Antonio Brown is quickly staking his claim to the title of the best receiver in football -- both real and fantasy. The Steelers star topped 100 receptions and 1,400 yards for the second straight season and doesn't appear to be slowing down. Brown's ability to run every type of route imaginable makes it easy to see why he's Ben Roethliberger's favorite target. There's a chance that Brown could lose targets to either Martavis Bryant or Markus Wheaton this season, but it seems unlikely that either one of those wideouts will do enough damage to Brown's standing that the veteran won't once again challenge to be the top fantasy option at his position.
Bryant has been knocking on the door to be the top receiver in fantasy football for some time now. If it weren't for stretches where it seems the Cowboys offense forgets about No. 88, it's not unrealistic to think he could have already achieved that. Nonetheless, Bryant will remain the centerpiece of Dallas' passing game and could have a bigger role in the attack if the 'Boys new backfield committee falters at any point. Either way, if things go according to plan in 2015, Bryant is a lock to once again be a top-five fantasy wide receiver and could threaten to finish the year atop the positional rankings.
2014 was a frustrating season for Calvin Johnson ... and anyone who had him on their fantasy roster. The dynamic Lions receiver was hobbled by injuries for a significant portion of the season, and his numbers suffered accordingly. Johnson failed to top 1,100 yards for the first time since 2009 and fell outside of the top 10 fantasy receivers. For now, there's little reason to be alarmed by what happened last year -- Megatron is still Megatron. Golden Tate might be a bigger part of the offense, but Matthew Stafford will still do his best to get the ball in the hands of Detroit's best playmaker consistently in 2015.
Thomas posted his best overall statistical season in 2014, setting career-highs in receptions and yards. It helps that Peyton Manning was the man throwing the football. It also helps that Thomas is both a bonafide deep threat as well as a player who can take a short throw and turn it into a long play. Even though there are long-term questions about Manning's arm strength and ability to get the ball down the field, Thomas' versatility (and the departure of both Wes Welker and Julius Thomas) should continue to make him the top target in Denver's offense. He'll be one of the first five wideouts off the board in most fantasy drafts.
After a couple of seasons of being overlooked, Nelson is finally getting his due as one of the best receivers in the game. The Packer playmaker established new career-highs in receptions and yardage, while topping 1,200 receiving yards for the third time in four seasons. Entering his eighth season in the league, Nelson remains the favorite target of Aaron Rodgers and should have more than 100 balls thrown his way for yet another season. Fear not over the presence of Randall Cobb. There are plenty of opportunities to go around in Green Bay's offense and Rodgers is adept at spreading the wealth.
What can you say about Odell Beckham Jr's rookie season that hasn't already been said? His catch-for-the-ages was the highlight of a season that saw him finish as a top-five fantasy receiver despite missing the first four games of the season. Beckham's talent is undeniable, but he was also helped by the absence of Victor Cruz, who missed most of the season with a knee injury. Cruz's anticipated return is likely to cut into some of Beckham's targets, but it's apparent that Beckham has earned his spot as the top target in Big Blue's offense ... and fantasy rosters as well.
Jones entered 2014 with concerns that his surgically repaired foot would slow him down. Turns out, those fears were unfounded. The Falcons star had his best season as a professional, topping 100 receptions and 1,500 yards for the first time in his career. With Roddy White on the downside of his career, and the Falcons still feeling the effects of Tony Gonzalez's retirement, fantasy managers can expect Matt Ryan to keep looking in Jones' direction. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's system could also be a boon for Jones, as it favors the top wideout heavily. If the star wideout can boost his touchdown numbers in 2015, a top-three fantasy finish certainly isn't out of reach.
T.Y. Hilton scratched the surface of what he could do in 2013. In 2014, he truly broke out to become one of the NFL's better playmakers. Now, in 2015, Hilton is the undisputed leader of the Colts receiving corps. Playing in an offense helmed by Andrew Luck, Hilton will be the number one option in Indy's passing game. That alone should be enough to help vault the speedster into the top 10 among fantasy wideouts this season. The only concern is whether there are too many mouths to feed with Andre Johnson and rookie Phillip Dorsett joining a cast that already includes Dwayne Allen, Donte Moncrief and Coby Fleener. It's not a concern that should trouble you during your fantasy draft.
The best thing that Randall Cobb did this offseason to preserve his fantasy draft value was re-signing with the Green Bay Packers. Cobb's numbers have improved dramatically in each of his three full seasons with the club, culminating with career-highs across the board in 2014. Up next, Cobb is aiming for his first 100-catch campaign -- something that is well within reach with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback. There is also an outside chance that Cobb could supplant Jordy Nelson as the top target in Green Bay. But even if that doesn't happen, playing second fiddle with the Packers is arguably better than being a No. 1 option in plenty of other places.
Jeffery is yet another young wide receiver who gets to try on the mantle of being his team's No. 1 receiving option for the first time in 2015. It was a role he ostensibly shared with Brandon Marshall last season, but with the veteran moving on to the New York Jets, there is no longer any doubt. Whether Jeffery finds the kind of bromance with quarterback Jay Cutler that Marshall had remains to be seen. What is clear is that having highly-touted rookie Kevin White drawing attention on the other side could help Jeffery end up in more one-on-one matchups. Regardless, 2015 has an excellent chance of being the year we see Alshon Jeffery return to the top 10 fantasy scorers among wideouts.
By the numbers, 2015 was the worst season of A.J. Green's career, although much of that can be blamed on injuries that slowed the playmaking wide receiver for stretches of the season. Even still, Green was able to finish among the top 25 fantasy receivers. Unfortunately, plenty of people drafted him expecting more. Those people should regain their optimism this season. If Green can remain healthy, he should return to his perch among the upper echelon of fantasy wideouts. It definitely helps that the Bengals have yet to find another receiver who can carry the load in the event Green can't carry out his pass-catching duties. Nothing helps your value like being irreplaceable.
The expectation was that DeSean Jackson's fantasy totals would drop when he left Philadelphia for Washington. While that expectation came true, the fall wasn't as dramatic as some would have expected. Jackson stepped in and immediately surpassed Pierre Garcon as the team's top receiver. Even with Washington's uncertainty at quarterback, don't look for Jackson's targets or fantasy totals to be too far off from last season. The only downside is that the Cal product no longer offers return yards for owners who play in leagues that reward for that particular stat. Nonetheless, Jackson should be a solid choice as a No. 2 fantasy receiver.
Entering his third NFL season, Hopkins is now the No. 1 in the Texans passing game. With Andre Johnson now collecting mail in Indianpolis, "Nuk" will be expected to pick up his production -- something he proved he could do with his performance last season. The one thing that could slow Hopkins this season is the lack of a consistent quarterback. Regardless of who wins the inevitable training camp battle between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, fantasy fans aren't likely to be very enthused. This is where you'll need to believe in Hopkins' talent and trust that he'll put up good enough numbers to be a high-end WR2, as he did last season with other mediocre quarterbacks.
To call Sanders' first season in Denver a success would be an understatement. The diminutive receiver topped 100 receptions and 1,000 yards for the first time in his five NFL seasons, and broke into the ranks of top 10 fantasy receivers. With Wes Welker no longer plying his trade in Denver, that should open up opportunities for Sanders to work as a slot receiver -- not a bad gig in a Peyton Manning-led offense. It would be a surprise to see Sanders drafted among the top 10 fantasy wideouts in 2015, but he's a player who certainly has WR1 upside.
In what was the Year of the Rookie Receiver, Matthews was one of the bigger surprises. The Eagles wideout worked his way up the rankings and eventually helped make Jeremy Maclin expendable in Philadelphia. This season, we'll learn whether Matthews is ready for his new role as the Iggles No. 1 receiver. Head coach Chip Kelly believes that his system can help his players succeed ... not the other way around. If that's really the case, then Matthews could be primed for bigger and better things in 2015.
Cooks fired out of the gate in 2014 and looked to be one of the rookie wideouts that everyone would be takling about at the season's end. That is, until a broken thumb ended his season prematurely. This year, Cooks is back and should be a large part of New Orleans' revamped offense. Jimmy Graham (Seahawks) is gone and Marques Colston is far from the player he once was. That makes Cooks the No. 1 receiver almost by default. That's not to slight his talent, though, as this kid can play. The Saints should find a number of creative ways to get the football into his hands this season. Hopefully he picks up where he left off last year and fulfills the potential everyone saw in him.