2017 Positional Rankings: Top Ten WRs
Happy July 4th edition of our 2017 Positional Rankings! As the sun sets on a beautiful summers day, the sound of fireworks ring off in the distance, a nice cold beer is staring back at me, and the sunburn I got at the lake is starting to really set in. Ahh, the joys of summer, it is my favorite season by far! I am just settling back in from a nice 4 day weekend with the family and the fantasy season is right around the corner as most drafts are less than two months away! Sun, surf, BBQ, and FANTASY FOOTBALL IS BACK BABY!!
For so many, the fantasy off-season is a chance to unwind, spend time with their family and regroup from the bad beats the previous season dished your way. It is my job to help ease you back and help mold you into the killer fantasy owner I know you all are. I love writing our annual top ten articles for our fans. Our loyal followers have always told us how much they look forward to them each year and for the redraft community, it is a great way to quickly get a look at who you should be targeting come draft day.
Today, we are going to focus on one of the most important positions in crafting a championship lineup and that is WR. Each year the NFL continues to be a more pass first league and as that up and to the right trend continues, it has changed the way fantasy owners look to construct their rosters. Because of this trend pass catchers, each year has become more valued commodities than their other positional counterparts. Even with the RB explosion that took place last year which saw 5 RB’s crack the top 25 in standard scoring, the NFL is an even larger passing league. Even with all of that RB success the NFL’s pass/run percentage still grew farther apart making me believe that last year was more of an outlier than a trend. This year the Zero RB strategy will be extremely effective one as your league mates rush to grab RB’s early, top WR’s will fall right into your lap and the NFL has already shown you the data that they want to throw touchdowns first and ask questions second!
Let’s sit down and look at who we think are the ten best WR heading into the 2017 fantasy football season!
10. Amari Cooper – Cooper is heading into the magical 3rd year of his NFL career and that should not be taken lightly as so many before him have exploded in their 3rd year. Cooper has posted back to back 1,000k yard seasons and in year 2 he showed growth in both receptions and receiving yardage. You pair his ascension with Carr’s and you have the makings of what could be a special QB / WR relationship. What has hurt Cooper’s fantasy value is his lack of TD production and in standard scoring leagues, touchdowns are king. Even with that lack of TD production Cooper was able to carve out a top 12 WR finish last year only 1 point behind his teammate Michael Crabtree. If Cooper can increase his touchdown production he could easily be a top 5 WR in 2017.
9. Michael Thomas – Holy rookie season Batman! Michael Thomas exploded onto the fantasy scene last year proving to be Drew Bree’s #1 target in New Orleans and making it easier for the Saints front office to part with his former teammate Brandin Cooks. Thomas value is boosted by the departure of Cooks and the fact he plays in one of the most explosive passing attacks in the NFL. Drew Brees is a fantasy GOD and I will attach myself to any WR that is playing with him. You add 8 games in the Dome and 1 more when they travel to Atalanta and you have a recipe for success. I see no reason why Thomas can’t duplicate his 93/1,137/9 season he had and at his current ADP owners are hoping he will add to it with the 117 targets vacated from Cooks departure.
8. T.Y. Hilton – Hilton had his best year as a pro in 2016 and he turned that success into a top 5 WR finish. His 1,448 receiving yards led the NFL and his 90.5 Yds/g was the 3rd best. T.Y. plays with one of the best QB’s in the league. When healthy Andrew Luck and Hilton showed he could be the true #1 option in a pass-heavy offensive scheme. You mix in his 155 targets which were the 7th most last year and you can see why Hilton is on our list. Lack of TD production has kept Hilton from being considered in the top tier of WR’s but he has posted 4 straight 1k yard seasons and I see no reason to believe he won’t make it 5 in 2017.
7. Dez Bryant – Let’s be honest Dez has had back to back disappointing seasons when you compare it to his ADP but what fantasy owners saw from week 8 to week 16 last season has given us all new hope that Bryant will once again rise to be an elite WR. Bryant hauled in 7 TD’s and amassed 109 of his 130 points during that same span. That is a 12.11 per game average which is greater than your #1 WR Mike Evans who over that same span posted an 11.67 per game average. You take that average over the entire season and Bryant would have finished as your #5 WR last year. The numbers say as Dak improved so didn’t Bryant’s production and in 2017 as long as Dak doesn’t regress or barring an injury, Bryant should be locked in as a candidate to finish as a top 5 WR.
6. Jordy Nelson – Jordy Nelson is a beast and boy did he throw egg on everyone’s face who passed on him because they were afraid he wasn’t going to be the same player after the ACL injury. Jordy went on to post the 2nd best WR performance of 2016 and he had a monstrous 15.66 per game average over the final 9 games of the fantasy season. Posting 27 points in week 16 fantasy championships to put a cherry on top of his phenomenal season. When you play in one of the league’s best passing attacks, with the league’s best thrower of the football you are going to get opportunities to score touchdowns and what have I said? Touchdowns are king in standard scoring leagues. Nelson is 32 which is a bit concerning but he showed no signs of slowing down last year and his 155 targets in 2016 have me all in on trying to own Nelson where ever I can.
5. A.J. Green – Green is one of my favorite wide receivers to watch because he makes it look so easy. Green when healthy is as good as any WR on this list. I love his skill set and last year before the injury he was on pace for a 1,800-yard season! To give you an idea of just how dominate Green was before he got hurt, he had the 2nd highest Yds/G average 96.4 and he did it by only playing in 10 games. A lot has changed since then and in the draft, the Bengals added WR John Ross from Washington and RB Joe Mixon from Oklahoma. This tells me that the Bengals are looking to put an upgraded supporting cast around Green. I think a more balanced attack could help keep A.J. Green on the field for the entire season and a 1,400+ yard / 10+TD season is definitely in the cards.
4. Mike Evans – Evans is a fan favorite of the entire TFFGurus office and for good reason, he plays on an ascending offense, with a young QB, and he is really really good! The off-season brought even better news as Tampa Bay signed DeSean Jackson and drafted O.J. Howard & Chris Godwin. The fantasy community is showing how excited they are as Evans ADP has risen and is currently sitting at 9.0. What is not to love going into 2017 with Mike Evans? He finished as the #1 WR in standard scoring last year, his 171 targets was the 2nd most in the NFL, and his 12 TDs was tied for the 2nd most. Evans has had 3 straight 1k yard seasons and has two 12 TD season under his resume. Evans is a great consolation prize if you miss out on either of our next 3 guys!
3. Julio Jones – Julio Jones is far and away the most physically dominating receiver in the NFL today. No one has been able to put up the Madden-like numbers that Julio has been able to do over the past few seasons. Just this past year Jones had a 300-yard receiving game against the Carolina Panthers! 300 yards in one game! He is a physical freak that no one in the NFL can cover. Julio once again led the NFL for the second straight year in Yds/g with 100.6 and averaged 17.0 average yards per catch. The only downsides to Julio’s game as compared to the 2 guys in front of him on our list is his lack of touchdown production each season and staying healthy. Julio has only played in all 16 games once in his entire career. When healthy Julio is one of the premiere WR in the NFL and is worthy of being drafted in the 1st round.
2. OBJ (Odell Beckham Jr.) – OBJ has had one of the best starts to a career of any player I have ever seen. Odell has posted three straight 1,300+ yard / 10+ TD seasons and tied for 2nd w/ 12 touchdown catches this past season. The reason OBJ is ahead of Julio in our opinion is because of his ability to score double digit touchdowns each and every year. Predicting touchdowns is an impossible task that not even Tom Cruise could accomplish. OBJ and our #1 guy have a proven track record of doing this and as a fantasy owner, it makes me feel a little more confident using a high draft pick on them. It also doesn’t hurt that the GMen improved their receiving core with the addition of Brandon Marshall in the off-season which I think is only going to aid in helping keep double teams away from OBJ. You add in the fact that his 180 targets led the NFL last year and I am all in on OBJ in 2017!
1. Antonio Brown – Who else did you think it was going to be? AB is the best WR in the NFL, period, end of story. He is a fantasy god that everyone should bow down to. Over the past 4 seasons AB has averaged 100+ receptions / 1,200+ yards (1,834 in 2015) / 8+ touchdowns. Brown is the clear #1 WR heading into 2016 and the return of Martavius Bryant only helps increase his value as it means defenses can’t pay as much attention to #84 as they did in 2016. As long as Big Ben is behind center the Stellers are going to have one of the most lethal passing attacks in the NFL. AB’s 106 receptions in 2016 were good for the 2nd most only 1 behind the ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald & his 85.6 Yds/G was good enough for 4th best. In the world, there are few things that can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and AB finishing as a top 3 WR in 2017.
And there you have it, counting down the top ten WR’s of 2017. Feel free to send us your feedback and let us know where you think we got it wrong by sending us an email: TrophyTime@TFFGurus.com. Remember to check out the Trophy Time Podcast which can be found on all the major podcast networks and follow and chat with us on Twitter – @TheFantasyBoys, @TFFGurus, @DaFantasyFather, and @DecoyLife.