Early 2017 Rankings: Top 40 Wide Receivers: How high Does Michael Thomas Rank & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We all know who the top few wide receivers are, though you could argue the order (Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr.).  After those top few, though, things do start to get a little bit questionable.  Whether it’s a player in a poor situation or questions about health or some other issue, things are definitely in flux.  Let’s take a look at how things currently look, keeping in mind that they will likely change dramatically as we get closer to the start of the season:

  1. Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Odell Beckham Jr. – New York Giants
  3. Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
  4. Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  5. Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers
  6. A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals
  7. Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
  8. Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
  9. T.Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts
  10. Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys
  11. DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans
  12. Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos
  13. Doug Baldwin – Seattle Seahawks
  14. Brandin Cooks – New England Patriots
  15. Sammy Watkins – Buffalo Bills
  16. Allen Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars
  17. Devante Adams – Green Bay Packers
  18. Michael Crabtree – Oakland Raiders
  19. Alshon Jeffrey – Philadelphia Eagles
  20. Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals
  21. Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina Panthers
  22. Golden Tate – Detroit Lions
  23. Julian Edelman – New England Patriots
  24. Keenan Allen – Los Angeles Chargers
  25. Jarvis Landry – Miami Dolphins
  26. Stefon Diggs – Minnesota Vikings
  27. Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins
  28. Donte Moncrief – Indianapolis Colts
  29. Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs
  30. Emmanuel Sanders – Denver Broncos
  31. Martavis Bryant – Pittsburgh Steelers
  32. Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers
  33. Willie Snead – New Orleans Saints
  34. Jamison Crowder – Washington Redskins
  35. Eric Decker – Tennessee Titans
  36. DeSean Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  37. Corey Davis – Tennessee Titans
  38. Brandon Marshall – New York Giants
  39. Kenny Britt – Cleveland Browns
  40. Jeremy Maclin – Baltimore Ravens

Thoughts:

  • While Mike Evans may not lead the NFL in targets once again (175), thanks to the addition of DeSean Jackson, he’s proven that he’s a red zone monster.  He scored 12 TD in ’16 (tied for second most, trailing just Jordy Nelson who scored 14 TD), the second time in his three NFL seasons that he’s reached the mark and there is little reason to think that he won’t again be the go to target when the team is close.
  • Michael Thomas, a former second round pick, had a monster rookie season as he turned 122 targets into 92 catches, 1,137 yards and 9 TD.  While you can argue that the addition of Adrian Peterson indicates that the team will be slightly more run heavy, the trade of Brandin Cooks tells us that there are still going to be ample opportunity even if that were the case.  There’s every reason to believe that Thomas will be the go to option, and that will make him a Top 10 option.
  • The question for Allen Robinson will be if Blake Bortles can evolve as a capable NFL quarterback.  Robinson saw plenty of targets (151), but turned them into just 73 catches, 883 yards and 6 TD.  While some of the blame may fall at his feet, a lot of it has to do with the highly inaccurate QB (Bortles’ 58.9% completion rate was third worst among qualified passers).  While he should get the opportunity to produce, that only goes so far and keeps him as more of a WR2.
  • We all know what a healthy Keenan Allen is capable of, but can he actually stay on the field for 16 games?  He’s played 9 games over the past two seasons (after missing 3 games over his first two years), so it’s getting harder and harder to believe in.  He’s still a borderline WR2, but if you select him you need to make sure you have the proper depth just in case.
  • Terrelle Pryor enjoyed a breakout ’16 campaign, racking up 77 catches for 1,007 yards and 4 TD. Considering the QB those numbers came courtesy of, the move to Washington (where he should still be the top receiving option) should be considered a step up and should lead to him at least maintaining his production.  The question is going to be if the TD are there (Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed could be bigger red zone threats), and that’s going to keep him as more of a WR3 with upside.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs started to figure out how to incorporate Tyreek Hill into the offense more and more as the season progressed, and his production over the final 8 games speaks to that (39 receptions for 359 yards and 2 TD; 16 carries for 222 yards and 3 TD).  You prorate those out over a full 16 game season and you get a devastating player.  While it’s not quite that simple, look for the sophomore’s role to be a big one from Week 1.  That gives him WR2 upside, and an easy grab as your WR3.
  • Kelvin Benjamin has the upside of a WR1, but he’s battled weight issues and has to contend with an underachieving Cam Newton (league worst 52.9% completion rate in ’16).  Benjamin has proven that he can produce, regardless of the issues, but they do keep him suppressed as more of a WR2.

Make sure to check out our early 2017 Rankings:

Updated/Expanded 2017 Rankings: Top 25 Quarterbacks: Luck's Health Concerns & More
Top 10 Rookie Quarterbacks For 2017: Is There Anyone Who Could Emerge In '17?

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