We're not quite in the midst of a changing of the guard at WR yet, but we aren't far off. Davante Adams, Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins are 28. Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs are 27. While that isn't old, WRs typically peak around their age-27 and -28 seasons, so we're likely closer to the final elite season from that group than their first, and they make up six of the top nine at the position in the Fantasy Football Today team's consensus rankings for 2021.
The Fantasy Football Today team have updated our rankings after the NFL Draft, and there's a very talented group of receivers from the past three seasons getting ready to break out. That makes this a very exciting time for the wide receiver position, which still has those elite WRs at their peaks but now has the likes of CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Chase Claypool, DeVonta Smith and more with the potential to make the leap into that group.
But it also means there could be a lot of volatility at the position in 2021. Some of those peak WRs may see an early decline, while many of the up-and-comers will surely fall short of our loftiest expectations. And, naturally, while we have a "consensus" ranking, there are many Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, Heath Cummings and myself disagree on. There's no shortage of WRs to fill out your roster with in 2021, but how should you actually approach it?
As I did with quarterbacks Tuesday and running backs Wednesday, I'm going to go through our updated wide receiver rankings today to highlight where we do agree, where we don't and what it means for how you should draft in 2021.
I'll also answer some of the questions you all have sent in so far this week below. If you've got any questions, about the rankings or anything else, you can send them to Chris.Towers@CBSInteractive.com to be featured in a future newsletter. Now, here's our WR rankings as of May 6:
- We'll tell you where the rookies are ranked and which veterans moved up or down after the NFL Draft on the Fantasy Football Today podcast. Listen below and follow at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts:
Updated WR rankings
We'll move through the top 36 receivers 12 at a time, and I'll highlight some individual rankings that stand out.
WR Rankings 1-12
- There's consensus at No. 1, but that's where it ends. We've all got Davante Adams at the top, and how could you not? He averaged 3.8 PPR points per game more than the No. 2 WR in 2020 after putting up 20.9 per game over the final 10 games of 2019. Obviously, the drama surrounding Aaron Rodgers and his reported feud with team management is something to be concerned about, and I'm not sure I would buy Adams as the No. 1 WR if Rodgers wasn't there. On the other hand, he was on a 94-catch, 1,118-yard, nine-touchdown pace in nine games with Brett Hundley in 2017.
- And the disagreements start at No. 2, where everyone but myself has Tyreek Hill second while I have him fifth. It's not that I don't like Hill -- he's my No. 2 in non-PPR! -- I'm just not sure he's worth taking over some of the other guys who are likely to get more volume. Hill has never had more than 87 receptions in a season, and I don't expect him to repeat last year's 15 touchdowns. Having him No. 5 is not an insult in my eyes, just a reflection of the strength of the position
- Ultimately, we are largely in agreement on the top five at the position, with the exception of A.J. Brown. He's eighth for me while everyone else has him four. Before you write in to tell me what a fool I am, just know that I have WR6 (Justin Jefferson) projected for 283 PPR points, just seven more points than Robert Woods, WR9. That's basically a pick 'em, because literally one touchdown could swing that group. I'd be thrilled to end up with Brown as my No. 1 WR, and I have no real preference between him, Jefferson and Calvin Ridley.
- The other player I'm on an island on is Michael Thomas, my WR2. This ranking is contingent on Jameis Winston being the starter, and you could argue the uncertainty there should push him down a few spots. But I think Thomas still has WR1 overall potential, and if Winston is the starter, I think he has a good chance to finally reach double figures in touchdowns, while still being close to a lock for 100 receptions. I think his upside is higher than anyone but Adams, and that's worth paying up for. The nice thing, though, is I can wait until the second round to take him. And believe me, I'm thrilled to do so.
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WR Rankings 13-24
- You start to see some real disagreements with this group, which I think highlights how many viable Fantasy WR there are this season. There might be 50 WR who could realistically be a top-36 WR this season.
- My Robert Woods ranking probably stands out first and foremost, as he's my WR9. I think the Rams passing game takes a big step forward collectively with the switch from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford, and I think that should mean good things for Woods and Cooper Kupp -- also a top-15 WR for me. Woods is an excellent pass catcher who should be good for a few more big plays this season, but it seems like people overlook his value in the running game. Woods has added at least a point per game as a rusher in each of the last two seasons, including 155 yards and two touchdowns last season. He's good for around 20 rush attempts each year. Don't overlook it.
- Another one that probably stands out is the divergent views on the Bucs WRs. Dave and Jamey have both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans as top-17 WRs, while Heath and I view them both as more like fringe WR2/3. They did finish as WR15 and 16 in points per game in 2020, but I don't think that really captures the full picture, because of Antonio Brown's midseason addition. They played 11 games together, including the postseason, and Godwin averaged 14.6 PPR points per game while Evans averaged 15.2, which would have been good for WR23 and WR20. This is an especially crowded offense, and if Brady slips from his 40-touchdown pace in 2020, things could get ugly.
- There's a remarkable amount of agreement about Ja'Marr Chase, a rookie we've never seen play in the NFL. He's pegged as a WR2 by all four of us, and he certainly has the talent for that. I might be a bit wary of actually taking him at that cost, because there's a decent chance Tee Higgins is still the No. 1 WR, and Tyler Boyd has his slot role locked in. Chase should be a stud, but it's not inconceivable he's the No. 3 WR in an offense that may not take as big a step forward here as we're hoping.
WR Rankings 25-36
- And here we see how "consensus" isn't really an accurate term for what's going on in our rankings.
- I probably won't have any shares of Adam Thielen, who I figure will be the clear No. 2 WR for the Vikings and will have a tough time repeating his 14 touchdowns. He'll be 31 by Week 1, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if Thielen isn't even a No. 3 WR for Fantasy.
- Speaking of that Bengals offense, all four of us have Chase, Higgins and Boyd in our top 36. That's an awful lot to ask of a quarterback coming back from a serious knee injury who still has a bad offensive line. The ceiling here is sky high, but we don't know exactly how targets will be distributed between those three or just how much the Bengals will roll back their pass attempts after Joe Burrow averaged 41.1 attempts in his nine full games.
- My favorite of this group are Curtis Samuel and Will Fuller -- and Fuller would be in the top 20 on a per-game basis, given his one-game suspension to open the season. I'm hoping the Panthers continue using Samuel as a running back occasionally, and I think that offense will be excellent with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB, so Samuel is a big time breakout candidate for me. And I got him as my No. 5 WR in a recent mock draft, which seems like robbery.
- As for Fuller, I think it's as simple as, I think he'll be a borderline No. 1 WR as long as he's on the field, and the fact that he made it through last year without getting hurt should put at least some of those injury concerns behind him. Yes, he has plenty of competition with DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki, but I think Fuller is going to be the top option in what could be a very good Dolphins offense, so I'll take him on every team.
- I also just wanted to highlight that I have Deebo Samuel as my WR21, significantly higher than anyone else -- Heath has him WR36, and Dave and Jamey both have him outside of their top 45. I get being excited about Brandon Aiyuk, and I share a lot of the industry's excitement about him. However, as with Woods, Samuel is bound to be underrated because of his contributions in the running game -- he had 159 yards and three touchdowns in 2019 as a runner. And, while I'm worried about what a healthy George Kittle means for both Aiyuk and Samuel, I think Samuel might be more immune from the effect of Kittle hogging targets, because so many of his receptions come as an extension of the running game. Samuel may end up third on the team in receiving yards, but his contributions in the running game shouldn't go overlooked. And, I'll also add that I'm not convinced Samuel isn't the best WR on this team.
The rest of the consensus rankings
37. D.J. Chark
38. Odell Beckham
39. T.Y. Hilton
40. Deebo Samuel
41. Marquise Brown
42. Jarvis Landry
43. Jerry Jeudy
44. Jaylen Waddle
45. Marvin Jones
46. Antonio Brown
47. Michael Pittman
48. Laviska Shenault Jr.
49. Michael Gallup
50. DeVante Parker
51. Cole Beasley
52. John Brown
53. Terrace Marshall Jr.
54. Corey Davis
55. Darnell Mooney
56. Mecole Hardman
57. Jalen Reagor
58. Rondale Moore
59. Henry Ruggs III
60. Jamison Crowder
And a quick mailbag ...
Again, you can hit me up at Chris.Towers@CBSInteractive.com to get your questions answered!
- Steve F.: I'm in a 12 team league that keeps two players. Since I won the league last year I don't pick until 12th overall. One of my keepers is Alvin Kamara, but should I keep Darren Waller or A.J. Brown for my second?
Here's the way I look at it: If you keep Brown, your chances of getting an elite TE are pretty much non-existent, while if you keep Waller, your chances of getting a high-end WR are pretty good. Assume the top 20 or so players are going to be kept. That still means you could probably find someone like Calvin Ridley, Robert Woods, Terry McLaurin or Julio Jones there when you pick 12th. Waller and McLaurin is better in my view than whatever you would pair Brown with.
Though I will note I'm higher on the big three tight ends than just about anyone in the industry, ranking all three in my top-13 overall players. The edge they can give you on the competition at that position is just so valuable.
- Steve G.: In the top 12 at RB I would push back on Joe Mixon vs Cam Akers and a few others. Akers has less tread on his tires in an offense that has a history of featuring one guy vs Mixon who seemingly has maybe two good (but not great) years in his whole body of work and a lot of 6-8 game partial efforts that kill your team at his ADP. Two 1000-yard years, two under 650. Averages 5 TDs a year and 30+ catches. That's what you get for a mid second round pick? That's not the league winner you need there. I just don't get it. I would consider D'Andre Swift, Najee Harris, Miles Sanders and maybe even J.K. Dobbins before I ended up with Mixon on my team given the Bengals bad line and likely pass-first approach. Sewell in Detroit jacks up the value of Swift for sure in my book.
I totally, totally understand the concerns with Mixon. I've never actually been much of a fan of his, to be honest. But I don't think the Bengals being pass-first is actually bad for him, given the release of Giovani Bernard. Mixon could see a significant increase in passing game work, and I think he definitely out paces Akers in that regard -- even in his final six games when Akers became the clear No. 1 for the Rams, he had just 14 targets. Maybe Akers is better in the running game and overcomes that, but I think they'll probably be pretty close there, too, so Mixon gets the edge for me.
Akers is actually kind of in the place Mixon used to be for me in Fantasy, where there is an assumption that he'll be an exceptional talent with a huge role, but I'm not sure the passing game role will be there, which limits the upside. Of course, if they do use him like Todd Gurley, he probably has top-three overall upside. That's the key pivot point for Akers' value.
- Jeffrey: So I play in a Keeper league where I have had Tom Brady for like 20 years, since he was a "maybe" star after Drew Bledsoe went down. I also have Alvin Kamara, DK Metcalf and picked Brandon Aiyuk last year. We can only carry three players, so I have to trade or drop one of these guys. Brady should be a reliable top-10 starter this year with all his weapons, but his duration is maybe a year or 2 more. The other three guys obviously have more future upside and with Brady's 90th ADP last year, so maybe I just drop him and try to draft him in the 5th round? Or just move on and draft a QB like everyone else? Or trade one of the other guys for a 3rd or 4th rd pick and hope I strike gold with this year's 6th round keeper pick?
I think it comes down to Brady vs. Aiyuk, and I think you have to take Aiyuk. Brady had an incredible 2020 and was still just QB9 in points per game. I don't think he accounts for 43 touchdowns (on a 16-game pace) again, so there's some regression coming. I do think he can be a reliable starter, but I would rather let him go back in the player pool and either try to draft him again or go for a younger guy with upside like Justin Fields and pair him with someone like Matt Ryan, who I think could be every bit as good as Brady.