For X’s Fantasy QB rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/xs-2015-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings/
For X’s Fantasy RB rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/xs-2015-fantasy-football-running-back-rankings/
For X’s Fantasy TE rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/xs-2015-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings/
X’s 2015 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings (8/30/15):
1. Antonio Brown, PIT
Brown has been the epitome of fantasy football consistency. He is riding an NFL-record 33 straight games with at least 5 catches and at least 50 yards. He had at least 7 catches and 70 yards in each of the final eleven games from a season ago, with six 100+ yard receiving games in that span. Perhaps even more motivated by a huge contract being within reach, Brown is probably the safest non-QB asset in fantasy.
2. Dez Bryant, DAL
Playing in a run-oriented offense last year, Bryant still managed to lead the NFL with a career-high 16 TD catches. Bryant has caught at least 12 TDs in each of the last three seasons, and his 41 total TD receptions over that time frame are the most in the league. The Cowboys no longer have that bell cow RB to turn to, which means Bryant has an even higher ceiling this year.
3. Julio Jones, ATL
Jones finished last year 2nd in the NFL in receiving yards per game, and that was despite playing in multiple games at less than full strength with various hip/oblique/ankle ailments. He showed his fantasy potential in Weeks 14-16 of last year, when he picked up 555 yards over a three-game span. If the Falcons can finally figure out how to maximize him in the red zone (8 TDs in his last 21 games) he will be a fantasy beast.
4. Odell Beckham Jr., NYG
We’ve never seen a wide receiver burst on the scene the way Beckham did last year. After a modest start as he recovered from a hamstring injury, Beckham turned it on in a major way. He tied an NFL record by recording 90+ receiving yards in nine straight games. That dominant stretch included six games with 130+ yards. If his hamstrings hold up, Beckham could overtake the #1 spot in this list.
5. Calvin Johnson, DET
An ankle injury played a large role in Johnson having his least productive year since 2009 (Matthew Stafford’s rookie season). Still, Johnson managed to put up his fifth straight season with 70+ catches and 1,000+ yards – a reminder of how high his floor remains. Three of Megatron’s five 100+ yard games last season came in the final five weeks, and if he can avoid getting nicked again his production should stay at that level.
Jordy Nelson, GB (out for season – torn ACL)
Nelson continues to ascend in one of the league’s most prolific offenses. Last season was the second year in a row in which he set new career highs in receptions and receiving yards. Nelson was a highly consistent scoring threat as well, as he never had back-to-back games without a TD. He projects to be one of the steadiest fantasy assets in the league once again.
6. Demaryius Thomas, DEN
Thomas is the only player in the NFL with at least 1,400 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons. Last year, he obliterated that mark, finishing 2nd in the league with 1,619 yards. He has also recorded over 90 catches and double-digit TDs in each of the last three years. Denver is expected the run the ball more than they have during the Peyton Manning era, but Thomas is too good to be overly impacted by that.
7. A.J. Green, CIN
A problematic toe injury caused Green to have his least productive season as a pro last year. Still, Green’s career lows of 1,041 receiving yards and 6 TDs were useful for fantasy owners. Improved health and Andy Dalton getting more comfortable in Hue Jackson’s offense would certainly help him get back closer to his 2012-2013 level of production. Playing in a run-heavy offense means his ceiling is a little lower than the WRs ranked above him.
8. Mike Evans, TB
Evans is going to be a significant scoring threat each and every week he is out there. Despite mediocre quarterback play, he caught 10 TD passes in the final nine games of his rookie campaign. He set franchise records for most TD catches in a season (12) and most receiving yards over a three-game stretch (458). With a more talented QB who is more willing to toss up jump balls to big targets, Evans is primed for a major impact.
9. T.Y. Hilton, IND
From Week 6 to Week 12 of last season, there was a six-game stretch in which Hilton had four games where he scored a TD and averaged over 23 yards per reception. He is a big play threat, and that was exemplified during that run. He plays with an aggressive QB in Andrew Luck, and his recent contract extension is a clear sign that the team has major plans to continue to take advantage of his explosiveness.
10. Alshon Jeffery, CHI
Jeffery got hot late last season, catching at least 1 TD pass in all six games from Week 11 to Week 16. He also had 70+ receiving yards in five of those six games. With Brandon Marshall now gone, Jeffery becomes the clear cut #1 WR in this offense. He also has one less big receiver to compete with for red zone targets. Assuming all gets well with his training camp calf injury, Jeffery has a chance to approach the 1,421 yards he put up in 2013.
11. Randall Cobb, GB
When Cobb signed a free agent deal which was larger than Jordy Nelson’s deal, it raised a few eyebrows in the sports world. Now that Nelson is out for the season (ACL) Cobb has a golden opportunity to prove he was worth the investment. Cobb is coming off of his first 1,000+ yard season, and his 12 receiving TDs last year were 1 fewer than his career total heading into last year. He stepped up big in a contract year, but now has to prove he’s a legitimate #1 WR in the NFL.
12. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU
Hopkins’ breakout 1,210 yard season from a year ago came despite having Andre Johnson around. Now that Johnson, who was targeted over 140 times in 2014, is gone Hopkins is locked in as the go-to WR in Houston. Hopkins’ season ended in disappointing fashion with just 43 yards total over his final two games. Blame Case Keenum for that. The Hoyer/Mallett combination should be better for Hopkins than Keenum was.
13. Amari Cooper, OAK
We saw some big seasons from rookie WRs last year (Odell Beckham Jr, Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin immediately come to mind) and Cooper could have that kind of impact in 2015. It is apparent that the Raiders plan to use Cooper in a large variety of ways and will look to force-feed him as much as possible. Expect a very high usage rate here, which will mean only good things for the precision route runner.
14. Jordan Matthews, PHI
In each of Chip Kelly’s two years coaching the Eagles, his offense has produced a 1,300 yard receiver. Stepping into the #1 WR role for the Eagles this year is Matthews. He was overshadowed by bigger names in his draft class, but Matthews is coming off of a solid rookie season in which he had 8 TD receptions. All reports indicate he has looked faster and better in camp, and he should be the next WR to post big numbers in the Kelly system.
Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (out for season – torn ACL)
It took Benjamin no time at all to prove his value to Carolina’s air attack last season. He caught a TD pass in five of his first seven games, immediately establishing himself as the new #1 WR in the Panthers’ offense. Only five players in the league saw more targets than Benjamin did in 2014, and he was relentlessly targeted whether he had broken away from coverage or not. No veteran help was brought in, so he should continue to be a high volume productive receiver.
15. Brandon Marshall, NYJ
Playing under Chan Gailey should be beneficial for Marshall. Gailey had current Chargers WR Steve Johnson in Buffalo from 2010 to 2012, and those just happen to be the only three 1,000 yard seasons of Johnson’s career. Don’t be scared off by Marshall having Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB. DeAndre Hopkins managed to have a breakout year in Houston with Fitzpatrick, and Fitzpatrick had his best seasons in the Gailey offense.
16. Emmanuel Sanders, DEN
It’s hard to put a guy this far down the rankings who is coming off of a season with over 100 catches and over 1,400 yards. However, with Gary Kubiak and his run-oriented offense coming to town we can expect Sanders’ career numbers from last year to decrease in 2015. Just ask him – Sanders says “My goal is really to try to get 1,000 yards to just help this team win ball games.” (source – denverbroncos.com) He can still go well over 1,000 yards with Peyton Manning still at the helm but probably will fall short of another 1,400-yard season.
17. DeSean Jackson, WAS
The quarterback carousel in Washington did not stop Jackson from posting his second straight season with over 1,100 yards. His 20.9 yards per catch was a full 3 yards more than any player in the league with at least 30 receptions, and was his highest average since 2010. The instability at QB isn’t going away any time soon, but Jackson has proven to be capable of big plays and games no matter what happens under center.
18. Andre Johnson, IND
Usually, a 34-year-old player who saw a 468 yard decline in yardage from two years ago to last year (despite only playing one fewer game) would not be ranked this highly. An exception has to be made for Johnson. First of all, Andrew Luck is far and away the best QB Johnson has ever played with. Also keep in mind he had back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013 with over 100 receptions and 1,400 yards. Despite playing a complementary role to T.Y. Hilton, Johnson is almost guaranteed to bounce back in the Colts’ offense.
19. Jeremy Maclin, KC
Maclin bounced back from a lost 2013 season by having far and away the best season of his career in 2014. He will now be reunited with his former coach in Philadelphia in Andy Reid. Maclin appears to be better than ever now, but it is worth noting that he never reached 1,000 yards in his previous four years under Reid and only reached 900 yards once. Having the overly cautious Alex Smith at QB could stunt his fantasy value.
20. Brandin Cooks, NO
Getting targets shouldn’t be a problem for Cooks. Before going down with injury last year, he averaged just under 7 targets per game. With Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills out of the way, that number has a chance to increase even with the Saints projected to throw the ball less often. The only issue is whether Cooks can consistently make plays down the field. His mediocre 10.4 yards per catch last year kept his value down (especially in non-PPR leagues). He’s showing an expanded route tree in the preseason which is a great sign.
21. Keenan Allen, SD
Allen had more catches in his mildly disappointing sophomore season than he did in his impressive rookie season. Opportunities weren’t the issue with Allen in 2014, doing something with those opportunities was the issue. His 10.2 yards per catch ranked outside of the top 100 qualifiers last year after ranking 28th in that category in 2013. The opportunities will once again be there for Allen this year. He is reported to be leaner and quicker in camp this year, so a return to his rookie year form is well within reach.
22. Golden Tate III, DET
We learned last year that Tate has an awfully high ceiling if anything were to happen with Calvin Johnson from an injury perspective. In weeks 4-9 when Johnson was either unavailable or significantly limited, Tate had four games of 110+ yards and in three of those games he went for 130+ yards with a TD. Johnson is fully healthy right now which pushes Tate back to a complementary role in the Lions’ offense. Still, even if Johnson is healthy for all sixteen games Tate is a solid bet for another productive season.
23. Charles Johnson, MIN
We saw the potential of the Norv Turner effect on WRs in 2013 when Josh Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards. Johnson may not be quite as talented as Gordon, but as far as physical tools go he is not too far off. Turner has been a fan of Johnson’s for a while and brought him over from Cleveland when he took the coordinator job in Minnesota. Johnson flashed some potential last year. If you project his numbers from Week 11 to Week 15, he would have 1,136 yards and 6 TDs over a full season. With a clear role and an ascending QB, he is primed to break out.
24. Sammy Watkins, BUF
Watkins only needed two games to have his first career 100-yard performance. From a pure talent perspective, he has more than enough ability to be much higher on this list. Question marks at the quarterback position are the main things keeping his ranking down. Tyrod Taylor could be a major wild card in that factor, and if he emerges as just a decent option, Watkins can get closer to his ceiling. Playing in a run-based offense doesn’t help Watkins either, but his explosiveness can mitigate the impact of having fewer opportunities than some of his peers.
25. Steve Smith Sr., BAL
In his first year in Baltimore, Smith was nothing short of dominant to start the 2014 season. In his first seven games, he had four 100+ yard games, one game under 50 yards, and 4 TDs. In his final nine games, he had no 100+ yards games, six games under 50 yards, and 2 TDs. Smith is the unquestioned #1 target for Joe Flacco this year, but based on last year’s numbers there has to be concern as to whether or not he can carry a passing offense for an entire season at age 36.
26. John Brown, ARI
As a rookie, Brown managed to tie Larry Fitzgerald for the team lead with 103 targets. Fitzgerald is almost exclusively a possession receiver at this stage of his career, while Michael Floyd has become almost a deep ball specialist. Brown, though not necessarily #1 on the depth chart, looks like the team’s most complete receiver with the ability to attack short, medium, and deep. He has added about 10 pounds of muscle from his rookie year. Brown is one of my favorite “risers” who will turn heads this year if Carson Palmer stays healthy.
27. Torrey Smith, SF
On paper, San Francisco appears to be an excellent landing spot for Smith from a fantasy perspective. The 49ers are expected to open up the offense (either by design or by necessity) this year, so Smith should get plenty of deep looks. Colin Kaepernick is known for his big arm, and Smith is easily the best deep threat he has ever had so he may be quite anxious to test his new weapon out. Smith was highly inconsistent last year, but did catch 5 TDs in his final five games.
28. Vincent Jackson, TB
Jackson posted a career-low in yards per catch last year, and his 2 TD catches were his lowest total since his rookie year of 2005. Still, he did put up his third consecutive season with 70+ receptions and 1,000+ yards. Even though he isn’t the downfield threat he once was, he can still be productive. Jackson is now the clear-cut #2 WR in this offense behind Mike Evans, but moving around different formations in Dirk Koetter’s offense should keep him highly involved in the offense.
29. Jarvis Landry, MIA
Landry proved to be a reliable target during the second half of last season, catching at least 5 passes in each of his final nine games. He averaged 6.6 catches over that span, a pace for 105 receptions if projected over a full season. The troublesome part of the equation is that he averaged just 9.0 yards per catch, second worst among WRs. Because he’s not a big play threat, he has to become a big factor in the red zone. He has reportedly showed improvement in that area, which will make him a solid fantasy asset if true.
30. Davante Adams, GB
Adams showed some potential in Week 13 of last season with a 6 reception, 121 yard performance against the Patriots. However, that game was the only time after October that he went over 20 yards. With Jordy Nelson out for the season, the Packers need Adams to grow up in a hurry and help fill some very large shoes. He’ll play a key role in the offense, but it would be too much to expect Nelson or Randall Cobb type of numbers from the second year receiver.
31. Mike Wallace, MIN
Wallace just wrapped up his third consecutive season of less than 1,000 yards, although on the plus side he did tie a career high with 10 TD catches. He still has plenty of speed to burn, but his skill set didn’t mesh well with Ryan Tannehill or with Bill Lazor’s offense. With a fresh start, a better deep ball thrower in Teddy Bridgewater, and a more aggressive play caller in Norv Turner, Wallace has everything in place he could want. He’ll be the #2 WR in this offense but he should still have his share of explosive games.
32. Julian Edelman, NE
Over the last six games regular season games he played in, Edelman averaged 7.8 receptions per game – catching at least 7 passes in five of those six games. He will continue to be heavily involved in the offense, and maybe even see a slight uptick in targets in Brandon LaFell’s mysterious foot injury proves to be a long-term situation. Edelman isn’t a big producer around the goal line, although his 3 receiving TDs over his last six games are encouraging.
33. Anquan Boldin, SF
Boldin’s numbers took a bit of a dip last year, but he still managed to have his second straight season of over 80 catches and over 1,000 yards playing with Colin Kaepernick. Going on age 35, there is no reason to believe Boldin can’t still be productive. The 49ers will probably air the ball out a bit more than usual, and Torrey Smith’s presence outside could help open up the middle of the field for one of the toughest WRs in the game today.
34. Marques Colston, NO
Jimmy Graham, who caught 26 TDs over the last two seasons, is no longer around and someone is going to have to soak up some of those red zone targets. The 6’4” Colston is a candidate to benefit from an increase in red zone opportunities. He only has 10 total TD receptions over the last two years, but even in a more balanced offense he has a golden opportunity to become Drew Brees’ most trusted target around the goal line.
35. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
It’s clear that when Carson Palmer is under center, Fitzgerald can still be a fantasy asset. Fitzgerald topped the 90-yard mark in three of the six games Palmer managed to start. However, his production falls off of a cliff when Palmer is out. Fitzgerald finished last season by failing to reach 40 yards in each of his last five games. He is still a solid fantasy asset to own, but just keep in mind he becomes nearly unstartable if anything happens to Palmer.
36. Roddy White, ATL
The opportunities will be there for White if he is healthy, the question is just how healthy will he be? After never missing a game from 2005 to 2012, White has missed a pair of games in each of the last two years while playing hobbled in others. Routine knee drainings and minor elbow surgery are mild concerns heading into the 2015 season. All of that said, he caught at least 6 passes in six of his last seven games. White can still produce when his body allows him to.
37. Eric Decker, NYJ
As expected, Decker’s numbers fell last year after leaving Peyton Manning’s Broncos and going to the Jets. Still, a 962 yard and 5 TD season is still impressive given how poor the quarterback play often was for the Jets in 2014. Ryan Fitzpatrick is far from elite, but he should at least stabilize the position to some degree. Decker did finish last season with a 221-yard performance, reminding us of what he is capable of with good QB play. He falls back into a #2 role for this season, but should still get his fair share of looks.
38. Allen Robinson, JAX
If you take away the 1-catch dud in his NFL debut, Robinson averaged 5.2 catches for 60.9 yards last year. Projected over 16 games, that would give you an 83 reception, 974 yard season. There is little reason to believe Robinson won’t lead the Jaguars’ WRs in targets by a wide margin this year. Limited scoring chances due to playing in a still developing offense and the presence of Julius Thomas as a red zone threat put a cap on Robinson’s fantasy potential.
39. Devin Funchess, CAR
Now that Kelvin Benjamin is lost for the season, the Panthers desperately need someone from their WR corps to step up and overachieve. In an ideal role, Funchess would be the guy. He is not as good as Benjamin, so it wouldn’t be fair to expect the same level of production from him. However, Funchess will be placed into the Benjamin role and although not quite as big he is similar in stature. He should be force-fed at times, meaning opportunities should be there.
40. Eddie Royal, CHI
The shin injury to Chicago’s top pick Kevin White ensures that Royal should have a significant role in this offense. Royal is coming off of his best season since his rookie year of 2008 and finished out by going over 80 yards in three of his last five games. He has shown an ability to be productive when given a chance, and he should have a significant chance with little WR depth in Chicago. Royal has 15 TD catches over the last two years despite playing in a complementary role, so he has a knack for finding the end zone.
41. Martavis Bryant, PIT
A four-game suspension puts a damper over what should be a breakout year year for Bryant. He is not an every down player, which means he’ll get a limited number of targets. His value comes from the fact that he is as good of a big play threat as there is in the league. His 21.1 yards per catch would have led the league if he had enough catches to qualify. He managed to scored 8 TDs on just 26 receptions. He’ll be a weekly boom-or-bust option when he returns, but even in a part-time role he can be a difference maker.
42. Kendall Wright, TEN
While it’s difficult to project how the distribution of targets will play out in Tennessee, it’s a safe bet that Wright will end up being the leader in targets. Mediocre QB play and missing a couple of games due to injury led to a 37 reception drop for Wright from 2013 to 2014. Marcus Mariota is an upgrade at the QB position, and Wright’s career highs in yards per reception (12.5) and TDs (6) are encouraging signs. He needs to find a way to create more big plays for his value to increase.
43. Brian Quick, STL
When Austin Davis was at his best last season, Quick posted solid numbers. Over the first four games of last year, Quick averaged 5.3 receptions and 80.5 yards with 3 TDs. That would have been on pace for an 84 reception, 1,288 yard, 12 TD season when projected for 16 games. Foles is not a great QB, but he should stabilize the position more than Davis and Shaun hill did last year. Quick is coming back from a serious shoulder injury, so there is still some question as to whether or not he can fully return to form.
44. Michael Floyd, ARI
Floyd was able to bookend the 2014 season with a pair of 100+ yard games, so he started and ended the season on a high note. In between those performances were five games in which he recorded either 0 or 1 catch. Floyd is a big play receiver who averaged over 19 yards per reception in each of his final four games. He runs a ton of low-percentage vertical routes, which makes him a real high-risk, high-reward option.
45. Percy Harvin, BUF
Joining his fourth team in four years, it has become nearly impossible to project what Harvin’s role in this offense will be. Working against him is the fact that he’s never had a 1,000 yard receiving season (although he did have over 1,300 yards from scrimmage in 2011) and the fact that we know this will be a run-oriented offense. Perhaps working in Harvin’s favor is that his 106 rushing attempts since 2011 suggest that he will touch the ball one way or another. If he can stay reasonably healthy (already dealing with a hip issue), he’s explosive enough to make the most out of even a handful of touches.
46. Markus Wheaton, PIT
Last year was supposed to be the breakout year for Wheaton. It started out promisingly enough (6 receptions, 97 yards in Week 1) but just never materialized. Wheaton has once again been advertised as a breakout candidate, and will have a great chance early on to validate that prediction. With Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant serving early season suspensions, Wheaton will be relied on a little more. We should know early if he is ready to take that next step.
47. Steve Johnson, SD
After being sorely underutilized in San Francisco, Johnson is in position to reemerge back to relevance with the Chargers. San Diego’s passing offense is predicated on lots of intermediate routes, and that is the area of the field in which Johnson does his best work. Eddie Royal saw 90+ targets last year, and most if not all of those targets could end up going to Johnson – especially with Antonio Gates beginning the season with a suspension.
48. Pierre Garcon, WAS
Garcon had one of the best seasons in franchise history in 2013, but after last year’s disappointing campaign 2013 feels like a distant memory. Still, even though it was DeSean Jackson who had the standout year for the Redskins, it was Garcon who once again led the team in targets. There aren’t any indications that the pecking order will change this year, so Garcon should once again get more than enough looks to have a decent season.
49. Victor Cruz, NYG
Cruz had over 100 receiving yards in each of the two games before Odell Beckham Jr. made his debut. However, in the 6+ quarters he did play alongside Beckham, Cruz only had 38 total receiving yards. Of course that is a small sample size, but it raises questions on how productive Cruz can be as second fiddle to Beckham. The bigger question is can Cruz be an effective player coming back from a torn patellar tendon? All of the uncertainty surrounding Cruz makes him a total roll of the dice in fantasy despite his past production.
50. Michael Crabtree, OAK
Crabtree’s 698 receiving yards from 2014 was the lowest total of his career for a full season (at least 12 games) and his 10.3 yards per catch were the worst of his career. It’s tough to judge Crabtree based off of last year because he was returning from an Achilles’ tear (which often takes two years to fully recover from) and he was part of a sinking ship in San Francisco. Now healthier and in a more stable situation, he is in good position to have a bounce back year even though he’ll likely see far fewer targets than Amari Cooper.
51. Nelson Agholor, PHI
Agholor will likely split snaps with blocking WR Riley Cooper and maybe Josh Huff. However, he should get enough snaps in a high-powered offense to get onto the fantasy radar.
52. Terrance Williams, DAL
Williams has shown a ton of playmaking ability, but frustratingly doesn’t get enough opportunities to be a reliable fantasy option.
53. DeVante Parker, MIA
Parker has a ton of potential and may be the most talented WR on the roster, but ongoing issues with his injured foot are troublesome.
54. Allen Hurns, JAX
Hurns has cemented the #2 WR spot for the Jaguars and although inconsistent, does bring big play ability to the table.
55. Kenny Stills, MIA
Stills had a mini-breakout at the end of last year with over 60 yards in four of his last five games. The only question is will there be enough targets left over in Miami for him if/when DeVante Parker returns.
56. Doug Baldwin, SEA
Baldwin is far from an exciting player, but he did catch multiple passes in every game last year and has a relatively high floor for a receiver ranked here.
57. Dwayne Bowe, CLE
Bowe did manage to reach 60 receptions in his infamous 0 TD season last year. Once again, he is the #1 WR in an uninspiring passing offense.
58. Marvin Jones, CIN
Jones is a wild card coming off of a significant foot/ankle injury. When he was healthy in 2013, he showed a nose for the end zone with 10 TD catches.
59. Kenny Britt, STL
Britt’s 48 catches from last year was actually a career high despite poor QB play. With Nick Foles at the helm, he has a shot at his first 50 catch season but not much more than that.
60. Brandon LaFell, NE
Based on his production from last year, LaFell deserves to be higher than this. His foot injury (of which we have no details) makes him a major gamble in fantasy.