2016 Fantasy Rankings – Top 10 Wide Receivers

It feels so good to be back.  It’s been a little while since we were last here, together, talking some football.  But it sure does feel right getting back in the saddle.  Last week we went over the running back position to get things started in our series of positional top ten rankings.  This week, I’ll be continuing that with some wide receiver ranking talk and positional analysis.

As has always been the tradition here at The Fantasy Football Gurus, we love to bring you our top ten ranking at each position before the season commences. After how last year went injury wise, we’ve seen a huge emphasis placed on wide receivers and their ability to seemingly be safer picks than running backs.  Couple that with the astounding amount of talent at the wide receiver positon in recent years, running backs have taken a bit of a backseat when it comes to the opening rounds of drafts.  Having spoken endlessly with the other Gurus, I like to stick with the adage of, “This too shall pass.”  What I mean by this, is that is just another temporary draft strategy that has picked up enough steam where it will start to become mainstream.  I think many people will give it a shot this year and in turn I believe this will cause (hopefully) a lot of running backs to fall in drafts.  This year more than any other in recent memory will have the most focus on wide receivers in the early rounds.

I do not believe that this strategy will stick around, but hey, who knows? If you remember just a few short years ago when people were suggesting that you draft a quarterback in the early rounds if you can, since they score the most points.  So of course Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning all went in the first round or two.  Looking back, we think, wow, how the hell did we believe that was a good idea (or maybe that’s just me saying that).  My point is, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Running back is and always has been the primarily dominant position of fantasy football.  And so every few years, people will try and come up with a different strategy of drafting that looks to put a spin on the ordinary ways and methods of fantasy football.  Many will follow in those contrarian views, but I will not be one to consort to these changes, until every backfield becomes a committee.

With this all being said, I feel that wide receivers can have a safer floor than most running backs of similar skill, as they take much less of a pounding on every play. And so while I may not be drafting a wide receiver with my first pick, it is the second most important position in fantasy and therefore extremely pertinent.  And so that brings us to our top ten wide receivers heading into the 2016 season.  These rankings were extracted straight from our top 32 list which we released a few months ago.  The players are ranked depending on order of where we would draft them in a standard scoring league and are subject to change at any time.

    1. Antonio Brown – Guy is just an animal. In arguably the most dangerous offense in the NFL, even WITHOUT Martavis Bryant, we see no slowing down for the back-to-back number one fantasy receiver in the NFL. Brown is the best route runner in the NFL and spearheads the up and coming changing of the guard at the wide receiver position. What once used to be dominated by tall, athletic, physical freaks, is now being eclipsed by smaller, quicker, precise route runners. Similar in stature and ability to what Brown can do, (for you, get it?) are guys like Odell Beckham Jr., John Brown, Julian Edelman, and Tyler Lockett. I do not see anything in the near future slowing down these waterbug types of players. AB84 is one of the few receivers that you could make a case for going number one overall and I would not have a problem with it. Pencil him in for 120+ catches, 1,600+ yards, and 8+ touchdowns.
    2. Odell Beckham Jr. – Another receiver where the argument can be made that he could go number one overall. A personal favorite of mine as he has been so electric and reliable the two years that I have had him, I do not think anyone would be surprised to see him leap to the top at the wide receiver position. In his first two seasons, (don’t forget that he missed the first four games of 2014 with a hamstring injury) OBJ has put up numbers that can only compare with the former great Patriot, Randy Moss. The sky is the limit for OBJ, and as a keeper of him in a few leagues, I would love for him to absolutely dominate yet again. He proved last year that his rookie season was obviously no fluke. The only concern one could possibly have is that of new division mate, Josh Norman. I am not worried whatsoever and I would not be surprised to see OBJ light him up at least once if not both times this year. Sometimes, cornerbacks can sort of be the product of a great system, and I am really anxious to see if that comes to fruition this year in Washington.
    3. Julio Jones – An absolute beast on the field, Julio does not let much come between him and the ball. He was another guy that we went back and forth on in terms of whether or not he could take over that number one fantasy receiver. Quite frankly I see it, and as an owner of Julio in one league, I really hope he can continue his dominance over the majority of NFL cornerbacks. Julio will more than likely be the first receiver to ever surpass 2,000 receiving yards in a season and the only thing holding him back from becoming the number one fantasy receiver is his quarterback. Matt Ryan can be quite inconsistent, especially when it comes to the redzone. For whatever reason he lets his nerves get to him and forces the ball way too much, which explains some of Julio’s low touchdown totals over the past few years (2013 = 2 in five games, 2014 = 6 in fifteen games, 2015 = 8 in sixteen games). For most receivers these are adequate numbers. For a guy at his skill level, Matty Ice needs to find him more in the red zone.
    4. DeAndre Hopkins – Reviewing drafts from last year, I noticed that nobody really saw this coming from Nuk. We knew he was good, but we didn’t know he was this good and being able to snag a guy with his talent level in the fifth or six round of some drafts is simply bonkers. Nuk may not be the fastest, tallest, or quickest receiver, but he moves in and out of his cuts as smooth as we’ve seen and always finds holes in the defense. His stat line from last year of 111-1,521-11 is even more absurd when you realize who his quarterbacks were. Granted, they had no one else to throw to in Houston, he played with the likes of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, and Brandon Weeden. Woof. Now that the Texans actually have a competent quarterback, Hopkins should be able to maintain similar numbers, even with the influx of young talent through the draft. One of the most consistent and safe receivers you can draft this year, you won’t be disappointed with the Clemson product.
    5. Dez Bryant – You either love him or you hate him, but either way you cannot deny the talent of Dez. In what is shaping up to be a high powered Dallas offense, Dez looks healthy and ready to get at it. They know the window is closing with Romo getting up there in age, and they want to act quickly. Videos are already surfacing of Bryant out leaping cornerbacks and picking balls out of the air in practices, with all signs pointing to a healthy foot. Even though I was burned by Dez in a few leagues last year, we would not be surprised to see his value drop a bit going into drafts because of his low stats from last year. Do not let one bad (and injury-filled) year deter you from drafting this generational talent. Romo will be healthy all year as he has the best offensive line in the game and already one of the best blocking running backs in newly-drafted Ezekiel Elliott. Bryant is a clear cut WR1 who you can probably grab around picks 10-16. Pair him with a RB1 and you, my friend, have yourself quite the squad through two rounds.
    6. A.J. Green – Ah, Mr. Green. A man that I will be heavily targeting in most of my drafts as I think he is severely undervalued and could ultimately finish the year as the number three fantasy receiver. Andy Dalton lost two of his reliable targets in Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu, leaving just Green, Tyler Eifert, and a little Giovanni Bernard action to help fill the voids until Tyler Boyd can get comfortable in that offense. I do not expect Boyd to be anything special and basically fill the role of Sanu quite well. With Eifert being somewhat injury prone and the running back situation being quite murky just like last season, I expect Green to garner quite a large load of targets from Dalton. Green should have himself a Julio Jones type year (minus the potential for injury) with what I expect as 90+ catches, 1,400+ yards, and 10+ touchdowns. Green is a beast who can toe tap on the sidelines with the best of them.
    7. Allen Robinson – Last year’s huge surprise, ARob shared much of his fantasy success with teammate Blake Bortles. The two combined for a good enough year fantasy wise to win some people a championship. But, their offense will take a slight step back and while initially we ranked ARob higher, we realized that we were getting a bit ahead of ourselves and bumped him down a few pegs. He’s still clearly a WR1, but what frightens us a bit is the presence of two competent running backs in Ivory and Yeldon and the fact that Bortles is still somewhat of a wildcard on offense. He can make some good decisions and he can make some not so very good decisions. But Bortles does not paint the whole picture for the talented Penn State product and we realize that Robinson is still a very talented wide receiver, regardless of who is throwing him the ball. Comparable to Dez Bryant on many levels, ARob should find himself thickly ingrained in the middle tier of WR1s this year with a 80+, 1,200+, 8+ type of year.
    8. Jordy Nelson – Sometimes you have to make some assumptions when it comes to fantasy football. Jordy Nelson at eight on our list is one of those times. Who would have thought that one guy could impact a team as much as Jordy did the Packers last year. Expect that entire team to rebound from a dreadful year without their best receiver in the fold. Even Fat (Thin?) Eddie should have himself a better year with the return of Nelson, who we expect to not miss a beat at all. ACL injuries are not what they used to as we have seen time and time again, and with a guy with the work ethic of Jordy, I would not be surprised if he is back to one hundred percent all ready. Jordy could finish in the top five by the end of year, possibly pushing for top three status. If Nelson reports healthy and he and Rodgers can pick up where they left off, expect him to get back to at least his 2013 numbers of 85-1,314-8. Just realize that drafting Nelson comes with a bit of risk as we are still not sure how long it will take for he and Rodgers to get acclimated with each other.
    9. Alshon Jeffery – I know, I know, he is not entertaining as most of the other guys we have on the list, but you cannot deny the talent level. Though the quarterback play may be suspect, Jeffery still manages to solidify himself year after year as a solid WR1. The only knock we have on him is his unfortunately thin hamstrings, that seem to pull almost every other week. We hope he is able to get over that this year, but it is something to definitely keep your eye on,especially through training camp. Jeffery will also be in a contract year, something that I think slightly motivates players throughout the season. If Jeffery can get over last season’s hamstring troubles, expect him to mirror his 2013 and 2014 numbers of 85-1,200-8. If you go WR early and are able to snag Jeffery as your WR2, how can you be upset with that. Injuries aside, it does not get more consistent than Alshon, even in a not so pretty Chicago offense.
    10. Mike Evans – Three touchdowns?!?! How? This guy is 6’5” and he only managed to pull down three touchdowns? Well, it happens I guess, but do not expect it to happen again. Evans scored twelve his first year and three last year, expect something in the middle this year, roughly eight if you put a gun to my head. But the reason he still cracked our top ten is because of that size and continued and improved rapport with now sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston. Couple that with the aging and less useful Vincent Jackson, as well as the consistently bone-headed play of Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Evans is basically by himself there in Tampa Bay. Evans struggled with drops last year, but for a guy with his skill level and athleticism, that’s not something we’re too worried about and we expect him to figure it out. By the way, he’s only 23 years old and still learning. Keeper special!

And there she is, boys and girls, another top ten list to help you get through those dog days of summer. Let us know what your thoughts are on the list, as always.  Also, next Wednesday we’ll have another top ten list ready to go for you.  Boom.

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