by Nick Ercolano
April 19, 2019
Refreshed, redone and revitalized - the BDGE 2019 fantasy football wide receiver rankings updated for April 2019. JuJu > AB forever.
Nothing changes here for me at the top: D-Hop still the clear WR1. Finishing behind only Julio in receiving yards (1,572), D-Hop played in all 16 games for the 5th time in 6 years finishing as fantasy's WR2 overall, WR4 PPG. With Watson "healthy" for the 2018 campaign, Hopkins set career-highs in receptions, receiving yards and fantasy points. Hopkins had that anomaly 78-954-4 season in 2016 but from 2015-2018 (excluding 2016), Hopkins has averaged 176 targets, 107.3 receptions, 1,490 receiving yards and has scored at least 11 touchdowns and averaged greater than 17.0 FPPG (half ppr) in all three seasons. He set an NFL record this year, catching all 115 of his catchable targets without a single drop. He's as consistent as they come, with arguably the highest ceiling and floor combo as anyone in fantasy football. With a QB like Watson under center who, for better or worse, slings it deep constantly, ranking 4th in air yards/attempt, Hopkins operates as a possession receiver, a deep threat, and an endzone threat. You don't need to think too hard about this one.
Adams tied Antonio Brown for this year's WR1 in fantasy (FPPG), never scoring fewer than 12 fantasy points. There were games that it seemed Aaron Rodgers looked at Davanta Adams like Joe Goldberg looked at Beck. That led Adams to seeing 12 or more targets in more than half of his games in 2018. His 29.2% target market share was 3rd in the NFL, and his RZ target share of a ridiculous 44.3% was number one. Rodgers simply didn't and still doesn't have another weapon in this offense that he trusts. Adams just turned 26, he's coming into his prime and he's the number one weapon for the world's best quarterback. It's pretty simple. Adams, similar to last year, is a lock for double-digit scores and likely the odds-on favorite to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns. What's more is that I actually see spots to improve, from both an efficiency and volume standpoint. I was surprised to see that despite catching passes from Rodgers, Adam's ranked 67th in catchable target rate, 53rd in target quality rating and 64th in target accuracy, per PlayerProfiler.com. Imagine if Aaron Rodgers didn't fuckin stink!!! And, despite seeing the 2nd most RZ targets in 2018 (31), he was tied for 23rd (8) 10-zone targets. Perhaps a few more targets down there and we're looking at a 15+ TD campaign from Adams.
He's still Julio, ain't nothing changed. Fifth straight 80-catch, 1,400-yard season. Jones topped the 100-yard mark in a league-high 10 games, exceeding 20 FPs in 8-of-16 games. They're talking about extending him soon - which we need to do.
He has Dirk Koetter coming in as the OC in Atlanta, we already have a samples-size of Koetter with Julio and Matt Ryan in Atlanta, from 2012-2014. The pass rate for Atlanta's offense during those three years = 63%, 68.7% and 64% = 7th, 1st, and 3rd highest in the NFL - Koetter loves to sling and take shots downfield. How many times while Koetter was in TB was Winston chucking it deep to Evans or D-Jax. I wouldn't be surprised if Matt Ryan and Julio were top 5 in pass attempts, targets, pass rate, deep attempts/targets.
Odell made the biggest move in my rankings from my previous ones, obviously due to his move from NYG to CLV, from Eli to Baker Mayfield at the QB position. It's a monster upgrade. My concern for OBJ, even with Eli was never his upside. Even over the last few seasons, as Eli's been deteriorating and consistently ranking among the league's worst throwers in terms of accuracy, OBJ got it done for fantasy when he was on the field.
Now, we don't predict injuries, but there is a site, called Sports Injury Predictor which does. Not 100% of course, but accurate in my experience, for real. According to SPI, there is not a single fantasy player next year, including Tyler Eifert, Jordan Reed, Leonard Fournette, that's projected to miss more games than OBJ (7.28).
When I have Dr. Jesse Morse back on the channel to discuss WRs, we'll dive in and see what he has to say, he told us to avoid OBJ last year and was spot on, if it's the same, I'm going to do the same. He's missed a lot of time over his first five NFL seasons and I don't think that can go unnoticed in fantasy projections. And that's why I have him as WR4, obviously, his ceiling for a full season is far and away WR1, but as I get more in tuned with fantasy and get better each season, more of me tends to fade injury risky players with my top picks. I obviosly can't fault anyone for taking him, I'd rather just draft someone safer in the same area like D-Hop who's missed one career game out of 96 games. Julio just 3 over the last five seasons, 3 over the last 3, you get the point.
I really don't understand the people fading JuJu. The "he gets #1 coverage now" he can't handle it. That's just bad analysis. He handled it just fine when Antonio Brown has missed time.
The better argument and one I can actually get behind is this offense overall will struggle and the pass attempts will take a drastic dip because of it. Ben attempted the most passes in the NFL last year (675) he had basically a game's worth more of attempts then Andrew Luck (639) the next highest volume passer. Getting rid of Brown, idc about the CB1 narrative, but it makes the offense worse overall.
JuJu will be just fine though, he had the 4th most targets in the NFL last year, while Brown was still there and seeing the 2nd most (169!!!).
He wins all over the field, top-10 in air yards, air yard market share, 20+ and 40+ yard catches, so he gets the deep balls. He gets the looks down by the endzone, 2nd most RZ targets in the entire NFL, and 4th most 10zone targets in the NFL, which makes sense given he had the 11th best-contested catch rate among NFL WRs in 2018, after having the 3rd highest in 2017. That RZ area is where defenses get tight and you need strong hands. That's a huge area of possible production spike we'll likely see in 2019. JuJu only scored 7 times this year, on 166 targets (4.2%). Last year, he scored seven times on less than half (79) targets. So that's almost a definite increase. You're getting a ton of targets, near the EZ, are very good at catching them, so somethings gotta give. Well, he was tackled inside-the-5, six separate times last year, and 5 of those came inside-the-2. He could just as easily had 12 touchdowns as he did 7 and you're looking at a top-5 fantasy WR. He's going to score 10+ times in 2019, and if Brown is gone, I wouldn't be surprised to see him have an absolutely monster year, flirting with 15+ scores. Oh, he's also been top-2 in YAC in both 2017 and 2018.
People are still like, "well, JuJu isn't elite" like fam he just caught 111 for 1,426 yards at the age of 21." I don't understand why you think someone at the age of 22 is all of the sudden going to stall out or decline. It make 0 sense.
Thomas remained the same, other than OBJ moving ahead of him. If Thomas was in almost any other players ahead of his situations, he'd rival the fantasy WR1 and it's crazy to say that he's actually hurt y being with Drew Brees, in this prolific offense, but I really believe that's the case.
In my opinion, you can fade me if you'd like, but Brees lost something on his deep ball, he just doesn't have it anymore like he used to, makes sense seeing as how he's like 55. Brees' deep attempts have declined in 4 straight seasons. He was at 79 deep attempts back in 2015, 66 in 2016, 61 in 2017, 55 in 2016. It's just not their gameplan.
And last year, Thomas was a little more boom-or-bust then people realized, like his teammate Alvin Kamara. I shouldn't even say boom/bust, it was more like awesome and not awesome tbh. Thomas started the year off at a blistering pace, but cooled down tremendously when October hit:
That's a little nerve-racking for a guy you'll have to spend your back-half 1st, early 2nd on.
I don't want this to sound like I'm bashing Michael Thomas, but I understand that when I rank him below JuJu, I'll have to defend myself and byke it up with the BIG FACTS.
Brown moving over from PIT to Oakland was a move I scoffed at initially. I dropped Brown down to a third-round seasonal pick. But the more I looked at the situation, the more I realized it's extremely likely Brown sees around the same volume that he saw in Pittsburgh. I was like, jeeze, what a major downgrade going from Big Ben to Carr and Pittsburgh offense to Oakland, but when you bryke down the big facts, as you'll always get with this channel, it ain't all bad news for crazy Brown.
The Raiders leading receiving target, Jared Cook (101) is gone to New Orleans, they bring in J.J. Nelson and Tyrell Williams to help stretch the field, but I'm definitely not concerned about either taking a significant share of Brown's numbers - I actually love the exact fit of these two - J.J. Nelson runs a literal 4.28 40, and Tyrell runs a 4.48 at 6'3 (80th % WASS) - so Brown will have the entire middle of the field, which is now Jared Cook-less. J.J.'s highest target total ever was 74 back in 2016, Tyrell was also blasted off that year with 119, but with Keenan Allen hurt for the year, he was relegated back to his 69 and 64 targets over the last two years - the two of them together MIGHT see 150 targets.
I just think about how crazy Jon Gruden is, too. When he wants to use one player, specifically a wide receiver, he does. And for as backward thinking as most people think Gruden is, he's actually a bit progressive, heaving focused offense around the passing attack. Oakland ranked 12th in the NFL throwing the ball on over 61.1% of their plays, and that was with literally no weapons - I think they'll remain that pass-heavy if not heavier. So give those two WRs 150, let's boost that all the way up to 180 to be safe, they threw it 553 times in 2018. We'll hold at 550-180 = 370 pass attempts left over... for who???? Maybe 90 to the running back, 90 to the TE position - that's still 190 targets left over - im sure there will be some WR4/5 targets, but altogether I think Brown is looking at an absolute floor o 150 targets, and probably closer to 160. That entire offense is going to be centered around him - you don't give up assets and then fat money if he's not.
Of course there's risk with Brown, being with Carr, we don't really know who he is as an NFL QB. Brown is getting up there in age, and his efficiency numbers dipped last year but he's still amongst the best in the league. In my opinion in the WR7-10 range, that risk is factored in with the ceiling if seeing 170-180 targets. That being said, I won't reach on Brown - I won't take him before WR7 most likely.
In 2018 Mike Evans had arguably is best career season, from an efficiency standpoint it certainly was. A year after finishing with just five touchdowns and a 20 game stretch without topping 100 receiving yards, Evans caught 86-of-135 targets, for 1,525 yards and eight touchdowns, topping 100 receiving yards 8 times, in 50% of his games. Coming into 2018, Evans had a career catch-rate of 53.7%, he upped that by a full 10% in 2018 (63.7%), he also upped his career YAC by nearly 50% in 2018. His 17.7 YPR was not only a career-high but a major step up from his career 14.8 YPR. It was truly a career-year for Evans. Looking at 2019, Evans is actually a really intriguing case study for a few reasons. Both Dirk Koetter and Todd Monken are gone and Bruce Arians will take over as the HC in Tampa Bay.
Between his time as the OC in PIT (07-11), IND (2012) and as the HC in ARZ (2013-2017), Arian produced a slew of top fantasy WRs. Fitzgerald was obviously a stud in Arian's final three years with the Cardinals, the dip in 2014 was a result of Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley playing QB, otherwise, Arians produces a top-15 fantasy WR nearly every single year that he's running an offense. Excluding the 2014 season and his first year as the PIT OC back in 2007, the WR1 in a Bruce Arians offense finishes with 89.4 catches on 140 targets, resulting in 1159 yards (over 1,000 yards in 8-of-9) and 7.4 TDs. That's 205 fantasy points, which will typically net you a top-10 fantasy WR. Those aren't jaw-dropping stats for those looking to draft Evans, but that proves consistency, and there are of course the players that went way over those stats and Evans is definitely a guy that can do that. I'm excited to see what Arians can turn this offense into with Winston at quarterback.
With D-Jackson leaving, it's a HUGE boost for Evans' 2019 fantasy outlook - he'll likely return to his 10+ target/game numbers we saw pre-DeSean Jackson ('15 & '16). AND a ton of those newly added targets will be deep balls. Evans already gets a ton of those. He paced the entire NFL in air yards in 2018, despite only seeing 139 targets. Other WR1s like Julio, AB, D-Hop, Davante, were pushing 170. He was #1. That was WITH DeSean Jackson also ranking in the top-25 in air yards and an average target distance (18.9) ranking 2nd in the entire NFL. Evans ranked 2nd in the NFL with 26 catches of 20+ yards and tied for 2nd in 40+ yard catches. While it was a big year for the Bucs wideout, he did have a big chunk of games (5), resulting in fewer than 60 receiving yards and 0 touchdowns. Those were just week killers for you. But he had just as many (5) games of 21+ FPs. So, technically you could describe him as a boom-or-bust player, but Jackson, the bump in volume (plus Humphries gone) will be enough to raise his ceiling and floor to the point of liking him here.
Literally only down here because of the stuff with his kid. As in, if I were drafting in bestball, this is where I would take him and not a pick earlier.
There's a pretty big tier drop for me after Evans (can get my tiers in my draft guide). I'd be lying if I said Thielen didn't scare ya mans. We know the story, Thielen was literally the GOAT from weeks 1-8, followed by a massive fall-off, over the 2nd half of the year:
Averaging over 25.5 PPR FPs/Game, 9.25 catches, 115 yards, 0.75 TDs. He began the year with 8 straight 100-yard games. He was by far and away the WR1 in fantasy.
Then the second half of the year happened - and Thielen's 10.5 FPs/game kept him at a cool WR26. So, he starts off with 8 straight 100-yard games, then the second eight games, he surpasses 80 yards just once, with individual game lines of 22, 66, 28, 19 and 38.
I literally don't know what to make of it. Anyone out here with some kind of behind the scenes knowledge, please bless us in the comments section. I tried hard to dive into the big facts and paint and picture, nick a narrative:
I broke it up into Weeks 1-8 when Thielen was ballin, 15-17 when Stefanksi took over as OC and they went run heavy and 9-14, the extra weeks.
Hilton has done nothing but prove over and over again that he's a really good wide receiver and playmaker. With Andrew Luck back for a full 16, Hilton replicated his numbers from his top 5 fantasy WR campaign in 2016. It was actually better.
People just want so bad for T.Y. not to be a top wide receiver, and all he does is continue to do so. He's tethered to an elite QB, with an elite offensive line. I understand people's hesitation to take him right now because they think Indy will take a WR in the draft, but that's pure speculation, I love Hilton at the 3rd/4th turn in bestball right now. We know exactly what we're getting from Hilton with Luck as his QB, in an offense that's going to be prolific.
Indy was the 5th highest scoring team in the NFL last year (27.1 ppg). Absolutely nothing about their team says regression. The other four teams ahead of them? Definitely flags for regression - KC - what happens with Tyreek Hill? Do they have a real running back? LAR - extremely suspect down the stretch last year - Roger Saffold is gone, Gurley's arthritis is in his knee is definitely a real thing. The Saints should be great again but they did lose Max Unger who has been the anchor of that line. And New England who don't have any WRs - and Gronk retired - Brady was already not good last year.. It's entirely possible Indy is the highest scoring team in the NFL next year. And you should want, without hesitation, the WR1 on the highest scoring team. Idc if they draft a WR, in 1st round, Hilton is still the WR1 for at least one more year.
The 12 spot is really tough. There's Stefon Diggs, A.J. Green, Amari Cooper. I'm going with Keenan Allen, but I'm not happy about it, tbh. Diggs scares me from a volume standpoint - I think they're going to go run-heavy and if there's someone whose targets are safe in the passing game I'd lean Thielen over Diggs. Everyone loves to go nuts over Green - but he's dealt with his fair share of serious lower body injuries over recent years, he's turning 31 this summer and tbh he wasn't amazing last year. He was WR15 on a fantasy PPG basis - the Bengals offense could go down hard
Fuck Keenan Allen tbh. Guy scores in Week 1, then literally doesn't score until Week 10 and then scores in 5 straight games. He'd wind up averaging 14.0 FPPG, on his way to a WR12 fantasy finish behind 97 catches, 1196 and 6 touchdowns.
Again, it's that low TD total for Allen. Over the last five years, his totals have been 6, 6, 0, 4, 4. He had 8 in his rookie season but that was back in 2018. They have Hunter Henry back, a gigantic Mike Williams coming off of a 10-TD season, Melvin Gordon getting in the endzone at will, it's unlikely, while impossible to predict touchdowns because of their natural volatility, unlikely Allen sets career marks. The other thing is like, receptions have always been Allen's calling card. His 97 receptions would usually be close to rivaling the league-lead, but last year we had 8 WRs that cracked 100 receptions on their own. So it's like, Allen isn't really going t be a touchdown scorer and while the targets/receptions will still likely be there, his advantage over other WRs at those relative statistics aren't as wide as we're used to, making him less valuable.
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