This will be by far the easiest article I write in this series. Business is #booming for the wide receiver position, and a shift has occurred in fantasy football. Last season, Le’Veon Bell, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and Eddie Lacy rounded out the top five overall players in drafts. This year, three wideouts control the top three, with more and more receivers moving up in drafts.
The top three players going in drafts are Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr., respectively. Brown and Jones will be listed here. However, I must reiterate: I am not listing my top players to draft at each position. I am listing the least risky players at each position.
1. Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown is the number one overall player in fantasy football. If the owner of the number one pick in your draft doesn’t take Brown, deliver a swift backhand to said owner’s jaw. There’s no reason to be cute about it. AB is far and away better than all other receivers and players since 2013.
Numbers make arguments better, so let’s talk about numbers. Antonio Brown caught 136(!) passes last season, good for second-most in a single season in the history of the NFL. Brown played in all 16 games in each of his last three seasons, proving he’s nothing short of incredibly durable.
Brown’s numbers are already huge, but what if his quarterback would’ve played all 16 games? Ben Roethlisberger missed four games last season, which took Brown out of his normal rhythm. Had Big Ben played each game last season, Brown would’ve been on pace to finish with 158 catches for 2,128 yards and 13 touchdowns. The receptions and yards would’ve broken their NFL single season records.
Again, don’t be cute about taking anyone over Brown. He’s the best receiver in football, bar none. If he gets Ben Roethlisberger for all 16 games this season, Brown could break records. He’s the biggest stud in PPR leagues ever. Now, make him the biggest stud on your team by doing all you can to draft him.
2. Julio Jones
Remember that time I told you AB caught 136 passes, which was the second-best in a single season? Well, Jones tied Brown’s mark with 136 receptions of his own. For the first three games in 2015, it looked like Julio Jones would overtake Antonio Brown as the best wideout in the league. His game log below shows exactly why.
|Game 1||9 catches, 141 yards, 2 touchdowns|
|Game 2||13 catches, 135 yards|
|Game 3||12 catches, 164 yards, 2 touchdowns|
Jones would cool off for the next two games, yet finished the season with four total games under 90 yards receiving. One of those games saw Jones reel in seven passes for 88 yards, two yards shy of the mark of 90 yards.
Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in the NFL, but Julio Jones is the clear number two option. He demands targets from Matt Ryan, receiving 203 of them to lead the NFL last season. Jones also averaged 116.9 yards per game, good for first in the league. Draft Jones as the a distinguished WR1, as no player will top Brown or Jones’ production this season.
3. A.J. Green
Once Brown, Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. are drafted, the fourth-best wide receiver to be drafted is a toss up. Players like A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, and DeAndre Hopkins all will be taken after the top three in many drafts this season. A.J. Green is the clear number four wide receiver for this season.
Frustrating as he may be, A.J. Green is in for a career year this season. Green’s root of inconsistency in 2015 is attributed to his lack of targets. With breakout star Tyler Eifert, two different but useful running backs in Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill, and two other receivers (Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones), vying for targets, Green became just another player in Cincinnati’s potent offense a season ago.
Wide receivers don’t like to share, and Green is no different. For the first time since his rookie season, the Georgia product saw less than 30% of the team’s targets go his way. This season, Green will see an uptick in targets. 39 percent of Bengals targets is now gone with the departure of Jones and Sanu. Brandon Lafell is expected to line up opposite of Green, but he simply will not demand much attention from Andy Dalton. Rookie wideout Tyler Boyd also joins the team to fill in as a slot receiver, but still won’t contend with Green for the most targets on the team.
Green’s only problem last season was a lack of attention from Andy Dalton. This season, it will be a Dalton to Green love affair. I’m not drafting Green with my first pick, but I’m very happy with him as my second pick in the front end of the second round.
4. Keenan Allen
Keenan Allen’s 2015 season was as successful of a half-season as we’ve seen. Allen suffered a lacerated kidney which promptly ended his season. Allen’s first eight games had him on pace for 134 receptions for 1,450 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was also on pace for 194 points, which would’ve been good enough for sixth among wide receivers.
The most intriguing aspect of Allen’s 2016 outlook is the fact that he owns targets in San Diego. Allen played in just half the games for the Chargers, yet he still finished with 89 targets (on pace for 178), which was second on the team. That number is just crazy. When Philip Rivers likes a receiver, he absolutely makes sure that receiver gets plenty of targets (see Antonio Gates/Vincent Jackson). Allen will dominate the targets this season, with Antonio Gates on his way out and no other viable receiver in the offense.
Danny Woodhead led the team in targets last season- as a running back. That shows the state of San Diego’s passing offense. I expect Allen to contend with Green to be at the top of the second tier at the wide receiver position. There’s nothing really to worry about with Allen. I really can’t see the UC-Berkeley product finishing outside the top-five of receivers this season.
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