It’s hard to believe we’re a week away from the NFL regular season. After spending more than four months focusing on every bit of minutiae, every tidbit, every coach’s quote, and adjusting our rankings and projections, accordingly, a lot can change from our original expectations. Here’s a quick look at some of the most important changes from my initial rankings back in early May.
On Second Thought...
Calvin Ridley (ATL) is not the top fantasy rookie
Ridley is immensely talented and his time will come, but with Julio Jones primed for another monster season and Austin Hooper working one-on-one with Matt Ryan on chemistry, Ridley won't get enough targets to be the top rookie.
John Brown (BAL) has pulled me back in
Kelvin Benjamin (BUF) is a value pick
Like most, I had cast Kelvin Benjamin aside after a dismal 2017. The Bills are going to struggle this year, but Benjamin is unquestionably the best receiver on the roster, and someone has to lead the team in targets, yards, and touchdowns. It's not hard to project Benjamin as a solid WR3 that comes much cheaper on draft day.
John Ross (CIN) is on the breakout radar
Ross stepped into the starting lineup after Brandon LaFell's release and looks the part. The Bengals offensive line is improved and will give Andy Dalton plenty of time to hit Ross downfield a handful of times this year.
Jarvis Landry (CLE) is the receiver to own
I'm rooting for Josh Gordon, but he's far too risky to draft as a top-30 receiver. Landry got huge money and has been a pillar of consistency this summer while Gordon was gone, Corey Coleman was traded, and Antonio Callaway was caught with marijuana.
Michael Gallup (DAL) will be the best fantasy rookie
Earlier this summer I detailed why Gallup could be the Cowboys top receiver. I'm raising the bar and saying he'll not only lead Dallas' receiving corps; he'll be the best fantasy rookie receiver in the NFL.
Demaryius Thomas (DEN) should be avoided at his ADP
I just don't buy Thomas as a fringe WR1, regardless of his pedigree. Case Keenum is a high-risk regression candidate, Thomas has nagging injuries, and rookie Courtland Sutton looks dynamic.
Randall Cobb (GB) will not be a draft-day steal
With Jordy Nelson gone, Randall Cobb seemed a sure bet to push for top-20 production as the 1b to Davante Adams' 1a. However, his injury history and lack of explosiveness are enough to cool my enthusiasm. He may be a viable spot starter in fantasy, or he could lose his starting job to Geronimo Allison. There's too much risk to reach for him a round or two early.
T.Y. Hilton (IND) is a top-10 fantasy receiver
Hilton was a top-10 receiver before Andrew Luck's shoulder escapades, so why won't he resume that status now that Luck is 100% healthy?
Keelan Cole (JAX) is the Jaguars receiver to own
I was already much higher on Keelan Cole than the consensus, but Marqise Lee's injury cements Cole's opportunity to push for top-25 value.
Tyreek Hill (KC) won't regress (much)
A few months ago I was worried Hill's best fantasy years were behind him given new quarterback (Mahomes), coordinator (Bienemy), and receiving partner (Watkins). But this preseason proved Hill remains the Chiefs main playmaker.
Kenny Stills (MIA) is the (only) Dolphins receiver to own
We've all stepped off the ledge and given up on DeVante Parker, but too many have turned their attention to Danny Amendola. That's nonsense. Stills was a fringe fantasy starter last year and is the apple of Ryan Tannehill's eye.
Stefon Diggs (MIN) could outperform Adam Thielen
I still project Thielen for the better season, but it's hard to ignore the rapport Kirk Cousins has built with Diggs, not to mention the monstrous contract extension they gave him.
Julian Edelman (NE) is a screaming value thanks to his suspension
Edelman will miss three games, but who cares? Look at the Patriots receiver corps and tell me how Edelman won't get 8-to-10 targets per game upon his return?
Odell Beckham (NYG) is a first rounder
I had Beckham outside the Top 5 at his position because of last year's injury and his contract dispute. He's healthy, and he's the highest-paid receiver in league history. There are no reasons to worry.
Nelson Agholor (PHI) will be the best fantasy receiver in Philadelphia
Alshon Jeffery's shoulder will cost him at least two games, and he was touchdown dependent last year. Agholor will see a more consistent target share and is still in the growth phase of his career.
Doug Baldwin (SEA) should be avoided unless he falls multiple rounds beyond ADP
It's common for players to overhype how well things are going. Everyone is in the best shape of their lives, or building great chemistry, or thrilled with the new coaches in August. So when a veteran tells the press he's "80 to 85%" and won't be 100% for the entire season, I get worried. You should be, too.
Chris Godwin's (TB) fantasy value won't trail Mike Evans (much)
Mike Evans is a talent, but he's also benefited from a ridiculous target share. Godwin is talented and has no tangible weaknesses. Nothing is preventing him from pushing Evans for top honors in Tampa Bay, other than the rapport Evans already has with Jameis Winston.
Corey Davis (TEN) is worth betting on as a breakout star
I fell prey to Corey Davis' forgettable rookie season. The more I looked at his college tape, and the longer Rishard Matthews stayed on PUP, the more I realized Davis has an excellent chance to dominate in Tennessee.
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