Positional Preview – Wide Receiver
We’re getting close! We’re working through each of the major positions for the upcoming fantasy football season. To be clear, this is a fake football article. We will discuss players in tiers and a little strategy along the way. Rankings within a tier are less important than the tier the player appears in. As always, your thoughtful comments are welcome below. We’ll run through these rankings in countdown style. Team and bye week are listed for convenience. In honor of my favorite receiver growing up, Tom Waddle, we’ll rank 87 receivers.
Tier 10 – Names to know on the waiver wire:
87. Jaelen Strong, HOU, 9; 86. Devin Smith, NYJ, 11; 85. Brice Butler, DAL, 7
84. Leonte Carroo, MIA, 8; 83. DeAndre Smelter, SF, 8; 82. Chris Hogan, NE, 9
81. Bruce Ellington, SF, 10; 80. Seth Roberts, OAK, 10; 79. Davante Adams, GB, 4
I won’t waste too much time on specifics, but everyone on this list is a young player with at least a little buzz. Davante Adams is the most well-known to us, but really, he was mostly terrible for GB last year and with Jeff Janis ascending and Jordy Nelson returning, he could disappear. Two of my favorite receiver names appear here in DeAndre Smelter and Leonte Carroo – no idea if they’ll see playing time but their names are awesome.
Tier 9 – Low Ceiling Veterans:
78. Brian Hartline, SD, 11; 77. Brandon LaFell, CIN, 9; 76. Rueben Randle, PHI, 4
75. Victor Cruz, NYG, 8; 74. Ted Ginn Jr., CAR, 7; 73. Robert Woods, BUF, 10
72. Kenny Stills, MIA, 8; 71. Pierre Garcon, WAS, 9; 70. Mike Wallace, BAL, 8
69. Rishard Matthews, TEN, 13; 68. Nate Washington, NE, 9; 67. Terrance Williams, DAL, 7
66. Anquan Boldin, DET, 10; 65. Kamar Aiken, BAL, 8; 64. Kendall Wright, TEN, 13
63. Travis Benjamin, SD, 13; 62. Jermaine Kearse, SEA, 5; 61. Vincent Jackson, TB, 6
If you’ve played fantasy football for a while, all of these names are familiar to you. The comfort of knowing a name does not necessarily reflect their ability to produce on your fake team. These guys might splash a game or two but no one on here is likely to make consistent gains to your team. Pierre Garcon is a nice player but is probably the 3rd or 4th option in the passing game. Too many questions surrounding the health of Victor Cruz. Terrance Williams is the perpetual tease. Vincent Jackson is a guy I’ve never trusted.
Tier 8 – Young talent hoping for opportunity:
60. Jamison Crowder, WAS, 9; 59. Corey Coleman, CLE, 13; 58. Jeff Janis, GB, 4
57. Nelson Agholor, PHI, 4; 56. Tyler Boyd, CIN, 9; 55. Sammie Coates, PIT, 8
54. Markus Wheaton, PIT, 8; 53. Dorial Green-Beckham, TEN, 13;
52. Phillip Dorsett, IND, 10; 51. Will Fuller, HOU, 9; 50. Laquon Treadwell, MIN, 6
49. Josh Doctson, WAS, 9; 48. Michael Thomas, NO, 5
Most of these guys are first or second year players (Janis is in his 3rd season, Wheaton is in his 4th) that have a lot of potential but no real production yet. Pittsburgh needs Wheaton and or Coates to step up for Martavis Bryant and take some pressure off of Antonio Brown. While we’ve been spoiled in the past with rookie receivers, Agholor, Green-Beckham, and Dorsett all struggled to show anything early on. They’re ranked in the same boat as many of this year’s crop of rookies. Michael Thomas is my favorite to make an impact this year because of Drew Brees but Josh Doctson is close behind him as the Washington offense should again be explosive.
Tier 7 – First guy on your bench / flex spot:
47. Michael Crabtree, OAK, 10; 46. Devin Funchess, CAR, 7; 45. Willie Snead, NO, 5
44. Mohamed Sanu, ATL, 11; 43. Stefon Diggs, MIN, 6; 42. Tavon Austin, LA, 8
41. DeSean Jackson, WAS, 9; 40. Marvin Jones, DET, 10; 39. Torrey Smith, SF, 8
Ideally, you’ll have 3 guys to cover your WR slots before you get to this tier. Diggs and Austin might be the #1 targets coming into the year on a low-volume run oriented offenses. Torrey Smith is the best receiver in SF but has always been boom / bust in fantasy and a lot of unknown on Chip Kelley’s new squad. The rest are secondary targets worth a roster spot but will likely never provide consistent production to solidify a WR3 role. Marvin Jones might be the best bet of the bunch.
Tier 6 – High ceiling but with a lot of risk:
38. Steve Smith, BAL, 8; 37. Josh Gordon, CLE, 13; 36. Devante Parker, MIA, 8
35. Sterling Shepard, NYG, 8; 34. Kevin White, CHI, 9; 33. Jordan Matthews, PHI, 4
My love of Steve Smith won’t allow me to go any lower than this but we have to take into account a late season Achilles injury and how a player at the end of his career can come back from that. Gordon has all the talent in the world but we still need to discount the 4 games, new coaching staff, new quarterback, and his inability to stay clean into our draft. Parker and White are both going to start for an Adam Gase offense – one in Miami and Dowell Loggains version in Chicago – and fill similar roles. I’m very high on Sterling Shepard…probably too high for most but he’s a talent with opportunity to start. Matthews has shown potential in the past to be a star despite the disappointing sophomore campaign.
Tier 5 – Roster builders:
32. Allen Hurns, JAC, 5; 31. Donte Moncrief, IND, 10; 30. Emmanuel Sanders, DEN, 11
29. Jarvis Landry, MIA, 8; 28. Tyler Lockett, SEA, 5; 27. Golden Tate, DET, 10
26. Randall Cobb, GB, 4; 25. Eric Decker, NYJ, 11
I’d feel comfortable with any of these guys in my WR3 slot. These are all #2 targets on legit passing attacks with the exception of Golden Tate who is a #2 target in the #1 role. You can make a case that Landry is the #1 on the Dolphins but let’s just wait to see how the targets shake out with Gase calling the plays and DeVante Parker’s progress. Decker was a touchdown machine last year and with Ryan Fitzpatrick back, expects 75% of that production this season. I might be a little high on Sanders but he produced with the shadow of Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler last year so I’d be okay with dialing him up again this season.
Tier 4 – Movers and Shakers:
24. Michael Floyd, ARI, 9; 23. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI, 9; 22. John Brown, ARI, 9
21. Jeremy Maclin, KC, 5; 20. Demaryius Thomas, DEN, 11; 19. Kelvin Benjamin, CAR, 7
18. Doug Baldwin, SEA, 5; 17. T.Y. Hilton, IND, 10; Sammy Watkins, BUF, 10
Carson Palmer can make all three of his primary targets relevant fantasy options in that high octane Bruce Arians attack. Floyd started off slow coming off the hand injury but came on in the second half. John "Smoke" Brown is the big play threat and Fitzgerald is the Hall of Famer with new life in the slot. They’re even in my list and worth considering what you’re pairing them with to decide which one works best for you. Benjamin is a full year removed from the ACL injury and should be the #1 target for Cam Newton’s attack. Baldwin went on a run for the ages last year and got paid in the offseason as a result. I’m betting the Seattle attack continues. Hilton and Watkins are the biggest homerun hitters on the list and pair well with a more steady producer in your WR1 slot.
Tier 3 – Almost famous:
15. Brandon Marshall, NYJ, 11; 14. Brandin Cooks, NO, 5; 13. Julian Edelman, NE, 9
12. Keenan Allen, SD, 11; 11. Jordy Nelson, GB, 4; 10. Amari Cooper, OAK, 10
9. Alshon Jeffery, CHI, 9; 8. Mike Evans, TB, 6
These are your high-end WR2s and low-end WR1s by ranking. If you can come away with 2 of these guys while taking a top end RB with your first pick, you’re off to a great start. All of these guys should provide steady production with tons of targets and yards. Marshall, Nelson, Jeffery, and Evans provide elite TD production potential. All four of those guys could jump into the next tier if everything breaks right. Cooks is a personal favorite entering year 3 with Drew Brees.
Tier 2 – Semi-Elite:
7. Dez Bryant, DAL, 7
6. A.J. Green, CIN, 9
5. Allen Robinson, JAC, 5
4. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU, 9
Dez was a monster bust last year battling injuries and inept QB play. When he’s right, there is no one more dominant at the point of attack. He’s an absolute beast but still carries considerable risk with his volatile personality and a fragile signal caller. Green is an all-world talent with a vastly underrated QB in Andy Dalton. He’ll have a new supporting cast with the departure of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. That would allow teams to roll extra coverage over to Green’s side or force more targets to the former Georgia Bulldog. Either way, he’s in the end of the 1st / early second conversation. I’m late to the party on Robinson as I owned zero shares last year. He’s a special player in an offense that is likely to air it out a lot. I would take him before Green but it is awfully close. It hurts to not put Nuk Hopkins up in the top tier and you can absolutely make the case to put him higher, but I want to see it from Brock Osweiler. I realize Nuk produced with Hoyer, Mallet, and whoever else they threw behind center in 2015, but there’s enough doubt in my mind to put a slight discount on him. I’d still be happy to take him in the back half of the first round.
Tier 1 – Elite
3. Odell Beckham Jr., NYG, 8
2. Julio Jones, ATL, 11
1. Antonio Brown, PIT, 8
Rank these guys however you like and I won’t argue. Beckham is a special talent and I look forward to his battles with Josh Norman this season. He’s probably the most exciting guy to own in fantasy football because of his ability with the fancy catch. That 3-finger grab his rookie season is the finest display of
sticky-gloves acrobatics I’ve ever seen. Julio vs. Odell is a great argument for #2 but I’ll give the slight edge to the Falcon on the strength of his numbers from last year – 136 grabs on 204 targets for 1,871 yards and 8 scores. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Julio flirt with 2,000 yards again this season as we enter his 6th professional season completely healthy at peak performance with a good QB. But even with two amazing challengers, Antonio Brown is my #1 WR and the number 1 player on my board. If I’m leading off the draft, I’m not even hesitating. Brown put up the same number of catches as Julio on 11 fewer targets last year and even though he fell 37 yards behind Julio, he scored 10 TDs through the air and one electric punt return. He’s got one of the best QBs in the league throwing him the ball and is the Founding President of the Always Open Club. He’s posted 3 straight 100+ catch, ~1500 yard seasons and has no real threat to see a decrease in targets with Martavis Bryant’s suspension. He has two all-time top 5 finishes in single season receptions and two all-time top 10 finishes in single season yards. We’re in the peak of what is almost certainly a Hall of Fame talent on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Case closed.
What say you fake footballer? Who are your sleepers? What did I get wrong? Civil discourse welcome below.