words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Mike Evans at PHI – 9.75
Over the last four weeks, Mike Evans’ target percentage is an astronomical 48.6%. The Eagles have seen the sixth-most targets from opposing receivers, so Evans should be in line for a very busy day. Oh yeah, Philly is brutal against the pass. Opponent wideouts are averaging more than 15 catches, 190 yards, and a touchdown per game. And according to Football Outsiders, the Eagles are ranked 31st in defending No. 1 receivers, allowing 98 YPG. Vincent Jackson has already been ruled out for this week, so you can expect Evans to be a target hog yet again.
2. Allen Robinson vs TEN (Thursday) – 9.75
Allen Robinson has now topped 80 yards and/or scored at least once in seven of his last eight games. He should continue to roll against Tennessee’s secondary, which has fallen on hard times. The Titans’ have really struggled against the pass without cornerback Jason McCourty, who was just placed on season-ending injured reserve. Over the last four weeks, they have allowed more than 180 YPG to wideouts, and opposing No. 1 receivers like Brandin Cooks, DeAndre Hopkins, and Julio Jones have topped 70 yards and scored in recent weeks. Robinson’s role could expand with Allen Hurns (abdomen) banged up, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.
3. Dez Bryant at MIA – 9.5
Dez Bryant (and his fantasy owners) couldn’t be happier about Tony Romo making his return. Sure, Romo will be rusty, but he is a major upgrade over Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden. Also, water is wet, and the sky is blue. But back to Dez, who has a nice matchup this week in Miami. According to Football Outsiders, the Dolphins are ranked dead-last in defending No. 1 receivers, allowing 86 YPG. Miami has also surrendered six wide receiver touchdowns in their last four games, and they struggled to defend comparable premier, physical receivers like Allen Robinson (6-155-2) and Brandon Marshall (7-128).
4. Julio Jones vs IND – 9.5
Julio Jones is the best wide receiver in football right now, and stats aren’t needed to support that argument. Coming off a bye, Jones has a neutral matchup in the Colts, who have surrendered 11 touchdowns to wideouts. But Indy employs Vontae Davis, who is one of the better cover corners in the game. Davis has shadowed the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Allen Robinson, and Brandon Marshall, so it’s all but guaranteed the majority of his snaps will come opposite Jones. Marshall was the only receiver to score from the aforementioned trio, but those three receivers combined to average 10 targets, 5 catches, and 77 yards, which is a safe floor for Jones this week.
5. Calvin Johnson vs OAK – 9.25
Calvin Johnson hasn’t returned to dominant form, but he’s been a safe play, recording double-digit points in full PPR formats for eight consecutive games. Johnson has also topped 80 yards in four straight, and he’ll get one of his easier matchups of late in the Raiders. Oakland has allowed the fourth-most catches to wide receivers, and they have seen the third-most red zone targets from opposing wide receivers, which bodes very well for the big-bodied Johnson. The Raiders were able to limit Minnesota’s wide receivers on a windy day, but in their three games prior, Antonio Brown (17-284), Brandon Marshall (9-108), and Keenan Allen (9-89) were all fantasy helpers (okay, Brown was a hero).
6. & 7. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree at DET – 9.25
With more catches and touchdowns than Amari Cooper, the case can be made for Michael Crabtree as Oakland’s No. 1 receiver. But then again, Cooper has more yards with just one fewer touchdown. It’s an intriguing debate, but it might not matter ... at least this week. Oakland throws the ball a healthy 64% of the time, so there should be enough to go around against Detroit for both Crabtree and Cooper. The Lions have surrendered five wide receiver touchdowns in their last five games, and they’ve seen big days from the combined efforts of viable receiver duos like Keenan Allen/Stevie Johnson (21-248-1), Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders (15-179-1), and Larry Fitzgerald/John Brown (9-131-2).
8. Eric Decker at HOU – 9
Eric Decker has now scored in seven of eight games, and his reliability rating seems to climb every week. Decker looks to be a lock for safe numbers yet again with Houston on the docket. According to Football Outsiders, the Texans are allowing the fourth-most YPG to No. 2 receivers (66.5), and opposing secondary receivers have scored in four of the last six games. Decker has seen more targets on the road, and considering Houston hasn’t allowed a No. 1 receiver to top 100 yards since Mike Evans in Week 3, Decker could be heavily involved.
9. Demaryius Thomas at CHI – 9.0
Peyton Manning’s absence is probably addition by subtraction for the Broncos’ pass attack, and Demaryius Thomas owners should not downgrade him with Brock Osweiler as the starter. Thomas saw 11 targets last week, and eight came from Osweiler in less than a half of play! In his first career start, Osweiler will likely lean on Thomas in a pretty ripe matchup for the wideout. Chicago has allowed 12 touchdowns to wide receivers and opposing No. 1 receivers have averaged more than 10 targets over the last six games. And the Bears really haven’t faced a true No. 1 receiver in their last two games, but in their prior three games Stefon Diggs, Calvin Johnson, and Amari Cooper all topped 95 yards and touched painted grass against Chicago.
10. DeAndre Hopkins vs NYJ – 8.75
Let’s clear the air. Yes, DeAndre Hopkins will be on Revis Island this week. That’s never a good thing for any wide receiver. But by no means is Hopkins a lost cause, as you would probably start him if facing shadow coverage from Agent Smith. But let’s get back to reality. Over the last seven weeks, opposing No. 1 receivers are averaging more than nine targets against the Jets, who have allowed six wide receiver touchdowns in their last five games. Granted, those six touchdowns came from secondary receivers, but Hopkins’ insane skill set give him benefit of the doubt. Yes, even if T.J. Yates is starting at quarterback.
11. Allen Hurns vs TEN (Thursday) – 8.75
Despite seeing a specialist for an abdominal injury, it looks like Allen Hurns will play on Thursday against the Titans, who have struggled against the pass without cornerback Jason McCourty (now on injured reserve). Hurns has scored in seven (!) straight games, and he now faces the team ranked dead-last in defending No. 2 receivers (per Football Outsiders). In addition to the abdominal issue, Hurns has also been nursing thigh and foot injuries, but he warrants a start when in uniform. If he were at 100%, he's be ranked in my top five this week.
12. Jarvis Landry vs DAL – 8.75
Jarvis Landry was targeted twice inside the 5-yard line last week, which brings his season total to a league-leading eight targets from inside the 5-yard line. Landry’s usage in the red zone has been a bonus as have been his rushing contributions. Despite Miami owning the third-highest passing play percentage, Landry will need to be utilized any way he can in order to post serviceable WR2 numbers this week. Dallas has been stingy against wide receivers, allowing just 11-145 per game to the position. The silver lining here is that comparable prominent slot receivers like Jordan Matthews (15-213-2) and Julian Edelman (4-120-1) found success versus the Cowboys.
13. Brandon LaFell vs BUF – 8.75
Brandon LaFell has been targeted in the in the red zone at least once in every game he’s played, and he should see even more RZ targets now that Julian Edelman is on the shelf with a broken foot. Such opportunities will be available against the Bills, who have seen the third-most RZ targets from opposing wide receivers and have surrendered the fifth-most touchdowns to the position. Julian Edelman registered 11-97-2 against Buffalo in Week 2, and although he and LaFell are very different players, you have to imagine LaFell will absorb a good chunk of those stats with Edelman out.
14. A.J. Green at ARI – 8.5
A.J. Green is in the midst of an awful stretch where he hasn’t topped 82 yards or scored in five of the last six games. Green has also seen red zone targets in two of those six games; so needless to say, his production is getting sapped by Cincy’s plethora of pass-catchers. It will be tough for Green to get off the schneid against the Cardinals, who haven’t allowed an outside No.1 receiver to score all season. Cornerback Patrick Peterson has re-emerged as one of the better shutdown corners, so Green owners need to temper their expectations. But Peterson has notoriously struggled against receivers standing 6’3” or taller, and Green is 6’4”, so he has that going for him.
15. Brandon Marshall at HOU – 8.5
Brandon Marshall has been arguably the most bankable receiver in fantasy football, scoring a touchdown and/or topping 100 yards in every game but one. It’s possible that Marshall has been limited by ankle/toe problems in recent weeks, but he’s coming off three extra days of rest, so he should be healthier heading into Houston. The Texans are a neutral matchup for receivers, as they’ve surrendered 10 scores to the position. But unfortunately for Marshall, it’s the No. 2 receivers who have had more success. Houston hasn’t allowed a No. 1 receiver to top 100 yards since Mike Evans in Week 3, and four of the last six wide receiver touchdowns they’ve allowed have gone to secondary options.
16. Stefon Diggs vs GB – 8.5
Stefon Diggs has been quiet over the last two weeks, but look for him to resurface in the Vikings’ biggest game since the 2012 postseason. Green Bay has struggled against the pass, as they’ve allowed 5 wide receiver touchdowns in the last five games, and an opposing No. 1 has scored and/or topped 80 yards in seven of the last eight games. Furthermore, according to Football Outsiders, the Packers are ranked 27th in defending No. 1 receivers, allowing 86 YPG. Despite target totals of 2 and 5 in the last two games, Diggs still has to be considered Minnesota’s No. 1 receiver, and his game-breaking services will be sorely needed on Sunday.
17. Randall Cobb at MIN – 8.5
Coming into the season, you may have thought the opposite, but Randall Cobb suffers when Jordy Nelson is not in the lineup. Since the start of last season, Cobb has averaged an extra 20 yards and 0.25 touchdowns per game with a healthy Nelson. Davante Adams is no Jordy Nelson, but Cobb has also fared much better with Adams on the outside. Cobb has averaged an added 35 yards and 0.80 touchdowns with Adams in uniform. So basically, a healthy Adams is good thing for Cobb, but a matchup with Minnesota is bad. The Vikings are allowing less than 145 yards and a touchdown per game to opposing wideouts, and Cobb has scored against Minnesota only once in his career.
18. Jordan Matthews vs TB – 8.5
Jordan Matthews has played 10 games with Mark Sanchez under center and 15 games with someone else as the starter (Nick Foles, Sam Bradford, etc.). Matthews has scored six times in the 10 games started by Sanchez, and only four times in his 15 other games. Basically, Matthews’ odds of scoring go way up with Mark Sanchez at the helm. That sounds crazy, but it’s true. Also helping Matthews’ cause is the porous secondary he’s about to face. The Bucs have surrendered 12 touchdowns to receivers so far, and the last three primary receivers they’ve faced have target totals of 12, 17, and 13.
19. Larry Fitzgerald vs CIN – 8.25
Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t exploded like he had earlier in the season, but he has still been a very consistent fantasy producer. He has topped 84 yards and/or scored at least once in every game but one, and with Michael Floyd back in the mix, Fitzgerald has garnered double digit targets in three of the last four games. The Bengals’ secondary has looked suspect lately, allowing eight wide receiver touchdowns in as many games. And hey, if Fitz can go for 10-130 in Seattle, anything is possible. Note however, that he'll be tangling with elite slot corner Leon Hall throughout much of this game.
20. T.Y. Hilton at ATL – 8.25
T.Y. Hilton (foot) wasn’t expected to play against the Broncos in Week 9, but he shocked us all by suiting up and playing 61% of the snaps. What was even more surprising was the 5-82 he logged against Denver’s vicious secondary. Coming off a bye, Hilton should be near full health against the Falcons, who are not an easy matchup. Atlanta has only allowed three touchdowns to wide receivers, and the last opposing wideout to top 100 yards was DeAndre Hopkins, who was targeted 22 times during garbage time in Week 4. Then there’s the whole quarterback situation for Indianapolis. The loss of Andrew Luck stings, but Hilton was serviceable with Matt Hasselbeck under center, as he actually averaged more targets, catches, and receptions (on a per game basis).
21. Sammy Watkins at NE – 8.25
Sammy Watkins has been frustrating to own, but he’s scored in more than half the full games he’s played, and his two clunker performances came courtesy of shadow coverage from Vontae Davis and Darrelle Revis, respectively. Watkins appears to be over the ankle injury that hampered him for weeks, and he draws a good matchup in the Patriots. New England is allowing more than 14-197-1 per game to opposing wide receivers, and Watkins logged 6-60-1 against them in Week 2.
*22. Michael Floyd vs CIN – 8.25
Michael Floyd is on fire right now. Over the last four weeks, he has twice as many touchdowns and catches of 20+ yards as Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Jaron Brown, combined. The once-stout Cincy secondary has shown some cracks, as they’ve allowed eight wide receiver touchdowns in as many games. In addition, other outside No. 1 receivers like Steve Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Antonio Brown, and DeAndre Hopkins have combined to average more than 12 targets, 8 catches, 100 yards, and a touchdown against the Bengals. Floyd was finally healthy, but he suffered a hamstring injury last week, so you’ll want to monitor his status closely.
23. Danny Amendola vs BUF – 8.25
24. Tavon Austin at BAL – 8.25
25. Stevie Johnson vs KC – 8
26. Golden Tate vs OAK – 8
27. Davante Adams at MIN – 7.75
Over the last two weeks, Davante Adams has more targets and receptions than Randall Cobb and James Jones, combined. He certainly has Aaron Rodgers’ attention, but Adams has his work cut out for him in Minnesota on Sundays. The Vikings have stifled opposing wideouts in recent weeks, as they’ve allowed just four touchdowns to the position over the last six games, and only two receivers have topped 95 yards during that same span.
28. Jeremy Maclin at SD – 7.75
29. Dorial Green-Beckham at JAX (Thursday) – 7.75
30. Dontrelle Inman vs KC – 7.75
31. DeSean Jackson at CAR – 7.5
32. James Jones at MIN – 7.5
33. Doug Baldwin vs SF – 7.5
34. Pierre Garcon at CAR – 7.25
35. John Brown vs CIN – 7.25
36. Leonard Hankerson vs IND – 7.25
37. Kamar Aiken vs STL – 7.25
38. Marvin Jones at ARI – 7.25
39. Robert Woods at NE – 7.25
40. Ted Ginn vs WAS – 7.25
41. Vincent Jackson at PHI - 7.25
42. Rishard Matthews vs DAL – 7.25
43. Terrance Williams at MIA – 7.0
44. Anquan Boldin at SEA – 7.0
45. Chris Givens vs STL – 7.0
46. Mike Wallace vs GB – 7.0
47. Torrey Smith at SEA – 7.0
48. Jamison Crowder at CAR – 6.75
49. Andre Johnson at ATL – 6.75
50. Devin Funchess vs WAS – 6.75