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Hello again folks. Yesterday we dove head first into our preseason WR rankings, detailing our top 20 selections. Today we’ll hit on our 21-40 ranked guys. Unlike our top 20, these players fall entirely within my 3rd (continued from the end of the top 20) and 4th tiers as they profile out as questionable lead receivers, solid #2’s, or prime lottery tickets (meaning they possess an extremely high ceiling and low floor of potential output). Without further ado, let’s get back into the rankings with our #21 receiver…
21. Amari Cooper (Las Vegas Raiders): Man is it weird to call them the LV Raiders Looks at angry produceroh yea, rankings. Got it. The NFL’s most productive drop machine last season, Cooper and his 50 % catch rate (!!!) posted disappointing numbers across the board. He was fortunate to have even ended up with 7 TD’s, and with only about 700 yards to his name, Cooper ended the year firmly outside of the top 25 in total points, even finishing behind Jermaine Kearse. Yikes. So why is he at 21 coming into 2018??!! Well a few things: no more Michael Crabtree 3/4ths of a year to get over that stone hands issue, a relatively firm lead receiver role, and a year in which Derek Carr is expected to rebound in a big way. Yes, plenty of these are baseless assumptions, but players with Cooper and Carr’s skill sets are likely due for a great deal of positive regression. Don’t expect Cooper to light the world on fire, but top 15 upside is there with such a stable role in a high potential passing offense.
22. Allen Robinson (Chicago Bears): It seems like it’s been decades since Allen Robinson burst onto the fantasy football scene, catching poorly thrown bombs from professional quarterback impersonator Blake Bortles. Unfortunately, due to losing all of last season to a torn ACL, and his 2016 being played almost entirely during garbage time, little can be inferred from Robinson’s actual in-game performance. As such, his rank depends almost entirely upon his perceived skill (which I think is pretty damn good), and the seemingly massive role he’s being paid $14 million annually to fill in Chicago. Aside from rookie Anthony Miller, speedster Taylor Gabriel, and newly imported tight end Trey Burton, Robinson has little to no challenge for the big dog share of targets from sophomore QB Mitchell Trubisky; that alone hints at top 20 upside.
23. Brandin Cooks (Los Angeles Rams): Oh how the hype has died, er, has decreased a bit. Swapped from the Saints to the Patriots in exchange for essentially a 1st rounder, Cooks looked poised to enter one of the league’s most efficient pass offenses and produce frighteningly high-level numbers as Tom Brady‘s #1 receiver. Unfortunately, he only posted…#7 WR overall numbers? Yea Cooks is great, and produced with what he was given in NE despite the disappointment of those who expected the next coming of Randy Moss. Following a crushing defeat in Super Bowl LII, the Patriots pulled a Houdini, shipping Cooks with one less year of affordability to the Rams for nearly the same 1st round pick. Craziness. While Cooks travels west to enter perhaps an even more dynamic offense with the Rams, he also enters a WR room still full of high-end talent with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. Much improved QB play from Jared Goff and the offensive genius of Sean McVay should allow Cooks to thrive when he gets the rock, but with already two mouths to feed in Kupp and Woods, and the beast that is Todd Gurley around, the chances of getting top 10 production from Cooks are slim.
24. Devin Funchess (Carolina Panthers): As a Funchess owner last year, let me first fill you in on just how frustrating this guy was to own. Within a primarily run-first Carolina offense, Funchess served as the lead receiver and seemingly the lone target for Cam Newton’s frequently errant passes when Greg Olsen didn’t see the field. Despite this role, Funchess’ target share and touchdown output would wildly fluctuate from game to game as Ron Rivera leaned even more, or slightly less, on his run game. Playing in fantasy as a sort of A.J. Green lite, Funchess will give you 1-2 games with 100+ yards and 2 TD’s, then slap a big ol’ spoon full of 3 rec, 30 yards, 0 TD’s on your plate. “I made ’em extra sloppy for ya” he exclaims, laughing maniacally. Many, additionally, seem worried about the addition of D.J. Moore to the Panthers’ WR mix. I’m not, as Moore profiles more as a burner, rather than a large imposing possession receiver like Funchess, and therefore shouldn’t impinge on Funchess’ role within the offense. Anyway, if you’re on board for a rollercoaster of game-to-game production, Funchess should lend you somewhere between WR 30 and WR 20 production this year when all is said and done, earning him a solid #24 spot in the rankings.
25. Robby Anderson (New York Jets): I’ve gotta be honest folks, it took me nearly 12 games last season to finally buy into our guy Robby as a consistent producer in the Jets’ offense. With blazing speed and good route running, Anderson was sent on bomb and deep slant routes serving in a Tyreek Hill-esque deep threat role, while sometimes serving as the go-to receiver on 3rd down for the Jets’ Josh McCown led offense. Although the Jets do return Quincy Enunwa to the mix, and added Terrell Pryor in the offseason, Anderson still profiles out to receive the lion’s share of deep chucks from McCown, while possibly seeing a slight dip in targets, situating him firmly at the tail end of Tier 3 at #25.
Tier 4: Solid #2 Receivers, Prime Lottery Tickets, and High Upside/Low Downside Teammates
26. Emmanuel Sanders (Denver Broncos): If the Broncos have a receiver with elite athleticism in Demaryius Thomas, then in Sanders they have a receiver with elite-elite hands. Like OBJ and Marvin Jones, Sanders has long been known as an extremely skilled receiver who can make acrobatic catches at will, however injuries and poor QB play have shackled him to a life of fantasy mediocrity. But, what’s this? Sanders looks up. The Osweiler-Lynch-Semien clouds part as Sanders is draped in heavenly light. Through the blinding light a hand extends down to him. He gently grasps the outstretched hand, and blocking the light with his hand on his forehead, Emmanuel sees the ethereal image of Case Keenum before him. “Come. Your suffering ends now” Keenum exclaims as he lifts the sobbing Sanders into the upper reaches of fantasyland*. Seriously though, Keenum was one of the best QB’s under pressure last season, all while doing so in a top 5 sample size of QB pressures. Even with a suspect Broncos O-line (yes even with McGlinchy), I cannot understate the tremendous upgrade both Thomas and Sanders will see in QB play. Though he will still presumably receive the short end of the team target share with Demaryius Thomas around, and even with talented 2nd round receiver Courtland Sutton nipping at his heels, we saw the kind of numbers a talented #2 receiver in a Keenum led offense could put up i.e Stefon Diggs. Injuries and target share considered, Sanders COULD still underperform his top 30 ranking, but with potentially top 15 upside, I feel Sanders at #26 offers tremendous value.
27. Marquise Goodwin (San Francisco 49ers): Speaking of improved QB play, how about the jump from Beathard (who I think is a decent QB in his own right) to Jimmy G. Man, so much more handsomeness, er, I mean TD’s. Yea, that’s what I meant to say. Goodwin possesses game-breaking speed and solid hands in an offense ripe with upside as Jimmy G doesn’t hesitate to chuck the rock wayyyy downfield. Expect last years numbers with considerable upside, even if Pierre Garcon and rookie Dante Pettis command a good chunk of team targets.
28. Jamison Crowder (Washington Redskins): The case for Crowder as a high upside play at #27 is an easy one: not only did the young receiver suffer from a slight case of stone hands last season, but he received his passes from a relatively inaccurate gunslinger in Kirk Cousins. Now nearly a year removed from the struggles of last season, Crowder enters 2018 as the primary slot receiver for a Redskins offense led now by conservative pitching machine Alex Smith. Aided by a jump in his QB’s accuracy, an essential aspect of a successful slot game, and a defined role with the infusion of speedster Paul Richardson, Crowder looks poised to produce solid top 30 numbers over the course of a long season.
29. Josh Gordon (Cleveland Browns): Our next two receivers require little analysis. Gordon falls slightly above Landry at #29 purely based on upside. Having Gordon on the field is like having the Madden-made player from when you were 8 years old out there for you. He’s borderline unstoppable…except for when his QB is hot garbage. Luckily, he gets the ever-dependable, yet nothing exciting, Tyrod Taylor this year. While Taylor isn’t typically a downfield passer, Gordon should be utilized generously enough to garner top 30 upside, and with emphasis on his insane skill-set, possibly even top 20 upside.
30. Jarvis Landry (Cleveland Browns): Sitting one slot behind his teammate Josh Gordon, Landry comes from an organization in the Dolphins whose level of deficiency was only matched by the level of targets shoved down Landry’s throat. Jarvis sustained production in standard leagues based solely upon the number of 8 yard catches he would make, which as you could have guessed, was A LOT (112 catches to be exact). Now, it’s anyone’s guess how the pricey receiver will be used in Cleveland, but no one can doubt Landy’s solid hands and great route running skills. Given sufficient volume and a decent amount of red zone targets, Landry can produce as a solid WR3 for your team, with a whole lot more upside based on target volume.
31. Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams): “White Jarvis Landry on the Rams”, as Kupp is fondly called in some circles, had a great year last season. Using crisp routes and the great QB play of Jared Goff, Kupp turned a mere 4.1 receptions per game into 800+ yards and 5 TDS. As such, He seems to have cemented himself into the slot/possession receiver role for an offense that is sure to chug along throughout the long season. However, it remains to be seen how he and Woods will divvy up the scraps Brandin Cooks leaves behind, and as a result Kupp just barely falls out of the top 30.
32. Chris Hogan (New England Patriots): Aaaaannd here’s the first New England receiver on our wonderful list. Playing in an offense notorious for its inconsistent target distribution, Hogan served as the “field stretcher” throughout the regular season and playoffs for the Super Bowl LII losers (had to get that one in :)). In an injury-shortened season where he only started 7 of the 9 games he played, Hogan posted admirable numbers, including a whopping 5 TD’s. With Brandin Cooks gone, Hogan stands as the lone game breaker on a team known for perennially putting up top-tier offensive numbers. Though the targets MAY not precipitate to allow Hogan to realize top 20 upside, he will surely provide enough value in games where he is showcased to give full value at WR #32.
33. Nelson Agholor (Philadelphia Eagles): The breakout slot receiver for the Eagles showcased the freakish athleticism that had him drafted in the first round in 2015 throughout last season, posting almost 800 yards on a modest 95 receptions. With much-improved hands, Angholor blossomed within the Eagles’ juggernaut offense and has little to no competition this season challenging him for his role. Expect similar, if not slightly better, numbers this season from the 4th year receiver as Wentz returns with a vengeance, though look for his bloated 9 TD’s to fall to a more reasonable 5-7.
34. Michael Crabtree (Baltimore Ravens): Last season for the Raiders, this “sorry receiver” had some pretty mediocre production with 58 receptions, and a mere 618 yard receiving. However, the touchdown gods LOVED this guy, as he received the 2nd highest red zone AND end zone target share of any receiver last season, allowing him to produce 8 tudddy’s. Usually in fantasyland we would do the following math: low yards/receptions + bloated TD’s = BUST, but luckily for Crabtree, this offseason he left Sin City and moved to the less sinful, yet similarly dim city of Baltimore! As the primary receiver in Baltimore this season (only two speedsters to challenge him for targets in John Brown and Willie Snead), Crabtree should see as many targets as one can in their run-centric offense, while seeing his bloated TD total fall as Flacco relies primarily on his RB’s and TE’s in the red zone. For these reasons, Crabtree should be a solid WR3, but nothing more and nothing less.
35. Will Fuller (Houston Texans): Not too much to say here for Fuller. Incredibly skilled deep threat receiver, though target and catch rate concerns (only a 76% catchable target catch rate) limit his value. HUGE upside if given enough targets, but considerable downside and injury history. The definition of a lotto ticket.
36. Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers): Simple deduction here Watson: Cobb enters the season as #2 receiver for a high-level passing offense in Green Bay, but his hold on said job is tentative due to young guns Geronimo Allison and J’Mon Moore waiting in the wings. Risky play but plenty of early, and potentially late, season value if he can play up those #2 receiver targets.
37. Martavis Bryant (Las Vegas Raiders): Here’s where we enter lotto ticket territory folks. You have an INSANELY gifted receiver in Martavis Bryant entering the season on a team that traded a 3rd round pick for him and has only Jordy Nelson to challenge him for the role of outside receiver. He could just as easily flop and end up a huge bust as he could capitalize on that role in the Raiders’ offense, while getting hopefully improved play from Derek Carr, and become a top 20 stud. I’m more inclined to believe it will be something in the middle bordering top 30 production with on and off weeks, but this is a gamble I certainly would not mind taking.
38. Julian Edelman (New England Patriots): Consistently a security blanket for Brady and without a clear challenger for his role upon his return, Edelman could be the prime stash to win you your league this year if you have the luxury to do so. However, be warned: he is still coming off of an ACL injury and Belichick is known for being wildly inconsistent with his players’ target share and time. All in all, just another lotto ticket for y’all.
39. Pierre Garcon (San Francisco 49ers): In a tier of solid contributors and lotto tickets, Garcon falls squarely into the former camp. Prior to going down with a broken neck in Week 8 (yikes that sounds painful), Garcon was on pace for an even 80 receptions and 1000 yards WITHOUT our handsome savior Jimmy G chucking passes to him. Although serious concerns remain as just how much Garcon will be involved in the offense AND just how healthy he is, Garcon remains a solid bet to end the season with 75+ receptions and 800 + yards while adding a few TD’s here and there, within a presumably potent 49ers passing attack.
40: Marqise Lee (Jacksonville Jaguars): Jaguars “#1” receiver, Lee had a rebound year last year, playing 14 of 16 games, almost double his previous season high of 8. With a modest target share, Lee managed 56 receptions, 702 yards, though a measly 3 TD’s capped his value. Somewhat surprisingly, that WR room is CHOCK FULL of talent with the likes of Dede Westbrook, Dante Moncrief, Keelan Cole, and D.J Chark behind Lee. I’m extremely skeptical Lee will maintain a true WR #1 target share given how many mouths there are to feed and how inefficient Bortles has shown himself to be, but at only WR #40, he should return requisite value with the chance of much more.
Alright guys, that does it for #’s 21-40. Tomorrow we’ll dive into Tiers 5 and 6 and some of the low-end WR’s who could potentially return big value or consistent flex play. Hope you are enjoying the rankings!