Fantasy Football

Michael F. Florio's fantasy football top 12 wide receivers

The wide receiver position is not only the deepest its been in years -- maybe ever -- but it is also the deepest position in fantasy football. Gone are the days when the first few picks of a draft are wide receivers. In the last two years we have returned to the first round being primarily running back, as everyone puts an emphasis on a thinning position. With the NFL becoming more of a passing league, there is more talent at the WR position than ever. But the elite options still prevent a ton of value, and for those who like to zig when others zag, you can get some great receivers when others are loading up on running backs.

But the question then becomes, how should you value the top receiver options? Well, that is why I am continuing my series ranking the top 12 at each fantasy position! For those who missed it, here are quarterbacks and running backs.

1. Davante Adams

How good was Davante Adams in 2020? Well, he missed two games and still finished 30 fantasy points ahead of all other receivers. His 25.6 fantasy PPG not only led the position, but it was the sixth-most by a WR in NFL history. In fact, no other receiver even averaged 22 fantasy PPG and only two others topped 20. He also averaged 0.81 fantasy points per route ran, while no other receiver averaged 0.63. You might already be sold that he should be the WR1, but just in case you're not, I hope you are ready for some more Adams stats!

Adams has scored over 16 fantasy points in 34 of his last 41 games since 2018 -- that is 83 percent. He scored over 30 fantasy points six times in 2020, tied with Josh Allen for the most in the NFL. He topped 18 fantasy points 10 times -- the most among all WRs. His 30 percent target share led the NFL, and he has topped double-digit touchdowns in four of his past five seasons. He is the rare combination of being as safe as they come, while also bringing a very high ceiling. As long as Aaron Rodgers returns to Green Bay, Adams is the unquestioned WR1 and should be a mid-first round pick after the top RBs are selected.

2. Tyreek Hill

We've long known that Tyreek Hill possess a ton of upside anytime he steps onto a football field. But in 2020 he showed a side of consistency that we haven't seen from him. Cheetah had just one game where he did not top double-digits in fantasy and only three times this season did he fail to reach 15 fantasy points (he had 14.8 in one of those three). He also routinely topped 25 points and showcased that he still has that super high ceiling when he exploded for 57.9 fantasy points one week. His 12 games over 15 fantasy points tied for the most among receivers. While his 93.3 yards per game ranked fourth, and his career-high 17 TDs was second behind only Adams. He's now scored at least 14 TDs in two of the past three seasons. Lastly, in his past four seasons he has ranked fifth, third, 12th and second among receivers in fantasy PPG. He's also tied to the most talented QB I've ever laid eyes on in Patrick Mahomes. Given all of that, he is the no-brainer WR2 heading into 2021.

3. Stefon Diggs

I think this is where you can start to debate who should be the next WR to go off the board. For me, it would be the 2020 WR3 -- Stefon Diggs. He finished third in total fantasy points and fantasy PPG, while leading the NFL with 127 catches and 1,535 yards in 2020. There were concerns by some (myself included) over Diggs joining the Bills offense before the 2020 season, but Allen and his development as a passer put those concerns to bed. He went out and scored a career high fantasy points and fantasy PPG. In his career he has averaged 19.66 fantasy PPG with Allen, compared to 14.77 fantasy PPG with other QBs. These two clearly have a very strong connection, and with Allen, Bills OC Brian Daboll and the surrounding pieces of the offense all returning in 2021, I am once again expecting big results for Diggs in the passing game. That stability in his situation, and my trust in the passing aspect of the offense, is why I have him as the WR3, but it's very close with the next receiver.

4. DeAndre Hopkins

The WR that is so closely ranked with Diggs is DeAndre Hopkins. I had concerns about DHop moving away from Houston, where he was fed 150 targets yearly, and going to a Cardinals team that showed it likes to spread the ball. Those concerns were all shown to be silly, as DHop went out and topped 150 targets for a sixth straight season, tying Antonio Brown for the longest streak in NFL history. His 29 percent target share was second among all receivers and he was one of two players with 115-plus catches and over 1,400 yards (Diggs was the other). He also has played at least 15 games in all eight of his NFL seasons and in fantasy, proving the best ability is availability. However, there were a few negatives for Hopkins in 2020. He scored just six touchdowns, his fewest since 2016, and his TDs have decreased in three straight seasons. The Cardinals clearly showed that they will run heavily when they get near the goal line. His 9.1 air yards per target was also a career low. That may seem like nitpicking to some, but it is enough to help me decide between him and Diggs. However, DHop has finished no worse than fifth in total fantasy points or fantasy PPG in each of the past four seasons. I will not make the mistake of ranking him outside the top-five WRs again this year.

5. Calvin Ridley

Calvin Ridley finished as the WR5 in 2020, but he was the WR4 in fantasy PPG. To no surprise, he posted a career high in fantasy points, fantasy PPG, targets and targets per game in 2020. His 18 end zone targets were the second most in the NFL and he has now topped seven touchdowns in all three of his professional seasons. The one caveat is his numbers were clearly better when Julio Jones sat out. Without Julio, he averaged 20.56 fantasy PPG, 109.2 receiving yards per game and 11.3 targets per game, compared to 17.45 fantasy PPG, 76.1 receiving yards and 8.0 targets per game with Jones. Still, Jones will be entering his age-32 season, and that is typically when we start to worry about a decline. This feels like a decade ago when Julio Jones took over as the WR1 for the Falcons from Roddy White. Now, it's Ridley's time to be the alpha in Atlanta.

6. Keenan Allen

I am definitely higher on Keenan Allen than most, but I am totally fine with that. He finished as the WR13 last year and was the WR7 in fantasy PPG, but those numbers are impacted by his late-season injury. There were 11 games last year that Justin Herbert started and Allen finished. In those games, Allen averaged 20.35 fantasy PPG, 12.2 targets per game, 8.5 catches per game and 82.6 yards per game. He recorded a 29 percent target share in those games, which would have been second among receivers behind only Hopkins. He scored seven touchdowns in those 11 games -- his career high is eight (which he tied this season). Allen has been a top-eight WR in three of his past four seasons. No offense to Philip Rivers, but Herbert may be the most talented QB Allen has ever played with, and there is no doubt Allen is his top target.

7. Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas is going to be a tough one to figure out heading into 2021. He finished the 2019 season as the WR1, nearly 100 fantasy points ahead of the closest wide receiver. He put up an NFL record 149 receptions and topped 20 fantasy points in 10 games -- which was twice as many as any other WR. But then in 2020, he did not score 20 fantasy points in a single game. He did miss nine games due to an ankle and hamstring injury and one due to disciplinary reasons. But when he was on the field he just did not look like his normal self. His 5.7 catches and 62.6 receiving yards per game were both career lows -- and he failed to top 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. But it's not just the down 2020 season that has me worried, as we can chalk a lot of that up to missed time. Thomas will likely be without Drew Brees in 2021 and either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill at the helm. My preference would be Winston, but Thomas did have a 33 percent target share and 16.1 fantasy PPG in four Hill starts last season. Thomas should still be valued as a WR1, but no longer top five for me.

8. Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson went out this past year and had the best rookie season in a loaded rookie class. He put up 1,400 receiving yards -- the most ever by a rookie WR, breaking Randy Moss' record. That is great company to be in. His 88 catches were the sixth most among all wideouts and his 26 percent target share was the fifth highest. He had a larger target share than Adam Thielen (22 percent) and that was as a rookie. He also put up more yards per game than Thielen (87.5 to 61.7). He was the WR6 in total points and WR9 in fantasy PPG, all as a rookie without a normal preseason. The sky is the limit for him, and he should be a top-10 WR selected in drafts next season.

9. DK Metcalf

When I did my initial top-12 fantasy WRs after Week 16, I had DK Metcalf as my WR3. I am so high on his talent and ability, the only thing that has me concerned is the talk of running the ball more in Seattle. This past season Seattle threw the ball 60 percent of the time, but then they fired their OC and Pete Carroll continues to talk up the emphasis of running the ball. That worries me because from 2010-2019, all under Carroll, they threw on a league-low 53 percent of their plays. It was a tale of two seasons for Metcalf -- in the first half he looked like one of the very best receivers in fantasy, but he then faded down the stretch. Those concerns were enough for me to lower him in the top-10, but not take him out of it. I mean he still put up some monstrous numbers. His 111 air yards per game ranked third among wideouts, while his 38 percent air yard share was second. He finished sixth among receivers in receiving yards (1,303) and is one of two players with at least 14 end zone targets in each of the last two seasons (Mike Evans). His upside remains one of the highest in the NFL.

10. Allen Robinson

Despite the Bears' QB situation this past season, Allen Robinson finished as the WR9 in total points and the WR12 in fantasy PPG. He's now finished as a top-nine fantasy WR in two straight seasons, while also being one of just two players to top 150 targets in each of those years (Hopkins). The miraculous part of Robinson's career is he has been able to remain a fantasy mainstay as a WR1 despite the QB play he's been given. I mean, the guy has 372 career targets from Blake Bortles and 300 from Mitchell Trubisky, with less than 100 from any other QB. That could all change this offseason as ARob is a free agent and has made it sound like he does not plan on resigning with the Bears. Obviously, wherever he signs will greatly impact his fantasy value, but there are not many places he could land that would be a worse situation than he has been in.

11. A.J. Brown

A.J. Brown is simply a beast. He is basically the Derrick Henry version of a WR. He is not afraid to lower his shoulder and run through a defender if he has to, but he also looks like a gazelle running when he has the ball in space. This past season he finished as the WR12 in total points and the WR6 in fantasy PPG, while missing two games and dealing with a knee injury that he needed surgery for after the season. In fact, he said he should have been shut down for the season after that early knee injury but he played through it and went on to score 12 touchdowns and finish as a top-10 fantasy WR in 36 percent of his games, the sixth-highest mark among all WRs. He topped 20 fantasy points in seven games, which was the third most among receivers. Oh, and he did it all with only having double-digit targets once all season … in Week 17. I have no idea why it took so long to happen, but with a new OC in town, perhaps the Titans start to rely on the pass a little more and take advantage of their top wide receiver.

12. Terry McLaurin

To me, the top-11 WRs should be something of a consensus (in whatever order you see fit), but after that it is completely wide open. I mean, there are at least five different wide receivers I considered ranking here. So why did I go with the WR20 in total points and fantasy PPG last season? Well, Terry McLaurin's 23 percent target share ranked 12th among WRs and he has had over a 20 percent target share in two straight seasons. His 34 percent air yard share was sixth among WRs. Additionally, I believe Washington will upgrade its QB situation and it leads to Scary Terry breaking out in 2021. Last year, he averaged 17.44 fantasy PPG, 10.6 targets and 89.7 yards per game without Alex Smith. With Smith, those numbers dropped to 12.9 fantasy points, 7.5 targets and 61.3 yards per game. Smith just was not the type of QB to take advantage of McLaurin's speed and downfield ability. Washington has been linked to several QBs this offseason, so I expect WFT to make a move. When it does, everyone will be bumping up McLaurin in their rankings. He has the talent and ability and has shown us that. He now just needs the QB to take him to the next level.

Just missed: Julio Jones, Will Fuller, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Adam Thielen, Amari Cooper, Kenny Golladay, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp

Wide receiver is the deepest position in fantasy football. There are more names that I could include in the list above, but you get it, there's a lot of depth. You can wait rounds to address the position in a draft and still come away with some strong options, which is exactly why I am fine waiting on the position to address running back and maybe even tight end in the first three rounds. But if you decide to draft receivers early, there is a ton of talent to choose from.

WR2s likely to breakout and be WR1s: CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins

These two are going to be two of my favorites to draft next season. You can nab them in the fourth or fifth round and there is a chance that they are second-round receivers after this season. Both showed us last season that they can very much so play in the NFL, both looking like budding stars until their starting QBs went down for the season. Lamb was averaging over 17 fantasy PPG and nearly 90 yards per game with Dak Prescott -- which happened to be his first month in the NFL, and without a preseason. The sky really is the limit for Lamb, who could potentially push Cooper as the Cowboys' top wideout this season. Higgins took over as the starter in Week 3 and from that point until Joe Burrow got hurt, he was putting up 15.5 fantasy PPG, 8.1 targets per game and nearly 75 yards each week. Also, add in that A.J. Green is a free agent who is likely to walk. I expect Higgins to overtake Boyd as the top option in the passing game and then make a push to be a fantasy WR1. 

What do you think of these rankings? Hit me up on Twitter and Instagram and let me know, @MichaelFFlorio.

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