Mike Tagliere’s Wide Receiver Rankings and Tiers (2020 Fantasy Football)
Ranking players is what we do at FantasyPros. It’s what you want as the fantasy player. “Tell me who to draft ahead of everyone else once I’m on the clock.” Does that sound like something you’d say? What if I told you that rankings aren’t the only thing you should be looking at?
I know I sit down and spend a lot of time creating projections, which then turns into me creating my own personal rankings. But why is it that every time I’m in a draft, I’m not drafting those players in the exact order of my rankings?
Tiers. That’s why. Rankings are just a general gauge for where a player should be going, but it doesn’t tell you the complete story about the role they’d fill on your fantasy team. If you don’t understand this concept, that’s what I’m here for today.
Imagine having a taste for pizza and then going to a steakhouse. Does it mean that steak is no good? No, but it may not satisfy what you’re looking for that particular day. Not a good comp? How about having a stock portfolio with all of your life savings in nothing but high-risk stocks? Ask any financial advisor, you need balance in your portfolio, just as you need balance in your fantasy lineup.
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 (as they’re available):
The “Can’t Miss” Tier (Round 1)
You could separate these receivers into two tiers, but Jones belongs with the “can’t miss” tier. There were just four wide receivers who posted WR2 or better numbers in more than 62.5 percent of their games last year. The three of these guys and DeAndre Hopkins, who’s with a new team. They’re all as reliable as it gets. Thomas and Adams are certainly the favorites for the WR1 spot, but don’t think Jones isn’t part of the same territory.
The “Could Be a Bumpy Ride but Worth It” Tier (Round 2)
Wide receivers are much more top-heavy than the running backs, whether you believe it or not. Hopkins would’ve been in the “can’t miss” tier if he’d remained in Houston, but his target share is going to get smaller in Arizona. The question is “how much?” Hill has been a WR2 or better in just 44.2 percent of his games, but when he hits, you win weeks. If you snag one of these receivers as your WR1, you need to balance your roster out at WR2/WR3.
The “Highly Targeted” Tier (Rounds 2-4)
These guys are all likely to see 140 targets this season. There are variables with all of them, though. Godwin has a new quarterback and they’re apparently running more 2TE sets, Beckham has a new offensive coordinator and is coming off the worst season of his career, Robinson has competing quarterbacks, and Smith-Schuster has to worry about whether Ben Roethlisberger is the same quarterback upon returning from shoulder surgery. Still, averaging eight-plus targets per game with their talent calls for them to be WR1s in fantasy.
The “It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Ride” Tier (Rounds 2-3)
If you want to draft a running back in the first round, you may be looking at these guys in the second or third round as your WR1. It’ll be a bumpy ride, as none of them have been consistent. Golladay posted WR3 or better numbers just 56.3 percent of the time last year and Marvin Jones is still a thorn in his side. Cooper posted WR2 or better numbers 50 percent of the time last year… that’s a career high. He’s “busted” at least 31 percent of the time in each of the last three years. Evans was a WR2 or better just 38.5 percent of the time last year and now has a quarterback who doesn’t take as many shots down the field. These guys are all solid football players, but volatile from a fantasy standpoint. You need balance among your wide receivers later in the draft.
The “Next Step WR1?” Tier (Rounds 4-5)
If you’re looking for superstars in the WR2 range on the brink of WR1 success, this is your tier. Ridley has already arguably been a borderline WR1, but he still has to contend with Julio Jones for a massive target share. Moore is part of a new offense with a new quarterback, but neither can get any worse than last year where he still finished as the WR18. Brown plays on a run-first team, but he showed what he’s capable of once promoted into the starting lineup. If Ryan Tannehill‘s efficiency goes down, Brown’s targets go up. These are WR2 options with true WR1 upside.
The “High Volume but Not Sexy” Tier (Rounds 3-5)
These are the players that seemingly no one wants to draft due to something with their situation, but they should all be 120-plus target locks, barring injury. Thielen has dealt with back issues, which is a concern. If they weren’t there, he’d be higher on my board. Woods is one of the safest WR2s you can own in fantasy football, even if he doesn’t come with top-five wide receiver upside. Kupp has a few question marks, but he’s a major part of the offense and Jared Goff is a better quarterback when throwing to him. McLaurin has quarterback issues but proved that he could overcome them for a majority of 2019. These receivers may not get into WR1 territory, but they’re all relatively safe WR2 options.
The “There’s a Scenario Where I’m a WR1” Tier (Rounds 4-6)
This is kind of like an upside tier, though WR2 pricing is an expensive price to pay. Playing with Russell Wilson puts you in this tier, especially when you’re slated to get 100-plus targets. Lockett is locked into his slot-heavy role, while Metcalf continues to grow into a more well-rounded receiver. Both can finish as WR3s but can also make their way into WR1 territory. Chark flashed as the top receiver in Jacksonville last year, and we know the team will be throwing quite a bit in 2020. Green has been a WR1 whenever he’s been on the field, though injuries have certainly added risk to his draft position. If you have a relatively safe WR1, these are great WR2 options.
The “More Competition for Targets in 2020” Tier (Rounds 5-7)
When more talent is added around a player, you have to start to worry about his target share. Parker saw 10 targets just once in the first eight games with Preston Williams on the field, but then hit that mark in 6-of-8 games with him out of the lineup. Sutton now has to deal with Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, and Melvin Gordon added to the offense. Hilton not only has injury concerns, but Parris Campbell is healthy, and the Colts drafted Michael Pittman in the second round of the NFL Draft. These guys can probably fill WR2 roles if the new additions on their team don’t pan out, but ideally, they’re your WR3.
The “Proven Vets with Lower Ceiling” Tier (Rounds 5-7)
These guys have all proven to be WR2s at year’s end. Heck, Allen has been a WR1 a few times. However, there are now clear obstacles in their path to production, especially their ceilings. Allen will go from a team that threw the ball 597 times last year, to one that might throw 500 times. Boyd now has to deal with A.J. Green on the field competing for targets (though I still like him). Landry is coming off hip surgery, and now has a coach who’s looking to install a run-heavy attack. Landing any of these guys as your WR3 is perfectly fine for stability.
The “Proven Producers in Different Situations” Tier (Rounds 6-8)
All these receivers will be playing with new quarterbacks in 2020. That might be an issue considering the lack of offseason. Diggs is one of the top-10 most talented receivers in the league but is going to Josh Allen, who struggled with down-the-field accuracy. Cooks has succeeded with every quarterback he’s played with and it’s difficult to say Deshaun Watson is a downgrade. Edelman will be going from his bunkmate Tom Brady, to Cam Newton, who’s traditionally favored the bigger-bodied receivers. These guys should be fine as WR3s but understand that there’s risk associated with them.
The “Boom or Bust WR3” Tier (Rounds 6-8)
If you’re looking for safety, you won’t find it here. You will, however, find players who can help you win weeks. Fuller has been targeted at least six times in 11-of-18 games with DeAndre Hopkins on the roster, including six games with eight-plus targets. He might see eight-plus targets a game this year. Gallup actually saw more targets per game than Amari Cooper last year, but now has added competition around him. He’s more of the downfield option, making him a bit more boom-or-bust. Jones is clearly the No. 2 receiver in the Lions offense, but he averages just as many targets Kenny Golladay. Brown clearly offers week-winning upside and might actually offer some stability, depending on if the Ravens pass more, like they’re talking about. These are great boom-or-bust options for those who have stability at their WR1/WR2 slots.
The “Emerging Talent” Tier (Rounds 7-9)
These are the players who we may not have seen every-week startability from yet, but their talent suggests they may get there in 2020. Johnson now gets to play with an actual NFL quarterback who has a history of supporting multiple fantasy options. Kirk was on pace for 132 targets over a 16-game pace last year, though DeAndre Hopkins eats into those in a big way. Ruggs is going to start immediately and his skill set matches Derek Carr very well. Jeudy is the most pro-ready rookie receiver I’ve seen in the last five years but has to contend with Courtland Sutton. Reagor is skyrocketing up boards, as Alshon Jeffery is likely headed to the PUP list, and DeSean Jackson is 34 years old. Lamb is talented but is third on the Cowboys depth chart to start the year.
The “Targets Will Be There but Not Exciting” Tier (Rounds 8-9)
No one really wants to draft them, but if you’re in the 8th/9th round range and only have two wide receivers, you likely need some sort of stability at the position. Shepard ranked 16th among receivers with 8.3 targets per game last year and is still in the prime of his career. Meanwhile, Crowder ranked 24th in targets per game (7.6). He’s the only Jets receiver that’s returning to the lineup, so him and Sam Darnold should be on the same page. They aren’t sexy, but they deliver a solid floor.
The “High-Round Talent That’s Disappointed” Tier (Rounds 9-10)
Both receivers were supposed to be top-30 options by now, but that hasn’t happened. Miller was the No. 45 wide receiver from Week 5 forward last year, so he took a step in the right direction, and Taylor Gabriel is gone. Williams is supposed to be the big-bodied touchdown scorer, and while he still has double-digit touchdown upside, the targets are going to go down in what’s a run-first offense.
The “Too Many Mouths to Be Consistent” Tier (Rounds 9-11)
There are simply way too many mouths to feed in these receivers’ offenses. Slayton and Tate are obviously in the same offense, and not many realize that there wasn’t a single game they had Sterling Shepard, Tate, Slayton, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley on the field. Brown now has to contend with both Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley (yes, he saw 104 targets last year) for targets in a run-first offense. There will certainly be usable weeks for all of them, but don’t think you can rely on them every week.
The “Screw It, I Want Upside” Tier (Rounds 10-13)
If you get past your starting lineup and want to start stockpiling upside on your bench, this is your tier. Watkins is the No. 2 option for Patrick Mahomes, enough said. Hardman is apparently being removed from special teams to focus on offense, so given his ridiculous efficiency, he’s someone who can finish as a top-30 receiver with just 70 targets. Anderson has flashed at times, and the connection to him and Matt Rhule makes sense, especially when we have a team that’ll be throwing the ball a lot. Samuel was disappointing last year and is probably a long shot, but here’s to hoping the new Panthers coaches can figure out how to best utilize him. Jackson is older, but has produced on minimal targets in the past, and knowing Alshon Jeffery is likely starting the year on the PUP list, there are more targets available in this offense. Campbell is the starting slot receiver for the Colts, but if T.Y. Hilton continues to deal with injuries, we could see him thrust into the No. 1 wide receiver role.
The “Hurt Right Now but Could Produce Later” Tier (Rounds 10-14)
I had to learn a hard lesson last year. I took A.J. Green as my WR3, thinking I could make it through the first couple weeks without him. NEVER underestimate an injury before the season begins, which is something that both of these receivers have. Samuel had broken foot surgery in June and is expected to miss multiple games. He’s been moved down my board significantly. Jeffery is reportedly going to start on the PUP list, and he’s had trouble staying healthy to begin with. However, when these guys are on the field, they’re top-36 options.
The “Clear No. 2 Options Who Could Rise” Tier (Rounds 11-14)
These guys are the clear-cut No. 2 receivers in their offenses and that’s important in a year like this. If the No. 1 receiver were to miss time, these guys would receive a considerable boost. Williams was the 1B to DeVante Parker as the 1A last year, though coming off the ACL, we’ll call him the No. 2 for now. Jefferson is a route technician who should produce with opportunity, and knowing Adam Thielen has dealt with injuries, there’s a chance he walks into the opportunity you want. Lazard has earned Aaron Rodgers‘ trust, which means a lot more than most realize. Davis is a former first-round pick who has actually played well when he gets more than a handful of targets. Sanders is now 33 years old and not someone who I believe will be a major fantasy option with Michael Thomas on the field, but there’s a chance. These receivers are one injury away from every-week startability.
The “Oddly Might Be the WR1 on his Team” Tier (Rounds 13-16)
It might not be saying much, but these receivers might be the top option on their team. Typically, every team has at least one top-50 receiver. Perriman is on a one-year deal with the Jets and hasn’t had any time to work with Sam Darnold, but his opposition is Mims, who is a rookie, and also hasn’t had a chance to work with Darnold. Pittman has a Vincent Jackson-type body mold, and the Colts apparently view him as the starting “X” receiver, so knowing he’s tied to Philip Rivers, he could be the target magnet. The signing of Cam Newton changed Harry’s outlook quite a bit, as Newton has shown the willingness to let his receivers win in one-on-one situations, something Tom Brady didn’t chance.
The “Boring but Solid Floor Bye Week Options” Tier (Rounds 14-16)
These are guys you don’t need to draft, as they don’t present any sort of upside. However, they do present a decent weekly floor if you’re in a pinch due to someone being scratched last-minute. Westbrook might have more upside under Jay Gruden, as they’ll reportedly move him around the formation and not lock him into the slot role. Beasley saw 107 targets last year and was a WR3 or better 60 percent of the time, which ranked 25th among wide receivers. Still, the arrival of Stefon Diggs will crush that type of stability. Fitzgerald is a safety blanket for the young Kyler Murray. Cobb is joining a team that had 150 targets just disappear, while Gage is still in the Mohamed Sanu role that garnered 94-96 targets per season.
Here are the links to the other positional tier lists (as they’re available):