Usually, this is where I say “Wide receiver is deeper than ever and you can wait on the position”. That’s not quite as true as it was last year, and you might find that you like the wide receivers available in the second round as much as you like the wide receivers in the first, which is definitely not true about the running backs. So an early wide receiver could be called for, and then you can still harvest your #2 and #3 from the deep group that starts in the mid-third and stretches to the sixth or seventh, where you can still get Robby Anderson and Tyler Boyd. We will all have our favorite upside bench picks and late-round dart throws at a position that always produces fantasy starters in the second half of the draft.
Adams is the #1 receiver on our boards with Aaron Rodgers back in camp. Hill and Diggs separated themselves from the pack a bit last year and they’re your other first-round wide receiver considerations.
Adams was significantly ahead of every other wide receiver on a points per game basis. Only a hamstring injury that cost him two games last year kept him from having a shot at 20 touchdowns.
Hill was as consistent as he has been in his career last year, and he avoided injury. Monitor his knee issue that came up in camp, but as long as he’s practicing as usual, Hill is worth a late first-round pick.
Diggs was ridiculously consistent last year, with only one game below four games, and six of seven games between weeks 9-16 with 9 or 10 catches. He also delivered titles with a three-touchdown game on Monday night in Week 16. He’s worth a late first if you don’t like any of the running back options.
ASCENDENT UNKNOWN UPSIDE WR1
D.K. Metcalf, SEA
8/26 UPDATE: Excitement about the Seahawks offense has moved Metcalf to the top of this tier.
All of these wide receivers are still on the upslope side of their career arc, or in Ridley’s case, at the peak. They can set new career highs this year, the only question is just how high? It will be fun to see the answer with them on your roster.
It’s easy to forget Jefferson got off to a slow start last year. All reports out of Minnesota are that he picked up where he left off and has been the best player on the field in practices, as expected.
Brown was playing through knee issues last year and still had the look of a player on the rise. He had surgeries to correct the problem and he’s showing no signs of lingering problems. With Julio Jones on the other side, it’s all systems go for takeoff.
Ridley should get the largest opportunity of his career with Julio Jones gone to Tennessee. He’s showing no signs of any issues after having offseason foot surgery. #1 overall wide receiver is in his range of outcomes.
Metcalf was on fire in the first half of his second season, but like the rest of the Seahawks offense, he lost steam in the second half of the year. A new offensive approach in Seattle with a faster tempo and former Rams passing game coordinator Shane Waldron running the show should give Metcalf the chance to blast into the fantasy stratosphere.
Lamb has impressed every time he has taken the field this summer, and he is looking like the new alpha while Amari Cooper is recovering from January ankle surgery. As long as Dak Prescott is healthy, Lamb could be in the running to lead the league in receptions.
HIGH FLOOR WR1
This group are all clear alphas on their team and they should be target hogs, but aren’t necessarily big-play receivers or red zone dominators.
Robinson will probably have the best quarterback play of his career this year whether it’s Andy Dalton or Justin Fields, but Darnell Mooney is also coming on to give the team a viable #2 and the offense could become run heavy when Fields takes over.
HIGH CEILING WR1
This group can win your week for you, but they are also prone to missing games or showing up small in the box score considering the investment it takes to land them.
Hopkins started out hot, but was up and down for most of the second half of the year and the Cardinals showed no inventiveness in how they used him. With AJ Green and Rondale Moore added to the passing game, his volume could be reduced.
McLaurin was held back by poor quarterback play last year and was then hurt at the end of the season, which conceals that he is quickly evolving into being one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Ryan Fitzpatrick should rejuvenate the deep passing game, which should more than make up for any target share McLaurin loses in a more robust passing game.
Cooper started camp on the PUP list after January ankle surgery, which isn’t a great sign, and his quarterback strained a muscle in his throwing shoulder, but if these injury issues aren’t problems during the season, he should set career highs across the board.
Jones getting traded coming off of his most injury-riddled season of his career portends that he could be at the cliff, but his price has dropped 2-3 rounds from last year, which more than offsets the additional risk that comes with the same ceiling that made him a first round fantasy pick until recently.
HIGH WEEKLY FLOOR WR2
8/26 Update: Ja'Marr Chase has fallen out of this tier.
This group doesn’t have true marquee fantasy receivers, but there’s room for growth as they are all at their peaks or on the upslope of their careers.
Woods has never had a quarterback the caliber of Matthew Stafford, so there’s a bit of unknown upside to go with his known and very solid floor.
Godwin was riffing more with Tom Brady as the season went on. This passing game is too crowded to produce a fantasy WR1, but if you had to start a Buc in your lineup in any given week, Godwin is the best answer.
As long as Joe Burrow is ok, Higgins has a chance to be this year’s DK Metcalf, a second-year receiver who builds on an already impressive rookie campaign. He has been the subject of buzz all offseason and would have had a 1000-yard season if he hadn’t gotten hurt in Week 17 even though Burrow missed the last six games.
Matthew Stafford knew how to use a crafty slot receiver when he played with Golden Tate, so Kupp will be just fine without Jared Goff, who leaned on him in the passing game. The only slight drag on Kupp’s upside is that the Rams will likely use all of their top five receivers.
Boyd was well on his way to a 100-catch season last year before Burrow got hurt, but you wouldn’t know it from his ADP. A.J. Green was getting a ton of targets, so don’t worry about the addition of Ja’Marr Chase affecting Boyd’s outlook.
Johnson could easily catch 110-120 balls if he avoids injuries and prolonged cases of the dropsies. He should still be the most frequently targeted receiver in Pittsburgh, and he’ll also work outside and get some downfield targets.
HIGH WEEKLY CEILING WR2
Tyler Lockett, SEA
8/26 UPDATE: Lockett has moved to the top of this tier on excitement generated by the Seahawks offense
This group can win your week, but they can also be one of the weak spots that cost you a week. Ideally, you have them as your WR3 in a wide receiver heavy build.
Evans is touchdown-dependent in this deep Bucs offense, but the good news is that he had 13 touchdowns in his first season with Tom Brady last year. Chris Godwin gives you a higher weekly floor in PPR leagues, but Evans gives you multi-score blow-up potential.
Lockett was a best ball darling last year with two three-score games in the first six contests. The problem is that he wasn’t a reliable start in typical leagues after that. Some of his dropoff was part of a global offensive problem that could be helped by a new offensive coordinator that will speed up the tempo and create more deception, so Lockett is still worth a look at ADP.
Moore had some big plays and games but didn’t stand out greatly from Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel in fantasy terms. Samuel is gone but rookie Terrace Marshall Jr is off to a hot start in camp, and Christian McCaffrey is back to likely lead the team in receptions again.
Jones should still get a large target share of a low-volume passing game, maybe even enough to be a fantasy WR1 again, but he is also at a precarious point in his career arc. Usually when the franchise icon has an injury-riddled season and gets dealt, he never reaches his previous heights again. The potential payoff is worth the risk at ADP, but if Jones struggles with injuries again, we should have seen it coming.
Beckham is back from his ACL surgery and ready to be the designated deep target on play-action passes. He’s cheap enough to draft as your WR3, which is an attractive proposition.
Thielen isn’t a big-play receiver at this point in his career and Justin Jefferson should become even more of an alpha this year, but Thielen is still very good in the red zone, to the tune of 14 scores last year.
HIGH FLOOR WR3/FLEX
Corey Davis, NYJ
8/26 UPDATE: Davis has moved up into this tier after establishing the best in-game chemistry with Zach Wilson
This group isn’t exciting, but they will be weekly plays by virtue of their volume.
Smith-Schuster is probably going to stay in the slot and close to the line of scrimmage. He is still Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite red-zone target and will give you a safe base of PPR points every week, but a semi-successful or even adequate running game will hurt his outlook.
Samuel is looking good in camp, but he was banged up frequently last year and who knows what his target share will be if George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk stay healthy. Aiyuk is the better pick if you are taking a 49ers wide receiver.
Cooks will be catching passes from Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills this year unless the very unlikely happens and Deshaun Watson takes the field for the Texans. He should be the most frequently targeted Texan by a large margin, but who knows how much production he can turn that into.
HIGH CEILING WR3/FLEX
Elijah Moore, NYJ **Target at ADP**
8/26 UPDATE: Chase has fallen into this tier after a rough summer. Callaway has joined this tier after his sensational Monday night performance capped a great summer. Mooney has moved up within the tier after the Bears treated him like an entrenched starter. Moore has moved down after suffering an injury in training camp. Jeudy is solidified at the top of this tier after Teddy Bridgewater won the quarterback job in Denver.
There’s a lot of weekly upside in this group, and season-long upside to spare. There’s also the potential for maddening inconsistency. That’s why they are your WR3/Flex options (or top bench wide receiver).
Claypool could be a hit in year two if his ability to win with physical advantages is married to more skill and consistency of execution this year, but Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t hang in to make the deep throws as well and the offensive line isn’t likely to give him a lot of time to do that.
Chase has been reunited with his college quarterback in a very unique situation. As long as Joe Burrow comes back to form from his knee injury/surgery, Chase should be a safe weekly play with upside. Expectations are down a bit after a rough summer for the rookie.
Aiyuk looks like a receiver who is ready to build on his successful rookie year, but there is a question of whether there will be enough balls to go around in a run heavy 49ers offense.
Sutton was a little tentative to start camp coming off of an ACL tear. He needs Drew Lock and his big arm to win the quarterback battle to hit his ceiling this year.
Callaway is the still worth the extra ADP bump cost, as he looks like the Saints #1 receiver as long as Michael Thomas is out.
Moore has stolen the show every time he has taken the field since the Jets drafted him. They will be throwing a lot and don’t have a true #1 receiver. Don’t be surprised if that’s Moore in short order.
Golladay was struggling to build chemistry with Daniel Jones and that’s before he suffered a hamstring injury that will cost him 2-3 weeks and most of camp.
Gallup is in a contract year and should have some big weeks as long as Dak Prescott holds up, but he will also disappear at times if last year’s games with Prescott are any indication.
Hardman has been the subject of rave reviews from Chiefs camp and he has locked up the #2 wide receiver role vacated by Sammy Watkins. Patrick Mahomes II will maximize Hardman’s value and his peaks could make enduring his valleys worth it this year.
Mooney has made strides from an already impressive rookie year to become the entrenched #2 receiver in Chicago. Whether it is Andy Dalton’s steady play or Justin Fields deep arm, Mooney will have a higher quality passer this year, and that should intersect with his developing game to take his fantasy production to new heights.
Brown was solid once he joined the Bucs, but his big game came in Week 17 and the Bucs didn’t have O.J. Howard and Giovani Bernard. He’ll be a fantasy contributor, but his days of being a week winner are over.
Williams was talked up by offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi because he’ll have the ‘X’ receiver role that Michael Thomas has in New Orleans, but he has been a perennial disappointment due to nicks and bumps and low target share. With Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler still in town, he may disappoint again, but if he hits, we should have seen it coming.
HOW MUCH DO YOU TRUST MICHAEL THOMAS?
Michael Thomas, NO
What exactly do we do with Michael Thomas? When will he be back on the field? How long will it take him to get back to 100% even after he returns? Will the frigid nature of his relationship with the team affect his performance or usage? It’s difficult to pass on a wide receiver who was a first-round pick last year when he is still available in the 7th-8th round or later, but it is probably the right move, especially in short bench leagues.
UPSIDE FLEX/BENCH WR
Curtis Samuel, WAS
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, GB
Rondale Moore, ARI
Terrace Marshall Jr Jr., CAR **Target at ADP**
Quez Watkins, PHI
Tre'Quan Smith, NO
8/26 UPDATE: Smith has moved down to this tier after suffering a training camp injury and being upstaged to a degree by Quez Watkins, who joins him in this tier. Valdes-Scantling and Moore move up into this tier after a strong summer.
This group shouldn’t be counted on Week 1, but they could be consistent performers for you anyway. Smith had the inside track to that role, but he has been sidelined with an undisclosed injury and Callaway has taken advantage. Smith can still make some noise if he can get back on the field in the preseason. Samuel has been out since June with a groin injury, which doesn’t bode well for his early-season impact. Marshall has had a great camp and should force his way onto the field in three-wide receiver sets. Brown has had hamstring issues in camp, but first-round pick Rashod Bateman’s injury issues are worse, opening the door for Brown to have more fantasy relevance as long as his hamstrings are sound.
HIGH FLOOR FLEX/BENCH WIDE RECEIVER
This group isn’t going to make your season, but they can save your bacon in bye/injury/emergency situations with a solid floor. Gage has the highest ceiling of the group and could be an even bigger hit if Kyle Pitts isn’t ready for prime time. Landry isn’t going to have many ceiling games unless Odell Beckham Jr gets hurt again, but will be a steady performer. Kadarius Toney is unlikely to pass Shepard on the depth chart, and Shepard will be running the layup easy first down routes that Jason Garrett loves. Meyers is the most consistent wideout on the Patriots roster and he riffed with Cam Newton last year.
CROWDED PASSING GAMES LACKING CLARITY
8/26 UPDATE: The Jets passing game has clarified to make Corey Davis our #1 target. Parris Campbell probably isn't even ahead of Zach Pascal right now, which is bad news for him. Marvin Jones Jr has been the #1 receiver for the Jaguars, but the offense looks rough and Shenault could get more opportunities on carries with Travis Etienne out for the year. Waddle is the healthiest Dolphin at wide receiver and therefore the only one worth a pick. We're monitoring Emmanuel Sanders foot issues to see if they will make Davis a big hit later this year.
I’m not sure how to rank these receivers because there are so many permutations to how targets will be split up among them, both on a weekly and season-long basis. Durability and performance of course will be the biggest factors, but roles, team/offense performance, and quarterback chemistry will also affect the outcomes here, among other things. All of these groups are better for best ball than lineup seting leagues.
Jacksonville’s trio costs the most, but if Urban Meyer has his way, this will be a run-heavy team. Shenault has the most buzz coming into camp, Chark has the highest demonstrated ceiling, and Jones the most experience (not to mention a connection to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell). Shenault also has the potential to lose short targets to Travis Etienne in the “h-back” role, Chark will miss most of camp with a finger injury, and Jones just turned 31.
The Colts trio has some reason for optimism with Carson Wentz’s surgery appearing to put him on the short side of his return to play with Week 1 still possible. Pittman’s game has shown signs of growing to #1 status this offseason, Hilton is the incumbent #1 and should get more work in the deep passing game, and Campbell has excited everyone each of the last two years in training camp before eventually succumbing to injuries. With Nyheim Hines and the tight end trio also playing a big role in the passing game, week-to-week production could be very inconsistent.
Will Fuller V’s track record shows that he has the highest ceiling, but he is already battling a foot injury in camp. DeVante Parker also already missed some time due to injury and didn’t exactly click with Tua Tagovailoa last year. Jaylen Waddle is quickly turning into the best pick of the trio, but with Mike Gesicki surely playing a big role over the course of the season and Albert Wilson having a great camp, the targets could be spread thin on a game-to-game basis, making everyone in the pass offense carry a lot of risk in lineup setting leagues.
Beasley should be the most consistent of the Bills wide receivers, but it will take an injury to Sanders or Davis for him to have ceiling games. Sanders was first in line for targets on the outside opposite Stefon Diggs, but he has a foot injury in camp, perhaps a sign that it is best to stay away because he’s 34, which in turn would make Gabriel Davis the best pick of this group as a second-year player on the rise, even though the Sanders signing showed that the team wasn’t ready to trust him in that role yet. This group has the most potential to actually yield a consistent every-week play as long as Josh Allen picks up where he left off last year.
Elijah Moore has displayed signs of unknown upside that has broken him out of the crowd, unlike the other passing games mentioned here, but Crowder, Davis, and Cole should also play sizable roles. Crowder’s ceiling and floor are both hurt by Moore’s early emergence, but he should be consistently involved. Davis is the outside #1, but he’ll be cancelled out by #1 corners most of the time. Cole is underrated, but Moore’s snaps could come as his expense after Cole had a good spring that got overshadowed by Moore.
BIG PLAY BYE/INJURY/EMERGENCY WIDE RECEIVER
Josh Palmer, LAC
8/26 UPDATE: Josh Palmer has joined this tier after a strong summer and Perriman has fallen out of it. Lazard has fallen out of it.
In any given week, the members of this group are likely to let you down, but they also have the ability to make your week with one long score when you are forced to put them in as a WR3/Flex because of matchups, injury, byes, or an emergency. Agholor is the designated field stretcher for the Patriots, but targets may be few and far between. Slayton should get easy one on one matchups but Jason Garrett doesn’t call many deep passes. Williams will be the Lions #1 wide receiver, but he has been battling foot problems the last two years. Reagor has yet to show why the Eagles took him in the first round, and Ruggs has only had a few moments that show why the Raiders took him ahead of CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Justin Jefferson among others. Edwards is having another great camp and he’s running ahead of John Brown, but last year’s great camp resulted in nothing. Lazard was showing signs of a breakout season before a core muscle injury last year, but now he finds himself in a much more crowded passing game, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling has had the better summer.
END OF BENCH STASH
Byron Pringle, KC
Sammy Watkins, BAL
Randall Cobb, GB
Allen Lazard, GB
8/26 UPDATE: Anthony Miller has dropped out of this tier after suffering a shoulder injury. Tyron Johnson has after dropping below rookie Josh Palmer on the depth chart. Hamler has moved to the top of the tier. Peoples-Jones looks like a breakout player sooner than later. Rondale Moore has moved up out of the tier. Old hands Cobb and Watkins have joined the tier after the summer offered them more opportunity in Watkins case and a better situation in Cobb's.
In competitive leagues, you may have to dig deep for your last wide receiver. This group may actually have a better chance of eventually creating consistent value this year than the many of the wide receivers going ahead of them. Pringle is attached to Mahomes and he’s ahead of Demarcus Robinson. Kirk has a deep ball rapport with Kyler Murray, and Green could be second on the Cardinals in targets. If either of them can separate from the other, there may be a third Cardinals receiver worth playing. St. Brown could get a lot of targets by default on a losing team with fragile starting wideouts. Wilson, Johnson, Washington, Tate, and Miller all just need an injury to have a nice-sized role in a robust passing game. Hamler, Miller, Wilson, Humphries, and Cobb could become reliable enough slot receivers to be this year’s Cole Beasley. Brown still has skills and could end being very productive in the same offense that highlighted Nelson Agholor last year. Bateman was a fashionable sleeper until he suffered an injury in camp that will threaten his early-season availability.