Never-Too-Early 2018 Wide Receiver Rankings
Below you'll find my first stab at 2018 rankings for the wide receiver position. I don't generally like to publish rankings prior to free agency and the Draft, but I know that early mocks have already started up, best ball drafts will soon be underway, and 4for4 subscribers may be wondering where I stand on certain players heading into the offseason.
The rankings are based on PPR scoring systems. I’ve included 2017 points per game and two-year points per game (where applicable). I’ve also included the difference (DIFF) between my rank and the player’s current average draft position (ADP) of 12-team PPR drafts at Fantasy Football Calculator. A positive number means that I'm relatively high on the player while a negative number means – you guessed it – that I'm relatively low on the player.
Below the rankings you'll find some discussion about a few players that jump out as particularly good or poor values heading into the spring.
|Rank||Name||Team||2017 PPG||2-YR PPG||DIFF|
A Few Notable Players:
- The first receiver that I’m ranking significantly higher than his early ADP is JuJu Smith-Schuster. He wasn’t targeted in his first NFL game, but starting in Week 2, he averaged 4.4 catches (on 6.0 targets) for 66 yards and 0.57 touchdowns per game. The resulting 14.4 PPR fantasy points equate to top 10 numbers at his position. After the team’s Week 9 bye, he never played less than 80% of the snaps, so he basically became a full-time player for the Steelers.
- The next player that jumps out as a good early value is Marvin Jones. He finished as the No. 11 receiver in PPR and No. 5 in standard formats, yet he’s the 36th receiver off the board in early drafts. (He finished No. 36 and No. 42 in PPR leagues in 2015 and 2016, so he’s basically being drafted near his floor.) He has stability at quarterback and offensive coordinator, and the Lions are unlikely to use an early pick at receiver after finding Kenny Golladay last year, but Golladay doesn’t look poised to threaten Jones’ role at this point. Jones never played less than 90% of the snaps in 2017 and saw at least five targets in 13 of his 16 games, posting a top 5 finish in air yards. As a late seventh round pick in early drafts, I think he should be going at least two rounds earlier.
- I’m low on Josh Gordon, though he could rise in the rankings if the Browns are able to successfully address their quarterback situation. In his last 10 games (five each in 2017 and 2014), Gordon has averaged 4.2 catches (on 8.9 targets) for 64 yards and 0.10 touchdowns. Production-wise, that's a far cry from his monster 2013 season.
- I was targeting Pierre Garcon heavily in 2017 and will do so again in 2018 with Jimmy Garoppollo under center. He was on pace for 87 catches for 1100-plus yards on 144 targets (top 20 numbers in PPR formats) through his first seven games, prior to his neck injury. He’s an extremely safe pick in the sixth round.
- Robert Woods posted a top 20 per game average and surprisingly became the clear No. 1 target for Jared Goff. Sammy Watkins is a free agent, and Woods’ value will depend somewhat on where Watkins lands. In the end, Watkins wasn’t a threat to Woods’ workload, so either way Woods looks like a good value as the 39th receiver off the board. Including the playoffs, he averaged 5.0 catches (on 7.6 targets) for 71 yards and 0.38 touchdowns per game. That works out to 14.4 PPR fantasy points, which would be good enough to finish in the top 12 when prorated over a full 16-game season. Speaking of Sammy Watkins, there’s talk that the Rams could franchise tag him, and that would unfortunately hamstring his fantasy value. If he signed elsewhere, it’s nearly certain that he’d get more than the 4.7 targets per game that he saw last year with the Rams.
- Sterling Shepard finished with the No. 21 per game average (PPR) serving as the de facto No. 1 receiver for the Giants after the team lost both Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall to season-ending injuries. Shepard only managed to play 11 games in 2017, but averaged 5.4 receptions (on 7.6 targets) for 66 yards and 0.18 touchdowns per game. With Beckham back (and Marshall a likely cap casualty), Shepard should serve as the No. 2 receiver for the G-men, and may see a slight dip in targets as a result. On the flip side, Shepard should benefit from the defensive attention that Beckham will draw, so his efficiency should increase.
- I’m a little low on Corey Davis and high on Rishard Matthews. Davis probably emerges as the No. 1 target for Marcus Mariota, though I don’t think it’s a sure thing.
- Calvin Ridley seems to be the consensus No. 1 rookie receiver in this year’s draft. He’ll probably land with a team that will need him to play immediately. Last year’s crop of first round receivers (Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross) did not fare particularly well. 2016’s first round receivers (Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell) were pretty spotty as well. Fuller had his moments as a rookie, but the other three had disappointing seasons.
- The Jacksonville receiver situation will be fun to watch this offseason. Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee are both hitting free agency, though the team may tag Robinson if they aren’t able to work out a long term deal. He had a very disappointing 2016 season (No. 28 finish) after breaking out in a big way to finish No. 6 in 2015. From Week 2 to Week 14, Lee averaged 4.7 catches (on 7.7 targets) for 59 yards and 0.25 touchdowns per game. Rookie Dede Westbrook averaged 7.3 targets per game from Week 11 to Week 17 and undrafted rookie Keelan Cole had three straight games with at least 99 yards late in the season.