With less than two weeks to go until the start of the 2016 NFL season, it is becoming more apparent which wide receivers you should target in your upcoming fantasy football draft. If you have already drafted, you may be kicking yourself if you took Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant in the opening round. As any fantasy football champion knows, it is essential that you do not schedule your draft until after every team has played their third preseason game. Otherwise, injuries could ruin your entire season before it has even started.
If your draft has not taken place yet, or if you are looking for early advice on weekly fantasy football leagues, here are the top five wide receivers that you should be targeting. At the bottom, you can find a few wide receivers that you should be extremely cautious about. Rankings from Fox Sports and ESPN were used as reference points.
1. Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
Standing at only 5-foot-10, and 180 pounds, Antonio Brown does not have the prototypical size that a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL usually possesses. Regardless, he had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history for a wide receiver last season. With 136 receptions, 1,834 yards, and 10 touchdowns, Brown’s season could have actually been a lot better. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed four games because of injury, and Steelers backup quarterback Michael Vick could not get Brown the ball. While Le’Veon Bell’s early suspension could cause defenses to put even more focus on Brown, it is not going to matter. Expect him to be the No. 1 wide receiver in fantasy football in both standard and PPR leagues this year.
2. Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
While Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has regressed over the past few seasons, it has not affected Julio Jones’ fantasy numbers. With 136 receptions, 1,871 yards, and eight touchdowns, Jones actually matched Brown’s historic season last year. He remained healthy last season, but injuries are still a concern when it comes to Jones. His recent ankle injury appears to be a false alarm, but there is always a chance that his surgically repaired foot in 2013 could cause issues. Before the draft in 2011, Jones also had a broken bone in is foot. It is likely that Jones is going to be fine this season, but Brown appears to be the more reliable option.
3. Odell Beckham, Jr. – New York Giants
While there have been questions regarding New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.’s character, there is no doubt that he is one of the top pass catchers in the NFL. Last year, he had 96 receptions, 1,450 yards, and 13 touchdowns. He is a small step below the tier of Brown and Jones, but he is still a high-end No. 1 wide receiver every single week, and that is regardless of the defense that he is facing. Expect him to surpass 100 catches this year for over 1,500 yards.
4. DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans
Many analysts predicted that Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins would have a solid season last year, but no one could have imagined the reality of what he accomplished. He had 111 receptions, 1,521 yards, and 11 touchdowns. While his production slowed down after Week 10, he was still one of the better starting wide receivers in the league. In other words, he has an extremely high floor, and he is rarely going to be a complete bust on a given week.
5. Brandon Marshall – New York Jets
While this last spot was originally for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, his future is too uncertain without quarterback Tony Romo. Brandon Marshall, who is now 32-years-old, was one of the biggest surprises in the NFL last season. His 109 receptions, 1,502 yards, and 14 touchdowns were all towards the top in each category, and he could see a repeat this year. As expected, the Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finally agreed to terms, and he and Marshall have an undeniable chemistry.
Here are a few wide receivers that you should avoid drafting at their current average positions. While they will all likely have solid seasons, they may not be worth the draft slot.
1. Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys
No one can deny that Dez Bryant is one of the best wide receivers in the league. The problem is that Romo is going to miss at least six weeks. And even when he returns, no one knows how healthy he is going to be. While Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has looked sharp in the preseason, he has never played a down in the NFL. Unless Bryant starts free falling in your league, you should look for other options at wide receiver.
2. Arizona Cardinals Wide Receivers
While the Cardinals have a solid group of wide receivers, none of them are true No. 1 options. For that reason, there are going to be a lot of weeks that one of them barely puts up any points. As SB Nation notes, the upside is just not there.
“Unlike Denver, I think Arizona’s top three receivers – Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd – are going to have fantastic seasons. The problem with the Cardinals, unfortunately, is the fact that they have so many weapons. Carson Palmer has yet to develop a Brady/Gronk or Brown/Ben type of rapport with Fitzgerald, Brown, or Floyd, so it’s easy to imagine that Arizona’s top receiver will vary on a week-by-week basis, which substantially reduces their upside.”
3. Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is still one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL, but the quarterback situation is a disaster. Despite a mess at quarterback last year, Thomas still had 105 receptions, 1,304 yards, and six touchdowns. Regardless, drafting him in one of the first few rounds could be a huge mistake.
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