PPR formats, good enough to have made Moncrief a mid-range WR2 last year. Moncrief has proven his ability to produce, and while touchdowns are difficult to predict, he has plenty of opportunity and talent to score in this high-octane Steelers offense. As long as both he and Roethlisberger stay healthy this year, Moncrief is an immense value if you can acquire him for a late 2019 second-round rookie pick or less.