Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Dynasty Rankings: Odell Beckham, Mike Evans top elite tier of wide receivers

The most important foundation of building an elite dynasty squad is building an elite core of WRs. Why? They’re more reliable than running backs but less predictable than quarterbacks. Nail this position and you can be set for the next 5-10 years. That makes youth important, but it doesn’t mean youth can’t be overstated.

Receivers age better than running backs and all players are aging better than they used to because of medicine. I can’t imagine thinking that I can accurately project past 3-5 years, so it’s hard to assign too much value to a 22-year-old receiver over one who is 24.

The other thing that makes receivers unique is their dependence on quarterback play. We saw it with DeAndre Hopkins in 2016, and it has to make you at least a little bit leery about his value moving forward. On the other hand, young receivers like Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks may have too much of their value dependent on Drew Brees. We’ll take a look at that and more in this first installment of dynasty WR rankings.

Odell Beckham N.Y. Giants WR
By far the best combination of youth and ability.
Mike Evans Tampa Bay WR
Tough to put him ahead of the next two, but his age (23) makes the difference.
Julio Jones Atlanta WR
Still the most talented receiver in the league in my opinion. Slight downgrade for foot.
Antonio Brown Pittsburgh WR
Is there any reason for caution after the drama at the end of the season?
A.J. Green Cincinnati WR
Brown and Jones are the only receivers under 29 with more receiving yards than Green since 2011.
Amari Cooper Oakland WR
Hasn’t earned his way into this tier yet, but he also won’t turn 23 until June.

In the first tier we get a taste for how much age matters at the position with Mike Evans and Amari Cooper both getting a bump because of their youth. Cooper still hasn’t delivered on his potential, but he compares favorably to just about any wide receiver at this stage of his career.

Cooper is one of only four receivers ever with at least 150 catches and 2,200 receiving yards over his first two seasons. The other three are Beckham, Green and Marques Colston. From a Fantasy perspective, the only thing holding him back is his touchdown rate.

Remember a year ago when we were lamenting Mike Evans’ three TDs in 2015? It will figure itself out.

Borderline Stars
T.Y. Hilton Indianapolis WR
Hilton may deserve to be in the top tier but he doesn’t quite have the youth (28 in November) or the touchdowns.
Dez Bryant Dallas WR
Bryant’s age (29 in November) and injury history dropped him a tier.
Michael Thomas New Orleans WR
How dependent is he on Drew Brees?
Brandin Cooks New Orleans WR
See above.
Keenan Allen L.A. Chargers WR
Injury concerns are real, but he’s shown us elite upside in the past.
Plenty of question marks but so few receivers have more talent.
Allen Robinson Jacksonville WR
Was the 2015 or 2016 version the real Allen Robinson?
Could vault up the rankings with an adequate quarterback.
Just one year older than Dez Bryant. Would be on his level with a better QB situation.

This tier is composed of players who could make the leap into the top tier, were in the top tier or arguably should be in the top tier. This is also where you get a sense of how much situation matters.

Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas are elite talents who could make very good arguments for the top tier. They also have terrible quarterback situations, and I have no confidence that either situation will improve in the near future.

Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks have both benefitted greatly from their elite-but-aging quarterback. They both also have elite skills and youth on their side. While the quarterback situation could get worse, there’s no reason to think it will get anywhere close to as bad as Hopkins’ currently is. 

The Question Mark is too big
Doug Baldwin Seattle WR
Baldwin’s efficiency is off the charts. Can he get the volume?
Davante Adams Green Bay WR
Adams was phenomenal this year, but it was awfully touchdown-heavy.
I am completely sold on Jeffery’s talent but he has injury concerns and a lack of certainty over his future.
Jordy Nelson Green Bay WR
Nelson has been perpetually underrated, so I hate to do it again. But 32 is old even for a receiver.

I don’t know that there is a correct way to rank Jordy Nelson. He’s a top-10 wide receiver next year who could be one year away from seeing his skills completely diminished. I would rank him much higher for a win-now franchise, but he’s a must-sell if you’re building for the future. 

Low End No. 2s with upside
If Landry ever has a good touchdown year, he’s going to be a top-10 receiver.
Donte Moncrief Indianapolis WR
The anti-Jarvis Landry. All he does is score.
Stefon Diggs Minnesota WR
Diggs just turned 23 and will be a popular third-year breakout candidate.
Corey Coleman Cleveland WR
I’m not downgrading a first-round pick too much for a rookie year plagued by injury and poor quarterback play.

This tier is a big part of why I’m so uncomfortable ranking Jordy Nelson where I did. Landry is the only player in this tier I could see coming close to Nelson’s production in 2017. But they’re all young enough to believe that they’re far better fits on any dynasty team that isn’t expecting to compete this year.

I am most curious about what happens with Donte Moncrief moving forward. Moncrief has 12 touchdowns in his last 16 games with Andrew Luck. That is amazing, but it’s easy to question the sustainability since those same 16 games include just 62 catches for 658 yards. Is he the next Eric Decker? James Jones? Or does his red zone production start translating on all parts of the field?

Upside No. 3s
Jordan Matthews Philadelphia WR
I still believe in the talent and the situation is improving.
That was an ugly encore, but there’s still room for Benjamin to grow.
Terrelle Pryor Cleveland QB
Pryor was impressive, but time is working against him in the Browns’ rebuild.
This will definitely be my favorite third-year breakout.
Tyreek Hill Kansas City WR
I worry about Hill’s long-term prospects. Flashes like him don’t often burn for long.
The profile is almost as impressive as the performance has been disappointing.
Sterling Shepard N.Y. Giants WR
I’m not sure his upside fits this group, but his floor may be higher.
Tyrell Williams L.A. Chargers WR
What happens to Williams’ role with Keenan Allen back?

For every player in this tier, I could give you an optimistic take that they should be ranked higher or a pessimistic take that says they’re too high. That’s how they got here. Two of the most obvious might be Tyler Lockett and Tyreek Hill.

You might remember that this writer and many others wrote the optimistic take on Tyler Lockett’s sophomore season last summer. His efficiency and Russell Wilson’s bright future led to all types of bold takes that now look really dumb. Neither Lockett or Wilson were healthy last year, and Lockett’s still a huge part of the Seahawks’ plans. He also serves as a cautionary tale for Tyreek Hill.

The buzz is already building around Hill with talk of an expanding role. Hill was the fastest player in the NFL last year and had more success on the ground than Lockett did. Still, he’s a sub-6-foot wide receiver around 180 pounds who succeeds largely because of his speed. He isn’t as developed as a route runner as Lockett either. 

Low End No. 3s
Randall Cobb Green Bay WR
Just one year in his career with 1,000 yards.
Golden Tate Detroit WR
We’ve counted him out too many times already.
Can he keep the touchdown production up?
A new quarterback could change everything.
Malcolm Mitchell New England WR
Can Tom Brady really play into his mid-40s?

Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Crabtree have both been thorns in the sides of Fantasy players who own their teammates. We’re all pretty certain that Demaryius Thomas and Amari Cooper are much better, but that doesn’t keep these two from “stealing” their Fantasy points, especially Crabtree with the touchdowns. They’re most likely No. 3 options but generally come at a discount in both dynasty and redraft.

Uncertain Futures
DeSean Jackson Washington WR
Step one is figuring out who his new QB will be.
Eric Decker N.Y. Jets WR
Add injury and age concerns (30 on March 15) to his preexisting sustainability concerns.
At his age there’s a chance that last year’s decline was the beginning of the end.
Julian Edelman New England WR
When you add up injury concerns, age concerns (31 in May) and the age concerns of his QB, he’s probably not worth it.
Probably a one-year rental as a No. 3 WR, but we’ve thought that for a while now.
Martavis Bryant Pittsburgh WR
Huge potential but so close to being out of the league for good.

I fully expect there to be some major changes in this tier in the next six months. In a year I wouldn’t be surprised if two or three of these guys aren’t even in my top 50. They may not even be in the league.

Obviously the most interesting from a long-term perspective is Martavis Bryant. Dynasty owners’ recent experience with Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon should in theory cause people to overestimate the likelihood that Bryant has no future value. That being said, dynasty owners love cheap talent too much for Bryant to ever be appropriately priced. 

Hopes and Dreams
Kevin White Chicago WR
If they don’t replace Alshon, White could be competing for the role of No. 1.
Josh Doctson Washington WR
If his Achilles heals, he may be the most talented WR left in Washington.
John Brown Arizona WR
Here’s hoping they can find a way to manage his health in the offseason.
Jamison Crowder Washington WR
It’s hard to project too much upside on Crowder, but he could be a steal as a solid No. 3.
Marvin Jones Detroit WR
I can’t let go of that start to 2016 yet.
Marqise Lee Jacksonville WR
There was a large portion of 2016 where Lee looked like the best receiver in Jacksonville.
J.J. Nelson Arizona WR
Between Fitzgerald’s age and Brown’s health, the door is wide open for Nelson.
There are very few places with a good QB and little competition for targets. If he finds one, he’ll climb rankings.

This is the stage of the rankings for that talent you still believe in, even if you don’t have a lot of evidence right now. It’s also probably telling that the two players at the top of this tier haven’t had as much of a chance to fail while most of the others have done plenty of failing. 

This is also the section of ‘what ifs’. What if Josh Doctson gets healthy and Washington doesn’t sign a high-profile wide receiver? What if someone with a good quarterback invests heavily in Kenny Stills? What if John Brown enters 2017 healthy? It’s not hard to get excited about players in this range, especially with their low cost.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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