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2019 Fantasy Football Projections: Wide Receivers (Part One)


We continue onwards with our rankings and projections for the 2019 season. If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out not only my QB rankings but also both parts of my RB projections (1 & 2).

Wide receivers are typically the easiest position to project each season. Once we figure out a teams offensive strategy and propensity to attempt passes, it isn't overly difficult to solve target share percentages, catch rates and all that good stuff that goes into making accurate season-long projections. With all that being said, the ability to correctly define these ranges can be the difference between landing a WR that is capable of busting and one that might be in store for a breakout.

Scoring will be your typical 0.10 points per rushing or receiving yard, six-point TDs, and one-point per catch. Please note that there will be some small differences between the projections and rankings.

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2019 Fantasy Football WR Rankings

Be sure to also check out all of our fantasy football rankings, powered by our All-Star team of analysts, including Nick Mariano who has been a top-10 accuracy expert over the past two seasons.

Our Rankings Wizard is loaded up with rankings for PPR, Half-PPR, Standard, best ball and dynasty formats - including rankings tiers, auction values and the latest player news and stats. Set your league size - then sort, filter and download your rankings. All in one easy place - and it's all free!

 

Tier 1

 

#1 - Davante Adams

Projected Fantasy Points: 326.22

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
174 114 12.3 1402.2 12 0 0

There are two frames of minds when it comes to Davante Adams:

  1. If we extrapolated his worst fantasy performance of 2018 out over a 16-game campaign, he would have still finished as WR13 for the season. The safety around that statement needs to be comprehended for a second to grasp fully and should make him the most dependable option on the board.
  2. If touchdowns are full of variance and regression is always on the horizon after an elevated season of finding the endzone, should we be worried about Adams plummetting from his career-high 13 touchdown output of 2018? And if so, what does that do to his value?

I am not so sure we can safely assume either scenario as being fact going forward, but Adams has shown that he is not like every other WR. Most of that stems from Aaron Rodgers' inclination to pepper his most trusted wideout with red-zone look after red-zone look, but the 26-year-old is no longer just a touchdown threat. Adams topped his career-high of 75 receptions with a staggering 111 catches last year and finished tied for second in the NFL with 169 targets. Yes, three straight seasons of at least 10 touchdowns have highlighted his ascension up the ranks, but Adams is Rodgers' go-to receiver, and we shouldn't negate his continuos TD output as anything other than reality at this point.

The narrative of Geronimo Allison or Marquez Valdes-Scantling being able to emerge and cut into the six-year pros workload isn't entirely outlandish, but I feel safe projecting Adams around a 30% target share in Green Bay's offense - even if Allison and Valdes-Scantling are able to garner around 27 percent combined themselves. Jimmy Graham is on the steady decline and shouldn't receive much higher than 13 percent of the attempts, and Equanimeous St. Brown's injury leaves the team rather thin for additional choices that could generate an impact.

Rodgers finished last season with a career-low touchdown rate of 4.2%, so if we are basing Adams solely on his touchdown upside, there is still room to improve. But if we are viewing this situation as it should be seen, Adams should challenge for the league lead in targets per game and has the upside to lead the NFL in receptions and touchdowns this season. That is a deadly combination in PPR leagues and makes him my overall WR1.

 

#2 - JuJu Smith-Schuster

Projected Fantasy Points: 324.28

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
179 116 13.3 1542.8 9 0 0

With the removal of Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, Juju Smith-Schuster inherits the role of the top WR on the most pass-happy offense in the NFL. There are a lot of "what-ifs" when it comes Smith-Schuster, who could conceivably run away with the title for most fantasy points at the position this season. However, in the same breath, the 22-year-old will have to adapt to life without Brown - which could make finding open running lanes an issue in 2019 and result in an efficiency dropoff.

I am more bullish than most on Smith-Schuster for a few reasons. While I don't believe that Ben Roethlisberger will throw 675 attempts again this season, 600+ is still well on the table for their range of outcomes, and it doesn't take a massive target share for Smith-Schuster to start entering a different realm than most players have at their disposal.

It seems inevitable that the third-year pro will see a decline in effectiveness because of the top corners and increased double teams heading his way, but volume is the greatest asset in fantasy, and Roethlisberger has never been shy when it comes to overloading his top wideout with a plethora of looks. The sky is the limit for overall WR1 upside if everything clicks this season for Juju, and I want to be along for the ride if it happens.

 

#3 - Julio Jones

Projected Fantasy Points: 310.55

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
159 105 14.9 1564.5 8 11 0

We have reached a point with Julio Jones where his greatness is almost taken for granted. Five straight seasons of at least 1,409 yards have highlighted who he is as a player, but if we are looking for any sort of a negative to place on the 30-year-old outside of injury potential, Jones has only recorded an average of 6.2 TDs per year since 2014.

The injury-prone label is justified, but the 30-year-old has only missed three games during his previous 80 and is as sure of a bet as anyone to record 100-plus catches and 1400-plus yards. If we ever experience a season where Jones jumps off the board with positive touchdown regression, watch out!

 

#4 - DeAndre Hopkins

Projected Fantasy Points: 303.1

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
159 106 13.5 1431 9 0 0

DeAndre Hopkins' safety and high floor are unquestioned reasons to take the 27-year-old in the first round of drafts, but I have some concerns when it comes to his ability to finish the year as the number one ranked wideout, which has to at least be some of what you are expecting to see when you take him at his current asking price. Hopkins' points per game have been nearly identical during his last two seasons, posting a stellar 20.7 in 2017 and 20.8 in 2018, but could that number be on a slight decline for 2019?

I only have Deshaun Watson projected to attempt 519 passes this season, which means that there are limited targets to go around and a lot of mouths to feed. Houston's passing offense will see a slight bump in aggressiveness after RB Lamar Miller suffered an ACL injury during the preseason, but Duke Johnson, Keke Coutee and Will Fuller will take food off Hopkins' plate, and I believe enough where we see him finish outside the top-three at the position. Although Hopkins did finish last season as the WR1, he was third in points per game behind Davante Adams (22.0) and Antonio Brown (21.6), and I don't believe his ceiling will allow him to reach that territory again without an injury to open up targets.

 

Tier 2

#5 Michael Thomas

Projected Fantasy Points: 296.4

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
151 115 11.6 1334 8 0 0

Michael Thomas' catch rate of 85 percent last season might be on the high-end of what to expect this year, but his floor presents him as one of the safest options on the board at any position. New Orleans' offense isn't quite what it used to be from a tempo standpoint, ranking 29th in the league in seconds per play in 2018, but Thomas is locked in for 140+ targets on a high-scoring offense, and that should be good enough for you to consider him in your draft.

I am a little lower on the 26-year-old than some because of Drew Brees' passing volume, which has gone from 673 attempts in 2016 to 489 in 2018, but Thomas is a PPR monster that ranked ninth in the NFL last season with a red zone target share of 30.5% and first with 125 receptions. If you are looking for built-in safety, Thomas is your guy.

 

#6 Mike Evans

Projected Fantasy Points: 290.64

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
172 96 15.9 1526.4 7 0 0

While most of the offseason hype has settled around fellow WR Chris Godwin, Mike Evans remains Tampa Bay's number one option in the passing game and a wildly disrespected selection on draft day at his current ADP of 21st overall.

New head coach Bruce Arians brings with him an explosive mentality that should allow Evans to thrive, but the ultimate upside for the 25-year-old will come down to just how effective Jameis Winston can be in his fifth season. Evans finished 2016 ranked third when given an increase in targets, and I believe the offense is heading back to a situation that could allow the 6'5" standout to lead the league when it comes to attempts in his direction. Evans is a steal in the second round of drafts and has overall WR1 upside on an upstart Buccaneers squad.

 

#7 Odell Beckham Jr.

Projected Fantasy Points: 280.76

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
147 94 13.9 1306.6 9 21 0

Odell Beckham Jr. is a wild card. I have him projected to receive a 26.2% target share in Cleveland's offense - good for 147 pass attempts, but those numbers might need to see a small increase if he wants a chance to enter tier-one potential.

The Browns featured the fifth quickest-paced offense in 2018, running a play every 26.99 seconds, so there is a possibility that Beckham could see a boost in production with the sheer number of snaps the offense has the potential to reach, but injury and target concerns are enough for me to keep him outside my top five at the position and inside the second round of fantasy drafts.

 

#8 Tyreek Hill

Projected Fantasy Points: 282.69

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
134 87 15.7 1365.9 7 111 1

I am on lower on Tyreek Hill than most, ranking him 15th overall, but you can't count out the speedster from being able to emerge from the pack. My biggest concern for the Chiefs wideout comes down to two factors. For starters, we aren't looking at a player that is going to bring in much more than 140 targets on the year. He is a big-play threat that can take it to the house anytime he touches the ball, but there is a lack of opportunity available compared to some of the other big names in this section.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Hill's 13 touchdowns last season exceeded his expected value by 6.3 scores, making him a prime candidate to suffer some regression in 2019. None of this is meant to talk you out of selecting him since he is still my WR8, but his weekly floor is about as boom-or-bust as anyone you will find in this range. You could make a sound argument that Hill provides you more of an upside to win your league than a safe player like Michael Thomas, but fantasy is not an exact science.

 

#9 Antonio Brown

Projected Fantasy Points: 289.98

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
177 109 12.2 1329.8 8 0 0

All signs seem to be pointing towards an inevitably disappointing campaign from Antonio Brown but consider me the guy at the party that overstays his welcome.

It is going to come down to how much of a gamble you are willing to take on Brown. I wouldn't blame you for disregarding him, but I also look at his skill and potential and have issues with moving him too far down my board. Yes, Oakland isn't as ideal of a fit as Pittsburgh, but Derek Carr was once viewed as an elite QB before countless injuries derailed his maturation process. Everyone wants to write off Brown as being over the hill, but 104 receptions, 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns last season would say otherwise. I am willing to gamble that we still see him produce a top 10 fantasy season again.

 

Tier 3

#10 - Julian Edelman

Projected Fantasy Points: 276.3

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
147 100 11.6 1160 9 63 0

This is exponentially higher than you will see Julian Edelman on almost any other list, but I'm all in on the 33-year-old providing us his version of a "coup de grace" towards the end of his career. The narrative around Edelman has always been the same. He has recorded 106 catches for 1,337 yards over his last 13 playoff games, helping the Patriots go 11-2 over that span. However, during the regular season, he has never graded higher than WR14 in a PPR league and has scored just nine touchdowns over his last 28 games. So what makes me think this is the season that Edelman rises to fantasy superstardom? You might want to cue the Stone Cold Steve Austin entrance music for this take.

Edelman finished 2018 ranked sixth with a 31.2% red zone target share and hauled in six touchdowns in 12 games. All respectable statistics that would have put him on pace for a career-high eight scores. But what happens when we officially remove one of the greatest red zone threats of all time in Rob Gronkowski? Tom Brady has never been modest when it comes to pinpointing his best receiver, and I believe Edelman has a realistic shot of putting together a Jordy Nelson type campaign where he could challenge the league lead in receiving touchdowns. The Patriots aren't going to be what they once were on offense and should use Sony Michel and their other running backs more often, but Edelman's 35 targets and 26 catches during the playoffs shows that there is upside there for Brady's top go-to option. Part of what is nice about Edelman is that he is currently going as pick 38 in PPR leagues, making him my favorite selection on the board this season and potential league-winner if all goes right.

 

#11 - Adam Thielen

Projected Fantasy Points: 271.9

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
146 100 12.7 1270 7 29 0

I feel as if my projections are on the side of aggression for Adam Thielen in 2019 but don't believe they are so outlandish that the six-year pro can't reach his quota. After totaling 93 catches for 1,138 yards during his first 11 games in 2018, the 28-year-old experienced an extreme downslide in production, providing only 20 total catches for 235 yards in his final five starts.

Head coach Mike Zimmer prefers a mentality of hard-nosed defense and run-first offense, so Thielen's late-season fade might be a major reason for concern, but the Vikings will still rely on Diggs and Thielen for the majority of their passing offense. I'm not completely sold on the fact that Dalvin Cook can stay healthy with a full workload and will take my chances of Thielen landing somewhere between his 2017 and 2018 campaigns.

 

#12 - Keenan Allen

Projected Fantasy Points: 269.2

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
150 102 12.5 1275 6 37 0

Even though Keenan Allen lands as my last WR1 for a 12 team league, I'd feel much more comfortable securing him as a WR2 for my squad. None of that is meant to dissuade you from selecting the 27-year-old in drafts, but Allen's inability to produce as a dominant red-zone option does reduce his upside.

Despite being regarded as a prolific offense, the Chargers ranked dead last in the NFL with their pace of play, snapping the ball every 30.25 seconds. Ironically, that tempo didn't become much quicker whether they were winning or trailing by seven or more points, ranking 31st in both metrics (29.51 during deficits) and (32.04 while ahead). Allen is a steady contributor that is looking at around 100 catches and six TDs when healthy but temper your expectations if you are expecting him to emerge as an upper-echelon producer.

 

Tier 4

#13 - Stefon Diggs

Projected Fantasy Points: 246.98

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
144 96 10.8 1036.8 7 53 0

Last year's WR10, Stefon Diggs' biggest bugaboo during the early portion of his career has been his inability to stay on the field. Diggs has missed nine games over four seasons, but how does he compare to his running mate Adam Thielen in terms of upside?

The Vikings feature one of the most conservative passing attacks in the NFL, ranking 26th last season in explosive pass plays at seven percent of attempts qualifying as successful, and their lack of downfield exposure has limited Diggs' upside. His average of 10 yards per catch placed him 98th in the NFL, not to mention that he ranked 80th with an average target distance of 9.3 yards. It is hard to imagine that we see any of those numbers increase drastically across the board, so Diggs' potential will come down to how many passes can he catch? And how often can he find the end-zone? I'll bet on both of those amounts decreasing slightly, which is why he falls into tier four for me this season.

 

#14 - Brandin Cooks

Projected Fantasy Points: 246.7

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
125 82 15 1230 6 57 0

Brandin Cooks has been a nomad during the early portions of his career. From 2016 to 2018, the 25-year-old has failed to return to a team that he played on the previous season but finally gets a chance to enter camp with the Rams as a returning member of the squad.

From an understanding perspective, you would have to imagine that knowing the playbook and not having to get readjusted should pay dividends to his success, but Cooks has never been as volatile as you might expect from a WR that is known as a big-play threat. Cooks recorded 59 or more yards in 12 of his 16 starts last season and has finished ranked 15th or better in PPR leagues every season since 2015. If you can land him as a WR2, great. But if you can snag him as a WR3... that is even better.

 

#15 - Robert Woods

Projected Fantasy Points: 250.0

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
129 85 14 1190 6 100 0

I have the Los Angeles Rams being able to support a three-headed monster in Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, but if one of the three ended up being the odd man out, Woods might be the most natural choice to consider.

Woods experienced a season where he became the most dominant option for the team in 2018, bringing in 130 targets, 86 catches and six touchdowns, but it is hard to ignore the slight boost he did get in the wake of Cooper Kupp's ACL injury. Woods has never been an iron man in the league himself, missing at least two games in four of his six seasons, but all seemed to click last year with an increase of 26 targets, 21 catches and 438 yards from his previous career highs. The most positive thing that the 27-year-old has going for him is that Los Angeles doesn't throw to their TEs often, and Todd Gurley most likely won't be featured quite as frequently as a pass-catcher this season. Still, though, there are reasons to be moderately concerned, and a decrease of around 17 targets could plummet Woods into the next tier of options.

 

#16 - Chris Godwin

Projected Fantasy Points: 240.37

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
134 83 13.9 1153.7 7 0 0

We've reached the point where people who have never followed football might even be in on the Chris Godwin train. The hype surrounding the 23-year-old has reached epic proportions, and while I am not typically one that follows the masses down the road on a player, Godwin's potential is tantalizing.

The Buccaneers lost 179 targets in the offseason between Adam Humphries (105) heading to Tennessee and DeSean Jackson (74) taking his talents back to Philadelphia, and the extra opportunity in a Bruce Arians led offense leads to mouth-watering thoughts. Godwin produced 59 catches, 842 yards and seven touchdowns during his complete 16 game slate in 2018, although only five of those contests resulted with him starting.

Sometimes things aren't as complicated as they are made to seem. I've heard both sides of the argument that Evans and Godwin hurt the value of each other, but why can't both coexist and produce as top 20 wideouts in 2019? If you want Godwin, you are going to have to pay up, but I have no issues with him as a fourth-round selection.

 

#17 - Amari Cooper

Projected Fantasy Points: 226.8

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
122 80 13.7 1096 6 12 0

I am not a massive proponent of Amari Cooper in PPR leagues. Yes, if you just measured Cooper from his trade to Dallas and beyond, the 25-year-old graded out as the ninth-ranked WR in the league, but he is too much in the boom-or-bust territory for me to feel great about selecting him inside the first three rounds.

If you play in best-ball leagues, give the former Alabama product a significant boost, but I am not sold we see him eclipse 125 targets, which would mean that his floor and ceiling are now both compromised. I don't want to make it seem as if he is someone I am never grabbing if the price is right, but he'd have to fall into the fourth round for me to consider him in most leagues or be included in a high variance setting that rewards volatility.

 

#18 - Kenny Golladay

Projected Fantasy Points: 225.6

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
127 75 15.2 1140 6 6 0

After a 2017 rookie season where not much went right, Kenny Golladay rebounded with an impressive sophomore demonstration, especially when you consider everything that went wrong in the home of Motown.

Marvin Jones being banged up and Golden Tate getting traded opened up room for Golladay to emerge as the Lions' best pass-catcher, and you would have to assume that some positive regression is in store for Matthew Stafford in 2019. The one major downside for Golladay is Detroit's perpetual need to slow down games. The team ranked 31st in contests within a six-point margin in tempo, and it remains to be seen if head coach Matt Patricia is willing to speed up the pace of play to allow more explosiveness. Something has to give in Detroit, and I believe we see Golladay surface as a borderline top-20 WR.

 

#19 - Cooper Kupp

Projected Fantasy Points: 222.94

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
112 77 13.2 1016.4 7 23 0

Cooper Kupp was performing as a top-five WR in 2018 before injuries started creeping up on him, including a torn ACL that ended his season abruptly. Kupp was on pace to increase his catch rate and yards per catch average from 2017 and bettered his touchdown total in just an eight-game stretch.

Placing three players for the Rams within the same tier does show how much head coach Sean McVay likes to spread the ball around, but Kupp is an ideal fit in the system and could theoretically lead the team in fantasy points if all goes right. The 26-year-old finished 2017 ranked eighth with his 29.5% red zone target share and has the ability to lead the team in TDs in 2019. If Kupp sees the opposite movement of what we were discussing with Robert Woods earlier, those two players could very easily swap spots and some targets in the process.

 

#20 - A.J. Green

Projected Fantasy Points: 216.66

Targets Receptions Average Yards Touchdown Rushing Yards Touchdown
118 71 14.6 1036.6 7 0 0

I anticipate some debate including A.J. Green into the same tier as the likes of Stefon Diggs and Brandin Cooks, but I believe we can pencil the 31-year-old into the bottom of this range - even if he does end up missing up to four games.

I understand the argument that Green's injury could linger on all season and prevent him from ever producing at the level we would anticipate, but I assume the Bengals won't rush him back, and that is just fine by me. One of the common misconceptions in fantasy is that you take a zero if a player is listed as out. I know that sounds like a strange comment to make, but we need to incorporate the replacements points back into Green's projections. Is it ideal to have non-producing value sitting on your bench? Of course not. But if we can't figure out an option for two to four weeks that can give us 10 points per game, we have more significant issues on our hands than when Green is going to return.

My projection for Green is under the assumption he misses two contests, which would give us a combined total of 236.66 points if we can find a replacement that can average 10 points per contest. But even if Green does end up missing up to four games and we maintain the same average with our backup, we should be right in line for 225 points on the year. That is good enough for me to take a chance on Green not only returning by Week 2 but also producing at a level that we have become accustomed to when he is active.

 

*For the rest of my WR projections, read Part Two to see Tiers 5 and beyond.

More Fantasy Football Analysis


Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




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