Top 12 Wide Receiver Fantasy Football Predictions

by Bobby Sylvester | @bobbyfantasypro | Featured Writer
Sep 2, 2017

Jordy Nelson may be passed up by Adams this year

This month, I’ve been taking my best shot at predicting all 12 of the top players at each position right on the mark. Standard volatility makes it quite a task, so there are some extremely bold predictions mixed in. Today, I’ll be covering the top 12 wide receivers, and in order to determine just how wild some of my predictions will need to be, let’s take a look at the top 12 WRs and their preseason ADPs from 2016 and 2015. As always, if you have questions or disagree, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.

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2016 WR1s

  1. Mike Evans (ADP #9)
  2. Jordy Nelson (ADP #8)
  3. Antonio Brown (ADP #1)
  4. Odell Beckham (ADP #2)
  5. T.Y. Hilton (ADP #15)
  6. Julio Jones (ADP #3)
  7. Davante Adams (ADP #59)
  8. Brandin Cooks (ADP #14)
  9. Michael Thomas (ADP #50)
  10. Doug Baldwin (ADP #22)
  11. Michael Crabtree (ADP #36)
  12. Amari Cooper (ADP #11)

2015 WR1s

  1. Antonio Brown (ADP #1)
  2. Julio Jones (ADP #4)
  3. Brandon Marshall (ADP #21)
  4. Allen Robinson (ADP #27)
  5. Odell Beckham (ADP #3)
  6. DeAndre Hopkins (ADP #13)
  7. Doug Baldwin (ADP #52)
  8. A.J. Green (ADP #7)
  9. Calvin Johnson (ADP #5)
  10. Eric Decker (ADP #33)
  11. Larry Fitzgerald (ADP #28)
  12. Brandin Cooks (ADP #10)

As you can see, many of the top drafted wide receivers have lived up to expectations, especially compared to other positions, but there are still quite a few surprise players on the list. Of the 24 wideouts over the past two seasons who finished as WR1s, 9 were drafted outside the top 20 at the position (4th round or later) and 3 of those were WR50 or later (drafted 11th round or later). I’ll have to make sure to pick several who fit the description if I want a shot at the perfect list.

Top 12 Fantasy Football WRs of 2017

WR #12: Keenan Allen (LAC): ADP #17
When Allen was last healthy, he was on pace for 180 targets and 1,550 receiving yards. Both of those figures would have led the league last season. It isn’t as though I am expecting that, or anywhere close to it now that Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry are in town, but he is the type of talent that can lead all receivers in the right scheme so it makes sense that if he remains healthy in his year-25 season that he could be a WR1.

WR #11: Jeremy Maclin (BAL): ADP #39
Before last year’s injury riddled season, Maclin finished #17 with Alex Smith as his quarterback and #9 the year before with Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez. It isn’t that Joe Flacco is some kind of superstar, but he certainly trumps those signal callers and heads an offense that throws more passes than any team in football. Maclin is the #1 and should see 135 targets if he is healthy, which with his touchdown upside could make for another special season.

WR #10: Kevin White (CHI) : ADP #61
If you’ve heard the podcast, you already know he is my dude this season, even before the Meredith injury. I certainly don’t expect him to finish here, but the upside is without question there and if I had to pick someone outside of the top 50, White fits the bill. Last year before injury, he was on pace for 170 targets, a full 1 more per quarter than “#1 WR” Alshon Jeffery. He didn’t make the most of that opportunity, but it was also the first three and a half games of his career. We can’t call him a bust until we see him on the field, and this year, we could see 140 targets as he is the clear top dog in an offense with plenty of negative game scripts.

WR #9: Odell Beckham (NYG): ADP #3
On a points per game basis, there is little concern about Odell, who like it or not, is setting an all-time pace during his first few seasons. The issues here are his dreadfully overrated quarterback, his current ankle injury and the hammy issues that have nagged him numerous times in his career. He may miss the first two games of the season with an ankle and another one or two here or there when the hammy inevitably flares up again.

WR #8: Stefon Diggs (MIN): ADP #28
You may not have noticed, but Diggs finished as the #14 wide receiver in PPR leagues last year despite missing time and playing through an injury. Yes, a lot of that was because of three huge games, but those still count after all. When he wasn’t on the injury report, he averaged 9 receptions and over 100 yards per game. Granted, Rudolph and Thielen are still there and Dalvin Cook joined the fray, but the schedule couldn’t possibly be better and if he stays healthy, the ceiling is huge.

WR #7: Amari Cooper (OAK): ADP #10
As you can see above, Cooper finished as the #12 receiver last season as a 22-year-old and while just scoring 5 touchdowns. He has bulked up this year, gets the magical third-year-WR bump and should see positive touchdown regression with a bump in red zone targets. The schedule is a concern, but it is only a matter of time before he passes Crabtree in Oakland and it should happen this year.

WR #6: Sammy Watkins (LAR) : ADP #27
Try not to vomit at the thought of Jared Goff supporting a top 6 wideout, I know this one is hard to take. The matter of the fact is that Case Keenum and Jared Goff passed for more yards than Tyrod Taylor last year, so it isn’t like this is a major drop off, plus the Rams added Sean McVay to run the offense. In his last 16 healthy games, Watkins has 200 more yards than Cooper and twice the touchdowns. In fact, he has been every bit as good as Antonio Brown! All we need is health and volume. The volume is a guarantee in this offense, so we will have cross our fingers for health.

WR #5: Brandin Cooks (NE): ADP #11
Cooks finished #8 last season at the position while playing in a wide receiver core so crowded that he only saw 117 targets. That is less than Mike Wallace, Kyle Rudolph and even David Johnson. Sure, the Patriots have a lot of weapons, but you can expect at least 117 targets, with the upside of 150 now that Julian Edelman is out for the year. He maintains the same level of quarterback play and is still just 23 years old so there is plenty of reason to believe he could continue to improve.

WR #4: Michael Thomas (NO) : ADP #7
With Cooks out of the equation and Ted Ginn lining up on the opposite side of two-WR sets, it seems clear that the Saints intend on feeding Thomas plenty more than 121 targets he saw last season. His catch rate was incredible and he should only improve as he matures. We could be looking at a younger version of Demaryius Thomas here who pulls in 100 receptions with double-digit touchdowns and over 1,400 receiving yards.

WR #3: Davante Adams (GB) : ADP #18
Last season, Adams finished #7 at the position despite opening the season as the #3 wide receiver and not getting much work until Week 6. From that point on, he was elite and if you prorate his 10 week pace, he would have compiled 96 receptions, 1,246 receiving yards and 14.4 touchdowns. It is only a matter of time before he surpasses Jordy Nelson as Aaron Rodger’s new #1, but perhaps it has already happened.

WR #2: Antonio Brown (PIT): ADP #1
WR #1: Julio Jones (ATL) : ADP #2
The Steelers and Falcons have a similar offense with second tier quarterbacks, workhorse superstar running backs and the two best receivers in the game. The only differences between the two have been touchdown rate and that Brown always stays on the field and Jones has been knicked up every now and then. Believe it or not, Jones has a full 14 yards per game more than Brown throughout his career and is the all-time career leader. If Jones finally sees the positive TD regression rate that is due and can stay healthy, we could see the torch pass from one great to another.

Notable exclusions

Mike Evans (TB) – The Bucs added D-Jax, Howard and started passing much less toward the end of last season because of Winston’s turnover issues

AJ Green (CIN) – With a finally healthy Tyler Eifert and Joe Mixon emerging out of the backfield, his volume takes a hit and he just misses the list

Jordy Nelson (GB) – If Adams surpasses Nelson and we see reasonable touchdown regression, he could fall out of the top 12 even if he stays healthy

Dez Bryant (DAL) – A history of nagging injuries at the leagues toughest schedule makes him a prime candidate to drop out of WR1 territory

Doug Baldwin (SEA) – For a while, he was the only option for Wilson, but Paul Richardson has been emerging

T.Y. Hilton (IND) – His value is tied to Andrew Luck, and should he miss the time we are expecting him to miss, Hilton’s stock plummets considerably

Thanks for reading. If you haven’t already, please check out the FantasyPros Football Podcast (below) that I co-host with Mike Tagliere. Good luck this season.

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Bobby Sylvester is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Bobby, check out his archive and follow him @BobbyFantasyPro.

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