2018 Fantasy Football - Top 12 (Early) WR Rankings

by Nick Ercolano April 26, 2018

2018 Fantasy Football - Top 12 (Early) WR Rankings

Was gonna do my top 2018 fantasy football running back rankings first, I actually wrote it before this, but then I figured the draft is here and there's a good chance one or two rookies crack that top 12 and then make the video irrelevant, so I'll just wait on the draft and throw them in there.

Speaking of the draft, I'm thinking about live streaming, would you guys be in for that? I'm gonna leave a comment down below and pin it, and if you thumbs it up, or enough people do, I'll live stream during the NFL draft. Just me chilling at home or on the couch or whatever and we'll mess around and just talk about it. So go thumb that comment up if you'd join the live streamzn, and while you're down there just go thumbs up the video tbh. I'll tell you what, I need BG country to be as interactive and engaging as possible, throwing that thumbs up as much as possible because all the mainstream fantasy brands are starting to invade YouTube and I can't be pushing ahead of them unless I have a ton of likes and comments from y'all so hook ya mans up!!!

1. Antonio Brown (PIT)

Current ADP: WR1

  • The last time Antonio Brown didn't finish as a top-5 fantasy WR, Gangnam Style did. Well, not a top-5 fantasy song, but on the billboards. Yeah back in 2012. Move along.

2. DeAndre Hopkins (HOU)

Current ADP: WR2

  • It didn't matter who was under center last year in Houston, Hopkins produced at an elite level more times than he didn't.
  • The thing I love most about Hopkins was his consistency. Playing in 15 games last year, he finished as a top-10 fantasy WR in 53% of his games. That's incredible:DeAndre Hopkins 2017 Stats
  • The best news is getting Watson back at QB. The craziest part is that his stats were almost the same with or without Watson. Regardless, getting the sophomore QB back is 1000% not a downgrade to Hopkins.

3. Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG)

Current ADP: WR3

  • Despite all the outside noise going on with OBJ, I expect the exact same guy on the field. These are his career averages. This takes into effect his rookie year where he started slow, and any games where he was limited to injury, all of that:Odell Beckham Jr. Career Stats
  • Averages nearly 18 (0.5 PPR) FPs a game!!!!
  • QB play, yup Eli is not very good, but he hasn't really been good in a while. Nothing says that his target share will dip.
  • Listen to this, he came into the league in 2014. That year, despite having just 16 targets through the first 8 weeks of the szn, he had a 28% target share on the Giants. 2015 - 27%, 2016 - 28%, last year in just the 4 games he played he had a 25% target share.
  • That 28% is high-end elite target share. I have no worries that Odell will continue to see those looks as long as he's healthy. I honestly think OBJ vs. D-Hop is a very valid argument.

4. Davante Adams (GB)

Current ADP: WR9

  • This is going to be questionable to a lot of people, and I don't see how Adams doesn't finish with double-digit touchdowns. 
  • You look at Aaron Rodgers - since he took over as the starting QB in GB, so 2008-2017, he's averaged 2.2 passing TD/s game. That's over 35 TDs/szn when paced out. If you take away his first 3 years as a starter, so we look at 2011-2017, and that number is about 2.4/game, over 38 passing touchdowns/szn.
  • You can give 10 to Jimmy Graham if you want to be generous. 7 to Cobb, 3 to the WR3, 5 to RBs. All generous IMO, and you're still left with 13 touchdowns left over.
  • And then Adams as a player, I don't think it's strictly volume here. He's a good all-around wideout. There were 67 WRs in the NFL last year that saw at least 60 targets. Adams' catch % of 69% ranked 14th among the 67, and his YAC wasn't bad either at 4.7 - ranking him 23rd of the 67. So, not amazing after the catch but definitely above average. A lot of people compare him to Mike Evans, or at least that will be a big argument this summer I think. Evans makes no yards after the catch, his catch % is always in the low to mid 50s, and you can give me Aaron Rodgers throwing my fantasy WR the ball over Jameis Winston all day.
  • I think Adams has proved enough over the last two seasons, finishing as a top-12 fantasy WR, with and without Rodgers to say he's in a ridiculously good position to succeed without fail. He's never been the unquestioned 1, and when he was, he didn't have Rodgers. Now he's both. I love it.

5. Michael Thomas (NO)

Current ADP: WR5

  • What I think is a much better discussion is Michael Thomas versus Davante Adams. And to be fair, they are so close, I'm not sure I won't just flip a coin between the two.
  • I did a somewhat crazy breakdown here. I wanted to see what the differences were between Thomas's 2016 szn and his 2017 szn.Michael Thomas Saints Stats
  • So, he drops in TDs from 9 to 5, and his FPPG drop from 14 to 12.9 as a result BUT he takes that leap forward from a 19% target share to 28%, again, elite WR1 target numbers. I like that, a lot. 
  • So what actually happened. Stick with me here:
  • Ok, so basically we're looking at 2 things here. Brees and Michael Thomas's numbers in the redzone, and their air yards.
  • MT's numbers dipped in the tenzone and redzone. His targets dropped off, so did his TDs. But that was a result of Brees' numbers dipping. The run game became such a big piece of this offense, especially near the endzone.
  • The thing is this, you see his TD % last year was 4.3%. So only 4.3% of his total attempts went for TDs. That's his lowest number since he was with the Chargers back in 2003. His career TD % as a Saint is 5.5%. If you bring him back to just his average, those 23 TDs go up to over 29 touchdowns on his career low (as a Saint) 536 attempts. Obviously, their game plan is a little different now, less passing, more running, better defense. But all that has to happen is for either his career-low in TD% or his career low in pass attempts moves even slightly closer to the norm, it's going to mean more TDs for Brees & Thomas.
  • What's more intriguing is the location of Thomas's targets. Brees has a major dip in both his air yards and his aDOT (last in NFL). However, Thomas saw a really big increase in both of them. I like that ALOT, because if either of those two numbers I just mentioned for Brees goes back up, and MT stays around 26-28% of the target share, and his targets are longer and farther down the field, it's a win all around.
  • If you were an MT owner last year, you probably weren't too pleased, unless you were in a full PPR league bc he had at least 5 catches in 14-of-16 games and had 65+ rec yards in 13-of-16, the touchdowns are just where it hurt owners. The less your league caters towards full PPR, the more MT probably annoyed you.
  • He finished the season with 15 catches, 216 catches and 2 touchdowns in their two playoff games, just a reminder. I think MT is a perfectly fine late 1st, early 2nd round pick and expecting a big szn out of him. If there's a wildcard WR I'd pick to finish as the WR1 it's definitely MT. 
  • Damn I think I just convinced myself to move him ahead of Adams lol.

6. Keenan Allen (LAC)

Current ADP: WR6

  • Finally stayed healthy for a full 16 games and we saw what he could do, finishing as WR3 in fantasy.
  • Caught 102-of-147 targets, 1,393 yards & 6 touchdowns.
  • Yes, he's a slot guy who catches shorter passes, his 9.9 aDOT is low, but his 9.5 YPT is actually quite good, it's higher than D-Hop, Mike Thomas, A.J. Green, Davante Adams. He does a lot with the targets he gets, which are a lot of them lol.
  • Obviously a better PPR play than full standard, bc he's not a huge TD scorer, never really has been and I'm not sure, or at least I'm definitely not willing on banking on it in 2018. Sure with that volume, he could hit double-digits, but who knows. What's interesting is that Allen actually had the MOST tenzone (15) and redzone targets (24) of all NFL WRs last year, but only turned those targets into 4 scores.
  • There's a positive and a negative on that front. Well, maybe a positive, Antonio Gates is looking like he probably won't be back in 2018 and he somehow had the 6th most (10) tenzone targets last year. Jimmy Graham was the only TE with more. So if he's gone that opens up more targets in that area, but Hunter Henry will be more of a full-time pass catcher, so he'll take some of those, and then you have Mike Williams, who was their top-10 pick last year, a very big target who's strengths include snatching balls in the air. So it's hard to tell whether Allen's looks in that area move up or down, or are just a wash.
  • The other weird thing with Allen's season was it was basically two different seasons:Keenan Allen 2017 stats
  • He was an animal over the second half of last year, but not so much in the beginning. That's kind of why I warn people about getting cute and ranking a guy like Allen over an OBJ or something. As you saw before, OBJ is averaging nearly 18 (0.5PPR) FPPG in his career, Allen did that over a historic second half of a season.
  • Still going to be heavily involved with a great floor, he's Rivers' go to in nearly every situation.

7. A.J. Green (CIN)

Current ADP: WR7

  • Ok, so I've touched on Green a decent amount of times already this summer, I'll summarize.
  • I expect a nice bounce-back year for him. As long as they can improve their offensive line, Green's, as well as Dalton's numbers, should improve.
  • They still have almost no real weapons behind him and he should again see his regular 28% target share that he's seen a minimum of in every season over the last 6 years.

8. Julio Jones (ATL)

Current ADP: WR4

  • I compared Green and Julio in my top 30 overall rankings video, I just personally don't like the inconsistency you get with Julio. They finally forced him the ball in endzone last year, he had the 3rd most WR tenzone targets with 11 and only scored once on those, 3 for the year. The offense has clearly regressed under Steve Sarkisian.
  • If you like Julio as a top-5 option, I'm not gonna be mad at you, but these are my personal rankings.

9. Mike Evans (TB)

Current ADP: WR8

  • Last year Evans was easily one of the biggest regression candidates, he was pretty much my #1 bust. I didn't expect it to be as bad as it was. He was being taken like 7th or 8th overall in fantasy drafts and wound up finishing as WR18.
  • Evans is awesome in a vacuum. Amazing during practice, but can't do a lot of things more explosive WRs can. His yards after the catch are always among the bottom of the NFL WRs, and I mean like 115th overall. Always. His catch % is always very low too. So, he's depending so much on TDs and overall volume, which scare me. His career TD totals starting with his rookie year are 12, 3, 12, 5.
  • The easiest thing to point out for me was that his insane target total (168) in 2016 which lead the NFL, made fantasy owners ride that into 2017. But there were too many changes to the offense to assume that type of number. They brought in D-Jax. They drafted both Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard. Evans' target share went from 30% down to 24% year over year. None of the weapons are gone. 
  • And of course some of this can and should definitely be attributed to Winston's shoulder injury, but we don't really have any proof that Winston will ever take that next step, to the elite QB level. We really don't.
  • Over Evans' last 20 games, he has one (1) 100-yard game and zero 8+ catch games. 
  • Idk, I just don't want Evans unless he falls to me somewhere around pick 25-30, where these next guys are going.

10. Doug Baldwin (SEA)

Current ADP: WR12

  • Douglas Baldwin. Finished last year as WR14, with 75-991-8, his worst finish since 2014.
  • There's good and bad here. He's still only 29 so he has a few more years as the WR1 with an elite QB in Russell Wilson. Getting drafted as WR12 is basically what his fantasy floor over the last 3 years has been.
  • They let both Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson go in free agency, and haven't signed anyone (well, Jaron Brown) to take their targets. That opens up 36 redzone targets, 21 tenzone targets and almost 50% of Wilson's 34 passing touchdowns from 2017. This defense lost basically everyone, so there is tons of shootout potential to be had in Seattle and I love me a run & gun Russell Wilson in fantasy.
  • However, I think that they might just be putting too much on Wilson. No defense, almost no playmakers, no running game, no line.... I mean..
  • What else scares me was Baldwin's inconsistency last year. He had a lot of bad games. Out of 16 games, he finished with under 50 receiving yards 7 times. He scored in two of them, but that's 5 complete bust games. And it's a recurring trend, even the two prior seasons when he finished as a top-10 fantasy WR, he had a lot of bust games.
  • I'm hoping that the absence of P-Rich and Graham will mean more volume and help balance out that inconsistency for Baldwin.

11. Adam Thielen (MIN)

Current ADP: WR11

  • The first part of this Vikings WR duo that should cost you some heavy capital in 2018.
  • Thielen, the soon-to-be 28-year-old UDFA, had a monster breakout year in 2017, following a less productive, but still a breakout year in 2016. 
  • 2017's fantasy WR10 finished with 91-1,277-4. Again, though TDs fluctuate, a lot. He had 5 touchdowns in 2016, despite seeing 47 fewer targets.
  • I love Thielen as a Keenan Allen you can get for one round cheaper.
  • Thielen has great hands, great route-running, and is surprisingly fast (4.45 out of college) which people underrate.
  • He caught 5+ passes in 13-of-16 games and even though he lines up in the slot often, his 14.0 YPR number is really good for a guy that catches this many balls. 
  • The wild card factor here is Kirk Cousins' arrival, replacing Case Keenum. I don't think the move is going to have a big impact on a guy like Thielen who gets separation early in his routes and gives the QB easy, short throws, which led him to being 6th in the NFL in YPRR.
  • Thielen is a safe pick here around 28-30, a great PPR play, and I'm not willing to say his upside is capped, because it wouldn't surprise me to see him go for 7-9 TDs in 2018.

12. Larry Fitzgerald (ARZ)

Current ADP: WR20

  • Love me some Fitz again. Last year probably my number one sleeper. When everyone was ranking him around 55-60 overall, I stuck to my guns and pushed him up to around 25th, he winds up finishing as WR6, his 3rd consecutive top-12 finish and 108+ catch campaign. 
  • Fitz is 91 catches away from Tony Gonzalez as the NFL's 2nd leading receiver ever. 91 - that's the key number here. Expect it. Just based off that, he's a PPR monster.
  • Both John Brown and Jaron Brown are gone, they bring in Sam Bradford, who's an extremely accurate short passer, where Fitz runs his routes... what does scare me is that their offensive line is going to be straight trash. And Bradford is going to take a lot of hits, and we know how well he holds up, when he's not even taking hits.
  • A big argument last summer that people loved to use, was the fact that since he's old, I ain't arguing that shit, he slows down at the end of the year. While the statistics sided with that argument in 2015 and 2016, 2017 told a different story. Look at Fitzs' fantasy numbers over the L8 Cardinal games compared to their first 8.Larry Fitzgerald 2018 Stats
  • I just feel like you know what you're getting from Fitz. 


Nick Ercolano
Nick Ercolano

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