The Fantasy Footballers’ Early Top-10 WR Rankings Recap
The NFL Draft is right around the corner and even though it’s April, it’s not too early to start talking top-10 wide receivers for the 2021 season. Hosts Andy, Mike, and Jason discussed their top-10 WRs in Tuesday’s episode of the Fantasy Footballers podcast.
This recap is by no means an exhaustive, word-for-word capture of the Fantasy Footballers’ top-10 rankings. Be sure to listen to the episode to get the full discussion on each player’s opportunities, offensive changes, and concerns heading into the 2021 season.
1. Davante Adams | Packers
Andy 1 | Jason 1 | Mike 1
2020 stat line: 14 games – 148 targets for 115/1374/18 (WR1 Fantasy Finish)
The first few wide receivers won’t come as a surprise and Davante Adams tops the list as the unanimous WR1 for 2021. In case you haven’t heard, QB Aaron Rodgers is really good at football. Jeopardy host is another story. In four out of the last five seasons, Adams has posted 10 plus touchdowns and was the first player to lead WRs in fantasy points in fewer than 15 games played.
Green Bay got creative with Adams and used him heavily in the slot where he saw 31.7% of snaps, 38% of his receptions, and seven of his touchdowns. As long as Adams and Rodgers can stay healthy, Adams should continue to dominate at WR.
2. Tyreek Hill | Chiefs
Andy 3 | Jason 2 | Mike 2
2020 stat line: 15 games – 135 targets for 87/1276/15 — 13/123/2 rushing (WR2 Fantasy Finish)
Like Rodgers, QB Patrick Mahomes is also really good at football. It’s difficult to compete with the Mahomes-Hill stack (unless it’s Rodgers-Adams) and Hill was incredible on the road in 2020 averaging 17.3 points when away from Arrowhead Stadium. We also saw his performance stay consistent last year, which is a huge plus for fantasy managers. Staying healthy and keeping that consistency going will keep Hill in the elite WR category for 2021.
3. Stefon Diggs | Bills
Andy 2 | Jason 4 | Mike 4
2020 stat line: 16 games – 166 targets for 127/1535/8 (WR4 Fantasy Finish)
Stefon Diggs has a lot going for him and the best move of his career was teaming up with Bills QB Josh Stallion… I mean, Allen. With the Bills, Diggs led the league in targets (166), receptions (127), and receiving yards (1,535). His floor in PPR scoring is nice and high, averaging around 7.9 receptions per game.
What makes all of this even more impressive is that the Bills have the highest rate of 3-WR sets in the NFL. Sixteen percent of their plays were with four-plus WRs. That’s a lot of mouths to feed and still produce a top-4 fantasy finisher. It helps that the Bills led in passing first downs. A big question for Diggs will be whether or not the Bills can keep producing in the passing game to make a high draft cost worth it or if we see some regression from the WR in 2021.
4. DeAndre Hopkins | Cardinals
Andy 4 | Jason 3 | Mike 3
2020 stat line: 16 games – 160 targets for 115/1407/6 (WR5 Fantasy Finish)
Seeing DeAndre Hopkins in the top-5 is a no-brainer. The man is an elite talent and has finished as a WR5 or better in five out of his past six seasons. He has the most receiving yards versus man coverage and 72% of his targets were against man coverage. That’s the second-highest in the league behind Marquise Brown.
This offseason ushered long-time Bengals WR A.J. Brown to the Cardinals but it’s difficult to really say that his arrival will have enough of an impact on Hopkins’ production to warrant any real concern. While his consistency rank was only 13th, his last four fantasy finishes were WR1, 2, 5, and 5.
5. A.J. Brown | Titans
Andy 5 | Jason 5 | Mike 8
2020 stat line: 14 games – 106 targets for 70/1075/11 (WR11 Fantasy Finish)
A.J. Brown‘s sophomore season was very good to him as well as his fantasy managers. His targets increased from 84 in 2019 to 106, he had nearly 20 more receptions and three more touchdowns. It helped tremendously that QB Ryan Tannehill took over for Marcus Mariota and the Titans began to dominate. Brown is a bog-bodied receiver and tough to bring to the ground. He posted over 1,000 yards over the past two seasons but, let’s be honest, this is a Derrick Henry-based offense.
Whether or not the Titans can sustain their offense remains to be seen. If they can continue on their trajectory, Brown should benefit in the passing game with WR Corey Davis no longer on the team, vacating 92 targets.
6. Calvin Ridley | Falcons
Andy 7 | Jason 7 | Mike 6
2020 stat line: 15 games – 143 targets for 90/1374/9 (WR4 Fantasy Finish)
That is correct. It’s Calvin Ridley, not Julio Jones, who is the higher-ranked Falcons WR. As you will see, Jones is on this list, but the more important fact here is that the Ballers have two wide receivers in Atlanta ranked in the top-10. Ridley had his breakout season last year leading the league with eight games of 100 plus receiving yards. Ridley also led the NFL in air yards with 2,042, which equates to 41% of the team’s total, and he was explosive against bottom-16 defenses.
These numbers may be inflated because Jones only played nine games in 2020 and the Falcons were consistently playing from behind to try and eke out a win. The Falcons’ run game was practically non-existent, which also helped Ridley’s numbers. Either way, it will be a challenge bottling up Ridley in 2021 after a big season and rapport built with QB Matt Ryan.
7. Michael Thomas | Saints
Andy 9 | Jason 6 | Mike 5
2020 stat line: 7 games – 55 targets for 40/438/0
Michael Thomas had a rough season last year. He battled injury and even a team suspension that led to him only seeing the field in seven games. It was a blow to those managers who drafted him in the 1st Round, but these things happen. There is no doubt that Thomas is an elite talent and deserves to be ranked in the top-10, albeit slightly lower than his usual standard.
The biggest concern (or maybe opportunity) for Thomas in 2021 is QB Drew Brees‘ retirement. Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill are expected to battle it out for the starting role and you couldn’t have two polar opposite styles of quarterbacks if you tried. However, the Saints are severely lacking at talented WR depth with Tre’Quan Smith nebulously assuming the WR2 role. If Thomas can stay healthy, he should come back closer to form this season. The absence of TE Jared Cook should also give Thomas a bit of a boost in target share.
8. Justin Jefferson | Vikings
Andy 6 | Jason 8 | Mike 10
2020 stat line: 16 games – 125 targets for 88/1400/7 (WR6 Fantasy Finish)
It’s not often we see a rookie WR go ham in their debut season. Justin Jefferson took that adage, crumpled it up, cursed at QB Kirk Cousins, and set off for the races. He finished 2020 as the WR6 and it wasn’t like he was the only target for the Vikings. WR Adam Thielen is pretty darn good, but Jefferson was explosive. He set the record for receiving yards by a rookie with 1,400 and was the WR4 from Weeks 3 through 17. He had seven games over 100 receiving yards as a rookie, which is tied for second-most with Adams, Hopkins, and Diggs. Plus, he’s only 22 years old.
He was far more productive at home than on the road, scoring zero touchdowns in his eight road games and averaging 10.1 points. But, he more than made up for it at home. He added nearly 30 yards per game at home, seven touchdowns, and averaged 18.7 fantasy points in Minnesota.
9. Julio Jones | Falcons
Andy 8 | Jason 10 | Mike 7
2020 stat line: 9 games – 68 targets for 51/771/3
As mentioned before, the Falcons have two wide receivers to crack the top-10 early 2021 rankings. Jones had a down year in 2020, but he battled injury the entire season. Prior to last year, Jones finished as a WR8 or better in six straight seasons averaging 161 targets, 103 receptions, 1,564 yards, and six touchdowns over that six-year period.
There are some concerns, the big one being Ridley’s rise to prominence in the Falcons’ offense. Jones is no longer a spring chicken and his absence from the field was a reminder of that reality. Still, if he can stay on the field, Jones is an elite powerhouse who will likely finish in the top-10 in 2021.
10. D.K. Metcalf | Seahawks
Andy 10 | Jason 9 | Mike 12
2020 stat line: 16 games – 129 targets for 83/1303/10 (WR7 Fantasy Finish)
D.K. Metcalf feasted in his second year. He had the third-most routes run at the WR position and the second-most air yards (behind Ridley) but was oddly only 17th in receptions. Like Brown, he is a big wide receiver and he is blazing fast. Metcalf proved that he isn’t just the deep threat, but he can also be productive on short and intermediate routes with 55 targets on short routes (74.5% catch rate), and 32 targets on intermediate routes (69.8% catch rate).
The obvious concerns for Metcalf are QB Russell Wilson‘s consistency throughout the season, the Seahawks’ “run-first” mentality, and the big contract that WR Tyler Lockett received this offseason. However, with another year under his belt, Metcalf is poised to keep improving.
Make sure you listen to Tuesday’s episode of the Fantasy Footballers podcast and stay tuned for the Early WR Rankings part two.