UPDATED 7/19: When I draft, I always have a tier sheet handy. I find that organizing players by tiers is far more beneficial than merely ranking players.
I could rank Julio Jones over Odell Beckham Jr Jr., but it is impossible to truly predict who will have a better season between the two of them, but I do know that both should finish better than a guy like Brandin Cooks.
Another reason I prefer tier rankings is that a range of outcomes approach is preferable to just this is what a guy will finish with at the end of the season. Jason Witten and Frank Gore have low end RB1 and TE1 numbers the past two years, but their weekly numbers are not going to help you win your weeks for the most part. In essence, you are looking for a player that has a chance to perform at a weekly level that is higher than a mere replacement level player, even if that replacement level player may have decent looking year-end numbers. Which brings me to my final point, fantasy football, in season long leagues, is about winning weeks, so you need to draft a combination of players where some have high ceiling, while some of high floors. That is how you win.
WIDE RECEIVER TIERS
Antonio Brown, Steelers – The best wide receiver in the NFL and in fantasy as long as Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy. The return of Bryant should help keep some of the pressure off. The only real worry are those Roethlisberger home/road splits, which can kill you when you least expect it.
Julio Jones, Falcons – An absolute beast and the only wide receiver in the league capable of going off for 12 catches 300 yards and 1 touchdown, like he did against the Panthers last year. Per usual, last season he battled some injuries, and targets were down from 204 to 129. Hope for health and expect his targets to bounce back into the 175+ range.
Odell Beckham Jr Jr, Giants – Eli Manning force fed him far too much last year, so they went out and signed Brandon Marshall and drafted rookie move tight end Evan Engram to go along with solid second-year receiver, Sterling Shepard. His target percentage will come down from the absurd 27% it was last year, but the quality of targets should be better and the coverage on those targets easier.
A.J. Green, Bengals – PFF's 4th rated receiver from last year and my fourth ranked this year. Was killing it last season and leading the league in receiving yards before he got injured, accumulating nearly 1,000 yards in just 9.5 games. Additions of weapons should help him, and without the semblance of an offensive line to run the ball, they could pass a ton.
Jordy Nelson, Packers – Entering his age 32 season, coming off a monster year and he is Aaron Rodgers boy. He did look sluggish at times last year, but was that due to his recovery from a knee injury or due to age? Probably a bit of both, but look for him to have 85+ catches and 10+ touchdowns again this year if he stays healthy. Speaking of health, with an average draft position (ADP) of 2.01, it all comes down to how much you are willing to invest in an older player so early in the draft with other good options available. That said, per Curtis Patrick at DLF, over the past 16 games played, he's tied with Keenan Allen (my guy) for percent of finishes in the top 6, and 4th in top 12. I certainly wouldn't look down on anyone for taking him in the first round.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Andrew Luck's go-to guy stymied last year by mediocre quarterback play and still caught 91 passes for 1,448 yards and 6 touchdowns. Hwoever, as Rotoworld's Evan Silva pointed out, Hilton averaged 10.3 targets for 101.3 yards and a 9 touchdownd pace in games where Donte Moncrief missed, but fell to a 9.2 target, 82.1 yards, and four touchdown pace when Moncrief played. In terms of fantasy scoring, that is a difference between 19.8 fantasy points per game versus 14.8 fantasy points per game. With Moncrief fully healthy and the addition of Kamar Aiken, it is realistic to assume Hilton's lower clip could certainly be the proper pace. Although, even so, that is still a finishing line of 147 targets for 1,313 yards, good enough for a top 12 finish at the position last year. I also think his touchdown total could inscrease if Luck stays upright more this year, which should hopefully be the case with an improved offensive line (finally). He makes for a safe and excellent second round fantasy pick.
Mike Evans, Buccaneers – 1,200+ yards and 10+ touchdowns should be the norm, but keep in mind he was the only game in town last year at the receiver position and they have other legit weapons now, especially in deep threat DeSean Jackson, not to mention rookies Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard. The other concern is Winston, who was PFF's 20th ranked quarterback and who had a middle of the pack 64.9 QBR rating from ESPN last year. Winston's erratic play showed up in Evans box score down the stretch where he would mix in big games with some major duds. While Evans will not see another 175 targets, he will still get his, but I'd rather take Hilton and Green over him at this point in the pre-season, which means I'm probably owning very few shares.
Michael Thomas, Saints – With Brandin Cooks out of town, Thomas is the lead dog in this receiving corps. He was Pro Football Focus' (PFF) 5th rated wide receiver last year and finished with Football Outsiders second best DVOA score, which represents value, per play, over an average WR in the same game situations. Additionally, in Matt Harmon's Reception Perception metric he performed amazingly well, finishing with some of the best numbers on the season: Success rate vs: Man-74%, Zone-84%, Double-73%, Press-80%. All that said, keep in mind that it's not as easy being the man and taking on teams top corners and/or seeing extra coverage and being game planned for, then it is having a guy like Cooks on the other side of the field taking some of the pressure away. As Scott Barrett at PFF mentioned, Thomas had the 4th easiest corner back schedule last year, while Cooks had the 52nd out of 95 receivers. This year, the Saints have the leagues 7th toughest schedule for outside receivers, so there is some cause for concern despite my love of his talent. Drew Brees also likes to spread things around and as Graham Barfield from Fantasy Guru mentioned, Saints lead receivers usually see around 20% target share, while 36 receivers saw more than 20% last year. That said, the Saints have a high volume pass attack and the quality of those targets are top notch coming from Brees. Taken as a whole, while I love the talent, and I really do, he's being drafted probably 5 to 10 slots too early, with an average draft position (ADP) right now in the first round or very early second.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys – He is as talented as any wide receiver in the league and is also by far the best receiver on his team. Unfortunately, he is perpetually capped by volume and as Scott Barett of PFF pointed out, he is the most cornerback sensitive wide receiver in the league. Over the past three years, he averages just 1.2 fantasy points per target against top 25 corners and 3.3 fantasy points per target against bottom 25 corners, so the start to his season will be tough going up against the Janoris Jenkins (88 PFF grade) Aqib Talib (90.6 PFF grade) and Patrick Peterson (83.9 PFF grade). Then on the season he faces Jenkins again, Josh Norman (81.9 PFF grade) twice, Desmnd Trufant (78 PFF grade), Casey Hayward (88.4 PFF grade), Richard Sherman (84.4 PFF grade) and Marcus Peters (83.9 PFF grade). All in all, 10 of Bryant’s 16 matchups this fantasy season will be against top 25 corners, while Trufant is certainly at that level as well, making it 11. Working in Bryant’s favor is that his domination against bottom corners is near the top of the league and some of his struggles the past two years against the top corners could have easily been due to nagging injury and scattered quarterback play. Nonetheless, this is a stat to keep in mind when playing DFS and also something to be aware of in your season long leagues.
As for the positives, Dez is still a dominant red zone receiver and his mojo with Dak Prescott certainly improved as the season went on. After Week 8, he had five top 12 weeks, and ended the fantasy season (through Week 16) averaging over 15 fantasy point a game, which ranked 13th overall despite the slow start to the year and despite Prescott averaging the fewest throws per game in the league. If we just take his Week 8 through 16 numbers, he would have averaged 16.6 fantasy points per game, extrapolated over a full season would have made him the WR6. In Prescott’s second season, we should expect the offense to open up more and see an uptick in the number of passes thrown a game. Possibly Dez’s biggest obstacle though is staying healthy, as he is entering his age 29 season and continues to get dinged up every year, playing in only 13 games last season, so despite his rock solid per game numbers, he finished outside of the top 25. While I wouldn’t blame you for drafting Bryant in the second round, but you might be better off going with another running back and catching the slew of solid receivers available in the 4th and 5th rounds.
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks – Has some serious mojo with Russell Wilson and that cannot be underestimated. He's an underrated talent and finished in the top 10 in both PFF and Football Outsider rankings, look for that to continue.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Foot injury concerns are the only thing keeping him out of Tier 2 and the Bills didn't exercise his 5th-year option because of it. Tyrod Taylor throws an amazing deep ball and Watkins is one of the best in the league at catching those. That darn foot though.
Keenan Allen, Chargers – Was on pace for a 134 catch, 1,450 yard and 8 touchdown line before he got injured in Week 8 two seasons ago with a lacerated kidney and then had a dominant first half of the first game of the year last season before tearing his knee. Fortunately, he will have had a full 12 months of recovery by the time this season starts and he is already running at nearly 100%. His talent on tape matches the analytical data. He finished 2nd overall against man coverage, 1st overall against double coverage and 2nd overall against press coverage in Matt Harmon's Reception Perception methodology. It's a more crowded receiving corps this year, but he's the alpha male. Some will disagree with this ranking, but they will be wrong.
Amari Cooper, Raiders – He's still just 22 years old and is entering his third season in the league, a year many receivers usually break out. Despite some down weeks last season, overall he had a very good year and will be even better this year. Case in point, last season Seth Roberts inexplicably had 21 red-zone targets, while Cooper had just 13. Look for that to flip flop this season. Reception Perception showed that he dominated against zone coverage but struggled against man, and that was certainly the case last year when determining whether or not to play him in DFS last season. Being so young, I'm hopeful that his rate against man coverage improves this year. In fact, beat writers have mentioned that he has noticeably "bulked up" and Carr stated, “the guy has been going off all offseason. We're laughing about how impressed we are.” While Michael Crabtree is a very close 1b, which does cap his upside, between the two, Cooper at least has the higher ceiling.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – Coming off of his third straight 1,000-yard season, Thomas welcomes back OC Mike McCoy and his deployment of the screen pass, a play Thomas uses to dominate opposing defenses and put up major fantasy points. Last season's down year was due to a lingering hip issue and essentially first-year quarterback play. The quarterback play should be somewhat improved and Thomas should improve on his 5 touchdowns, especially after seeing a very solid 18 red zone targets last season. While the hip is feeling better, it is a potentially chronic issue, so for those that are risk adverse, you might want to keep that in mind. He is a solid floor play in all formats, catching more than 90 passes and going over 1,000 yards the past five season, however he has had only few blow up weeks the past two years, eclipsing 100 yards only once last season. I like Thomas as a safe pick, but I'd rather grab Sanders a few rounds later.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texas – Major regression last season and I'm not talking about his quarterback play. Routes, effort, precision and technique all regressed. That's not to say the quarterback play was very good, and unfortunately, it may not be very good again this year. For a big receiver, he also faired poorly against man coverage, finishing 20th out of the 50 players Matt Harmon tracked in his Reception Perception metric. Not a player I'm targeting at this point, like many in the bottom half of this tier.
Allen Robinson, Jaguars – Blake Bortles is really bad, and this year's garbage time production should be reduced due to a very strong Jaguars defense and a seeming commitment to put the ball in Leonard Fournette's belly and not Bortles' hand. Marqise Lee also started coming on strong last year and proved to be a more reliable receiving option as Robinson struggled mightily against top rated corners, averaging a pathetic 0.68 fantasy points per targets against the top 20 corners according to Scott Barett at PFF. The Jags do have the easiest overall schedule in the league this year per Warren Sharp at Rotoworld and a middle of the pack schedule for outside receivers per PFF. While Robinson is still one of the best young receivers in the league, with fewer opportunities, he's a risky grab in the second round when you want to bank on a sure thing.
Davante Adams, Packers – People are quick to judge and write off players these days, when back just a few years ago we use to give receivers until at least the third year to break out. Well, Adams was written off and proved all doubters wrong by breaking out in his third year. It's a lesson to remember. Something interesting to note though is that Adams did very poorly in Reception Perception on man coverage, winning just 58% of the time, while he crushed in zone coverage, dominating on 87% of his routes. I wonder if teams will recognize this and start to play him with tighter coverage. Aaron Rodgers also does like to spread the ball around, so Adams may not have more than 80 catches, but unless coverage changes, he hits 1,000 yards this year with another 10+ touchdowns. There is some risky downside here though.
Alshon Jeffery Eagles – Quarterback Carson Wentz showed some promise to start the season, although he did have a horrible receiving corps and lost his right tackle to suspension. RT Lane Johnson is back and Jeffery is now the unquestioned alpha male receiver in this offense. Coming off of a busted season and playing for a big contract (once again), he's certainly motivated. Most reliable reports from OTA's mentioned that Alshon looked great and caught everything thrown his way, he's also set to practice with Wentz in North Dakota during the break. That said, he also can't seem to stay healthy. He could end up being a steal if you get him at the right price, and right now with an ADP in the 4th round, the price is right. You want him has your WR2 not your WR1.
Golden Tate, Lions – Slow start to the season last year, but Matthew Stafford will continue to sling it at a high volume, including in the red-zone, and Tate is going to be his go-to guy once again. Only 4 receivers have had over 90 catches the past 3 seasons: Odell Beckham Jr, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and .... Golden Tate. Even after starting very slow last season, he hit that 90 catch mark, so there is room for growth.
Michael Crabtree, Raiders – Underrated and potentially the 1a to Amari Cooper's 1b. Should be an 85+ catch guy again this year, making it three in a row. He has more consistent floor than Cooper and comes at a cheaper cost.
Terrelle Pryor, Washington – Pryor is a freak of an athelete standing 6'4" 240 pounds with 4.38 forty speed. His conversion from quarterback to receiver looks to finally be complete, and he could end up turning in a monster year, especially after training with Antonio Brown during the off-season. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon abandon 216 targets between them, a good chunk of which will go to Pryor. Playing in a much better offense with a far more capable quarterback, look for him to push 80+ catches, over 1,000 yards and 7+ touchdowns as the team's top outside receiving threat. Lots of competition (Doctson, Crowder, Reed, Quick) for targets keeps him in this tier, but there is upside.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos – Perennial and safe season long WR2 with weekly WR1 upside. Hovers around 140 targets a season since joining the Broncos, and that should continue this year, but with improved quarterback play and play calling, particularly the return of the screen game with new Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy. His Reception Perception numbers are also far better than Thomas', but you can draft him over two full rounds later.
Donte Moncrief, Colts – Big time talent that is only 23 years old. Last year's breakout season was hampered and cut in half due to a serious shoulder injury. Despite playing in only 8 full games, he showed red zone mojo with Andrew Luck catching 7 touchdowns. In fact, he had the 2nd best redzone conversion percentage in the league last season, catching all 6 of his targets inside the 10 yard line for touchdowns. Now fully healthy, he has a realistic chance to catch 85+ passes, gain 1,100+ yards and score 10+ touchdowns.
Brandon Marshall, Giants – People are writing him off because he didn't put up numbers playing in a horrible offense last year with the NFL's worst rated quarterback. Use that to your advantage when you steal Marshall in your drafts and watch him return solid WR2 numbers, with legit double-digit touchdown upside. The simple case for Marshall: Last season over 30% of his targets were deemed off-target; the Giants do not want to force feed Odell Beckham Jr Jr. like they did last year; Marshall won't be game planned for like Beckham will be; he will be playing against teams #2 corners and/or facing single coverage for the majority of games for the first time in his career; he stands 6'4” while Beckham and Shepard are both under 6'; he's a dominant red-zone threat up there with Rob Gronkowski and Dez Bryant; Giants will probably use a short passing attack to hide their offensive line and running back deficiencies, a game plan that suits Marshall well; and the team lacks a dominant tight end, and no, don't talk to me about rookies.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers – A truly dominant player when on the field, he has caught a touchdown or gone over 100-yards in 15 out of 24 career games. Hopefully he stays on the straight and narrow since he gets drug tested 3 times a week and meets with a counselor 2 times a week. I wouldn't think badly of you if you picked him above everyone else in this tier. Fantasy football is about winning and he's a beast when he's on the field.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – The juice is gone, but his hands and route running aren't. He's a safe mid-level WR2, albeit, without much upside.
Jarvis Landry, Dolphins – Around 90 catches, 1,100 yards and 4 touchdowns should be a yearly occurrence for Landry. Once bodies start flying, Ryan Tannehill will once again look his way despite other options. Worth noting that production dipped once they committed more to Jay Ajayi. Before Week 5 last season, Landry caught at least seven passes in every game, once Ajayi got going in Week 5, Landry only caught 7 or more passes in three of the remaining 12 games, catching 4 or less in six of those. It's a concern with an ADP in the 3rd round.
Julian Edelman, Patriots – I concede the connection between him and Tom Brady can't be understated, but the Patriots have never had as many weapons available as they do now with a healthy Rob Gronkowski, the signing of tight end Dwayne Allen, the trade for Brandin Cooks, the emergence of second-year talent Malcolm Mitchell to go along with a slew of pass catching backs that could occupy some of the same space as Edelman. I could see his catch total stall at 90, while big time yardage and touchdowns have never really been a huge part of his game.
Brandin Cooks, Patriots – Speaking of Cooks, I'm not sure what will happen here. He's talented, but perhaps not elite just yet, finishing last season at number fifteen in Football Outsiders DYAR rankings and he graded out as PFF's 31st rated pass catcher. Cooks will be starting on the outside, but there are a lot of mouths to feed and Brady won't force feed anyone as long as this whole core is healthy. Additionally, he's had some issues playing outside of the dome in the past, and put up horrible numbers in Matt Harmon's Reception Perception metric: Success rate vs: Man-51%, Zone-74%, Double-38%, Press-32%. I have been a big Cooks fan, he's still just 23 years old and been "standing out" in padless OTA's, but he's not someone to target aggressively at the moment, perhaps to my detriment, especially since PFF has targeted the Patriots with the 3rd easiest schedule for outside receivers this year.
Stefon Diggs, Vikings – I love the talent, but he's become the team's slot receiver and there isn't heavy volume to go around with the addition of a slew of running backs, the emergence of Thielen and the signing of Michael Floyd, and possibly the emergence of Treadwell. His fantasy points per target numbers are very poor versus top 20 corners (0.26PPR/Rt) but fortuantely the Vikings have one of the easiest schedules against slot corners in the league this year, per Scott Barett of PFF. He will have monster weeks to go along with many average ones. I'd rather target Thielen later, but there is no denying his talent.
Tyreek Hill, Chiefs – They will continue to use him in a variety of ways and he is a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. He is used as a pass catcher, runner and return specialist, and HC Andy Reid indicated that he is going to be taking over Jeremy Maclin's role as the teams Z receiver, which is the featured receiver spot in Reid's offense. Does he have the talent to be T.Y. Hilton? We shall see, and he is going to be one of the more heavily debated fantasy prospects this year. According to Matt Harmon's Reception Perception methodology, he received very positive grades in his success rate against man coverage (72%), press coverage (80%) and zone coverage (86%). However, that was mostly against teams #3 corner backs, and he will have a much harder time facing off against teams top corners, especially when teams will have had a full season to game plan for his antics. In fact, he never even faced double coverage last year, something that should change now that he is the team’s top wide receiver. It should also be noted that the Chiefs have the toughest schedule in the league this year for outside receivers per PFF. There is risk with this pick if his ADP continues to rise into the 3rd or 4th round, which it looks like it will.
Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers – Reported to organized team activities (OTAs) overweight, but still the team's number one receiver. The impact of rookies Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuels are unknown at the moment, but at his current ADP in the 6th or 7th round, the downside is built in. He is not someone I'm targeting but he has fallen into my lap in round 8 before, and that's too good of value to pass up.
Willie Snead IV, Saints – With Brandin Cooks gone and a suspect group of tight ends, Snead should be very active in this offense. The departure of Cooks opens up 112 targets, some of which will go to Snead. He showed very well in the Reception Perception metrics, ranking 10th in Success Rate vs Man Coverage (72.8%) and 4th against Zone Coverage (87.2%). The "Man" rate is particularly impressive since slot receivers usually have a tougher time against man coverage, as evidenced by the numbers of touted slots receivers such as Golden Tate (56%), Randall Cobb (56%), Jordan Matthews (57%), Jamison Crowder (57%) and even Larry Fitzgerald (67%). Scott Barrett of PFF also recently mentioned that the Saints have the 3rd easiest strength of schedule against slot corners this year after having one of the toughest last season. The biggest obstacle facing Snead is playing time, as the Saints use of three wide sets was a week-to-week proposition and it appears with their running back additions and statements coming out of OTA's, that they plan to run the ball a bit more this year. He has also never commanded heavy redzone targets, especially inside the 10, which is an issue. Finishing as fantasy's WR30 & 32 in his first two season, look for Snead to push into the top 30 this year, making him an excellent WR3, with WR2 upside entering his third year in the league, a year many receivers break out.
Tyrell Williams, Chargers – Expect an even bigger breakout in his third season. He finished 7th overall against man coverage and 5th overall against zone coverage last year in Matt Harmon's Reception Perception methodology. Additionally last year Williams had at least 65 yards and/or a touchdown in 12 of the 16 games he played in last year, and that includes two games against a tough Denver defense. Even before Mike Williams’ injury, I predicted he would lock down that second receiver role, which looks like a certainty at this point. Keenan Allen said Williams is also working hard and pushing the pace, as a 89th percentile SPARQ athlete from a small school, Williams looks ready to blow in his third year.
Jeremy Maclin, Ravens – Had a very disappointing season, in part due to injuries, which is something that has hampered him throughout his career. His release supposedly had more to due with cap space and future injury concern, than ability. He lands in a good spot with the Ravens and is already drawing rave reviews in camp. There are reports of him manning the slot with Perriman and Wallace outside. With Pitta done for the year, with Maxx Williams still injured and Ben Watson 37 years old and coming off of an Achillies injury, Maclin could easily gobble up all of Pitta's 121 targets and 85 catches, working that same area of the field. As a base of reference, over the past 6 years when the slot was manned by Anquan Boldin and then Steve Smith, they avergaed around 77 catches for 1,056 yards and 5.5 touchdowns a season. He's a cheap WR3 option that could easily put up solid WR2 numbers in PPR leagues. He's free of Alex Smith, rejoice.
Randall Cobb, Packers – It's bounce back or bust for Cobb in fantasy. He's a talented player who has not done much of anything the past two seasons despite playing with the league's best quarterback. Graded out as PFF's #19th ranked passing receiver. Like a lot of guys in this tier, the downside is built in with a late 7th round ADP, which makes him an excellent number three receiver for your team.
Pierre Garcon, 49ers – Garcon is the 49ers only legitimate receiver, understands the Kyle Shanahan offense and Brian Hoyer is a capable quarterback. His floor looks like 65 catches for 850 yards and 4 touchdowns with a ceiling of 90 catches, 1,100 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Performed well in Matt Harmon's Reception Perception metric. Older receivers, playing on bad teams with suspect quarterbacks always scare me though.
John Brown, Cardinals – His breakout season was a major dissapointment after suffering from sickle cell and also developing a cyst on his spine. He looks to have both under control now and all signs point to major bounce back after getting healthy in the off-season. The top-end talent is still there and should be the team's lead receiver on the outside. Going into last year, his Reception Perception scores were excellent: Success Rate vs Man (72%), vs Zone (77%) vs Press (75%), which are very solid WR2 numbers. At his best, he has T.Y. Hilton upside, so he is someone to swoop up consistently while Average Draft Position (ADP) still depressed.
DeSean Jackson, Tamp Bay – Great landing spot and will benefit from having Mike Evans on the other side of the field. Despite down year, he still had over 1,000 yards and ranked 12th in Football Outsider DYAR rankings, which “gives the value of the performance on plays where this WR caught the ball, compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage.” Look for his catches to push 65+ (which is a lot for him), and his yardage and touchdowns to spike to 1,200+ and 7+ respectively.
Jamison Crowder, Redskins – Did well in the slot and he's a baller that benefited from some injuries last year. HC Jay Gruden has stated he wants to keep him on the field as much as possible, putting a 80 catch, 1,000 yard and 5 touchdown season within reach, especially with 203 targets available from last year with the departure of Garcon and Jackson. The Redskins also used 3 receiver sets on 73% of their plays, so he will see the field a lot. A great WR3 piece to own but it is a crowded field with Josh Doctson, Jordan Reed and Terrelle Pryor.
Cameron Meredith, Bears – Standing 6'3" 207 pounds with 4.42 forty speed, a 39-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-7 broad jump, Meredith is a very athletic player. Like Terrelle Pryor he is also a recent convert from the quarterback position, although he did play his final two years in college at receiver. Can he do as well playing outside as he did in the slot last year? You can find a clue to that answer here. Mike Glennon is at least not a downgrade at the quarterback position from Matt Barkley and the Bears have 152 vacated targets up for grabs. He could easily rise far up these ranks as the season nears.
Mike Wallace, Ravens – Has finished as a top 35 receiver in fantasy (depending on your scoring) in the past seven of eight seasons (and we can forgive him for that one down year in Minn), look for that to continue this season.
Adam Thielen, Vikings – Perhaps the best receiver on the Vikings and currently a value pick in the 10th round. Finished the year as the 9th ranked receiver in Football Outsider DYAR metric, and 6th in their DVOA metric. In its simplest form, DYAR measures a wide receiver with more total value while DVOA means a wide receiver with more value per play. He could end up being a rock solid weekly WR2.
DeVante Parker, Dolphins – Can he have a third-year breakout like Davante Adams had in Green Bay? I'm still skeptical, but the Dolphins keep talking him up. His Recpetion Perception numbers were very poor, with just a 51% success rate against man coverage, something he has struggled with since his days in college. Additionally, after Week 4, the Dolphins became increasingly run heavy, finishing as the leagues 5th most run heavy team in the league, even in games they were losing in the 4th quarter compared to other teams.
Eric Decker, Titans – Coming off an injury-riddled season, getting released from the Jets is the best thing that could have happened to his fantasy value. Decker is one of the leagues best red-zone receivers and Mariota has thrown 33 touchdowns in the red-zone without a single interception, so this could be a match made in heaven. However, joining the Titans isn't necessarily the best offense to maximize his value either. He joins a crowded receiving core in Tennessee, with highly touted rookies Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor, to go along with Rishard Matthews, running back Demarco Murray and tight end Delanie Walker. While the offense should be opened up more this season, they supposedly are still committed to their smash mouth brand of football and slow pace of play. Decker is the team’s best receiver in theory and he should handle most of the work out of the slot in three wide sets, although the Titans ranked near the bottom of the league in 3-wide sets last year. Meanwhile in 2-wide sets, it would make sense for Decker to be on the field as well, but perhaps they keep him fresh at his age and coming off injury, spliting time with Matthews and Davis. Right now, it’s tough to get a great read on the situation until we get reports out of training camp, so the key with drafting him right now is draft position. As John Paulsen of 4-for-4 mentioned on twitter, the pie gets bigger, but each slice gets a little smaller. At the moment he is going in the 8th round, which is very good value, just be careful if that starts moving up into the 6th or 5th.
Jordan Matthews, Eagles – Despite the hype, he's best as a complimentary receiver and that's what he will be this year. After being the only capable receiver in town for two years now, expect him to frustrate owners using him as anything more than a WR3 or flex play. There is talk of him being traded to the Ravens, which would increase his value to a reliable WR3.
Marvin Jones Jr, Lions – People will hate on him, but he was not the same player after he got injured in week 3, so health is key here. While he is not a WR1, he can be a solid WR2 in this offense and a WR3 or 4 for your team.
Breshad Perriman, Ravens – One of this season's biggest breakout candidates as he enters his third season. Reports during the preseason have been glowing from teammates and coaches alike. Dennis Pitta stated that “nobody is having a better camp than him so far,” while Mike Wallace said that "Perriman will be a top wide receiver this year." While the Ravens only went three wide on 56% of their snaps, Dennis Pitta was essentially used as a wide receiver and he is now gone, so expect that number to spike. The addition of Jeremy Maclin is a major buzz kill, but if you are betting on talent, trade for him now while he's still cheap, especially since Maclin is an injury risk, Mike Wallace will be 31 this season and Ben Watson is 37 years old.
Rishard Matthews, Titans – The signing of Eric Decker and drafting of rookie Corey Davis is a major hit to his value. He's an underrated and talented receiver who should be starting outside with Davis opposite him and Decker in the slot. In two wide sets, he may be an every down player as well, at least to start the season. But this is a murky situation, so there is no telling how things will shake out, especially on a team supposedly still committed to their smash mouth brand of football. If Decker and/or 33 year old tight end Delanie Walker gets injured, there is no reason he can't have another 65 catch, 950 yard and 9 touchdown line this year. Long time Titans beat writer, Jim Wyatt, mentioned that he believes Matthews will lead the team in targets, and that can certainly be the case.
Kenny Britt, Browns – He's a downgrade from departed receiver Terrelle Pryor in this offense. Another 68 catch, 1,000 yard and 5 touchdown line? Sure. But that's his ceiling and Corey Coleman might outshine him and this offense could totally collapse.
Robert Woods, Rams – Going into the season as the Rams main receiver, which doesn't mean a whole lot if Jared Goff doesn't take a step forward. Just because you change teams doesn't mean you become a fantasy asset.
Zay Jones, Bills - 6'2” 201lbs with 4.45 jets. Can play outside or in the slot, probably a better version of Allen Hurns, Robert Woods and Mohammed Sanu, but in that vein. Sprained his knee in rookie camp and is already on the shelf, which is not good. If he has a good camp, could easily see 100 targets this year on a team devoid of any pass catchers outside of Sammy Watkins.
Corey Coleman, Browns – Failed to live up to Odell Beckham Jr Jr. billing and tough to expect a major breakout given their quarterback situation. Someone to monitor closely, more than to draft aggressively. In dynasty leagues, he's a great player to acquire on the cheap, but the real breakout will probably come next year, and it could be a big one.
Corey Davis, Titans – Deservedly the first receiver drafted in this years draft, he's a great athlete and a precise route runner. That said, it's tough to get a full gauge of his talents due to playing against sub-par competition in college, so the transition to the pros could take some time. Early reports form OTA's have been glowing, but now with Eric Decker on board, Davis may not even be on the field in 2-wide sets to start the year. Exotic smash mouth will also limit his production in this offense as well, so there just might not be enough pass attempts to rely on any of these receivers from a week-to-week basis in season long leagues. That said, if he is the special player we think he is, he might end up being too tough to take off the field, so clearly a player with upside.
Josh Doctson, Washington – He was my favorite wide receiver in last year's class and should be a starter on the outside. While he profiles as a potential future WR1, currently there are lots of mouths to feed and this is essentially his rookie season. He also has to prove he is over his Achilles injury. The talent is there though and a prime candidate to outperform my current ranking of him.
Torrey Smith, Eagles – Wouldn't be surprised if he finished in the Mike Wallace range, as a top 35 wide receiver. It all depends on Carson Wentz and his ability to throw a nice deep ball. Reports from OTA's have been positive and mention that Wentz and him connected on quite a few deep passes. He's also set to work out with Wentz in North Dakota during the break. He's a steal with tons of upside at his current ADP in the 19th round.
Malcolm Mitchell, Patriots – Being severely overlooked after showing serious mojo with Tom Brady and earning his trust. He should easily push Danny Amendola to the bench and will be a starting receiver in what looks like a pass heavy offense. If you want a cheap piece to this offense, this is it, and he would be a legit WR2 if there are some injuries to this receiving corps ahead of him, which seems to happen every year. The Patriots also have the 3rd easiest schedule for outside receivers, while one of the toughest for slot receivers. He's a great depth piece for your fantasy team.
Sterling Shepard, Giants – Love the talent, but the additions of Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram kills his value, especially since Eli Manning's skills seem to be deteriorating. At the moment, he's going to be tough to rely on week-to-week beyond a depth option, but if you want to bet on talent, he is far more talented than the other players in this tier. The Giants also used three receivers on a league high, 97% of their pass plays, so Shephard will be on the field a ton.
Quincy Enunwa, Jets - Surprise breakout player of last season, catching 58 passes for 857 yards and 4 touchdowns. With Brandon Marshall out of town, expect Enunwa's role to expand, and he has great intangibles, standing 6'2" 225lbs with 4.44 speed, and comps to Josh Gordon on Player Profiler. On a team with very little proven commodities at the wide receiver position and with Eric Decker still injured, Enunwa should easily best last year's numbers, albeit the quarterback play looks to be just as bad, and even possibly worse if that is possible. I've said it here before, might be best to avoid all Jets in season long play if you can help it. It could be ugly week-to-week, making him a better best ball grab or cheap DFS play when the matchup is good.
Josh Gordon, Browns – For what it's worth, I still think he eventually gets reinstated. Maybe I'm just an idiot, but if you are going for upside, he's it.
Cole Beasley, Cowboys – 4 or 5 catches a game for 40 or 50 yards. That's it. He literally averaged year 4.5 catches and 52 yards a game last year … and did that every week. He finished 5th in Football Outsiders DYAR metric, 3rd in their DVOA metric and was the 10th receiver by PFF, so he's talented at what he does … catching 4 or 5 balls for 40 to 50 yards. Every week. That's it. I guess I should have him ranked higher and an analytics guy would probably tell me to draft him, I prefer upside.
Kenny Golladay, Lions – The Lions moved up to draft him in the 3rd round, which should tell you something. He stands 6'4 218lbs with 4.5 forty speed. Think a lower case AJ Green. He has great hands, with only 5 drops in two years at college. There is lots of value in this offense playing on the outside with Golden Tate in the slot and with Marvin Jones Jr on the other side of the field, especially since the Lions used three receivers on 75% of their pass plays. One of my favorite late-round dart throws on a pass first team, especially in the red-zone, an area of the field the Lions love to throw in. Early OTA reports have been glowing, and it's not like Jones played all that well at times last year.
Carlos Henderson, Broncos - Might get a lot of run on special teams early, but could also take over that 3rd receiver role and eventually make a big impact as a Brandin Cooks type player. He looks like a special player, so I love in dynasty, but I'm just not sure what he will provide this year. Perhaps he will be like Tyreek Hill in terms of just scoring and making plays every time he touches the ball.
Curtis Samuel, Panthers – He's 5'11” 196lbs with 4.31speed. If you are looking for this seasons Tyreek Hill, Samuels, like Carlos Henderson, he just could be it. Funchess described him as electric in OTA's and he is much more than a receiver, rushing 97 times last season with a 7.9 yards per carry average. Ranking him this low might be foolish.
Chad Williams, Cardinals – They drafted him as their Michael Floyd replacement. He stands 6'1” 205lbs with 4.43 speed and had a monster 21 bench reps. He has some character flaws but landed in a good spot for that. He plays bigger than his size and with some physicality to his game. The opportunity is there and early reports have been very positive. Could end up being a draft day steal.
Kamar Aiken, Colts – Replacing Donte Moncrief isn't going to happen, but my bet is that he replaces Philip Dorsett in three-wide sets. There is value to be mined playing with Andrew Luck and he is more talented than his past usage indicates.
Kenny Stills, Dolphins – You can expect another 42 catches, just don't expect another 9 touchdowns.
Mohamed Sanu, Falcons – Expect similar numbers from last year, which makes him a better DFS spot play. However, he would be an every week WR2/3 in PPR leagues if Julio Jones missed serious time, so a nice depth piece.
Marqise Lee, Jaguars – Was their most consistent receiver, good for 4 or 5 catches a game, so more of a PPR play. Their lack of a legitimate tight end gives him a weekly boost and he could even take a bigger step further this year. A sneaky player to keep on your radar since he was drafted higher than Allen Robinson in real life football.
Terrance Williams, Cowboys – You're probably not winning your fantasy league if you are drafting him. You're that guy. Find a co-owner that knows more and if your co-owner also wants to draft him, time to find a new co-owner. There is literally no upside here.
J.J. Nelson, Cardinals – Deep threat speedster who stands 5'10 165lbs with 4.28 forty jets. I can't imagine they want Carson Palmer to have two shorties on the outside, with John Brown also just 5'10”. Look for him to battle rookie Chad Williams for that role and a veteran signing like Vincent Jackson is certainly possible. I just can't see him as a reliable weekly play.
Paul Richardson Jr, Seahawks – Former 2nd round draft pick who is finally coming off a fully healthy off-season. We could be talking about him as a solid WR3 with upside come this time next year, especially since Tyler Lockett coming off of a broken leg. He's an excellent late MFL10 grab.
Tyler Lockett, Seahawks – He's a baller, but never going to reach his potential in this offense and broke his leg in late December, so availability is questionable right now. Worth a dynasty hold if he can find a new team like Golden Tate did when he exited Seattle. I can't see him as anything more than a DFS dart throw to start the season.
Chris Hogan, Patriots – This offense is far too crowded to rely on him as a weekly starter. More of a DFS play unless there are injuries to some guys in front of him. The path to relevancy certainly there though.
John Ross, Bengals – Much more than just a deep threat, at his best, think DeSean Jackson or TY Hilton. His biggest issues will be health, something he has struggled mightily with his whole college career, and getting enough targets in this talented offense to be reliable weekly.
Kendall Wright, Bears – More talented than he was allowed to be in Tennessee, but new landing spot is not much better. Once preseason kicks off expect reports to come out of camp that he is the most talented receiver in their core, so he will be starting in the slot as usual. The floor is 35 catches for 400 yards and 1 touchdown, with a ceiling of 85 catches, 1,050 yards and 6 touchdowns. A major candidate to move up these ranks and a great late grab at the moment.
Cooper Kupp, Rams - 6'1” 204lbs slot receiver who runs precise routes, can beat all forms of coverage and has very reliable hands. Already shining in rookie practices, Kupp could end up leading this team in catches as a rookie. Sneaky PPR upside and just might have the best rookie season in this year's wide receiver class.
Anquan Boldin – Still wants to play, best to see where he latches on before drafting. Hopefully it is a team like Oakland.
Ardarius Stewart, Jets – He'll end up being the Jets best receiver by the end of the year and both Greg Cosell and Matt Waldman love his talent. Think Golden Tate. The big problem is who in the world is throwing this guy the ball and he just underwent groin surgery. That said, it would not shock me if come week 12 he is all of a sudden a viable weekly play for those in need. A great dynasty grab and a player with a lot of upside.
Taylor Gabriel, Falcons – Not reliable enough to be a weekly fantasy option, since he played on less than 7% of the teams plays, but a great DFS play on certain plus matchup weeks. If you have deep benches, not a bad last round grab and then plug in a few games on the season.
Brandon LaFell, Bengals – They really like him, but more of a DFS spot play with all these weapons than a weekly season long one.
Laquon Treadwell, Vikings - I have no clue what is going on with him and he only had one catch last year. Could easily skyrocket up these rankings, or totally drop out. Early OTA reports have been positive, so I have him here for the moment. He was great in college and supposidly injured all last season. Could be a major bargain.
Kevin White, Bears – Played on one side of the field throughout college, missed his rookie season due to injury, looked totally lost in the few games he played his second season before again going on injured reserve. He's physically gifted, but he doesn't know how to play receiver yet in the NFL. A higher ranking would be based solely on potential, but I guarantee you there will be reports both Cameron Meredith and Kendall Wright are outplaying him in camp. If reports are positive, he at least has the potential to shoot up these rankings, but I'm skeptical at the moment.
Eli Rogers, Stealers - Currently their third receiver and the team's slot receiver. Small, but fast, with good hands. They say they want to play with more 3 and 4 wide sets.
Braxton Miller, Texans – He's their slot receiver and could make a big jump in year two. Wouldn't surprise me if he passed Will Fuller V in the pecking order. Might be just what a rookie quarterback needs.
Robby Anderson, Jets – He had some big games last year and should be their deep threat. I just have a hard time drafting anyone on the Jets, but as they say, someone has to get the ball, and they will be playing plenty catch-up. Was arrested this off-season for fighting with a security guard.
Josh Reynolds, Rams – Very fluid athlete and long strider vertical guy. Early reports from camp are positive and he very well could win the starting job on the outside along with Robert Woods and Kupp in the slot.
Tavon Austin, Rams – If he doesn't succeed in moving to the outside, he could be just a special teams player, as rookie Kupp will handle the slot.
Taywan Taylor, Titans – Stands 5'11” 203lbs with 4.50 speed. With Rishard Matthews and Corey Davis on the outside and Eric Decker in the slot, he's going to need an injury ahead of him to be a useful fantasy commodity. I love the talent, so he is someone to monitor and to stash in dynasty. At his best, perhaps Emmanuel Sanders type player, but on a run first team, and a slew of capable receivers and a great tight end in Delanie Walker, targets are going to be tough to come by. For what it's worth, Titans long time and respected beat writer, Jim Wyatt thinks Taylor was the star of OTA's and could be more ready than Davis at this point.
Michael Floyd, Vikings – Was able to move his house arrest to Minnesota so he can practice with the team during OTAs, which is huge for him. Probably facing a 2-4 game suspension from the league to start the year, but if Treadwell is a bust once again, Floyd could hold some serious value on the outside.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay - Standing - 6'1” 209lbs with 4.42 speed, Godwin is a great athlete who is great at making contested catches, no wonder he put up 25 bench reps at the combine. Matt Harmon thinks he's nearly elite, while Greg Cosell said he lacks effort, struggles against man coverage and doesn't always play to his speed. Think a Marvin Jones Jr type receiver with the possibility for more, Godwin unfortunately joins a crowded receiver core as an outside receiver playing with two of the games best outside receivers in DJax and Evans.
Mike Williams, Chargers – I was lower on him than most before his back injury that may require season ending surgery. A 6'3" 215 pound possession receiver that is not a burner, but is great at making contested catches. Philip Rivers loves turning it loose, and a guy like Williams is a great fit for that "go and get it" mentality. Unfortunately, he joins a crowded receiving corps of very talented pass catchers even when healthy. Until we hear positive reports, I don't think he will hold much fantasy value this season and it is not out of the realm of possibility he pulls a Treadwell.
Demarcus Robinson, Chiefs - Was drafted in the 4th round last year, but could have been drafted higher if he didn't have off-field issues. HC Andy Reid has mentioned him a few times as someone that has performed well in OTA's and he has a real chance to take ahold of the outside receiving role opposity Tyreek Hill. Someone to monitor as he battles Chris Connley in camp. Unfortuantley the Chiefs offense isn't a fantasy goldmine regardless.
Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers – Entering his age 34 season, the upside is probably gone, but he wants to continue to play and many teams (Cardinals, Lions, Chiefs, etc …) could use a big veteran receiver like him. Worth monitoring and could end up being a steal for MFL10 drafters taking him in round 20.
Tyler Boyd, Bengals – Not an elite athlete and sometimes issues with separation, but runs good routes, good hands and physical for size. Should man the slot on a team with weapons galore. Better real-life player than a fantasy one.
Phillip Dorsett, Colts – Lots of mouths to feed and looks to now be the team's 4th receiver behind Aiken. Can he break out in year three?
Devin Funchess, Panthers – Fool me once, but fool me twice? Not happening. You want some upside in a player.
Dontrelle Inman, Chargers – HE stands 6’ 3” 200 pounds with 4.47 speed. He started his career in 2012 in the Canadian league, being signed by the Chargers in 2014. Since that time has been Mr. Reliable, filing in whenever needed. With Keenan Allen injured last season he saw 97 targets for 58 catches, 810 yards and 4 touchdowns. The signing of Mike Williams was a buzz kill for his potential streamer value, but he looks to be back in business with Williams now potentially out for the year. He’s a waiver wire option only, but someone worth remembering if you need a receiver in a pinch or if Tyrell or Keenan get injured.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers - He stands 6'1” 215lbs with 4.54 forty speed. He's very young, just 20 years old, so it's understandable that he isn't the most refined route runner. He also won't be able to punk smaller corners like he did in college, using his size instead of good technique. It may take a year or two for him to round into form and with Martavis Bryant back and Eli Rogers in the slot, JuJu is probably on the bench.
Malachi Dupre, Packers - Packers GM Ted Thompson knows how to pick great wide receivers late in the draft, and Dupre looks like his latest find. Two years ago he was being touted as a potential first round pick by Todd McShay of ESPN and other analysts, but a down year for the whole LSU football team (even their head coach got fired mid-season) kaboshed all hope in that. He stands 6'2" 198 pounds with a 39.5 vertical and 135" broad jump, both of which led all rookies at the combine. He's been a stand out in camp, so he's someone to monitor closely.
Ricardo Lockett, Browns - Has been generating a lot of positive news out of OTA's and plans to train with Brandon Marshall during the break. Someone to keep an eye on.
Tajae Sharpe, Titans – Crowded receiving corps with not much upside. Perhaps he surprises, but not a bad player.
Aldrick Robinson, 49ers – He knows the offense and they are devoid of a proper receiving corps.
Danny Amendola, Patriots – Might get cut. If not, might not play regardless. Possible value if he ends up on a different team.
Jared Abbrederis, Lions - Playing very well in camp, and has a chance to start in three wide sets. He was drafted by Packers GM Ted Thompson, who has a great history of drafting quality receivers late in drafts. It would not surprise me if he made an impact this year in that Boldin role if he can beat out rookie Golladay.
Ishmael Zamora, Raiders - He's 6'4” 224lbs with 4.49 jets. While his hands are questionable, and he has major character concerns, he's a gifted athlete that could emerge as a Martavis Bryant type player.
Mike Thomas, Rams – Good size and speed (6'1" 200lbs - 4.5 forty) and plays even bigger with toughness and physicality. Could emerge to be a reliable WR2 for the Rams, and has been getting some good reviews in OTA's, but they have a lot of competition there now and he's been suspended for PED use to start the season. A sneaky player to stash.