Good fantasy receivers can be tricky to pin down. Unlike running backs, individual receivers get a small slice of their offense. For a bellcow running back, they get the ball every time the offense decides to run. For individual receivers, they may not get the ball every time the offense decides to throw. There’s still plenty of offseason left to go, but there’s enough information to rank the top 15 receivers going into 2018.
1. Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown as the clear-cut No. 1 is obvious. Brown has been a First-Team All-Pro each of his last four seasons. Brown has also notched more than 1,200 receiving yards in each of his last five seasons, including leading the league last season in receiving yards with 1,533 yards. Did I mention he only played in 14 games last season?
2. DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans
I fell for the Hopkins trap back in 2016. Hopkins was coming off a 111/1,521/11 statline in 2015 and instead I got 78 receptions for 954 yards and four touchdowns. I bring this up because in 2017 Hopkins had 96 receptions for 1,378 yards and a league-high 13 touchdowns. The odds are slim that Hopkins will regress like he did in 2016 simply because of how Houston’s offense has evolved around star quarterback DeShaun Watson. Hopkins is a physical receiver with great hands and even better chemistry with his quarterback.
3. Odell Beckham, Jr. – New York Giants
2017 was the first year in which Odell Beckham did not earn over 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns. You can’t blame, though, because he shattered his ankle in October, only four games in. We’ve seen OBJ perform week in and week out for fantasy owners. The only concern is that he fully recovers from his major injury and returns to stardom.
4. Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
In his first two seasons, Michael Thomas has caught 196 passes for 2,382 yards and 14 touchdowns. Thomas set the record for most receptions in a players’ first two seasons at 196, surpassing Jarvis Landry at 194 receptions. Michael Thomas also notched 104 receptions last year, good for third-most in the league.
5. Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
You could make an argument that Julio Jones had a down year in 2017. The two-time First-Team All-Pro only caught three touchdowns last season. He did, however, catch 1,444 yards in a system with lackluster playcalling and finished as the sixth-best wide receiver in standard scoring. Jones has elite size and can climb any ladder, but gets very few chances in the redzone, as proven by his high yardage but low touchdowns.
6. Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers
With Jordy Nelson shipped off to Oakland, Davante Adams stands to be the No. 1 receiver in Titletown. Adams’ 2017 statline was no fluke, he even regressed from 2016. Adams earned 112 more yards and two more touchdowns on only one more reception in 2016 than he did in 2017. Adams has special talent and should grow in Green Bay’s offense.
7. Keenan Allen – Los Angeles Chargers
Keenan Allen, the 2017 AP Comeback Player of the Year, finished as the third-best wide receiver in standard scoring last season. He did so with 102 receptions, 1,393 yards, and six touchdowns. If Allen falls in your draft, he could give you some serious value as the top receiver on an underrated offense.
8. A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals
A.J. Green’s hype train was rolling hot into the station before the 2017 season. Coming off a down year, which for A.J. Green is 66 receptions for 964 yards and four touchdowns, loads of fantasy analysts predicted that Green would be a top-five receiver. That just wasn’t the case, but A.J. Green does have that ceiling.
9. Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals
As long as water is wet and pizza is good Larry Fitzgerald will be underrated. Fitz caught 109 passes last season, good for second-highest in the NFL. Larry Fitzgerald is a steal, especially in PPR leagues, and I would not be angry if he ended up being the first receiver I take in redraft leagues.
10. Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings
Speaking of steals, Adam Thielen goes into 2018 with very high upside. Of course, there could be some risk as Minnesota installs their new quarterback, Kirk Cousins. Thielen had a breakout year in 2017, netting 91 receptions for 1,276 yards (both career highs) and four touchdowns.
11. Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
Amari Cooper hit a speedbump in 2017. He had career lows in receptions (48) and yards (680) but had a career high number of touchdowns (seven). There may be concern with the arrival of Jordy Nelson, but Cooper had a bigger name on the other side of the field last season in Michael Crabtree, who is now in Baltimore. In Cooper’s first two seasons, he had more than 1,00o receiving yards. Cooper has a very high ceiling going into 2018, but he also has a low floor.
12. Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Some may believe that Mike Evans had a bad year in 2017. I would argue, however, that he had a very normal performance, it just seemed like a down year coming off of his stellar performance in 2016, where he caught 96 passes for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns. In 2017, Evans caught 71 passes for 1,001 yards and just five touchdowns. In all four of his seasons in the NFL, Evans has notched over 1,000 receiving yards. I wouldn’t be surprised if Evans performed better in 2018 than he did in 2017, but it’s time we started placing a proper value on Evans (as a low-end WR1 or high WR2).
13. T.Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts
Hilton’s success depends almost entirely on the return of quarterback Andrew Luck. T.Y. Hilton is very much a boom-or-bust player without Andrew Luck. His weekly success depends on whether he gets that 40-yard touchdown or not. Hilton is a very talented wide receiver, but he can’t flourish, or at least get back to his 1,200+ yard seasons, in a Luck-less offense.
14. Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos
In case you missed it, I wrote a case study about Demaryius Thomas earlier this offseason. A quick summary is that Thomas consistently has a high-WR2 floor with upside. With a more competent and talented quarterback holding the reins in Case Keenum, I’ll conducting Thomas’ hype train all offseason.
15. Allen Robinson – Chicago Bears
Allen Robinson is a bit of a wild card going into 2018. He’s recovering from a serious knee injury (suffered in Week 1) and finds himself in a new offense with a new quarterback and playcaller. Don’t get me wrong, Robinson has a high ceiling. In 2015 with the Jaguars, Robinson caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with Robinson as my first receiver, but I wouldn’t mind taking a risk with him as my second or even third receiver.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference