words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Julio Jones vs HOU - 10
Julio Jones is currently on a ridiculous (and unsustainable) pace for 181-2346-21. After allowing the third-most touchdowns to wide receivers in 2014, Houston looks much improved against the pass, but you wouldn’t consider benching Jones against a team of velociraptors. Jones is the only receiver to garner 40% of his team’s targets (just ask languishing Roddy White owners), so sit back and enjoy the production while he’s fully healthy.
2. Randall Cobb at SF - 10
Randall Cobb has totaled 23 targets over the last two games, and he should be heavily involved in a very favorable matchup with the 49ers. San Francisco has allowed the third-most yards to wide receivers, and they are ranked 29th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. More than 90% of Green Bay’s red zone scores have come via the pass, and after three short touchdowns last week, Cobb is clearly one of the Packers’ top red zone threats.
3. Odell Beckham at BUF – 9.75
Buffalo has a scary defense, but there’s been no shortage of opportunity for opposing wide receivers. The Bills are the only team to allow 100+ targets to the position, and they’ve also surrender the most red zone targets (19). In addition, Buffalo owns the highest opponent passing play percentage (76%), and they have allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in every game. They'll likely be without safety Aaron Williams again, which only compounds matters. Odell Beckham will surely draw a lot of attention, but per usual, he is unbenchable when healthy.
4. A.J. Green vs KC – 9.5
A.J. Green should be in line for a big day against the Chiefs, who have allowed the most receptions, yards, and touchdowns to wide receivers. Kansas City has also surrendered 2+ passing touchdowns in every game, but they will welcome the return of their top cornerback, Sean Smith, who ranked third in pass coverage among corners last year (Pro Football Focus). The return of the 6’3” Smith is a slight knock on Green, but certainly shouldn’t sway you from starting him.
5. Steve Smith at PIT (Thursday) – 9.75
In two games against Pittsburgh last year, Steve Smith totaled just 11-107, but the Steelers’ secondary is far worse these days. Pittsburgh has allowed the 10th-most catches to wide receivers, and they are ranked 30th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. At 36 years old, Smith is on top of his game. He is one of only three wideouts to garner at least 40 targets, and he has caused nine missed tackles, the most at his position.
6. Demaryius Thomas vs MIN – 9.5
Demaryius Thomas got off the schneid last week but it wasn’t like he was really struggling. After logging 8-116 in Week 2, he saw double-digit targets for the third straight game (11, 14, 13). The Vikings breathed a sigh of relief when cornerback Xavier Rhodes passed concussion protocol on Wednesday, so he looks like he’ll play. But Rhodes has been a little rocky in the early going, surrendering two touchdowns with a 109 QB rating in his coverage.
7. Antonio Brown vs BAL (Thursday) – 9.5
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Antonio Brown’s stock took a huge hit when Ben Roethlisberger went down with a knee injury. Still, he is one of the game’s elite and still an every-week WR1 play in fantasy football. Brown has scored only once against Baltimore, but it came in the most recent meeting, when he also caught 11 balls for 144 yards. The Ravens secondary was supposed to be much improved this year, but they have allowed the third-most touchdowns (6) and the most receiving yards (782) to wideouts.
8. Amari Cooper at CHI – 9.25
Amari Cooper is the real deal. He is averaging 10+ targets per game and is one of 15 receivers with at least 20 catches. Oh yeah, in case you forgot, he’s a rookie … on the Raiders. Cooper will look to top 100 yards for the third straight game, a feat that is easily attainable against the woeful Bears, who have also allowed seven touchdowns to wide receivers! And that includes last week’s game against the Seahawks, who didn’t need to throw the ball at all.
9. DeAndre Hopkins at ATL – 9.25
DeAndre Hopkins has seen target totals of 13, 11, and 14, and he’ll remain heavily involved against the Falcons, who are allowing 87 YPG to No. 1 receivers. Atlanta employs a standout corner in Desmond Trufant, but he has been sticking to one side of the field and is easily avoidable. Houston is top-10 in passing play percentage, which could easily change if Arian Foster makes his return. But either way, Hopkins is a must-play in one of this week’s six games with an over/under set higher than 45 points.
10. Larry Fitzgerald vs STL – 9.25
Larry Fitzgerald looks more alive than ever, and it’s probably all thanks to Carson Palmer. In seven of Palmer’s last eight starts, Fitz has great PPR stat lines: 9-134-2, 8-112-3, 6-87, 9-112, 5-70, 7-160-1, and 6-98-1. Fitzgerald has scored against the Rams more than any other team in his career (16 TDs in 22 games), and he’ll continue to roll if he stays top-five among receivers in target percentage (currently fourth at 32.6%).
11. Brandon Marshall at MIA (London) - 9
Brandon Marshall has scored in each game thus far, and it has come against some pretty stiff competition at cornerback. He’ll face another sticky corner in Brent Grimes, but Marshall’s five inch height advantage will certainly come into play. Miami’s secondary has also struggled. According to Football Outsiders, they rank 26th in defending No. 1 receivers and are allowing 89 YPG. 100% of New York’s passing touchdowns have gone to wide receivers, and with Eric Decker iffy to play (or potentially a decoy), Marshall makes for a must-start. Also, Grimes' wife is a loon.
12. Emmanuel Sanders vs MIN - 9
So far, Emmanuel Sanders is one of nine receivers to see at least 35 targets, and he is averaging more than six catches and 80 YPG with two total touchdowns. Minnesota isn’t an ideal matchup, but star cornerback Xavier Rhones will likely spend most of his day glued to Demarious Thomas, which puts Sanders in easier coverage with Terrance Newman.
13. Jordan Matthews at WAS – 8.75
Jordan Matthews scored twice against Washington last year, and with an expanded role (sans Jeremy Maclin), he should see continued success against his division rival. Outside of their meeting with the lowly Rams receivers, the Redskins have allowed 30+ catches, 300+ yards, and three touchdowns to opposing wideouts (in two games). Washington will also likely be without starting cornerback, DeAngelo Hall, who left last week’s game with a toe injury.
14. Pierre Garcon vs PHI – 8.75
Pierre Garcon had a monster outing against the Eagles last year (11-138-1), and with DeSean Jackson still sidelined, he could be in line for another big game. Philly is allowing 113 yards per game to No. 1 receivers, and in games started by Kirk Cousins, and without Jackson, Garcon is averaging 11.5 targets.
15. Jarvis Landry vs NYJ (London) – 8.5
When it comes to playing a wide receiver against the Jets, it’s all about Darrell Revis. Thankfully for Jarvis Landry owners, Revis probably won’t be at 100% if he plays (groin). That being said, Revis stayed out of the slot against Jordan Matthews last week, playing only four snaps from the seam, so Landry could be just as lucky. Landry failed to score against New York last year, but he has seen double-digit targets in every game and should supply serviceable stats in PPR formats.
16. Keenan Allen vs CLE – 8.5
Outside of a brutal matchup with Cincinnati, Keenan Allen has seen target totals of 17 and 18. He should continue to see heavy volume against the Browns, who have already surrendered five touchdowns to wide receivers. Cornerback Joe Haden injured a rib last week, so he could be limited, but it might not matter. Haden is off to another slow start, as he ranks 96th (out of 100) in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. Injuries across the Chargers' offensive line could create problems for the entire offense, though.
17. James Jones at SF – 8.5
James Jones now has four touchdowns in three games, and he saw increased attention last week after Davante Adams aggravated his ankle injury. Jones was targeted eight times with Adams on the sideline, and that could very well be the case this week against San Francisco. Even if Adams suits up, Jones has an undeniable chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. And he could have a field day against the 49ers, who have surrendered the third-most yards to wide receivers and are ranked 29th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus.
18. Mike Evans vs CAR – 8.25
Mike Evans looked healthy last week, and as a result, he saw 17 targets. He should see plenty of attention this week against the Panthers, one of six teams with an opponent passing play percentage over 65%. But Carolina also employs an emerging stud at cornerback, Josh Norman, who is currently ranked second in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. In the first three weeks, Norman has primarily covered Allen Robinson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Brandin Cooks. Those receivers combined for just four catches (on 13 targets) and 47 yards.
19. Alshon Jeffrey vs OAK – 8.25
Alshon Jeffery has been practicing on a limited basis (hamstring), so you will want to monitor his status closely leading up to kickoff. If he’s able to go, Jeffery will have a favorable matchup in the Raiders, who have allowed 190 YPG to opposing wide receivers. Oakland has also allowed the third-most red zone targets to wide receivers, which bodes well for Jeffery if he’s at or near 100%.
20. Allen Robinson at IND – 8.25
Allen Robinson fell back to Earth last week, but he’ll look to rebound against the Colts, who are one of 13 teams allowing more than 170 yards per gameto opposing wide receivers. Robinson logged a respectable 7-79 in his lone game against Indy last year, but his owners need to be a little wary of shadow coverage from Vontae Davis. Although he is one of the better corners in football, Davis has struggled early, allowing two touchdowns and a 115 passer rating in his coverage. 100% of Jacksonville’s red zone scores have come via the pass, and Robinson will continue to be the primary target with Julius Thomas expected to remain out (hand).
21. Calvin Johnson at SEA – 8.25
Having already faced the Chargers, Vikings, and Broncos, this is the fourth straight brutal week for Calvin Johnson. The Seahawks only allowed five touchdowns to wide receivers last year, and with only one score surrendered to the position so far, they are on that same pace. Seattle also has All-Pro safety Kam Chancellor back in the fold (holdout), which makes this matchup that much worse for Megatron.
22. Michael Crabtree at CHI – 8.25
We have a Michael Crabtree sighting in this week’s rankings! The crappy Chicago defense, which has allowed seven wide receiver touchdowns, plays a huge part, but that’s beside the point (sort of). Crabtree has averaged more than 10 targets per game in his first year with Oakland, and if the Bears roll coverage onto Amari Cooper (which they should), Crabtree is going to have a field day.
23. John Brown vs STL - 8
Larry Fitzgerald has stolen all of the thunder in Arizona, but that doesn’t mean John Brown still can’t strike like lightning. Brown hasn’t seen more than seven targets or topped 62 yards, but he was solid in his last home meeting with St. Louis, tallying 5-73-1. The Rams could struggle to score, which caps Brown’s upside, but he can take one to the house on any snap, so he warrants another start.
24. T.Y. Hilton vs JAX – 8
T.Y. Hilton loves him some home cooking, especially against the Jaguars. In their last three meetings, Hilton has totaled 19-390-2. And unlike recent years, Jacksonville should be able to put a few points on the board; meaning the Colts (and their deplorable defense) might be forced to throw a little more than usual.
25. Terrance Williams at NO – 8
26. Donte Moncrief vs JAX – 7.75
Don’t look now, but Donte Moncrief has scored in three straight games, and he also leads the Colts in receptions. Moncrief has also seen eight more targets than the fading Andre Johnson, which is something that appears to be more trend than mirage. Jacksonville is about as neutral a threat as there can be (on a good day), so Moncrief has flex appeal this week.
27. Brandin Cooks vs DAL (if Drew Brees plays) – 7.75
28. Jeremy Maclin at CIN – 7.75
29. Vincent Jackson vs CAR – 7.75
30. *Eric Decker at MIA (London) – 7.75
31. Ty Montgomery – 7.75 (if Adams is ruled out)
32. Rueben Randle at BUF – 7.75
33. Stevie Johnson vs CLE – 7.75
34. Allen Hurns at IND – 7.75
35. Rishard Matthews vs NYJ (London) – 7.75
36. Roddy White vs HOU – 7.5
37. Golden Tate at SEA – 7.5
38. Torrey Smith vs GB – 7.5
39. Percy Harvin vs NYG – 7.5 (if Sammy Watkins is ruled out)
40. Cole Beasley at NO – 7.5
41. Anquan Boldin vs GB – 7.5
42. Ted Ginn at TB – 7.5
43. Seth Roberts at CHI – 7.5
44. Markus Wheaton vs BAL (Thursday) – 7.5
45. Nelson Agholor at WAS – 7.5
46. Devin Street at NO – 7.5
47. Travis Benjamin at SD – 7.5
48. Doug Baldwin vs DET – 7.5
49. Sammy Watkins vs NYG – 7.25
50. *Davante Adams at SF – 7.25
51. Marvin Jones vs KC – 7.25
52. Leonard Hankerson vs HOU – 7.25
53. Mike Wallace at DEN – 7.25
54. Robert Woods vs NYG – 7.25 (if Sammy Watkins is ruled out)
55. Marques Colston vs DAL – 7.25
56. Nate Washington at ATL – 7.25
57. Jermaine Kearse vs DET – 7.25
58. Andre Johnson vs JAX – 7.0
59. Kenny Britt at ARZ – 7.0
60. DeVante Parker vs NYJ (London) – 6.75