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.
T.Y. Hilton has underperformed for the majority of this season, but he managed to put up an incredible showing against the Houston Texans this week. Hilton successfully received 5 of his 8 targets for not only 175 yards, but two touchdowns. Having either of these on a week would be excellent, but combine both and you have an elite performance. Jacoby Brissett ultimately passed for 308 yards this game, which means over half of his production came as a result of Hilton this week.
Hilton has always been a deep pass threat, which was great when Andrew Luck was the quarterback. Unfortunately for him, Luck is out for the season and possibly for the rest of his career, which means he has to rely on his rapport with Brissett. Which, until this game, has been almost entirely non-existent. Brissett doesn’t usually like to make the big plays Hilton thrives on, playing more conservatively than Luck did. What enabled it to work this game was the utter shambles the Houston Texans were in with the offensive loss of Deshaun Watson and the defensive loss of J.J. Watt weeks ago.
And it’s for that reason that I think you should trade Hilton off of this performance. He is the epitome of boom or bust, and while occasionally you’ll have weeks like this, in 6 of 9 games Hilton has not been able to break double digits. And it’s not his fault, it’s on Brissett and the coaching staff to utilize him properly, but Hilton gave owners something to bargain with this week. And, if you can get something better than a boom or bust wide receiver, you should take it. His trade value was so low prior to this week, and if it gets any bump after this you need to pounce before it goes back down.
Long-term I don’t doubt that Hilton can have another game like this, in fact it’s probable that sometime in the second half of the season he can repeat this success. But it’s impossible to predict, especially given the rough second half the Colts are going to have schedule wise, and holding him through the awful games isn’t worth the occasional jackpot. I hope next year the Colts will figure out their quarterback situation because I’d love to see Hilton perform to the capacity his showed in this game on a more consistent basis.
The Lions absolutely destroyed the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football, and Jones was a big beneficiary of that. Jones caught 7 of 11 targets for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns, his highest scoring outing on the season. It’s a bit odd to see a team that’s able to feed two wide receivers as well as the Lions are, but Jones and Golden Tate both managed to put up WR1 performances this week. It’s similar to the situation seen with the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots and a good sign for the offenses prospects.
Long-term I think I like Tate more as a consistent performer, but the target have certainly been there for Jones lately. I worry about his floor, but if the rapport established between Matthew Stafford and Marvin Jones continues as it has that shouldn’t be a worry. Right now, Jones is evaluated at WR2 value, which I think is a steal given weeks like this. I would target him in trades and, if you own him, hold him for anything short of a king’s ransom.
Defying the match-up based expectations many had for him, Alshon Jeffery had a great performance against the Denver Broncos. Jeffery caught 6 of 11 targets for 84 yards and 2 touchdowns, which is a bit of a mixed bag for me. They are good numbers all around, there’s no denying that, but Jeffery needs a particular sorts of game scripts to succeed. Namely, one where he not only gets a lot of targets, since he’s not gonna catch a good portion of them, but one where the defense breaks for the big plays he’s known for.
It’s for that reason that I encouraged trading him before that game, and why I’m leaning in that direction again. I like the Eagles a lot this season, I think they are an elite offensive unit, but Jeffery is valued so high relative to the talent I see on the field. His efficiency is always shaky and he’s just too situational of a player for me to ever feel confident starting as an WR1. For that reason, I’d much rather trade him for someone with more consistent performances.
After a bit of a down week Doug Baldwin came back swinging, catching 7 of his 13 targets for 108 yards and a touchdown. It was weird to see him put up simply “okay” numbers last week when it’ always been known that his ceiling is as an elite player. This feels more normal to me, and I expect him to continue to put up top ten performances on a pass heavy offensive with a capable quarterback in Russell Wilson.
The tricky thing is the valuation. I see Baldwin as a middle of the road WR1, but paying that sort of value for him after an incredible week is harder than normal. Owners probably see the value Baldwin adds to their roster, even if his numbers aren’t always quite there, but after blow-up weeks it’s likely inflated. Even more inflated given how people overvalue their players, generally speaking. For that reason I don’t think pursuing Baldwin this week is the best venture – wait until Seattle struggles against a tougher match-up and do it then.
Terrence Williams was starting in less than 1% of leagues this week, but those who started him – including, “luckily” enough, my opponent in one of my leagues – got to reap major benefits. Williams had a breakout game, receiving all 9 of his targets for 141 yards and serving as one of the primary drivers for the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of people were curious where the points would go following Zeke’s suspension, which was made official on the day of this writing, and Williams doing this well before his suspension means he might become a favorite target for Dak Prescott.
For that reason, I don’t hate the pick-up. If he’s not on your waiver wire I doubt the owner is that attached to Williams given that he was almost certainly a recent acquisition, and the price should be in the vicinity of a low-end WR3. I don’t know if you want to start him this week, seeing how the Cowboys offense shakes out without Zeke and putting him on the bench may be better advised, but as a desperation play or bye week flier starting him isn’t the worst thing either.
Woods looked nice against the New York Giants, catching 4 of his 5 targets for 70 yards and 2 touchdowns. Of particular note is a touchdown reception he netted when the Rams were 3rd and 33, a miraculous feat made possible by an absolutely terrible Giants defense. Woods typically serves as a decent, not great, player, but he shined this week.
And if you want the WR3 value with upside like this, Woods can be a good pick-up off of waiver wires. If he’s owned, however, be wary of the owner trying to upcharge him. Woods benefited from a great match-up and game script, and expecting weeks like this to consistently happen is not good. Todd Gurley means the Rams will continue to be a run heavy team, which will usually cap Woods value, outside of the occasional excellent week such as this.
Marqise Lee did pretty well for himself this week, catching 8 of 12 targets for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals. Much like Woods, Lee is someone who is talented enough to have this sort of upside without really being seen as having it. Especially given the reputation Blake Bortles has on a run heavy team, Marqise Lee has been somewhat overlooked.
Unfortunately for anyone high on Marqise Lee, I think a big part of his success was the Jaguars benching star running back Leonard Fournette over disciplinary concerns. Because of his absence, the Jags switched to a more pass heavy approach, allowing Lee to shine. But with Fournette returning next week, this flare-up is much less likely to occur. Sell him high if you got him, and if no one’s buying you should probably cut your losses.
Deonte Thompson delivered again, which I don’t think anyone was expecting after a poor performance last week. Thompson caught 7 of 10 targets sent his way for 81 yards and a touchdown in the Bills loss to the New York Jets. It’s interesting to see how Thompson has so quickly meshed with his new team, securing a target significant target share in an otherwise muddled wide receiving core.
Thompson was great in two of the last three weeks, but figuring out when he’ll be good and when he won’t be is an exercise in frustration. Playing a Bills receiver is, in general, an exercise in frustration. If you can get some value for him he’s worth the trade, but unless you’re really short-handed on receivers starting is more risky than it is viable. Wait and see if his role continues with Kelvin Benjamin in the mix, but he might be better on your bench than on waivers should he pop out again.
There were a lot of concerns for the Broncos following the announcement that Brock Osweiler would take over for Trevor Siemian, and while they were ultimately crushed on the field, for fantasy purposes Demaryius Thomas managed to hold. Thomas caught 8 of his 12 targets for 70 yards and a touchdown, going back to a solid rapport with Osweiler in lieu of the one he never really established with Siemian.
If you’re going to own a Denver Bronco, Thomas is probably the best bet. With Osweiler in charge they are going to be down a lot in game, solid defense or not, and that means airing the ball out a lot to Thomas. However, the floor is a lot lower than it has any right to be because, again, Brock Osweiler is throwing the passes. Personally I’d be looking to sell Thomas after a solid week, it could very well be his gift before mediocre showings for the rest of the season. Speaking of which…
Before we get into the nuts and bolts, allow me to say that Deandre Hopkins was targeted 17 time this week. Not only is that leagues ahead of any other receiver on this week, it’s the most he’s gotten all season. Hopkins caught 6 of them. And it’s not Hopkins fault, it’s more that Tom Savage is every bit as bad as we were lead to believe. He had to inundate a star receiver with poorly thrown ball after poorly thrown ball, and it’s a minor miracle that Hopkins managed to make a decent fantasy showing out of it, bringing them in for 86 yards and a touchdown.
This top ten performance against the worst defense in the league is the ceiling for Hopkins with Savage in charge, and while he’ll consistently put up solid production, it’s capped for him. I traded Hopkins for a suspended Mike Evans this week, and I think I’m ultimately gonna win that deal. Hopkins needs to be traded while it’s still possible to get something good for him, because without a quarterback that can actually give him the ball I don’t think anyone can put up elite numbers.
While Williams ultimately performed better in a driving capacity, Beasley was the one who got the red zone looks this week. Beasley caught 4 of 6 targets for 24 yards and 2 touchdowns, getting him to just outside the top ten on the week. This is the second week Beasley has gotten two touchdowns, but the inconsistency means he’s a match-up based play. Having said that, if you need a big boom-bust candidate, playing Beasley on the Cowboys sans Ezekiel Elliot and hoping it shakes out in his favor isn’t crazy.
The last official WR1 on the week is Golden Tate, who caught 7 of 9 targets for a whopping 113 yards. As I talked about in Jones’ entry Tate is the one I personally like more long-term because of the consistent role he provides for the offense. Tate will only very sparingly have a bad week, and even if #12 on the week isn’t ideal in your book, it’s good enough that I would trade for him. I traded Carlos Hyde for Golden Tate and I’m very happy with that decision, he’s worth spending an RB2 on.
Jeremy Maclin had another good week, catching 8 of 9 targets for 98 yards. While he wasn’t able to find the end zone this week, Flacco playing through the entire game did increase his target share and get him involved in driving the ball. Maclin has very good sneaky upside, and picking him up on his bye week for WR3 value, hopefully to a struggling team who needs the play, could be a play-off winning move.
Tying exactly with Maclin this week is Julio Jones, who caught 6 of his 12 targets for 118 yards. Jones made a major mistake this week, losing a touchdown when he was wide open, but he continues to be one of the Falcons best offensive weapons in spite of his inability to get the touchdown. The efficiency is shakier than I like, there are more flaws to Julio’s play than his fans would want you to believe, but ultimately this shouldn’t be cause for concern.
Zay Jones finally managed to get something going this weekend, catching 6 of his 7 targets for 53 yards and a touchdown. Frankly it feels weird talking about Bills receivers as much as I am, but Tyrod Taylor managed to perform this week and they were the primary beneficiaries. Jones unfortunately tweaked his knee towards the end of the game and has not been practicing, neutering any reason to pick him up. Given the already muddled situation the Bills are going through you shouldn’t put this headache on your roster.
Rounding off the top half is Rishard Matthews, who put together a pretty solid outing. Matthews caught 4 of 7 targets for 70 yards and a touchdown, which is about what you’d hope to get from him. Matthews has always been in that grey area between WR2 and WR3 depending on the match-up, but the upside is always there. Even without the touchdown Matthews would have had fine production, which is all I need to advise targeting him in trades. The downside isn’t really there, he has about a 7 point floor, and the upside is pretty good for his market value.
Ted Ginn Jr. continues to perform, receiving 4 of 5 targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. Ginn is someone who continuously has flex value and beyond but is still evaluated like a WR3. It’s true that the Saints have transitioned to a more run heavy approach this season, but Ginn hasn’t notably faltered in spite of that. Early on he had a couple of bad performances, but I absolutely would trade for Ginn is you can make it happen, especially since his rest of season schedule is pretty solid for a wide receiver.
Tyreek Hill continues to get enjoyment out of making my life difficult. He caught half of his 4 targets for 64 yards and a touchdown, the majority of the action coming off of a 56 yard play that resulted in said touchdown. Without that play Hill would have been an utter bust this week, and I’m not going to take away his abilities, but it’s just too situational for me to feel comfortable with. Again, sell high if you can, especially since he’s going to be on his bye this week.
Jarvis Landry had a lot of value in the PPR format this week, catching 6 of his 7 targets for 32 yards and a touchdown. While the touchdown means he did well in all formats, Landry’s primary value is as someone who’s going to log reception after reception each game. Even with DeVante Parker back in the game Landry continued to deliver, which means I’m just as high as I’ve always been on him. There is a possibility he goes downhill as Parker is phased more and more back into the offense, but personally I think Landry will retain his value going forward.
Robby Anderson continued his touchdown streak this week, catching 4 of 5 targets for 48 yards and Josh McCown’s sole passing touchdown. It’s almost eerie how consistently he finds his way into the end zone, but voodoo curse or no, it has consistently happened for three weeks at this point. Against a weak Tampa Bay defense, I think it’s more likely to continue than not, and I’d be willing to grab him for his WR3 market value given that he keeps putting up WR2 performances.
Michael Thomas didn’t do anything flashy this week, but he caught 8 of 11 targets for 65 yards. And while this isn’t exactly in line with his WR1 reputation, he continues to deliver a baseline that bigger names fail to match. I think the time to sell him on his WR1 value has passed, but the value he provides with double digit floor means that he’ll likely finish as a WR1 while continuously putting up WR2 numbers. The upside is there, if yet to be really actualized, but more importantly Michael Thomas may have the best floor among all non-elite wide receivers. If that’s something you value, he’s definitely a man worth trading for.
Sammy Watkins failed to catch one pass, but delivered the other 67 yards to the end zone. There are a wide variety of reasons to dismiss Sammy Watkins in spite of his performance: this is the first week Watkins has delivered since the beginning of the season, there was little volume heading his way, it came against one of the worst teams in the league, etcetera. Maybe Watkins is streamable on the right match-up, but he was one block away from posting a whopping zero points. With that in mind, trade him if you got him, and if you can’t, cut him.
There was a lot of curiosity about what Devin Funchess’ role in the offense would be with Kelvin Benjamin gone, and the arrow seems to be pointing up after this performance. Funchess caught 5 of 7 targets for 86 yards, a competent if not particularly flashy performance. He’s likely going to be on the rise, he seems to be Cam Newton’s favorite target at this point, but given that Newton tends to prefer designed running plays to throwing the ball it’s not exactly as ideal as it sounds. Still, he should provide at least WR2 numbers going forward, which is what you would hope for a teams #1 target.
Dez Bryant was the third best wide receiver for the Cowboys this week, which feels weird to say, but he still managed to deliver a solid fantasy performance. Dez caught half of his 12 targets for 73 yards, serving as a driver who’s upside was capped by some inefficiency in actually getting the ball. Dez tweaked his ankle in the game, and while he does expect to play next week, it may limit his big playability and put more focus on Williams and Beasley. It might be worth investing in Dez if you think he’ll have an uptick in targets with Zeke suspended, but he’s been putting up WR2 with a healthy share of targets and I don’t think that will change.
In his first game back from his injury Parker was pretty quiet, putting up 5 receptions on 8 targets for 76 yards. Parker didn’t get involved until late in the game but was incredibly dynamic, a missed opportunity the Dolphins may seek to correct for going into this next week. Parker is the primary wide receiver for the team on their official depth chart, but for fantasy I still think I’d take Landry and his amazing reception count going forward over Parker.
Tavarres King isn’t necessarily the first name that comes to mind when you think of Giant receivers, but this week he was the best to the surprise of…well, to the surprise of just about everybody. King caught half of his 6 targets for 33 yards and a touchdown, and had he had surer hands he might have been able to net another touchdown. It’s likely my home team bias, so feel free to disregard, but I like King’s match-up against the 49ers and think he’s a sleeper pick to repeat his success in contrast with what conventional wisdom would indicate. If you’re hurting at WR like I am, there are definitely worse options out there.
The Packers offense may be in shambles with Brett Hundley in charge, but in the realm of fantasy Davante Adams still managed to make a splash, catching 7 of 10 targets for 53 yards. It’s nice to see that there is still some value in the wide receiving corps on the Packers, but I don’t think Hundley is consistent enough that I’d be willing to continue to start them. More than anything I’d want to trade him and let someone else have the headache, but the point may come where they’re cuttable. Not this week, and not next week, but if this is the new ceiling, I could see it happening in smaller leagues.
Larry Fitzgerald made the best out of a bad situation (read: Drew Stanton trying to throw a football) this week, catching 5 of 9 targets for 70 yards. Like Adams and Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas, I think this is great because it gives whoever owns Fitzgerald a chance to trade him close to the value he had before his quarterback went down. We saw how bad it is against the Rams, but this is the best case scenario. It’s not his fault, but you need to trade Fitzgerald before he effectively becomes a WR3 with a big name that you’re saddled with for the rest of the season.
Oddly enough, Sterling Shepard had the same exact stat line as Larry Fitzgerald, catching 5 of 9 targets for 70 yards. A lot of people were hoping for more from the Giants sole starting receiver from the beginning of the season, but the connection just wasn’t there this week. I do think this is a buy low opportunity, since not only is Shepard is coming off of an injury and needs to be worked back into the offense, but he gets to play the winless San Francisco 49ers next week. He could absolutely be a WR2 for the rest of the season, which is more than enough reason for me to want to trade for him given the current market value.
Mike Wallace had a weird stat line, going 4 for 7 for just 19 yards, but got the red zone looks and touchdown that he needed to break the top 32 for this week. Wallace has had some success this season, but in only 3 of his 9 outings. In two of those, he needed touchdowns, which is enough for me to say that he’s mostly touchdown dependent. If you can trade him I would, but he’s gonna be a match-up dependent player sitting on your bench for the most part – I’d be willing to cut him in a lot of scenarios, depending on the roster of your team.
Johnny Holton was relevant again, catching his sole target for 44 yards and a touchdown, a total which was just enough to get him on this list. Holton has a habit of making big plays on a single attempt, but rather than write an entirely new analysis, allow me to directly copy what I said about Holton last time this happened. It’s just as relevant now as it was then:
“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.”
Rounding off the list is Mohamed Sanu, who would have had a quiet game going 3 for 3 for 23 yards if not for the touchdown reception that he had. Sanu has been fairly productive recently, and is one of the best WR3 options out there. Banking on him for more than that is risky because while he does have that upside, the floor he has is vastly different than the floor of a WR1. He’s definitely worth the pick-up, especially since the Falcons have a nice schedule when fantasy playoffs occur, but I wouldn’t overpay too much.
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