Fantasy Football: Wide Receiver Primer (Rankings and Tiers)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 11, 2017

A.J. Green is just outside of the first tier of wide receivers, though it’s not by much.

One of my favorite things to do every year is participate in best-ball leagues, such as DRAFT, where we have a promotion with them right now so that you get a free entry when you sign up using our link. To get in on that, click here. I love playing in them because it gives me a good feel for players who should be taken in similar ranges. These are the players that I’ll sometimes change my opinion on which should be higher, depending on how the rest of the draft is shaking out.

This helps you in redraft leagues, because it helps you create tiers in your rankings. If you’re coming onto the clock in the seventh-round of your draft and your next wide receiver is part of a tier that has six other players, you may want to snag that running back who is the last in his tier. I’ve always stated that you need to remain fluid throughout your draft, and tier lists will help you do just that.

You may have been gone throughout the offseason, not keeping up with things like this. Fortunately for you, I have. If you’ve missed anything I’ve done this offseason, let me give you a few highlights before we get into the tiers for wide receivers.  If you’ve missed any of the offseason transactions that took place, I wrote up nearly every one of them that has fantasy implications in the “Fantasy Impact” series. You can find all of those right here. On top of that, I put together an article describing the training camp battles to watch, whether it be the incoming rookies, or veterans fighting for jobs to be fantasy relevant. Each and every team has something going on, and you can find that article right here.

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I’ve also done over 20 in-depth player profiles over the last month or so, with anywhere from 1,000-1,500 words on each player, describing their situation and how you should approach them in drafts. The entire list of players is right here. Now that we’ve caught you up on everything that’s been going on, let’s talk about the tiers of wide receivers, and not just the tiers, but what round you should be targeting each tier. If you missed any of the tiers at other positions, you can find their links below.

Running Backs
Tight Ends

Tier One (Round 1)

Antonio Brown
Julio Jones
Odell Beckham Jr.

The cream of the crop. The crème-de-la-crème. The pocket aces. The elite. These are the only wide receivers who should be considered in the top six picks, as they are all but guaranteed 150-plus targets, and they just happen to be among the most talented wide receivers in the league. You can really make an argument for any of them as the top wide receiver, but this is the order I’d take them in.

Tier Two (Round 1)

A.J. Green
Mike Evans

The second tier is a small one, as they are just outside of the elite tier due to limitations with the talent around them. Green has always been just shy of the elite tier and the additions of John Ross and Joe Mixon will arguably limit his target upside. Last year’s leader in fantasy points among wide receivers, Evans will also return to a team where the supporting cast got a lot better. In fact, his targets started coming down a bit over the final eight games of 2016. After seeing at least 11 targets in seven of the first eight games, Evans hit that number just three times over the final eight games. Still, these are first round players.

Tier Three (Rounds 1-2)

Michael Thomas
Jordy Nelson
T.Y. Hilton

This is where some of the slight risk comes, as Nelson is now 32 years old but he’s coming off a season in which he was the No. 2 fantasy receiver. While I don’t believe he finishes top-five again, Nelson is a safe bet for production if healthy. Thomas has been underrated and it’s possible that he should be in tier two. He’s lacking 150-target upside which prevents him from doing so. Hilton is coming off a season in which he led wide receivers in yardage, but it seems there may be questions about Andrew Luck and if he truly is healthy. These guys are all solid and can occupy your WR1 slots.

Tier Four (Round 2)

Amari Cooper
Doug Baldwin

Am I going to sit here and say that it feels right to draft these guys in the second round? Eh, not really. The odd part is that I love both of them from a talent standpoint, but you’re getting zero discount on them. Cooper arguably has a top-five wide receiver ceiling, but Michael Crabtree is still hanging around to steal touchdowns, as is Marshawn Lynch. Baldwin has finished as a top-10 wide receiver in each of the last two seasons, but again, you’re drafting him as such. Baldwin also hasn’t been as consistent as some have made him out to be. It may be best to take a running back in this range, though Cooper has been falling to the end of the second/beginning of the third, where he’s a value.

Tier Five (Rounds 2-3)

Dez Bryant
Brandin Cooks
Davante Adams

If you want upside, this is your tier. These guys are not going to be like the Beckham’s or the Green’s, giving you solid performances each week, but they will give you week-winning upside. Some may wonder why Bryant is down this far, but if you haven’t read my player profile, you’d understand why. It’s such a short season to begin with, so extremely tough matchups in 10 of 16 weeks is never a good thing. Some will say there’s too much to go around in New England, but you don’t trade a first and a third round pick to use someone as a decoy. Cooks finished as the No. 8 wide receiver last year with just 117 targets and it’s hard to argue that Tom Brady is a downgrade from Drew Brees. Aaron Rodgers said that the Packers offense needs Adams to be successful and it showed last year. He may regress in the touchdown category, but he should also see an uptick in yardage.

Tier Six (Rounds 3-4)

Allen Robinson
Demaryius Thomas
DeAndre Hopkins
Sammy Watkins
Alshon Jeffery
Martavis Bryant
Terrelle Pryor
Keenan Allen

This is one of the bigger tiers of wide receivers, as you can almost make a case for any of them to be atop the tier. Bryant is the one I’d like to move higher, but can’t as of this moment without him being completely reinstated. Robinson, Hopkins, and Watkins are all in similar situations, as their quarterback situations are questionable and there’s likely to be less passing in both Robinson’s and Hopkins’ offense in 2017. Thomas’ upside is capped, but his safety is something fantasy owners covet. Jeffery and Allen both suffer from the injury bug, but both appear to be relatively healthy heading into the season. Pryor is the wildcard, as some are drafting him as high as the No. 12 wide receiver. If Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder remain healthy, it’s going to be extremely unlikely he reaches that ceiling.

Tier Seven (Rounds 4-5)

Michael Crabtree
Stefon Diggs
Golden Tate
Jarvis Landry
Larry Fitzgerald
Tyreek Hill

Some will mock the fact that Diggs is in this tier and above Landry, but if you were to read my profile on Diggs, you’d likely understand. Still, Landry is in the same tier, making it very conceivable why you’d take him first. This tier is filled with slot wide receivers, though the Chiefs are trying to make Hill more than that. Whether it will pan out or not is a different story. Crabtree is someone who could arguably go into the tier above, but again, he’s was highlighted in the player profiles, and it doesn’t look promising. Tate and Fitzgerald are what they are, and we know what that is at this point. Consistent WR2’s with limited upside due to lack of touchdowns.

Tier Eight (Rounds 6-7)

Donte Moncrief
Kelvin Benjamin
Jeremy Maclin
John Brown
Brandon Marshall
Emmanuel Sanders

We’ve officially gotten into the No. 2 wide receivers on their own team department, as four of these guys are not the go-to option on their team. Benjamin is the No. 1 option and has 10 touchdown upside, but as last year went on, he fell out of touch with Cam Newton. With all the new options, it’s unlikely that he approaches his target totals from his first two seasons. Maclin is also the No. 1 in his offense, and may move up a tier if Joe Flacco can prove to be healthy. Moncrief, Brown, Marshall all play on very good offenses and wouldn’t surprise me to see them finish top-20 at the end of the season. Sanders is a lesser version of Demaryius Thomas in the low-scoring Broncos offense, making him a low-upside WR2/WR3.

Tier Nine (Rounds 7-8)

Julian Edelman
Pierre Garcon
Willie Snead
DeSean Jackson
Devante Parker
Randall Cobb
Jordan Matthews
Eric Decker

Before you start swearing at your computer because Edelman is down here, understand that he’s never finished higher than the WR18 in standard leagues, and he’s actually as the WR22 or worse in three of the last four seasons. The addition of Brandin Cooks as well as the 87 running backs they acquired are going to drive his target totals down significantly. Garcon and Snead are in similar territory, and though Snead plays with Drew Brees, he isn’t guaranteed 120-plus targets like Garcon is. Jackson, Cobb, and Decker will all likely be volatile, but we’ve seen them perform before. Matthews’ new landing spot in Buffalo isn’t going to do him many favors, as the targets will be much harder to come by. Parker is the wildcard and comes with plenty of upside, especially with Jay Cutler signing with Miami. He isn’t afraid to sling the ball downfield, which is where Parker makes his money.

Tier 10 (Rounds 8-11)

Jamison Crowder
Cameron Meredith
Tyrell Williams
Kenny Britt
Mike Wallace
Corey Davis
Marvin Jones
Adam Thielen
Rishard Matthews
Corey Coleman

The fact that there are players like Crowder, Meredith, and Britt down in this tier explains just how deep wide receiver is in 2017. This is a group of wide receivers that is likely to see 100-plus targets, making it likely they finish inside the top 50 wideouts. Crowder is borderline tier nine, but his upside is capped with Pryor and Doctson there. Meredith could move up, though the Bears seem very intent on feeding Kevin White the ball, as well as getting free agent Victor Cruz and Kendall Wright on the field. Tyrell Williams would move up if Mike Williams was ruled out for the year, though Keenan Allen severely limits his upside. It also seems that Coleman may move down another tier if the negative reports continue this offseason.

Tier 11 (Rounds 11-12)

Kevin White
Josh Doctson
Kenny Stills
Devin Funchess
Anquan Boldin
Marqise Lee

Is this the tier of hope? It seems so, as there are some extremely talented players in this range who have dealt with some injuries over the last few years. White and Doctson are very interesting because we’ve never been able to see what they are capable of, making them great late-round picks. Stills will offer big weeks, but will also cost you some weeks. Funchess is apparently going to be much more involved in the Panthers offense this year and might be the only deep threat to take advantage of Cam Newton‘s cannon for an arm. Note that you don’t have to take Funchess here to get him (often undrafted), but he’s worth the risk in the 12th. Lee showed promise last year, but will also be on an offense that may throw the ball 100 fewer times in 2017. Boldin has limited upside, as the Bills don’t pass nearly as much as the Lions did last year, and they just traded for Jordan Matthews, who has played a similar role to Boldin out of the slot.

Tier 12 (Rounds 13-16)

Tavon Austin
John Ross
Ted Ginn
Mohamed Sanu
Robert Woods
Sterling Shepard
Tyler Lockett
Cole Beasley
Paul Richardson
Breshad Perriman
Taylor Gabriel
Chris Hogan
Laquon Treadwell
Allen Hurns

Lastly, we have the dart throws of your draft. I tend to lean on the players who we’ll find out about right away. For instance, we will know if Richardson is starting opposite Doug Baldwin right away. If he isn’t, you’re able to cut bait for the top tier waiver wire additions instead of wondering if he’ll get a shot. Austin is someone who interests me, simply because he has an offensive-minded coach who should use him as the player he was intended to be, and not how Jeff Fisher used him (as the top targeted wide receiver). Sanu and Woods are boring selections, though they should see five targets a week. This tier comes down to how you want to build your team. Upside or safety? On my bench, I tend to lean the former.

Again, if you’ve missed any of the player profiles that have gone up, I urge you to check them out right here.

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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