Up next in our post-draft dynasty ranking series is the wide receiver position.
With more and more NFL teams leaning on the pass, wide receiver has quickly become the deepest position in fantasy. That goes for dynasty, as well, with the middle tiers full of young talent.
Be sure to also check out our post-draft quarterback and running bank dynasty rankings.
Note: Non-PPR scoring is assumed. Each player age listed is as of September 1, 2014, which falls just prior to Week 1 of the upcoming season. Draft year and round is also shown for each player.
No longer is Calvin Johnson a spring chicken, but he’s in his prime at age 28 and remains in position for long-term success in the Lions’ pass-heavy offense. Johnson missed a pair of games in 2013 but still finished No. 3 in fantasy points at the position. He’s now put together three consecutive seasons with 84-plus receptions and 1,489-plus yards. “Megatron” has scored 12 or more touchdowns in a single season four times since 2008. The other wideouts in our top tier are younger, but none are quite as dominant as Johnson. He’s still the man to own at the position.
Fantasy’s No. 5 scorer at wide receiver last season, Dez Bryant may not even be at his peak yet. The 25 year old has put together back to back seasons with at least 92 receptions, 1,249 yards, and 12 touchdowns. With Scott Linehan now calling the team’s plays, it’s expected that Bryant will be even more involved in the team’s pass-heavy gameplan. Bryant always seems to be a bit beat up, but he’s missed just one game over the last three seasons. An elite, young talent in a strong, pass-oriented offense, Bryant is primed for many more huge fantasy seasons.
A foot injury landed Julio Jones on injured reserve after only five games last season. Of course, Jones was dominant when active, racking up 41 receptions, 580 yards, and two touchdowns. If we extrapolate that line over 16 games, Jones would’ve finished 0.2 fantasy points behind Gordon for the top spot. Coming off the injury, 25-year-old Jones is going to be undervalued this offseason. It’s a good time to try and acquire him at a discount.
It’s hard to find more consistent stat lines than those A.J. Green put up over the last two seasons. He caught 97 balls for 1,350 yards and 11 scores in 2012 before racking up a 98-1426-11 line in 2013. Green was fantasy’s No. 4 wide receiver both seasons. Say what you want about Andy Dalton, he gets the ball to his best receiver. The Bengals’ offense scored a ton of points in 2013 and is loaded with young talent. Only 25, the future remains bright for Green.
Peyton Manning’s top target in Denver’s record-setting 2013 offense, Demaryius Thomas hauled in 92 of 142 targets for 1,430 yards and 14 scores. That came one year after he caught 92 of 142 targets for 1,430 yards and 10 scores. How about that for consistency? Thomas won’t always have Manning throwing him passes, but he’s proven that he has the talent to sustain significant fantasy value. Just 26 and a top-five producer at the position each of the last two seasons, Thomas is as strong a player you’ll find for your top wideout slot.
The 2013 season showed us that Alshon Jeffery is going to be a playmaker in this league for a long time. Following an injury-plagued rookie campaign, Jeffery became a dominant producer opposite Brandon Marshall in 2013. The 2012 second-round pick hauled in 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven scores, while also adding 105 yards on the ground. That was good enough to make him fantasy’s No. 9 wideout. Jeffery is 24 and will have no trouble finding targets, especially near the goal line, in Marc Trestman’s offense.
One of the top wide receiver prospects to enter the league over the past decade, Sammy Watkins is already Buffalo's top offensive target. The Bills run the ball a lot under Doug Marrone, but their up-tempo offense allows for a lot of plays. Marginal improvement from EJ Manuel will allow Watkins to flirt with the Top 30 as a rookie. Eventual development and quarterback improvement will help him to long-term WR1 production.
Standing tall at 6'5", Mike Evans joins 6'5" Vincent Jackson to form one of the league's tallest one-two punches at wideout. With almost zero competition for snaps, Evans is all but locked into a starting gig and a ton of targets right out of the gate. Tampa's underwhelming quarterback situation will hurt in the short-term, but Evans is a big-time talent. He’ll be in the Top 20 conversation for the next decade.
Despite working as a returner and situational fourth receiver for most of his rookie season, Cordarrelle Patterson scored seven touchdowns, including three on the ground. The do-it-all play-maker was No. 38 in fantasy points at the position. Primed for a much larger role going forward – not to mention an upgrade to Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback – 23-year-old Patterson is one of 2014’s top breakout candidates.
Injuries above him on the depth chart forced Keenan Allen into San Diego’s starting lineup early in his rookie season. He was ready for the promotion. Philip Rivers’ top target hauled in 71 balls for 1,046 yards and eight scores. Including the playoffs, 6’3” Allen scored seven times over the team’s last six games. Amazingly, Allen already had a 1,000-yard season under his belt before he turned 22. He’s the youngest non-rookie in our Top 20. If there’s one concern here, it’s Allen’s dedication to the game. Prior to playing regular snaps, he admitted that he considered quitting football to pursue a music career. There’s no current sign Allen will step away, but it’s worth noting in the event that he or the team face serious adversity in the coming years.
Josh Gordon was suspended for the first two games of 2013. That didn’t stop him from finishing No. 1 in fantasy scoring at the wide receiver position. So why is Gordon, who is nearly seven years younger than Johnson, not ranked No. 1? Two reasons. First of all, there are serious off-the-field/maturity questions surrounding the 23 year old. He’s currently facing a lengthy suspension for another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. Second, as dominant as Gordon was in 2013, he’s an obvious regression candidate with Norv Turner out and Kyle Shanahan in as play-caller. The Browns will run more as they become more competitive, leaving Gordon without as much of the garbage-time production he racked up in 2013. Gordon is an elite talent, but he has to get his act together before he can be relied on as a top dynasty asset.
A broken leg held Randall Cobb to only six games this past season. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Cobb was as strong a fantasy asset as expected when healthy. He was No. 8 in fantasy points per game when active and scored four times in six regular-season games. With James Jones and Jermichael Finley no longer on the roster, Cobb is guaranteed a feature role in the Packers’ high-scoring offense. Still only 23, Cobb has many years of WR1 production left in the tank.
Following impressive, but under-the-radar breakout sophomore seasons, Kendall Wright and Michael Floyd enter 2014 as two of the game’s top young wide receivers. In his first year as a full-time starter opposite Larry Fitzgerald, Floyd caught 66 balls for 1,054 yards and five touchdowns. Wright’s 94 receptions were seventh-most at the position, allowing him 1,079 receiving yards. Wright was only targeted in the end zone once all season, however, which limited him to two touchdowns. Floyd was No. 23 in fantasy points, while Wright was No. 31. Both players are 24 and will be key components in their respective team’s offenses over the next decade.
Antonio Brown did not disappoint in his first season as Pittsburgh’s top wideout. He ranked second in the league with 110 receptions. The former sixth-round pick nearly reached 1,500 receiving yards and scored eight touchdowns. Only six wideouts scored more fantasy points. Still only 25, Brown is a borderline dynasty WR1…Fantasy’s No. 11 wide receiver in 2013, Jordy Nelson racked up career-highs in targets (127), receptions (85), and yards (1,314). Now 28, Nelson has plenty of years left as one of Aaron Rodgers’ top targets, but the return of Cobb and more of a dedication to the run game will limit his ceiling more than in past years.
Considering that he’s put together seven straight seasons with at least 80 catches and 1,000 yards, Brandon Marshall may seem low as a third-tier wideout. As strong as Marshall has been, he’s now 30 and Jeffery is quickly making a push to take over as Chicago’s franchise wide receiver. Marshall remains a quality short-term WR1, but it’s easier to downgrade older players with the position as deep with young talent as ever before.
It was a lost 2013 season for Percy Harvin. Acquired by Seattle last offseason, hip and concussion issues held Harvin to one target during the entire regular season. Having now missed 22 games over the last two years and at least one game in four of his five NFL seasons, durability is an obvious concern for Harvin. Of course, he’s only 25, the featured receiver in Seattle’s highly-productive offense, and one of the game’s top playmakers. He remains a strong dynasty asset and can probably be had at a discount this offseason.
Not unlike Harvin, Michael Crabtree missed a significant portion of the 2013 season due to injury. A torn Achilles cost him all but five regular season games. Crabtree quickly became Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target back in 2012 en route to an 85-catch, 1105-yard, 9-touchdown season. He was fantasy’s No. 15 wideout. Crabtree’s ceiling will be limited a bit by San Francisco’s run-heavy offense and the presence of ageless Anquan Boldin and touchdown-monster Vernon Davis. Still, he’s 26 and one of the top talents at the position.
Following the departure of Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith took over as Baltimore’s top wideout in 2013. The Ravens’ offensive woes limited the talented 25 year old to only four touchdowns, but he did haul in 65 balls for 1,128 yards. Smith has never missed a game in his career and has put up at least 841 receiving yards in each of his three NFL seasons. With Gary Kubiak now in control of the offense, expect more consistency from Smith going forward.
Selected in the first round of May's draft, Odell Beckham immediately steps in as the favorite for No. 3 duties in New York. Victor Cruz is locked in as the clubs top target (for now), but it won’t take long for the speedy Beckham to take over as Eli Manning’s favorite targets. He’s better than Rueben Randle. Expect a slow start, but Beckham makes for a solid long-term WR2.
Sean Payton likes to rotate receivers and spread the ball around, but there are plenty of fantasy points to be had in New Orleans. First-round pick Brandin Cooks is tiny, but has big-time speed and a good all-around receiver. He'll be a fixture in the lineup on passing downs and, with Marques Colston’s career winding down, will be Drew Brees’ favorite target sooner rather than later.
Jordan Matthews will start out as Philadelphia's primary slot receiver. He's expected to be the club's long-term No. 1 wideout, however, and will quickly eat away at Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper's targets as the year progresses. Considering the high-scoring, Chip Kelly offense he’ll be working out of for years to come, big/quick Matthews has a ton of dynasty upside.
Pierre Garcon led the NFL with 113 receptions last season. Force-fed the ball by Robert Griffin III for a majority of the season, Garcon put up 1,346 yards and scored five times. He was fantasy’s No. 13 wide receiver. Although he’s never scored more than six times in a single season, Garcon is in his prime at 28 years old and has a clear path to a significant offensive role… Forced into an expanded role with Reggie Wayne on injured reserve, T.Y. Hilton reached 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career last season. Of course, targets will be harder to find going forward with Wayne and Dwayne Allen back from injury, and Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief now in the picture. Hilton is only 24 and locked into Indianapolis’ improving starting lineup, however, which makes him a strong WR3 in dynasty.
DeAndre Hopkins and Tavon Austin disappointed a bit as rookies, but both have youth, talent, and opportunity on their side. Hopkins showed flashes of his enormous talent early on in 2013 before struggling along with the Houston offense down the stretch. Still only 21, Hopkins is certain to become a more featured option in the Texans’ offense with Bill O’Brien now in control and Andre Johnson about to turn 33. Austin scored six times as a rookie, including five on 49 offensive touches. Standing at 5’8/176, Austin will struggle to find targets near the end zone, but has the quickness and talent to generate big plays. The Rams’ offense is headed in the right direction and the 23-year-old Austin will be a bigger part of the gameplan going forward.
DeSean Jackson was fantasy’s No. 10 wide receiver last season, but he was certainly helped by the high-scoring Eagles offense. Now with Washington, Jackson is second in line for targets in a less effective offense. He’s still one of the game’s top playmakers at age 27, however, which locks him in as a top-30 dynasty wideout…Cruz struggled along with the rest of the Giants’ offense last season. He missed two games and scored only four times (three of which came in Week 1) after putting up a total of 19 during the previous two seasons. He’s in his prime at 27 and is New York’s top wideout with Nicks gone. It’s not a bad time to try and buy low.