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NFL Fantasy Preview; Tiered WR Rankings

The title says it all, really. These are the official PSF fantasy WR tiered rankings based on our Fantasy Preview series (check out the series for more in-depth analysis on each player). It assumes full PPR 12-team leagues and everything else is standard as it would show up in any of the typical host sites. Players in each tier are listed in order of descending projected points per game, but if they are in the same tier then they can be considered pretty similar. Without further ado, let’s dive in:

Elite WR1

DeAndre Hopkins
Antonio Brown
Davante Adams

These 3 WRs are the 3 with the best shot at leading all WRs in fantasy points this year… Hopkins actually beat Brown in standard and half-PPR last year despite playing with Tom Savage and T. J. Yates for ~2/3 of the year. With a full year of Watson, Hopkins has a great shot at running away with the title… Brown may finally be losing his iron grasp on the top overall WR spot, but that doesn’t mean he’s falling from the elite ranks. Brown will be a mainstay in this tier at least until Big Ben retires… The stars have aligned for Adams. He looked great last year and is now the unchallenged top WR for Aaron Rodgers. Let’s ask Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, and Donald Driver how that worked out for them.

Semi-Elite WR1

Odell Beckham, Jr.
T. Y. Hilton
Julio Jones

These 3 WRs may not quite be in contention for the title of overall top fantasy WR, but anything other than WR1 numbers would be a severe disappointment… OBJ has been remarkably consistent so far in his career, notching pretty close to 100 catches, 1400 yards, and just north of 10 TDs per season. With the prospect of a balanced offense on the horizon, there’s little reason to believe that changes… Hilton doesn’t seem like your typical WR1, but remember beyond last season to how well he did with Luck at the helm. With an aggressive offense under new HC Frank Reich, Hilton figures to continue his big play ways… Julio has a tendency to disappear one game only to explode the next. Most of the offense is unchanged, and the only major addition – rookie WR Calvin Ridley – is not going to help matters. Expect more of the same.

Low-End WR1

Amari Cooper
A. J. Green
Michael Thomas
Larry Fitzgerald
Adam Thielen
Doug Baldwin

These 6 WRs don’t quite put up elite production that can carry a team, but they should be mainstays in the top 12 weekly rankings… Cooper carries a lot of risk as he’s been inconsistent so far in his career, but new HC Jon Gruden has labelled Cooper as his WR1. It’s been a few years since Gruden last coached, but his WR1’s used to do pretty well for themselves… Green is like kale; boring, disappointing because you could be eating something more exciting, but ultimately good for you. He could be so much more with a better QB than Dalton, but alas… If Green is kale, Thomas is tofu. His floor and ceiling are almost identical… Even at almost 35 years old, Fitz is still churning out 105/1100/6 lines like it’s nothing. No really, that’s basically been his stat line the past 3 years. New QB, new HC, same old Fitz… Thielen poses some risk as it’s hard to say who exactly new QB Kirk Cousins will latch onto. Thielen is the incumbent WR1 though and Diggs has regular injury concerns, so I’m giving Thielen the benefit of the doubt… Baldwin’s knee should be fine by the regular season. Capable of being both a prototypical slot receiver and a lethal deep threat, Baldwin figures to be used extensively in new OC Brian Schottenheimer’s scheme.

Fringe WR1

Keenan Allen
Mike Evans

These 2 WRs are certainly capable of being WR1’s on a weekly basis, but have been pushed just outside the top 12 due to the sheer volume of high-end WRs… Yeah, I have Allen outside the top 12 in PPR. Rivers has been on the decline the past few years, and while the tight end duo of Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates are both gone the WR corps has never been deeper. Tyrell and Mike Williams both demand targets as well… Evans has some inefficiencies with his game, but ultimately he should be the lead receiver in a fairly high volume passing attack. He’ll get his.

High-End WR2

Robby Anderson
Golden Tate
Josh Gordon
Demaryius Thomas
Julian Edelman

These 5 WRs are unlikely to see top 12 numbers that frequently, but should be mainstays in the weekly top 24 rankings… There is a lot of risk involved with Anderson, what with a rookie QB and another very talented receiver returning from injury. However, the Jets figure to be throwing a fair amount and Anderson appears to be the top dog in this receiving corps… Tate’s value may be on the decline if reports out of camp are to be believed regarding Kenny Golladay playing in 2-receiver sets over Tate, but then Detroit shouldn’t be playing with less than 3 receivers very often. He should remain a reliable fantasy asset in PPR… Gordon will likely start slow after missing a good chunk of the preseason, but assuming he’s still in shape his ability alone demands targets. He should garner only slightly fewer targets than Landry with a lot more production… Thomas’s “down year” saw him finish with an 83/949/5 stat line. If that’s a down year, he should be fine with an actual NFL-caliber QB throwing him the ball… Edelman is suspended for 4 games and is on the wrong side of 30 coming off an ACL tear. Despite all the red flags, he will likely be the top receiver when he comes back in week 5 after the Patriots hemorrhaged a ton of receiver talent. He should continue to be a PPR asset.

WR3+ Hoard

Cooper Kupp
Corey Davis
Tyreek Hill
Stefon Diggs
Marvin Jones
Nelson Agholor
Juju Smith-Schuster
Alshon Jeffery
Marquise Goodwin
Devin Funchess
Allen Robinson
Tyler Lockett
Sammy Watkins
Michael Crabtree
Kenny Stills
Keelan Cole
Danny Amendola
Robert Woods
Jamison Crowder
Jarvis Landry
Kenny Golladay
Kelvin Benjamin

While the top of this massive 22-player tier is certainly better than the bottom, there are no clear drop-offs between any individual players. These players could finish the year ranked anywhere between a low end WR2 and a high end WR4, and there shouldn’t be a huge point difference between the two… Kupp was the most targeted Ram WR last year. No reason to slow down now… Now healthy, Davis should fill in the lead receiver role that he was drafted for. My main concern is that the Titans do not figure to have a high volume passing game… Hill appears to be the lead receiver despite the arrival of Sammy Watkins, but I’m leery of an inexperienced QB… Diggs has the potential to move up into the high WR2 range, but he’d need to actually stay healthy for a bit… Jones will slowly lose targets to Golladay, but should still produce strong numbers in a pass-happy offense… Agholor was already looking like the Eagles WR to own, and that was before news of Jeffery not being ready for the regular season surfaced… Juju will likely face light coverage across from AB and has the talent to capitalize on the opportunity. My only concern is how much James Washington eats into Juju’s production… Jeffery will likely miss a couple games to start the season and I’d bet he’ll miss a couple more, but he is talented when he is on the field… Goodwin appears to be the top receiver for the 49ers. He looked good last year in the role and his life can only be made easier with the return of Pierre Garcon… Funchess figures to be the top WR for the Panthers, but that’s still likely no better than the 3rd read with CMC and Olsen both on the field… Robinson is a question mark with only 1 great season to his name followed by a disappointing one and a lost year. He could be great if the Bears throw a bunch, but that seems unlikely. He also has to contend with rookie Anthony Miller… Lockett has better numbers than most people realize so far in his career, and now he’s healthy and the undisputed second receiver for the Hawks. Deep threat + volume = profit… Watkins appears to be the second fiddle behind Hill at receiver and might be the 4th read after Kelce and Hunt, but Patrick Mahomes has a bit of Brett Favre in him. He might like a big target who can get deep… Crabtree isn’t getting any younger, but he is definitely the top receiver on a Ravens team on the rise. Don’t write him off just yet… The Dolphins appear to be deep at WR, but Stills and Amendola are definitely atop that list. Both should see plenty of volume to maintain solid floors… Cole has been thrust into the starting role after Marqise Lee injured his knee, but Cole has looked impressive whenever he’s been given a chance. The bigger concern is that the Jags don’t throw the ball much… Woods is not far behind Kupp in targets, though the arrival of Brandin Cooks hurts Woods more… Crowder will likely be oft-targeted in an Alex Smith-run offense. Hopefully he can stay healthy… While Landry likely receives more targets than Josh Gordon, it’s unlikely he sees that many more and he probably can’t match Gordon’s efficiency. He has upside, but we could also just see a lower volume version of his Miami numbers… Golladay will be a bit boom-or-bust, but you have to relish his upside if Detroit is playing him in 2-receiver sets over Golden Tate… Benjamin is a huge risk given both his history and the current state of the Bills’ offense. However, someone has to catch the ball and Benjamin is the top guy there.

WR5+ Hoard

Emmanuel Sanders
Michael Gallup
Allen Hurns
Chris Hogan
Brandin Cooks
Will Fuller
Randall Cobb
Mohamed Sanu
Pierre Garcon
John Brown
Josh Doctson
Tyrell Williams
Dede Westbrook
Quincy Enunwa
DeVante Parker
Jordy Nelson
Rishard Matthews
Sterling Shepard
Jermaine Kearse
Geronimo Allison
Cole Beasley
Christian Kirk
Mike Williams
Ted Ginn

Similar to the massive WR3+ tier group, this 24-player group clearly has a difference between the top and bottom of the tier. However, there are again no significant drop-offs, which means that there will likely be a lot of rankings sliding around in here after the season. These WRs could be ranked anywhere from a mid-range WR4 to a mid-range WR6… Sanders is starting to get plagued by injuries, and the Broncos drafted 2 young WRs to replace him. His days are numbered… Gallup and Hurns will be battling for the lead receiver spot on the Cowboys. Hurns should open the season as the top dog, but Gallup may draw Dak’s favor as the season progresses… Hogan should have a nice start to the season based on volume alone, but I have concerns about how he’ll handle top corners. Last season he got the lower guys as the top guys lined up against Brandin Cooks… Speaking of Cooks, he appears set to fill Sammy Watkins old role with the Rams. He should see more targets that Watkins did, but don’t expect Cooks to be a top-flight option… Fuller kinda only does one thing, but if Watson is happy chucking it downfield for Fuller to chase it’s hard to complain. He’s still boom-or-bust, but he’s a fairly high-volume boom-or-bust… Cobb is like Sanders; declining health with younger guys breathing down his neck. He should hold onto the second receiver role for now, but if he misses too much time he may see that slip away… Sanu is also in the Sanders/Cobb boat, although he doesn’t have the same health concerns… Garcon was supposed to be the top receiver for the 49ers, but Jimmy G appears to have developed far more chemistry with Goodwin than Garcon. If this is indeed the case, Garcon may be in for a rough year production-wise… Brown is a talented deep threat as long as he stays healthy *knock on wood*… Doctson has plenty of talent, but he needs to stay healthy. He’s also competing with Crowder and newly signed Paul Richardson for targets. Don’t expect anything consistent… The Chargers’ Williams’s should see about equal targets. Mike will probably get more use in the red zone, but Tyrell is the stronger big play threat. His yardage should make him more valuable in fantasy than his younger counterpart… Westbrook shouldn’t be affected a ton by Marqise Lee’s injury as his role was already set as the slot receiver. I’d be more concerned about the arrival of Austin Seferian-Jenkins… Enunwa was supposed to be the Jets’ lead receiver last year before losing the year to injury. It looks like Anderson holds that title now, but Enunwa clearly has upside… Parker has had tantalizing talent forever, but he has consistently failed to capitalize regardless of how good his situation was. Now that Miami’s receiving corps is getting crowded, I’m not holding my breath for his long-awaited breakthrough… Nelson will be playing second fiddle to Amari Cooper, but since presumptive third receiver Martavis Bryant is busy placing himself squarely in Gruden’s doghouse, Nelson could see a surprising amount of work… Matthews will be taking a step back in an already low-volume offense, but he can clearly produce if Davis falters… Shepard comes back fully healthy to a very different situation than last year. It’s entirely possible that he becomes the 4th option on any given play behind OBJ, Engram, and Barkley… Kearse has quietly put up consistent numbers for the Jets. He’s a quality depth piece for fantasy… Allison appears to be on the rise, and all that separates him from the very lucrative Aaron-Rodgers’s-second-receiver role is a Cobb injury, something that’s been happening more and more lately… Beasley has a wide range of outcomes between 2016 and 2017. Given the signing of Hurns and the drafting of Gallup, I’m guessing we’ll see closer to 2017… Kirk won’t see much volume behind Larry Fitzgerald, but he does appear to have locked down the second receiver role. It’s worth something… Ginn may primarily be just a deep threat, but he’s a pretty reliable deep threat as long as Drew Brees is throwing him the ball. Also, unlike the Cameron Meredith/Tre’Quan Smith situation, there are no obvious candidates challenging him for his role.

High Upside Depth

Calvin Ridley
Anthony Miller
Chris Godwin
Ryan Grant
Phillip Dorsett
James Washington
John Ross
Tyler Boyd
D. J. Moore
Courtland Sutton
Dante Pettis
Antonio Callaway
D. J. Chark

Don’t expect these 13 WRs to be reliable depth to start the year, but there are clear paths to fantasy relevance for them under the right circumstances… Ridley will start the year playing behind Jones and Sanu, but the assumption is that Ridley should overtake Sanu at some point… Miller should be the second receiver behind Robinson, but Robinson is a massive unknown and Miller has been making the Bears’ underrated secondary look silly in practice. He could become Trubisky’s Jarvis Landry… Godwin will start the season splitting time with DeSean Jackson, but has the talent to surpass him before the season is over… Grant isn’t the sexiest name here, but he doesn’t exactly have much competition to start opposite Hilton. Gotta be on the field to be thrown to, so something might come of that… Dorsett doesn’t seem likely to get enough volume to be fantasy-relevant, but with how thin the Patriots’ receiving corps is you never know… Washington likely won’t see any sort of significant volume without injuries to either AB or Juju, but he should be a decent boom or bust play as a 20-YPC deep threat… Ross and Boyd are competing to see who starts opposite A. J. Green. They might cut into each others’ snaps enough to just sabotage each other, but if one manages to separate from the other there’s potential facing the second corner each week… The Panthers don’t figure to throw a ton and the top WR is still only the third read on any given play, but Moore stands a decent chance of usurping that role from Funchess… It’s unlikely that Sutton will leapfrog Sanders for the second receiver role this year, but it’s possible. He’s still the best third receiver Denver has had since Wes Welker… Pettis has a lot of names to climb through on the depth chart, but it’s not like those names are top tier talent. If he can refine his game, he stands to see plenty of targets… Callaway is unlikely to see high volume with so many mouths to feed in Cleveland’s offense, but if Gordon is slow to get up to speed or if Gordon or Landry get hurt Callaway has a lot of talent… Chark looked to be buried on the depth chart, but the Lee injury opened a path. A disappointing Donte Moncrief is all that stands between Chark and the Jags third receiver role (though no promises regarding volume there).

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