Fantasy draft season is upon us, it’s time to stop preparing and start committing. Wide receiver gets deeper every year as the NFL becomes more pass happy, giving drafters a ton of flexibility in their plans. How do the PPR tiers look this year?
Basically by the book here, with Julio vs Beckham as the main question. All of these players were down compared to historical numbers last year. Brown gets Martavis Bryant back (hopefully) which helped his numbers in the past, Jones will hopefully be healthy with his bunion surgery, and Beckham will hopefully get a better Eli Manning, but could lose a few targets to Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard giving the Giants the best #2 and #3 they’ve had since Beckham was drafted.
Green is on the elite level ability-wise, but he won’t be as big a target hog if Tyler Eifert and John Ross stay healthy. Nelson was basically as good as any wide receiver last year and it feels safe to invest late first/early second partially in Aaron Rodgers. These are your second half of the first round wide receivers.
How good can Thomas be as the clear #1 going into the season? It will be exciting to watch with him on your roster, maybe even first round exciting. Bryant was his high ceiling self once he was healthy last year, defying lower volume, and Thomas should be back to his typical production level now that his hip issue has died down and more screens will be re-installed with the return of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. Evans wasn’t really a strong WR1 in the second half of the year when the Bucs offense settled down, and that shouldn’t change with DeSean Jackson and a possibly reborn Doug Martin on board. Evans’ numbers were greatly inflated by a huge target load in the first half of the season.
SOLID WR1 IF...
This group fits best in the third round. They all have first round ceilings, but questions that keep us from investing at that level. Cooper needs to avoid the second half fade. Hilton needs Andrew Luck to be healthy. Cooks needs consistent targets. Allen needs to stay healthy and still reign over the best wide receiver group he has played with thus far. Hopkins needs Tom Savage and/or Deshaun Watson to give him consistent quality targets. They are all nice WR2 picks in the third, but Cooper isn’t making it that far.
This group looks like fourth-round values to me. Baldwin has back-to-back low WR1 finishes, with an improved Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson Jr plus a healthy Tyler Lockett and CJ Prosise, third round means you are drafting him at his ceiling. Tate was a low WR1 once his benching woke him up last year and he’ll get more slot snaps with Anquan Boldin shuffling off to Buffalo. Pryor could dominate in the red zone if Jordan Reed isn’t healthy, and he is in an offense that supported three fantasy relevant wideouts last year. He’s clearly the one with the highest ceiling as we don’t know how much the Cleveland offense held him back.
Sammy Watkins, LAR
This set of fourth-round values has more potential to outproduce their cost, but with more risk of underperforming. Jeffery has historically been a low WR1, but will that translate with a new team and quarterback? Bryant was ticketed to massive success, but has been away from football for a year. Robinson was a first-round pick last year, but produced like a 7th-9th round pick last year and Blake Bortles is still his quarterback. Hill will get a larger role this year, but his WR1 numbers in the second half of last year were based on possibly unsustainable touchdown rates. Adams was huge once the Packers offense went pass heavy, but how much will he be hurt by Randall Cobb being healthy and Martellus Bennett arriving? I like this group as my WR3, but as a WR2 you need some nice advantages elsewhere to tolerate the risk. Watkins takes a hit going to the Rams, but his talent still makes it hard to take him out of the WR2 tier.
HIGH FLOOR WR2
Both of these players produced low WR1/high WR2 numbers last year, and yet they are still there in mid-fourth and even fifth round. Fitzgerald has the issue of age and the second half fade, and Crabtree has the possible emergence of Cooper as a true #1 to contend with, but that is more than priced into their ADP. While I prefer a boom/bust WR3 to harness huge weeks, Fitzgerald and Crabtree are excellent high floor plays as a WR3 and they also allow you to grab only one wide receiver in your first three picks and feel okay about your WR2.
HIGH CEILING WR3/FLEX
Wide receiver is deep enough that you can take a potential everyweek starter as your WR4 or even WR5. This group is going off of the board in the sixth round or later (that could change with Benjamin), which means you can break ties against wide receiver early and still get quality players after your core five picks. Benjamin has been a WR2 when healthy, even though it hasn’t been pretty, and his arrow is pointing up. Parker has been getting heaps of praise and he might be a better fit with Jay Cutler than Ryan Tannehill. Jackson has a big-armed quarterback and strong #1 in Evans to give him single coverage to feast on off of play action. Davis was dominant before his hamstring injury and should be a full-time player once healthy. Williams was a WR2 with no Keenan Allen, but also playing through a shoulder injury for a lot of the second half of the year. Jones was banged up for a lot of the season after starting the year as the #1 wide receiver in fantasy through three weeks. Moncrief is being dragged down by the Luck shoulder worries, but he is very talented and still on the upslope side of his career.
HIGH FLOOR WR3/FLEX
If you don’t want a boom/bust play as your WR4/WR5 (or WR3 after compiling advantages at at least two other positions, there are safer week-to-week plays. Crowder and Diggs should be high volume receivers with a high PPR floor. Landry is being overdrafted as the Dolphins appears to be going away from him as a primary option, but he’ll still be startable. Garcon could be the classic Kyle Shanahan target monster in San Francisco. Marshall should up the Giants passing game in the red zone and otherwise bounce back from a terrible 2016 on a terrible Jets team. Like Randy Moss in New England, he’ll be more motivated this year. Ted Ginn Jr could get off to a hot start with Willie Snead IV suspended three games and we know what Drew Brees does for the value of his targets Randall Cobb hasn’t been healthy for the whole season for a while, if it happens this year, he’ll be a huge value. Decker might be the #3 in Tennessee, but he’s a red zone specialist and will likely outproduce ADP. None of these receivers will make your draft, but they can definitely help you get away with going light at wide receiver in the early rounds. Julian Edelman was in this tier, but his status is up in the air after a knee injury.
STRONG BENCH DEPTH
This group could and should be weekly WR3/Flex plays. Maclin is going first of the list and maybe an avoid because of that. Britt has a high floor unless Corey Coleman arrives. His situation can’t be worth than last year. Matthews is going third of the three Titans receivers after producing at a near WR1 clip while Marcus Mariota was hot. I am not against taking multiple Titans wideouts at ADP. Thielen had some massive games and clearly has chemistry with Sam Bradford. He should get off to a strong start while Michael Floyd is suspended. More reasons to wait on wide receiver.
UPSIDE BENCH PLAYS
Chris Hogan, NE
Jaron Brown, ARI
J.J. Nelson, ARI
That’s not all! Once you have your first 4-5 wide receivers filled out, you can still get receivers with the potential to break out and make your weekly lineup decisions harder. Snead is now just bench depth with his three-game suspension. Doctson has a red zone beast profile and just needs to stay healthy, as Washington’s pass offense can support three wide receivers. Lockett was tough to corral when healthy last year, if he’s over his gnarly leg break, he might pick up where he left off in December, when he was a near WR1. Perriman like Doctson has to stay healthy, but can fulfill the deep target role for Joe Flacco. Coleman is another youngster who has been bitten by the injury bug too often, but might rival Britt for team WR1 targets when healthy. There’s a dropoff on this list to Anderson, who is in the depressing unit that is the Jets offense, Ross, who hasn’t shown that he is over his shoulder surgery, and Golladay, who is coming on strong, but still projects as the fourth or fifth target in Detroit.
Mike Wallace, BAL
Jordan Matthews, BUF
Sterling Shepard, NYG
Taylor Gabriel, ATL
Mohamed Sanu, ATL
Travis Benjamin, LAC
Kevin White, CHI
Tavon Austin, LAR
Robert Woods, LAR
Kenny Stills, MIA
Torrey Smith, PHI
Cole Beasley, DAL
You don’t want to count on these wide receivers week in, week out, but they can help in a pinch. Gabriel, and Benjamin are my favorite high ceiling options. Sanu is my favorite high floor option. White has the highest season-long ceiling, but I’m not holding my breath. Wallace and Matthews might be a bit overdrafted. The rest will have some solid games here and there and of course have some injury upside, especially Nelson and Stills. This group is usually available in 12th round of later.
UPSIDE DEEP BENCH PLAYS
Don’t draft either of these guys except in the deepest leagues, but know that Gordon could be reinstated during the season, which would wreak havoc on the Browns projections, but present an interesting pickup. Floyd will miss the first four games, but camp reports are good and he could be startable if Thielen or Diggs go down.
BYE/INJURY/EMERGENCY DEEP BENCH DEPTH
Reasonable weekly volume will be there for Boldin and Kerley, but they should be one-week waiver rentals, with the possible exception of Kerley’s PPR value spiking if Garcon goes down.
IN CASE OF INJURY BREAK GLASS
Keep Inman, Mitchell, Smith-Schuster, and Coleman on waiver wire speed dial, as they are all solid talents in great pass offenses. Amendola could spring to life if Edelman goes down, and one of Rogers/Dorsett will start if Hilton or Moncrief go down. Rogers might need two injuries but had some relevance last year. Brown has a great size/speed combination and if totally over his ACL tear might be more of a 3A with Nelson. Switzer is the Amendola to Beasley’s Edelman.
WAIVER WIRE WATCH LIST
Chris Godwin, TB
Cooper Kupp, LAR
Devin Funchess, CAR
Zay Jones, BUF
Curtis Samuel, CAR
Laquon Treadwell, MIN
Cordarrelle Patterson, OAK
Marquise Goodwin, SF
Chris Conley, KC
Russell Shepard, CAR
Nelson Agholor, PHI
Demarcus Robinson, KC
Ricardo Louis, CLE
Keep this group on your waiver wire speed dial list as they are all young and possibly growing into bigger roles. Godwin has impressed daily in camp, but is stuck as the three in Tampa. Kupp might lead the Rams in catches, but what is that worth? Funchess has disappointed after a strong summer once before, I’d wait before investing. Jones is now the 2A at best with Boldin on board. Samuel has been sidelined with a hamstring and Damiere Byrd might play his way into the Ginn routes. Treadwell is watching Floyd push him down the depth chart. Patterson has a shot to be more of a receiver with a new team, but it’s a long shot. Conley and Robinson will be the #2 receiver in an offense that can’t support two fantasy relevant wide outs, but they are talented. Goodwin will be the Taylor Gabriel for Kyle Shanahan, but in a much less potent offense. Shepard might end up being the #2 in Carolina if Funchess does bupkis again. Agholor can do a reasonable impression of Jordan Matthews if Matthews goes down. Louis has great measureables and should poise himself as the #3 with more work if Coleman can’t stay healthy.
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