Wide receiver has always been a unique position in fantasy football, and it’s even more so this year. The average number of wide receivers on the field has been increasing, which means most teams have at least two fantasy-relevant wide receivers. Because there are so many options, the drop-off from one tier to the next isn’t as big as other positions.
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There are, at most, 32 starting quarterbacks and clear differences between good and bad ones. There are only so many tight ends who see significant targets, making that position somewhat shallow. The lack of a preseason this year will make getting a sense of running back carries and targets difficult — making RBs with bankable playing time more valuable.
This means we can plan drafts around those positions and draft wide receivers as they come to us. If other top-tiered positions are sniped, then it’s easy to land a few elite wide receivers. If the board plays out as expected, get in on the RB run and enjoy the bounty of late-round receivers who will see targets.
Tier 1 – The Target King
Thomas is the clear top fantasy wide receiver according to PFF's projections, all five of our rankers and ADP. His 180 targets last year were 27 more than any other player. He will likely see fewer targets this year because of general regression and the addition of Emmanuel Sanders, but our projections take that sort of thing into account and still have him as the favorite to lead the league in targets.
Thomas' 90.7 receiving grade led all wide receivers last year, and ideally he will have Drew Brees throwing to him for all 16 games, unlike last year. There are elite receivers who don’t get enough targets, and there are good receivers who dominate targets, but Thomas has everything you want. And, at 27 years old, he's entering his prime. Depending on your league scoring system, it might be more important to draft a first-round running back, but the difference between Thomas and the rest of the receivers is the biggest gap from one tier to the next.
Tier 2 – First Rounders
After Thomas and the first four to eight running backs are off the board, it’s time to look at the next tier of wide receivers. To no surprise, Jones and Hill find themselves in this tier. They were second and third, respectively, in fantasy points per snap last year. They're safe options, returning to the same coaching staffs, quarterbacks and receiving groups.
I view Godwin among their company, which is higher than some others' WR rankings. Godwin's 274.1 PPR points last year tied Julio for second-most among all wide receivers. He did that on 114 targets, and he could easily see an increase in targets this year. Godwin is the Buccaneers' slot receiver in three-WR sets. Last year, Tom Brady threw 40.5% of his targets to players in the slot, which was the fourth-most in the NFL. Godwin isn’t likely to hit nine touchdowns again, but he should be more consistent on a week-to-week basis.
|3 (tie)||Tyreek Hill||KC||0.33|
|3 (tie)||Steven Sims||WAS||0.33|
Tier 3 – Second-Round Stars
These two players are arguably Tier-2 worthy, but each brings more risk to the table than those three.
In the second half of 2019, Adams was WR4 behind Thomas, DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry. It took a 32.6% target share to get there, which was second only to Michael Thomas. That rate is hard to maintain even when there are limited receiving options for Aaron Rodgers. Along with potentially seeing a slight decrease in his target percentage, the Packers could be running more after drafting A.J. Dillon in the second round and Josiah Deguara in the third.
The main concern with Hopkins is the new situation. Hopkins regularly brings down 100 catches a year, but our projections have him just under 90. He’s going from Deshaun Watson to Kyler Murray, who had both a lower adjusted completion percentage and a lower average depth of target last year. If Murray takes a step forward and Hopkins keeps a target share he was used to seeing in Houston, then he'll certainly outpace his projections. It’s also possible Murray stays the same or takes a step back, or Hopkins doesn’t see the share of targets he's used to.
Tier 4 – Bottom-End WR1