Unfortunately, it appears this trend is likely to continue into 2018, as offenses see the benefit of balanced attacks to win ball games. When it comes to Fantasy, this only puts more pressure on you at draft time to really hit at the position. With the disparity in scoring, you could find yourself getting lucky with an over-producing wideout in the middle rounds, or you might pick an early receiver that busts (Mike Evans) and cripples your weekly lineups. The shift in the Top 10 as we head into 2018 leaves us with a good mixture of the old guard and the new. Some players lived up to their preseason ADPs, and we also had some gems who were drafted later but made big leaps in production.
DeAndre Hopkins- 311.80 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: WR12
Welcome back to the upper echelon of the receiver position DeAndre Hopkins. After a very disappointing season in 2016, Hopkins bounced back in a big way with 96 catches for 1,378 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was one of two receivers to bring in double-digit scores (Davante Adams the other). All of his damage was done on sheer volume alone. His 174 targets led the league and were accomplished in just 15 games. Hopkins also had to battle with changes at quarterback, with Deshaun Watson (injured), Tom Savage, and T.J. Yates all finding time under center. In total, this was a very impressive year for Hopkins.
Going into 2018, Hopkins will be looking to return to the top of the rankings. With a healthy Watson at QB, and a suspect running game, I can see Hopkins having yet another busy year on the outside. He will be among the leaders in targets and touchdowns yet again. Don’t be surprised to see him repeat his 2017 performance this next season.
Antonio Brown- 308.30 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: WR1
At this point in his career, you know what you are getting with Antonio Brown. He is the most consistent receiver at the position and is guaranteed to get you 100 catches while also flirting with double-digit scores each year. The offense in which he plays and the rapport he has with Ben Roethlisberger helps to pad his stats. His 101 catches on 162 targets are both among the league leaders while scoring nine TDs in just 14 games gave you just what you needed in your WR1. If not for Roethlisberger’s early-season struggles, Brown’s numbers would have been even better.
When you think about Brown as we head into 2018, there should be no wavering that he will be the top receiver off the board in drafts. His offense is explosive, and he is the centerpiece of a passing attack that can put up huge numbers. The emergence of second option JuJu Smith-Schuster will only help Brown, as it gives defenses another receiver to focus on. If Le’Veon Bell is again the top option for this offense in 2018, then you can expect similar numbers from Brown. He’ll give you the 100 catches easily but look for him to exceed double-digit scores once again.
Keenan Allen- 284.20 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: WR15
Keenan Allen finally put together a healthy season in 2017, and it paid off with a Top 3 finish at the position. His 102 catches for 1,393 yards was great, but the six TDs left room for improvement going forward. Philip Rivers is the type of QB that likes to spread the ball around, especially around the end zone. Something that may always cap Allen’s scoring potential. His early season production was steady, but he really turned it on during the stretch run to the playoffs going for at least 25 FP a game from Week’s 11-13. He was primarily drafted in early Round 4 but returned Round 2 value for owners that selected him.
As you look ahead to 2018, that injury history will always come into play when you’re evaluating Keenan Allen. There will always be a risk involved when you pull the trigger, but his potential is worth the risk. A full season out of Allen will provide you with the numbers you look for in a WR1, but if he increases his TDs, you are looking at a player that could push for one of the top spots at the position.
Jarvis Landry- 264 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: WR23
Jarvis Landry finished 2017 leading the league in catches with 112, but did not cross the 1,000-yard threshold. He is the epitome of a dink and dunk receiver, who catches a lot of quick passes and has to utilize his agility to get yards after the catch. He’ll never be the type of receiver that will blow you away with yardage totals, but his catches and TDs make up for it. He’s proven to be QB-proof with both Ryan Tannehill and Jay Cutler providing the targets for Landry to succeed.
Entering the 2018 season, Jarvis Landry will be the first receiver that could likely find another destination. He will be a free agent, and odds are he will be leaving Miami. Where he ultimately plays will largely determine his ADP. In a high-octane offense, Landry is a weapon that could continue to provide WR1 numbers. But if he stays in Miami, look for him to come off the board as a WR2 in drafts as his value could be capped.
Larry Fitzgerald- 265.61 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: WR22
In Larry Fitzgerald, we have yet another receiver like Landry, who far exceeded his pre-draft value. Yet another 100-catch, 1,000-yard season propelled Fitzgerald up the year-end rankings. He continues to be a steady producer at the position even though the offense around him is lackluster at best. He’s capable of giving you big scoring weeks, but he also gives you the crippling dud weeks that can kill you.
Fitzgerald was mum about returning for a 15th season but the Cardinals’ new head coach in recent appearances with a media presence. However, the Cardinals’ new head coach, Steve Wilks, ended all speculation in an early morning message on his Twitter account.
“Larry [Fitzgerald] mentioned to me last night that he’s coming back for the 2018 season….he’s totally committed, those are his words. We’re extatic to have him part of the Arizona Cardinals.” -Coach Steve Wilks
— Doug & Wolf Show (@DougandWolf987) February 15, 2018
At this stage of his career, Fitzgerald wants to compete and win a Super Bowl. That may be difficult considering the Cardinals’ current quarterback situation. Fitzgerald has shown he can produce with just about anyone delivering the football, but it will be interesting to see who Wilks ends up with at quarterback.
Michael Thomas- 258.50 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: WR6
After a great rookie season, a lot of hype surrounded Michael Thomas entering the 2017 season. Overall, he did not disappoint. Although his touchdown total (5) was modest at best, he was one of the more consistent players in receptions (104) and yards (1,245) on a weekly basis. Thomas is, without a doubt, Drew Brees’ security blanket. Whenever a play needs to be made or a third down converted, Brees will always look to Thomas. That type of rapport in an offense like this is what makes Thomas a WR1.
Entering 2018, if Drew Brees were to test the free agent waters, we would be looking at Thomas a lot differently in Fantasy. But Brees will undoubtedly be staying in New Orleans, which makes Thomas a bona fide upper-tier WR1. Thomas is matchup proof at this point and should be drafted early in Round 2 in 2018.
Julio Jones- 251.90 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: WR2
The catches and yardage (88 for 1,444) continue to be there for Julio Jones, but the lack of touchdowns is an ongoing, surprising disappointment for a player of his caliber. His three scores in an otherwise solid season continue to be a backbreaker for Fantasy owners that spend high draft picks on him. There was no shortage of opportunities either as Jones’ 20 targets made one of the most targeted players in the end zone.
Looking forward to 2018, Jones may see himself at a crossroads in his career. Can he gather himself and re-establish himself as one of the top players at the position? Or will he begin to see a decline in production as the Falcons’ offense looks to become more balanced to win ball games? There will be owners who draft Jones based on name alone, but given his output over the last two seasons, it’s hard to argue that he is worthy of first-round consideration anymore.
Adam Thielen- 243.80 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: WR40
Show me one Fantasy expert out there that had Adam Thielen finishing the season as a Top 10 WR in 2017, and I will show you a liar. Talk about coming out of nowhere! Sure, Thielen finished 2016 strong, but no one predicted 91 catches for 1,277 yards coming from a Vikings receiver NOT named Stefon Diggs. Consistency was key for Thielen. It took until Week 13 for him to register less than five catches in a game, something no other receiver in the league accomplished.
Entering 2018, the Vikings will have a major question to answer at QB. Do they give him the franchise tag, sign Case Keenum, or do they sign and go with Teddy Bridgewater? This decision will make or break Thielen’s Fantasy value. Keenum has the chemistry with Thielen, as seen in 2017. What could he do with Bridgewater under center? Time will only tell there. But for me, if Keenum is in play, Thielen is a late second/early third rounder. With Bridgewater, there is a bit more risk, so Thielen’s value drops down a round or two.
Tyreek Hill- 240.20 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: WR18
Tyreek Hill is a traditional boom or bust player. For every 25-point performance that he can give you, he’ll also throw in those crippling six to eight-point weeks. Hill finished 2017 with 75 catches for 1,183 yards and eight total TDs, due largely to a big statistical year from Alex Smith. Hill’s 15.8 yards per reception was one of the league’s best. But a large portion of that production comes from his 11.6 yards per target, which was second in the league. Hill gets open, and he gets open often downfield, making him the big-play threat he has become.
Changes are coming in 2018 in the form of Patrick Mahomes as the new starting QB for the Kansas City Chiefs. With Mahomes skill set, this could be a welcomed change for a receiver of Hill’s caliber. Tyreek Hill likes to get downfield, something that you should expect now with Mahomes likely to take plenty of shots deep. You will still see your up and down weeks from Hill, but I believe he could improve on his touchdowns just a bit now in 2018. Hill will be one of these fringe second/third round receivers in drafts for 2018.
A.J. Green- 230.80 FP 2017 Preseason ADP: WR4
Despite what many would call an abysmal year for A.J. Green, his 75 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight TDs was enough to land him in the Top 10. Green was a victim of a very poor Bengals offense. The weeks in which they would try and feature Green in the offense, he would produce for Fantasy teams. In the weeks the Bengals struggled, it was in large part due to Green not getting enough targets. Even though his year-end numbers had him valued as a WR1, it’s hard to say he was a bonafide starter on a weekly basis. Inconsistency was a killer for Green in 2017.
Looking ahead to 2018, no major changes appear to be in store for Green and the Bengals’ offense. They may make some improvements to the offensive line, but aside from that, all the current players should be back. Joe Mixon figures to improve a broken running game during the offseason since he will be the featured back. While Andy Dalton is looking to bounce back and show that he is not an afterthought in Fantasy. For Green, his draft stock continues to drop over the last couple of seasons. He used to be a Top 6 overall pick in drafts but in 2018, look for him to slip into the middle of the second round in many drafts.
DeAndre Hopkins Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Wyke