By Grant Playter | Staff Writer
Howdy loyal readers, Grant here with your weekly round-up of wide receivers you should be eyeing for this upcoming week. If you want to know who you should start in your fantasy league, these rankings should be an excellent tool to advise you.
A word of warning before we get into it, however. Everyone gets hot and cold streaks, and just because someone performed one way this week doesn’t mean they’ll repeat it next week. But if someone is consistently in the top ten despite getting little to no fanfare from leagues at large, it might be a prospect worth considering.
The statistics used to determine these rankings come from ESPN.com, so if your favorite player is low, blame them, not me. I’m just the guy crunching the data.
Going into this week, Diggs was seen by many as a bust. He had a strong Week 1, but many people who picked him up in response were disappointed with his Week 2 performance. Going back to form a week after may be seen as frustrating by those who are trying to trend his progress, but he was explosive this week. He had 8 receptions on 11 targets for 173 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Diggs is a tricky one to evaluate at this stage in the game. If you hold onto him and he busts, you’re not going to get much value out of his two performances. If you trade him and he continues to have these explosive weeks, you’ll be kicking yourself for trading him off. I think if you can get at the very least a solid RB2 or WR2 for Diggs, you should go for it. Someone in one of my league managed to leverage Diggs for Kareem Hunt, and obviously, if you can use him to bolster those sorts of trades, you absolutely should. But if you can’t get what you view as good trade value out of him, holding him and hoping for another good week isn’t terrible either.
Fitzgerald has had a pretty slow start to the season, totaling nine receptions over two games. In the Cardinals game against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football; however, Fitzgerald exploded, receiving 13 passes on 15 targets for 149 yards. Converting on a touchdown in the red zone, and you’d almost believe it’s impossible for the Cardinals to have ultimately lost the game.
Targeting Fitzgerald this week is nice, but complicating matters is the return of John Brown to the Cardinals offense. He’s listed as questionable at the time of this writing, but if he does play, he’s likely to take a good amount of targets away from Fitzgerald. If he doesn’t play, Fitzgerald will likely perform well again, which will further inflate his fantasy value relative to what you’re going to get out of him long-term. Provided Brown plays, you might be able to grab Fitzgerald, who can absolutely perform under the right circumstances, for good value, but I wouldn’t trade any tier one positions away for him at this point, which most owners will likely ask.
Everyone who as chanting “Brandin Cooks is dead!” two weeks into the season can finally calm down after his first big game of the season. Cooks caught 5 of a solid 7 targets for 131 yards and two touchdowns, earning him the bronze medal for the week and a great spot on this list. If Tom Brady continues the performance he’s been putting in the last two weeks, Cooks is absolutely someone you should be eyeing for your team.
Targeting Cooks this week is at best a tricky proposition since his value has been opened to owners throughout every league. What you need to hope for, similar to Fitzgerald, is that for one reason or another, he’s not targeted much if at all by Brady in the upcoming game against the Carolina Panthers. If he’s utilized to the same extent, he was against the Houston Texans, you’ll need to buy deep on Cooks, who simply isn’t worth it given the depth in the Patriots passing offense. If he’s not, and you can get him for some second-tier talent, I think it’s a good trade given the Patriots strong game this season.
His second week back, after an injury hampered him to begin the season, everyone got the returns they thought they would get when they bought in on OBJ when they drafted him in the first-place. He had nine receptions on 13 targets for 79 yards and two touchdowns are exactly what you’d expect for the Giants superstar receiver. While the Giants ultimately lost the game to the Philadelphia Eagles on a last-second, game-winning field goal, it was OBJ, who helped them make it as close as they did in the second half.
OBJ is almost certainly going to have a great week against Tampa Bay, so in theory, picking him up this week would be amazing for your fantasy prospects. But I’m not sure if anyone who’s held on to OBJ up to this point is gonna trade him off once he starts seeing his usual play, You’ll have to offer another WR1, who has hot perceived value, and I’m not sure if you’ll be able to get a fair deal if you manage to make any work. For now, hope he has an off game.
Watkins received 6 of his 7 targets for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the Chargers narrow victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The targets are very solid, if not exceptional, and you can expect a lot of solid production out of Watkins going forward. This was Watkins most explosive week ever, and if you invested on him in Week Two, you’ll be clapping yourself on the back.
The upside for anyone targeting Watkins is worry over his concussion could lead to hasty deal-making. If a team is looking at a strong opponent and wants the victory, offering a juicy player like a Diggs or Fitzgerald, who likely won’t have as much long-term success as Watkins, could be an advantageous trade. Outside of that, you’ll probably need to wait for an uneventful week to pick up Watkins, as most hot WR prospects go.
Hilton had very impressive yardage in the Colts victory over the Cleveland Browns, second-only to Diggs with 153 yards. Going 7 for 9 on receptions and scoring a touchdown certainly doesn’t hurt his numbers either. Hilton has been getting a lot of buzz, much like Watkins, and had an equally explosive week.
I think T.Y. is best used as trade bait, however. Up until this game, he’s had WR3 games, which is solid, but not worth his current valuation. If you can try to get a decent RB2 or WR2 off of him, someone like Michael Thomas or Sterling Shepard. I think this is the best-time to get rid of T.Y. if you have him, I don’t think he’ll have a better week than this.
A.J. Green had his best week yet, receiving 10 of 13 targets for 111 yards and a touchdown. When someone is being targeted 13 times by their quarterback that’s a sign that they want to trust and rely on them, and is honestly, even more, important than yardage or touchdowns when evaluating long-term value. It’s not the most targets for a wide receiver for this week, but when that’s almost half of Andy Dalton’s 27 targets on a revamped Bengals offense, you need to sit up and take notice.
I would pay big bucks for Green now. Yes, his valuation is going to be high, and there is the possibility that this week is an outlier. But I see Green trending upward as a notable figure in an otherwise weak Bengals offense. If they’re rebuilding the Bengals offense, Green is likely to be at the center of that change since at the end of the day he delivers, and that drives his fantasy value through the roof for the upcoming weeks.
Brown received 10 of 14 targets for 110 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers game against the Chicago Bears. After two disappointing performances from the stud wide receiver, Brown showed again why he’s the Steelers primary offensive weapon. This is the first-time Brown connected in the end zone for the season, but his primary role of driving the ball has not been neglected either.
If you can pick up Brown, I think this week is indicative of what you can expect point-wise of him, with weeks like Week 2 every now and again. Having said that based on name alone, similar to OBJ, I don’t know if you’ll be able to get an advantageous or even fair deal for Brown after this week unless the other owner plans on breaking his legs or something. If you can get him, awesome, but for now it’s a bit of a pipe dream.
Baldwin put up solid, borderline WR2 stats in the first two weeks of this season. This week, in a trend that’s resonated throughout the Top Ten, was his breakout week. Baldwin received 10 of 15 targets for 105 yards and a touchdown. While his catch efficiency isn’t great, or even his average yards per play, Baldwin is tied with Fitzgerald and Emmanual Sanders in target attempts for the week, which speaks well to his long-term prospects amid admittedly shaky play.
Your best bet at getting Baldwin is to find owners, who see this as an outlier week and not indicative of long-term performance. The ticket to this will likely be his current questionable status. If he doesn’t play in what will almost certainly be a high-scoring game against the Colts on Sunday, and other receivers stats look comparable or better on paper than Baldwin’s, this idea may be reinforced. It’d be even better if he’s not out but used in a limited capacity, because of his groin injury. This week might be tricky, but next week could be the perfect time to get a solid borderline WR1.
- Sterling Shephard (New York Giants)
Shepard caps off the Top Ten, receiving 7 of 10 targets for 133 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s game against the Eagles. In an offense that has been revamped by Ben McAdoo, Giants head coach, after the offensive lines utter inability to protect Eli Manning in Week Two, good wide receivers like Shepard will benefit from quick short passes. Especially in PPR leagues, the outlook on Shepard is better than it ever has been.
It’s always tricky grabbing players that score great since owners like to ride the high and see how it plays out, but Shepard may be overlooked in the sea of solid WR performances this week. With OBJ and Brandon Marshall getting the lion’s share of the attention from anyone who believes in the Giants offense, Shepard could be a sleeper as far as evaluations go. He’s the person I’m personally targeting in all of my leagues, because I think, for this week, in particular, he has the best street value relative to the data set he’s put forth.
Nelson was targeted in the red zone and it paid dividends for him to the tune of two touchdowns. While he had six receptions and targeted nine-times for 52-yards, doesn’t look great on paper if Nelson is receiving these targets when it’s time to connect and score then I feel confident about his prospects moving forward. With a solid performance this week, Nelson is worthy of some trade offers, but given that the two games he played in, scored over twenty points in standard fantasy football, I’d be doubtful most owners would go for it.
- Chris Hogan (New England Patriots)
The star of the Patriots offense fell a bit this week in lieu of Cooks, but still put in a good fantasy day for anyone, who managed to pick him up. Receiving 4 of 6 targets for 68 yards are solid WR2 numbers, but the two touchdowns he got on top of that, are why he’s in talks as one of the Patriots best weapons going forward. If you can scoop him up in the wake of all the hype surrounding Cooks that’d be awesome, but I think most people are well aware of the great value Hogan adds to just about any fantasy team.
- Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints)
Thomas put in a very solid performance for the Saints this week, receiving 7 of 8 targets for 87 yards and a touchdown. Thomas has been trending upward throughout the season and this is his biggest week yet, scoring over 20 points in standard ESPN scoring. He’s a WR2, who may be able to move up to WR1 as the season moves on, but he’s too hot this week to focus on targeting. If you’re lucky, he’ll have an off week next week and owners will fail to see the relatively high-ceiling for Thomas.
Parker received 8 of 10 targets for 76 yards and a touchdown this week. Parker has been in the talks as a solid asset for awhile now, and this week was an actualization of that promise. If you have him, that’s great, he’s likely to deliver for the Dolphins, even when they have crappy games against the New York Jets of all teams. If you don’t, I wish you the best of luck getting him, because it’ll be a steep price, I don’t think is worth it, especially with a middling quarterback like Jay Cutler.
Garcon is one of a select few wide receivers, who made this list in spite of not seeing any end zone play. Garcon was a good receiver for his team, nabbing 7 receptions on 10 targets for an amazing 142 yards. His efficiency at receiving the ball will be critical for the 49ers going forward, which makes him worth a pickup from the free agent pool, if he’s there, but if he’s not seeing end zone play, his value will be somewhat situational. He’s not a bad WR3 or Flex play, but his value is definitely inflated this week.
Matthews had shaky efficiency, catching 6 of his 10 targets, but managed to convert that into 87 yards and a touchdown, landing him in the top half of this list. Matthews led the team in targets, which is always a good sign for long-term prospects. I’m a bit hesitant to recommend picking up someone, who put up lukewarm numbers in the first two weeks, but Matthews is a decent flex or maybe WR3 option for next week’s matchup against the Texans. At the very least. I wouldn’t like the pickup.
Hill reeled in 5 of 8 targets for 77 yards and a touchdown in the Chiefs victory against the Los Angeles Chargers. In a ground-heavy game for the Chiefs, Hill still being targeted as much as he is great for his long-term prospects and definitely worth a pick-up if you think his owners see it as an outlier. I don’t see that as particularly likely and it’s probably not worth the effort, but stranger things have happened.
Gabriel came out of nowhere this week, netting 5 receptions on 6 targets for 79 yards and a touchdown. He’s a decent flex play in general, but I think after a strong week, like this, if you do want to hold on to him, I wouldn’t hate the move, but I think you can get more value out of a trade this particular week.
Poor Golden Tate. Having the game-winning touchdown reversed and losing on a technicality isn’t a great feeling, and certainly hurt his fantasy prospects. But for people who have Tate, this was a reassuring week after a lukewarm performance against the Giants on Monday Night Football in Week 2. Tate caught 7 of a solid 11 targets for 58 yards and a touchdown, which is reassuring to people, who felt he was lacking in the target department. Tate is sure to be a target in the Lions offense, a solid WR2, and worth looking into, if you have some RB2’s or flex plays you’re not doing much with.
- Robby Anderson (New York Jets)
The Jets’ offense is not something we typically talk about, but after a dominant performance against the Dolphins, one of their wide receivers makes the list. Netting three receptions on six targets, Anderson made the best out of a comparatively small load to the tune of 95 yards and a touchdown. Anderson is a decent flex play based on what team the Jets are playing, so if you can pick him up for cheap, I’d advise it. His evaluation may be a bit inflated after a solid week, but I do think anyone is banking on the Jets having a dominant offense.
- DeSean Jackson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Jackson received 4 of 7 targets for 84 yards and a touchdown. These numbers are pretty solid, albeit a bit inflated given the usual prevalence of Mike Evans for the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers play the struggling Giants this week, and while I personally think the Giants don’t want to go deeper into the winless territory, if you feel like their offensive line will falter, Jackson is a solid flex play. Certainly worth looking into, if not an automatic pick-up.
- Geronimo Allison (Green Bay Packers)
Allison received 6 of his 8 targets for an impressive 122 yards, which nets him a spot on this list in spite of not netting any touchdowns. Allison benefited greatly from the injury to Randall Cobb, and once he returns, I expect to see Allison return to his usual fantasy irrelevance. If for some reason you have him, trade him before you have to drop him for better prospects.
- Brice Butler (Dallas Cowboys)
Butler was targeted a measly two times during the game, but he made those connections count, receiving for 90 yards and a touchdown. While it’s nice to see Dak Prescott target lesser utilized receivers, they’re lesser utilized for a reason. I don’t see Butler becoming an integral part of the Cowboys offense, especially with just two targets this week, so if you have him use him for trade bait or cut him for someone more consistent.
- Robert Woods (Los Angeles Rams)
Woods was used as a solid driver in the Rams game against the 49ers, catching 6 of his 7 targets for 108 yards. Woods had a good Week 1 and a bad Week 2, so there’s reason to consider him irrelevant or consider him as a flex option for the Rams. It’s a bit of a crossroads, so it’s ultimately gonna be a decision regarding how you feel about your flex options.
- Travis Benjamin (Los Angeles Chargers)
Benjamin went 5 for 8 and 105 yards in the Chargers ill-fated matchup against the Chiefs. A lot like Woods, he’s a pretty effective driver, but hasn’t seen much red zone time outside of a touchdown in Week 1. In that regard, he’s probably a better pickup than Woods, but I do think he has a lower floor than Woods. Again, we have a flex option, whose evaluation will be highly team-determinant.
- Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons)
Jones performance this week was decent, going 7 for 12 and 91 yards, but perhaps not what one would expect from a big a name as Jones. The issue Jones owners are going to have is figuring out if his high valuation is accurate or if the lack of touchdowns will be an issue for someone considered a WR1. I think if you can get an RB1 for trading Jones, it might be worth the gamble. The talent is definitely there, we all know that, but he might be a better player than a better fantasy player.
Thomas was 6 for 9 and 98 yards, which has led to his highest-scoring for the season. Thomas has consistently put up mid-teen points in ESPN standard scoring, and I’d argue is a borderline WR2. This consistency is something I personally love to see in a player, and I’d be willing to target him if he has an owner, who doesn’t realize the value of his consistency. His current hamstring injury could be an issue, but it could also make for good timing to target him.
- Bruce Ellington (Houston Texans)
Ellington came out of nowhere this week to receive 4 of 7 targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. After two consecutive weeks of zero points, some people may be eyeing Ellington as a potential pick-up from the free agency. I understand that perspective, but it’s a bit too reactionary for my tastes. If you have someone, whose doing absolutely nothing for you, it’s worth benching Ellington to see how he’s utilized this week, but I do think this was an outlier week for him.
- Adam Thielen (Minnesota Vikings)
Theilen received 5 of 8 targets for 98 yards in the Vikings win over the Buccaneers. The stat line is very similar to Travis Benjamin, and my analysis is going to follow along that track. I think Thielen is more highly-regarded given an explosive Week 1 performance, but is a similar evaluation to Benjamin. And while it’s certainly possible, he has a higher ceiling, I do think you’re likely to get more bang for your buck if you target Benjamin over Theilen.
- Brandon Marshall (New York Giants)
Marshall had his biggest game of the season, serving as one the Giants primary offensive tools. He received 8 of 11 targets for 66 yards, which isn’t sexy but delivers in PPR leagues. With a quick, aggressive passing offense, I think we’re gonna see an uptick in performance from Marshall, making him a decent flex pick-up if no one else in your league sees that.
- DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans)
The Texans best weapon didn’t get unleashed to his full capacity in this week’s game against the Patriots. Going 7 for 8 and 76 yards, the Patriots knew about Deshaun Watson’s dependence on Hopkins and did their best to keep him covered. If this is a tract future teams follow, Hopkins might be getting more than he bargained for, and we’ll get a real test of his capacity of a player. I’m a bit pessimistic in that regard and would be looking to trade him off, but the talent is definitely there — it’s more a question of when it will fully materialize.
- Emmanuel Sanders (Denver Broncos)
Coming off a hot Week 2, Sanders put up serviceable numbers in Week 3, going 7 for 15 and 75 yards. His efficiency was not great, but I think that is more an aberration and indicative of the play in this particular game than anything Sanders is doing wrong on the whole. I’m personally targeting him, because this week is slightly below the value I have him at, especially after receiving a whopping 15 targets, but whether owners are willing to part with him, after a serviceable performance is debatable.
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