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Fantasy Football: Wide Receiver Tiers

Much like the real world, wide receivers are the divas of fantasy land. When they’re locked into the game their production can win you a week, but they can disappear on you any given week making them unpredictable at best. While most leagues employ more multiple receiver slots, the unpredictability of the position makes it a little easier to roll the dice on a gamble as opposed to the running back position.

The average NFL team is passing for 3500 yards compared to 1700 rushing yards. 3500 yards means that every single team can pump out two 1000 yard receivers without that much imagination creating more depth for the position overall. This makes the wide receiver position slightly less critical than the running back slot while also elevating the consistently elite options.

A premiere receiver in your lineup can pay big dividends but there is a cap on the upside. Each of the past two seasons, only two of the Top 10 non-QB fantasy producers have been wide receivers each season and of those four total players, none finished higher than 7th. The best receiver in the game won’t win you a season on his own, but with a 75 point gap between the Top 5 options and the #15-20 options, it’s still vital to lock in the best in the business where it makes sense.

TIER 1 – The Elites

Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, Jr.

Each one of these four can take over an NFL game in the blink of an eye and all of them have posted a pair of 1300+ seasons in the past three campaigns. This is about a dependable as you can get in the wide receiver market and the draft price that comes with them reflects that.

Jones has been a yardage machine in Atlanta posting over 1400 yards in each of the last three seasons and he is squarely in the conversation for the top slot of this group. If he can find paydirt a little more frequently – only nine total TD the past two seasons – he can challenge the top tier RB’s for scoring potential. Antonio Brown has no issues finding the end zone averaging 11 TD a year over his last four seasons. He’s also averaged 128 catches and 1665 yards per 16 games over that span as well pretty much making him the most reliable receiver in the NFL and potentially the only justifiable Top 5 pick.

Hopkins and Beckham are a little more volatile. Hopkins lackluster 2016 was due to poor quarterback play but it proved that the receiver is somewhat dependent on who is throwing him the ball. The good news is that person is Deshaun Watson making Hopkins a potential first-round option. Beckham’s consistency issues stem from his ankle injury that cost him most of the 2017 season but he appears healthy and primed for a rebound. Between 2014 and 2016, Beckham averaged 1534 yards and 13 TD per 16 games and certainly lurks as a Top 10 pick if he can stay on the field.

PROJECTIONS: 

NAME POSITION TEAM RU TD REC  REC YD REC TD FUM POINTS
Julio Jones WR ATL 0 102 1575 8 1 305.5
Antonio Brown WR PIT 0 110 1350 10 0 305
Odell Beckham, Jr WR NYG 0 100 1410 10 0 301
DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU 0 95 1235 10 0 278.5


TIER 2 – The Supremes

Michael Thomas, TY Hilton, Keenen Allen, AJ Green

By all rights, Thomas could be among the Elites and this may be the year he proves that. Emerging as Drew Brees favorite target, Thomas has amassed 2382 yards and 14 TD’s over the first two seasons of his career and is lined up to be the uncontested #1 threat in a potent Saints passing game.

Hilton and Allen have ceilings as high as anyone on this list but for various reasons, the lack of consistency keeps them just outside the truly elite level. Much like Hopkins, 2017 proved Hilton’s dependency on an accurate passer as he struggled to get going without Andrew Luck to feed him the ball. Luck is back in 2018 but coming off a shoulder injury it remains to be seen how the duo will look. Allen’s issues are all injury-related after he played only 9 games between 2015 and 2016 before bouncing back for 1397 yards and 6 TD in 2017. Allen is Philip River’s primary target and his campaign last year shows what kind of upside that can have which makes him one of the Top 10 receivers in the game.

Three years ago, Green would have been in the elite conversation as one of the biggest playmakers at the position. Entering his age 30 season and coming off of back to back seasons that have fallen short of the upper tier leave some questions as to what we can expect. Regardless, Green’s skill and position as the favored target of Andy Dalton make him a threat to be special, despite his age.

PROJECTIONS

NAME POSITION TEAM RU TD REC  REC YD REC TD FUM POINTS
Michael Thomas WR NO 0 100 1220 8 0 270
TY Hilton WR IND 0 90 1250 9 0 269
Kennen Allen WR LAC 0 95 1120 8 0 255
AJ Green WR CIN 0 85 1225 8 1 253.5


TIER 3 – The Greats

Larry Fitzgerald, Davante Adams, Alshon Jeffery, Adam Thielen, Doug Baldwin, Demaryius Thomas, Brandin Cooks, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyreke Hill, Mike Evans

This is obviously a large collection of both young and old names. Each of these guys has the talent to anchor a fantasy receiving corps and they’re all going to have the opportunity to carry their respective teams.

First, the old guard – Fitzgerald, Thomas, Baldwin, Jefferey. The first three of this group will all be 30+ this season but there’s a lot of gas left in these tanks. Fitzgerald continues to pile up catches year in and year out hauling in over 107 grabs each of his last three years. One day he will stop producing, but I think it will be when Fitz says he’s done and walks away, not because he can’t do it anymore. Thomas failed to eclipse 90/1000/5 for the first time in six seasons last year and he has shown consistent decline the past three years, but a large factor has been inconsistent QB play from multiple starters every season. With Case Keenum under center, there will be stability for the first time in three seasons and Thomas is still one of the best in the business at creating space and winning contested balls. Baldwin is easily Russell Wilson’s most trusted and favorite target and that means yards and TD’s, he’s a consistently safe bet. Jeffery is the youngest of the batch and his 2017 wasn’t exactly a dream when he failed to crack 800 yards. Part of that was due to Wentz getting hurt right as the two were building chemistry and Jeffery is primed to be one of the top red zone targets and big-play threats in the game.

The young guns include Adams, Thielen, Cooks, Hill, Evans and Smith-Schuster. JuJu is the youngest coming off a breakout rookie campaign where he posts 917 yards and 7 TD and he’ll reprise the role of second fiddle to Antonio Brown making them the best threat in the NFL to be 1000 yard teammates. Thielen, Hill, and Cooks are all pairing up with brand new QB’s and that has tempered their upside a little. All three are capable of moving into the Supremes tier but some caution should be exercised with some growing pains expected. Evans and Adams are moving into prove-it seasons. Adams gets to pair again with Rogers after he missed most of 2017 and there is a ton of upside here with no competition in town at the receiver position. Evans had a “down” year in 2017 when he only had 5 TD and he will be without Jameis Winston to start the season. Still, Evans talent is as good as any and he could finish in a far higher tier than this.

PROJECTIONS:

NAME POSITION TEAM RU TD REC  REC YD REC TD FUM POINTS
Davante Adams WR GB 0 85 1020 10 0 247
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI 0 100 1100 6 1 244
Alshon Jeffery WR PHI 0 85 1125 8 1 243.5
Adam Thielen WR MIN 0 90 1170 6 0 243
Doug Baldwin WR SEA 0 85 1095 8 0 242.5
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 0 90 1080 6 1 232
Brandin Cooks WR LAR 0 75 1150 7 0 232
Mike Evans WR TB 0 75 1075 8 0 230.5
JuJu Smith-Schuster WR PIT 0 75 1150 6 0 226
Tyreek Hill WR KC 1 70 1020 6 2 218.5

 

TIER 4 – Best of the Rest

Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Marvin Jones, Cooper Kupp, Golden Tate, Jarvis Landry

We should start with Landry – he does not belong this low, but he’s moving to Cleveland with a new QB and a great receiver opposite him and those are all tough cards to beat. Still, Landry has been getting a lot of work with Tyrod Taylor in with Josh Gordon sidelined and he may find his way back up among the Supremes this year. He’s a WR2 for me in all formats with upside.

Diggs, Cooper, and Jones are similar types as big-play threats who can pile up the yardage. Diggs broke out in 2017 with Keenum throwing him the ball and his prospects are even higher with Kirk Cousins at the helm. Following up two great seasons to open his career, Coopers awful 2017 was either the product of Derek Carr’s poor season or part of the cause, either way, it’s the outlier and a bounce back should be in store. Jones is perhaps the most under the radar WR2 in fantasy. All he does is rip off big plays in Detroit and he’s started finding the end zone too. He makes for a fantastic late-round value.

Tate and Kupp are your possession guys who will play complementary roles to their counterparts this year. Tate paired with Jones to be one of the few teammate duos to each collect 1000 yards and with Stafford healthy they should challenge that again. Kupp will play opposite Brandin Cooks but as a slot man he should be in a position to see a volume of targets and he developed some red zone chemistry with Goff in his rookie campaign. Both guys are PPR studs and standard starters with upside.

PROJECTIONS

NAME POSITION TEAM RU TD REC  REC YD REC TD FUM POINTS
Marvin Jones, JR. WR DET 0 75 1065 8 0 229.5
Golden Tate WR DET 0 90 1020 6 1 226
Amari Cooper WR OAK 0 75 1025 6 0 213.5
Stefon Diggs WR MIN 0 75 940 7 0 213
Cooper Kupp WR LAR 0 80 925 5 0 202.5
Jarvis Landry WR CLE 0 80 890 6 2 201

 

TIER 5 – The Wild Bunch

Jordy Nelson, Josh Gordon, Will Fuller, Allen Robinson, Michael Crabtree, DeVante Parker, Cameron Meredith, Devin Funchess

All of these guys have red flags of some kind but all of them have WR1 or WR2 upside.

When it comes to guys like Fuller, Robinson, Funchess, and Parker it’s a matter of consistency. All four guys have flashed monster skills and big-time upside but failed to really put it all together year in and year out. Fuller has to battle through playing in Hopkins shadow while Funchess, Parker, and Robinson will have every chance to be the go-to guys on their teams.

Crabtree and Meredith are entering some prime volume opportunities on their new teams. Crabtree has been a big-time red zone threat and shows upside as a possession guy, both things are desperately needed in Baltimore and Flacco has shown the ability to get the ball to his more talented options in the past. Meredith is a true slot guy who enters a prime spot with Drew Brees in New Orleans. I expect Cam to get a heavy dose of targets weekly and could be a PPR machine.

Jordy Nelson and Josh Gordon are the real wild cards for two completely different reasons. Nelson, coming off a terrible age 32 season, joins Carr who was abysmal in 2017. This could either be a fantastic bounce-back year for both or the quiet end to Jordy’s tenure as an unstoppable force in fantasy. Gordon, on the other hand, has his off-field demons to contend with and at the moment that’s costing him practice time with his new QB’s. Still, Gordon is as talented as they come and if he gets going early all bets are off.

Other names to watch:  Kelvin Benjamin, Corey Davis, Robby Anderson, Emanuel Sanders, Sterling Sheppard, Nelson Agholar, Chris Hogan

PROJECTIONS:

NAME POSITION TEAM RU TD REC  REC YD REC TD FUM POINTS
Jordy Nelson WR OAK 0 80 1070 8 0 235
Josh Gordon WR CLE 0 70 1145 8 0 232.5
Michael Crabtree WR BAL 0 80 915 8 1 217.5
DeVante Parker WR MIA 0 75 925 8 0 215.5
Chris Hogan WR NE 0 75 950 7 0 212
Corey Davis WR TEN 0 75 915 7 0 208.5
Kelvin Benjamin WR BUF 0 70 980 6 0 204
Devin Funchess WR CAR 0 70 915 7 0 203.5
Cameron Meredith WR NO 0 80 920 5 0 202
Robby Anderson WR NYJ 0 75 960 5 0 201
Nelson Agholar WR PHI 0 80 910 5 0 201
Allen Robinson WR CHI 0 70 920 6 0 198
Will Fuller WR HOU 0 65 850 8 0 198
Emanuel Sanders WR DEN 0 75 915 5 0 196.5
Sterling Sheppard WR NYG 0 75 800 5 0 185
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Ben Stecker

Ben Stecker

Author SportsTalkLine.com at SportsTalkLine
Writer, sports connoisseur, Pacific Northwesterner. Rarely met a sport I couldn't be great friends with. Follow me on twitter @Softball_Guy
Ben Stecker