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Wide receivers are leading the overall fantasy rankings for the first time I can remember, and it's all about opportunity.
Think about what traditionally has made workhorse RBs such valuable fantasy commodities - the fact they were getting 20-30 touches per game, sometime more.
Now, so many backfield time-shares bring that number down to 15-20, and a lot of those plays could be three- or four-yard grinds, with fewer opportunities to break big runs for big fantasy points.
Meanwhile, WR-1s on several teams are averaging more than 10 targets per game, six or more catches on those targets, and in many cases 12 or more yards per catch. Though the WR-1 still may not touch the ball as often as an RB-1, there are as many or more opportunities to score many more fantasy points.
That's why, for the most part, history and expectation of numerous targets is what defines my WR rankings this season:
1. Antonio Brown, PIT
374 targets the last two season and 265 catches - which is more impressive? Regardless, it's likely he will continue to be among the top two in both categories again this year, especially with a fellow WR and starting RB suspended for a stretch.
2. Julio Jones, ATL
His league-leading 203 targets last year meant almost 13 targets per game, and he tied Brown for most catches, while leading the NFL with 1,871 yards and 116 YPG.
3. Odell Beckham, Jr., NYG
Dropped him one slot since my overall rankings a few weeks ago. He had 158 targets last year - eighth in that category - but he should get a few more this year, and should convert many more to receptions after having 96 catches last year.
4. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU
Had 192 targets and 111 catches - third in both categories last year - so if he establishes a rapport with new HOU QB Brock Osweiler, watch out. If you miss out on the three WRs above, you could still snag the 2016 WR MVP right here.
5. A.J. Green, CIN
Just 132 targets, but 86 catches last year, and it's likely CIN return to him frequently this year with a thinner depth chart at WR.
6. Allen Robinson, JAC
Not near the top in targets, but did a lot with 80 catches, including a position-leading 14 TDs and 1,400 yards. JAC threw a lot last year, but even more limited opportunities should play to his reputation as JAC's possession receiver.
7. Brandon Marshall, NYJ
Perhaps surprising, but he was fifth in targets with 173 last season, and 14 of his 109 catches went for TDs. Return of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is good news for him - good enough that I moved him ahead of Dez Bryant since my previous rankings.
8. Dez Bryant, DAL
For however long he and QB Tony Romo stay healthy, Romo likely will force the ball to him frequently, especially near the end zone. If DAL's also shies away from loading rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott with too much work, Dez should benefit.
9. Jordy Nelson, GB
Here we start a trio of big risk/reward options. Risk: He's 31 and coming off a season lost to injury. Reward: He still may be QB Aaron Rodger's most reliable option and best deep threat, which could mean another season of 1,500 yards and 10+ TDs.
10. Alshon Jeffery, CHI
Risk: Many, including a potential return of injury issues that kept him out seven games last year, and O-line issues that could put QB Jay Cutler on his back frequently. Reward: Frequently delivers huge yardage games when the ball makes it to him.
11. Mike Evans, TB
Risk: Dropped many, many passes last year, as his 74 catches on 148 targets showed. Reward: If he's learned how to catch, he should explode past last season's 1,206 receiving yards.
12. Keenan Allen, SD
Season-ending injury last year could easily paint him as a risk, but he's WR-1 for a QB - Philip Rivers - who threw for almost 4,800 yards last year and 29 TDs.
13. Demaryius Thomas, DEN
To get a guy who had 177 targets (fourth among WRs last year) and 105 catches (seventh among WRs last year) this late would be a gift. The big concern, though, is that the Broncos will shift to more running plays with Peyton Manning gone.
14. Brandin Cooks, NO
As with Allen above, it may be more about the QB. Drew Brees was the only passer to surpass Rivers in yardage last season, and Cooks rather quietly became his most trusted WR, with 1,138 yards receiving and nine TDs on 84 catches.
15. Sammy Watkins, BUF
Numbers, including 60 catches on 96 targets for 1,047 yards and nine TDs in 13 games, are very good projected to 16 games, though he's been inconsistent game to game his first two seasons - and the same could be said for QB Tyrod Taylor.
16. T.Y Hilton, IND
1,124 yards last year, but just five TDs as QB Andrew Luck went into a tailspin. Also, occasionally dropped deep balls make him a little risky, though he can also make up fantasy points for the week on a single play.
17. Doug Baldwin, SEA
Unforeseen TD binge late last year that included 10 in a four-game stretch; he ultimately tied for the league lead with 14. No one believes he will do it again, and fellow WR Tyler Lockett may earn more targets this year, but it's clear QB Russell Wilson trusts him.
18. Amari Cooper, OAK
A lot of debate where he should fall after 72 catches as a rookie for 1,070 yards, with some dropped passes. Supposedly played injured with plantar fasciitis, which either means he could be better this year or still troubled by what tends to be a nagging problem.
19. Golden Tate, DET
Should be the clear WR-1 with Megatron retired, right? Maybe not, as some are giving that tag to free agent signing Marvin Jones. Tate had 90 catches as a clear WR-2 last year, and though he only had 813 yards, he seems a good bet for 100+ catches.
20. Randall Cobb, GB
A clear talent with the ball, yet just 79 catches and six TDs last year with Nelson off the field shows something's missing. Still, if Nelson takes the pressure off, Cobb can catch and run like he did in 2014 when he had 91 catches and 1,287 yards.
21. Jarvis Landry, MIA
Sixth in targets last year with 166, fourth in catches with 110. Ridiculously busy week in/week out, yet "only" 1,157 yards - barely 72 yards per game - and just four TDs. Will MIA try to spread the ball around more under new head coach (and ex-Bear OC) Adam Gase?
22. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
Career-high 109 receptions last year and 1,200+ yards, but probably winding down enough after 13 seasons that many are guessing he yields more opportunity to the pair at No. 25.
23. Allen Hurns, JAC
Had 10 TDs with mate Robinson grabbing 14, which shows you how often JAC threw last season. His 64 catches aren't likely to increase much with Robinson the clear WR-1, though he can do a lot with a deep ball.
24. Kelvin Benjamin, CAR
A big talent who missed last year with an ACL injury after 1,000+ yards and nine TDs in 2014. He could easily be the WR-1 for QB Cam Newton, but there's a considerable risk coming off that injury - any weakness means he sees fewer plays per game.
25. Michael Floyd/John Brown, ARI
Hard to go wrong with either one. A healthy Floyd and a more experienced Brown should eat up QB Carson Palmer's passes, and if Fitzgerald yields some work to them, both could end up around 80+ catches, 1,100 yards and 10 TDs.
Just Missed: Julian Edelman, NE
Off-season surgery and injury history are scaring most away from the second-favorite target of QB Tom Brady. Potential to be a PPR monster, though not really for yardage or TDs if he can stay healthy.
Sleeper: Kevin White, CHI
Not really much of a sleeper at this point, although his hype is being nicely balanced by the Bears pre-season offensive woes. That said, it would not surprise me at all if White leap-frogs Alshon to be the top receiver in Chicago this season.
* Part 1: The Top 20: New World Order.
* Part 2: Year of the Zero RB.
Disco Danny O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
This is what progress looks like.Continue reading "Times Change" »
Posted on Jul 24, 2017