Guys….Football is back!! This week we were graced with actual football. Yes, it’s just preseason football, but it’s still competition. My excitement cannot be contained, and my joy knows no bounds. Baker Mayfield impressed in his debut, and Antonio Callaway’s stock just went up. Obviously not someone you’re going to draft, but he’s someone to keep on your radar now that Corey Coleman is out of Cleveland. Some guy named Tim Boyle showed up in Green Bay dropping dimes, gunning for Aaron Rodgers’ job. Did you see how Josh Allen effortlessly hurls the ball 65+ yards?! The rookie quarterbacks impressed Thursday night. It’s easy to overreact to some of the big plays, and fall victim to the preseason narratives. Just keep your wits about you, and commit to the doctrine of healthy skepticism.
This is the fifth and final installment of the top 100 wide receivers for 2018. It goes without saying that this week we’ll be discussing the players who fall into the “Macho Man Randy Savage” category aka: the cream of the crop. Last season, the difference between the No. 1 & No. 2 wide receivers (Brown & Hopkins) was just 0.5 points! And the difference between Brown and the wide receiver No. 12 was just 85.2 points. Compare that to the same range of running backs from last season which had a difference of 180.1 points. Nearly a one hundred point difference between the positions. The wide receiver position is a much more forgiving position. Still, last year was undoubtedly a down year at the wide receiver position as a whole. A fun stat I just came across highlighted that in 2016 six of the top 10 payers drafted were wide receivers. This year, 10 out of the top 13 players off the board are running backs (stat courtesy of Reddit user /u/Storm_Fox). It shows the ebb and flow of both fantasy football and the NFL. More importantly, though, it’s indicative of how hard the fantasy football community shifts from season to season. Running backs are the absolute focus this season. I’d be willing to bet that we see a significant bounce back from the WR position this year, which would make the majority of the players I’m about the break down of value on draft day.
#20. Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears:
Did you know that Allen Robinson was targeted the same amount in 2016 as he was in his dominant 2015 season, totaling 151 targets. There was only a 7 catch deficit between 2015 to 2016. The biggest difference was his yards per catch which dropped from 17.5 ypc in 2015 to 12.1 ypc in 2016. Yes, there’s also the decline in touchdowns, but that stat is more volatile by nature. Now, A-Rob is joining the much-hyped Chicago Bears offense as the clear cut WR1. As the WR1 on Matt Nagy’s offense, he should be locked into at least 120 targets which gives him the floor of a WR2 for fantasy purposes. Robinson is still coming off of a torn ACL which gives me some pause, but he’s had essentially a full season to recover. Given how things are lining up in the windy city, Robinson could post fantastic bounce back numbers. He’s an easy pick in late Round 3 in your drafts.
#19. Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles:
Jeffery saw 120 targets last season. That’s the good news. The bad news is he was only able to catch 47.5% of those targets for 57 receptions, 789 yards, and nine touchdowns. Despite his dismal catch rate, Jeffery finished as the WR20 in PPR scoring formats last season. Now, you have to assume that, with another year of developing a rapport with Carson Wentz, Jeffery’s catch rate stands to improve. It frankly couldn’t get much worse as the WR1 on a championship roster. Another issue to take into account is Jeffery’s injury history. As training camp started Alshon was placed on the active/PUP list. He had an offseason surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in February. So it doesn’t come at that big of a surprise that he was placed on the active/PUP list. All signs currently point to him being healthy for week 1, but it’s still something to monitor as we near the coming season. Alshon is being drafted in late Round 4 early Round 5.
#18. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions:
If it’s consistency you seek, then look no further than Golden Tate. Since 2014 (his first season on the Lions), Tate has averaged 132 targets, 93 receptions, and 1,056 yards. That kind of consistency is something you can never overlook for your rosters. It’s been four years since Tate has had below a top-24 finish. Even with Marvin Jones’ transcendent season last year, Tate still finished as the WR #13 in PPR scoring. Now with Ebron off the roster Tate might even see in an increase of targets over the middle. He’s not a flashy or sexy draft pick, but his weekly floor will provide your roster with a security you will have a tough time finding elsewhere. Look to draft Tate around the middle-to-late 4th Round.
#17. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos:
Last week I told you to forget Sanders’ 2017 performance, and I’m asking you to do the same this week with Demaryius Thomas. He had a down year last season, but was just 51 yards shy of a 1,000 yard season. Let that sink in for a moment. DT is such an integral part of the Broncos’ offense that he was just shy of a thousand yard season with the likes of Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, and Trevor Siemian throwing him the ball. Now I believe that Case Keenum is a major upgrade at QB, and that this will improve the offense as a whole. DT has averaged 155 targets over the last six seasons. If that level of involvement remains consistent through 2018 he’ll be a locked and loaded WR2. He’s worth the Round 4 draft price.
#16. Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders:
Amari Cooper was a 1,000+ yard receiver for his first two seasons in the NFL. Analysts, experts, and FF players alike all expected a big third-year breakout. Instead they were met with a third-year disaster. According to Derek Carr, and other reports, Cooper was dealing with an ankle injury. So that factors into his 2017 production, but overall it was a down year for the Raiders as a whole. Now Jon Gruden is at the helm, and has already designated Cooper as “the guy” in the Raiders’ offense. This obviously bodes well for Cooper’s involvement in the Gruden offense, which historically targets the WR1 like crazy. It’s up to Cooper to convert that volume into fantasy production. I think we can consider the production from his from his first two seasons as a “soft floor” heading into 2018, with WR1 upside. He’s currently being drafted in Round 3 in PPR leagues.
#15. Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings:
Diggs finished as a WR2 in fantasy football for the first time last season, ending with 92 targets for 64 receptions, 834 yards and 8 touchdowns. Those numbers don’t exactly jump out at you, but keep in mind he missed two games. He still needs to take a significant step forward this season and prove that he’s worthy of his in WR2 price tag. The addition of Kirk Cousins is a positive for Diggs on paper, even though Diggs has not really been subjected to poor quarterback play. To his credit, Kirk will take more chances down field than Keenum, and this bodes well for Diggs. He’s expected to see an increase in targets, but has yet to finish a season without missing a few games due to injury. The advantage with drafting Diggs over his teammate Thielen, is that he comes at a value. Thielen is currently being drafted as the 24th player off the board, whereas Diggs is five spots lower at 29. It’s a marginal difference, but nevertheless, in the early rounds of your drafts it’s a game of margins.
#14. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts:
After hemming and hawing over whether Andrew Luck is back or not, we finally got to see some action on Thursday night. Consensus: he survived. No real answer on whether he’s vintage Luck or not. He went 6-for-9 for 64 yards over two series. Nothing truly noteworthy, aside from getting sacked and getting right back up. Obviously, Hilton’s outlook is intrinsically tied to Andrew Luck’s health and performance. If Andrew Luck is vintage Andrew Luck, then T.Y. Hilton is a stud. If Luck is anything less than that, then Hilton will have a slightly better season than he did with Brissett under center. In 2016, with a supposedly injured Andrew Luck, Hilton was targeted 155 times for 91 receptions, 1,448 yards and six touchdowns. That was a career year for Hilton, and represents his potential if Luck is truly back in business. The Colts offense will also benefit from a new head coach, Frank Reich. Things are looking up in Indianapolis. We’re just waiting on bated breath to see if Luck can return to glory. As of now, look to draft Hilton in the second-to-third rounds of your drafts.
#13. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs:
Tyreek Hill had a breakout second year to the tune of 75 receptions on 105 targets, for 1,183 yards and seven touchdowns. Hill will be looking to build on that performance in 2018, but there are a few obstacles in his way that cloud his future. The most glaring of these is the departure of Alex Smith for new starter Patrick Mahomes. Yes, Mahomes has a monster arm. We all know that. But, Mahomes is an essentially unproven quarterback. That gives me pause, and it should give you pause, too. I’m not writing off Mahomes, but I’m not willing to bank on a second year starter performing at the same level as MVP caliber 2017 Alex Smith. Now factor in the addition of Sammy Watkins. He’s a similar player to Tyreek in the sense that they both stretch the field. Watkins shouldn’t eat too much into Hill’s production, but he does pose that threat. While I don’t think Hill’s 2017 season reflects his ceiling, I do think he is in store for some regression. Hill is being drafted in the 3rd Round of drafts.
#12. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals:
Football analysts and experts have been “predicting” Larry’s fall from grace since 2014. It’s useless. It’s a lost cause. You just can’t count out Larry until he tells you he’s out. Just last season Fitzgerald finished as the WR #4 in PPR scoring with 161 targets for 109 receptions, 1,156 yards and six touchdowns. He did that with Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, and Blaine Gabbert under center for the Cardinals. So, any narrative that Larry’s production will take a hit from Sam Bradford as QB is moot. Larry has posted top-12 finishes (PPR) over the last three seasons. There’s nothing that suggests he won’t be able to replicate that level consistency this coming season. The return of David Johnson and addition of a few offensive pieces will not have an impact on Larry’s involvement. He’s their star wide receiver, and will be until his number hangs from the rafters. Look to draft him in the fourth as a solid WR No.2 for your fantasy rosters.
#11. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings:
Jamison Crowder was Kirk Cousin’s most reliable receiver in Washington. His comp on the Vikings is Adam Thielen. He lines up out of the slot, and is a reliable playmaker over the middle. Kirk Cousins will look Thielen’s way often. Thielen had a career year last season with 91 receptions on 142 targets for 1,276 yards and four touchdowns, ending the season as the WR #8 in PPR. The biggest knock for Thielen is his target share. It’s unlikely, even with Kirk under center, that he will be the recipient of 142 targets. Kirk will not be afraid to air it out which benefits Diggs (as stated above), and Kirk has a long track record showcasing his tight end favoritism. The Vikings offense will continue to stick with the run, too. Thielen will still be worth owning, and will likely be a more consistent wide receiver on a week-to-week basis. I just don’t think he’ll finish as a WR1 this season. He’s currently being drafted early in the Third Round.
#10. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks:
Outside of Russell Wilson, the only other Seahawk I want to own is Doug Baldwin. He’s the primary offensive weapon on a team with a weak defense, no running game, and will be forced to throw the ball a lot. Baldwin is going to miss the majority, if not all, of training camp and preseason due to knee soreness. That is concerning, no doubt. But the Seahawks have assured us that Baldwin will be ready by Week 1, and that his sitting out is primarily just for maintenance. His absence from training camp, though, has caused his ADP to slip a bit, making him an even more intriguing draft option. Doug Baldwin has finished within the top-12 over the past three years (PPR). This accomplishment is even more intriguing when he fell short of both 120 targets & the 1,000 yards marker last season. Now, the Seahawks’ primary redzone threat, Jimmy Graham is gone, and the Seahawks have not brought in a true replacement for him or Paul Richardson. Baldwin is going to continue to be Russell’s primary target, and this makes him someone you want to target. There’s obvious risk with drafting him, because of the injury. But, if he’s out there at 100% on Week 1, you’ll be disappointed you passed up on him. At the current draft price of a Round 3-4 pick, he’s such an easy choice.
#9. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Evans is the undeniable WR1 on a team that is forced to throw the ball a lot. He has averaged nearly 145 targets since coming to the NFL four years ago, and has yet to post a season below 1,000 yards in that time-span. That’s the floor for Evans. What you can’t predict, though are his touchdowns. He has two seasons with 12 touchdowns and two seasons with eight touchdowns combined. It doesn’t help that Winston will be sitting out the first three games of the season, but it shouldn’t impact Evans’ season as a whole. The Bucs now have two big time catch passing tight end threats, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Goodwin. These offensive pieces will take some defensive attention away from Evans leaving him with favorable coverage. Evans’ well established involvement in the Bucs’ offense, coupled with his potential makes him worthy of a Round 2 pick.
#8. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers:
Jordy Nelson is gone. Aaron Rodgers is back. Davante Adams will feast. Despite the fact that Adams has yet to finish as a WR1 in fantasy football, this season will be his best opportunity to achieve that accolade. He’s now put together two seasons in a row with double digit touchdown numbers, and he managed to do that with Brett Hundley under center last season. It’s very easy to get excited about Adams’ potential. He’s the No. 1 pass catching option on the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers. A Rodgers-Adams connections is something we can all get behind. Rodgers will be looking to come back strong from his injury, and reassert Packers’ dominance in the NFC North. Adams is being drafted between the #15-#19 picks.
#7. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals:
A.J. Green has been in the NFL for seven seasons now. Can you guess how many of those seasons he finished with at least 1,000 yards? I’ll tell you: six! It would be seven for seven if it weren’t for Andy Dalton’s injury in 2016, too. A.J. Green is consistent. A.J. Green is elite. Do you recall how awful the Bengals’ offense was last season? I certainly do. Green still managed to have a top-10 finish last season despite the myriad of Bengals’ offensive woes. That’s the good news. The bad news is there’s little reason to expect a substantial improvement from the Bengals’ offense, which caps Greens’ upside. Green is reliable, though, so it’s relatively safe to assume he will continue to have similar production, which is top-10 production. He’s being drafted between the #10-#17 overall in all formats.
#6. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints:
Thomas had only five touchdowns last season. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram picked up the slack in that department. He was still targeted nearly 150 times for 104 receptions and 1,254 yards finishing as the WR #6. There’s little reason to believe that level of involvement will decrease either. Alvin Kamara is due for some touchdown regression, and the addition of Cameron Meredith will take some of the defenses’ attention away from Thomas. Not to mention Drew Brees is still throwing him the ball. Thomas is looking to improve on his 2017 performance. He was just two points shy of breaking into the top-5 last season, so it would not be surprising at all if he does it in 2018. There’s not much else to say about Thomas other than draft him. He will be well worth his top-20 pick.
#5. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers:
Keenan Allen finally delivered in 2017! After years of wondering whether Keenan Allen could put together a 16 game season, he finally did it! Allen was targeted 159 times for 102 receptions, 1,393 yards and six touchdowns. He did the majority of that damage over the final seven games of the season, too. There’s no doubt that Allen is carrying a lot of momentum into this season. There is just a little concern in the form of Mike Williams. Drafted as the first wide receiver off the board in 2017, Williams is bound to see his usage increase. He will be a big red zone threat, too, with Hunter Henry out for the season and no real tight end replacement. This is a minor concern, and is unlikely to have any kind of significant impact on Allen for 2018 purposes. The Chargers’ offense as a whole is looking dangerous, and I definitely want to own some stock in their offense. Look to draft Allen in the 2nd Round of your drafts.
#4. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons:
Oh Julio…How you fill me with hope, and dash my dreams. Why can’t you catch more touchdowns?! That’s honestly the only stat that should concern you in regards to Julio. Hopefully, he’ll be looking at some positive regression in that category. Otherwise, he’s a sure-fire WR1. He’s targeted like crazy, and he turns his receptions into monster yardage. Those numbers speak more to me than touchdowns. Julio’s averaged 1,579 yards over the last four seasons, and is averaging over 160 targets in that same time-span. Julio’s down year in 2017 has turned him into an absolute steal in this year’s draft going around the end of the first to early second round. He’s fully healthy (for the first time in his career it feels like), and he’s still on the high-flying Falcons. Don’t sleep on Julio.
#3. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants:
Plain and simple, OBJ is a generational talent. He finished his rookie and breakout season as the WR #7, continued to finish the 2015 season as the WR #5, and then the following season as the WR #4. That kind of development is promising, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be building on that progress going forward. There’s the health concern considering he’s coming back from a nasty broken ankle, and he’s currently in a contract dispute with Giants brass. Those are factors to consider, but I won’t be dropping him in my rankings for either reason. Yes, Saquon Barkley is the new hotness in NY, but his involvement in the offense will likely opening things up in the passing game taking away focus from the Giants’ other generational talent, OBJ. Honestly, if this Giants offense, under new head coach Pat Shurmur, doesn’t just steamroll teams I will be very surprised. Don’t expect the Giants of 2017 to show up this season. Beckham Jr. is being drafted at the end of the first round. The players drafting around the turn are going to get some outstanding players this season.
#2. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans:
Nuk was an absolute beast last season. He and Watson were able to channel some of that Clemson mojo, and light the league on fire. Before I continue, though, I want to make sure that we mitigate Nuk’s expectations for 2018. Last season Watson’s touchdown rate was at 9.3%, which is near impossible to replicate. The Texans were also forced to throw more as a result of injuries to key pieces on their defense. The defense is now healthy, with some improvements. That’s basically the downside for Watkins. He’ll still be targeted like crazy; catching passes from a quarterback who showed some serious elite skill. Like I said, it’s incredibly unlikely for Watson to repeat the consistency and efficiency levels from his rookie campaign, but his skill level already far exceeds that of Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage. DeAndre Hopkins is being drafted as the second wide receiver off the board after Antonio Brown.
#1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers:
Antonio Brown has been the WR #1, in PPR scoring, since 2014…’nuff said. No other position has had a repeat #1 player in that same time span. There’s just not much to say other than he’s the best wide receiver in the NFL, and he should be drafted as such. Last year he averaged 109.5 yards a game. Even though the Steelers continue to add depth at the position, Brown’s target volume remains the same. He is the first wide receiver off the board, and barring injury, he’ll likely wind up finishing 2018 as the No. 1 WR again. When I consider dominance in the modern NFL two names come to mind: Tom Brady & Antonio Brown. He’s just on another level. I will say this though: Beware of the Madden curse!!
Thanks for reading! It’s been a fun journey diving in and breaking down the top 100 wide receivers over the past five weeks. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series, and have taken away something from them. I’ll be back next week to target some great ADP gems for your drafts!
Major League Fantasy Football Radio Show: Join host Corey D Roberts live August 9th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #88 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. Call in number is 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the host. We will hit free agents, rookies, and fantasy football as a whole for each team for 2018. This week we will wrap up our divisional break downs with the NFC West!
My guest this week is Andy Macuga. He is the former Head Football and Baseball Coach for Borrego Springs H.S. out in the San Diego area. Andy is also a 6 year veteran of Major League Fantasy Sports leagues and a frequent radio guest.