Tier 1: Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Chris Godwin
Tier 2: Adam Thielen, Mike Evans, Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham, DJ Moore, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyler Lockett, Robert Woods, Keenan Allen
Tier 3: AJ Brown, Calvin Ridley, Terry McLaurin, Courtland Sutton, Cooper Kupp, DJ Chark, DK Metcalf
Tier 4: TY Hilton, Jarvis Landry, Michael Gallup, Stefon Diggs, DeVante Parker, AJ Green, Tyler Boyd, Julian Edelman
Tier 5: Marquise Brown, Marvin Jones, Sterling Shepard, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, John Brown
Tier 6: Diontae Johnson, Christian Kirk, Darius Slayton, Emmanuel Sanders, Jamison Crowder, Mike Williams, Curtis Samuel
Tier 7: Deebo Samuel, Breshad Perriman, Mecole Hardman, Golden Tate, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Preston Williams, Anthony Miller, Hunter Renfrow, Brandon Aiyuk, Justin Jefferson
Analysis & Draft Strategy:
As the NFL continues to evolve into more of a pass first league each year, we see more and more wide receivers become fantasy relevant. The WR position has reached incredible depth as a result, as we see in more detail below.
Saints’ WR Michael Thomas leads the positional group as a complete package, having posted eye popping 2019 numbers to the tune of 149 receptions covering 1,725 yards and 9 TDs, while being targeted by Drew Brees 185 times! These numbers should come down a slight bit in 2020, now that Emmanuel Sanders has joined the Saints’ WR corps. But make no mistake – Thomas will remain the top fantasy WR, and should be drafted in the first half of round 1. The rest of the tier 1 group also comprise safe bets to post elite numbers, although there’s a bit of variance with respect to where DeAndre Hopkins and Chris Goodwin fit within the tier, given that each will be working with new QBs this year without the usual time for acclimation. Nevertheless, each remains a tier 1 WR.
The dropoff from tier 1 to 2 is distinct but not deep. With even mediocre level QB play, Allen Robinson will perform as a tier 2 WR. Kenny Golladay and DJ Moore have unlimited potential, while Tyler Lockett and Robert Woods are perhaps the two most underrated WRs in all of football. Keenan Allen has tier 1 ability, but the QB change to Tyrod Taylor fails to inspire the same confidence as in previous years under Philip Rivers.
Two of my favorite WRs reside in tier 3 – the Falcons’ Calvin Ridley and Washington Football Team’s Terry McLaurin. We have more on both players below. Potential abounds in both tier 3 and tier 4. In addition to McLaurin, both AJ Brown and DK Metcalf have massive breakout potential in their NFL sophomore seasons. Metcalf would sit higher on this list if coach Pete Carroll wasn’t married to establishing the run.
Once you enter tier 5 and below, you stare more so at WR3/flex options. Deebo Samuel sits in tier 7 solely because of his injury – otherwise he’d be no lower than tier 4. For this season, I suggest exercising caution with rookie WRs, as they have had minimal chance to acclimate with their new teams. Given that WRs take time to get up to speed even with a full summer schedule and training camp, this year will be an even tougher road for them.
Finally, quick hits on three WRs whom I expect will outperform their ADP, and are therefore reflected higher in my rankings:
Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons – The talented Mr. Ridley has played in the shadows of future Hall of Famer Julio Jones for his first two seasons, but this year will be different. Last season, Ridley sat at 7 TDs through 13 games and was quietly on his way to the 1,000 yard mark before suffering a season ending abdominal injury. Ridley especially found his groove over his last four games, averaging 99 yards and just under 7 receptions per game in that span, while finding the end zone three times. Perhaps most importantly, Ridley had 37 targets during that stretch. With Austin Hooper gone, Ridley ascending and Julio Jones not getting any younger, Ridley will continue to attract a larger share of targets. Expect those additional targets to be converted into massive production. Ridley makes sense as a draft target starting at the back end of round 3 and into the start of round 4 (or picks 37 – 43 for those of you in drafts with 12+ teams) – he’s got fantastic upside.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team – AJ Brown and DK Metcalf posted very strong rookie seasons at WR last year, but perhaps the best rookie WR of all played in the nation’s capital for the team currently without a name. Terry McLaurin posted 919 receiving yards over 14 games, while finding the end zone 7 times – fantastic rookie numbers. Now take into account the bottom five QB play he endured for the year, and the numbers should be viewed in an even more favorable light. Washington QB Dwayne Haskins still has much to prove, but he showed promise over his handful of starts toward the end of last year. McLaurin easily has top 10 WR ability, and how much growth Haskins undergoes from year 1 to 2 will set the ceiling for McLaurin’s 2020 season. But the bet here is that McLaurin settles in as a high end WR2. Target McLaurin in the same vicinity as Ridley – the back end of round 3 to early round 4 of your drafts and enjoy the ROI.
Dionte Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers – A few select teams have become synonymous with producing a never-ending supply of stars at a specific position. Mike Shanahan’s 90’s Broncos plugged in one RB after another to produce new 1,000 yard rushers. The early 10’s Seahawks produced a litany of DBs as part of the Legion of Boom. And the Steelers have been the NFL’s WR gold standard for years. With Antonio Brown now long gone from the Steelers, JuJu Smith-Schuster has ascended to the top WR chair, with the second chair sitting vacant…until now. The second year WR found his footing over the last quarter of the 2019 season, averaging just under 6 catches and just above 64 yards per game over that time, with 2 TDs. Johnson has asserted himself as the Steelers’ 2nd best receiving option, and with Big Ben returning at QB, he will continue his development and bump up into WR3 / flex status. While Johnson is currently going off draft boards in the 10th round of drafts, he’s worth a snag as early as round 9.
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