The wide receiver position remains arguably the deepest in Fantasy Football. Whether it is more or less deep than quarterback depends on your league settings, but there are generally plenty of options available at both positions. But that doesn't make it an easy position to tackle in Fantasy Football.
One of the bigger problems at receiver is that it isn't easy to find starter production on the waiver wire. Sure, there may be 20 wideouts on the wire at any time capable of giving you flex production, but there aren't as many league winners emerging because of injury like there are at running back. In other words, the depth of receiver doesn't mean you can just ignore it early on Draft Day. We'll get to my strategies below, but first let's take a look at the state of the position.
We are nearing an inflection point at receiver, if we haven't already reached it. Elite mainstays like Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, and Michael Thomas are soon going to give way to the new class of Justin Jefferson. A.J. Brown, and DK Metcalf. Somewhere in between is the trio of Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, and Calvin Ridley. This age dynamic creates an interesting tension; we know the young guys are coming for the crown, but we don't quite expect them to get it this year.
For me, there are 11 receivers I feel really confident in as No. 1 receivers in full PPR and eight more I'm fairly certain are No. 2s. In other words, it may not feel quite as deep as it is, because those guys at the top really stand out. But it flattens out quick, with just 20 Fantasy points separating my WR24 from WR37 in the projections below.
Where the depth of the position really shines is outside of the top 30. You've got vets with top-12 seasons on their resume (Odell Beckham and Michael Thomas), a handful of rookies with immense upside, and some excellent post-hype sleeper candidates (Henry Ruggs and Marquise Brown).
Yes, there's still plenty of depth at this position, just know if you don't take a receiver in the first 40 picks, your chances of stumbling into an elite option are pretty low.
Fantasy Football Today Newsletter
Know What Your Friends Don't
Get tips, advice and news to win your league - all from the FFT podcast team.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Wide receiver draft strategy
Every year more league types emerge in Fantasy Football and these types of sections become more difficult. As always, you should react to how your league drafts and your specific scoring system.
In non-PPR leagues where you only start two receivers, you can treat receiver like quarterback -- it couldn't be much deeper. You don't need to take a receiver in the first round and I'd have no problem filling the rest of my roster before I took one.
The flip side of that equation is a full PPR league where you can start three receivers. In that format, I'd strongly consider a WR-WR start if I'm drafting in the back half of the draft and I wouldn't shy away from receiver at the 3-4 turn either. But even in that format, I'm not taking a receiver with one of the first six picks in Round 1.
In full PPR it's worth remembering that receivers are almost always going to be better flex options as well. So every flex that is added to the equation only increases the value of receivers. I want to draft, at minimum, one more starting receiver than the sum of my total receiver and flex lineup slots. In other words, if I can start three receivers and two flexes, I want six receivers I feel good about starting.
There are plenty of league types in between the two formats I just specified, but here are a few more strategy rules to help:
- Adams and Hill are the only two receivers worth a first-round pick and the only two you should consider before Travis Kelce.
- Once you get past the first 10 rounds, if you're taking a receiver it should probably be a first- or second-year receiver.
- If you want a shot at a top-12 receiver this year, you need to target guys with potential elite efficiency or potential for more than 140 targets.
Now let's get to sleepers, breakouts and bust. One quick note, ADP here is current CBS ADP.
TB Tampa Bay • #81
Age: 33 • Experience: 11 year
Last year Brown actually led Tampa Bay in both targets and receptions per game. And his 14.6 PPR Fantasy points per game made him WR23 on a per-game basis. There's a sneaky possibility Brown could be the WR1 for Tampa Bay, or at least be close enough to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to make things uncomfortable. And if Evans or Godwin miss time, Brown might just be a Fantasy WR1. In his final three games of 2020, Brown caught 20 of 28 targets for 266 yards and four touchdowns, so who knows what he'll do after a full offseason with Tom Brady.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #81
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Williams has gotten a lot of love from his coaches this summer, and the expectation is he'll see a pretty significant uptick in targets. That's really all Williams needs, because he's been pretty awesome whenever they've thrown him the ball. Williams' career 9.5 yards per target is elite, and his 16.7 yards per reception is the second best mark in the NFL since he entered the league. Williams had a hip injury during the preseason but is expected to be a full go for Week 1.
CHI Chicago • #11
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Darnell Mooney is slotted in as the No. 2 receiver behind Allen Robinson, and with Anthony Miller shipped off to Houston, it shouldn't be all that close. This has the potential to be a very concentrated passing attack, and the Bears last year threw 347 passes to their wide receivers. That leaves plenty of room for Mooney to blossom even with 160 targets going to Allen Robinson. Things will be even better for Mooney if Justin Fields, or even Andy Dalton, prove to be the upgrade at quarterback we project. And like Antonio Brown, Mooney may just be one injury away from a monster share of the offense.
A.J. Brown WR
TEN Tennessee • #11
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Thought Brown already broke out? You aren't wrong, but he isn't done yet. Injuries and low pass volume have kept Brown from producing a top-12 season and from fully realizing his potential. Year 3 would be a great time to cross both off his list. That's starts with an increase in targets, which can still happen even with Julio Jones on the team. Last year the Titans threw 150 passes to receivers other than Brown. I project a small increase in pass rate from Tennessee if only because their run-heavy scheme has been such an outlier the past two years. I have Brown projected as my No. 4 receiver in full PPR with 142 targets and that includes a pretty sizable efficiency regression. In other words, No. 4 isn't his ceiling; it's as high as any receiver in Fantasy.
CeeDee Lamb WR
DAL Dallas • #88
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
CeeDee Lamb is the free space of receiver breakouts this season, even if I don't particularly like his ADP. Lamb is an elite talent with a star quarterback in an offense we project to be one of the top pass offenses in football. The only thing that keeps him out of my top-12 is the depth of this offense. If something happens to Michael Gallup or if Amari Cooper can't stay healthy, then Lamb has top-10 upside easy. Unfortunately, you may have to draft him that high even with Gallup and Cooper healthy.
WAS Washington • #17
Age: 26 • Experience: 3 yrs.
McLaurin is another third-year breakout candidate in a slightly different mold than Brown. McLaurin has already earned 134 targets in a season but saw his efficiency crater last year because of poor quarterback play. Ryan Fitzpatrick should help in that area, especially when it comes to throws downfield. McLaurin's ability before the catch gives him 160-target upside, and if his efficiency bounces back even half way to his 2019 number, that will make him a top-five receiver.
CLE Cleveland • #13
Age: 28 • Experience: 8 yrs.
When you see the name Odell Beckham 31st among wide receivers, it looks kind of weird. It probably looks even more weird for me to call him a bust at that cost. But Beckham hasn't been the same player in Cleveland and he's coming off yet another major injury. The Browns' low volume pass offense is also very multiple, spreading the ball all over the field. That's resulted in a 25% reduction in targets per game for Beckham over the past two seasons. Combine that with a similar drop in efficiency, and it's just hard to see much upside for an aging receiver who clearly has a low floor. He's not in my top 40 receivers.
Numbers to know
11.9% -- Mike Evans' touchdown rate last year. Like Adam Thielen, Evans needs a lot more targets if he hopes to match last year's production.
2.2 -- Deebo Samuel's aDOT last year, by far the lowest among wide receivers. That lends itself to a high catch rate, but he'll need a huge volume to make that good for Fantasy.
6.2 -- A.J. Brown's averaged yards after reception, the best in the league among receivers with at least 100 targets, but barely more than half of Samuel's 12.1.
22.2 -- Robert Woods has averaged 22.2 Fantasy points per season the past three years on running plays.
269 -- The Detroit Lions have 269 vacated receiver targets from 2020, 100 more than any other team.
75.2% -- The Bills threw 75% of their passes to wide receivers last year; the Steelers and Panthers were the only other teams above 70%. The Raiders were dead last at 45.5%.
100 -- No Ravens wide receiver has more than 100 targets since Mike Wallace and Steve Smith in 2016.
2.99% -- D.J. Moore has scored on approximately three percent of his career targets. if any receiver did that in one year he'd headline the regression articles, but it's been a habit with Moore.
Most of this piece, including tiers and ADP, are based on PPR leagues. We recognize many of you still play in non-PPR. Here's a list of players who we expect to be significantly better, and worse, in non-PPR:
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.