words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Antonio Brown at STL - 10
Antonio Brown ranks first in target percentage (34.4%), and when dealing with that kind of volume, his 15 yards per target is absolutely amazing. Brown is also the leader of the pack in receiving yards (shocker), and he could easily pad his lead against the Rams, who are one of six teams to surrender more than 30 catches to wide receivers.
2. Julio Jones at DAL – 9.75
In the words of Wayne and Garth, “we’re not worthy!” What can you say about Julio Jones other than, “wow”? Jones is among the leaders in every relevant receiving category, and his owners are reaping the rewards while he’s healthy (knock on wood). Dallas has only surrendered a combined 21-224-1 to all opposing wide receivers, and they are ranked fifth in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. But c’mon, it’s Julio Jones. Don’t forget to breathe, and don’t forget to start him. Do those two things, and you’ll be fine.
3. Odell Beckham vs WAS (Thursday) – 9.5
Washington’s secondary was stout on paper last week, but that came against the Rams, which might have the worst receiving corps in the league. The Redskins are only two gamesremoved from surrendering the most touchdowns to wide receivers (23 in 2014), and despite adding cornerback Chris Culliver, their third level is not much improved. Odell Beckham popped off for 12-143-3 in his lone game against Washington, and he should be in line for another productive evening on Thursday.
4. Randall Cobb vs KC – 9.5
With eight career starts under his belt, Chiefs slot corner Phillip Gaines has looked pretty good this season, only allowing 66 yards in coverage. It helps that Gaines has been covering the likes of Cecil Shorts and Jordan Norwood. Enter Randall Cobb. Gaines is about to enter a world of pain, and Cobb is about to penetrate a secondary that has been very wideout-friendly, surrendering the most touchdowns to the position. Green Bay has thrown the ball in 60% of their red zone plays, so Cobb stands good chance to prance on painted grass.
5. A.J. Green at BAL – 9.5
Now fully healthy, Baltimore’s secondary was supposed to return to prominence, but they just got burned by Oakland’s wideouts for 20-282-3. That’s right, da Raidahs. The Ravens are also one of four teams to allow more than 60 targets to wide receivers, and things just don’t seem right without linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is lost for the season. This isn’t an ideal matchup for A.J. Green, but he is an elite talent and an obvious must-start. It also helps that Green has scored in each of his last three games against Baltimore, while averaging 6-114.
6. Julian Edelman vs JAC – 9.5
Julian Edelman is the only wide receiver to see more than 30 targets, and he ranks second in target percentage, garnering 34.1% of his team’s looks. The Patriots pass the ball 71% of the time, so Edelman has seen plenty of opportunities in a high octane offense that doesn’t mind running up the score. He has now caught 11 balls in back-to-back games and has a good matchup in the Jaguars, who are currently ranked 21st in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus.
7. Brandon Marshall vs PHI – 9.25
Brandon Marshall deserves this. After combating Joe Haden and Vontae Davis, he draws a comparative lay-up. According to Football Outsiders, Philadelphia is one of six teams allowing more than 100 YPG to opposing No. 1 receivers. It doesn’t appear that a whole lot has changed from last year, when the Eagles allowed the second-most touchdowns and the most yards to wide receivers. It’s fair to question whether or not an inactive Eric Decker (knee) would work in Marshall’s favor, but either way, he is a plus start.
8. Jarvis Landry vs BUF – 9.25
If you haven’t noticed, the Dolphins have been incredibly pass-heavy. Miami is one of six teams with a pass play percentage above 70%, and Buffalo has the highest opponent passing play percentage (78%), so things are shaping up nicely for Jarvis Landry, who went for 5-46-1 in his last meeting with the Bills. Landry has also seen 40% of the Dolphins’ red zone targets, and the Bills’ corners have already surrendered two scores from the slot, so again, things are shaping up nicely for Jarvis Landry.
9. *DeAndre Hopkins vs TB – 9.25
DeAndre Hopkins has missed practice time and is under concussion protocol, so this is a situation that needs to be monitored very closely. Hopefully, Hopkins can play. With Houston’s dumpster fire run game, he is heavily utilized all over the field, as he ranks first in red zone targets (six) and fourth in total targets. Football Outsiders has Tampa Bay ranked 27th in defending No. 1 receivers, so it will be a shame if Hopkins is forced to sit. Stay tuned.
10. Demaryius Thomas at DET – 9.0
Demaryius Thomas led all wide receivers in red zone targets last year but has yet to see one this season. Surely, that will change, but it’s somewhat of an alarming stat considering Denver has thrown the ball in 73% of their red zone plays. Behind a weakened front seven, the Lions’ secondary isn’t as stout as years past, and according to Football Outsiders, Detroit is allowing more than 95 YPG to opposing No. 1 receivers. There’s some turmoil in the Thomas camp, but there’s no way he can ride the pine on any fantasy roster.
11. Mike Evans at HOU - 9
Mike Evans supposedly won’t play on a pitch count, so his owners (probably) should start him with confidence. He didn’t appear to suffer any setbacks last Sunday, and his services will be sorely needed against Houston. The Texans have allowed the third-fewest targets and the fourth-fewest yards to wide receivers, but they haven’t faced any real competition (Chiefs and Panthers). Still, the Texans are just two games removed from allowing the third-most touchdowns to wide receivers (21), and we all know Evans has the speed and size to win any one-on-one matchup.
12. Emmanuel Sanders at DET – 8.75
Emmanuel Sanders is presently Denver’s leading receiver across the board, and his particular set of skills might be better suited for Peyton Manning’s fading arm power. The Lions are a neutral matchup (at worst), as they rank 22nd in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. The Broncos rank eighth in passing play percentage (66%), and if their run game continues to struggle, Sanders will see his third straight game with double-digit targets (12, 14).
13. John Brown vs SF – 8.75
John Brown watched as Larry Fitzgerald blew up last Sunday, but it could be Brown’s time to shine against the 49ers. San Fran ranks 30th in defending No. 1 receivers (Football Outsiders), which easily applies to Brown, who has run as Arizona’s primary X receiver. Despite the huge game by Fitz, Brown remains a pivotal piece in Arizona’s pass attack. He also scored twice against San Fran last season, and as the Steelers just proved, this matchup can be exploited by a burner such as Brown (both John and Antonio).
14. Larry Fitzgerald vs SF – 8.75
Leaping Larry Fitzgerald made an appearance last Sunday, and we could see some more retro performances like that if Carson Palmer can stay on the field. In six of Palmer’s last seven starts, Fitz has dropped good, if not great PPR stat lines: 8-112-3, 6-87, 9-112, 5-70, 7-160-1, and 6-98-1. Right now, Fitz is getting 31% of Arizona’s targets (seventh in target percentage), and if he can stay in that range, we may be looking at an epic season in his golden years.
15. Davante Adams vs KC – 8.5
So, the Chiefs are still without their top cornerback (Sean Smith), and they have surrendered the most targets, red zone targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns to wide receivers. Needless to say, Packers pass-catchers are poised to produce on Monday night. Opposing teams have thrown the ball 70% of the time against Kansas City, and even though it may not seem like it, Adams has seen only three fewer targets than Randall Cobb (and six more than James Jones).
16. Allen Robinson at NE – 8.5
Allen Robinson is not a flash in the pan. He was created from the same mold as Dez Bryant, and last Sunday’s performance was a preview of the greatness to come. Robinson should have a decent opportunity to shine versus the Patriots, who are sure to pile on points and force the Jaguars to the air early and often. Against wide receivers, New England is among the worst in receptions, yards, and touchdowns allowed, which bodes well for Robinson, who is one of 19 receivers to garner more than 25% of his team’s targets. Another epic game is no guarantee, but Robinson should be able to produce a serviceable stat line.
17. Pierre Garcon at NYG (Thursday) – 8.5
The 2013 version of Pierre Garcon may be long gone, but for the time being, he is the Redskins’ top option at wide receiver. Garcon doesn’t have a great history against New York, but he’ll face a secondary that’s in the midst of some serious struggles. The Giants are one of seven teams with an opponent passing play percentage above 65%, and they rank dead-last in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus.
18. Calvin Johnson vs DEN – 8.25
Let’s get this straight: Denver has a dangerous secondary. Behind a solid front seven, it’s scary good. Through two games, opposing wide receivers have only been targeted 22 times for a combined 10-102 against the Broncos. That would be incredibly impressive for one game’s work! The hits just keep on coming for Calvin Johnson, but he scored in a tough matchup last week, and you can only hope he does the same on Sunday. Detroit has thrown the ball in every red zone play thus far, and Megatron is still the biggest freak on the field, so there’s always hope for six with Calvin.
19. Vincent Jackson at HOU – 8.25
Granted, Vincent Jackson has enjoyed extra attention with Mike Evans both inactive and playing injured, but he’ll still be in the Mix with a healthy Evans on the other side. Houston allowed the third-most touchdowns to wideouts last year, and even though they have been stingy towards the position so far, the Texans have stymied the sorry receiving corps of the Chiefs and Panthers (no offense, Jeremy Maclin). The Bucs also lost tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to injury, so there will be plenty of targets to share for Tampa Bay.
20. Keenan Allen at MIN – 8.25
After a monster opener, Keenan Allen ran into a buzz saw in the Bengals secondary. He’ll get some reprieve against the Vikings, but not much, as Xavier Rhodes figures to line up opposite Allen often. Among cornerbacks targeted over 15 times, the ever-emerging Rhodes ranks fifth in catch percentage (58%). It’s nearly impossible to bench a player of Allen’s caliber, but expectations must be tempered in another tough matchup.
21. T.Y. Hilton at TEN – 8.25
It was a tough night for T.Y. Hilton against the Jets, but on the bright side, he logged 54 of 64 offensive snaps and didn’t appear to suffer setback to his knee injury. Hilton has never scored against the Titans, but you know he and the Colts are going to come out hungry in this one. Tennessee isn’t as dominant against the pass as they were in 2013, but they’re still pretty good. The Titans allowed the third-fewest touchdowns to wide receivers last year, and they are currently ranked third in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus.
22. Donte Moncrief at TEN – 8.25
Donte Moncrief leads Colts receivers in snaps, targets, catches, yards, and touchdowns. Some of that can be attributed to T.Y. Hilton both banged up and stranded on Revis Island, but even with a healthy Hilton, Moncrief will see plenty of playing time in Indy’s spread offense. The Titans allowed the third-fewest touchdowns to wide receivers last year, and they are currently ranked third in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus, so this is a tough test, but Moncrief has worked his way into starter circles.
23. Kendall Wright vs IND – 8.25 (if Vontae Davis is inactive)
24. Steve Smith vs CIN - 8
25. Jeremy Maclin at GB – 7.75
26. Terrance Williams vs ATL – 8
Things are going downhill in Dallas, but Terrance Williams is still standing and might be Jerruh’s best offensive weapon. Yes, Brandon Weeden is under center, but the Falcons are one of three teams with an opponent passing play percentage over 70%, so what Weeden lacks in talent can be overcome with volume. And we've learned that all you need to do to avoid top corner Desmond Trufant, is go to the other side of the field. In addition, Dallas has thrown the ball 77% of the time in the red zone, so Williams is a safe WR2 play.
27. James Jones vs KC - 8
In case you missed it: the Chiefs are still without their top cornerback (Sean Smith), and they have surrendered the most targets, red zone targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns to wide receivers. James Jones has been waiver wire gold, but keep in mind he has only been targeted seven times. With that being said, he has also scored three times, and is the only Packers receiver to be targeted inside the 5-yard line.
28. Amari Cooper at CLE – 8
29. Jordan Matthews at NYJ – 7.75
The Eagles have been pathetic, but Jordan Matthews has managed to put up numbers, so at least fantasy players are happy. Darrelle Revis is on the Jets, but will Matthews be subject to the island from the slot? The answer is probably? Revis has taken just five snaps in slot coverage and was targeted three times for two receptions, but last year, he led all Patriots corners in slot coverage snaps (166). He also owned a 24.6 opposing QB rating (in slot coverage) and allowed just 7-79 (all year!) in slot coverage. So Revis can play the slot, and yes, Matthews owners should be nervous.
30. Stevie Johnson at MIN – 7.75
31. *Eric Decker vs PHI – 7.75
32. Sammy Watkins at MIA – 7.75
33. Roddy White at DAL – 7.75
34. Ted Ginn vs NO – 7.75
35. Golden Tate vs DEN – 7.5
36. Andre Johnson at TEN – 7.5
37. Torrey Smith at ARI – 7.5
38. Percy Harvin at MIA – 7.5
39. Cole Beasley vs ATL – 7.5
40. *Brandin Cooks at CAR – 7.75
Oof. Things are suddenly getting brutal with Brandin Cooks. Not only is Drew Brees banged up, but so is Cooks! Nursing an ankle injury, Cooks will probably suit up on Sunday, but even if he does, he’ll face a worthy adversary in the Panthers, who are ranked second in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. Cooks only logged 3-38 in Carolina last year, and so far in his career, he has been far more productive at home. Coupled with the fact that he might not be 100%, it might not hurt to explore other options if possible.
41. Anquan Boldin at ARI – 7.5
42. Rueben Randle vs WAS (Thursday) – 7.5
43. Kenny Britt vs PIT – 7.5
44. Mike Wallace vs SD – 7.25
45. Brandon Coleman at CAR – 7.25
46. Leonard Hankerson at DAL – 7.25
47. Rishard Matthews vs BUF - 7.25
48. Travis Benjamin vs OAK - 7.25
49. Charles Johnson vs SD – 7.25
50. Markus Wheaton at STL – 7.25
51. Danny Amendola vs JAX – 7.25
52. Robert Woods at MIA – 7.25
53. Nelson Agholor at NYJ – 7.0
54. Devin Street vs ATL – 7.0
55. DeVante Parker vs BUF – 6.75
56. Marques Colston at CAR – 6.75
57. Eddie Royal at SEA – 6.5