By: Cam Farnham
With the talent at the Wide Receiver position increasing, there is only one thing to do. Stock up
1. Antonio Brown
The question isn’t if Brown should be the first receiver taken off the board, the question is if he should be the first player taken off the board. While that can be up for discussion, Brown is as dominant a fantasy player as anyone else in the NFL. One thing he does so well is find the end zone. With 12 receiving touchdowns, he was tied for second in the league. But Brown can also hurt you in the return game, a huge threat every time the opposing team has to punt. He ranked 4th in receiving yards per game (85.6), 3rd in targets per game (10.27), and 5th in receiving yards (1,284). What makes Brown so valuable is his receptions per game. Nothing seems to drop as he finished first in the league in catches per game with 7.
2. Odell Beckham Jr.
The most exciting receiver to watch, OBJ finds himself in yet another position to succeed under the Giants aerial attack. Known for the big plays, Beckham Jr. has a knack for finding the end zone as he scored 10 times in his 16 games played. Whether it is a long ball from Eli, or a quick slant, Odell Beckham Jr. has closing speed unlike we have ever seen. Match that with arguably the best hands in the league, and you have yourself a fantasy stud. Finishing 2nd in the NFL in targets per game (10.56), look for OBJ to continue to dominate secondary’s day in and day out. To put it into perspective of how productive he has been, Odell has more touchdowns (35) than Julio Jones (32) Since 2012, and Odell’s first game was Week 5 of 2012.
3. Julio Jones
The most physically gifted of the receivers would be Julio Jones. 6 foot 3 weighing 220 pounds and being able to run a sub 4.4 40 yard dash is mind blowing. With a pass heavy team like the Falcons, Julio has (7th in the NFL in targets per game) and will continue to get his fair share of looks. Jones finished 2nd in receiving yards with 1,409, 1st in receiving yards per game with 100.64, and 1st in yards per catch with 16.98. However Jones touchdown totals have been steadily decreasing. Since 2012 when he had 10 touchdowns, Jones has failed to retrieve more than 8 touchdowns. Although he has all the tools to be the number one ranked receiver, Jones will look to find the end zone more.
4. Mike Evans
With the most potential to move up in the rankings, Mike Evans comes in at number 4. With a astonishing 10.81 targets per game which led the league, Evans is the one person on the Bucs that Quarterback Jameis Winston could trust. With the additions of WR DeSean Jackson and rookie Tight End O.J. Howard, look for the Bucs to spread out the field. Evans 12 touchdowns ranked him 2nd in the NFL, while his yards per game (82.56) ranked him 6th. Evans has proven to be a reliable option as he has only missed 2 games in his career so far. Evans has locked himself into a late first round pick, with the potential to jump the rest of the Wide Receivers.
5. A.J. Green
If the Bengals are ever going to win a playoff game under Marvin Lewis, Green is going to be a big part of the reason. While only playing 10 games because of an injury, Green ranked 2nd in receiving yards per game with 96.4, and 4th in targets per game(10). What is the most impressive stat is that in just 10 games Green fell just short of 1,000 receiving yards (964). Green arguably would have been the league leader in receiving yards if he had played all 16 games. Drafters would love to see Green in the 2nd round, but do not be surprised if he goes in the late picks of the 1st.
6. T.Y. Hilton
What a year 2016 was for T.Y. Hilton. Leading the NFL in receiving yards with 1,448, Hilton had a breakout year for Andrew Luck and the Colts. With a healthy Andrew Luck, they are one of the most productive tandems in football. With Hilton's exceptional speed, a lot of double moves are ran, making it Hilton to fly by the defender for a deep ball. Luck throws one of the best deep balls, and it usually is going to Hilton. With only 5.6 catches a game, Hilton's yards per catch finished 2nd in the league with an absurd 15.91 yards. With 6 touchdowns look for Hilton to double that and finish within the top 7 once again in receiving.
7. Jordy Nelson
Whenever you have Aaron Rodgers throwing to you he can make you better. Jordy Nelson has been one of the best down the field receivers in all of football. His 14 touchdowns in 2016 ranked him 1st in the NFL, while his 1,257 yards ranked him 6th. In an offense that does not have an established back yet, look for the Packers to continue to fill the stat sheet with passes.
8. Amari Cooper
One of the best route runners in the game, Amari Cooper has proved to owners he can be a WR1. Averaging just over 71 yards receiving a game, The Cooper-Carr connection has been locked in. With over 1,000 yards, look for Cooper to match that with some change. Alongside Michael Crabtree, the Raiders have one of the best receiver duos in all of football making it for the defense to cover both in space.
9. Michael Thomas
Thomas came out of no where and put up WR 1 numbers last year for the Saints. The Ohio State product proved to be hand in hand as talented as Brandin Cooks with almost identical numbers. Thomas ranked 4th in touchdowns (9) and 9th in receiving yard with 1,137. With the loss of speedster Brandin Cooks,and the pass first mindset of the Saints, look for Thomas numbers to increase significantly.
10. Terelle Pryor Sr.
A change of scenery is what Pryor Sr. needed as he goes from a QB carousel in Cleveland, to a reliable Kirk Cousins in Washington. After eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark (1,007), Pryor looks to keep the momentum going into the NFC East. A team that just lost DeSean Jackson the big play receiver, Pryor is going in there and is immediately the number one guy. Any one who can succeed statistically with Cleveland QB’s is someone worth noting. A major upgrade at the Quarterback position makes for a big year for Pryor.
11. Dez Bryant
When healthy, Bryant is one of the most dominant forces in the NFL. If you are inside the 10 yard line, you know what to do. Bryant started off slow, but caught up as he had 796 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. The more comfortable Prescott gets, and the more people begin to focus on the feared running game, the Cowboys are going to be in good shape moving the ball up and down the field. Look for Bryant to get into the end zone double digit times and flash the X. 3rd Round.
12. DeAndre Hopkins
One of the biggest disappointments in Fantasy Football a year ago was DeAndre Hopkins. Did he have a bad year? No he did not. But from the expectations and the first round value he had, he under performed. Playing for a trio of Quarterbacks does not help as he racked up just 954 yards which ranked him 29th in the league. Another disappointing stat was that he ranked out of the top 25 in receiving touchdowns (4). With the drafting of Clemson superstar Deshaun Watson, look for Hopkins to bounce back in a big way.
13. Doug Baldwin
One of the most underrated receivers in the league is Seahawks Doug Baldwin. Although he does not get all the glory, he gets fantasy owners points. Baldwin ranked 11th in receiving yards (1,128), tied for 10th in touchdowns (7), and 12th in yards per game (70.5). Baldwin seems to make plays in big time games, and has been Russell Wilson's go to guy the past 3 years. Look for Baldwin to remain above the 1,000 yard mark, and may even eclipse the double digit touchdown mark with a new and improved running game coming into effect.
14. Allen Robinson
Hands down the biggest disappointment besides Todd Gurley was Allen Robinson. In 2015, Robinson finished among the top in almost every category. 1st in touchdowns (14), and 6th in receiving yards (1,400). What a difference a year makes. In 2016 Robinson ranked outside the top 10 in every statistical receiver category. With career lows in yards per game (55.19), touchdowns (6), and receiving yards (883), Robinson looks to be much, much better. With an un respected run game, the rookie Leonard Fournette looks to jump start an offense that was one dimensional. Mark my words, Robinson will bounce back alongside with the franchise Quarterback Blake Bortles.
15. Demariyus Thomas
Thomas comes in as someone who has a big question surrounding him. Who will be throwing the pro bowler the ball. With an offense that looks to be much improved from a year ago, Thomas leads a receiving corps alongside Emmanuel Sanders whom once were one of the most dangerous duos in the league. Whether it is Siemian or Lynch, the Broncos will improve on offense and it all starts with number 88. A year ago he put up numbers that would leave an owner happy, but not ecstatic. 1,083 yards to go along with 5 touchdowns is a productive year, but one Thomas will look to improve on.
16. Jarvis Landry
The Miami Dolphins got a complete player when they drafted Jarvis Landry. Along with a player like Edelman, he is not going to blow you away with the amount of touchdowns, but he will with how reliable his hands are. Landry ranked 7th in receptions with 94, and ranked 10th in receiving yards with 1,136. Look for Landry to be as consistent as it gets in a WR 2.
17. Brandin Cooks
Cooks goes from one Hall of Fame Quarterback to another. Brees to Brady. The electrifying Oregon State product looks to fill Brady’s need on the outside as if there were any in the first place. With a 15.04 yards per catch (3rd in NFL), look for Brady to immediately get Cooks in the offense. Whether it is lining up on the numbers on the outside and having him as a deep threat, or using him and Edelman across the middle of the field, Cooks may indeed have his most successful season yet. The question is how are the Patriots and Belichick going to use him. Only time will tell.
18. Larry Fitzgerald
Old Reliable is just one of the names for Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz is coming off a year for the Cardinals that would make fantasy owners very happy. The 33 year old hauled in a league best 107 receptions with 6 touchdowns. Anyone with over 100 receptions is lock for a starting receiver nod on the fantasy team, and Fitzgerald has been doing it since 2004. 4 times in his career he has had 100+ receptions including back to back year (2015-2016). Look for Fitzgerald's play to decline, but not enough to avoid him.
19. Julian Edelman
If you are looking for someone who is going to catch everything, Edelman is your guy. Although he only scored 3 touchdowns, Edelman racked up 1,106 yards to go along with a remarkable 98 catches which ranked him 4th in the league. Most likely drafted earlier in PPR formats, Edelman is someone that is going to average you 6 catches a game (6.13 in 2016). Between the guy throwing him the ball in Brady, and the surrounding cast of receivers, look for Edelman and the Patriots to keep pace with the Falcons and Packers for the leagues best offense.
20. Keenan Allen and Golden Tate (Tie)
Allen’s seasons came to an abrupt halt as the Charger receiver went down with an season ending injury real early in the year. His stat line read 6 catches for 63 yards and 0 touchdowns. The LA product has shown glimpses of stardom with 16 career touchdowns and over 2,500 receiving yards in 3 full seasons. With the amount of times Phillip Rivers and the Chargers throw the ball, look for Allen to bounce back with a solid season.
In an offense where you are throwing the ball 35+ times a game, Tate is going to get his targets one way or another. Being the number one option in Detroit means that the touchdowns are going to come. Tate finished with 6 touchdowns while averaging over 7 targets a game. Down the stretch, Tate was a top 10 fantasy receiver stringing along 4 20+ fantasy performances (ESPN PPR). Look for Tate and the Lions to continue to put up points with Matthew Stafford at the helm.