#5– Mike Evans
Evans is a player that has been ranked all over the place this season, which makes a lot of sense. He is an explosive, big, and talented wide receiver that gets a large amount of targets. In fact, he received 30% of the Buccaneers’ passing attempts last season. So, there are two main ideas surrounding Evans: 1) His talent and target share puts him in the top-three conversation, or 2) His target share is not sustainable, and his numbers will go down with targets. Clearly, I am in the second boat. The Bucs have had a depleted receiving group for awhile, but they will have DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Cameron Brate, and O.J. Howard this season to compliment Evans. They will also have two respectable running backs in Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers. So yes, I think Evans’ target share will go down, which causes his numbers to dip a little. He still is an incredible talent with a strong connection with his quarterback, so he is a top option for me, just not top-four.
#4– Jordy Nelson
Is it possible for a receiver who has AVERAGED 11.4 touchdowns over his last five seasons to be underrated? Well, it sure seems like that is the situation for Jordy Nelson. He finished the season as the second-best receiver in PPR last year, missed the prior year due to a preseason ACL tear, then was the third-best receiver in 2015. I’m unsure why he continues to be ranked outside of other’s top-5, but I’m assuming it’s because those people haven’t watched enough Packer games.
It’s undeniable the connection Nelson has with the best quarterback in the league, Aaron Rodgers. You can watch some of the highlights above. Nelson is Rodgers’ guy in the red zone, and the presence of Martellus Bennett does not change that. It’s fair to say that about half of Nelson’s touchdowns come from broken plays in the red zone where he is watching Rodgers’ eyes and dives in the direction he wants him to. This connection cannot be game planned for by the offense or defense, it just happens. That is why Nelson has averaged 11.4 touchdowns over his past five seasons.
To get back the the Bennett point quickly, of course a big-bodied guy like Bennett will be useful near the end zone. I believe he will catch a lot of touchdowns, but I don’t think this will take away from Nelson much. Instead, I think Davante Adams is the more likely guy to see a notable regression in the touchdown department, since he finished with an impressive and surprising 12 scores last season.
#3– Julio Jones
Julio is a big yardage guy and gets plenty of targets, but he doesn’t score enough touchdowns given the amount of targets he accumulates, and that is why he ranks behind my top-two receivers. He only caught six touchdowns last season, and this continues to be a trend in his career. For whatever reason, Matt Ryan doesn’t look Julio’s way in the red zone as much as other players. With the offense’s expected step back after OC Shanahan leaving, this creates even less scoring opportunities for Julio. I could also make the health argument since he usually misses a game or two, but that honestly isn’t figured into this ranking at all. This seems to be a lot of negative, but remember, Julio is a load to guard. He has freakish athletic ability and seemingly always finds a way to get the ball in his hands.
#2– Odell Beckham Jr.
I’m sure ranking OBJ over Julio is a slight controversy, but it makes perfect sense to me. Despite being 5’11”, this guy gets a lot of looks in the end zone. With the offense improved, this should put his team in scoring position more often. Yes, Marshall will be a popular big target in the red zone, but Odell should see just as many looks. He also finds a way to stay healthy, is crazy after the catch, and his only negative is his in-game antics. I personally think OBJ has figured this out a little bit and should be improved mentally this season.
Let’s also not forget that he finished better than Julio last season (Julio–#6, OBJ–#4). This also comes after Beckham had a difficult start to the season after not catching a touchdown during the first four weeks. In his final eight games, he averaged 19.5 fantasy points without any yardage bonuses figured in. To put this in perspective, Antonio Brown only averaged 15.1 points per week in 2015 when he had that ridiculous season.
#1– Antonio Brown
Woah, who’s this up-and-comer at the top spot? Yeah, not too much to say about Antonio Brown that hasn’t been said already. He has been the top-scoring wide receiver for the past three seasons, and I don’t think that will change this year. He’s on an explosive offense, stays on the field, and should see even more space this season with the return of Martavis Bryant.
Just so I’m not only complimenting this guy, I do see a scenario where his stats regress a bit. The Steelers should have Le’Veon Bell for a full 16 games this season, Martavis Bryant is back from his year-long suspension, and they have other young receiving options in Rogers, Smith-Schuster, and James. Even though this is a great offense, there is only so much to go around. So yes, Brown may experience a slight regression in his stats, but it’s not enough for me to drop him in my rankings.