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 struggling to reach the numbers he put up last season, Amari Cooper finally had his 2017 breakout against the Kansas City Chiefs. His reception rate was a bit shaky, a lot of dropped passes meant he was just 11 for 19 on receptions, but he made that up putting up 210 yards and 2 touchdowns. 210 ten yards is not only the most receiving yardage in a game this week, it’s the highest for the season and the only time a receiver has broken the 200 yard mark. This was the first week Amari Cooper looked like the wide receiver he was promised to be.
One aspect of the discussion that I think needs to be addressed is the match-up Michael Crabtree had this week, who has been shining in part because of Cooper’s struggles, but also because of his own talent. Crabtree was paired with Marcus Peters, one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league. This kept Crabtree out of contention for most passes, and it’s why more volume was fielded to Cooper in this particular game.
Cooper will succeed when he gets this type of volume, he has the athleticism to make the most out of the receptions that he does get, but the issue is ball control with him. It’s why Carr has been going to Crabtree over him, because Cooper sometimes makes the big play, and he sometimes drops the ball and takes the offense off the field. This week he bloomed under a bevy of targets, but it’s not like his volume before this week was bad. It’s also worth noting that when they were at the goal line it was Crabtree who was getting the looks, not Cooper.
I think this next week we’ll see more regression toward the mean. Cooper had a lot of success this week which will likely give him a bit more of a hot hand against the Bills. His big play ability will likely exceed Crabtree’s in that regard. Having said that Crabtree will likely take away some of the volume Cooper got this week, and will have a higher floor than Cooper. At this point it’s what you prefer between a good floor and an insane ceiling between the two, but I think I’d still take Crabtree for the rest of season. Cooper can blow up like this, but the consistency isn’t there, and unless you want him for a flex spot I don’t think he’s worth buying. If you’re trading him it’d be excellent to bank off his high evaluation this week and get a dependable contributor.
My words, verbatim from last week’s round-up: “Do not pick up Kenny Stills.” While we let that egg cook on my face for a little bit, let’s get the stat rundown on Kenny Stills, because boy was it impressive. Stills received 6 of 9 targets, which isn’t the volume you’d expect for the number two wide receiver, but brought them in for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Stills was an instrumental part of the Dolphins comeback victory, which is surprising for the little known wide receiver.
Stills has an undeniable chemistry with replacement quarterback Matt Moore, as his performance this week and then against the Ravens shows. It’s always tricky trading for guys on the Thursday night games, because 9 times out of 10 you’re not going to get them in time to start them, unless your league gets the trade done in the Tuesday-Wednesday area. On the back of this performance I think he’s a very good flex player and if you can pick him up off of waivers it should be worth it. Having said that, he’s not going to be a WR1 or even WR2, so temper your expectations and Stills can be a fantastic add to your roster.
Outside of a great week one performance and a solid week five outing, Tyreek Hill has been underperforming relative to his WR1 label. This week we saw the boom come back with Hill receiving 6 of 8 targets for 125 yards, third most on the week, and a touchdown. The Chiefs and Raiders game was a fantastic showdown, and Hill was a big part of what made it so much fun to watch.
As far as long-term value, I would compare Hill to T.Y. Hilton. Both are going to have very good games, but the floor is so low that it’s a risk to start them. With Hill it’s even more muddled because there are so many other pass-catching options on the Chiefs, which lowers his volume but also opens him up to less coverage. The point is that Hill is a headache, and for his value I don’t think it’s worth it. I’d personally trade him off as part of some type of package for a different WR1 or an Rb1, which may be feasible after a strong outing like this.
Even with the Falcons offense being the mess that it is, Julio Jones has continued to put up great games that keep him in the WR1 tier. Jones reeled in 9 of 13 targets for 99 yards and a touchdown, the sole scoring effort made in the 23-7 loss against the Patriots. Right now, Julio Jones may be the only Falcon worth owning outside of Devonta Freeman, and even then it’s a bit muddled.
Julio has struggled to have these big weeks throughout the season, and doesn’t have the floor you would expect out of an elite wide receiver. He’s put up as little as 6 points, which granted was against a strong Bills defense in week four but a cause for concern for someone valued as highly as Julio. Part of me thinks he might be worth trading after a big game like this given the state the Falcon’s offense is currently in. If you can cash in on his name value for an RB1, I think you pull the trigger. If it’s an WR1, it’s gonna be on a case-by-case basis.
The Seahawks absolutely destroyed the New York Giants this week, and Doug Baldwin was a big beneficiary of that. Baldwin caught 9 of 12 targets for 92 yards and a touchdown, narrowly behind Jones for the week. The Seahawks pass offense utterly destroyed an exhausted Giants defense who had managed to retain the lead throughout the first half.
I would temper expectations for Baldwin going forward because I think pass heavy offenses playing against the Giants are going to have somewhat inflated numbers. Baldwin is a solid WR2 who can absolutely have these big blow-up games with the right match-up, but the low floor is absolutely there. I like his odds against the Texans next week personally, but it won’t be as good as this week. He’s worth it to trade for, but it has to be an appropriate value.
Jarvis Landry places sixth on the list for the second week in a row, which makes it a bit surprising that he isn’t the highest Dolphin on this list. But hey, that’s fantasy football in a nutshell, and Landry’s numbers are still great. Landry had 7 receptions on 11 targets for 93 yards and a touchdown.
I’m writing this piece after a disappointing Thursday night performance from Landry, but even if he has an off game I think it’s worth investing in Landry. With that in mind, I still maintain that Landry is a top tier wide receiver and would be a wonderful addition to any fantasy roster. I’m going to attempt to buy him low on the back of performances like this, even with a risky backup quarterback, and I encourage anyone reading this to do likewise.
Mike Evans was Mike Evans this week, putting in another elite fantasy showing. He had 7 receptions on 10 targets for 88 yards and a touchdown. What’s especially notable about this outing is that it was widely expected that the Bills would shut down the Buccaneers offense, but Evans played a pivotal role in the absolute destruction of the Bills defense.
Mike Evans continues to live up to his expectations after a somewhat shaky start, and any trades involving him would likely be lateral moves. His bye occurred in the first week of the season, so he might be worth it for a slight downgrade for a superior receiver on a bye, but that’s so situational that it isn’t likely to occur. Evans will most likely be locked into whatever roster he’s currently on.
This one is a bit of a surprise for me, football fans, the Packers, and probably Ginn himself. Ginn had a great game, catching all 7 of his targets for 147 yards. What’s especially notable about Ginn is that he’s the first individual in this top ten to make it here without a touchdown, which says a lot about the consistency he displayed on the night.
This is the second week in a row where Ted Ginn has performed for the Saints. Hesitantly I like him as a WR3 or flex option, but with Ingram, Kamara, and Thomas eating into his volume I do worry that this is unsustainable. If you can get him for the right price go for it, his upside is on display here, but it’s worth tempering expectations even if you want to believe in these great performances.
Dez Bryant has performed solidly this season and this week was a continuation of that. Bryant had 7 catches on 10 targets for 63 yards and a touchdown. In a week that’s a bit weak on wide receiving scoring this is enough to land him in the top ten with just 19.3 points in PPR Standard scoring.
Bryant is reliable in the sense that he’s rarely going to have blow-up games, but will usually put up somewhere in the mid-teens on scoring. He might get a bump if the Ezekiel Elliott suspension goes through as far as volume goes, and if you think it’ll go through it’s worth targeting him. I can’t see Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris getting the amount of volume Zeke is, so that will likely pool over to Bryant and the other receivers. I don’t think it’ll go through, but if you can get the right price it may rise dramatically.
Rounding off the top ten is Travis Benjamin, who had a good night against a Bronco defense that’s begun to fall from grace. Benjamin had 1 reception for 42 yards and a touchdown, which is nice but nothing to write home about. What really elevated him was a 65 yard punt return touchdown on top of that, a relative rarity in the NFL.
Benjamin is interesting if inconsistent as an option. His floor, as shown last week, is literally non-existent, but the targets he gets in the end zone elevate him to flex status. Sometimes he’s used as a driver, but it doesn’t seem to happen all that often, and it’s not consistent enough to be considering too heavily as a factor. Gun to my head, I’d take someone like Will Fuller, who is entirely touchdown dependent, as opposed to Benjamin who’s just mostly reliant on them.
Antonio Brown fell ton spots and out of the top ten for the week, but eleventh in the entire league is nothing to be ashamed of. Brown’s efficiency was shaky, catching just 4 of 10 targets, but he leveraged those receptions into 65 yards and a touchdown. It was a tough match-up against the Bengals secondary that had some efficiency in shutting down Brown, and that may continue against a stout Lions defense this week. There’s no reason not to start Brown or try to trade him off, but I expect his numbers will be capped to something resembling this week’s mid-teen point performance.
Brandin Cooks has strayed from boom-bust to consistent middle of the road performance as Brady grows more comfortable using him as a pass catching option. This week he had 4 receptions on 5 targets for 65 yards and a touchdown, tying him exactly with the aforementioned Brown. It’s up to Cooks to make the most of the limited volume he gets on a crowded Patriots receiving core, but for three weeks in a row he’s done exactly that. He’s riskier than a lot of options and I don’t know how much I’d be willing to pay for him personally, but he looks like a low-floor, low-ceiling WR2 in my estimation. If that appeals to you, go for it, but I’ll personally look for different options.
Michael Thomas had a return to form from the low target performance in week six, netting 7 receptions on 11 targets for 82 yards. The lack of touchdowns isn’t terrible since he derived most of his value as a driver and received some end zone looks. I like Thomas a lot as a consistent performer, and even with Ginn and the duo of Ingram and Kamara taking volume away from him he still had 11 targets this game. Thomas is a great pick-up if you can gt him and I’m certain he’ll be a Top 12 wide receiver for the rest of the season.
The Jags got it done in the air this week, which I’m sure was a pleasant surprise to any Blake Bortles owners. The biggest beneficiary of that was Allen Hurns, someone who’s been hurt by his team’s reliance on Leonard Fournette. With Fournette out Hurns got a good volume boost, but I wouldn’t expect weeks like this to come often and would leave him out of your line-up. I cut Hurns before this week and it’s a shame that his big week came here, but his numbers up to this point were disappointing and we should chalk this performance up as an aberration.
If you want a player who is the definition of touchdown dependent value, allow me to introduce you to Cooper Kupp. In weeks where he is able to get into the end zone, he’ll put up somewhere between 15-17 points. This was one of those weeks, where 4 receptions on 10 targets led to 51 receiving yards and a touchdown. If you want to count on that have it, go for it, but given that the most points he’s scored without a touchdown is 7.4 I’m personally gonna look for other options.
Deonte Thompson was signed by the Bills this week and immediately performed, catching all four of his targets for 107 yards. Thompson is the epitome of a bench stash, they tested the waters with him this week and if it keeps up next week he can hit your starting roster. But right now I’d rather have Jordan Matthews than Thompson because Matthews has been their go to guy in the past. It’s wait and see with Thompson, but if you have bench space with failed lottery tickets, Thompson is a fresh one to pick up.
I love me some Nelson Agholor and it seems like Carson Wentz agrees, as the WR2 outperformed Jeffery in another week. Agholor caught 4 of 5 targets for 45 yards and a touchdown, although it’s worth noting that his touchdown came very late in the game and easily could not have happened. Agholor is less consistent than i would like, but people were selling him for pennies a few weeks ago and this week I flipped him for Emmanuel Sanders. Holding on Agholor is taking a risk if you think you can get immediate value for him, and personally I think this is the week to sell and cut any losses. The stock might be rising higher, but it could just as easily crash as it has in week’s past.
Paul Richardson had his best game of the season against the Giants, which isn’t saying a lot but it’s enough to get him a spot in the list. Richardson was 2 for 2 on receptions and brought them in for 61 yards and a touchdown. I cut Richardson from any rosters I had him on weeks ago, and I’m seeing him as a frequent pick-up off the waiver wire. I would advise against that as the match-up won’t be as good against the Texans as it was the Giants, and with the minimal volume he gets I don’t expect another game like this. He’s no Will Fuller, this is an aberration that likely won’t repeat.
Mack Hollins had a monster play, bringing in his sole target for a 65 yard touchdown scoring reception. Given that Hollins is a rookie it’s worth considering the idea that his volume will continue after making a big play, but with Jeffery and Agholor already soaking up a large target shares Hollins is nothing more than a lottery ticket at this point. If you want to stash him on your bench and wait-and-see I won’t begrudge the move, mostly because he is a rookie and his not-so-illustrious history is rather short, but playing him would be buying way too much into the hype.
Albert Wilson came back from a bad week with a vengeance, missing one pass but receiving the other for a 63 yard touchdown. Wilson is a confusing player because he wears a number of hats – sometimes he gets volume and is used as a driver, sometimes he isn’t used at all, and sometimes he’s used for critical plays. Evaluating him as a result is tricky, and the best thing you can do is either stick him in a flex spot and pray, or trade him off based on his okay stat line and give someone else the headache. I prefer the latter approach, and would advise that personally.
Brandon LaFell should be so much better than he is, but as it stands he caught 4 of 7 targets for 28 yards and a touchdown. LaFell gets so much opportunity but is unable to capitalize on it to any real gain, and while occasionally he puts up flex-worthy numbers like this most times he does not. He might be a decent flex play this week given the Bengals match-up, but you’re playing with fire. I love consistent volume as much as the next guy, and getting a score might even raise it a bit, but if he can’t deliver like he did this week it’s likely to regress.
Coming back from his injury Mohamed Sanu did pretty well, catching 6 of 10 targets for 65 yards. From a fantasy perspective he, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman all put up fine numbers, but it’s not working in cohesion and costing them games which definitely worries me. I’m somewhat trepidatious starting Sanu because of this, but the stat line is alluring and I’d be willing to flex Sanu in spite of the difficulties. Just be wary of the low floor that isn’t befitting of the talent he has.
Robby Anderson three receptions on 5 targets for 35 yards and a touchdown. The debate between Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson continues, and while the recent stat line favors Anderson I personally would rather have Kearse. If you can flip Anderson for Kearse based on that I would, but riding the hot hand is a strategy in football as much as it is in fantasy football, so it is a risk. I think Kearse is the more consistent performer of the two jets wide receivers, but holding on Robby Anderson isn’t a terrible call at this point either. He’s especially useful if you need boom-bust value on your line-up in a tough match-up.
DeSean Jackson put together a solid game, catching 5 of 8 pass attempts for 73 yards. Jackson can usually get it done as far as fantasy value goes, serving a variety of functions that usually get him some mileage. The issue he has is similar to the one Albert Wilson has in that you can’t predict his utility and his projected consistency takes a hit, but I’m not as worried with Jackson as I am with Wilson because his floor has been so low this season. Jackson is a fine WR3 or flex play, and that’s about the value you’d get for him after this week. With that in mind, trading him is more about if he meshes with your roster than any buy low or sell high opportunities.
Marquise Goodwin had a mixed outing, catching just half of his 8 targets for 80 yards. The volume he got, and what he made out of it, lead me to believe that his targets will continue to rend in this fashion, and I think Goodwin is a great flex pick-up to grab off the waiver wire. His floor is uncomfortably low, but the value is there and more importantly the risk is mitigated by the number of targets he’s seeing.
Kansas City had a lot of high scoring players this week, but Demarcus Robinson is probably the oddest of the bunch. He hasn’t performed in any significant capacity prior to this week, amassing just 4 receptions across six games and a 2.9 point high, but here he had 5 receptions on 8 targets for 59 yards. I’m not entirely sure what brought this on, it most likely was because of gameflow, but he’s nothing more than a lottery ticket. The targets mean that I don’t hate the pick-up, but he absolutely should not be a start on an already crowded Chief offense.
JuJu has continued to serve as a solid wide receiver two to complement Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell, 2 of his 3 targets for 29 yards and a touchdown. With Martavis Bryant benched following a social media firestorm and demands to be traded, JuJu is most likely going to receive even more of a bump in targets. It’s minimal, but for me it means picking him up from the free agency and playing him, so long as he’s available. Trading might be a bit hasty, since he’s already competing for attention, but he’s certainly a flex worthy player.
Michael Crabtree stepped out of the spotlight for Amari Cooper, but he still made the most out of the game. Crabtree caught 3 of 7 targets, most of which game in the end-zone, bringing them in for 24 yards and a touchdown. This week was a bit of a down week for Crabtree, but as I talked about in the entry on Cooper, he’s likely to bounce back without coverage from Marcus Peters limiting his volume. He lands on the border between WR1 and WR2, but I’ll lean toward a WR2 evaluation since Cooper might take back some of the volume Crabtree earned throughout this season.
The Rams blew-out the Cardinals 33-0, and that certainly helped out Robert Woods. Woods tallied 5 receptions on 7 targets for 59 yards, which is a good sign given that the game script generally leans on the ground game in blowouts. Woods is a good flex option because of the receiving yards he can bring in, he has a lower ceiling than most but the floor isn’t terrible given that his status is more as a driver than a playmaker in the endzone.
Marqise Lee did well with Blake Bortles surprising passing ability, netting 4 of 6 receptions for 72 yards. In theory, one would think Lee’s performance is going to be in large part determined by the gamescript and whether Bortles needs to pass, but the blowout this week leads credence to the idea that they want to get Lee the ball more. I like him as a waiver-wire pick-up since his history is promising and he’ll likely be cut by many teams for the Jags bye week, but I wouldn’t do trade for him since the return of Fournette will almost certainly eat into his target share.
After a great streak of games Chris Hogan went cold last week, but this week was a part-way return to form. Hogan had 4 catches on 6 passes for 71 yards, tying him for the next entry on this list as well as Chris Moore, who misses the list off a tiebreaker. Now is the time to buy low on Chris Hogan if you can, because he seems to be slotting into the Edelman slot for Brady. A bad game and a mediocre one do not take away three weeks of excellence and stellar play, and against a weak Chargers defense he’s likely to be back to his old numbers.
Brandon Coleman rounds off the list this week, bringing in 2 of his 3 targets for 31 yards and a touchdown. Coleman got all his value out of a touchdown and outside of a strong week two has been unable to do so without one. If you like the Saint’s match-up he might be a good flex play, but personally I think relying on a touchdown from Brandon Coleman of all people on such a strong offense is a recipe for disaster. Do not pick up Coleman after this performance, which you could most likely do – there are very good reasons he’s a free agent in over 95% of ESPN leagues.
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