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.
Oh boy, the only thing more fun than being incredibly right is being so, so very wrong. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to last week’s round-up and my section on Jones:
“…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.”
Boy, don’t I look intelligent? At the very least, in my defense, I hedged my bets that a breakout game could occur, but I don’t think I — or most analysts, for that matter — expected a breakout of this extreme.
Jones caught 12 of 15 targets for 253 yards, which would already be WR1 numbers on their own, even in a standard scoring league. Throw in two touchdowns — only one of which was thrown by a quarterback, oddly enough — and you have an elite performance. And, mostly just to show he could probably, Jones also had a rushing attempt for 15 yards, because of course, he did. When Jones blows up, he makes it a massive explosion.
Is this a sign of things changing? I’m not entirely certain, to be honest. It’s not sustainable, no one thinks that, but should we expect more WR1 performances or more of the WR2 of old? I’m leaning towards the latter, although I think it will be slightly higher than it was before — more in the 18 point range than 12, with the ever-present possibility of more touchdowns. He’ll likely finish as a WR1 after a performance like this, but personally, I see him as a high-end WR2 with an incredible ceiling, simply because of the inconsistency of the Falcons offense this season.
Antonio Brown broke forty points…again. And yet, he was almost ten points behind Jones this week, which just goes to show how outlandish the Falcons receiver’s performance was. As far as Brown goes, he caught 10 of 12 passes for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns, nailing a two-point conversion along the way. The big players who had been sleeping earlier in the season have come out to play in a big way in the back half of this season, and no one is more representative of that than Antonio Brown.
Antonio Brown will finish as a WR1 this season because, while he hasn’t been excellent every week, he’s only fallen short of double digits in one game. He is the Steelers go to playmaker, someone who will see a lot of targets every game and is both a yardage and end zone threat. I expect him to be at the least a top-five wide receiver come to the end of the season, although personally, he’s my pick to be #1 when all is said and done. No one who has Brown is trading or benching him, so there’s not a ton of fantasy advice I can offer. He’s good, play him, duh.
Keenan Allen had another huge week, but it was a step below Antonio Brown, who was a step below Julio Jones himself. Regardless, owners should be happy with his performance, catching 11 of 14 targets for 172 yards and a touchdown and breaking the thirty point barrier that, in many weeks, would be enough for the top spot. Something about the Chargers offense seems to have clicked for Allen, who has put up two consecutive amazing weeks.
Having said that, I’m gonna dial it back a bit on Keenan Allen. I think the potential for a 10 point game is there, but production at these kinds of levels isn’t sustainable for anyone. Two weeks in a row is already amazing, but if he breaks into the top five, or even the top ten, I would be surprised. Allen has been underwhelming outside of these two weeks, posting quite a few single digit weeks, and I fully expect him to be a WR2 when all is said and done, even as he sits as the fifth-best wide receiver on the season.
Robby Anderson not only continued the touchdown streak — which has now hit five games — but he did so in spectacular fashion, catching 6 of 10 targets for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Jets-Carolina game was incredibly competitive, and while Anderson is a big reason it stayed as competitive as it was, having a shoot-out is certainly going to help the numbers of the Jets best wide receiver. When the game script calls for it, Anderson will have these big games.
As far as his value for the rest of the season, I don’t think we’ll see a ton of top five performances like we did today. Regression from such high usage is to be expected, but I don’t think we’ll see an end to the touchdown streak anytime soon. Anderson will finish as either a low-end WR1, which I lean towards, or as a top WR2 on the season; he currently sits at 14 in the rankings, but I personally expect that to rise further as the season goes on.
While the Lions, on the whole, struggled this week against the Vikings, it sure as hell didn’t look bad for Marvin Jones. Jones caught 6 of 9 targets for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns, continuing his return to form after a weak week against the Browns two games ago. Jones seems to be the big play guy, running down the sidelines for a touchdown or exploding past the defensive line, while fellow wideout Golden Tate operates as more of a slot, check-down type of receiver.
Both have their uses, but Jones’ style of play leads to more boom-bust outings. And, given that the Lions have been a pretty good team this year, it tends to be more boom than bust, with Jones currently sitting as the 11th wide receiver of the year. I think he’ll finish the year as a low-end WR1, maybe a high-end WR2, barring some form of injury. He’s a must-start for me, even with the occasional dud weeks, because when he does perform it’s massive weeks like this.
Falling outside the top five is Jamison Crowder, who caught 7 of 10 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Crowder has emerged as a major weapon for the Redskins offense in the wake of their copious injuries, and most week’s I think he can deliver WR2 or WR3 value. In deeper leagues, he’s likely owned, albeit worth checking the waivers for, but I actually think he’ll be consistent enough most weeks in smaller leagues that he could solve WR3 or even WR2 woes in spite of early struggles.
Jermaine Kearse hasn’t been fantasy relevant in quite some time, the lion’s share of that has gone to Robby Anderson, but he got back in the action this week after a pretty good showing by Josh McCown and the Jets. Kearse caught 7 of 11 passes, a completion rate we saw A LOT this week, for 106 yards and a touchdown. I think this is more of an outlier than anything else, the predominant receiving role seems to have entirely transferred to Robby Anderson, but I said the opposite earlier in the season and look how that turned out. He’s worth a bench spot in most leagues, but starting him, even as a flex, is really hard to do in spite of this week and good early numbers.
Brandin Cooks continues to be the Patriots most reliable wide receiver, which would have sounded insane had I said it in the pre-season, or even before Chris Hogan’s injury. Cooks caught 6 of 7 targets for 83 yards and touchdown, while padding out his line with a nice rush for 11 yards. Brandin Cooks is on that border between WR1 and WR2 for me, his position rank is 7 but when Chris Hogan returns I don’t know where his role will go. Until then, however, absolutely fire him up as a WR1.
Mohamed Sanu was so much fun to watch this week. Catching 8 of 10 passes for 64 yards, he actualized his usual flex value, but he also threw Julio Jones a 51-yard bomb for one of his touchdowns. He put up more points than the actual quarterback, which is just the sort of thing that tickles me about fantasy football. Sanu won’t have thrown a touchdown…well, in just about any other week, but most weeks he’s been good for WR3, borderline WR2 value, and at worst is a great flex option.
Cooper Kupp looked pretty solid this week, catching 8 of 11 passes for 116 yards. Interestingly enough, albeit not particularly fantasy relevant, Kupp pulled a Sanu and threw the ball once — the play didn’t work out, but it speaks to his spot in the offense that they’re trying to involve him in these kinds of trick plays. I love Kupp going forward, especially because he’ll have the easier corner in next week’s match-up, and would be thrilled to plug him in as a WR3 or frequent flex option.
Deandre Hopkins just misses out on the top ten this week, but he had a good week all the same. Hopkins caught 7 of 10 targets for 125 yards, some of which were amazing. Hopkins had an incredible catch for first down where he was being outright held by the corner, and while the players would have gone through regardless it speaks to his sheer athleticism. Hopkins isn’t at the level he was a with a competent quarterback, but he’s delivered enough that trading him, for many owners, has to sting – myself included.
Davante Adams continues to be the new Jordy Nelson, while Jordy Nelson is, I suppose, the old Davante Adams. Adams caught 5 of 9 targets for 82 yards and a touchdown, putting up another WR1 performance, albeit a low-end one. I think Adams is one of the people who have the least attached value in spite of stellar performance, and if you could in some way obtain him for this I absolutely would. With trading almost completely dead, however, this is not likely to happen. If you do have him, however, the obvious — and correct — move is to plug him into the starting lineup and never take him out.
Sammy Watkins is the king of “big play or go home” and this week was the former, catching 4 of 9 targets for 82 yards and a touchdown. I actually think Watkins has been looking good lately, in three of the last four weeks he’s put up double digits, but he’s about to go against a great cornerback in Patrick Peterson. A good investment for the bench, if a tad inconsistent, but not someone I would be thrilled to start for this upcoming week.
Nelson Agholor had a weird week, catching 3 of 6 targets for 32 yards and a touchdown. Normally this would place him much lower on the list, but he also caught a fumble from Jay Ajayi in the end zone, netting him a fumble recovery touchdown. Generally, Agholor won’t be this high on the list, but there are worse WR3’s out there and he’s a great flex option in most leagues. When you’re on as good an offense as the Eagles, you’ll always be in the discussion as a starting option.
Devin Funchess has been looking good, picking up 7 of 12 targets for 108 yards this week. He didn’t find the end zone, but after a good performance in his last showing, he should be fired up in all formats. He’s getting the volume, and while his efficiency is somewhat shaky, he’s done enough with it in winning games that I don’t think the return of Greg Olsen will hurt him too much. Funchess is a vital part of their offense, and should be started as such.
Rounding the first half off is Adam Thielen, who continues to impress as a driving tool for the Vikings. Thielen caught 8 of 11 targets for 89 yards, which isn’t exactly a sexy stat line but certainly does the job, especially in PPR scoring. Adore Thielen as a player, he’s been instrumental in this elite Vikings offense, and this placement honestly seems closer to his floor than his ceiling. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is very, very good news for anyone invested in him.
Kicking off the back half is Alshon Jeffery, who caught just 5 of 9 targets for 52 yards and a touchdown. Jeffery has had a few good weeks, a few bad weeks, but usually tends to fall in this mid-tier WR2 role. It’s a bit of a shame given how amazing the Eagles offense has been and his target share among said offense, but he’s up there as one of the best WR2’s out there. The floor, it’s worth noting, is sadly low, which is worth keeping in mind in smaller leagues with harder start decisions.
Randall Cobb caught all four of his targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. I have difficulty trusting any wide receiver not named Davante Adams with Brett Hundley at the helm, even if people like Cobb benefited from his strong performance against the Steelers. I just don’t think it’ll continue, and quite honestly I don’t even think Cobb is worth a roster spot at this point. He seems like someone who under the current system, nine times out of ten, will fail to deliver fantasy value.
Jarvis Landry had another great PPR game, catching 8 of 9 targets for 70 yards. Landry had more points for receptions than he did for yards, which is indicative of the value he’s provided in the PPR format. Anyone who has him in PPR isn’t going to part with him, sadly, and his consistency as an asset in standard leagues is dicey at best. Love Landry, think he’s one of the highest upside WR2’s in the league, one of a few if not the only must-starts on the Miami Dolphins.
Ted Ginn Jr. continued to put up solid flex numbers, catching 7 of 11 targets for 71 yards, eclipsing Michael Thomas who for the first week in quite some time failed to make the list. I’m the biggest Ginn fan out there, I think his usage is going to be pretty solid in any game the Saints are behind in, and he’s not going to be covered as well as the aforementioned Thomas. Ginn’s a great flex play, absolutely worth a roster spot and a starting gig depending on your available options.
Martavis Bryant got his second touchdown of the season, catching 4 of 6 targets for 40 yards and said touchdown. I don’t expect to see this sort of usage from Bryant most weeks, as the wide receiver who’s by and largely eclipsed him in Juju Smith-Schuster was out this week with a hamstring injury. With JuJu set to return, Bryant’s brief appearance in the fantasy limelight will disappear. If he’s injured again, however, he’s not a terrible flex start if the Steelers are playing at home.
Desean Jackson was the best receiver for the Bucs this week, picking up 8 of 11 targets for 60 yards. D-Jax has usually been good for numbers in this range, but a decent splattering of poor games make him not quite consistent enough to be a reliable WR2 or WR3, which he’ll likely finish the season as. He’s a great flex option, even if his ceiling isn’t quite as high as some would hope, but ignoring his faults and making him a weekly starter is dangerous territory.
Speaking of the Bucs, Mike Evans continues to put up underwhelming numbers, this time going 6 for 12 for 78 yards. It’s not exactly awe-inspiring from someone who was considered a consensus WR1, and we can’t even say he’s just been hitting this as his floor for most of the season — he’s dipped to single digits twice. Evans value is mostly in his name, but usually, he’ll score somewhere in the 14-20 range, which is good for a high-end WR2 or low-end WR1, especially with Jameis Winston returning.
Cody Latimer had a surprisingly good week, picking up 3 of 4 targets for 48 yards and a touchdown. The volume isn’t great, especially for a veteran player you would hope for more from in an offense, but the constant shifting at quarterback means there might be some hope for Latimer to emerge with Trevor Siemian back under center. Having said that, I’m fading him and fading him hard, WR2 numbers aside.
Tyrell Williams looked competent this week, picking up 2 of 3 targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. This is the first time since week four that Williams has broken double digits, and in a not-so-bold call, I think it will be his last on the season. The guy’s not a terrible player or anything, but the usage just hasn’t been there in spite of high snap counts. Look elsewhere for your flex options, my lovely readers.
Josh Reynolds is a fourth-round pick from the last draft, and finally got some playtime with Robert Woods out. It looked pretty good, he caught 4 of 6 targets for 37 yards and a touchdown, but trusting a rookie after a good game — even with a good amount of targets — is always a risky option. In a dynasty league I’d be willing to pick him up as a lottery ticket, but at this point in the season, there’s no reason to use him as a flex option when more reliable ones are available.
A bit like another wideout from the Chiefs that we’ll talk about in a few entries, Wilson had modest gains from a lot of targets. Wilson caught 3 of 7 targets for 36 yards and a touchdown, sparing anyone who started him from disaster with said touchdown. It was inefficient and not a great look, Wilson will probably end up as a WR4 on the season or thereabouts, but the volume is nice enough that I’d be willing to stream him depending on the Chiefs match-up.
Stefon Diggs caught 5 of 7 passes for 66 yards, as well as rushing once for 9 yards. Diggs hasn’t seen the explosive utilization he had before his injury, but he’s been solid in his role in PPR formats. Standard formats it’s a bit dicier, there really hasn’t been a lot of touchdowns, but he’s a good pass-catcher and worth a spot as a WR2 or WR3 for teams with more depth at the position.
Tyreek Hill caught 7 of 11 targets for just 41 yards, as well as rushing twice for 13 yards on the ground. Hill used to be a boom-bust type of player, but lately, he’s eschewed both of those for WR2-WR3 numbers. Which, for owners starting him in a flex spot, isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t exactly what you expected from him and may hurt people playing him for the hope of a ceiling. I’m never gonna hate to own a guy who had 13 plays on a game, but it’s hard to chase that volume when the floor is nonexistent and the trade deadline has passed. Hill is shaping up to be a solid WR2, but be wary of the floor.
Bennie Fowler caught three of his four targets for 33 yards and, guess what, a touchdown. Fowler has appeared on this list quite a few times, but it’s never been because he has this consistent volume or long yard plays. It’s because he scored a touchdown. If the Broncos can get him the ball in the red zone, Fowler will have a good week. Otherwise, he’ll be trash. Predicting this is an exercise in futility, and unless an injury or match-up is enough to convince you otherwise, it’s not worth the hassle.
Tying exactly with Fowler was Zay Jones, who caught three of…ten? Really, ten? And he caught THREE? Ok, Zay Jones caught three of TEN targets for 33 yards and a touchdown. Wow, that kind of inefficiency, bad passes or not, is straight up unacceptable. Like, I love volume as much as the next guy, Jones has looked good a few times this year and it’s clear they want to give him the ball, but I can’t imagine that this helps matters. The perks are that Kelvin Benjamin will likely be out this week, meaning that volume will still be there – begrudgingly, that makes him a decent flex choice, even as it kills me to write those words.
Like many people towards the end of the list, Jaron Brown had one play. Brown brought in his sole target for 52 yards and a touchdown, which is about as good as it’s going to get for him on a crowded Cardinal offense. With frequent target John Brown returning and Ricky Seals-Jones establishing solid chemistry with Blaine Gabbert, this is about where Jaron Brown’s upside is and he simply isn’t rosterable; the Cardinals are just too crowded at the moment.
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