Projecting 2017 Fantasy Football Title Winners: Wide Receivers

Examining the 2017 wide receivers most likely to fuel fantasy football championships.

Many fantasy football league titles and playoff appearances are decided by a narrow band of players. Either highly-drafted players underperforming or low-cost strong performers tilt results. Here are the most likely wide receivers to boost fantasy title chances in 2017:

*ADP listed is Consensus as of June 23, 2017*

For wide receivers, the formula for WR1 fantasy production is generally the No.1 receiver on a depth chart with high-level talent or, if the first criteria is not met, the No.2 receiver paired with an elite quarterback.

Sammy watkins, wr19

Health is the only thing holding back Watkins' chances to put together a WR1 season. The Bills did not pickup his fifth-year option for 2018, but Watkins is an elite talent with limited competition for lead targets in 2017. Zay Jones was drafted in Round 2 and Charles Clay remains as a fuctional starting tight end, but Buffalo's passing game centers around Watkins. 2016 was a lost season for Watkins, missing half the season with injury and logging two touchdowns and less than four receptions per contest even when active. His 2015 performance (60-1,047-9 with a lofty 17.5 yards-per-catch) earmarked the former No.4 overall pick as a Year 3 stud producer projection. However, playing through pain with his foot (and ultimately getting a second surgery in January 2017) unraveled Watkins' 2016 chances. With the rest button hit for 2017, Watkins has free access to a strong target share, a functional quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, and a future contract at stake without financial commitment from Buffalo beyond this season.

larry fitzgerald, WR26

Through age 33 seasons, Larry Fitzgerald has the third-most receiving yards in NFL history behind only Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. Fitzgerald is an all-time great and has revitalized his career through shifting to the slot of late. Fitzgerald has averaged more than nine targets per game over the last two seasons and posted 15 combined touchdowns, finishing as WR9 and WR17 in the process. Arizona is a tenuous bet on offense as there was little beyond David Johnson and Fitzgerald to threat defenses in 2016. Carson Palmer's continued erosion late in his career is a strong concern. However, Fitzgerald has minimal added competition for targets in 2017. John Brown is a rebound candidate after a lost season, but is little threat to Fitzgerald's possession role. Other than Johnson and Fitzgerald, no Arizona player saw more than 75 targets last season. Fitzgerald has top-12 potential and his floor is around current positional ADP, making for the perfect target player.

Martavis Bryant, WR28

Bryant is the ultimate boom-bust fantasy bet. Entrenched in the suspension structure of the NFL, Bryant is reinstated but one slip-up away from being gone again. Pittsburgh drafted elite metric receiver prospect Juju Smith-Schuster on Day 2, offering more depth than previously if Bryant misses time. Bryant has produced 13.0 and 15.7 PPG in his career to-date, including 14 touchdowns and 17.3 yards-per-reception. Bryant is one of the few receivers outside the top-25 of positional ADP with a reasonable shot at top-12 numbers, even with Antonio Brown ahead of him in the Steelers pecking order. 

Donte Moncrief, WR31

Moncrief, like Martavis Bryant, resides as the No.2 on his team's depth chart. Moncrief enters a critical Year 4 of his career, yet to fully blossom in opportunity or production. Despite strong measured athleticism exiting college, Moncrief has averaged 11.8 yards-per-reception over 126 career catches. Like Davante Adams in 2015, Moncrief struggled through injuries in 2016, a season where his breakout was possible after 105 targets and six touchdowns in 2015. Phillip Dorsett has been a disappointment thus far, decreasing the pressure on Moncrief being overtaken for the No.2 role. 

Eric Decker, WR41

Marcus Mariota has been a strong fantasy quarterback through two seasons despite lackluster weapons around him. Decker is the latest addition in an active offseason which includes drafting Corey Davis at No.5 overall and Tawyan Taylor in the mid-rounds. Decker's most significant obstacle is his own health, which limited him to three games a year ago. Even on the struggling Jets passing game, Decker's average season between 2014 and 2015 was 77-994-9. Decker is one of the proven high touchdown rate performers over his career, including his time with the Jets and in Denver pre-Peyton Manning. Outside of Corey Davis shooting out of the gates a la Odell Beckham as a rookie, Decker has a strong chance for more than 100 targets and upside from there. For Decker to hit WR1 territory, his stat would resemble something like Davante Adams a year ago (WR10 in PPG) with 121 targets, around 1,000 yards, and 10+ touchdowns.

Kevin White, wr57

White has lost plenty of steam since the Bears drafted him No.7 overall two years ago. As opposed to other young receivers who have underwhelmed with decent opportunity, White has lost all but four games over two seasons. White has not proven he can or cannot play to this point. Depending on his health, White will get every opportunity to validate his draft pedigree for Chicago. White saw 36 targets over his healthy month in 2016 and the Bears did little to offer competition on the depth chart this offseason. Like Eric Decker, White can be the No.1 receiver for his offense and White has even more target upside. With an ADP as a fantasy team's WR5, White is the ideal play to shoot for the moon in 2017.

Tavon Austin, WR68

Austin's peak season to-date was an WR2 campaign in 2015, fueled by nine offensive touchdowns on 104 touches. The front office upheaval for the Rams offers promise if Jared Goff exhibits any uptick under center. The Rams added a bevy of receivers to their depth chart this offseason (Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds of note) but none offer the video game-like speed and agility of Austin. While offering lateral explosion on short routes to win on his own, Austin has deep chops which have been generally unexplored by previous offensive designs for the Rams. Austin's formula to WR1 fantasy territory would be around 1,100 total yards and 10 touchdowns and an uptick in his deep route usage from his first four seasons.