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.
Antonio Brown had a jaw-dropping game this week that reminded people why he’s considered an all-time great wide receiver. Brown caught 10 of his 13 passes for 144 yards, which would already be WR1 numbers (24.4 points in PPR scoring) but that’s not the end of the story. Brown almost doubled that by bringing in three of those catches for a touchdown, scoring a total of 42.4 points on the week. If you had Brown on your team this week, it’s almost certain that he won it for you.
There are two ways to look at Brown’s numbers this week. Obviously production of this caliber isn’t to be expected each week, but he is the #1 WR on the years. The first is to look at this as an aberration, and expect numbers in the range of a WR1 that is solid if not consistent that he’s had throughout the season. The other is to assume he’s going to boom and continue to put up top three performances throughout the rest of the season on the back of a large load of home games left to be played.
Outside of an early meeting with the Minnesota Vikings, all of Brown’s underperforming games have been in away games. He’s also excelled in several away match-ups, but the home have had by and large better numbers. With four games home games left on the season and two away games against the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans, Brown’s schedule looks really good for the type of mega-production he’s evaluated at right now.
And it’s tough to make a judgement call on whether or not to sell Brown based off of the current excellent valuation he has, but the consistency issues are there. Personally, if you can get a good price for him – say, an RB1 and a lower ranked WR1 – I think that would be enough for me to sell on him. It’s just too risky to pile so many eggs into what appears to be a sturdy basket, but which seems to have a few holes. The argument for amazing production is there, I just don’t think it’ll be realized.
Keenan Allen has been a bit of a dud relative to his raft capital this season, but he repaid the faithful in a big way this week. Allen caught 12 of 13 targets for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns, an earth-shattering performance that would have guaranteed him the number one spot in any other week. As it stands, he’s two points behind Brown’s performance in PPR leagues, and the gap grows even larger in standard scoring. This piece is being written in part after the Thanksgiving games, and Allen managed to deliver a second amazing performance.
However, in the vein of analyzing this specific game, I think Allen looked excellent. I think he benefited from the Buffalo Bills being an utter wreck offensively and defensively being…well, the Bills. But this is where his ceiling is, and if he has the good match-up, it is not out of the question that he can put up these dominant performances. Buffalo-Dallas-Cleveland should be a good trifecta of matches, and we’ve seen two of three of those come to fruition. After that, however, the match-ups get harder as playoffs near, which means I would personally trade him at the last possible to moment to get as much current value as I can.
Kenny Stills put in a stellar performance, catching 7 of 8 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown. Mind you, a third of these came off a 61 yard touchdown reception, but the combination for consistency, volume, and big playability is there. If the quarterback wants to pass to Kenny Stills he can have these amazing games, and Matt Moore loves to do exactly that. The connection between those two when both are playing is undeniable.
Unfortunately for Stills, Matt Moore is not the starting quarterback for the Dolphins, Jay Cutler is. And while Cutler may miss this week’s game because of the concussion that took him out of the game, Kenny Stills value is negligible. I traded Stills off for someone who needed the one week rental to help them win, and if you don’t need the WR depth I would advocate doing the same. His stock is going to crash shortly, for the second time, barring a permanent injury to Jay Cutler.
Brandin Cooks is a boom-bust receiver who got to boom this week, catching 6 of 9 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown en route to his second best week of the season. Cooks in general seems to have obtained a more solid floor in the wake of Chris Hogan’s injury, making him – along with another receiver we’ll talk about in a little bit – higher up on Tom Brady’s target list. Cooks has not had a poor game since the Patriots bye, which is a small sample size but maps neatly with Hogan’s lack of participation.
I do think that Cooks has a role in this offense, however, and that has become more solidified in the absence of one of the Patriots other playmakers. I think Cooks will continue to boom instead of bust, and has somewhat cemented his once shaky consistency. The floor is still lower than I would like, but I think going forward it will be high enough to start him regardless of the match-up or if Chris Hogan returns.
Adam Thielen continues to impress, picking up 6 receptions on 9 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Theilen is one of two wide receivers to break 1000 receiving yards at this point in the season, and just 20 yards behind leader Antonio Brown. On a high-powered Vikings offense, Thielen has been one of the steals of the year, and will continue to put up WR1 numbers. I would give advice to readers on how to acquire Thielen, but I really think it’s an impossible task without grossly overpaying.
For example, I attempted to get him somewhat cheap to an RB needy player, trading Kareem Hunt for Thielen and the Jacksonville Defense, but was told in no uncertain terms that Thielen alone is worth more than Hunt to them. The owners have reaped the fruits of Thielen’s labors, and at this point in this season he’s become a critical component of their roster. Unless you can find someone who needs to fill a gaping hole, I don’t see how you can get him; and if you have him, I can’t see a good reason to sell.
Larry Fitzgerald had another good week, picking up 9 of 10 targets for 91 yards and a touchdown. I saw a lot of concern in expert circles that with Blaine Gabbert in and Drew Stanton out, Fitzgerald would be fed less targets and the ball would be spread around more. Which, while true, does not diminish the fact that Blaine Gabbert is by far the better quarterback, and Fitzgerald’s volume of good targets would also go up.
I love Larry Fitzgerald for the stealth value he presents. Which sounds weird to say about an all-time great, but his fantasy value has been depleted with the loss of his starting quarterback and he’s trade value has, in turn, plummeted. Desperate owners who see these week’s as aberrations rather than the offense adjusting around Fitzgerald can be convinced to sell him, and I personally intend on attempting it in as many leagues as I can. Fitzgerald is a gem, but right now his quarterback situation is hiding that gem under a lot of rust, and it’s a good time to strike at it for a potentially championship winning move.
It’s not quite as impressive as what the wide receiver on the other side of the ball managed to achieve, but Rishard Matthews had a pretty good game this week. Matthews caught 6 of his 7 tosses for 97 yards and 1 touchdown, the majority of his action coming off a 75 yard long play. Matthews has had quite a bit of sneaky value this season, this is just the first time it’s become so apparent to fantasy players at large.
Matthews is questionable for next week, and – if you can afford the hit to this week’s depth – I would consider getting him for cheap from a likely panicking owner. I don’t know how much I would be willing to pay given that his consistency is somewhat shaky, but he has put up at least WR3 numbers most weeks with a ceiling that is great for his perceived value. And if he does play, all the better, given that he gets to square off against the Indianapolis Colts.
Danny Amendola did pretty well for himself, catching 8 of 9 targets for 66 yards and a touchdown. The lack of Chris Hogan in the Patriot’s offense, who had been taking the targets Julian Edelman once enjoyed, has opened up holes other receivers have stepped in to take over. This week, Amendola did exactly that, grabbing his second touchdown on the season in the process.
Compared to Cooks, however, Amendola’s spot is a lot more shaky. I think he’s filling in the gap, but he’s not a vital part of this offense. He’s good for WR3 most weeks, but expecting games like this with Chris Hogan back is asking for a lot. I think, if you have the time, hold on to Amendola for one more week then set him free, ideally in a trade. He’s gonna have his best weeks while Hogan is out, and it’ll likely be the highest time for his trade value.
Davante Adams actually tied exactly with Amendola this week, but the lack of touchdowns knocked him down a peg in the tiebreaker. Adams caught 8 of 10 passes for 126 yards, failing to find the end zone but more than making up for it with a 100+ yards game. I’ve always been the type of person who loves consistent volume over the occasional big play, and what Adams has found is a consistent spot in the offense.
Brett Hundley loves Davante Adams, much like Matt Moore loves Kenny Stills. And the “advantage” Adams has is that his starting quarterback is out, and if Hundley only has chemistry with Adams, he’s gonna reap the benefits. Not in the sense that they would win games, that’s silly, but his fantasy value is through the roof. People don’t want any part of the Packers offense, but I’d love to buy low on Davante Adams if I could manage it. He has sneaky good value, as weeks like this show.
Jarvis Landry rounds off the top ten on the week, collecting 6 of 11 targets for 95 yards and a touchdown. Landry received Cutler’s sole passing touchdown of the evening prior to leaving the game, continuing a streak he’s enjoyed for three games, six if you exclude the blow-out against the Baltimore Ravens. It’s a bit odd because that’s not necessarily the role expected of him, but he’s effectively become the WR1 for the Dolphins offense. Which, while struggling, is still technically an NFL team!
Landry doesn’t necessarily have the connection that Kenny Stills does with Matt Moore, which will likely hurt him next week provided Moore starts. The game that broke Landry’s touchdown streak was the one Moore started, and overall he seems to have much more chemistry with Cutler. Which, while an odd statement to say considering the level of play – or lack thereof – Cutler has demonstrated this season, is nonetheless true. Landry might take a hit this next week, but I still firmly believe he’s a high-end WR2 or even a low-end WR1.
Alshon Jeffery did pretty well for himself this week, reeling in 4 of 7 targets for 67 yards and a touchdown. The high-powered Eagles offense is churning well and Jeffery has been a big beneficiary of that. Having said that, he has not yet broken 100 yards in a game, which means that in games where he doesn’t score touchdowns his floor can be dangerously low. Mind you, he’s likely to get a lot of touchdowns on the Eagles, but it keeps me from wanting him on my teams and I would advise similar things to anyone reading this.
Marvin Jones Jr. bounced back from a bad week in a major way, catching 4 of 7 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Jones seems to be fighting off Kenny Golladay from encroaching on his targets, but ignoring that in its entirety is dangerous. While we now know that Jones kept up his production in the Thanksgiving game, the floor is still low for Jones as we saw last week. The ceiling means he’s a must-start and will likely finish as a WR1 on a season, but the boom-bust nature is also there.
Hopkins continues to surprisingly do well under a terrible quarterback, this week catching 4 of 9 targets for 76 yards and a touchdown. It’s a testament to the ability “Nuk” has a receiver that he is able to put out these kind of results in spite of the hit to his QB, and while he hasn’t been quite the same since the loss of Deshaun Watson he is doing admirably given the circumstances. If you panic traded Hopkins for something less than an RB1, it was likely a bad call given his low-end WR1 production, but it’s true that he isn’t the elite WR1 he once was. That, unfortunately, will most likely have to wait until next season.
Demaryius Thomas found his way to end zone this week, catching 5 of 9 targets for 64 yards and said touchdown. Thomas has managed to put up good numbers in spite of the cluster of confusion that is the Broncos offense, but yet another quarterback change – this time to Paxton Lynch – could hurt any rapport he may have built up with Brock Osweiler. He’s a solid WR2 right now, but through no fault of his own I’m going to keep fading him for the rest of the season unless I see some dramatic change is the Broncos offense.
Robert Woods dialed down his amazing production from last week, putting up a stat line of “just” 8 for 11 and 81 yards, but these are the WR2 numbers I’d generally expect from a good wide receiver on a high-powered, run-heavy offense. An injury hurts him a lot this week, and he’d be a nice compensation for Kenny Stills if the owner needs someone good to start this week if you want to obtain him for cheap. I see Woods putting up WR2 numbers for the rest of the season with occasional climbs to the top, as we saw last week.
Mike Wallace did pretty well this week, catching all 4 of his targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. Wallace won’t usually make it on the list, but there is a reason that he gets his sporadic appearances. Wallace will usually be good for about four-to-six targets a game, and if he can get a big play off of those, he’ll deliver WR2 numbers. If he doesn’t, his floor will drop down like a sack of potatoes out of a ten story building. He’s an available flex choice, but given this is just the third time he’s managed to perform this season, barring an amazing match-up I’d avoid him.
Tyreek Hill was quietly good this week, catching all 7 of his targets for 68 yards. It is worth noting that he was part of a trick play, rushing for 16 yards on his sole carry of the game. Hill is usually either big boom or big bust, so it’s a bit surprising to see him put up numbers that are more indicative of a volume player. I doubt it’s much of a change in pace for Hill, but it’s worth keeping an eye on him to see if he can become a more consistent figure in the offense.
Michael Thomas is like Robert Woods, except he has a much higher floor and an inability to find the end zone. Thomas did well for himself, catching 6 of 11 targets for 91 yards, and continues to be the most consistent wide receiver in the league. The upside really should be there, but the end zone touches keep going to the Saints running backs. It’s a shame because Michael Thomas is that WR1 caliber player, but the structure of the offense means that most weeks he’s going to be playing support. Playing support well, but playing support nonetheless.
A.J. Green salvaged a bit of a rough week with a 18 yard touchdown, catching just 4 of his 10 targets for 50 yards and said touchdown. Green nearly avoided disaster, but the lack of chemistry with Andy Dalton has led to some consistency issues. He should be a regular on the WR1 express, but instead he’s been riding on the boom-bust roller-coaster. This week he hopped off before it crashed into a bust, but it’s not exactly the type of game you’d love to have from someone of A.J. Green’s caliber.
Ryan Grant made a lot out of a little this week, catching all of just 3 targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. This is Grant’s first week breaking the double-digits, although notably not the first time he’s found the end zone. Grant is a boom-bust flex option with the ceiling of a WR2, which is all you need to know in order to fade him and fade him fast. He might be able to occasionally get a touchdown, but predicting when it will happen and when he’ll score absolutely nothing is an exercise in frustration.
Jamison Crowder didn’t get the touchdown that Grant did, but he got a hell of a lot more volume. Crowder caught 7 of 8 passes for 72 yards, a key cog in the Redskins offense on the week. Crowder is someone who has struggled with consistency this season, but does have that role of lead receiver on the offense, which he typically shares with Josh Doctson. With Chris Thompson out and a solid Thanksgiving game in the books, there are definitely worse options to look at for a WR3 or even WR2 candidate.
Dez Bryant was force fed a lot of targets this week but didn’t get to do much with them, catching 8 of 14 for just 63 yards. It’s enough to deliver WR2 numbers, assuaging some worries about the state of the Cowboys offense, but I don’t believe in them to continue it. The offense is in shambles with several key cogs missing, and Dez Bryant is going to be significantly hurt by it. If you can trade him for WR2 value I would, but in most scenarios you’re probably holding onto him because people simply don’t want him.
Mike Evans return was passable, catching 5 of 10 targets for 92 yards, but it most likely left owners who had held onto him through the suspension a tad bit irritated with his lack of production. Evans is one of the best wide receivers in football, giving him volume should be the key to a good game, but the Buccaneers aren’t good enough at what they do to provide the podium he needs to make good plays. The talent is there, but this season I don’t think we’ll see it manifested consistently, and I’d trade him before the deadline if I were an owner.
Corey Coleman did about as well as a receiver on the Cleveland Browns can do, catching 6 of 10 targets for 80 yards. This was Coleman’s return to play time, and he did deliver, but whether he can consistently put up these kind of numbers is another question. The quarterback situation the Browns currently face is dire, and Coleman’s talent might not be enough to make up the difference when someone like DeShone Kizer is throwing the passes. I think he has WR2 upside for the rest of the season, however, and would be willing to pick him up as a spot start for that reason.
Ted Ginn bounced back form a bad week, as some may have said he would, although it wasn’t quite as explosive as one may have hoped for given it was a pass heavy game script. Ginn caught all 6 of his targets for 87 yards, although he lost 12 on a confusing play that was deemed a rushing attempt for Ginn. Ginn is the Saints WR2, which in games that call for heavy passing can deliver some good upside, but the run-heavy nature of the offense limits him to being an excellent WR3 or flex piece rather than a true WR2.
Amari Cooper may have got the touchdown this week, but Michael Crabtree got the volume and the spot on the list this week. Crabtree caught 6 of 11 targets for 51 yards, also nailing the two point conversion following Cooper’s touchdown. Crabtree led in targets on the week, outpacing Cooper 11-7, and looks positioned to continue performing better than the alleged WR1 for the Raiders. If the Raiders continue faltering Crabtree may become more of a WR2 than the WR1 he has been on the season, but either way the upside is definitely there.
Bruce Ellington filled in the gap left by Will Fuller, catching 6 of 7 targets for 63 yards as well as netting soe points on a 5 yard rush. The amount of targets and yardage Ellington had make me really excited about his future on the team, albeit with the warning that, if Tom Savage is his quarterback, the floor is essentially nonexistent. Most weeks, however, I think he can score in about this range, which makes him a relatively unknown but extremely solid flex piece, so long as he can keep it up.
Mohamed Sanu made due with little volume, catching all three of his targets for 34 yards and a touchdown. Sanu has had a few games where his volume has elevated him to WR2 status, but he has undeniably struggled most weeks to get points outside of touchdowns. Luckily for him he seems to be one of Matt Ryan’s favorite targets in the end zone, to the disgust of Julio Jones owners out there. Sanu is ultimately a boom-bust flex with better odds than most because of how the offense has typically utilized him.
Alex Erickson caught both his targets this week for 42 yards and a touchdown. Alex Erickson is not a fantasy relevant wide receiver, and is only on this list because of a 29 yard touchdown reception that came out of nowhere. I can’t even say the potential for me is really there; he had one decent week where he had four receptions for 62 yards, but typically posts single digit, zero, or even negative points most weeks. There is no reason to roster Alex Erickson, unless you’re name is Alex Erickson and you think it would be cool to own yourself in fantasy. And even then, I don’t think Erickson himself would bother to own himself in fantasy.
Julio Jones cannot find the end zone for the life of him and it’s really capping the upside for an otherwise incredibly talented receiver. Julio caught 5 of 10 targets for 71 yards, which is a fine performance for a WR2, but not something you would expect out of a big name like Julio Jones. The time to sell him for his full value has long since passed, so most owners will likely hold on and hope for that eventual breakout game for Julio, but the fact is that he’s going to likely finish as a WR2 on the season and slotting him into your roster as anything more than that is dismissing all the evidence we’ve seen to the contrary. A breakout game could always happen, but each week it becomes less and less likely.
Josh Doctson tied Julio Jones this week, catching 4 of 7 targets for 81 yards. Doctson is one of a select few viable weapons on the Redskins offense, giving him solid flex value for a team riddled by injuries. I think seeing him as anything more than a WR3 is a little bit presumptuous at this point, but having him in that area and obtaining him for that value or cheaper isn’t a terrible move. His floor is low, but most weeks he can put up around 8 points, which while not ideal is not unreasonable for a flex piece.
Doug Baldwin had a somewhat quiet week, catching 2 of 6 targets for 40 yards and a touchdown. The only thing stopping an utter disappointment was a touchdown, but because he did get it Baldwin had a salvageable week. This is likely a glimpse of where his floor lies, but most weeks I expect Baldwin to put up much better numbers and not need the touchdown to be fantasy relevant. If you could buy cheap on him after a week like this, go for it, but it’s not like 12 points is terrible enough to justify a panic sell for most owners.
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