Wide receiver, my favorite position in fantasy football. Why is it my favorite position? Simply put, wide receivers are game changers, in more than one way. First off, they can turn any particular game around in one play. A perfectly executed screen play, or a good ol’ fashioned bomb down the side line from a QB, can mean up to 15 fantasy points in the blink of an eye, even more depending on your scoring format.
Second, a wide receiver can turn your entire season around if you acquire them via trade or waivers. In 2014, I was lucky enough to pick up both Odell Beckham Jr. and Kelvin Benjamin, through waivers before they were big names. They helped bring me home a fantasy championship that year, and I know I’m not the only one. Every year, a previously undervalued receiver finds himself in the top 10, in terms of fantasy scoring, and their owners reap the rewards all season long. To me, that’s what makes a position truly valuable.
Sure, a wide receiver’s value is directly tied to his QB, and in some scenarios, that’s not a good thing (every Browns wide receiver ever). Other times tho, a wide receiver is talented enough that it doesn’t matter who’s taking the snaps under center, they’re going to score regardless. I’m a strong believer in drafting wide receivers early and also taking flyers on wide receivers late. You never know what you might end up with. With all that being said, here are my top 15 wide receivers for the 2017 season.
15. Terrell Pryor
Coming into last season, I was skeptical of Pryor’s ability to adapt to playing wide receiver. I was even more skeptical of Pryor being fantasy relevant as a member of the Cleveland Browns. He proved all his skeptics, including me, wrong. Last season, Pryor had 1,007 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns, playing on one of the worst offenses in all of football. He totaled 213.4 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. This year he moves to Washington, who has a better offense, and who has a QB who isn’t afraid of slinging the ball.
Where I’d draft him: 4th or 5th round. If Pryor was able to put up points in a totally putrid offense, then just imagine what he’ll be able to do in Washington. I’m excited to see the results. They won’t all be huge games this year, but Pryor has the potential to win you a fee weeks.
14. Tyreek Hill
Some people might think this is a bit high for Hill, but I’m a believer in his talent. He’s got good hands and is perhaps the fastest wide receiver in the game right now. Last season, Hill had 593 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. He also added 267 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, and 3 return touchdowns. He totaled 217 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. This guy is super versatile. He’s going to rack up points in every single for way possible. A great football mind, like Andy Reid, will know exactly how to use him this season.
Where I’d draft him: 4th or 5th round. If Hill has the season I expect him to have, this might be the last year you can get him this cheap. That kind of talent usually tends to rise to the top. It’s only a matter of time before people start to notice. Draft Hill, and look like a genius!
13. Jarvis Landry
These ranks are for standard scoring. If they were for PPR scoring, Landry would be much higher. Last season, Landry had 1,136 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns, and totaled 231.3 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. The guy is a target’s machine. Sure, he could score a few more touchdowns to increase his value, but he’s still an extremely solid #2 WR option. Supposedly, Ryan Tannehill is going to become a good QB one of these days, and if that happens, Landry becomes even more valuable. Look for him to have a solid 2017 campaign.
Where I’d draft him: 4th round. There are more eye popping options out there, but there aren’t many more consistent options. Nobody loves 7’s and 8’s, but those scores won’t lose you any games, and those are the scores you can constantly rely on Landry for. Don’t get greedy! Take the sure points and be happy!
12. Amari Cooper
Cooper had a solid 2016 season. He had 1,153 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns, and totaled 232.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. So why did his season feel underwhelming? Simple. He has the talent, plays in a stacked offense, and has an elite QB. When all those stars line up, you have to produce a bit more than Cooper did. The good news is he’s probably due for an uptick in production. The bad news is, we all thought that last year too.
Where I’d draft him: 4th round. Call me a hater, but there’s just something about Cooper that makes me skeptical about his ability to be an elite wide receiving option. Derek Carr had an MVP worthy season last year, and Cooper still wasn’t an elite WR. Michael Crabtree is more of a touchdown maker, and I could see him stealing some more scores from Cooper this year.
11. Brandin Cooks
Okay, this one is going to sound odd, but Cooks is this high on the list because he’s a Patriot now. He’s also this low on the list because he’s a Patriot. Let me explain. Last season, Cooks had 1,173 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, and totaled 246.3 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. Those numbers came in an absolutely pass happy offense. Sure, Cooks plays with arguably the best QB in the history of football now, but it’s not an offense that’s built around him, and Tom Brady has never really been known for force feeding receivers not named Randy Moss, or Gronk.
Where I’d take him: 3rd or 4th round. Don’t fall for the hype. Cooks is going to have a great season, but some people are acting like he’s going to turn into Antonio Brown over night just because he plays with Tom Brady now. Don’t reach too early for him, and temper your expectations a bit, or you might be in for a letdown.
10. T.Y. Hilton
Another guy who could lay claim to “fastest wide receiver in the game.” Hilton is a legitimate home run threat every time he steps on the field. Last season, Hilton led the league with 1,448 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, and 273.8 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. He’s got a trigger happy QB in Andrew Luck, and enough help around him to keep opposing defenses honest.
Where I’d draft him: 2nd or 3rd round. If he falls to you in the third, consider yourself lucky and take him. Hilton is Andrew Luck’s favorite target, and if he can bump up his touchdown total just a little bit, he could be a top 5 fantasy wide receiver this year. Worth the price tag.
9. DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins’ struggles last season were directly related to his QB’s inability to get him the ball. He only had 954 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns, and totaled 197.4 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. Hopkins is poised to have a bounce back year. The QB situation in Huston still isn’t ideal, but getting rid of Brock Osweiler was addition by subtraction. Expect vintage Hopkins.
Where I’d draft him: 2nd round. If Hopkins had a halfway way decent QB He’d be way higher on this list. He has elite talent, but he still hasn’t mastered the art of throwing the ball to himself. Be happy if you get him, just know his QB’s might drive you a little crazy.
8. Michael Thomas
Thomas has been a hot name since the end of last season. He had 1,137 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns, and totaled 255.7 fantasy points per ESPN scoring. When Brandin Cooks was traded to New England, the hype doubled. Thomas is stepping into the role of Drew Brees’ #1 WR. The role has done justice for many over the years. Thomas should be great this year.
Where I’d draft him: 2nd round. Thomas has the potential to take fantasy football by storm this year. However, there’s always the possibility of a letdown. Shall I remind us all of Cordarrelle Patterson and the breakout season he was about to have right before he didn’t? His price tag is going to be steep. Just be sure you know what you’re buying.
7. A.J. Green
One of my favorite wide receivers in the league. Last season, Green had 964 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns, and totaled 186.4 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He missed the last 5 games of the season, or his totals would’ve been higher. He’s good a solid QB in Andy Dalton, and elite talent. He’s a solid #1 WR option.
Where I’d draft him: 1st or 2nd round. Green has had a couple of injury issues over the last few seasons, but he remains one of the best wide receivers in all of football. The return of Tyler Eifert should help take some defensive pressure off of him. I see a bounce back year coming.
6. Dez Bryant
Another extremely talented wide receiver who had a down year. Bryant was plagued by injuries for most of 2016. He ended the season with 796 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, and totaled 180 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. I hate giving Cowboy fans any hope, but I see a huge bounce back year for Bryant. He’s part of the reason I’m so high on Dak Prescott.
Where I’d draft him: 1st round. If some people in your league forget how good he is, and you get him in the 2nd, then you’re lucky. Bryant is an elite player in this league, and the fact that some people might have forgotten that is going to motivate him to prove it all over again. I hate the Cowboys, and I’d draft him.
5. Jordy Nelson
When you’re Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target, you get an automatic spot in the top 5. Last season, Nelson had 1,257 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns, and totaled 304.7 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. You can make an argument that Nelson wasn’t even back to full speed yet last season, and that’s what makes him so enticing.
Where I’d take him: 1st round. 14 touchdowns coming off a torn ACL? That’s impressive. He’s in an elite offense and is obviously a touchdown magnet, Nelson is well worth the early pick. Once upon a time, I used to draft Jordy Nelson every year. Maybe it’s time for one last run together.
4. Mike Evans
Evans had a breakout year last season. He had 1,321 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, and totaled 304.1 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Evans joined the ranks of the elite WR’s, and he’s poised to build on his career year. I’m excited to see what he and DeSean Jackson can do together.
Where I’d draft him: 1st round. Jameis Winston is going to have a career year, and it could mean an even bigger year for Mike Evans. He already proved last season that he’s a huge goal line target. Who’s to say he can’t build on that this year. I’d feel lucky to land him.
3. Odell Beckham Jr.
OBJ wants to be the top paid player in the league. I’m assuming if he wants that kind of money, he’s planning on balling out of his mind this year. Last season, Beckham had 1,367, 10 touchdowns, and totaled 296.6 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Those totals were low by OBJ standards. Expect a return to the super human Beckham this year.
Where I’d draft him: Top 5. Beckham is obviously Eli Manning’s favorite target. Now, with the arrival of Brandon Marshall, opposing defenses will no longer be able to lock in on OBJ. I expect some big plays from Beckham this season, and all the points that come along with those plays.
2. Antonio Brown
This is a toss up. Brown is a freakish talent, and he’s on arguably the best offense in all of football. Last season Brown had 1284 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, and totaled 307.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Brown could’ve been #1 on this list, but his QB is more of an injury risk.
Where I’d draft him: Top 5. I couldn’t be mad if someone took Brown #1 overall. I get it. He’s so impressive, but if Ben Roethlisberger misses any games, for any reason, Brown becomes less valuable. Nonetheless, if he’s there, and you pass on him, you’ll probably regret it.
1. Julio Jones
It’s going to be Julio’s world this season, and we’re all just going to be living in it. Last season, Jones had 1,409 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, and totaled 259.9 fantasy points. That’s a solid season for a wide receiver, but a down year for Jones. That, coupled with the disappointment of losing the SuperBowl, should be enough to push Jones to a career year.
Where I’d draft him: Top 3. It’s all just a gut call, but I honestly feel like Jones is going to be on a war path this year. He and Matt Ryan must feel embarrassed by the collapse, and I think they’re going to try to erase that memory by having frequent trips to the end zone. If he’s your top pick, you nailed it.
Baseline Times NFL Contributor
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