by Nick Ercolano
August 24, 2018
Aiiiight so we're gonna go through and break down my top 25 2018 fantasy football WRs, by tiers.
Before we start, though, I want to know if there is a WR being drafted in the top 10 that you're fading this year and why. Mike Evans doesn't count, he's too easy. One of the other big names outside of Evans that you just don't like and why. I'm curious because as I was writing this one, I came across one that surprised me.
Starting with tier numero uno -
1. Antonio Brown - Pittsburgh Steelers
5 straight years of 42,000 yards and 91 touchdowns.
Let's move on.
2. Odell Beckham Jr. - New York Giants
3. Julio Jones - Atlanta Falcons
4.Michael Thomas - New Orleans Saints
5. DeAndre Hopkins - Houston Texans
Odell is just one of those guys that's it's nearly impossible to pass on without regretting it. You want to talk about unreal numbers?
These are Odell's per game averages since he came in the league. You're literally getting 18 0.5 PPR FPPG from Odell. They finally have a full group of weapons on this offense to take some pressure off OBJ between Engram, Barkley and Shepard. I'm excited to watch him back on the field man. He's my WR2 for sure.
Julio ain't a far off 3 by any means - 4 straight years of 80 catches and 1,400 receiving yards - if you watched my ITMM video of Julio vs. MT, I broke down in depth why Julio's numbers last year were really far out of the norm and you should expect a major bounce back in the TD department. You can look at that drop-off and say one of two things, either it's just an outlier of a year, after catching 6, 8 and 6 TDs the years prior, or that he's falling off. Per Josh Hersmeyer's Game Speed data on airyards.com Julio is still far far far above other WRs in speed, bis numbers were still very good per Matt Harmon's reception perception, and I'll go much deeper into those for A.J. Green and tell you why I'm not in on Green this year. So, I don't think it's safe to say that Julio is falling off. People who had him last year will talk about inconsistency and touchdowns, but that was one year, he's much more consistent normally, I'm telling you, fade Julio at your own despair.
There's almost no difference between Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins in my opinion. If I had to project end of szn numbers for MT and Hopkins, they'd probably be almost identical. I'll take the guy with Drew Brees as his QB, not the guy that has a QB coming off a 7-game sample size, an ACL tear and a stupidly efficient TD rate that's going to decline monsterously. I know most people will argue this and say Hopkins is a no-brainer, but whatever, that's fine, do you. I would have absolutely no problem whatsoever with DHop as my WR1, but he won't be a 1st round pick for me, I can say that with 95% certainty.
6. Keenan Allen - Los Angele Chargers
7. Davante Adams - Green Bay Packers
Again would love either of these guys as my WR1. Allen offers league-leading reception upside, while Adams offers the league-leading TD upside. I would go Allen in full PPR, but Adams in STD. When I was watching the replay of the GB game, Adams was Rodgers' first read on every play, like right away, especially in the RZ, almost to a fault. In the one drive Rodgers played for the Packers in their second preseason game, they literally passed the ball on all 6 plays, one ended up being a QB scramble but the intention was a pass play of course. That's what this Packer team is going to be, so pass-heavy. Especially in the RZ and 10Z - back in 2016 they threw the ball inside the 10z on 63% of their plays and 67% of the time inside the RZ, 2nd highest rate in the entire NFL, expect that again in 2018. I think Adams if nothing else will get a ton of volume down there, we'll see if he can real em in, but I'd be surprised if he's not the leading WR in RZ targets in 2018.
Allen will be right up there, finally played a full 16, showed that he is a top-3 WR in terms of being a technician and gaining separation. He's never been a big TD guy, but those are volatile and he did get a ton of looks last year, led all NFL WRs with 24 RZ targets and 15 10Z targets, and now both Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates are gone, opening up 23 more RZ targets and 19 10Z targets, that's wild. I couldn't knock you at all if you have Allen ranked inside your top 3. Love every one of these top 7 WRs.
8. T.Y. Hilton
9. Stefon Diggs
10. A.J. Green
11. Larry Fitzgerald
I've been on TY's side all summer, I own him in a high % of my best ball drafts because I've always been under the impression Luck would be back on the field, and from what we're seeing and how he's progressed he definitely will be, meaning T.Y. will be his #1 target bar none. Hilton's a year removed from playing with Luck and leading the NFL in receiving yards guys, don't forget that.
I realize I'm being unreasonably high on Diggs this year likely, but he'll be my 3rd round pick in just about every draft I have this year, as long as someone doesn't take him first. I think the connection he's going to have with Kirk, which we've already seen come to fruition in the preseason, is going to finally open the door for Diggs to hit that top-5 status people have been waiting for. Thielen led the team in targets last year but that chemistry isn't just going to pass right over to Kirk and I think he's going to a lot better throwing the ball long, which is where Diggs is so good.
I passed on the Diggs hype train last year, saying I'd rather be a year late than early, it's vice versa now. Gimme all the Diggs in 2018.
Now, A.J. Green, might be my boldest "fade" if you want to call it that, but I won't own him on any of my teams considering he's probably a 2nd rounder in almost all drafts. Here's my case against Green, the same way I argued for Julio, when I'm saying you can look at it as, well it was just a down year and here are the reasons why, or maybe he's falling off. You almost never see a guy finish with a target share, and certainly not a air yards market share like Green had and finish with a yardage total of just 1,078 like he did. He had a 28% target share on his team, 3rd highest in the NFL and a 56% air yards market share, highest number in the entire NFL. Still only 1,078 yards. But what concerns me more is this:
These are Green's game speed numbers in 2016 & 2017. FUPA jajaja gets it out you immature pieces of shit, FUPA stands for Fastness Under/Above Positional AVG. In 2016 he was a beast, 2017... he was below average. Looking at Matt Harmon's reception perception for A.J. Green - he was in the 55th percentile in success vs. man coverage and 30th %tile vs. press coverage. Those things are totally non-team dependent, it doesn't matter how bad the offensive line was, or QB play was or the team's number offensive plays, those are on the now-30-year-old Green. RACR another metric I don't quite understand, but when I had Josh ADHD on the channel a week or so ago, highly recommend you guys watch that one, just search ADHD on my channel, he's literally the guy that builds tools for RotoViz and fantasy insider and rotogrinders, he said RACR (how effective did you turn a yard thrown at you into production) is one of the best sticky efficiency metrics to look at for WRs in a predictive manner, and Green ranked 53rd among NFL WRs that had at least 60 targets last year. So, for the most part, those really high volume numbers, his target share and air yards market share kept him alive in fantasy, but with John Ross as a legit WR2 and hopefully Eifert back, I'm not sure he sees that type of volume again in 2018 - so unless he falls to the 3rd round, I won't be taking Green this year.
Plug Draft guide - if you want all of my rankings by tiers.......
Fitz is just fitz, no reason to think he falls off, or at least isn't an absolute asset in PPR, not as bullish in standard of course.
12. Mike Evans - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
13. Adam Thielen - Minnesota Vikings
14. Doug Baldwin - Seattle Seahawks
Evans is not a guy I necessarily want as my WR1 but every man has his price. He's a super volatile guy, especially in the TD department, he'll be without Winston for the first three games this year. Vegas puts his TD over/under at 5.5, so take that for what you want. He'll be the WR1 there, but he's still competing with DJax, O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin for targets and especially Brate for EZ targets. I hate drafting guys that depend on TDs.
Thielen's a high-floor WR I won't scoff at if I grab him. He's proven he's not a one-year wonder, has an upgrade at QB, but I think last year was his ceiling with those 140+ targets. Lucky for Thielen drafters, his ceiling and floor probably aren't that far apart. He won't win your league, but this pick definitely won't lose it for you either.
Baldwin is strictly down here due to his injury. Any time there's a multi-week injury, without an actual return other than, we expect him ready for Week 1, it scares me. I would just prefer not drafting players that are hurt. Scott Pianowski said it best the other day, "Don't chase injuries, they will find you." Coach Pete Carroll said something else that went under the radar but also makes me nervous, he said Baldwin came into camp kind of off, something wasn't right. And then he practiced through it and now he's out? So if he came into camp off, or something was hurt, there's really no telling how long he'd been hurt for and this could be a lot more serious then they're letting on. It could be something that just lingers for a while, and for that reason, I am out.
15. Amari Cooper - Oakland Raiders
16. JuJu Smith-Schuster - Pittsburgh Steelers
17. Tyreek Hill - Kansas City Chiefs
18. Chris Hogan - New England Patriots
I'll be honest, I'm terrified of drafting Cooper here. It's possible Cooper is just never going to pan out to be the top-5 prospect people pegged him as. It's hard to have a lot of faith after last year where he was awful. But there are a lot of changes - Michael Crabtree is gone. Jon Gruden is in - and he's been incredible at getting his WR1s to produce like fantasy studs. His average fantasy WR finish in his 9 years as a HC is WR13.9. Never worse than WR25 - and he's been loud and clear about making Cooper the focal point of this offense. They bring in Jordy, but who knows what he's got left in the tank. Martavis is there, but he's literally been running with the 2's in practice and in preseason games. They don't have much else. Cooper might be force-fed 130+ targets.
JuJu, on the other hand, is my boy, been ballin in preszn, what else. Still think he's one of the safest early-mid round WRs surrounded by all these other question marks. Unbelievably young, unbelievably efficient, I'm perfectly happy with JuJu here. This defense is looking mighty questionable without their leader Ryan Shazier, think this offense will benefit mightily from it.
Tyreek Hill, sure. Probably won't end up on my team seeing as he's going as a top 30-35 pick, he'll be too boom or bust for me in 2018. I wasn't one who said that about him last year, but a new QB, another weapon in Watkins, scares me too much.
Chris Hogan - I'll gladly die fighting on this hill if I have to. People just don't seem to be getting the point. You don't have to think he's a good WR. He's the #1 outside WR in Tom Brady's offense. He had 7 targets in their preseason game this weekend. They throw the ball so much, they throw touchdowns so much, as evidenced by his 5 in 8 games last year as well as his touchdown in their preszn game on Thursday night. He's a locked-in WR2 as far as I'm concerned with monster TD upside in the first month without Edelman.
19. Josh Gordon - Cleveland Browns
20. Marvin Jones - Detroit Lions
21. Sammy Watkins - Kansas City Chiefs
22. Jarvis Landry - Cleveland Browns
23. Allen Robinson - Chicago Bears
This is a tier littered with question marks. Josh Gordon has been creeping back in my rankings - he's obviously been missing all of this time at training camp and in preseason games, and now it sounds like they're bringing Dez Bryant on board - which IDC about in between the 20's but Dez is still very much an EZ threat that will at the worst lower Gordon's ceiling a bit, so.
Jones is a guy I like a lot still, but Kenny Golladay being there scares me a little bit, looking back at his splits from last year, you see the games he played with Golladay (left) vs. without (right), were pretty drastic:
But don't get me wrong, they were big splits, but still 11 0.5 PPR fppg for Jones with Golladay in the lineup, so it's not like he was a dud, still totally useable.
If you watched my bold prediction video, you know I'm high on Sammy Watkins, everything we've heard out of camp is that he has a great connection with Mahomes, and I just buy into his talent, that's what it comes down to.
I think people are sleeping on Jarvis if they let him slip past pick 55 or so. He's still a top slot talent and I think the connection between him and Tuhrod will be real. He'll again be a safe floor play imo. You just get him for two rounds later than you normally would which bakes into his target dropoff from Miami, which tbh, IDT is going to be as significant as most people think.
Last on this list is Allen Robinson - idk - there's a very good chance someone else will take him before me. I'll have to see what he does in the preseason. I think we're getting very ahead of ourselves on the Bears, I love what they did this offseason, but everything is riding on Mitchell Trubisky. If Trubisky doesn't play well, the whole team will fall on it's face. Allen Robinson hasn't actually been good on a football field in like 2.5 years, coming off of a major injury - Trubisky is a much, much, much better passer over the middle of the field than over the outside of the field as highlighted by Warren Sharp in his 2018 Football Preview book, a reason I really like Anthony Miller. Trubisky always targeted the guys over the middle, going back to Ryan Switzer as the slot in Trub's big szn at UNC - Switzer caught 95 passes, which is crazy in college. But, yeah especially in a not so sharp league, I think there will be someone jumping at the Allen Robinson name, so I probably won't own too many shares of him.
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