Fantasy Football 2019: Wide Receiver Primer (Rankings and Tiers)
There are often times during drafts where my rankings may say one thing and I choose to do another. Why is that? Am I being disingenuous to readers? Did I have a change of heart and not adjust my rankings like I should have? No, what I’m doing is drafting off my tier list.
Why does one have a tier list and how is that different from rankings? Well, I’m glad you asked. There was a livestream I hosted on our YouTube channel about a month ago where I navigated my way through a draft, talking about who I targeted and why. There’s skill involved in building a roster and understanding how to construct a well-balanced team. I’d missed out on the top-tier options that had high upside, so I’d wound up with a lot of high-floor players but was lacking the week-winning upside needed to win a championship. Because of that, I went with some players in the middle rounds who offered more upside, but also more volatility.
By showing you this tier list, it should help you understand the importance of adjusting your mindset on the fly. I’ll explain the rounds that each tier should be targeted in, as well as the impact they’d have on your roster construction. These tiers are based on half-PPR settings in a 12-team league, as it gives us the widest range of usability in leagues.
Here are the links to the other positional tier lists:
Tier One (Round 1)
These are the wide receivers who deserve to go in the first-round, as they are the “can’t miss” when on the field and all present No. 1 upside. Adams finished as the No. 3 receiver in a season where Aaron Rodgers threw just 25 touchdowns. He didn’t have a single game under 16.0 PPR points. Hopkins has seen at least 151 targets in each of the last four years and has scored at least 11 touchdowns in three of them. Jones is the all-time leader in yards per game and it’s not all that close. He’s had issues with touchdowns but that hasn’t stopped him from being a top-eight receiver in each of the last five years, including a WR4 finish in 2018. Beckham may be in a new offense with a new quarterback, but he’s been maybe the best fantasy wide receiver of all-time when on the field while playing with Eli Manning, something that is mighty tough to do.
Tier Two (Round 1-2)
This is the guys who belong right at the top of the second-round for me. Why? Well, despite each of their quarterbacks having superstar years in 2018, none of them performed as a WR2 or better in more than 56 percent of their games. They did provide rock-solid floors the majority of time, but knowing they lacked the consistency of high-end production like the elite tier, they’re right behind them. If you’d like to see the consistency for each of the top 100 wide receiver being drafted, here you go.
Tier Three (Rounds 2-3)
These are the players who most definitely present WR1 value, though their target numbers aren’t likely to reach enough to hit the elite tier. Brown has downgraded to Derek Carr, who failed to target Amari Cooper while in the offense. While I believe he’s probably learned from that, Brown dealing with frostbite on his feet surely doesn’t make me feel better drafting him before this tier. Allen has flashed top-five upside before, but the Chargers defense is as good as its ever been, and there’s suddenly some potential superstar talent around him with Mike Williams and Hunter Henry. Evans is another receiver who’s seen somewhat of a dip in targets due to the emergence of teammates. Evans recently said that he and Chris Godwin are battling for the WR1 spot on the team, which speaks highly of Godwin.
Tier Four (Round 3)
These are the guys you should consider borderline WR1s in 2019. Cooper definitely flashed his potential with Dak Prescott and if Ezekiel Elliott holds out, we could be looking at a much pass-heavier team. Diggs was one of seven wide receivers who averaged double-digit targets last year and he scored six touchdowns in his final eight games. Thielen was the No. 1 receiver over the first half of the season but fell off and was outside the top-20 receviers from Week 10 through Week 17. Cooks has continually posted top-15 numbers in every offense he plays in and his first year with the Rams was no different. Hilton lacked WR1 upside for most of 2018, so the additions of Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell can’t help, right? He’s relatively safe but lacks elite upside.
Tier Five (Round 4)
This is final tier before the sure things end for me. Edelman may be dealing with a broken thumb, but he’ll be back by the season opener. The only wide receivers who offered more consistency as a WR2 or better last year were Davante Adams, Antonio Brown, and A.J. Green. When on the field, he’s a rock-solid WR2 who will give you WR1 weeks at times. Woods saw a bump in production with Cooper Kupp out of the lineup last year, and while he may lose some with Kupp back, it seems as if they don’t want to use/abuse Todd Gurley as much as they have in the past, which could open up more opportunity to their passing game as a whole.
Tier Six (Round 5)
This is where you’re drafting some receivers who may have injury concerns or offense concerns and Golladay is atop the list. He’s still in competition with Marvin Jones as the No. 1 option in the offense, though many are overlooking Jones. While Golladay is likely the one who winds up the better fantasy option, but their prices are far too apart. Kupp is coming off his ACL injury that was less than 10 months ago, while Green has already suffered torn ligaments in his ankle that required surgery. Robinson and Jeffery both present 120-plus-target potential, something that’s hard to find this late in drafts. Godwin is clearly going to be a big part of the Bucs offense, as Bruce Arians has already said he won’t come off the field.
Tier Seven (Rounds 5-6)
This is the “I’m shooting for upside” tier, though it can be argued that Boyd should’ve been in the tier above this one; I just have too many concerns about the offense in general. Williams flashed top-10 potential with his red zone prowess last year, scoring 10 touchdowns on 66 targets. He’s going to walk into a full-time role with Tyrell Williams gone and comes with 100-plus target potential. Ridley was phenomenal last year but it’s fair to wonder if they dial back the pass attempts now that their defense is healthy. Lockett has never had more than 71 targets in any of his four seasons and is in for some serious regression. For him to be considered in this tier, he needs to approach 90-100 targets. Moore is going way ahead of his teammate Curtis Samuel, though I’m not sure he should be, even if he is the best receiver on the team. As for Davis, we’ve seen him flash, but you’re just hoping for more consistency out of him/Marcus Mariota. All receivers in this range have top-15 upside, but also come with plenty of risk.
Tier Eight (Rounds 6-7)
Here are some options that are either (a) playing second fiddle to the alpha wide receiver, or (b) play for a team that presents bad volume. Watkins is clearly the No. 2 option on the Chiefs and while he has upside to finish as a top-20 wide receiver, he needs to remain healthy and stay on the field. Through the first nine games with the Chiefs, he did have at least five targets in seven of them, so opportunity is there. Landry isn’t the No. 1 anymore and that should help his efficiency, but did his ceiling disappear with the arrival of Odell Beckham? Fuller is just 10 months removed from a torn ACL, which could limit him at the start of the season. Shepard will move to the perimeter in the Giants offense – where he has struggled – but should see a lot of volume.
Tier Nine (Rounds 7-9)
This is a bigger tier and that’s by design. There’s a lot of guys fantasy owners are looking to take the next step in their career. Pettis should be the No. 1 receiver for the 49ers, but we really only have a six-game sample size of production. Jones was arguably the No. 1 receiver for the Lions last year, though he’s getting older and coming off an injury. Anderson flashed at the end of last season, but the arrival of Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder won’t help him see more consistent targets. He was a WR3 or better just 29 percent of the time last year, without them. Allison has been money when playing in a full-time role with Aaron Rodgers, though that’s only a 10-game sample size and they’re now in a new offense. Kirk looked mighty good in a short sample last year, but there’s suddenly a crowded wide receiver room. Fitzgerald may move out of the top receiver spot on the team, though I have my doubts about that. Even if he does fall behind Kirk, it won’t be by much. Miller scored seven touchdowns on 55 targets despite dislocating his shoulder five times and won’t see top-tier cornerbacks in the slot. Samuel was arguably better than his teammate D.J. Moore in 2018 but comes with more boom/bust potential. Tate is suspended for the first four games of the season, but will fit in with this group once he returns with a bit more safety.
Tier 10 (Rounds 8-10)
These are the receivers who are complimentary to the ones you’ve already drafted. If you’re looking for pure touchdown upside on your bench, you’ll be looking at Sutton and Funchess, though I prefer Funchess of the two. If you’re looking for a relatively safe floor, you’re looking at Coutee and Westbrook. If you’re looking for a player who would be an every-week WR2/3 with an injury in front of them, Valdes-Scantling and Gallup would certainly fit that description. And then you have Jackson, who isn’t going to be a consistent fantasy option, but he gives you one-target upside as someone who can score an 80-yard touchdown at any time, making him ideal for those who want to fill a WR3/flex spot with upside rather than safety. Many have underestimated Crowder, but he’s going to rack up some receptions.
Tier 11 (Rounds 10-12)
This tier is for those who are feeling a bit lucky. Washington struggled as a rookie, but with Antonio Brown and Jesse James gone, there’s over 200 targets available in the Steelers offense. Harry was selected in the first-round by the Patriots and they lost a lot of targets in their offense as well. The reports out of camp on both Washington and Harry haven’t been great, though. Parker is someone who was drafted as a top-30 wide receiver a few years ago, but seemed to fall into Adam Gase’s doghouse. Will Ryan Fitzpatrick get him out? Metcalf is a size/speed freak but is also raw in his development, though Russell Wilson‘s arm should help make him relevant when on the field. Moncrief is reportedly ahead of Washington right now, so he is someone who could potentially move up depending on what we see later in the preseason, though being on his third team in three years isn’t a great thing.
Tier 12 (Rounds 11-13)
This tier is filled with a lot of different types, but all bring something usable to the table. Sanu is constantly one of the more underrated fantasy receivers. Did you know he’s been a top-32 receiver in each of the last two seasons? Not a high ceiling, but a stable floor. Wilson showcased skill in his expanded role last year before getting hurt, though a new coaching staff promises nothing. Williams is going to be the No. 2 behind Antonio Brown, but will have weeks where his production spikes due to the long ball. Brown is going to deal with some inconsistency from Josh Allen, but when they connect on the deep ball, it’ll be a thing of beauty. Stills is always in the background as someone who’ll outperform his ADP. If Lamar Jackson has improved his accuracy, teams will have a hard time defending Marquise Brown, as he’s got serious wheels and will get open. If Dante Pettis and Deebo Samuel aren’t quite ready for bigger roles, Goodwin would be the one who benefits most, as he has a defined role on the team as a field-stretcher. Don’t forget that many were drafting him as a WR3 last year. Smith and Ginn are fighting over the No. 2 spot opposite Michael Thomas, so one will have plenty of value.
The Remaining Wide Receivers
Once you get into the final three or four rounds of your draft, you want to start grabbing guys who’d benefit greatly from an injury ahead of them. The players I’d say to target in this range include Rashard Higgins, David Moore, and Josh Reynolds. There’s more depending on how deep your league is, but always keep in mind that you don’t want to keep boring players on your roster. The players drafted in this range should be boom or bust, so it’s easy to know when to cut bait for your next waiver wire pickup.