words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian (@PaulCharchian)
1. Odell Beckham vs NE – 9.75
After a frustrating start, Odell Beckham leads all wide receivers in touchdowns, and his usage in the red zone has been very encouraging. Beckham is one of four receivers with a red zone target percentage north of 35%, and he is one of eight wide receivers with at least seven receptions on red zone plays. Beckham will likely be utilized all over the field versus the Patriots. New England owns the second-highest opponent passing play percentage (66%), and they are allowing a healthy 14-187 per game to opposing receiver corps.
2. Allen Robinson at BAL – 9.75
Last week, Allen Robinson was able to record 6-121 (mostly) on Revis Island, so imagine what he’ll do on Sunday against the Ravens’ lowly secondary. Baltimore has allowed the most touchdowns to wide receivers (14), and they’ve surrendered multiple wide receiver touchdowns in three straight games. Robinson is rapidly becoming one of the best wideouts in the game. He leads all players in catches of 20+ yards and has topped 80 yards and/or scored at least once in six of his last seven games.
3. Julian Edelman at NYG – 9.75
Julian Edelman has taken his game to another level this season. Exactly one-third of his career touchdowns were scored over the last seven games. In prior seasons, the one knock on Edelman was his lack of touchdowns, but that clearly isn’t the case anymore. In addition to his seven touchdowns, Edelman has recorded the league's most targets and catches on plays run in the red zone. That bodes well for Edelman because the Giants have accounted for the third- most red zone targets from opposing wide receivers, and they have surrendered eight scores to the position over their last five games.
4. DeAndre Hopkins at CIN – 9.5
DeAndre Hopkins was deeply missed over the bye week, but fantasy owners will be happy to have their target hog back on Monday night. Hopkins has yet to garner fewer than 11 targets, and he also leads all receivers in red zone targets (18). The once-stout Cincy secondary has shown some cracks, as they’ve allowed seven wide receiver touchdowns in as many games. In addition, other star receivers like Steve Smith, Jeremy Maclin, and Antonio Brown have combined to average 14 targets, 10 catches, 127 yards, and one touchdown against the Bengals.
5. Antonio Brown vs CLE – 9.5
It was all going so well for Antonio Brown, and then … BAM … Ben Roethlisberger went back on the cart. [Cue sad trombone]. Initially, Roethlisberger was said to be out a couple weeks, but there’s supposedly a chance he will play on Sunday. Even if Ben can’t go, all is not lost for Brown, who logged 6-124 when Landry Jones was under center in Week 7. Brown also has a pretty good matchup this week against … the Browns. Cleveland is allowing 12-173-1 to opposing receiver corps, and Brown has topped 85 yards and/or scored a touchdown in each of their last seven meetings.
6. Demaryius Thomas vs KC – 9.25
Since the start of the 2013 season, Demaryius Thomas has had eight games where he’s failed to top 60 yards or score a touchdown. Last week was one of those games. In the games following those clunkers, Thomas has averaged more than seven catches and 116 yards (with five total touchdowns). The Chiefs have allowed the second-most yards and touchdowns to wideouts, and according to Football Outsiders, they are one of five teams allowing 90+ YPG to No. 1 receivers. The good news doesn’t stop there. Thomas had a nice day against the Chiefs in Week 2 (albeit without CB Sean Smith), and in each of their six previous meetings, he has topped 100 yards and/or scored a touchdown.
7. A.J. Green vs HOU – 9.25
A.J. Green has scored in only one of his last five games (damn, Tyler Eifert!), but he stands a good chance to find pay dirt against Houston on Monday night. The Texans have surrendered multiple wide receiver touchdowns in three of their last four games, and even though he didn’t score, Green tallied 12-121 against the Texans last season. Green will see primary coverage from Johnathan Joseph, who is one of the most inconsistent corners in the game. But Green holds a five-inch height advantage, so he should be able to win most jump ball scenarios.
8. Brandon Marshall vs BUF (Thursday) – 9.25
Brandon Marshall (toe/ankle) was able to make it through last week’s game without suffering a setback, so he should be good to go, albeit on a short week. This week’s matchup with the Bills is enticing, because they are far more beatable through the air than they are on the ground. Buffalo has accounted for the third-most targets from opposing wide receivers, and the punchless Titans were the only team who failed to record a receiver touchdown against them. Marshall has thrived in his first season with New York. He has registered the most 100+ receiving yard games (5) and has scored in every home game this season.
9. Calvin Johnson at GB – 9.25
Calvin Johnson sustained an ankle injury in Week 9, but is “feeling pretty good” following the bye week, so fantasy owners shouldn’t have any reservations in starting him on Sunday. The Packers don’t appear to be a great matchup on paper, but according to Football Outsiders, they are ranked 29th in covering No. 1 receivers. Johnson also owns great numbers against his division rival, as he’s totaled 14 touchdowns in 14 career games against Green Bay. Furthermore, Megatron has scored in four of his last five games at Lambeau, and in three of those games, he scored twice.
10. Emmanuel Sanders vs KC – 9
Emmanuel Sanders missed practice on Wednesday because of a lingering ankle injury, but he’s been able to play through it, so he should be fine come Sunday. His owners certainly hope so, considering the Chiefs are in town, a team that has been very generous to wide receivers. Kansas City has allowed the second-most receiving yards and touchdowns to wideouts, and in case you forgot, Sanders had a monster day versus the Chiefs in Week 2 (8-87-2). Note, however, that cornerback Sean Smith wasn't around last time, and his presence is a stabilizing factor for the entire secondary. Smith is a very physical corner, and I expect him to matchup with the sturdier Demaryious Thomas.
11. Allen Hurns at BAL – 9
Allen Hurns has now scored in six straight games, and the good times will likely continue against the shoddy secondary of the Ravens. Hurns plays the role of Robin to Allen Robinson’s Batman, but both should see ample opportunity on Sunday. Baltimore has surrendered seven touchdowns to wide receivers in the last three games, and six of those scores have gone to non-No. 1 receivers. On the season as a whole, the Ravens are allowing a beefy 15-208-2 to opposing receiver corps, so this is a prime matchup for Hurns.
*Hurns is questionable with a foot injury, so monitor his status closely up until kickoff
12. Stefon Diggs at OAK – 9.0
Stefon Diggs fell back to Earth last week, but he’ll look to rebound in a favorable matchup with the Raiders. Oakland has accounted for the most targets from opposing wide receivers, so it’s no surprise they’ve surrendered the most catches and third-most yards to the position. And according to Football Outsiders, the Raiders are one of three teams allowing more than 100 YPG to No. 1 receivers. Diggs made it through last week’s game without suffering a setback to his hamstring injury, so there’s no cause for concern on that front.
13. Randall Cobb vs DET – 9.0
Randall Cobb finally returned to the scoring column last week, and he’ll look to stay hot against the Lions, a team he scored against twice in their last meeting. After enduring a stretch of tough secondaries, this matchup with Detroit's soft defense is pretty mouth-watering. The Lions are allowing a touchdown per game to wide receivers, and they’ve surrendered scores to inferior slot receivers like Stevie Johnson and Doug Baldwin.
14. Jarvis Landry at PHI – 8.75
Things are looking good for Jarvis Landry against Philadelphia this week. Not only have the Eagles surrendered 11 touchdowns to wideouts, but they’ve also surrendered a touchdown to the primary receiver from every opposing team. Okay, they didn’t allow a touchdown to Carolina’s top wide receiver, but do the Panthers really have one? Landry is one of eight wide receivers with at least seven receptions on plays run inside the red zone. Landry could be poised to post a monster line, considering the Eagles were just torched by Cole Beasley, who ran up 9-112-2 against them from the slot.
15. Alshon Jeffrey at STL – 8.75
He has only played in four games, but Alshon Jeffery has been amazing when he’s able to take the field. He has been targeted at least 11 times in each game, and in his three games back from injury, Jeffery has averaged more than nine catches and 138 yards (with two total touchdowns). He draws a tough matchup this week in the Rams, who have only allowed one wide receiver to top 100 yards and have surrendered just three scores to the position. That being said, Jeffery should continue to be force-fed the ball, and his size creates a huge mismatch for any cornerback.
16. Mike Evans vs DAL – 8.75
Last week, Mike Evans was “credited” with six drops, which was the most drops in a game in the last 10 years. Evans still managed to top 150 yards, which is a watermark he has breached in two of the last three games. Evans has also totaled 40 targets during that three-game span, and with Vincent Jackson (knee) questionable play, he could be in line for an expanded workload yet again. The Cowboys have only allowed five touchdowns to wide receivers; and they're equally stingy for yards,allowing just 143 yards per game. But on the bright side, Dallas has paved the way for big games from relevant fantasy wideouts like Julio Jones (12-164-2), Julian Edelman (4-120-1), and Jordan Matthews (9-133-1).
17. Eric Decker vs BUF (Thursday) – 8.75
When healthy, Eric Decker continues to come through for his fantasy owners, as he’s scored in six of the seven games he’s played. And in the one game he didn’t score, he totaled six catches for 94 yards. Decker may be the safest WR2 play in the fantasy world, and he shouldn’t disappoint against Buffalo. The Bills are allowing more than 15-170-1 per game to opposing receivers, and according to Football Outsiders, No. 2 receivers are seeing the fourth-most targets. In addition, Buffalo has accounted for the most targets from wide receivers in goal-to-go scenarios, which bodes well for Decker, who has the second-most catches on plays run from inside the 10-yard line.
18. Brandin Cooks at WAS – 8.75
Brandin Cooks continues to improve upon a brutal start to the season, as he’s topped 80 yards and/or scored at least once in four of his last five games. Washington has surrendered the fourth-most touchdowns to wide receivers (11), and they’ve allowed nobodies like Kenny Britt, Riley Cooper, Miles Austin, and Donteaa Dye to score. No. 1 receivers have also found success against the Skins, as Julian Edelman, Mike Evans, Brandon Marshall, and Odell Beckham have scored on them in recent weeks.
19. Dez Bryant at TB – 8.5
Dez Bryant has played in more than 80% of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps in both games since returning from injury. He should be even healthier this week against the Bucs, who are allowing a hearty 14-181 per game to wide receivers and have surrendered the third-most touchdowns to the position (12). That’s the good news. The bad news is that Matt Cassel will remain the starting quarterback, and even though he found Dez in the end zone last week, Bryant gets a downgrade without Tony Romo. That being said, the Bucs are allowing more than 87 YPG to No. 1 receivers, so Bryant should produce a serviceable stat line in a nice matchup.
20a. Amari Cooper vs MIN – 8.5
We all know Amari Cooper is the real deal, but he might be in for a long day against Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings. Minnesota is allowing less than 150 yards and a touchdown per game to opposing receivers, but other than the Broncos, the Raiders will be the only team with two legit receivers that the Vikes have faced. With Michael Crabtree on the other side, it’s possible that Rhodes won’t travel with Cooper, which means the dynamic rookie could find more room to roam. But no matter which way you slice it, this isn’t an ideal matchup, but Cooper has earned must-start status.
*Cooper is questionable with a quadriceps injury, so monitor his status closely up until kickoff
20b. Michael Crabtree vs MIN – 8.5
Michael Crabtree just might be the best wide receiver on the Raiders. In addition to scoring four touchdowns in his last three games, Crabtree also has more targets, receptions, and yards than teammate Amari Cooper. They are practically 1a and 1b, so it’s tough to determine who should have a better game in a tough matchup against Minnesota. The Vikings are allowing less than 150 yards and a touchdown per game to opposing receivers, and no two wideouts from the same team have scored in the same game. The Vikings have yielded big numbers to top-flight receivers like Keenan Allen (12-133-2), Alshon Jeffery (10-116-1), and Calvin Johnson (10-83-1 and 5-86-1), but who will be the Raiders top option on Sunday?
21. Martavis Bryant vs CLE – 8.5
Martavis Bryant has yet to face the Browns in his career, so we can’t use recent history to predict how he’ll perform on Sunday. But he certainly loves playing in Pittsburgh, as nine of Bryant’s 12 career touchdowns have come at home. Opponents usually choose to run through the Browns awful front four, but this is still a pretty beefy matchup for Bryant. According to Football Outsiders, Cleveland is one of nine teams allowing more than 60 YPG to No. 2 receivers, and six of the nine receiver touchdowns surrendered went to secondary options.
22. Brandon LaFell at NYG – 8.5
In his first three games back, Brandon LaFell has seen target totals of 7, 8, and 9, so he’s been very active in the Patriots’ offense. That shouldn’t change on Sunday against the Giants, who have surrendered the third-most catches and the fourth-most yards to wide receivers. New York has also accounted for the third-most red zone targets from opposing wide receivers, and they have surrendered eight scores to the position over their last five games. That factors well for LaFell, who has great size and was targeted twice in the red zone last week.
23. DeSean Jackson vs NO – 8.5
Last week, in his first game since Week 1, DeSean Jackson (hamstring) played in 84% of Philly’s offensive snaps and was targeted six times. Jackson didn’t appear to suffer any setbacks, so he should be even better off against the Saints on Sunday. New Orleans looks lost on defense, especially in their secondary. The Saints have allowed the most touchdowns to wide receivers (14), and 10 of those scores have come in the last four games. New Orleans has been woeful against the pass as well, and that’s why this game has the second-highest over/under of the week (51 points). We are looking at a likely shootout, and Jackson should be very active.
24. Willie Snead at WAS – 8.5
With 70+ yards in four of his last six games, Willie Snead has been a waiver wire savior for those in need of a wide receiver, and he finds himself in a good spot against Washington on Sunday. According to Football Outsiders, Washington is ranked 30th in defending No. 2 receivers and are one of three teams allowing more than 70 YPG to secondary options. Snead leads the Saints in receiving yards, and he has seen more red zone targets than the combined efforts of Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston.
25. Jordan Matthews vs MIA – 8.25
26. Larry Fitzgerald at SEA - 8
27. James Jones vs DET - 8
28. Pierre Garcon vs NO - 8
29. Jeremy Maclin at DEN – 7.75
30. Sammy Watkins at NYJ (Thursday) – 7.75
31. Davante Adams vs DET – 7.75
32. Tavon Austin vs CHI – 7.75
33. Travis Benjamin at PIT – 7.75
34. Michael Floyd at SEA – 7.75
35. Rueben Randle vs NE – 7.75
36. *Vincent Jackson vs DAL – 7.5
37. John Brown at SEA – 7.5
38. Kamar Aiken vs JAC – 7.5
39. Marvin Jones vs HOU – 7.5
40. Chris Givens vs JAC – 7.5
41. Terrance Williams at TB – 7.25
42. Doug Baldwin vs ARZ – 7.25
43. Golden Tate vs GB – 7.0
44. Robert Woods at NYJ (Thursday) – 7.0
45. Rishard Matthews at PHI – 7.0
46. Mike Wallace at OAK – 6.75
47. Jamison Crowder vs NO – 6.75
48. Justin Hunter vs CAR – 6.75
49. Dorial Green-Beckham vs CAR – 6.75
50. Marques Colston at WAS – 6.75
51. *Kendall Wright vs CAR – 6.75