Don’t look now, but fantasy football season is right around the corner. Over the next week, we’ll be previewing the four major positions in fantasy football. Top it off with a list of sleepers at every position on Friday and you’ll be ready to go for your draft. We use standard non-PPR scoring for all our rankings.
The fantasy football wave that everyone is riding this year is to go heavy on wide receivers early in the draft. They feel like more of a known commodity and that’s not necessarily wrong. Five of the top seven receivers on my list were also in my list last year. The four from last year not named Dez Bryant (Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., and A.J. Green all finished in the top 8 in scoring last year.) The other guys, Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas, finished 11th and 13th respectively. That’s a great floor for your top picks.
Wide receivers seem to get hurt less than running backs and have become the focus of many NFL offenses. They don’t rotate out like a lot of RBs due and pass-heavy offenses seem to be taking over the NFL. They’re the safer play these days, but just don’t make the mistake of taking a lesser valued receiver over a running back just because someone told you to focus on receivers.
- Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
We all know Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in the league, so we might as well move on to #2. He didn’t have Ben Roethlisberger for four games last year, but he still put up 12 more points than any other wide receiver. His value clearly correlates to Roethlisberger being on the field because whoever Pittsburgh would replace Big Ben with would be a major downgrade. When Ben was on the field, Brown only had three games under 10 standard fantasy points in 12 games. He also had six games of 20+ points. Those are what we call week-winning performances. It’ll be exciting to see what Brown can chase down this year.
- Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
Julio was running around the school yard by himself for most of last year. Roddy White was so done and teams realized that as they double-covered Julio. They probably should’ve triple-covered him because he was as dominant as ever. Kyle Shanahan made a real effort to get his best offensive asset and Jones did him proud with 10 weeks of 13+ fantasy points. What was nice is that Julio made it through a full 16 game season. Hopefully that happens again because with Mohamed Sanu will make Atlanta’s offense more explosive replacing White on Jones’ other side. It’s a tight race between Jones and Beckham Jr. for the # spot, but Jones gets the edge by a hair due to consistency.
- Odell Beckham Jr. – New York Giants
Whether you refer to him as OBJ or ODB, there’s no denying the talent Beckham Jr. possess. (Personally I go with ODB…) Beckham missed Week 15 due to suspension, but had he played and scored what he averaged in the other 15 games then he would’ve finished as WR3, just 1 point behind Jones. Some are saying Beckham has the potentially to get even better this year and that’s quite scary considering he put up five games of 20+ fantasy points last year. Offensive coordinator looks to get Beckham the ball and the addition of Sterling Shepard shouldn’t take any targets away from Beckham. Sometimes you wish Manning forced more balls to Beckham. There’s a top three tier of wide receivers before a slight fall off. Beckham could easily finish as the #1 WR in fantasy and anyone after him is definitely a step down.
- A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals
Green is incredibly consistent. Randy Moss is the only other receiver to start his career with 1,000 receiving yards in five straight seasons. (Give Beckham a few years and he might be on this list too.) One would think that he should get more targets from Andy Dalton this year because the Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Green put up the eighth most points last year despite only getting the 15th most targets at WR. As a comparison, only Demaryius Thomas finished in the top five in targets (Jones, Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Thomas, and Brandon Marshall), but didn’t finish in the top six in fantasy points. Andy Dalton’s relationship with Green goes back for years now and he’ll likely force feed Green instead of involving new weapons like Brandon LaFell, Brandon Tate, and rookie Tyler Boyd. With more targets comes more points and Green could take a real leap in production this year.
- Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys
Here we have a receiver who not only is heavily impacted by his own injury possibility, but his quarterbacks as well. Bryant has had foot or leg injuries in every NFL season except 2014. We all know Tony Romo’s got back and collarbone issues. One has to hope that the injury gods comes together for Bryant this year because the offensive potential is pretty awesome in Big D. Dez was coming off arguably his best year before last season with 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns. The yards and the receptions will never be as high as the top 3 guys on our list, but the touchdown potential is better than any WR in the league now that Calvin Johnson is retired. Bryant probably has more upside than Green, but the issues mentioned above keeps him in this spot. At least the Cowboys defense will force Dallas to keep scoring points, so Bryant will have his opportunities.
- DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans
You might look at Hopkins and wonder how he’s only 6th on this list given his age and the offensive improvements around him. Houston’s offense should be better with Lamar Miller carrying the ball and Will Fuller and Braxton Miller flanking Hopkins at receiver. Oh and Brian Hoyer isn’t quarterback anymore. Here’s the problem: there are a lot of factors working against Hopkins too. Brian Hoyer was locked in on Hopkins in all circumstances and that helped Hopkins see the third most targets in the league last year. Brock Osweiler may not look for him as often as he tends not to lock into receivers like Hoyer does. Fuller and Miller will mean that Osweiler has other ways to look. Houston’s also one of the most run-heavy teams in the league, so it’s not like they’ll be throwing 40 times a game. Finally, Hopkins averaged about 4 points less in the second half of the season which coincided with the improvement of Houston’s defense. Hopkins talent will still make him a threat, but don’t reach to grab him.
- Allen Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars
I love Allen Robinson. Maybe it’s because I was repping Robinson heavily last year including choosing him as my #1 sleeper wide receiver. What helped get me to that point was the PlayerProfiler.com comparison to Dez Bryant. That’s one hell of a comparison! Robinson obviously showed well by finishing fourth in points at wide receiver. He still has all the talent he’ll ever have, but one has to wonder if Jacksonville will be throwing as much this year with a better defense. Allen Robinson was one of the kings of garbage time and there may not be as much garbage time for him this year. He still should be good enough to reach 1200+ yards and 10+ touchdowns and that’s a solid investment as the seventh receiver off the board.
If you’re curious about guys you don’t see listed here, you can always find me on Twitter (@MrT_BroBible) to ask questions, but remember to mention league specifics like PPR. You can always ask about general draft questions as well.