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 you’re favorite player is low, blame them, not me. I’m just the guy crunching the data.
After a mediocre showing against a weak New England Patriots defense, Hopkins was back with a vengeance last week. Receiving 10 of 12 targets for 107 yards and a touchdown, Hopkins is clearly rising star Deshaun Watson’s favorite receiver. In that regard, it’s very fitting that the two both take the #1 spot for this week, showing a connection similar to the one Derek Carr-to-Michael Crabtree had earlier in the season.
Monster weeks, like this, won’t always happen for Hopkins, but weeks like this, aren’t really the appeal for him as a candidate. He’s a prime wide receiver, who is always going to receive targets from a capable quarterback as long as both are heavy. In PPR Standard scoring, he’s never gone below 14 points, which is the kind of consistency I absolutely love in a player. Big weeks like this won’t always happen, but there is an underlying consistency that I see as the bigger story.
With that said, there are absolutely zero reasons to be targeting Hopkins this week unless the owner is severely undervaluing him. He showed what his ceiling can be this week, and the best bet is to wait for a bad game for Houston that hides this fact to panicking owners. Or wait until Week 7, the Texans bye week, and hope whoever has him has a losing record and needs to build a rental team that can get them a crucial win.
With Greg Olsen out for the season and Kelvin Benjamin limited by injuries, many people correctly predicted that Funchess would enjoy a larger target share than one would value him at. I personally traded off Jonathan Stewart for him (and an injured Matt Forte) in one of my leagues expecting something like this to happen. But I don’t think anyone expected him to have such an explosive week, receiving 7 of 9 targets for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
A lot of the value of Funchess is touchdown dependent, but Cam Newton did trust him over an active Benjamin with the red zone targets that he was able to capitalize on him. To some extent, his value has been inflated as a fantasy option, because of this, but it’s not as big an issue as it might be for touchdown dependent receivers, who need to run the ball in rather than have the opportunity given to him. I do think this week is a demonstration of where his ceiling roughly is, but I think he has a higher floor than many would give him credit for sheerly, because of the volume he’s getting.
I personally advocate for holding him to see if he can consistently put up these kinds of numbers, and trading him off in two or three weeks when Olsen will return and take back his target shares.
Jordy Nelson received 4 of 7 targets for 75 yards and two touchdowns. These stats are very, very good and Jordy Nelson is aptly considered one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. I will say that personally, I’m not quite as enamored with Nelson as the football fan base at large. I think to some extent he suffers from a similar problem that Funchess in that if he isn’t able to connect with Aaron Rodgers, he won’t put up good numbers.
In the three games, he’s played this season, he’s managed to connect in the end zone at least once and that’s certainly not a fluke, he has the talent to pull off those plays. Having said that, expecting it to be a given is a dangerous mindset to be going into. He’s obviously better than Funchess in that independent of who else is on the team he’s going to get targets and a good volume, but he has a much lower floor than I his stats would suggest which makes me uncomfortable compared to other options on the table.
If you have the depth on your bench, this might be a good week to offer Jordy Nelson for someone like a Michael Thomas, who’s on a bye with the New Orleans Saints, or even an elite wide receiver, who’s stats don’t look top tier right now like a Mike Evans. I just like the consistency of players like them, especially if Nelson’s week two injury flares up again. You certainly shouldn’t be cutting or selling low on him, but be careful of his boom-or-bust nature.
- Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints)
Thomas went 8 for 11 for 89 yards and a touchdown in the Saints victory over the Miami Dolphins in Wembley Stadium in London. Following a shaky Week 1, Thomas has been one of the most consistent performers this season, showing a floor of around 14 or so points in Standard PPR scoring. He’s similar to Hopkins in that regard, except that for as much praise as Watson is getting and the shaky start Drew Brees has had as far as fantasy goes this season, I do trust Brees more.
And given his propensity for interceptions in seasons past, perhaps that’s a fool’s errand, but it means that in general, I trust Thomas more than Hopkins. I traded away some WR depth this week to get Thomas on his bye week and I couldn’t feel happier about it. I think this is the perfect time to target Thomas, especially if you’re a winning team, who can afford the hit to this week’s match-up, because I think he might have one of if not the best ratios of perceived-to-actual value at this moment in time.
Tyrell Williams had the breakout week fantasy owners have been hoping for since the start of the season. Hauling in 5 of 6 targets for 115 yards and a touchdown, Williams has some of the most impressive stats for this week. Having said that, this is absolutely the time to sell on Williams and trade him off for some type of position you need in your roster, even a mid-tier flex option because of Williams points, for the most part, came from one 75-yard pass that he managed to convert into a touchdown. That was absolutely a miracle play and not indicative of the talents he’s put on display up until this point.
Prior to this week, Williams has struggled to break into double-digits in Standard PPR scoring. Six targets isn’t a bad volume, but also not something I’m writing home about, and I actually think the lower-ranked Charger this week, Keenan Allen, is a much better option than Williams. I traded off Williams last week and feel fine about it, which is hopefully, all the incentive you need to use him as a bargaining chip. If by some miracle you could trade him for Allen, that’d be ideal, but get what you can for him unless you need a low-tier boom-or-bust flex. This is the best game Williams is going to have this season and the perfect time to trade him off.
- Will Fuller V (Houston Texans)
This was Fuller’s first week of the season after a collarbone injury, and the prognosis is looking pretty good. Receiving 4 of 6 targets for 35 yards is pretty small numbers, but when two of those receptions are converted into touchdowns, it’s a different story. I’m always going to be high on a wide receiver, who a quarterback trusts in the red zone, and Fuller is no exception. Six targets is a decent target volume, although as I said in the Williams section, not something to really hang your hat on.
The major complication with Fuller is that the Texans had an outlier game, scoring a whopping 57 points. Watson trusting Fuller in the end zone in that scenario is different than trusting him over someone, like Hopkins when it’s a close contest. I’m cautiously optimistic, because the volume in the end zone is one of my biggest check marks when evaluating a wide receiver, but he could be more boom or bust than one would expect given the makeup of his team.
- Keenan Allen (Los Angeles Chargers)
Good old Keenan Allen, my favorite receiver on the Chargers by a mile. Reeling in just 5 of 11 targets isn’t exactly ideal, but converting that into a league-leading 138 yards absolutely is. Not only do I love receivers, who are used for big plays, I like the dedication to the player, even when it can’t consistently connect. 11 targets is a very healthy target share and outshine the ostensibly higher ranked Williams by almost double.
Allen is a very reliable pick-up if you can get him, but I think you’d have to pry open his owner’s hands to get him. People, who consistently put up double-digit numbers, like Allen, are highly coveted even if their ceiling and ability to convert into big weeks is limited. I think Allen is somewhat underrated in that regard, because while he’s sitting on a lone touchdown in four games, it’s more a result of strong pass defenses and the context of the play than anything Allen is doing wrong. Most people put Allen down as a Tier 2 wide receiver, but I’d argue he could prove he’s at the very least borderline Tier 1 with the right match up.
Jaron Brown received 8 of 12 targets for 105 yards, tying him at third with Hopkins for target volume for the week. Much like Allen, I’m fairly high on Brown’s abilities on the Cardinals, because he’s put up double-digits for the past three weeks after a goose egg in Week 1. The major issue with Brown isn’t what he’s done up until this point, but where his future on the team lies.
With John Brown returning to the team, and Larry Fitzgerald also is a very capable receiver, Brown’s status in the depth chart is hard to predict. He’s put up good results for the Cardinals up until this point, but if they diversify the target share, he could fall into a trap similar to the Patriots or the New York Giants offenses. Having many viable receivers means no one receiver is guaranteed a good floor, a major part of Brown’s appeal, so picking him up this point is a gamble banking on what he’s done for them up until this point. Personally, I think it’s worth it, especially given how low his value is relative to his performance, but you are taking on some risk if you pick up Brown.
Mike Evans had a solid game against the Giants, putting up 5 receptions on 10 targets for 67 yards and a touchdown. Evans was a frequent end zone target and seemed to be heavily leaned on by quarterback Jameis Winston, as his leading target share would indicate. With 42 targets over the course of four games, Mike Evans is averaging 10 targets a game, which is the kind of volume you love to see in a player.
While a good chunk of his points this week are a result of his touchdown, Mike Evans isn’t a touchdown-dependent receiver. The Giants defense did an excellent job isolating him and hurt his completion rate, which could have been much higher if split second decisions went the other way. If No. 9 is what we can expect from a mixed performance from Mike Evans, his status as a top-tier wide receiver should not be in question.
Finishing off the top ten is the A.J. Green, who received 5 of 7 targets for 63 yards and a touchdown. While the volume share isn’t exactly ideal for someone, who is by most accounts, considered a Tier 1 wide receiver, not all weeks can be like Green’s Week Three as he’s still getting the highest target share on the Bengals.
I’m really fond of the new Bill Lazor-led offense on the Bengals and think it’s worth investing in. Grabbing the Andy Dalton-to-Green combo isn’t a bad call, I’m just not sure what sort of valuation is worth it. Right now, I think we’re still at the point, where people are wary of that offenses ability, but I think it’s stride. I’d say it’s at the very least worth going for, and if you have Dalton or Green it’d be a good pick up to get the other.
- Chris Hogan (New England Patriots)
Hogan has continued his dominance among the wide receivers for the Patriots, falling just outside the top ten wide receivers for this week. Receiving 5 of 9 targets for 60 yards and a touchdown is great and he’s netted 26 targets across the season on a crowded Patriot’s offense. Between Hogan, Danny Amendola, and Brandin Cooks, I think Tom Brady likes to give it to Hogan the most, and he’s the one, I’m currently most bullish on. Having said that, when you’re on a team as high scoring as the New England Patriots, any wide receiver is a good pick-up.
Cooper Kupp, a rookie, had his first good week since the season-opener, receiving 5 of 7 targets for 60 yards and a touchdown. I’m personally not super high on Kupp’s long-term season potential, especially with someone like Todd Gurley monopolizing the ball, and between him and Sammy Watkins, I personally prefer Watkins. Kupp’s a solid flex pick-up, but he seems very boom-or-bust to me.
- Danny Amendola (New England Patriots)
Amendola received 6 of 7 targets for 42 yards and a touchdown. Much of what I talked about in Hogan’s entry holds true here, when you’re one of Brady’s weapons, you’re gonna enjoy some fantasy success. I think Amendola has a bit of an interesting relationship with Cooks, because he has a much higher floor, but a much lower ceiling. Having said that, I think Hogan provides everything Amendola does but better, so if you have to pick between the two I’d go with Hogan.
People have been wondering where Pryor has been this whole season, and this week, he decided to show up in a big way. In the Redskins loss to the Chiefs, Pryor received 3 of 5 targets for 70 yards and a touchdown, most of which came from an early 44 yard touchdown pass. I don’t know how sustainable this is for Pryor and normally I’d advise trading him, while his stock is high, but that’s complicated by Washington having a Week 5 bye. Right now, the best bet is to hold on Pryor, if you for some reason still had him, but I wouldn’t be happy about it.
- Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants)
OBJ led the targets for the week with a whopping 15, but connected on just 7 of them for 90 yards. This is about where his floor is going to be, because Manning clearly wants to pass the ball to him and will continue to give him shots, almost to his detriment. The time to pick up OBJ has passed now that he’s starting to put up some good numbers, although with a dislocated finger and lingering ankle issues it’s certainly possible that fearful owners could make an ill advised trade.
Wright caught all four of his targets for 51 yards and a touchdown in the Bears loss to the Packers. Wright occasionally puts up double-digit numbers, but across four weeks, he’s been very inconsistent. Especially with Mitchell Trubisky, whose playing-style is somewhat of an unknown on the NFL level, replacing Mike Glennon as the Bears quarterback, there’s no reason to believe in Wright. Use him as trade bait if you can, otherwise cut him unless you are seriously hurting for bench depth.
Bryant received the second most targets of the week at 13, putting him behind just OBJ, but connecting on only 5 of those is an even worse efficiency ratio than what the Giants star receiver managed. He salvaged it with a respectable 98 receiving yardage, but it’s a bit less encouraging than one would like to see on the whole. Having said that, receiving that sort of volume is amazing and I don’t think his failure to connect will stop it from happening in the future, so Dez Bryant only has more room to go up from here. If you can pick him up I would, but I think most people would be hesitant to part with that sort of volume.
The Vikings stud receiver took a bit of a dip this week, albeit with a respectable performance nonetheless. Receiving 5 of 7 targets for 98 yards exactly ties him with Dez Bryant, although his efficiency is leagues ahead of the other. I’m curious to see where Diggs will fit into the return of the Sam Bradford-led offense, part of me would want to sell him based on his perceived value and the possibility of a crash with change. But I doubt he’ll have much difficulty adjusting back to Bradford’s way of leading, and if anything his performance will go up given he’ll have a superior quarterback lobbing him passes.
- Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers)
Cobb received all four of his targets for 44 yards and a touchdown. While the volume isn’t exactly ideal, I do think Cobb will play an instrumental role in the Packers offense sans Ty Montgomery. With numbers like this the week Ty went out, I think now might be a good time to buy him cheap if you can as a solid WR2 option. His floor is pretty solid, even if the volume makes me a bit wary about his consistency. It could be lower than this, but honestly this seemed like an off game for Cobb that was salvaged by his touchdown.
- Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina Panthers)
Benjamin received all four of his targets for 104 yards, but was overshadowed by his teammate Funchess this week. While the volume wasn’t great, he’s also been dealing with an injury and he put up good yardage in spite of it. He’s very much the opposite of his boom-or-bust teammate, someone with a pretty high floor, but I do wonder if they’ll trust him with end zone targets when Funchess is performing well there and he’s still dealing with injuries. I’d pick him up over Funchess personally, once he heals up, I think he’ll be outperforming Benjamin once more, but I’d wait until next week given how injuries tend to linger.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has the funniest name in the NFL, and also put up a pretty good week. He received 3 of his 4 targets for 47 yards and a touchdown, which is enough to break into the Top 32 this week. While he enjoyed success this week, absorbing some of the target share that went to Eli Rogers, Antonio Brown had much more volume and he’s only above him because he scored a touchdown. JuJu is a decent flex option I suppose, but personally I’m not buying into it.
Michael Crabtree? Amari Cooper? Who are those nobody’s, Johnny Holton is the Raiders star receiver! All jokes aside, Holton caught his single target for a 64 yard touchdown pass. While I’m sure Holton’s enjoying his moment in the limelight, there is no hidden value here. These miracle types of passes happen, and I expect it’ll be the highlight of his season.
- Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals)
This week, Fitzgerald caught 4 of his 7 targets for 32 yards and a touchdown. It’s not ideal, but Fitzgerald is the type you can rely on to consistently put up numbers that make this Top 32. He has a solid floor, and this week is an example of that. If his owner was expecting an explosive play, like last week, you might be able to get him cheap, but I think most see recognize him as the ol’ reliable type.
Lockett had a good outing, catching 4 of his 5 targets for 67 yards. Interestingly, he also rushed twice for 24 yards, a rare play from a wide receiver. While part of me is attracted to that kind of value, as a sleeper flex option, looking at his statistics, he’s done OK twice and horribly twice. If you need a boom-or-bust guy, Lockett’s not a horrible choice, but I think there are more explosive options if you’re gambling on an inconsistent player.
- Adam Humphries (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Humphries caught 6 of 7 targets for 70 yards, an efficient completion and yardage rate. I like the volume of targets to Humphries, and I also like where he’s been trending over the last two weeks. Humphries is definitely a good sleeper pick-up, if he hasn’t already been grabbed. It’s a bit of a gamble, especially with a weapon like Mike Evans loading up on the targets, but relative to a lot of the other options it’s not a bad call.
Parker had a solid week, going 6 for 8 and 69 yards in what was otherwise a disastrous performance for the Dolphins. Parker is probably the sole Dolphin worth-owning at the stage, with the arguable exception of a floundering Jay Ajayi, and this week is about where his floor seems to be. This week didn’t change Parker’s stock one way or the other, just reaffirmed what the general consensus regarding him was. If you are a fan of his consistency, it wouldn’t be a terrible time to try and get him, given that it was a lower-end week, but it won’t be particularly cheap.
Moncrief caught all three of his targets for 30 yards and a touchdown, which was just enough to find a way onto this list. While the stats aren’t terrible, it mostly came from an 18 yard reception for the touchdown. That’s not bad, but he’s not getting volume and he’s not being targeted in the red zone, so this week looks more like a happy accident than a trend we can point to. If you look at his previous games of the season, this is the first one he broke into double digits on, reaffirming to me that he should stay in the free agency.
Jeffery caught 3 of his 6 targets for 29 yards and a touchdown, putting him just below Moncrief in spite of the greater volume. Jeffery has been catching a bit of a raw deal, because opposing defenses have been isolating him and preventing him from gaining the traction someone getting his volume of targets should have. Jeffrey score is a bit lower than what his current evaluation is, but I don’t think it changes his stock one way or the other. If I had to go one way; however, I’d lean towards trading him off, since three of his four outings didn’t break double-digits, even if it’s a relatively solid eight point floor.
Louis had a surprisingly good week, receiving 5 of 9 targets for 64 yards. That’s actually really good volume for a wide receiver, but this is the first week Louis has managed to break into double-digits for the season. Adding to the complications is the Browns quarterback being DeShone Kizer, one of the statistically-worst quarterbacks of this season. You have to be in serious hot water if you’re relying on a Browns wide receiver as a sleeper, and even then I think there must be better options in the free agency.
Wilson caught 4 of his 5 targets for 63 yards, most notably a 37 yard catch towards the end of the game. Wilson has some value as a flex option depending on the size of your league, because he’s been trending upwards over the last two games. Having said that, I don’t know if it’s enough to justify playing him, so I’d hold for now and see if he can get double-digits for a third week, before considering him as an option.
- Brandon Marshall (New York Giants)
Marshall received 6 of 10 targets for 46 yards. While his efficiency leaves something to be desired, he is being targeted frequently and that’s especially valuable in PPR leagues. As Manning has been trending upwards, Marshall has too, and with two consecutive double-digit weeks, I think he’s a solid flex option in most leagues. He’s worth targeting for sure, especially while his perceived value is low.
- Sterling Shepard (New York Giants)
Shepard rounds off the trifecta of New York receivers, finishing just under Marshall after receiving all five of his targets for 54 yards. The debate between Marshall and Shepard, as to who is a more valuable receiver is an interesting one, and personally, I tend to side on Shepard’s side. He didn’t get as much volume this particular week, but he didn’t have the costly in completions that Marshall did, and part of his smaller target share was that he was just covered better. Both are solid, but if you have to start one of the other as your flex option I’d go with Shepard.
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