Half-PPR Wide Receiver Rankings Analysis

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Heading into 2016, wide receivers were considered the “safest” fantasy option, but that changed in a hurry. Running backs were three of the top five non-QB scorers according to ESPN scoring in 2016.

Every team does need to fill in wide receiver positions, and this year there is certainly an amount of depth at the position far greater than running back. Especially in scoring formats that reward any points per reception, even half of a point, fantasy owners will typically want to roster a wide receiver in any of their flex spots due to the predictability of the position and the fact that nearly every touch a wide receiver has of the football will be a reception that adds extra points to that owner’s weekly score.

Here is the analysis of fantasy wide receivers in the Half PPR format:

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Half-PPR Wide Receiver Tiered Rankings

Tier One

1) Antonio Brown
2) Julio Jones
3) Odell Beckham Jr.

Undoubtedly the three top wide receivers over the past few seasons, Brown, Jones and Beckham are either entering or in the primes of their respective careers. For each of these players there is 100+ catch and 10+ TD upside. Antonio Brown has averaged, yes averaged, over 123 receptions per season over the last three years and should be in line for that production and then some with the return of Martavis Bryant and a healthy Le’Veon Bell to divert attention away from Brown. Julio Jones finished second in the NFL in receiving yardage last season even though he missed two games, which should give fantasy owners an inkling of the type of talent Jones is. He historically hasn’t been a big-time touchdown producer with only one season over 10+ touchdowns, but new O.C. Steve Sarkisian has vowed to use Jones more frequently in the red zone. He is also coming into a season healthy for the first time in quite a while which warrants him at number two. It’s really amazing just how good Odell Beckham Jr. has been in such a short amount of time amassing 35 TDs in just 43 games played. He has been not only a TD monster, but strong after the catch as well. The fact Beckham is going into the season with an ankle injury may contribute to the fact he is third.

 

Tier Two

4) Mike Evans
5) Jordy Nelson
6) AJ Green
7) Michael Thomas
8) Amari Cooper
9) Dez Bryant
10) Doug Baldwin

This tier really comes down to personal preference as fantasy owners can expect as least 120 targets for each player on this list. Jordy Nelson hasn’t finished lower than third in any season where he’s played the full 16 games since 2011 and could be the class of this tier. AJ Green was on pace for a 152 target season prior to his injury and if you extrapolate his receiving yardage over the course of 16 games, he would have lead the league with over 1,542 yards. He and Nelson could be the top of this tier. One of the larger questions surrounding Mike Evans will be if the Bucs continue to employ the strategy that led them to a 6-2 finish to the 2016 season, which was to run, run and run some more. Evans only had two double digit target games out of his last six in 2016 vs. eight of his first 10. Take into account Evans career catch rate of under 60% and there more questions than Nelson or Green.

A sophomore slump is certainly possible for Michael Thomas who will now face team’s top corners as a second-year player. He certainly could repeat his production as a rookie and is in one of the top offenses in the NFL, he definitely belongs in the top 10. Doug Baldwin has been consistently in the mix of most underrated receivers for the last few seasons, but back to back top-10 fantasy finishes have owners taking notice. He should be a lock to catch 80 balls this coming season from a healthy Russell Wilson and is fine at the back end of this tier. Dez Bryant looks to be back to his old touchdown scoring self and has the potential for an easy double digit TD season in 2017. The start of his season is more difficult than most which is why he belongs near the end of this tier. It’s not a problem to expect Amari Cooper to “make the leap” in year three of his NFL career, but until that is seen on the field, he belongs below most of the other proven commodities in this tier.

 

Tier Three

11) T.Y. Hilton
12) DeAndre Hopkins
13) Brandin Cooks
14) Alshon Jeffery
15) Keenan Allen
16) Demaryius Thomas

After leading the NFL in receiving in 2016, there are numerous questions surrounding TY Hilton and the rest of the Colts offense with Andrew Luck potentially not playing the first couple weeks of the regular season. He should be lower on this tier especially with a healthy Donte Moncrief taking some short area targets. The combination of Demaryius Thomas and Keenan Allen should be both catch at least 90 passes barring any injuries which make them near the top of this tier versus the other more downfield options. Thomas hasn’t caught less than 90 passes in each of his last five seasons. Prior to any injuries, Keenan Allen always seems to be on pace for over 100 catches in each of the last two seasons.

Brandin Cooks might now be the safest player in this tier for guaranteed production now that Julian Edelman is out of the picture with a season-ending injury. He should be able to duplicate his season ago which made him a top-10 wide receiver in 2016. The good news for DeAndre Hopkins is that he doesn’t have to worry about his financial future after signing a massive 5-year, $81 million contract extension. The bad news for Hopkins is that his quarterback situation still might not be solved with the combination of Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson. Hopkins only caught 51.7% of his targets last season and fantasy owners shouldn’t expect that number to increase by leaps and bounds. Hopkins should be near the lower part of this tier. Alshon Jeffery is a big question mark as he enters his first season with the Eagles. He belongs in the middle of this tier as he should be the number one receiver for Carson Wentz in 2017. Expect him to see around 140 targets if he can stay healthy.

 

Tier Four

17) Terrelle Pryor
18) Tyreek Hill
19) Davante Adams
20) Allen Robinson
21) Michael Crabtree
22) Golden Tate

Tier Four is really the tale of two sets of players in this tier. There are high upside players in Tyreek Hill, Terrelle Pryor, Davante Adams and Allen Robinson and what are perceived to be “safer” players in Michael Crabtree and Golden Tate. Crabtree has been extremely consistent over the past two seasons with at least a line of 85-922-8 and at least 24% target share. Even if he were to lose some targets to the ascending Amari Cooper, Crabtree should be a safe WR2 for fantasy rosters and should be placed slightly higher in this tier above a question mark like Allen Robinson. Golden Tate finished the 2016 season on a role with 8 of his last 11 games with nine or more targets. He should receive a boost in any type of PPR scoring format due to his well below average aDOT (average depth of target) of just 8.5 yards. Tate should continue to see a ton of targets without Anquan Boldin in the Lions offense in 2017 and should be closer to the middle of this tier than the bottom. Davante Adams is due for some TD regression as he scored 12 times on just 118 targets, but with Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback anything is possible. Adams should be lowered slightly due to those concerns.

Most analysts think Allen Robinson should finish somewhere between his 2015 and 2016 seasons, but as the 2017 season starts it looks like it will be closer to the 2016 version. He deserves to be the low man on this tier, if not on the next tier. Tyreek Hill will be an interesting case to see if he’s just more than a gadget player. Hill struggled in week 3 of the preseason with drops, but was targeted heavily. He has the potential for a boost in PPR formats due to his quick-twitch ability to break tackles. He deserves to be near the top of this tier. Terrelle Pryor certainly has upside playing in a non-Cleveland Brown offense after going for over 1,000 yards in 2016, but there are certainly questions about his role in Washington. If Pryor sees similar to the 132 targets from a year ago, a top-20 WR finish should be expected. For the uncertainly, he should be lowered slightly in this tier.

 

Tier Five

23) Larry Fitzgerald
24) Sammy Watkins
25) Jarvis Landry
26) Kelvin Benjamin
27) Martavis Bryant

One of these things is not like the other; one of these things doesn’t belong. If you remember this song from your childhood, you can tell that one of these players is out of place in this tier of options. Jarvis Landry has a lot going against him heading into 2017, a new quarterback, and no contract after the season, not to mention a decreased role in the offense the last half of 2016. He should be at least a full tier below the rest of the players in this tier. Larry Fitzgerald is a near mortal lock for 90+ catches; however his YPC and aDot have fallen the past two seasons. Fitzgerald should be near the top of this tier due to the half point players receive per reception.

Since Sammy Watkins was traded to the Rams, his ADP and ranking has dropped across all formats. He still is supremely talented and should be in line to lead the Rams in targets. His downside makes him a scary buy in this tier and could be lowered even further. All systems are a go for both Kelvin Benjamin and Martavis Bryant heading into 2017. Fat jokes aside, Benjamin has demonstrated his penchant for finding the endzone early in the preseason. He should see his receptions and TDs come close to their pre-2016 baselines. He could easily be a low-end WR1 and should be closer to the top of this tier. Martavis Bryant has some of the most upside in this tier. He scores near WR1s per game, but has never put together a full season yet. Bryant could easily outperform his rank even though he may not top 65-70 receptions.

 

Tier Six

28) Emmanuel Sanders
29) Brandon Marshall
30) Stefon Diggs
31) Jamison Crowder
32) Pierre Garcon

There are plenty of targets and receptions to go around in this tier with Sanders, Marshall, Diggs and Garcon each being targeted over 100 times in 2016. All should continue that trend in 2017 either as the primary or secondary options for their respective offenses. Emmanuel Sanders should see at least 20% target share with the Broncos, but his upside is limited with Trevor Siemian at quarterback. He should be lowered even in formats that reward for receptions. If Brandon Marshall’s career trend continues, fantasy owners will rejoice to get him at WR29. In first seasons with new teams, Marshall has averaged 103 receptions, 1,341 yards and just over 9 TDs per season. That would put him in WR1 territory vs. his current draft position. He belongs near the top of this tier.

Stefon Diggs' role is in question as he has been moving from the slot to outside throughout the preseason. Don’t expect Diggs to catch 100+ passes this season, but fantasy owners should expect higher touchdown upside than a year ago. He deserves the middle of this tier. Typically, slot receivers have extremely capped ceilings, but Jamison Crowder might prove analysts wrong. That being said, he belongs at the bottom of this tier as the clear third option in Washington behind both Jordan Reed and Terrell Pryor. Pierre Garcon may be near the league lead in receptions by the end of 2017, but again has a capped upside on an offense in transition in San Francisco. He does belong closer to the top of this tier than Crowder.

For any questions or comments feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @TheRealHalupka

 

Updated Tiered Rankings and Analysis


Check out all of RotoBaller's 2017 fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.