Top 60 Wide Receivers for 2021

Tier 4


21. Kenny Golladay (New York Giants) – Golladay seemed headed for fantasy stardom after his 2019 season with 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns, which produced 15.5 PPR points per game. That ranked 14th among all wide receivers, and expectations were for more as Golladay entered his age 27 season. Then Golladay proceeded to miss the first two games of the 2020 season with a hamstring injury, followed by a Week 9 hip flexor injury that knocked him out for the remaining weeks. Now in New York, Golladay finds himself in a relatively crowded receiver room, but he’s the best receiver of the bunch. Add in the fact that his contested catch style should match well with Daniel Jones’ inaccuracies, and I’m not bailing on Golladay after one bad year. Golladay has topped out at 119 targets through four years, so he’s shown the ability to put up points without a massive number of targets. I like Golladay as a WR3, and I’ve been able to get him as a WR4, so the price is right.


22. Tyler Lockett (Seattle Seahawks) – Nobody was hurt more by the Seahawks’ second-half struggles than Lockett. He spiked a nine-catch game with 100 yards and three touchdowns in Week 3, then popped off with 15 catches on 20 targets for 200 yards and three touchdowns in Week 7. Sure, there were some down games, but those monster weeks are invaluable. Starting in Week 8, Lockett’s season took a tailspin, as he scored just one touchdown over the next nine weeks while failing to reach 70 receiving yards in any one game. Naturally, Locket finished the season with a meaningless (for us) Week 17 with 12 catches and 2 touchdowns, only to enrage those rostering him further. But if you look at the season as a whole, that’s 16.6 points per game for a WR12 finish. Hopefully, the Seahawks’ new play-caller (Shane Waldron) can fix what tore them down in 2020, because the ceiling is huge with Lockett. He’s even managed to turn himself into a touchdown scorer, totaling 28 over the past three seasons after scoring just eight total in his first three. Lockett may move up to the top of this tier by the start of the season, and our projections put him right in that range with a WR15 finish. Excellent value for those that are trying to catch up at receiver after drafting running backs early.


23. D.J. Moore (Carolina Panthers) – Moore has emerged as a solid PPR asset and is still just 24, but he has yet another quarterback to form a connection with in year four, and Sam Darnold is far from a sure thing to right the ship in 2021. Moore’s main issue has been a lack of touchdown scoring, as the young wideout has just ten touchdowns on 335 attempts at the NFL level. Moore saw just 2 targets inside the 10-yard-line in 2019 and followed it up with just six last year. Moore had just one red zone touchdown, and until he fixes that flaw his ceiling is capped, especially with some talented teammates to prevent him from becoming a volume hog. Moore did jump to 18.1 yards per reception last year, showcasing a nice downfield element to his game that had been lacking. But until his team figures out the quarterback position, Moore will be held in the WR2 range of fantasy leagues.


24. Tee Higgins (Cincinnati Bengals) – As excited as I am about Ja’Marr Chase, I’m nearly as excited about Higgins ahead of the 2021 season. Higgins was clicking with Joe Burrow right up until his quarterback went down, averaging 88 yards receiving per game over their final six games together. The resulting drop-off in quarterback play led Higgins to a mediocre 12 fantasy points per game finish, but make no mistake about it he was a WR2 when Burrow was around. He’s got a lot of work to do in order to hold off Chase, but Higgins’ second-round pedigree and excellent rookie season put him on track to do exactly that. If Burrow can bounce back to his 2020 play from the start, Higgins has a shot to be a WR2 yet again. In fact, our projections have him at WR14, as they take a more cautious approach with Chase.


25. Brandon Aiyuk (San Francisco 49ers) – Scoring seven total touchdowns on just 66 touches, Aiyuk flashed playmaking ability year one and could stand to benefit if this offense can finally stay healthy. He began to see heavy target totals down the stretch of 2020, averaging eight targets a game on the seasons and making the most of his occasional rushing attempt. While Aiyuk was more of a downfield threat than his teammate, Deebo Samuel, Aiyuk was still used relatively close to the line of scrimmage, ranking 57th in the league with a 9.0 average target distance. You have to be encouraged by his red zone usage, as his 10 targets inside the 10-yard line ranked 10th in the league, perhaps reducing the flukiness of his high touchdown rate. This offense will change dramatically if Trey Lance takes over, and while you would think that Aiyuk would fit Lance’s game you never know until it happens. We also don’t know how good Lance will be as a rookie, so this is a volatile projection. But I’ll bet on the talented sophomore and happily grab him as this tier empties out in drafts.


26. Diontae Johnson (Pittsburgh Steelers) – They say that the easiest way to judge a receiver’s talent is by judging his target volume, and if that is the case Johnson is a talented receiver for sure. Johnson saw 144 targets last year in 15 games, and that’s with consecutive early-season games where he left early on with injury. Johnson hit double-digit targets in ten games in 2020, yet ultimately failed to reach 1,000 yards, as Ben Roethlisberger’s struggles and Johnson’s issues with drops (his 11 drops lead the league) held him back. It’s hard to know how much Roethlisberger has left in the tank, but there is clear room for upside on last year’s WR22 finish, so he’s going at a value currently. I worry that Claypool could take a step in year two, and JuJu Smith-Schuster stubbornly came back to the team in free agency, so a downtick in passing volume at the team level would make it tough for all three receivers to maintain their 2020 production. Our projections have Johnson at WR23, and it may shuffle around in this tier as the season draws near.


Tier 5


27. Will Fuller V (Miami Dolphins) – I was really high on Fuller heading into free agency, dreaming of a fit with the Packers or another high-volume passing game. Instead, he lands in Miami, who ranked middle of the pack in 2020 in pass to run ratio, drafted Jaylen Waddle at pick 6 overall, and has uncertainty at quarterback with Tua Tagovailoa in year two. Fuller is already set to miss week one due to a PED suspension, and now of course we have our first injury scare of the season before the calendar even flipped to August. And yet I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see our projections vault Fuller up to WR7 on a point per game basis (Fuller ranks WR18 overall with games missed factored in). Fuller posted an elite 17.2 points per game with Deshaun Watson last season, ranking eighth among all receivers. Fuller scored 2.52 points per target, the best of all wide receivers with more than 50 targets in 2020, and has posted similarly elite numbers throughout his career. He stayed on the field last year prior to the suspension and had developed a more consistent fantasy game as he grew into the role of a true number one receiver. So far this offseason, I have been unable to pass on the upside when Fuller is sitting there in the seventh or eighth rounds of drafts.


28. Chase Claypool (Pittsburgh Steelers) – As I helped build out our projections this year, Claypool began to catch my eye for the first time. I was off of him (unfortunately) last preseason, as his role seemed uncertain in an already crowded Steelers offense. But as the year went on, it became clear that the Steelers were looking for ways to get the ball in his hands. I first noticed this in the red zone, where Claypool received 9 targets inside the 10-yard-line, tied with a few other pass-catchers for the 15th most in the league. Completely devoid of a running game, Pittsburgh used him at times as their goalline option, designing short plays with blockers in front of him. He also showed big-play ability, something that the Steelers offense desperately needs more of in 2021. Claypool was certainly streaky last year, and he has more development ahead of him to become a complete receiver, but his rookie season showed flashes of DK Metcalf’s rookie year. Metcalf caught 58 of 100 passes for 900 yards and seven touchdowns, while Claypool caught 62 of 109 targets for 873 yards and nine touchdowns. The difference is that Metcalf has Wilson at quarterback, while Claypool has a fading Roethlisberger, so the deep game isn’t going to be quite the same. But Claypool adds an element to this offense that the Steelers desperately need, had an impressive rookie season, and has the second-round draft capital and past success of Pittsburgh wide receivers on his side. I’d love to see him with a younger quarterback, but I’m still buying in on a chance at a year two breakout.


29. Robby Anderson (Carolina Panthers) – Anderson had a relative breakout in his first year outside the oppressive Gase regime, posting 14 fantasy points per game in 2020, good for WR29. Anderson’s yards per target numbers were almost exactly the same as in New York the previous two seasons, but he traded a 54% catch rate and 14.8 yards per reception for a 70% catch rate and just 11.5 yards per reception. It was an excellent development for Anderson’s fantasy value, as deep threat receivers have to be awfully good at their job to produce consistent fantasy points. Anderson enters his age 28 season reunited with Sam Darnold, which I suppose is a good thing? Offensive coordinator Joe Brady managed to get an awful lot of fantasy production out of Teddy Bridgewater, as Anderson went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Darnold has more boom and more bust in him than Bridgewater, so the jury is still out. Anderson only saw four targets inside the 10-yard-line last season, capping his upside a bit. He’s not someone I’m targeting in drafts, but his 95 receptions from last season certainly have me intrigued.


30. Odell Beckham Jr. (Cleveland Browns) – Does OBJ still have the same juice in his legs coming off of a torn ACL and entering his age 29 season? The answer is probably no, though Beckham is certainly an outlier type that could have a second act to his career. But we’ve been waiting for a while, as his last big year was his WR4 finish back in 2016. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, as Beckham produced an excellent 19 PPR points per game in 2018 but was limited to 12 games. Beckham has missed significant time in three of the past four years, and has yet to break out in Cleveland, so it may be time to move on. This marks the point in the draft where we start transitioning to slot receivers, high-floor low-ceiling types, injury-prone players, and unproven youngsters, so Beckham makes sense as one last shot at a receiver with an elite pedigree. But we’ve most likely moved beyond the league-winning upside stage of Beckham’s career.


31. JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh Steelers) – I was really hoping that Smith-Schuster would depart Pittsburgh in free agency to clear up this crowded receiving corps, yet here we are with one too many receivers to feel great about them all. Why am I the lowest on JuJu? Brace yourselves for these numbers. Second to last among qualified receivers in average target distance (5.8 yards per target), second to last in air yards per reception (7.6), and 6.5 yards per target that ranked ahead of just seven qualified receivers are a few of the reasons. Smith-Schuster was WR24 on a points per game basis last year, so obviously, his 128 targets gave him a decent floor. And JuJu was super efficient in the red zone, catching seven of eight passes inside the ten-yard-line for six touchdowns, leading to a solid nine touchdowns in 2020. But Najee Harris should siphon away some volume and goalline work at running back, and I expect the Steelers to try to feed more targets to Claypool in 2021. Our projections have JuJu as WR33 on a points per game basis and that feels right. He probably needs an injury to Johnson or Claypool, or for Roethlisberger to find the fountain of youth, to go much higher than that.


32. Tyler Boyd (Cincinnati Bengals) – Boyd finds himself in much the same position as Smith-Schuster in 20201 – trapped on a team with two superior talents at receiver. It’s unlikely that Boyd grabs the top red zone role over teammates Ja’Marr Chase or Tee Higgins, as Boyd is a slot player with a career touchdown rate of 4%. He’s averaged 11.7 yards per reception across his career, so he isn’t a deep threat either. He’s in the Jarvis Landry or Smith-Schuster mold of player, which can certainly be productive, but in a crowded receiving corps there just isn’t much room left for upside. Boyd is an ideal flex player or bench fill-in and should see enough volume to be a reliable WR3. But the receiving room in Cincinnati is just too crowded at the moment to draft Boyd much higher than this.


33. Deebo Samuel (San Francisco 49ers) – Remember when I mentioned Smith-Schuster’s second-to-last place ranking in average target distance and air yards per reception? Samuel was behind him in both categories, with a shockingly low average target distance of 2.6 and an average air yards per reception of 3.5. Deebo was only able to suit up for seven games due to injury, s maybe we should give him a pass on those numbers, as the 49ers clearly tried to get him the ball when he was healthy. In his limited playing time Samuel still managed a 13, 9, and 8 target game, and if you take out the Week 14 game where he received zero targets and left with an injury, Samuel averaged over seven targets per game. An improvement from the quarterback position could certainly put some life back into Samuel’s downfield game, but the injuries are starting to pile up. If you are prioritizing upside, he probably moves up to WR31, but the two receivers ahead of him are more dependable options at the moment.


34. Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos) – I really want to buy in on Jeudy, and just looking at this ranking wants me to move him up several spots. And maybe I will. But the quarterback situation is such a concern right now, and the Broncos have a fairly loaded group of young pass-catchers, so Jeudy is going to need to earn his target share. But he might already be one of the best route runners in the league, and that’s saying a lot for a player with one year of NFL experience. His drop rate is often talked about, and yes, a 7.1% drop rate and eight drops on the year have to be cleaned up. Per FantasyData’s target accuracy metric, Jeudy saw the second least-accurate passes among qualified receivers in 2020, and it’s safe to wonder if that threw off his rhythm and aided some of those drops. Jeudy needs his quarterbacks to get their act together, and I have my doubts that they will. But with even a glimmer of hope this offseason, I’ve got my eye on moving him up to WR30. We are, after all, talking about a high-end first-round receiving prospect that recorded 113 targets in his rookie year. These are the profiles we should be targeting.


35. Brandin Cooks (Houston Texans) – Cooks is the clear WR1 on an NFL team. Unfortunately, that’s about the best I can say about his situation. Looking at his past statistics seems irrelevant here, as he has played with Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Jared Goff (the good version), and Deshaun Watson in each of his NFL seasons. If Watson plays this year, Cooks is a value, but I’m not holding out much hope. This team is a situation I am avoiding entirely, and Tyrod Taylor’s low-volume tendencies will keep Cooks from reaching his ceiling of years past. He’s a candidate to drop further down my rankings as players behind him receive training camp hype.


36. D.J. Chark (Jacksonville Jaguars) – I want to buy in on the Jaguars receiving corps, as I believe in Trevor Lawrence. But with a new quarterback and a new coaching staff, there’s almost no telling who the preferred target will be here. Urban Meyer came out guns blazing with his quotes this offseason, and he lobbed a grenade at Chark back in June. Chark seems to have handled it well, but with multiple receivers vying for top-billing in a new offense, we need to keep a close eye on Jacksonville in training camp. As a former second-round pick with a 1,000-yard season under his belt, Chark enters his age 25 season with an underrated profile. He feels like a true wildcard at this position in the rankings, which is maybe what we should be looking for as the sure things have long since been drafted.


37. Courtland Sutton (Denver Broncos) – All of the quarterback concerns mentioned above for Jeudy apply to Sutton, only Sutton is also coming off of a lost season due to an ACL injury. He’s working his way back and while there have been no setbacks, he is still working off the rust. That’s what camp is for, so I’m not overly alarmed, but with Jeudy and Tim Patrick and Noah Fant fighting him for targets, combined with the potentially bad quarterback play, and there are only so many Broncos that I can talk myself into drafting. Sutton’s 2019 season wasn’t quite as good as people remember, averaging 13.9 PPR points per game with just six touchdowns on 124 targets. That was good enough for WR28 with subpar quarterback play, but again, the Broncos aren’t set up well at the position in 2021 either. I’m not sure that I’ve drafted Sutton yet this offseason, and I’m not finding reasons to change my mind as the season approaches.


Tier 6


38. Antonio Brown (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Brown sneakily produced 14.6 fantasy points per game in 2020, good for WR23, and in year two in Tampa Bay, there could be room for growth. Brown played just eight games last year after an eight-game suspension but began to find his footing with four touchdowns over the season’s final three games. But Brown had an increased role with Godwin and Evans battling injuries all season, and healthier years from them may push Brown more to a complementary role. The Bucs are so stacked on offense, Brown will be fighting for targets all season, and I generally start fading 33-year-old receivers that aren’t locked into a volume role. He will likely have some boom weeks, but the busts may outweigh them.


39. Curtis Samuel (Washington Football Team) – Samuel finds himself on both the PUP list with a groin injury, as well as the reserve/COVID-19 list to start training camp, so his debut in Washington is off to a poor start. Another week or so without positive news and I’ll drop him to WR44 range. Samuel had his breakout last year with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback in Carolina, ranking as the WR27 in fantasy points per game. It was a multi-dimensional season for Samuel, chipping in 851 yards through the air and 200 yards on the ground to go along with 77 receptions. Not bad considering that he was fighting Moore and Anderson for targets in the receiving corps. Now in Washington, Samuel enters his age 25 season surrounded by talented pass catchers in McLaurin, Logan Thomas, and Antonio Gibson, so he still has to battle for targets. But quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can provide a downfield element that Bridgewater couldn’t, giving Samuel more yardage upside in 2021. But first, we need him on the field and practicing – stay tuned.


40. Michael Gallup (Dallas Cowboys) – Despite what his ranking may suggest, I want to draft Gallup as often as possible. He’s almost a handcuff at receiver, as an injury to either Lamb or Cooper would mean big things for his fantasy profile. And Gallup can produce on his own as a big-play threat, as he showed in 2019 with 15.2 fantasy points per game on 113 targets. Prescott’s training camp shoulder injury puts a bit of a damper on things, though it may end up being minor, but keep an eye closely on his quarterback. Gallup produced just 10.8 points per game last year with just five games of Dak and would be most affected by any missed time as the third option in the receiving corps. Gallup needs to improve on his career 55% catch rate to show he is more than just a deep threat, a key step in becoming more of a fantasy force, but he’s young and does already have a 1,000-yard season under his belt. He’s a great upside bench player, it’s just a question of how comfortable you will be putting him in your lineup early on.

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