Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Wide Receiver Tiers and Rankings 2018
August is when more and more fantasy football leagues begin drafting which means draft prep, monitoring training camps, depth chart battles and injuries. All of this greatly impacts your research, and if you actually have leagues that draft later this month you may have an advantage over leagues that draft early.
Either way if you are going to do draft prep you may as well do it right, and utilize the best methods and tools. My absolute favorite tool is positional tiers. If you are still solely relying on overall rankings you are selling yourself and your fantasy season short.
And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Athlon Sports’ 2018 Fantasy Football magazine, available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere.
Tier 1 - The Elite
1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Unlike past seasons, the debate for the No. 1 wide receiver was much closer. Depending on which days it is, I may switch my vote to DeAndre Hopkins but for now I am holding tight with Brown, aka Mr. Reliable. All Brown did last year was post his fifth straight season with at least 1,200 receiving yards, finishing with a league-best 1,533 to go along with nine touchdowns. Over the last five seasons, Brown has averaged 116 receptions, 1,570 yards and 10 touchdowns. The four-time, first-team All-Pro hasn't lost a step.
2. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Hopkins may have finished with fewer yards than Brown, but he had an NFL-best 13 touchdown catches while playing with three different starting quarterbacks. If Deshaun Watson is back under center and healthy in Week 1, Hopkins could easily become the top fantasy WR in 2018. Depending on scoring format he was No. 1 last year, and again that was with Watson playing just seven games.
3. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
A lost season in 2017 due to a fractured ankle, Beckham (above, right) enters 2018 as a question mark. But make no mistake, he's fully capable of returning to the form and level of production he provided from 2014-16, especially with running back Saquon Barkley expected to draw some of the defense's focus away from ODB. As long as Eli Manning can stay upright (and Beckham can stay healthy) 1,400 yards and double-digit TDs are a possibility.
4. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
This will be the year Thomas crosses the double-digit touchdown mark in New Orleans, I can feel it. The Saints' dominant running game limited Thomas' opportunities somewhat, and while New Orleans certainly won't abandon the run, I like Thomas' chances of getting a bigger piece of the offensive pie in 2018. Don't forget Thomas still had 1,245 receiving yards and had five touchdowns last season and Mark Ingram will miss the first four games because of a suspension.
5. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Green was targeted a whopping 144 times in 2017, but was only able to haul in 75 of them. Quarterback play may be the largest culprit and although that may not be changing this year, Green did plenty of damage with his opportunities, finishing with 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns. Big plays are his forte, so if the Bengals are behind Green will be a key cog in this offense as always.
Tier 2 - Near Elite
6. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Allen (right) ended 2017 with 1,393 receiving yards and six touchdowns. But most importantly, he played in all 16 games and showed no signs of concern in his return from a torn ACL. Now with another offseason to strengthen his legs he should be in the same or even better position in 2018. If Allen ends up being my No. 1 fantasy WR, so be it. He finished 2017 third at the position and a repeat could definitely happen.
7. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Jones' talent is undeniable. He has been a top-five receiver in most of his career, including last season (fifth). He did this primarily with receptions and yardage however as his three touchdowns impacted his fantasy scoring. His 1,444 receiving yards were second only to Antonio Brown. The targets will remain, and now that his contract situation is resolved somewhat he should be good to go.
8. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Evans was a bust last season considering he was coming off a 1,300-yard and 12-touchdown 2016 campaign. In 2017, those numbers dropped to 1,001 and five. Although the Jameis Winston saga is still unfolding, Evans could be in for a nice bounce-back season and at a hefty discount. I am willing to give him another whirl, but wouldn’t blame anyone for taking the others in this tier that follow.
9. Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings
Diggs had another nice season with plenty of non-existent games sprinkled in throughout. Diggs cracked the top 20 thanks to his 849 yards and eight touchdowns, and I think he has the potential for even more. If, and it is a big “if”, Diggs stays healthy he could dominate with Kirk Cousins as his quarterback. Diggs had the top “contested catch” score last year according to Pro Football Focus.
10. Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams
New season, new team once again for Cooks who is now with the Rams' high-octane offense. He had a solid year with the elite Tom Brady, so a repeat of 2017 with Jared Goff as his QB may be a stretch, but Cooks should produce similar numbers, with a slight hit in the targets department.
11. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
Adams is the clear-cut No. 1 option in Green Bay, even though he was really last season too. Aaron Rodgers will be back with a vengeance and with no true vertical threat as of yet, Adams should see plenty of targets and red-zone opportunities. With 10 touchdowns and 885 yards resulting in a top-15 finish in 2017, it's entirely possible that his yards will go up with little change in his TD totals. Remember, Rodgers played in just seven games last season.
12. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Hill was a monster last season, but also had some disappearing acts. A blessing and a curse, Hill’s volatility is worth the stress and anxiety more often than not, but the chance of a really poor showing is always there. Hill had seven touchdowns and 1,183 receiving yards in 2017, which is more than solid, as he wound up a top-10 fantasy WR. We will see how he fares with Patrick Mahomes as his QB. Just like last year, Hill has plenty of upside, but also carries a fair amount of risk.
Tier 3 - Potential Superstars
13. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
Baldwin is already dinged up so we will need to monitor his health and recovery closely. If he is fine and will start season as normal, Baldwin will return as the top option in the Seahawks offense. He finished in the top 15 in 2017 with 991 yards and eight touchdowns. If Russell Wilson can actually start the season well, improvement is a definite possibility. Baldwin is easily one of my safest (if healthy) and favorite players at the position, and 2018 is no different.
14. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
No Andrew Luck and Hilton (above, right) still almost racked up 1,000 yards. With only four touchdowns it was still a disappointing season for one of the safer target hogs in the game. With Luck back and actually throwing (I KNOW! It is happening) Hilton could be in for a big year and get overlooked on draft day.
15. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Thielen rounds out the top 15 and if you would have told me last year I would have two Vikings receivers in the top 15 I would have laughed. Now however, not so much. Thielen absolutely surprised with 91 catches, and 1,276 yards. Only four touchdowns, but that could improve with Kirk Cousins at the helm as well. If Stefon Diggs gets dinged up again Thielen will take advantage and could put up even bigger numbers. Another top-15 finish may not happen, but his opportunities will be there again.
16. Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns
Landry had nine touchdowns and 987 receiving yards somehow with Jay Cutler as his primary quarterback. Although he is on a new team with question marks at QB, this Browns offense has potential to surprise. Landry is the unquestioned No. 1 target regardless of what happens with Josh Gordon.
17. Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions
Jones blew up last year with a top-10 performance in Detroit and could come close to comparable numbers this year. Matthew Stafford and the Lions love to throw the ball so Jones matching his 2017 numbers (1,101 yards, 9 TDs) isn’t completely insane. I like him as an overlooked option this year.
18. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Father time did not slow Fitz last season, and I think he has one last season to wrap up his Hall of Fame career. Fitzgerald finished as the No. 4 wide receiver in fantasy (Athlon scoring), thanks to his 109 catches, 1,156 yards and six touchdowns. As well as he and Carson Palmer (when healthy) worked together, Fitzgerald could be in even better shape at QB with Sam Bradford, provided he stays healthy. David Johnson's return could eat into Fitzgerald's target share, but it should help his other numbers.
19. Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders
I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I still view Cooper as a top-20 fantasy option. Derek Carr had a lousy 2017 season, but with Jordy Nelson now in Oakland and Michael Crabtree gone, perhaps Cooper will truly be able to shine. He should receive plenty of targets this year as Jon Gruden has made no secret he wants to make Cooper a focal point of the Raiders' offense.
20. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Good old reliable here, along the lines of Larry Fitzgerald, but Thomas has a quarterback who excelled last season in Case Keenum. If Keenum can build off of last season's success, Thomas will reclaim his spot as a top-15 fantasy option. His 949 yards and five touchdowns were good enough for a top-20 showing in 2017 and that was with the QB carousel the Broncos went through last season. Thomas should be able to at least match, if not improve upon, those numbers with Keenum at the helm.
Tier 4 - Stars
21. Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
Robinson will be back and on a new squad after his lost 2017 season. The Bears could be a sneaky-good offense if all the stars align, and Robinson has always been one of my favorite targets in fantasy. If Keenan Allen can return and dominate why can’t the young and uber-talented Robinson? Especially if Mithchell Trubisky takes the leap forward everyone is expecting the second-year quarterback too under new head coach Matt Nagy.
22. Jordy Nelson, Oakland Raiders
It may be hard to believe, but I am in the camp that Nelson can return to fantasy prominence in Oakland. He may not be the deadly deep threat, or pass interference-inducing nightmare for defensive backs any more, but I think he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. Either way an improvement on last season is likely, but who knows if the decline is legit and he becomes nothing more than waiver wire fodder. I can still see an 800- or 900-yard, six-touchdown season from Nelson.
23. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
Somewhat quietly, Tate wound up in the top 20 at the position (Athlon scoring) last season. He may not be flashy and scored just five touchdowns in 2017, but Tate is reliable and remains a primary target in pass-heavy offense. Another 1,000-yard season with at least five TDs should be a real possibility unless Kenny Golladay beaks out this year or the Lions find a consistent running game.
24. Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
The question mark of all question marks. Gordon is already making headlines, but not for the right reasons, but it's not like off-field concerns are anything new when it comes to him. Gordon is very talented and if he had a quarterback who could actually hit his targets, his 2017 numbers would have been even better. Either way, he should be back and has a shot at being Jarvis Landry's tag-team partner following the trade of Corey Coleman. A slight QB improvement could result in a huge 2018 for Gordon. I am buying but be aware of the risk.
25. Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles
Jeffrey (above, right) had a nice 2017 season with the Super Bowl champs and was a favorite red-zone target, finishing with nine touchdowns. Many are saying Nelson Agholor is the WR to own on the Eagles, and they may be right, but Jeffery's combination of reliable hands and big body are a perfect recipe for touchdowns and I don’t see why he can’t have seven or more this season along with 800-plus yards.
Tier 5 - Safe Production or Fantasy Seduction?
26. Michael Crabtree, Baltimore Ravens
New team, and the opportunity to play with a dynamic rookie quarterback with a big arm (at least at some point) could make Crabtree a sneaky option this year. Ravens receivers don’t typically generate a lot of fantasy buzz (or production), but Crabtree had eight TD catches last year. That may not happen this year, but he should get plenty of targets regardless of who is at QB for Baltimore. In PPR leagues that is gold, and Crabtree should be cheap.
27. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Smith-Schuster made a nice splash as a rookie, and happens to have a great Instagram and Twitter profile too. And even though he lines up behind Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell in the target pecking order, Smith-Schuster still put together a borderline top-20 fantasy season (917 yards, 7 TDs). There's no reason to expect him to not at least match those numbers in 2018 considering Martavis Bryant is now in Oakland. Smith-Schuster's biggest competition to be Ben Roethlisberger's No. 3 target figures to come from tight end Vance McDonald and rookie James Washington.
28. Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs
Watkins is on a new team, which should really surprise no one, and in many ways it is a put-up-or-go-away type of season for the super-hyped receiver. He had some of those flashes of excellence last season, but largely was a non-factor in the Rams' passing game. He did however show his prowess for getting into the end zone (8 TDs). If he can find a way to match that and increase his yardage as a Chief, he will have value. The risk is prevalent, but so is the upside.
29. Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers
Funchess (above, right) was a borderline top-20 receiver in 2017? Get outta here. No, really he was thanks to his eight touchdowns and tight end Greg Olsen missing nine games because of a broken foot. Funchess remains the Panthers' No. 1 WR and should offer similar production. He may fly somewhat under the radar on draft day. Use this to your advantage to get a potential top-20 option in the middle rounds or for a low auction amount.
30. Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
Davis didn’t play much until the end of the season, but he performed admirably enough when he was on the field. Marcus Mariota will need to return to his rookie form for Titans WRs to have fantasy relevance again, but Davis has an excellent opportunity to emerge as the top option. The potential for top-30 value is here, but Davis needs to stay healthy.
31. DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
32. Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
33. Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers
34. Robby Anderson, New York Jets
35. Will Fuller, Houston Texans
36. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
37. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
38. Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins
39. Kelvin Benjamin, Buffalo Bills
40. Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins
41. Sterling Shepard, New York Giants
42. Chris Hogan, New England Patriots
43. Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos
44. Martavis Bryant, Oakland Raiders
45. Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco 49ers
46. Rishard Matthews, Tennessee Titans
47. DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
48. Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
49. Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars
50. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
51. Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
52. Corey Coleman, Buffalo Bills
53. Ted Ginn, New Orleans Saints
54. Donte Moncrief, Jacksonville Jaguars
55. Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons
56. Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
57. Mike Wallace, Philadelphia Eagles
58. Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins
59. Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
60. Kenny Britt, New England Patriots
61. Willie Snead, Baltimore Ravens
62. D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
63. Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
64. Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
65. John Brown, Baltimore Ravens
66. Cameron Meredith, New Orleans Saints
67. Paul Richardson, Washington Redskins
68. Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
69. Dez Bryant, Free Agent
70. Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
-- Tiers by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.