By Chet Gresham – @ChetGresham
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For this little fishing expedition, I’m going to take a look at wide receivers with the most fantasy points per game – FPPG. These are elite players, which means you’re paying high prices for them, but I like to take a closer look at some of these guys for rankings and projections, which with some of these guys is extremely difficult to do.
First, I’ll take a look at the cream of the crop, the top-five wide receivers in fantasy points per game over the last three seasons:
Antonio Brown, Steelers – 14.6
Brown is head and shoulders above the field here. At 14.6 fantasy points per game, he is a full point ahead of Odell Beckham Jr., who has played in 10 fewer games than Brown over the last three seasons. Last season, Brown missed the last two and a half games of the season and still ended up as the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver in most fantasy leagues. Of course, there are plenty of great receivers who could take his crown away, but his consistency, targets and upside continue to make him the no-doubt No. 1 fantasy receiver going into 2018.
Odell Beckham Jr., Giants – 13.37
Odell Beckham Jr. is the closest receiver to Brown in FPPG, which is due mostly to touchdown production, as his .743 touchdowns per game bests Brown’s .689, but that’s about the only stat Beckham can hang his hat on, as Brown beats him in receptions and yards per game, along with yards per target. Of course, a full season out of Beckham is primed to be spectacular, but the odds of him overtaking Brown are still tough when you compare their respective quarterbacks at the moment.
Julio Jones, Falcons – 12.48
Jones is such a weird fantasy player. He’s played in 46 of his last 48 games, but often has nagging injuries while averaging just .369 touchdowns per game. His receiving numbers are great, as he leads all receivers in yardage over the last three years, but he’s only had double-digit touchdowns once in his career, back in 2012, and has totaled just nine touchdowns over the last two seasons. But his three touchdowns from last season are still an anomaly, as he had averaged .506 touchdowns per game before seeing just .188 touchdowns per game last season. He still gets red-zone targets like most of the top receivers in the league, as he ranks eighth over the last three seasons, so the potential is still there for a double-digit-touchdowns season but even if that can’t be reached, an upgrade from his three last season to his average of 6-8 touchdowns seems likely.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans – 11.77
Hopkins is the one player who appears most ready to overtake Antonio Brown as the No. 1 fantasy receiver. Despite a long list of awful quarterbacks, Hopkins still ranks fourth over the last three seasons in FPPG while ranking third in touchdowns and receiving yards and fifth in receptions. Last season, he had seven games with Tom Savage and three with T.J. Yates. The previous season saddled him with Brock Osweiler for 14 games while Savage started two, and in 2015, Hopkins’ best overall season so far, Brian Hoyer started nine games, Ryan Mallett four, T.J. Yates two and Brandon Weeden one. That is a long list of awful quarterbacks who allowed Hopkins to rank fourth in FPPG and total standard fantasy points while moving up one spot to third in total PPR fantasy points over the last three seasons. There is, of course, one quarterback I left out, which is Houston’s new starter DeShaun Watson. In his six games with Watson last season, Hopkins caught 38 passes for 551 yards and six touchdowns. A full season extrapolated from those games would have Nuk as the no-doubt No. 1 fantasy receiver last year and gives us hope that this could be his year to lead the way.
Keenan Allen, Chargers – 11.08
No. 5 on this list is the oft-targeted and oft-injured Chargers receiver Keenan Allen. Out of 48 possible games over the last three seasons, Allen has played in 25. The hope is, that after a full 16 games last year, he’s back on track health-wise, but it is hard to completely forget about two season-ending injuries. Hopefully, his career will look more like Matthew Stafford’s, who also had two season-enders in back-to-back seasons to then come on strong and show consistent health, because Allen is a fantasy stud, especially in PPR leagues. His touchdown numbers are a little reminiscent of Julio Jones, but also like Jones, Allen gets plenty of red-zone looks. Last season, he actually led the league in red-zone targets with 25, but only ended up with four touchdowns on those opportunities. I’d expect that number to increase this year with Hunter Henry out for the season, which really pushes Allen’s upside up into top-three-wideout range again.
I’m going to stick with the last three seasons but now take a look at some of the more interesting names that pop up.
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks – 10.39
Baldwin ranks eighth in FPPG over the last three seasons and is one of just 14 receivers to play in all 48 games. He isn’t as consistent as the top receivers in the league, which is due mostly to a lack of targets. Last season, Baldwin saw just 7.2 targets per game, ranking 23rd in the league, while finishing as the 13th-overall fantasy wide receiver. The loss of Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham should help, as Baldwin had just eight red-zone targets last season to rank him 50th out of all wide receivers and 79th when you add in tight ends. Even Paul Richardson had more red-zone targets than Baldwin, so the total red-zone targets that left Seattle this offseason was 33! Ed Dickson, Rashaad Penny and Tyler Lockett will all be involved in 2018, but Baldwin will no-doubt see an uptick in targets, especially in the red zone this coming season.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – 9.6
Before we get into his fantasy stats, let’s just bask in the health of Ol’ Fitzy. Through 14 seasons, he has appeared in 218 games out of a possible 224, and since he turned 32, he hasn’t missed a game, while averaging 108 receptions over his last three seasons. And despite his big-play ability being diminished toward the end of his career, he is still 14th overall in FPPG over the last three seasons and eighth overall when looking at just receivers with 42 or more games played, which in the end has him ranked as the fourth-best PPR fantasy receiver during that stretch. He put this remarkable string of seasons together with the help of Carson Palmer, yet also kept the exact same pace after Palmer was injured mid-season last year when Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton took over. Fitzgerald finished as the fourth-best PPR receiver last season, and this year will get the accurate Josh Rosen and/or Sam Bradford throwing his way without a lot of competition for targets. Despite his possession-receiver status, his upside remains high and consistent.
Sammy Watkins, Chiefs – 8.92
Watkins has barely had a career despite playing for four seasons. That could probably be said for a lot of players who have gotten drafted/stuck in Buffalo, but Watkins’ injury history has also been a problem. Still, the fact that he is the 25th best receiver over the past three seasons in FPPG and the 15th best when you bring the criteria up to receivers who have played in 35 games or more, you can’t say he’s a bust. We know from his best season, 2015, that he’s a great deep-ball receiver, as he caught 60-of-96 targets for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns for 17.5 yards per reception. Last season, Jared Goff threw him 20 deep targets and was accurate on just six of them, which had a part to play in Watkins’ down yardage and targets during his one season with the Rams, but he still managed a strong 15.2 yards per reception and eight touchdown receptions. Now he goes to a Kansas City team that is ripe for big plays with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and now Watkins. He has the ability, and with a little luck, should be able to thrive as a Chief.
For more recommendations, check out WalterFootball.com’s Fantasy Football Rankings.
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