As the preseason gets underway and everyone gets hyped for the start of the 2017 NFL season, we’re ranking each and every position for you as you get ready for your drafts. We’ve already looked at the top 25 quarterbacks for the year, now we’ll look at the top 60 wide receivers, which we’re releasing in three articles, 20 at a time. I’ve divided them up into 10 tiers, and just for giggles, I’ve named them after my ten favorite Bob Dylan albums.
Here are our top 20 wide receivers for 2017:
Tier 1: Blood On The Tracks
1. Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers) – I don’t know that I have to do much convincing to tell you that Brown is the best wide receiver in football, and probably the best player in fantasy football. His 2015 stats were insane, and while his stats went down a little in 2016, he still finished the year with 106 catches, 1,284 yards, and 12 touchdowns, and that was in a season that Ben Roethlisberger missed time. He’s a no-brainer top pick.
2. Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons) – Once again Julio lit it up last year, but the thing that’s really stopped him from surpassing Antonio Brown as the top wide receiver in football has been the touchdowns. He’s only had double-digit touchdowns once in his entire career. You could also make the argument that the Falcons offense is due for a slide considering Kyle Shanahan is gone, but Julio has produced no matter what, and I think he’ll continue to do that this year.
3. Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants) – OBJ has been great for three straight years now, topping 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns in each year of his career. It would be nice if someone other than Eli Manning was throwing the ball to him, but even with Eli, OBJ has been awesome and should continue to be.
Tier 2: Another Side Of Bob Dylan
4. Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers) – Sure, he’s 32 years old now, I get that, but Nelson ended last year with 97 catches, 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns and he wasn’t even healthy all year. It sure helps having Aaron Rodgers throwing to you, and there’s really no reason to believe that Nelson won’t tear it up once again this year. Sure, health is a concern, but even not-fully-healthy, Nelson has shown he can produce.
5. Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Evans has the size and talent to be one of the absolute best receivers in all of football, he just has to stay focused and he needs help. Last year, having Jameis Winston at the helm helped a lot, giving Evans a career best in yards and a tied career-best in touchdowns. Now, adding DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard to the offense should help take some of the pressure off of Evans, poising him to be equally as productive as last year, if not more productive. He’s not going to get the target-share he got last year given the added weapons, but he’ll still be a major red zone target.
6. A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals) – A.J. Green missed the last six games of the year last year with a hamstring injury but was well on his way to a career-best year. The Bengals added some more offensive weapons in the draft with running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver John Ross, and given that Green had only missed four games in his career before last season, there’s no reason to expect he won’t be excellent again this year.
7. Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints) – Even though Brandin Cooks went off for the Saints last season as their number one receiver, Thomas had a fantastic year too. In fact, through the first 15 games of his career, Thomas more catches and yards than Julio Jones did. Now Cooks is gone and Thomas is the number one option in New Orleans, and teammate Ted Ginn isn’t exactly the talent that Thomas is, so he won’t be seeing the looks Thomas saw last year. Thomas joined Odell Beckham as the second player in NFL history to have at least 90 catches, 1,100 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns in his rookie season. He could really go off this year.
8. Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders) – While Cooper is the no-doubt number one receiver in Oakland, teammate Michael Crabtree tends to snag the red zone targets more than he does. That being said, Cooper’s got a young, talented quarterback, a solid offense behind him, and loads of talent. It’s entirely possible that this year could be his breakout year, it’s gonna happen soon.
9. Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys) – People were understandably worried about about Dez coming into last year because we all had no idea what we’d get out of quarterback Dak Prescott. Well, Prescott had a fantastic year and has proven himself to be a very capable quarterback. Now, a lot of the attention of the Cowboys offense will go towards running back Ezekiel Elliott, and certainly health is always a concern for Dez, but he should still put up good enough numbers, especially touchdown numbers, to warrant WR1 consideration.
Tier 3: Blonde On Blonde
10. Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks) – Don’t expect 2015 to happen again, but Baldwin was still very solid last season, catching 94 balls for 1,128 yards. If the Seahawks offensive line can stay healthy and give Russell Wilson the time he needs (and if Wilson stays healthy), Baldwin might see more targets, and eventually get more touchdowns. If that happens, he’ll be a no-doubt WR1.
11. Brandin Cooks (New England Patriots) – Cooks is moving to an offense where he’ll have a quarterback equally as good if not better than the one he had in New Orleans, but Bill Belichick’s offense is unpredictable and he likely won’t get the targets he did from Drew Brees. That being said, if Tom Brady decides that Cooks is the more talented receiver between him and Julian Edelman, and subsequently decides to give him the vast majority of the targets, Cooks could absolutely explode.
12. Alshon Jeffrey (Philadelphia Eagles) – Alshon Jeffrey has the talent to be a top-10 wide receiver, but the guy just can’t stay healthy. Now he’s in Philadelphia and he needs to prove that he’s still got that top-10 talent and can be healthy. He’ll have an upgrade in targets and at quarterback (I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Carson Wentz is at least as good as, if not a better quarterback than the Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley combo Jeffrey saw last year), so I think it’s fair to invest in the potential.
13. T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis Colts) – When Hilton has a healthy Andrew Luck, he’s awesome, but we don’t know if and when he’ll have a healthy Andrew Luck. Luck, as of this writing, isn’t confirmed for week one, and reports are he might miss the first six weeks of the season, we don’t really know when he’ll be back. We hope week one or two, but that’s a bit of an unknown right now. That being said, Hilton’s had four-straight 1,000+ yard seasons and there’s no real reason to think he’ll all of a sudden drop off, though losing Luck for a significant amount of time will really hurt him and makes him a risky pick.
14. DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans) – I kind of thought that Hopkins would be fine with The Brock Lobster (Brock Osweiler), considering the Texans have had their fair share of bad quarterbacks, but Osweiler proved to be more of a dud than The B-52’s post-80s career. Now the Texans have Deshaun Watson who, while a rookie, is still quite talented, and is likely smart enough to realize that Hopkins is someone he should rely on (rookie quarterbacks often rely on stars like Hopkins). Hopkins can be incredible, but the quarterback situation in Houston makes things a little shaky.
15. Terrelle Pryor (Washington Redskins) – Pryor is getting a big upgrade at quarterback with Kirk Cousins and showed last year that, regardless of who is throwing him the ball, he can produce, ending the year as a top-20 wide receiver on a bad team. Now on a good offense, he should be able to do just as well if not better, especially since he’ll be the number one option now that DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are gone. Pryor was 10th in the NFL last season in air yards per target, the guy makes huge plays and is a fantastic athlete.
Tier 4: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
16. Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos) – Thomas is an exceptionally talented receiver, but unfortunately the Broncos will be throwing Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian or some drifter who was scalping tickets outside the stadium out there as quarterback, which could severely limit Thomas’ upside. That being said, Mike McCoy is likely going to make Thomas a focal point of the offense, and if Semien or Lynch or whoever can get it together and get him the ball, he could still have a great season.
17. Sammy Watkins (Los Angeles Rams) – Sammy Watkins, who is apparently made of balsa wood and will pull a hamstring if the breeze is too strong, is quite a fantastic receiver, but is a walking talking injury risk. Naturally, he’s banged up coming into the year, but should be alright in week one (hopefully). He’s got as much talent as any receiver in football, but do you trust him to stay healthy? I don’t. Still, the talent is undeniable. Now that he’s on the Rams, he’s the undeniable number one option, and while L.A.’s offense is a significant downgrade, Kenny Britt still managed over 1,000 yards last season and he’s no Sammy Watkins. If Jared Goff shows an improvement, Watkins could still be in for a great year.
18. Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Allen Robinson is a very good wide receiver, but unfortunately Blake Bortles is not a very good quarterback. There’s risk here, given that his targets didn’t go down last year, but his total receiving yards and touchdowns did by 517 and eight respectively. That being said, Robinson is very talented, and you’ve gotta bet on that to break through the mediocrity of Bortles. The Jags have a better defense and drafted Leonard Fournette, who will hopefully make their running game better, so there’s a decent chance Robinson gets back to being a solid WR2.
19. Keenan Allen (Los Angeles Chargers) – If Allen had been healthy over the past couple years, he would’ve been one of the best receivers in football, but he hasn’t been, and that risk is certainly here with him, but he’s still an excellent receiver who could fall in drafts because of his injury history. He’s been looking pretty good recovering from his ACL injury and will likely get a lot of targets given first-round draft pick Mike Williams‘ injury which could keep him out for some time. With Phillip Rivers throwing lots of targets his way, Allen could be better than wherever you draft him.
20. Michael Crabtree (Oakland Raiders) – Amari Cooper might be the more talented receiver, but Crabtree got plenty of receptions and touchdowns, making him even more valuable in PPR leagues. Derek Carr‘s going to keep throwing the ball a ton, which means Crabtree should still be in for plenty of targets and, given his size, will still be an excellent red zone target. I think a season similar to last year will happen once again.