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.
Deshaun Watson might have just missed out on the top spot for the week, but his buddy “Nuk” managed to grab the top spot among wide receivers. Hopkins completed 8 of 11 passes sent his way for 224 yards, the most on the week, and a touchdown. Coming out of a bye and against an elite Seattle defense there were many concerns about whether Deshaun Watson, and by extension the entirety of the Houston offense, would be able to perform. As it turns out, very well, and Hopkins is not only the top wide receiver but the top fantasy performer on the week.
What Hopkins proved this week is that, with Deshaun Watson on the field, he’s match-up proof. No one was saying that he should be sitting against the Seahawks, but there were certainly not expecting the numbers he was able to put up. And I was prepared to say that Hopkins would be the best wide reciever for the rest of the season, but as I was typing up this piece the news broke that Deshaun Watson tore his ACL and will be out for the rest of the season. The NFL losing one of their best quarterbacks halfway through his rookie season is devastating for a variety of reasons, but here we should focus on the impact it will have on Hopkins.
I’m of the opinion that this doesn’t hurt Hopkins on a grand scale all that much. Tom Savage, who will be filling in for Watson for what seems like the rest of the season, is at the very least a competent quarterback. But he’s also been in the NFL for four years and failed to toss a single touchdown pass. He’ll go to Hopkins a lot and particularly in the PPR format this will keep Hopkins alive, but the dynamic relationship and incredible ceiling he had in weeks like this will be limited.
If you can trade him off the back of a performance like this for another WR1 or RB!, I would. The uncertainty of how he’ll be able to perform with Tom Savage at the helm is definitely a worry. But going full tilt and selling him much lower than his value is not advisable because I do see him as a WR1 for the rest of the season. Unfortunately for people like me who were fully on board the Hopkins train, he most likely won’t be THE WR1 for the rest of the season. He does have a good match-up against the Colts this week, so if Hopkins can perform then worries about his rest of season may fade and trades for players with more stable futures may be possible.
JuJu Smith-Schuster exploded this week against the Lions, receiving 7 of 10 targets for 193 yards and a touchdown. The play that everyone is talking about is the 97 yard touchdown from Smith, who outraced the Lion defenders from one side of the field to the other. On a team with Le’veon Bell and Antonio Brown no one expected there to be room for another big play-maker, but Smith managed to earn that spot this week.
It is worth noting that Martavis Bryant was benched this week after publicly feuding with Smith and lashing out at the Steelers organization. This meant a share of targets that would have likely been divided between the two went to Smith, and that volume won’t necessarily be there in future weeks. Because of that if you own Smith I’d evaluate him at about WR3 or Flex value, and if you can get better value than that for him, especially on his bye week, I’d go for it. The potential is definitely there, but the Steelers offense is crowded and getting a permanent market share is one of the hardest things to do in the NFL.
Will Fuller continued to impress this week, receiving 5 of his 8 targets for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Fuller provides a big play possibility for the Texans that opposing teams are having issues countering. They can’t afford to consistently do double coverage because of weapons like Deandre Hopkins or Lamar Miller but if it’s one on one, Fuller – who runs a 4.32 40 yard dash – can outrace them and make the big play for the touchdown. It has major potential for failure but it has succeeded game after game thus far, and if Deshaun Watson was still starting I’d be confident in Fuller as, at the very least, a WR2 For the rest of the season.
Unfortunately, Tom Savage is starting, and Watson’s departure will most likely have the biggest impact on Fuller’s value. What allowed Fuller to be so successful was the long, accurate passes Watson was willing to throw to him that capitalized on his talents. Savage, as previously stated, has never successfully thrown a touchdown. If Savage is able to throw the long bombs than Fuller’s value can be salvaged, but that is most definitely in doubt. I think it’s better to hold and hope Savage can commit to the Watson playbook and provide Fuller that access than sell him for pennies on the dollar unless you can find someone who really believes in Fuller going forward and is willing to sell him to something close to his previous value.
Before we talk about Paul Richardson, let’s go back to a quote I wrote last week:
“He’s no Will Fuller, this is an aberration that likely won’t repeat.”
With that out of the way, Richardson had a great week, bringing in 6 of his 7 targets for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns in an intense win against the Texans. Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson was electric this week and the entirety of his receiving corps got the bump including Richardson. It should be noted that the game script led to a pass-heavy approach from the Seahawks, but as they’re already a pass heavy team this shouldn’t overtly affect the analysis.
As fun as it is to talk about how horrifyingly wrong I was about Richardson coming into this week, I’m going to go down a similar tact and once again recommend selling him high. Richardson may have more weeks like this, but at the same time this is only the third time he’s made it into double digit scoring over three games and the first time he’s broken 20. If you could package Richardson in some type of deal to get Doug Baldwin or even Tyler Lockett I would because they’re higher on the depth chart and contrary to what some might expect, Richardson isn’t going to leapfrog them.
Jamison Crowder had his first good game of the season, completing 9 of 13 possible receptions for 123 yards on top of rushing for 12 yards on 2 attempts. The role of Crowder on the Redskin offense this season has been confusing, along with the entirety of the offense, and projecting his utilization going forward is difficult. When Jordan Reed was out with an injury for the majority of the early season many expected Crowder to get an uptick in targets, but the beneficiaries seemed to instead be Chris Thompson and Vernon Davis.
With Reed out once again, I have no idea what to do with Crowder. The general sentiment seems to be that it was an aberration, but with Reed out again it can’t hurt to pick Crowder up on the cheap. If he can put games up like this going forward he definitely has some value, but for the near future he needs to stay on the bench until he can be relied upon. I can see the pick-up for a flex play in any other week, but while the Seahawks had issues with the elite Houston offense, it’s not likely to have similar difficulties against the Redskins. If you want to pick him up, go for it, but keep him on the bench.
Robby Anderson reaffirmed his end zone playability this week, receiving all 6 of his targets for 104 yards and a touchdown. A lot of people thought Jermaine Kearse would be the guy for the Jets this season, but it seems he has slowly ceded that role to Anderson. I love Robby Anderson going forward, and I’m not just saying that because this article is going up after the Thursday night game and he scored yet another touchdown.
Anderson is a great WR3 or flex pick-up. In one of my leagues he was on waivers and I dropped Kearse for him, a move I’m fairly confident in. A lot of times in fantasy you need to act after two performance, and while after one I still believed in Kearse, after two you need to cut your losses and move on. Situational factors may be at play, but if you can grab Anderson off the waivers I would do it. The Jets are often written off as an offensive power, so if he is rostered somewhere, buying low on Anderson before his true value is realized could also be an excellent value.
London games are scary, but anyone who put their faith in Adam Thielen this week was rewarded with another stellar performance. While his efficiency was shaky, catching just half of his 10 targets, he still managed to get 98 yards and a touchdown out of what he did catch. Stefon Diggs dominated the attention early on between the Vikings receivers, but even with Diggs healthy and back in the games it seems like Thielen is the one who’s become the playmaker.
Thielen is on a bye this week and for WR starved teams that presents a hole in their offense. If you’re a team who needs the win this week, I think you can get some good value off of Thielen. Not ideal, but if you need the win I’d go for it. On the other side of the coin, Thielen is a high-end WR2, borderline WR1, that you can get for low WR2 or even WR3 depending on how desperate their situation is. 3-5, 4-4, or 5-3 teams are the ones who are you’re going to get the most value from since they need the win to enter playoffs. Too low will save the value because they need it long-term and too high can afford to have a weaker performance in the week.
Mohamed Sanu had a good game, catching 6 of his 7 targets for 74 yards and a touchdown. While the reality of the Falcons offense isn’t great at this point in time, their players have still continued to deliver in the fantasy department. Sanu has been a great boom-bust candidate throughout the season, and while his floor is practically non-existent, most games he’ll do competently and with the right match-up he’ll explode.
I like Sanu a lot and was personally targeting him in trades this week. I think the Falcons offense is due for a rebound sooner than later, and with a win this week they’re most likely heading in the right direction. For that same reason I would target Julio Jones, but we’ll talk more about that in his entry. Sanu is currently evaluated somewhere in the WR3 or Flex range, and if you can offer a deal for that value I think you’ll be winning given his usual WR2 performance. If you can afford him, grab him.
Travis Benjamin did not quietly into the bye, receiving 5 of his 8 targets for 64 yards and a touchdown. On a somewhat odd note, he rushed twice for a net 14 yards, which actually happened with quite a few receivers for this week. Benjamin has always been a boom-bust type and the touchdown this week definitely helped his value, but even if you took it off he would still have a respectable 12.8 points in PPR scoring.
In my main league I was surprised to find Benjamin on waivers and snagged him up. For such a great flex play he’s only owned in 10.3 % of ESPN leagues, so he’s absolutely worth the bench spot over his bye. Not only is he a great bow to put on a package because of his sneaky value, but with these last few weeks of byes he could be a great flex play. Week 10 is iffy against the Jaguars, and I’d personally look to ship him off before that, but worst comes to worst he’s not a terrible flex play against the Bills in Week 11 and from there his ROS schedule isn’t terrible.
I’ve been singing the praises of Marvin Jones Jr. for ages and this week he continued to deliver. Jones had some issues holding onto the ball, catching just 6 of his 11 targets, but he served as a great driver in the game, receiving for 128 yards. Stafford couldn’t get any passes into the end zone and Jones still managed to deliver a great game, which is so much more pleasing as a fantasy asset because you don’t have to constantly worry in games where the goal line defense is absurdly good.
I think the Lions offense is severely underrated and Jones is a big part of that. I’ve seen him going for scraps in trades and it’s frankly ridiculous. If you can acquire Jones for the cost of a WR3, for the love of God go and do it. I can see the argument that the return of Kenny Golladay may eat into his targets, putting him third in the pecking order behind him and Golden Tate, but Jones has earned his placement and I don’t think he’ll be phased out that easily. Besides that point, Golladay hasn’t practiced up through Thursday, so even if he does end up suiting up I imagine he’ll be limited in some capacity for the sake of his health.
Tyler Lockett didn’t get into the end zone like Paul Richardson did, which bumps him out of the top ten on the week, but he put in an admirable effort nonetheless in the shoot-off that was the Texans-Seahawks game. Lockett caught 6 of his 8 targets for 121 yards, while also losing 2 yards on a strange rushing attempt play by the Seahawks. Lockett is continuously getting looks from Russell Wilson, I have confidence that he’ll continue to be an WR2 for the rest of this season, and would value him as such in any trade offers or start/sit decisions.
Alshon Jeffery had a bad performance salvaged by big plays. Jeffrey got eight looks from Carson Wentz, but only caught two of them. However, what he did with those – 62 receiving yards, 53 of which led to a touchdown run – boosted his fantasy value immensely. On top of that he managed to catch a 2 point conversion, a nice perk for anyone who started him. I’m not high on Jeffery as a consistent performer in spite of his place on an elite offense and would love to sell him based off this performance. He’s a low-end WR2, or even high-end WR3, masquerading as a great WR2. Sell him if you can, especially because this upcoming week does not look good for his fantasy prospects with a solid Broncos defense.
Michael Thomas did his usual thing this week, receiving a lot of catches to drive the ball but ceding work in the end zone. He was 7 for 9 on targets with 77 receiving yards, a great demonstration of what you’re apt to get with Michael Thomas this season. I’m personally not high on him, he’s rated as an elite receiver but the Saints have been deferring more and more to the ground game this season. He’s a low-end WR1 for me with a good ceiling depending on the game script, but right now I’d rather have Mark Ingram or even Alvin Kamara in my line-up. He’s poised for a good match-up this week against the Bucs so I’d hold on selling him unless the value is already there, but ROS I don’t love the outlook.
Maclin returned from his injury just in time for the Ravens thorough manhandling of the Dolphins. Maclin scored an early touchdown, a 34 yarder that contributed to the majority of his points this week, ultimately going 3 for 5 and 53 in total. Maclin has been having issues practicing this week and it looks like his injury is still bothering him, so he’s likely to see similarly low target volume for this upcoming week. I don’t hate the pick-up for possible long-term value, but if you do do that make sure he’s on your bench. There’s a very realistic chance that Maclin doesn’t suit up, and his snap count will almost assuredly be limited in some capacity.
The Bills are just a weird team from a fantasy perspective because it’s impossible to predict which receiver is going to get the ball. This week it was Andre Holmes of all people, who caught three of four targets for 51 yards. The only reason he’s on this list is because of a 6 yard touchdown reception. Although it happened twice before in the season, this is the first time Holmes put up double digit points. Lightning will not strike twice with Andre Holmes in light of the Kelvin Benjamin acquisition. File this one under “one-and-done” and keep him off your roster.
Golden Tate put up a great outing in spite of the lack of touchdowns, a good demonstration of where his floor is going to be most weeks. He went 7 for 8 for 86 yards, although a costly fumble brings his numbers down a bit. I love the match-up for Tate and the Lions on the whole this upcoming week, the Packers haven’t been the same since Aaron Rodgers was taken out for the same, and I managed to get him in a deal for an RB2. If you can grab Tate I would because I do think he’s set for a great game and his ROS schedule, outside of a meeting with the Ravens in week 13, looks pretty solid.
Michael Crabtree didn’t look great this last week, but then again the Raiders offense as a whole didn’t look great. He caught half of his ten targets for 83 yards, a solid demonstration of where his floor is usually going to be. I said it last week but Crabtree is going to continue to get the consistent carries and most weeks will stay ahead of Cooper because of that. He’s not going to get monster plays most of the time, but he does get the end zone look and the bulk of the targets. I like the Raiders match-up against the Dolphins this upcoming week and as I always say, grab him if you can since he’s not entirely perceived as having that WR1 value.
In his last stint with the Panthers Kelvin Benjamin delivered, receiving 3 of his 7 targets for 39 yards and a touchdown. The bulk of his points came from a 25 yard touchdown reception, which isn’t necessarily what you want to see when looking for value from a receiver. I’m not entirely sure how Kelvin Benjamin’s transfer to the Bills will impact his fantasy stock since they rotate their wide receivers around a good amount, but if I had to take a guess I’d say it’s slightly worse for him. He’s more likely to be the WR1 then he was splitting duties with Devin Funchess, but given how much the Bills spread the ball around I don’t know if it’ll be more net targets. I wouldn’t begrudge trading WR3 value for him, the upside is definitely there, but you’re taking on a significant amount of risk.
T.J. Jones has been stealthily doing fantastic in lieu of the injury to Kenny Golladay. He tied Golden Tate for second in targets with 8, but only caught 4 of them for 88 yards. What he made out of his catches was solid, and the volume was definitely there. Jones is going to be on waivers most week and if you’re in need of a flex play for a bye heavy week, Jones is a great pick-up given the Lions solid match-up. I love the Lions offense and Jones is not exempt from that in spite of his relative anonymity.
Here’s a name I bet you weren’t expecting. Tre McBride came out of nowhere in the Bears game, catching 3 of 5 targets for 92 yards. The most impressive play was a 45 yard gain where McBride ran down the sideline against a stunned Saints defense, but making 92 yards off of just 5 targets is impressive nonetheless. In a 12 or 14 person league I can definitely see him as a flex play in week 10 or 11, but he’s on bye this week and no one will be targeting him. Depending on how the Lions offense fares against the Packers defense, I can see the sneaky value in starting this particular Bears receiver.
Antonio Brown showed off his lovely floor this week, catching half of his 10 targets for 70 yards. While this is most likely not what you were hoping for from an elite receiver like Brown, it’s certainly nothing to raise the alarm bells over. Brown is still the #1 receiver on the season heading into his bye week, although he will likely be surpassed by Deandre Hopkins provided Tom Savage can actually throw the ball. Nothing has changed with Brown after this performance. I wouldn’t stop you if you wanted to try to grab him in a trade on his bye from a struggling team, go for it, but it’s hard to part with the best of the best and I don’t think most owners would give him up for good value.
A.J. Green is a stud so it’s no surprise to see him on this list, although against a weak Colts defense the results are somewhat underwhelming. Receiving 3 of 8 targets for 27 yards and a touchdown is a tad bit underwhelming, but I’m willing to write it off as an aberration. Going against a stout Jacksonville defense I’m not exactly thrilled with what he’s going to be able to put up, but it’s like I said before. A.J. Green is a stud, and there are very, very good reasons for that.
In spite of Trevor Siemian’s less than stellar play, Demaryius Thomas managed to convert what he got into a decent fantasy outing. Thomas caught 5 of 9 targets for 66 yards, which is solid but not indicative of his talent level. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to get better for the Broncos, especially with Brock Osweiler now at the helm. It’s hard to be worse than Siemian, but if someone can manage it Osweiler is your guy. Even with a decent week I traded off Thomas for a tight end upgrade because it’s hard to do well with bad passes.
Kenny Stills did well in fantasy this week given his connection with Matt Moore and the injury to Devante Parker, even though the Dolphins were blown out 40-0. 10 targets is great, although catching just half for 65 is not as great as some may have hoped. With the trade of Jay Ajayi to the Eagles there’s a good chance Stills gets a bit of a bump in targets, but that’s only likely to happen if Parker is still out. If he is, the WR3 value Stills is currently providing is going to fall off a cliff. Keep an eye on the injury reports if you have Kenny Stills, and if you don’t I don’t think he’s worth the one week rental.
Josh Malone has had his one relevant fantasy game of the season. On three targets he managed to catch 2, receive for 35 yards, and score a touchdown. This is the first time he hasn’t scored zero points on the season and likely the last. He is currently owned in 0.0% of leagues on ESPN, with precisely 0.0% uptick after a top 25 performance. Stay clear for the sake of sanity, mine and yours alike.
It’s a bit surprising to see Doug Baldwin this low after the explosivity of the Seahawks game against the Texans, but when a good player doesn’t touch the end zone occasionally their floor can land in about this spot. Baldwin had a by the books game, catching 6 of 10 targets for 54 yards. While it’s probably undervalued relative to what owners may have been hoping, it’s still solid and there’s no reason to be worried about Doug Baldwin. Richardson and Lockett placed higher, but it’s just a matter of happenstance. If you want to try to trade up for Doug Baldwin after other WR’s did better that’s your prerogative, but the owner isn’t likely to bite and there are probably easier avenues to explore.
A lot of the wide receivers toward the end of this list had solid if unremarkable games. Chris Hogan is one of those, catching 5 of 7 targets for 60 yards. Entering his bye week and dealing with an injury now may be an ideal time to target Hogan if you can spare the depth. He may be out for the week ten game, but he has effectively served as Julian Edelman’s replacement for Tom Brady this season and I expect that to be the main narrative going forward.
Tying exactly with Chris Hogan is Mike Evans, who received 5 of his 10 targets for 60 yards. There’s no reason to tilt on Mike Evans after a demonstration of his sturdy floor. He received ten targets, caught just half of them, and still made the list. He’s going to continue getting this volume and I expect him to be a top ten wide receiver next week. Similar to Doug Baldwin, if you can get a worried owner to trade a great wide receiver go for it, but most likely realize his value.
Leonte Carroo is an interesting case. Last week he put up 3.1 points, and this week it was 10.8 in PPR scoring. Carroo caught 6 of his 8 targets for 48 yards, which isn’t all that remarkable aside from the fact that someone as unknown as Leonte Carroo is getting eight targets. Part of this has to be the game script, part of it has to be Devante Parker being out, but there are worse lotto tickets out there if you’re desperate on a heavy bye week. It’s more of a 14 team league move, but I don’t hate it given the recent uptick.
Julio Jones has been unable to find the end zone this season and it’s hurting his bottom line for fantasy purposes. He caught half of his 6 targets for 74 yards, which is great efficiency per reception, but it’s not winning anyone their week. Jones is a superbly talented wide receiver but is just 16 on the season. If his owner is suffering from this, a bad record, or the large amount of byes, grabbing Jones while his numbers are artificially deflated isn’t a terrible move. This isn’t like Baldwin or Evans because it’s consistent and impacting his overall impact, but it is a harder sell than getting an actual WR2 for WR2 value. Still, definitely worth investigating based on the owner.
Amari Cooper finishes about where one would expect, in the WR3 / Flex range that seems to be his usual floor this season. Cooper caught 5 of 10 targets for 48 yards, as well as rushing for 4 yards on a carry for some reason. The Raiders didn’t perform great this week and I still like Crabtree more, but Cooper is definitely worth a start against the Dolphins next week. I think he’s going to perform well, especially if it becomes a shoot-out against the Dolphins WR core, so pick him for cheap if you can.
Rounding off the list and the last receiver to post over 10 points this week is Keenan Allen, who had a quiet but sturdy game this week to the tune of 4 of 5 targets for 61 yards. Allen has struggled to live up to expectations in his last three games, trending more towards his floor than his ceiling. He’s effectively an WR3 with a WR2 reputation given the dominance Melvin Gordon has expressed on the Chargers, and especially on his bye week I’d be looking to move him based on his reputation. The Chargers next two games are the Jags and the Bills, which you’d need to hold him through to cash in on his value for the end of the season. It’s not the sort of headache I’d personally want to deal with, and that’s why I advocate shipping him off.
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