Tier 1: DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr.
Tier 2: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper, Antonio Brown, Adam Thielen
Tier 3: Robert Woods, Stefon Diggs, Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, T.Y. Hilton, Kenny Golladay, Tyler Lockett
Tier 4: D.J. Moore, A.J. Green, Mike Williams, Robby Anderson, Alshon Jeffery, Josh Gordon, Calvin Ridley, Tyler Boyd, Jarvis Landry, Will Fuller, Christian Kirk, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, Marvin Jones, Dede Westbrook, Curtis Samuel, Dante Pettis, Michael Gallup, Emmanuel Sanders, Sterling Shepard
Tier 5: Corey Davis, Keke Coutee, James Washington, Devin Funchess, Larry Fitzgerald, Courtland Sutton, Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Anthony Miller, DeSean Jackson, DaeSean Hamilton, D.K. Metcalf
Tier 6: Hunter Renfroe, Golden Tate, Donte Moncrief, John Brown, Jamison Crowder, Parris Campbell, Kenny Stills, Robert Foster, Tyrell Williams, Tre'Quan Smith, Marquise Goodwin
Tier 7: Adam Humphries, Mohamed Sanu, Quincy Enunwa, Deebo Samuel, Zay Jones, N'Keal Harry, Devante Parker, Ted Ginn, Mecole Hardman, Andy Isabella, Antonio Callaway
Analysis & Draft Strategy:
The wide receiver drafting strategy follows closely with that of RBs, albeit without the pressure to invest your very top pick in the position. The reason for this is due to depth at the position. As you examine the tiers, you’ll see great value as deep as the tier 4 and 5 groups, with good options emerging as the season goes on. RBs and WRs are the lifeblood of your team, so you’ll want to make sure you deeply stock up at these two positions with not just volume, but quality. You have more WRs that can provide this high level of production than you do RBs, so that’s why RBs typically go first.
Ideally for your team, you’ll want at least one WR from the tier 1 / 2 group, along with at least one WR from tier 3 and tier 4. Then, as noted below, select upside WRs with your mid to later round picks.
Finally, quick hits on four WRs whom I expect will outperform their ADP, and are therefore reflected higher in my rankings:
D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore enters 2019 as Cam Newton’s number one target for the Panthers after having ascended to the top of the team’s WR chart. In 2018, Moore accumulated 788 yards receiving and 55 receptions while not receiving consistent playing time until the second half of the season. Now with the opportunity to start from the onset of the season, Moore will only expand from his rookie season numbers. Two key numbers which highlight Moore’s strong rookie season - he averaged 14.3 yards per reception and 9.6 yards per target. Moore has elite speed with a 4.42 40 yard dash and displayed elite athleticism with pads on last season. Add in the fact that the Panthers face one of the easiest slates of passing defenses this season, and Moore is set to ascend to WR2 status.
Dante Pettis, San Francisco 49ers: As a University of Washington grad, I have watched every game Pettis has played since his freshman year in college. In addition to setting the NCAA TD record for punt returns, he showed consistency, great hands and excellent route running to go along with top end speed. Like many rookie WRs, Pettis didn’t factor in much during the first part of the 2018 season. Similarly to D.J. Moore, Pettis made his presence felt during the stretch run. Following the 49ers’ bye in week 11, Pettis accumulated 359 yards and scored 4 TDs in a five game stretch, all while averaging 7.49 yards after the catch. Kyle Shanahan runs a system which accentuates Pettis’ strengths, and as the Z receiver, Pettis is set to take another leap as the 49ers’ top non-TE pass catcher. The return of Jimmy Garoppolo will only help the cause.
Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars have largely had an anemic passing attack over the last several years, but Nick Foles taking over QB duties provides a reason for optimism. The 2019 Jags won’t remind you of the Peyton Manning led Broncos passing attacks, but Foles can at least elevate the team’s WRs a bit. The receiver to own in Jacksonville is Dede Westbrook. First off, who’s Westbrook’s competition? Marqise Lee? Keelan Cole? Meh. Westbrook will primarily serve as the slot receiver for the Jags, which will lead to a heavy volume of targets. Note that unlike Bortles, Foles consistently nails the shorter throws. In other words, Foles skill set matches up nicely with that of Westbrook. This is a volume play, and Westbrook has WR3 upside, but can be had at a much cheaper price than his draft day price.
D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks: Usually I’m loathe to recommend a rookie WR, so my optimism here will have some boundaries. But D.K. Metcalf will be the real deal, folks. Metcalf was widely slammed at the combine for his three cone drill, and thusly labeled a one trick pony with a go route for a route tree. While shifting laterally will never be Metcalf’s strong suit, that’s ok. Metcalf stands 6 foot 3 and runs a sub 4.33 40 yard dash. He will leave defensive backs in the dust, and just wait until Russell Wilson does his usual improve on the field – teams will have fun trying to cover Metcalf for 7-8 seconds. Like any rookie, you will need to be prepared for inconsistency from week to week. But Metcalf should be a Week 1 starter for the Seahawks, and a stat line of 600 yards and 8 TDs is not out of the question. Currently being drafted in the 140’s, take a chance on Metcalf in round 10 and enjoy his massive upside. He’s the exact type of player that you should be drafting with your later picks.
And two WRs whom I consider to be overdrafted with respect to their ADP, and are therefore reflected lower in my rankings:
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears: Receiver evaluations for fantasy football purposes require a larger leap of faith than that of a running back. Why? Well, a running back destined to get his carries will in fact get the rock. But for a wide receiver, you’re relying on the quarterback to successfully get the ball over to the targeted player. So I like Allen Robinson as a player, but I don’t have as much faith in Mitch Trubisky as a QB. As such, I’m not buying Robinson’s performance in the playoffs against the Eagles as a sign of things to come. Robinson had 54 catches for 754 yards and 4 TDs in 2018, and while he may find the end zone a few more times, I expect similar numbers this season. He’s being drafted higher than this as a top 30 WR, and I would suggest letting someone else pay that price.
Golden Tate, New York Giants: Sure, an easy pick here with Golden Tate suspended for the first four games of the regular season. But Tate’s inclusion on this list is specific to the 12 games in which he’s slated to play. He’s never been a huge TD guy, and his play started to slip in 2018, which will continue in 2019. Tate fell from his usual 90 catch loft to the 70s, and he won’t be hitting the 70 number this year. With the Giants likely to turn to a rookie QB at some point during the season, an overmatched one at that, I don’t see a happy ending for Tate’s fantasy owners here. Instead of investing in Tate, make the pick for Keke Coutee or Curtis Samuel…or even the aforementioned D.K. Metcalf. As Metcalf is the exact type of player you should be targeting in the later rounds, Tate (zero upside) is the type of player you should be avoiding.
- Neema Hodjat is RealGM's Fantasy Football expect. Follow him on Twitter at @NeemaHodjat where he will also answer any question you have to help you win your league.