Mike Fanelli | July 30th, 2019
The 2019 NFL season is almost here! Well, the preseason at least. The Hall of Fame Game between the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos is just two days away. The regular season is a little more than five weeks away, but football is back baby! Of course, that means redraft fantasy leagues will be drafting left and right over the next month or so. With that in mind, here are my top 12 wide receivers for the 2019 season.
My rankings are based on PPR scoring and I will have an updated top 12 after the third preseason week so be sure to check back then. For all my redraft PPR rankings, click here.
Make sure you also check out my other fantasy rankings:
1) DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
If Hopkins isn’t the WR1 in your fantasy rankings I’m not sure what more you expect from him. While he was on PUP (physically unable to perform list) to start training camp, it for just a few days. In three of the last four years, Hopkins has finished as the WR4 or better. The one exception was in 2016 when Brock Osweiler was the quarterback and he’s not allowed in the city of Houston. If you are worried about Hopkins brief stint on PUP, don’t be. Over his six-year career, Hopkins has missed just one game total and that was more precaution in a lost season than being forced to sit with an injury.
2) Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
I almost put Adams as my WR1 because he was the top-scoring wide receiver on points per game basis last year and the Packers did very little to improve Aaron Rodgers‘ weapons this offseason. Adams was tied for the second-most games as a top 12 wide receiver last year with eight, just one behind the league leader. However, Adams finished as a top 24 wide receiver in 93% of his games last year; highest in the league. Furthermore, Adams is one of only two players with double-digit scrimmage touchdowns in each of the last three seasons; the other is Melvin Gordon. Much like Hopkins, Adams is quarterback proof, don’t worry about Rodgers’ injury history.
3) Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
The only wide receiver with more WR1 finishes last season than Adams was Jones, who had nine. He starts off tier two and finished last season as the WR4 and was one of only five receivers to average more than 20 fantasy points per game. Julio led the league with 170 targets and 1,677 receiving yards, but neither was anywhere near his career highs of 203 targets and 1,871 yards in 2015. However, Jones had his most receiving touchdowns since 2015 when he also had eight. The Falcons’ running game and defense were killed by injuries last year, forcing the team to chase points and throw more than they wanted. However, Jones’ 28.1 target share from last year shouldn’t drop much this season.
4) JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio who? The golden boy JuJu is due to have his best season so far in his career in 2019. As a rookie, he finished as the WR23 despite a slow start and last year he finished as the WR8 and led the team with 111 catches and 1,426 receiving yards. With Brown out of the mix, Smith-Schuster takes over as the Steelers go-to guy on offense and based off his 2018 production, I believe he can handle it. Despite Brown getting 168 targets (just two more than JuJu), Smith-Schuster still had a 24.5% target share. With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell elsewhere, JuJu is the star Pittsburgh needs and will get. This time next year he will be in the conversation for the overall WR1.
5) Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Currently, Thomas is holding out as he and the Saints are negotiating a long term extension but I don’t expect it to keep him away from the team for very long. The Saints offense runs through two players, Alvin Kamara and Thomas. Last season Thomas was worth his weight in gold in PPR scoring. He finished as the WR6 and led the league with 125 catches (ten more than the second-place receiver). In addition to catching 85% of his targets (lead leader among wide receivers with 30 or more targets), Thomas was tied for the second-most targets inside the red zone was 29 last season. Thomas doesn’t have a lot of flash to his game but he’s a very safe WR1 in PPR scoring.
6) Odell Beckham, Cleveland Browns
Despite missing four games with an injury, Beckham finished last season as the WR15 and averaged 19.2 FPPG. With the trade to Cleveland and the upgrade at quarterback, many expect him to have a career year, I, on the other hand, have some slight concerns. One, Beckham has played 16 games just once in his career and has played in only 50% of possible games over the last two years because of injuries. Two, unlike the Giants, who had to force-feed him the ball an average of 10.5 times a game, the Browns have plenty of weapons on offense that could limit Beckham to around eight targets a game. OBJ has never finished as a top-three wide receiver and I don’t expect that to change this year.
7) Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Before the news that Hill won’t be suspended after an offseason domestic violence investigation, I didn’t have him ranked. However, with him allowed to play in all 16 games, the Chiefs’ fantasy outlook has changed. Last season, Hill finished as the WR3 despite only catching 87 passes. The reason why is his big playability. Hill had the fourth-most receiving yards and third-most receiving touchdowns last season in large part thanks to his speed and big playability. As I mentioned during my quarterback rankings, I expect Mahomes to regress some this year, especially when it comes to touchdowns. If that is the case, Hill will likely lose two or three touchdowns off of last year’s total.
8) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last season Evans bounced back from his semi-disappointing 2017 season (finished as the WR17) to end the 2018 season as the WR9 and average 18.2 FPPG. Evans easily caught a career-high 62.3% of his targets last year and finished 10th in the league in targets with 139. The good news for his fantasy owners is Evans should see closer to 160 targets this season. The Buccaneers lost 179 targets from last year’s team with the departures of DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries, while the team did very little to replace them. While many of these targets are expected to go to Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard, Evans will see an uptick in his targets as well and rounds out tier two for me.
9) Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders
Brown was only one of two wide receivers to average more than 21 fantasy points per game last season. Despite missing Week 17 with what turned out to be a suspension, Brown was just three targets short of leading the league and finished as a top 24 wide receiver in 73% of his games. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Brown was traded to the Raiders for a pair of draft picks. Over the last three seasons, Ben Roethlisberger has averaged 30.3 touchdowns per season, while Derek Carr has averaged 23. With the drop off in quarterback play from Roethlisberger to Carr, many (myself included), believe Brown’s touchdown production will decrease.
10) Keenan Allen, Los Angles Chargers
Despite finishing as the WR12 last year, Allen had his lowest targets per game with 8.5 since his rookie season. Mike Williams and Hunter Henry are emerging pieces to Chargers’ passing game as are the running backs. Allen has never been a big touchdown guy, scoring more than six in a season just once, but has always produced for fantasy owners because of his high number of targets and catches. If it sounds like I’m down on Allen, I’m not. The Chargers’ offense has produced several fantasy impact players that last few years, lead by Allen. Over his last two seasons, Allen has finished as the WR12 and WR3 while playing in all 16 games; he’s a very safe low-end WR1.
11) Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Yes, I am buying into Cooper (again) this preseason. Most of the stats suggest Cooper is more of a very inconsistent WR2 than a top 12 option. However, there is one thing that is different from this year than all the rest; he’s entering a contract year. Cooper will be motivated to produce big this year in hopes of landing an extension or if he and the Cowboys come to a long term deal before the season starts, he will be motivated to prove he’s worth the money. Despite switching teams and learning a new playbook midseason, Cooper still finished as the WR19 with 75 catches for just over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns; tying his career-high in touchdowns.
12) Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
Super Bowl 53 MVP closes out my top 12 wide receivers. After missing the first four games of last season, Edelman went on to finish as a top 12 wide receiver in 36% of his games and a top 24 guy in 82% of his games. The Patriots lost 161 targets from last year with the departures of Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and others. They spent a first-round pick on N’Keal Harry (you can find more on him here), but rookie wide receivers tend to struggle, especially in New England. Edelman had 108 targets last season, over a full 16 games he would have had 144; which would have ranked 10th in the league. Tom Brady throws to who he trusts and he trusts no one more than Edelman.
HM) Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
With A.J. Green‘s ankle injury, Thielen moves up a spot into the honorable mention spot and kicks off tier four. Last year, Thielen got off to a hot start, scoring 22 or more fantasy points in each of his first eight games. However, once Dalvin Cook came back in week nine, Thielen’s production started to drop as the Vikings focused on the running game. After Cook’s return, Thielen scored more than 16 fantasy points just once. Head coach Mike Zimmer has been very public about wanting to be a run-heavy offense. While the Vikings’ offensive line will make this easier said than done, the drastic splits for Thielen, pre and post Cook’s return, make me view him as a high-end WR2.
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