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Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Wide Receiver Tiers and Rankings 2017

Julio Jones

Julio Jones

Well the official excitement for fantasy football month is here! August is where more and more leagues begin drafting which means draft prep, monitoring training camp developments, depth chart battles and injuries. All of this greatly impacts your fantasy draft research, especially depending on when your league drafts.

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Either way if you are going to do draft prep you may as well do it right, and utilize the best methods and tools. In that respect, my absolute favorite tool is positional tiers. If you are still solely relying on overall rankings you are selling yourself and fantasy season short.

Tier 1

1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

With “only”12 touchdowns and 1,284 yards it wasn’t necessarily a dominant season for Brown. It was still very good, and there is no reason he shouldn’t retain the title of the top fantasy WR for the fourth year in a row. If Martavis Bryant indeed returns, it may actually help Brown’s numbers. The key is Ben Roethlisberger’s health. A full season with him will only help Brown crush in 2017.

2. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

Will Brandon Marshall’s arrival eat in to OBJ’s targets and/or receptions this season? Perhaps, but in fantasy he has been a stud each season and has had 10 or more touchdowns in each of his first three years. The days of red zone dominance by Beckham may be over, but he will still get his and his knack for huge plays are certain to remain in 2017.

3. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Green’s injury last season put a damper on what was lining up to be a monster year. He was leading the league in volume and had 964 yards in basically nine games. With some mediocre weapons alongside him, Green should remain an elite option, provided he stays on the field. 

4. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Jones’ inability to play a full season has impacted his numbers and fantasy value to a degree. His lack of touchdowns (just six in 2016) also has been a hindrance for his fantasy owners. Yet he remains one of the elite fantasy WRs in the entire league and the talk of more targets in the red zone on an offense as explosive as Atlanta’s does nothing to change his appeal as an early-round pick.

5. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Evans is a ball hog. Literally, he hoarded 30 percent of the pass plays in the Bucs’ offense last season. While some of the new faces will eat into his volume some, it also should result in less attention from defenses. DeSean Jackson’s presence as a downfield threat should provide Evans more room to work with compared to last season. He may not catch as many balls, but 85 receptions and 1,275 yards is a possibility.

And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Athlon Sports’ 2017 Fantasy Football magazine, available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere.

Dez Bryant

Tier 2

6. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

Hilton is right outside of the top tier because my preference is to limit that to five. However, he is more of a 5.1/5a than a 6. Concerns about Andrew Luck’s recovery from offseason shoulder surgery are valid and certainly impact Hilton’s outlook and draft stock. Donte Moncrief’s increased role also could mean fewer targets for Hilton, but he still figures to stay busy in this offense. Yardage shouldn’t be an issue as usual, but the touchdown production may not be there. 

7. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

The thought is that Bryant and Dak Prescott will be a more productive combination in their second seasons together. Bryant also missed three games last season yet still finished with eight touchdowns. It’s no stretch to think Bryant can produce another 1,000-yard season with double-digit TDs, even in Dallas’ run-centric offense.

8. Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders

Cooper may wind up in the next tier by the start of the season, but I think he is ready for a breakout campaign. He only had a few monster games last season, and plenty of duds. With Michael Crabtree another season older, Cooper may finally be poised to reach his full potential as long as Derek Carr is completely recovered from his broken leg.

9. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

Thomas no longer has Brandin Cooks to eat into his volume, which was already high to begin with. Double-digit touchdowns and 1,100 yards are perfectly within in reach with a realistic shot of even higher numbers.

10. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

I am likely lower on Nelson than most and his second half surge is reassuring for sure. But there are a lot of weapons in Green Bay, even if Nelson is the undisputed top dog. He will get his numbers, but the risk of injury is increased slightly due to his age (32). That said, double-digit touchdowns and 1,000 yards remain well within reach as long as Aaron Rodgers is leading this offense.

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Tier 3

11. Brandin Cooks, New England Patriots

The doubts about how Cooks will work in this offense may be valid, but I don’t see it. Cooks is a big-time playmaker, and this has a Moss-Brady feel to it. I am not saying Cooks is a Moss-esque player, but he is an obvious talent upgrade at wide receiver for the defending Super Bowl champs. He may not get to 10 touchdowns because of the presence of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, but Cooks should still plenty of targets, and produce his share of big plays.

12. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Hopkins has come out in full support of quarterback Tom Savage this offseason, and it can’t possibly get worse than what the Texans’ got from the position in 2016. Hopkins’ talent is undeniable and if Savage can even perform at a league average level, Hopkins should be in for a bounce-back season. Don’t forget, he still nearly went for 1,000 yards last season despite seeing fewer targets.

13. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks

Baldwin’s touchdowns were cut in half (7 vs. 14) compared to 2016, as the Seahawks’ offensive line woes and Russell Wilson’s health impacted the passing game. Eddie Lacy’s arrival should help ease some of the pressure on Wilson, which in turn should lead to more opportunities for Baldwin. He may not sniff 14 touchdowns, but I can see at least 1,000 yards and a shot at double-digit scores.

14. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

If Blake Bortles can even take a small step forward, Robinson’s numbers should improve quite a bit. The talent is there, but the connection between the Jaguars’ top target and QB needs to be improved. In the red zone alone last season, Robinson managed to haul in just eight of 22 targets. While the arrival of Leonard Fournette may mean fewer pass attempts for Bortles, Robinson still figures to get his fair share of opportunities. If Robinson can make good on a few more of those, then he may be able to reclaim his position among the top fantasy WRs in the league.

15. Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams

While the change of scenery is noteworthy in and of itself, it doesn’t change the key thing when it comes to Watkins – potential. In just eight games last season, he saw 52 targets and finished with 430 yards and two touchdowns. The problem is he’s never played in enough games to count and his health is already an issue once again in training camp. Watkins has said he’s fine and while the jury is very much out on Jared Goff and the Rams’ offense in general, Watkins figures to remain the primary target for his new team. Watkins could finish as a top-10 fantasy WR but he has to stay on the field to have a shot at doing so.

16. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers

The Chargers don’t lack for weapons, but the one with the most upside is Allen. Unfortunately, he’s also the one with the highest injury risk, coming off of a torn ACL. If he can make it through training camp and the preseason unscathed, he could be a legitimate WR1 once again. But he also could produce more like a WR2/3 because of the depth around him and depending on if the coaching staff tries to limit his snaps to keep him healthy.

17. Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles

Jeffrey is one of the biggest question marks in 2017 with a new team, his injury history, and the fact he served a four-game suspension last season. His combination of size and speed should play well in an offense that has been lacking a true No. 1 wideout. The caveat is that Jeffery has been hyped heading into a season before, only to wind up being a disappointment.

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Tier 4

18. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

Thomas could end up higher before the season starts. Even though he’s best consistent, in terms of both volume and production, Thomas has become somewhat underappreciated in fantasy circles.  Denver’s quarterback situation is cause for concern, but that didn’t stop Thomas from recording his fifth straight 1,000 yard season. He is the safest bet in this tier, and will likely be moving up before we get to Week 1.

19. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

Let’s just this out of the way – 12 touchdowns aren’t happening again. There are too many other weapons for Aaron Rodgers to throw to. Adams will remain a productive fantasy option, however, and could approach double-digit scores again, although something along the lines of 800 yards and eight TDs seem more realistic. Temper expectations.

20. Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders

Crabtree has reinvented himself in Oakland as a reliable target for Derek Carr. He’ll turn 30 shortly after the start of the season and it’s certainly possible that he posts similar numbers compared to what he’s done in his first two years with the Raiders.

21. Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins

Pryor came on in a big way for Cleveland last season, and he has been wowing spectators and his new coaches early on in training camp with circus catches. The upside is certainly there as the top target in a better offense with a far better quarterback situation compared to the Browns. There’s still risk taking him this high, but the reward may be worth it.

22. Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings

Diggs was being compared to Antonio Brown with his knack for getting open and running routes of all types. Unfortunately, injuries stunted his development but that doesn’t mean he can’t continue his upward trajectory this season. Sam Bradford may not have a big arm, but he’s accurate and Diggs will be one of his top targets. The touchdowns may not be that high, but 1,000 yards is certainly within reach after recording 903 in 13 games last season.

23. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

Hill became a fantasy darling last season after producing 12 touchdowns (3 on special teams) and making big play after big play. His usage is considered to be stable, and there is room to grow with this offense, but there’s plenty of risk too. I love his upside playmaking ability. Just expect some dud weeks.

24. Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos

Denver may have the most stable and safest wide receiver tandem in the league with Demaryius Thomas and Sanders. Sanders stepped up early last season and although he saw his involvement decrease in the second half, he still posted his third straight 1,000-yard campaign. Thomas may remain the top target, but there’s no reason to expect a big dip in Sanders’ usage or numbers in 2017.

25. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

Edelman was a workhorse last season with nearly 29 percent of the Patriots’ target share going to him. Brandin Cooks only adds to the mounts that Tom Brady has to feed, so it may be tough for Edelman to maintain that volume. He is shifty and a reliable target for Brady so Edelman will get his share of opportunities. Another 1,000-yard season with five touchdowns should be attainable.

Editor's note: Edelman is out for the season after tearing his ACL in the Patriots' third preseason game.

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Tier 5

26. Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins

Even with a 30-target dip from 2015 Landry still caught 94 balls and racked up 1,136 yards or more for the second season in a row. With Ryan Tannehill likely out for the season, the familiarity may not be there right away, but Jay Cutler is more than serviceable and the reliability of Landry could bode well for both of them this season.

27. Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts

If Moncrief is healthy perhaps he can live up to the lofty expectations that have followed him in his young career. His size and speed combination with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis’ offense is an awfully appealing set up. This also is a contract year for Moncrief, so motivation shouldn’t be an issue either. Something along the lines of 750 yards and six touchdowns are reasonable expectations with a much higher ceiling.

28.  Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

He is still Carolina’s top wide receiver, but injury, motivation and fitness seem to be a consistent concern, not to mention the presence of reliable tight end Greg Olsen. Perhaps the addition of Christian McCaffrey will motivate the big, talented wideout this season. Cam Newton is coming off his own disappointing campaign, so everyone on the Panthers’ offense should be motivated to put forth better results. Benjamin could end up being a nice value pick based on his current ADP.

29. Eric Decker, Tennessee Titans

If Demaryius Thomas is underappreciated then Decker is the president of the club. Now in Tennessee with an exciting young offense Decker should provide a boost to the Titans’ passing game and re-establish his fantasy value. This seems like a fantastic fit for the crafty veteran, and his only concern is health. He’ll be well worth the risk if he’s able to rediscover his old form.

30. DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jackson has not looked the least bit old or that he’s slowing down. His past three seasons in Washington were actually improvements on his Philly years. Now he is playing alongside stud Mike Evans but the big plays should continue with the Bucs. Jackson’s touchdowns may dip, but the yardage potential remains, as does the upside for bigger and better numbers.

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Tier 6

31. Kenny Britt, Cleveland Browns
32. Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints
33. Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins
34. Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers
35. Devante Parker, Miami Dolphins
36. Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers
37. Rishard Matthews, Tennessee Titans
38. Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns
39. Cameron Meredith, Chicago Bears*
40. Brandon Marshall, New York Giants
41. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
42. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
43. Jordan Matthews, Buffalo Bills
44. Mike Wallace, Baltimore Ravens
45. Jeremy Maclin, Baltimore Ravens
46. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
47. John Brown, Arizona Cardinals
48. Tyrell Williams, San Diego Chargers
49. Breshad Perriman, Baltimore Ravens
50. Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
51. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

*Meredith is out for the season after injuring his knee in the Bears' third preseason game.

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Tier 7

52. Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions
53. Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins
54. Tedd Ginn, New Orleans Saints
55. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
56. Kevin White, Chicago Bears
57. Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins
58. Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
59. Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars
60. Taylor Gabriel, Atlanta Falcons
61. J.J Nelson, Arizona Cardinals
62. Tavon Austin, Los Angeles Rams
63. Anquan Boldin, Buffalo Bills
64. Zay Jones, Buffalo Bills
65. Malcolm Mitchell, New England Patriots
66. Eli Rogers, Pittsburgh Steelers
67. John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals
68. Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars
69. Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys
70. Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers
71. Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons
72. Brian Quick, Washington Redskins
73. Jaelen Strong, Houston Texans
74. Seth Roberts, Oakland Raiders
75. Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota Vikings

— Written 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 Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.