Here it is, my final and most important list of receivers. These receivers will fill up the first and second round of most drafts and will fill the void of your number one receiver.
10. Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks): After a breakout season in 2015 with 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns, Baldwin had another 1,000-yard season with seven touchdowns. Regression was expected from Baldwin last season, but I don’t expect that trend to continue this season.
Russell Wilson didn’t target Baldwin as much as he should’ve in the red zone last year. He found success there but he found it using his other receivers.
Where Baldwin did succeed was in his productivity. Baldwin ranked seventh in receptions and seventh in yards after the catch with 447. Another season as Wilson’s number one target, Baldwin should finish as a WR1 this year.
9. Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders): Amari Cooper has been the receiver that the Raiders hoped he would become after selecting him fourth in the 2015 NFL Draft. After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Cooper has the ability to take the next step in 2017.
In the touchdown category, Cooper only has the opportunity to go up after seasons with six and five touchdowns. Now with Marshawn Lynch in the mix, Cooper will find trouble in the red zone but the volume will be there. The Raiders want to get Cooper the ball more and if that happens, he’s a lock for top 10 production.
8. T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis Colts): The receiving leader in 2016 wasn’t Antonio Brown, Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr. It was, however, T.Y. Hilton. Hilton and Andrew Luck were on another level last season. After four straight 1,000-yard seasons, T.Y. can upgrade his touchdowns and be a top five receiver easily.
He’s as productive as productive gets after ranking first in receiving yards and second in air yards. T.Y. Hilton also ranked eighth in fantasy points per game. The only way Hilton does the same thing as last season is if Andrew Luck can stay healthy. If that happens, Hilton will be a better receiver than he was last year.
7. Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints): In a rookie class highlighted by stud running backs and Dak Prescott, Michael Thomas slid under the radar as one of the league’s best receivers. He was productive in the red zone, ranking fifth in red zone receptions and ninth in receptions overall.
Now Brandin Cooks is gone and Michael Thomas is stepping into the number one receiver role with the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees. Thomas starts the season in a tough spot facing the Vikings, Patriots and Panthers in his first three matchups. Defenses now know what to expect, but I’m still on the Michael Thomas bandwagon, as he’s a late first to early second round pick.
6. A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals): Do I need to talk about Green’s production or efficiency? His past numbers speak for themselves. From 2011-15, A.J. Green had 1,000-plus yards and double digit touchdowns every year but two. Last season, he didn’t have 1,000 yards but that’s only because he missed six games.
Green still finished with 964 yards in just 10 games. Obviously Andy Dalton’s favorite target, Green is in line for another big season. Standing at 6-foot-4 210 pounds, Green has big play ability and he’ll produce big time for the Bengals again this year.
5. Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers): After tearing his ACL in 2015, people wondered whether or not Jordy Nelson could bounce back to number one receiver status he once was. He not only removed doubt of being a number one receiver, he ended up as the number one receiver, in terms of fantasy that is.
Nelson formed a great duo with Davante Adams, creating terror for opposing defenses. Aaron Rodgers is destined to put up huge numbers in Green Bay, and will probably throw for 35 or more touchdowns.
The targets are there in the red zone, after last season, Nelson had 32 targets inside of the 20-yard line. Nelson is going to be a stud again in fantasy but expect a little regression in terms of touchdowns.
4. Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Mike Evans started off last season with a bang. Through the first nine weeks of the season, Evans only had single digit weeks twice. He started to slow down a little after that however.
From week 10 on, Evans only had four double digit weeks. With the development of Jameis Winston, Mike Evans has the ability to be even better than last year. The only problem with Evans is how many targets may go to his fellow players.
With the addition of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, targets are going to be spread around the Tampa Bay offense. Evans should still see most of the targets and stay a solid WR1.
3. Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants): Definitely the most outspoken player on this list, Odell Beckham Jr. is a once in a generation player. After coming onto the scene in 2014, Beckham Jr. hasn’t had a season with less than ten touchdowns. Last season he had 1,367 receiving yards and ten touchdowns. And that was his worst year as a pro. Odell was arguably the most productive receiver in the league last year ranking within the top 5 at categories such as receptions, receiving yards, yards after catch, touchdowns and fantasy points per game. The category Beckham could improve in is minimizing his drops. He had nine last season, his most since entering the league. Now Brandon Marshall is added to the mix which is a good and bad thing. It’s good for Beckham because he’ll see less double teams but it may minimize his red zone targets.
2. Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons): The Falcons’ amazing season was helped out by Julio Jones and his play at wide receiver. After his third straight 1,000-plus yard season, is it possible that Julio could be even better than last year. The yardage won’t fall below 1,000 if he stays healthy for a full season.
However, that is a big if. Jones has only played two full seasons since entering the league in 2011. Other than health, Julio can improve in the red zone. He ranked 53rd in the league last season with five red zone receptions. If those numbers increase and the big bodied receiver gets more touchdowns, he’ll be the number one receiver in the league.
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
1. Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers): Business is boomin’ in Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown is in line for another big season with the Steelers. Since 2013, Antonio Brown has had at least 100 receptions, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in each season.
He ranked first in the most important fantasy candidate for wide receivers: fantasy points per game. Now Antonio Brown has Martavis Bryant back opposite of him for hopefully a full season which can lead to better things.
In two games where Antonio Brown was primarily double teamed, Sammie Coates was targeted a team-high 19 times. Now with Bryant back in the mix, those double teams should regress and Brown should be even better than last year.
Feature image courtesy of www.endzonescore.com
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