Top 20 WR’s-Ryan’s 2015 Fantasy Football Series
Will ODB repeat his spectacular rookie season? Is Megatron still worth a first round pick? Two Broncos and two Packers finished in the Top 7 in scoring last season, can we expect that again?
1. Antonio Brown Antonio was the deadliest WR in the NFL last season. Nobody could touch him statistically. He finished with 129 receptions 1,698 yards and 15 total TD’s (1 passing 1 rushing). Brown had the second highest fantasy performance of all-time, right behind Calvin Johnson’s 2011 season. Considering he had 1,500 yards 8 TD’s (which was good enough for 6th overall in points) the year before, I don’t see any reason why he can’t sustain his 2014 numbers. Brown is set to make $6 million this season and he’s wanting a new contract, but the Steelers aren’t budging so far. He’s claiming he has outperformed his original 5-year $42 Million contract he signed in 2012. His work ethic is insane and anyone who watches the Steelers play knows he’s the league’s best route runner. Plus he has some of the best hands and feet of any pass catcher in the league. Considering Big Ben and Bell are both ranked in my top 4 at their position, I am expecting some big numbers out of the Steelers this season. Don’t consider any WR over Brown this season.
2. Jordy Nelson Jordy had a hell of a season in 2014. He finished 2nd overall in points, posting 98 rec. 1,519 yards 13 TD’s. He could have had even better of a season but the majority of Packer starters sat out the 4th quarter during blowout wins over the Eagles, Vikings, Bears and Panthers. When Rodgers and Nelson are on the same field together, good things happen. Nelson finished 11th overall in points in 2013, 85 rec. 1,314 yards 8TD’s. That was even with Rodgers missing nearly 9 games that season. When Rodgers did play that year, Jordy had 49 rec. 810 yards 7 TD’s in just 8 games. Just think what kind of year he would have had if Rodgers didn’t break his collarbone. Going back to his spectacular season last year, Nelson ranked third in the NFL in red zone targets (28). He has the speed to beat you deep and can use his 6″3 217lb. frame to outmuscle you in the end zone. No QB in the NFL had more pass attempts in the red zone, which is another reason to like Nelson this season. You are drafting the No. 1 fantasy QB’s favorite target, enjoy.
3. Dez Bryant It was a catch. No, I’m kidding. But seriously it was a catch. Either way the Cowboys gave Dez the long-term deal he wanted at 5-years $70 million. Anyways, let’s take a look at what Dez accomplished in 2014. Big No. 88 had 88 rec. 1,320 yards 16 TD’s. He’s scored 29 TD’s his past 2 seasons combined. The next best two over that span is Demaryius Thomas, who has scored 25, and Antonio Brown at 21. So Dez has scored 8 more TD’s than the WR who’s scored the 3rd most TD’s of the past 2 years. For everyone kissing Antonio Browns ass just let that sink in for a second. The former first round pick in 2010 has 56 TD’s his first 72 NFL games. Physically, Dez is the most gifted WR in the NFL. If Megatron didn’t fall off I would say him, but Bryant is a monster. He’s easily the best player on the Cowboys. He has so much passion for the game it’s crazy. He has the reputation of being the hardest worker on the team, I love owning players like that. The good news is the Cowboys have decided not to use Dez on punt returns, minimizing his chance of getting injured. Bryant has shown durability over the past 4 seasons by only missing 1 game. With a dominating offensive line, and a QB with the highest passer rating of 2014, I see no reason to think Dez won’t have another stellar season.
4. Odell Beckham Jr.This guy brought everyone nightmares if you were playing against him last season. I didn’t get a chance to pick him up in any of my money leagues. And I paid for it the second half of the year. It seems like you can’t be old and play WR anymore. All 10 of the top scoring WR’s in the league last season were 29 or younger. And ODB seems to be the youngest and brightest star of all those WR’s. He had nearly identical stats to Dez, except played 4 less games, with 91 rec. 1,305 yards 12 TD’s, averaging a TD a game. It would be crazy to think of his stat line if he played all 16 games. He averaged 14.3 yards per catch, 108.8 yards a game, and nabbed the Rookie of the Year award honor. The Giants offense has nothing going on, so they will feature ODB almost exclusively. Nobody can cover ODB in the NFC East, so I don’t see a legitimate reason why he can’t have a heck of a year. Beckham missed most of OTAs and minicamp with a hamstring injury, and his status remains up the in the air for training camp. It’s the same injury that nagged him his rookie season. But he claims he will be ready for Week 1 vs. Dallas. To high of expectations or hamstring issues are the only 2 negative things I can think of about ODB. You can draft him early, I just wouldn’t spend a first round pick on him.
5. Calvin Johnson Just a couple years ago, people were saying Megatron was the best WR of all-time, if not one of the best ever. Now a days, people have mixed perspective when deciding Calvin’s exact fantasy value. He missed 3 games last season, which made him finish 14th overall among WR’s. Even with his games missed, that’s still not that bad. I’m seeing him being taken as the 6th overall WR in most drafts so far this season, which lands him in the 2nd round. I’m guessing his low TD total’s, and Stafford’s average play over the last couple years has scared owners away. Or maybe the people who drafted him in the first round the past 2 seasons, didn’t like their return on investment. That’s understandable. Since 2012, we’ve seen a decline in games played, targets, and receptions. And his TD numbers haven’t been that great. Even in his record-breaking 2012 season, he only had 5. His injury risk is also an issue. He has only played in all 16 games in 3 out of his 8 seasons. I think the Lions throw the ball a lot more this season, and they will throw it with more efficiency. Reggie Bush is gone, and Bell looks beat up. I believe this is the year you take Megatron with tremendous upside. We can all be guilty of over analyzing recent performances, instead of looking at how good they’ve been in their career, and just how good they will be this next season. If you draft Megatron this season, you can expect a 1,500+ yard season and double digit touchdowns.
6. Demaryius Thomas Thomas and Bryant were the first two WR’s drafted off the board in 2010, and just like Bryant, he’s been nothing but consistent. Let’s start out by talking about how amazing Thomas been for Denver. Last season, he finished 2nd in receptions (111), 2nd in yards (1,619) and tied for 4th in TD’s with 11. Thomas hasn’t finished out of the Top 5 in scoring over the past 3 seasons. Like Bryant, he has been the model of consistency among WR’s lately. But here are a couple reasons why he is just outside my top 5 this season. I’m gonna knock down both him and Sanders just a peg because of Peyton’s age and declining arm strength. As I stated earlier about the Broncos offense, I think they will run the ball just a tad more under Gary Kubiak. It also didn’t help that Thomas sat out all offseason waiting on his massive contract. He should have been learning the new playbook under the freshly hired staff. But I think those are small instances to overcome, especially now that he just signed a new deal. Thomas will see plenty of short-yardage plays that ask him to pick up yards after the catch. It helps that Demaryius is one of the leagues best yards after catch WR’s. His mother was one of 46 offenders who received early release for non-violent crimes by President Obama. Her release date is right before the Week 10 game vs. the Chiefs. If Thomas needed any more motivation to have a strong season. I think he found it. His mother will be in the stands watching him play for the first time in 15 years.
7. Julio Jones As of right now, Julio and the Falcons have not agreed to a contract extension. I think the deadliest players in the game are usually the ones who are in a contract year. Just look at how well Bryant and Thomas did last season. How did Demarco Murray play last season when looking for a new contract? If I were to give anyone quick advice in any fantasy sport, I would say look for the guy who is playing for a big new contract. Jones was one of only four players to have 100+ receptions last season. When you finish Top 3 in both yards and receptions, it’s kind of disappointing to only have 6 touchdowns. Jones is actually top 5 worthy, but things are so crowded up top that he landed at No. 7 on my list. Kyle Shanahan’s offense historically has a high number of targets for the X receiver. Considering the Falcons have nothing going on in the running game this season, I could actually see a rise in Julio’s numbers. I expect big things from Julio Jones this season.
8. Alshon Jeffrey Now that Brandon Marshall is gone, Jeffrey looks to take over the reigns as the No. 1 WR for the Bears this season. The former 2nd round pick out of South Carolina is excited to take on that role. He finished 11th in scoring last season and tallied 85 rec. 1,133 yards 10 TD’s. His sophomore year in 2013 he had 89 rec. 1,421 yards 7 TD’s. Looking at those stats, I couldn’t really say a breakout year is coming because he’s been so great already. But I think he could go insane this season now that he’s by himself. Alshon has shown some toughness by playing all 32 games the past 2 seasons after missing 6 his rookie year. Even with Marshall last season, Jeffrey had 145 targets, which was 6th most in the league. New offensive coordinator Adam Gase will have Alshon play the same role as Demaryius Thomas did with the Broncos last season. Knowing that, Jeffrey has the chance to outperform his draft day value by a considerable margin.
9. Randall Cobb How can 2 WR’s on the same team both be ranked in the Top 9? Because of Aaron Rodgers that’s how. Nelson and Cobb have a little Batman and Robin duo going on thats a nightmare for secondaries. Nelson is your long ball wideout while Cobb will eat away at defenses with his dink-and-dunk style of routes. Cobb led the league with 110 short pass fantasy points. Randall finished 6th overall in fantasy points last season, posting 91 rec. 1,287 yards and 12 TD’s. Just another sample of a guy who had a career year the same year he was playing for a new contract. The cool thing about Cobb is the Packers like to use him in all types of offensive schemes. He lined up 33 times in the backfield over his final 5 games. The Packers didn’t give him a $40 million contract so he could take a step back. I don’t see Devante Adams eating in to Cobb’s numbers at all this season. Just because touchdowns are random and harder to predict from year to year (unlike targets, catches and yards), he might have around 9 or 10 instead of 12. I definitely don’t see him improving on 12 touchdowns but that’s about the only negative thing I can think about him.
10. Emmanuel Sanders This guy. Let me tell you. I love this guy. In my big money league, I traded Sproles (who started out hot) and Carolina’s defense for Sanders during Week 6. I was stacked at RB and my buddy had Cobb, Thomas and Sanders at WR, and he was thin at RB. Remember at this point Sanders didn’t even have a TD on the year. The trade seemed even at the time. But as the year went on, Sproles and Carolina faded away and Sanders went off. I ended up playing my buddy in the championship. We were nearly dead even going into Monday nights game. He had one player left, (D. Thomas) and I had Sanders left. At halftime the score was nearly even. Then Bam!! Sanders scores 2 TD’s over a 7 minute span in the 3rd quarter. And that was all I needed to turn my $100 into a $1,000. I ended the year on an 11-week winning streak. Now that I have bored you with this story lets talk about how awesome Sanders is. He finished 7th overall in scoring, tallying 101 rec. 1,404 yards 9 TD’s. Other than his QB being 39, some negative circumstances could surround Sanders in 2015. Kubiak has changed the offense from a pass happy no huddle, to a huddle up and build the offense on a run first, pass second type scheme. Sanders will move into the slot while the Broncos will put rookie Cody Latimer on the outside. He might not finish in the Top 7 in scoring again, but don’t underestimate Sanders and what he can do.
11. Mike Evans Manziel seemed to be the only Texas A&M player who was talked about before 2014 started. But if you watched any Aggie games in 2013, you knew that Manziel was that good because Evans was a freaking monster. He had the rare combination of size and speed for a college player coming in at 6″5 230 lbs.. He played all 26 games for A&M in his 2 years and finished his career with 151 rec. 2,499 yards 17 TD’s. Even with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon as his QB his rookie season, he posted 68 rec. 1,051 yards 12 TD’s. That was good enough to finish Top 10 in the league in scoring, pretty impressive. Evans stated that his numbers could have been much better. On numerous occasions he claimed to be open, but the QB would look him off or check down. Hopefully he won’t have to worry about that this year because the Bucs think they’ve made a huge upgrade with Winston. Evans and Jackson look to be a pretty good WR duo this upcoming season. I think the ceiling is very high for Evans.
12. A.J. Green This is my 8th year of playing fantasy football and I have still never owned A.J. Green. He is always getting drafted way to early for my liking. And owners paid for taking him last season. He was taken on average in the second round last season and finished with just 69 rec. 1,041 yards 6 TD’s. Every thing about the Bengals passing game last season stunk. Plus A.J. missed 3 games due to a concussion. Considering Green had 195 rec. 2,776 yards 22 TD’s in 2012 and 2013 combined, it’s hard to say he won’t have a better year if he plays all 16 games. But here are some negatives about Green. In Hue Jackson’s first year as offensive coordinator, he let it be known that he is gonna run the hell out of the football. A.J. went from being targeted 10 times inside the 10 yard line in 2013, to only 2 targets inside the 10 last season. Hill and Bernard will eat up most red zone chances. He’ll have to deal with Marvin Jones returning, Sanu having a solid 2014, and the potential emergence of Tyler Eifert. You can take A.J. Green this year just don’t take him too early.
13. T.Y. Hilton As I was about to start my write-up on Hilton, it was announced that he inked a new deal with the Colts. A 5-year deal worth $65 million, with $39 Million guaranteed. Considering that is nearly identical to Dez Bryant/Demaryius Thomas contract, I would say they overpaid for sure. But we will see. He did have a decent 2014 with 82 rec. 1,345 yards 7 TD’s. Two factors that helped Hilton have a such a good year. He had Luck playing out of his mind at QB, and they had basically nobody halfway talented to get involved at the wide receiver position once Wayne was hurt. Luck will play out of his mind again this year but the bad news is Hilton will be dealing with a crowded offense. They added Andre Johnson who I think will have a better year than most people think. Johnson. Andrew has averaged 1,236 yards a season since 2008. That’s even with missing 13 games over that time span. And he has had nothing but sub-par QB’s in Houston. They also spent a 1st round pick in this years draft on Phillip Dorsett out of Miami (FL). And they didn’t add Frank Gore to keep on throwing the ball. Many signs point to Hilton not repeating his numbers from 2014. But then again he will be Andrew Luck’s No. 1 WR. Just don’t be the guy who overpays for Hilton and regrets it halfway through the year.
14. DeAndre Hopkins The Texans hit a home run on drafting Hopkins in the first round, helping soften the blow on the awful Clowney pick. I said it a million times before the draft. The Texans should draft a QB or trade the pick away. Maybe Clowney will prove me wrong this year who knows. I could really see Hopkins having a huge year though. Hopkins had a successful sophomore season with 76 rec. 1,2010 yards and 6 TD’s. All 3 of those categories will increase this next coming season. Andre Johnson is gone, and with Arian Foster now hurt they will rely on Hopkins to be their playmaker more than ever. Yes the QB situation containing Bryan Hoyer and Ryan Mallett is scary. But they are still professional QB’s who just need to get the ball in Hopkins hands, which is definitely doable. I mean come on, they had Ryan Fitzpatrick last season. The QB situation didn’t really get any better, but Hopkins did. Expecting a stat line like 85 rec. 1,357 yards 8 TD’s is a very realistic projection for him this season.
15. Jordan Matthews It made me cringe when I saw the Eagles draft Matthews in the 2nd round last season. I watched him play at Vanderbilt and he looked like a NFL wide receiver while in college. I knew Matthews would have a nice career with Philly. And so far so good. I took Matthews in nearly every league last season with my very last pick. And while he did start out really slow, he still finished the year in the Top 25 in fantasy points among WR’s. And fourth in fantasy points among rookie WR’s, behind ODB, Evans and Benjamin. Those three, along with Matthews and Watkins look to be the cream of the crop among the young WR’s in the NFL. That was a seriously talented draft class full of wideouts in 2014. With Maclin now gone, that increases Matthews value tremendously as the new No. 1 WR. Riley Cooper and newly drafted first round pick out of USC Nelson Agholor will be listed as the No. 2 and No. 3 wideouts. Philly will still probably throw a decent amount to both tight ends, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. Other than those two, the Eagles defense will look a whole lot different in 2015. But we know one thing is for sure, the X receiver in Chip Kelly’s offense will get tons of targets. Don’t let Matthews pass you by.
16. Brandin Cooks Here is another guy I was able to draft fairly late in nearly all my leagues last season, because he wasn’t really high on anyone’s radar. A lot of your average fantasy players thought Colston and Graham would run the show in New Orleans in 2014. The speedy wideout from Oregon St. quickly became one of Drew’s favorite targets last season. After the first half of the season, many people started to realize why the Saints spent a first round pick on Cooks. But then the worst thing about playing fantasy happened. He had a severe thumb injury that ended his season. In just 10 games last season he tallied 53 rec. 550 yards 3 TD’s. If he would have played out the rest of the year, he would have finished around 85 rec. 800 yards 5 TD’s. He has even higher added value in PPR leagues. Now that he has some NFL experience under his belt, and Jimmy Graham leaving, I could see Cooks having a really great season. Kenny Stills going to the Dolphins adds even more value to Cooks. He is definitely worth a serious look, especially if your league is PPR.
17. Keenan Allen What a great example of what people call a sophomore slump. After a stellar rookie campaign in 2013 where he posted 71 rec. 1,046 yards 8 TD’s, he put up just 77 rec. 783 yards 4 TD’s last season. Reports are saying that Allen came into his sophomore season about 15 lbs. overweight. The good news is he took his offseason workouts much more seriously this time around and showed up to training camp trimmed up. He also dealt with some shoulder and ankle injuries that slowed him down in 2014. I always like taking a player in their third year. They’ve gotten most the kinks worked out and have learned what they need to do to become a successful NFL player. Many fantasy owners will let Allen fall because of his recent performance, but you can draft him with confidence. I expect something around 82 rec. 1,188 yards 9 TD’s.
18. Vincent Jackson Jackson filled up 2 out of 3 categories last season but didn’t get it done in the end zone. He finished with 70 rec. 1,002 yards 2 TD’s. As I stated about Evans, the Bucs awful QB performance definitely hindered his numbers. I can’t put it all on the quarterback situation though. Their were many times where Jackson looked tired and sluggish. Jameis Winston should help bring his enthusiasm back. Here are some positives about Jackson. He has played a full season in 8 of the past 9 seasons. He has also caught for over 1,000 yards in 6 of the past 7. . He’s built like the perfect NFL WR at 6’5 230 lbs. And he has an awesome counterpart in Mike Evans. I full expect Jackson to improve on his 2014 numbers.
19. Sammy Watkins ABC Buffalo is reporting that Watkins has been a beast in training camp so far. Of course we hear this about a lot of guys early on. I mean he is facing his own teammates and some 2nd and 3rd stringers. So he should look amazing. But I believe the hype around this guy again. I say again because the buzz around Watkins was huge after the Bills spent the 4th overall pick on him last season. Their would be games where Watkins looked amazing, then the next week he was totally shut down. So you could take some positives from his breakout games, and some negatives about his inconsistent play his rookie season. He finished with a decent 65 rec. 982 yards 6 TD’s. Not bad considering the QB situation in Buffalo. And it looks like Matt Cassel has taken over the reigns from E.J. Manuel. I think Watkins would have to have a lot of things go right to vastly improve on his rookie numbers. But if he can avoid the ever so famous sophomore slump and key injuries, he could easily put up 1,000+ yards 8TD’s. Even with Cassel and that moron of a coach Rex Ryan.
20. Kelvin Benjamin As soon as the (2014) first round was over, I thought the Panthers made one of the worst picks in Kelvin Benjamin. He was known as an average route-runner, and didn’t have much down-field speed. And this guy was supposed to be the franchise wideout for the next 10 years. But he actually played better than I thought he would. He posted 73 rec. 1,008 yards 9 TD’s his rookie season. He did have more drops than you want to see but he can always improve upon that. Back in June, Benjamin evidently showed up to OTA’s about 10-15 lbs. overweight. How any NFL player becomes overweight is amazing to me. In order to gain weight like that you basically wouldn’t work out for months. You are paid millions of dollars, at least jog around the block a couple time a week to keep the weight off my God come on guys. Reminds me of Keenan Allen. But since OTA’s Benjamin has shed the weight. It was very important to do so because it minimizes the chance of injuring his already weak hamstrings. As long as he and Newton can stay healthy, I don’t see why he can’t improve on his rookie numbers.
You might have noticed a couple big name WR’s that did not make the Top 20 list. It was really hard to decide on who will wrap up this list because some of these guys are ranked so close together. These players are just outside my Top 20, but still might have a productive season.
Honorable Mention (WR):
Andre Johnson Went from a bad QB situation to nearly the best QB a WR could ask for. And he still has some left in the tank.
Julian Edelman If you are in a PPR league I would rank him inside the Top 20. But if you are running a standard league, he is just outside it. And the suspension to Tom Brady doesn’t help.
Jeremy Maclin Jeremy finished 9th overall in fantasy points last season. But just like McCoy, we know moving out of the Eagles system won’t improve his numbers. Alex Smith didn’t throw a single touchdown to a WR last season. Ouch.
Golden Tate Tate had an impressive 2014. He finished 13th in fantasy points among WR’s with 99 rec. 1,331 yards 4 TD’s. Those numbers are a little padded with Megatron’s absence but I still see him having a productive season.
Brandon Marshall His value took a serious hit after leaving his buddy Cutler back in Chicago. And we all know how good he can be. But can he overcome an awful QB situation in New York to be a Top 25 WR? I would lean more yes than no.
Steve Smith Sr. He posted 1,065 yards and 6 TD’s last season. That was even with Torey Smith who is now in San Francisco.. And now that he is retiring after this season, do you really think he won’t play his ass off to have a solid year?
Mike Wallace He posted double digit touchdown numbers last season and is now with Bridgewater and Peterson in Minnesota. And the Vikings are gonna need every bit of what skills and talent he has left.