Good tidings fantasy footballers! It has been an extremely long offseason (luckily the NBA kept things entertaining), but we are back. What can I say? The wide receiver position holds a special place in my heart. I have analyzed the data for hours and painstakingly flip-flopped on my decisions time-after-time. But alas, I have made my final rankings. Now let’s get started, shall we? Wide receiver rankings are based on PPR scoring.
*- Designates injury or suspension to a player
Tier 1: Grand Prize
1. DeAndre Hopkins, (Houston Texans)- Hopkins is an absolute monster on the field. His route-running and ability to beat defenders is unparalleled. He has eclipsed 150 targets and 75 receptions in each of his last four seasons. He also has double-digit TDs in the last two seasons. Deshaun Watson now has a full season and a half under his belt. With other weapons on the outside, Will Fuller and Keke Coutee, Hopkins should have plenty of room to operate underneath. If the Texans can achieve any semblance of a run game, this offense could be incredibly explosive. With that comes plenty of opportunities for Hopkins to raise his already amazing ceiling.
2. Davante Adams, (Green Bay Packers)- There is a strong case for Adams to be number one in these rankings. However, I need to see it again to be a true believer. Last year, he had a whopping 169 targets, with 111 receptions. The Packers’ lack of weapons resulted in a ton of volume for Adams. He hauled in 13 touchdowns and was a constant red zone target for Aaron Rodgers. Now, you might say, ”isn’t he headed for some TD regression?” to which I would say, is he? What did the Packers add in the offseason in terms of weapons? With Randall Cobb now in Dallas, and no other red-zone target to speak of, outside of Jimmy Graham; Adams could be in for an even bigger season. I would caution you though because Adams has the least proven track record out of the three WRs in this tier. If you are looking for upside over proven consistency, look no further than Adams.
3. Julio Jones, (Atlanta Falcons)- As much as it pains me, this was the right spot to slot Julio. However, that does not mean he can’t finish as the top wide receiver this year. Since 2014, Jones has had over 1,400 receiving yards every season. Last season, he led the league in receiving yardage and targets. He also finished third in receptions with 113. Julio Jones is the complete package, besides one glaring inability, and that is catching touchdowns. Since 2013, Julio has not cracked double-digit touchdowns. Attribute that to whatever you want, but it is certainly a startling trend. The good news is Jones scored eight touchdowns from week nine through the end of the season. Touchdowns are an incredibly hard stat to predict, but what I can tell you is that this offense is stacked. If the offensive line can come together, and Matt Ryan continues his elite play, Julio will easily have a top-three season yet again.
Tier 2: Runners-Up
4. Michael Thomas, (New Orleans Saints)- Thomas was one of the hardest guys for me to rank. He arguably belongs in the first tier, but he just barely misses the mark in terms of numbers. However, he did lead the league in receptions at 125. He fell just outside of the top-five in terms of receiving yardage and failed to eclipse double-digit touchdowns. Thomas has all of the tools to be a top-three wide receiver in the league, but his ability to do that has yet to be seen. It will be interesting to see if the New Orleans Saints lean more on the run game, as they have in recent years. With Mark Ingram now in Baltimore, I would suspect the Saints to air it out more. This would certainly make sense to showcase Alvin Kamara’s pass-catching ability. If that is the case, Thomas could be in line for a monster season.
5. Tyreek Hill, (Kansas City Chiefs)- Tyreek Hill was the number one wide receiver in standard-scoring leagues. He also finished third in PPR by 1.6 points. As of this writing, Hill will not face a suspension from the league this season. Off the field issues aside, Hill is the most dynamic wide receiver in the league. In terms of the different skill sets he possesses–rushing, receiving and returning kicks–Hill is in a class all by himself. In leagues that reward kick return yardage and TDs, Hill is arguably a top-three wide receiver. There is certainly a case to be made for taking him as the fourth WR off the board. It will carry a lot of risks given his checkered past. However, if you are willing to take the gamble, Hill could reward you handsomely.
6. Odell Beckham Jr., (Cleveland Browns)- OBJ is a tough player to rank this year. There is no doubt about his talent and physical abilities, but he is now in a new situation. He also missed four games last season. There is a little bit of concern in the fact that he only caught 62% of passes last year as well. Having said all that, he is now playing with a quarterback that is known for accuracy. He is also playing alongside his former teammate, Jarvis Landry. The Browns have gotten a lot of offseason hype recently, and if it translates to on-the-field production, OBJ should push for a top-five finish.
7. Juju Smith-Schuster, (Pittsburgh Steelers)- Juju has a chance to outperform his already incredible 2018 campaign. Now, with Antonio Brown out of town, Juju will see a voluminous role and is expected to be the new superstar on this team. Even with Brown in the fold last season, Juju saw 166 targets thrown his way and caught 111 of them. He was only 74 yards short of 1,500 receiving yards. I would expect him to improve on the seven touchdowns, considering Brown caught 15 last season. Juju is my favorite dark horse to break into the top-three receivers this season.
8. Antonio Brown, (Oakland Raiders)- Coming in behind his former teammate is Antonio Brown. There is no question he still has plenty left in the tank. The question mark, however, is quarterback Derek Carr. Carr finished 13th in passing yardage last season and 22nd in passing TDs. Combine this with the Raiders having the 28th best offensive line last year according to PFF, and there is a lot of reason to be concerned about this offense. That being said, other than Tyrell Williams, the Raiders have nobody else at receiver. Their defense is also in the middle of a complete overhaul, which could lead to plenty of come-from-behind opportunities for Derek Carr. There is no question that the volume should be there for Brown, but there is a huge question about the efficiency of the Oakland Raiders’ offense heading into 2019.
9. Mike Evans, (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, another team that had a troubling 2018, have committed fully to their quarterback Jameis Winston. This bodes well for Evans, who has seen at least 123 targets every season during his tenure with Tampa Bay. Evans has recorded at least 68 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards every year of his career. Like the Raiders, the Bucs’ defense was shredded last season. Tampa Bay finished 27th in yards allowed. Things might not get much better in 2019, and this will lead to a ton of passing attempts from Winston as the Bucs play catch-up. His main target of those attempts should be Mike Evans. If Winston were to start all 16 games last season, he would have combined for 550 passing attempts based on his attempts per game number. Ironically, this would have been 13th best in the league behind none other than Derek Carr.
Tier 3: Consolation Prizes
10. T.Y. Hilton, (Indianapolis Colts)- The Colts are an early favorite to reach the AFC Championship. One reason is because of their explosive offense, led by quarterback Andrew Luck. Hilton missed two games last season but still managed to reach 1,270 yards on 76 receptions. The one factor that keeps Hilton from being a tier-two WR is the touchdowns. Since 2013, Hilton has failed to score more than seven receiving touchdowns in a season. At 5′ 10″ and 183 pounds, I do not expect that to change for him. Most of his touchdowns will come from burning the DB or catching a screen and taking it to the house. He is not a huge red zone threat but will have plenty of receptions and yardage.
11. Adam Thielen, (Minnesota Vikings)- Thielen was on a historic pace to start last season, but fizzled out after week eight. Even with the second-half slump, Thielen finished eighth in receiving yardage, fourth in receptions, and eighth in receiving touchdowns. Kirk Cousins has demonstrated the ability to support two WRs in Washington and Minnesota. I expect Thielen and Stefon Diggs to have another top-20 finish each this season.
12. Keenan Allen, (Los Angeles Chargers)- Since returning from his 2016 injury, Allen has bounced back in a big way. He has combined for 199 receptions in the last two seasons and 2,589 receiving yards. However, since 2013 Allen has not scored more than eight receiving touchdowns. With fellow WR Mike Williams emerging, and Hunter Henry (hopefully) being healthy, I do not expect Allen to crack the top-ten.
13. Amari Cooper, (Dallas Cowboys)- All it took for Cooper was a change of scenery to become one of the most efficient WRs in the league. From the time he got to Dallas, Cooper averaged six receptions and 81 receiving yards, over eight games. He also tacked on six receiving TDs in his time with the Cowboys. With an offseason to gel with Dak Prescott, Cooper could be in for a big 2019 campaign. Largely a run-first offense, Dallas will look Cooper’s way early-and-often when they do decide to throw it.
14. *A.J. Green, (Cincinnatti Bengals), low-ankle sprain, may miss week one– Unfortunately, Green has had two of his last three seasons cut short due to injury. He has not reached double-digit touchdowns since 2015 and was only 78 yards over 1,000 receiving in 2017, in which he played all 16 games. Now 30 years of age, Green’s best years are behind him. Tyler Boyd came on strong last season and could become the new preferred option in the passing game. Only time will tell if Green is still capable of being a top-15 receiver.
15. Stefon Diggs, (Minnesota Vikings)- It can be argued that once Thielen declined last season, Diggs picked up the slack. From weeks eight through seventeen last season, Diggs scored in all but two games that he was active. He tallied 102 receptions and 1,021 receiving yards on the season. He tied with Thielen and Michael Thomas on the year with nine receiving touchdowns. As I said before, Cousins is capable of producing two top-20 WRs and will do it again this year.
16. Brandin Cooks, (Los Angeles Rams)- It’s hard to imagine the Rams’ offense continuing its feverish pace from last season, especially with the concerns surrounding Todd Gurley. Sean McVay has proven to be one of the brightest offensive minds in the league, but the Rams were exposed in the Super Bowl. With Gurley and Cooper Kupp returning from injury, I expect the Rams to take a step back in terms of offensive production. That being said, I find it hard to believe that this offense will produce three 1,000 yard wide receivers again, which is what they were on pace to do before Kupp was injured. I like Cooks’ chances the most out of this WR group. He is a reception machine and is better suited for what McVay likes to do: screens and underneath routes.
17. Julian Edelman, (New England Patriots)- Every year, I feel as if Edelman is overlooked, much like the Patriots in the regular season. Even in a limited sample size last year, Edelman was able to secure 74 receptions and six touchdowns. He is a PPR darling and is indisputably Tom Brady’s favorite target. Now that Rob Gronkowski is retired, that fact will be even truer.
Tier 4: Participation Trophies
18. Robert Woods, (Los Angeles Rams)- I was tempted to put Woods one tier higher, but I think that he overperformed last season relative to his skill set. It was the first time Woods had ever surpassed 1,000 yards receiving, and he did so with Kupp injured. That being said, he did finish with more targets, receptions, and receiving yards than Cooks. As I said before, I do not expect the Rams to be as efficient this year and I think that Cooks is better suited to perform in their offense. Couple that with the fact that Kupp is back, and I believe that Woods will finish in the WR18-25 range.
19. Kenny Golladay, (Detroit Lions)- Much of Golladay’s season was spent playing behind Golden Tate. Now with Tate in New York, Golladay should be the featured receiver in Detroit. He has an incredible build to be a force on the outside and in the red zone. Matthew Stafford slings it as much as anyone in the league and will give Golladay plenty of chances to showcase his talent. I like Golladay as much as anyone to outperform his current ADP of 45.
20. Alshon Jeffery, (Philadelphia Eagles)- Jeffery has had a long history of injuries since coming into the league. It was amazing to see him healthy for all 16 games in 2017. However, last season he was not so lucky. He missed three games and was unable to reach 1,000 receiving yards. In the past two years, he has combined for 15 touchdowns, and that makes him an intriguing pick. With Carson Wentz back, the Eagles’ offense should get back into a groove. Along with Zach Ertz, Jeffery should be a preferred red zone option.
Featured Image by Nathan Mills (@NathanMillsPL on Twitter)