Chet Gresham’s Top-10 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

By Chet Gresham @ChetGresham

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  1. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers. Bye: 11.
    Last season, we saw Mr. Brown become the most consistent fantasy wide receiver in the league by a wide margin. This season, he’ll be going for his third-consecutive 100+-reception and 1,400+-receiving-yard season, and there is little besides injury to believe that won’t happen. With the Steelers’ defense tilting toward the bottom half of the NFL, there won’t be many games where Ben Roethlisberger won’t be throwing in the fourth quarter, and with Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant helping to take some pressure off Brown, there should be plenty of scoring opportunities for him to take advantage of this season.

  2. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys. Bye: 6.
    Bryant ranked 12th in targets last season but third in fantasy points for wide receivers. His efficiency in the red zone was a big reason for that, as he caught 16 touchdowns. Amazingly, Bryant only had 15 targets inside the red zone last year, which tied him for 18th most for wide receivers, but he still managed eight touchdowns from those 15 targets, which tied him for the second most behind Randall Cobb. It will be tough for Bryant to hit 16 touchdowns again, but with DeMarco Murray gone, the Cowboys’ rushing game will be less efficient, and Bryant will again be the best red-zone- – in fact, for any part of the field – option Dallas has. The touchdowns might not hit 16 again, but there is a chance they will, plus we’ll also see an uptick in targets receptions and yards.

  3. Odell Beckham, WR, Giants. Bye: 11.
    In just 12 regular-season games last year, Beckham piled up 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns on 132 targets. That was enough to finish in the top-five fantasy wide receivers. Of course, we could extrapolate those numbers to 16 games, and they would be crazy, but we would easily take his 12-game production over 16 weeks and run for the hills.

  4. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons. Bye: 10.
    With new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan at the helm, there is a lot to like about the already very-likeable Jones. Shanahan has been great for the No. 1 receivers he’s coached throughout his career. Pierre Garcon and Andre Johnson both led the league in targets and receptions under Shanahan, and spreading the wealth does not seem to be Shanahan’s objective.

    Last season, Jones was third in wide receiver targets with 163 and finished with 104 receptions for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns. The lack of touchdowns is what kept him from a top-five fantasy finish and would be the only thing to hold him back this season. The good news is that the Falcons don’t have a top running back to take away from possible red-zone looks and this team will need to pass to win; Jones will get all the work he can handle.

  5. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos. Bye: 7.
    Thomas had his fair share of red-zone targets last season, but had poor efficiency as he caught just 15 percent of those targets for touchdowns. Thankfully we know that Thomas isn’t as bad as that stat shows because he caught 35 percent for touchdowns in ’12 and 29% in ’13. Helped by sheer volume, he still caught 111 passes for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, but we will most likely see a more methodical Denver offense this season, which might cut down on the volume. The loss of Julius Thomas though should be a nice boon for the other Thomas this season as he’ll be the main red-zone target.

  6. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions. Bye: 9.
    It’s weird having Megatron this far down in the rankings, but age and injuries are a slight concern. The good news is that he did play quite well after finally getting healed up to finish 2014, as he was the No. 4 fantasy receiver from Week 10 through 17. We know a healthy 16 games from Johnson, even at the ripe old age of 30(!), means he’s vying for the No. 1 fantasy-receiver slot once again.

  7. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. Bye: 7.
    Nelson had a career year in 2014 with 1,519 yards 13 touchdowns and 98 receptions on 151 targets. The question, of course, is if he’ll be able to repeat those numbers now that he’s turned 30 and had a minor hip operation in the offseason. As you can tell from where I ranked him, I think he’ll be able to. The main part of this equation isn’t Nelson though; it is Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL, and Nelson is his No. 1 receiver. The hip surgery doesn’t sound like a problem, and we should know if it will be by the time most of us draft. And if you are worried about his age, there have been 171 wide receivers who topped 1,000 yards receiving and 61 with 10 or more touchdowns after they hit the ripe old age of 30.

  8. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals. Bye: 7.
    I want to put Green higher in the rankings than I have here, but there are just too many high-end possibilities at receiver this season. Green injured his toe early in 2014 and was hurting much of the season and ended up missing three games, as well as playing hurt through many more. We know what Green can do when healthy with back-to-back seasons where he hit 98 receptions 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those are numbers we can count on from a healthy Green, especially in a contract year.

  9. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears. Bye: 7.
    Last season, Jay Cutler had career highs in passing yards and touchdowns. Yes, the same player who was benched for Jimmy Clausen. Of course, Cutler also threw 18 interceptions and fumbled nine times, but thankfully those stats don’t affect Alshon Jeffery all that much. The best news for Jeffery is that he has now had back-to-back top-12 fantasy-receiver finishes – both as the No. 2 receiver on his team. And now with Brandon Marshall in New York, Jeffery takes over as the go-to receiver. Kevin White will most likely be lined up on the other side and should be enough of a presence to keep defenses from betting the farm on taking Jeffery out of the equation. The same is true for Matt Forte, but Forte is also pitiful as a goal-line rusher, so Cutler and company will need to throw near the goal line, where Jeffery has exceled.

  10. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers. Bye: 7.
    2014 was a parade of touchdowns for Cobb, especially to start the season as he had 10 in his first nine games. Cobb had just two in the last seven games and will be hard pressed to match those touchdown numbers this season, but like Jordy Nelson, Aaron Rodgers is the deciding factor here.

    Cobb had 91 receptions last season on just 126 targets, so we don’t need volume for him; we just need Rodgers. Nelson caps Cobb’s ceiling, but Rodgers elevates Cobb’s floor. I could find a few receivers I’d rather have for their higher ceiling to rank 10th, but Cobb remains a safe play each week, and that’s what I want from him.

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