words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Odell Beckham at TB - 10
Needless to say, Odell Beckham’s hamstrings are just fine. Following a massive showing last week, OBJ gets another great matchup in the Bucs, who have surrendered the fourth-most touchdowns to wide receivers (11). Tampa Bay also allows a hearty 185 YPG to the position, and according to Football Outsiders, they rank dead last in defending No. 1 receivers. Beckham has caught at least seven balls in five of his last seven games and has totaled seven touchdowns during that same span.
2. Julio Jones at SF – 9.75
Julio Jones is undoubtedly a target hog. He currently leads all receivers in target percentage, and since the start of 2013, he has averaged 11.5 targets per game. During that same span, Jones has averaged 13 targets when on the road as opposed to 10 targets at home. Basically, Matt Ryan leans on Jones more when Atlanta is on the road, and that shouldn’t change in San Francisco on Sunday. The 49ers surrender more than 195 yards and a touchdown per game to opposing wideouts. And according to Football Outsiders, they rank 31st in defending No. 1 receivers while allowing more than 100 YPG. His biggest threat is his own teammate, Devonta Freeman, who could simply run the Falcons to victory.
3. Antonio Brown vs OAK – 9.75
It’s no surprise that Antonio Brown found his way back into the end zone in Ben Roethlisberger’s return from injury last week. Brown was targeted a team-high 11 times, as he and Roethlisberger picked up where they left off in Week 3. The duo should connect often against the Raiders, who own the highest opponent passing play percentage (67%) and are allowing an astounding 26.5 targets per game to opposing wide receivers. Oakland has only surrendered three touchdowns to wideouts, but Brown will see plenty of opportunities and is back to must-start status.
4. Julian Edelman vs WAS – 9.5
Julian Edelman is one of seven receivers to catch 50+ passes, and he remains one of fantasy football’s most reliable options, especially in PPR formats. Edelman has garnered fewer than nine targets only once, and he has seen multiple looks inside the red zone in five of his last six games. Edelman is also among the league leaders at all positions with nine catches on plays run inside the 20-yard line. The Redskins are one of 10 teams to surrender double-digit touchdowns to wide receivers, which is makes this another great opportunity for Edelman to stuff the stat sheet.
5. Amari Cooper at PIT – 9.5
Amari Cooper has had some brutal matchups in recent weeks, but if you take out the particularly nasty matchups with the Jets and Broncos, Cooper has averaged 6-106 (with three total touchdowns) in his last four outings. Cooper also ranks first in catches of 40+ yards, so he has home run potential on every snap. This week’s matchup is far from brutal, as the Steelers are allowing a healthy 15 catches and 171 yards per game to opposing wideouts, and a receiver has scored on them in three straight weeks.
6. A.J. Green vs CLE (Thursday) - 9.25
A.J. Green is virtually an auto-start on any given Sunday (or in this case, Thursday), but history says to be wary about his matchup with the Browns. Green hasn’t scored or topped 51 yards against Cleveland since October of 2012. But keep in mind that cornerback Joe Haden was playing the best football of his career during that span. Haden has struggled this season, so he’s not as much of a factor anymore, and he is highly questionable to play (concussion/ankle). Regardless of Haden’s status, you have to give the green light to Green, who is second in yards per target (9.7) among receivers.
7. Emmanuel Sanders at IND – 9.25
This season, Emmanuel Sanders is averaging 7-99 on the road as opposed to 4-52 at home. In addition, all three of his touchdowns have come when away from Denver. Sanders will look to add to that against the Colts, who have surrendered 10 touchdowns to wide receivers. And seven of those scores have gone to secondary receivers, which makes sense because the Indy secondary is one deep with Vontae Davis, and that's it. A matchup with Greg Toler or Darius Butler bodes well for Sanders, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, but should be good to go on Sunday.
8. Mike Evans vs NYG – 9
Owning Mike Evans has been a roller coaster ride with more downs than ups, but he could be in line for a big day against the Giants, who were just shredded for five wide receiver touchdowns by the Saints. New York has surrendered the fifth-most red zone targets to wideouts, and according to Football Outsiders, the G-Men are allowing 83 YPG to No. 1 receivers. Vincent Jackson will most likely miss another game with a knee ailment, so Evans should see a bump in targets.
9. Alshon Jeffrey at SD - 9
Alshon Jeffery has been awesome when he’s been able to take the field. Granted, Jeffery has only played three games, but his production from those games has him on a full season pace of 197 targets, 123 catches, 1,818 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Jeffery’s injury concerns appear to be behind him (for now), but there should be some concern with his anticipated matchup with emerging cornerback, Jason Verrett. But Jeffery has a six inch height advantage over Verrett, so you can start him with confidence, especially when you consider that San Diego has surrendered four wide receiver touchdowns in their last four games.
10. Brandin Cooks vs TEN – 9.0
For the most part, the Titans have been a tough matchup for wide receivers, but they have surrendered eight touchdowns to the position over their last six games. After a rocky start, Brandin Cooks has topped 80 yards and/or scored at least once in three of his last four games. Cooks has also seen less than eight targets only twice this season, so he’s almost always a pivotal part of New Orleans’ pass attack. Organizationally, the Titans are a dumpster fire right now, averaging 7.7 points per game over the last three weeks, so the Saints might not have to pass it a ton, but Cooks’ big play potential makes him a safe WR2 play.
11. Demaryius Thomas at IND – 8.75
Demaryius Thomas has a date with Vontae Davis, who is still one of the better cover corners in the NFL despite his struggles last week. This is undoubtedly a tough matchup for Thomas, but he was able to tally 5-59-1 against Indy last year in the playoffs, so he certainly has the potential to produce on Sunday. Thomas has seen at least 11 targets in six of seven games, and according to Football Outsiders, the Colts are one of six teams to allow 10+ targets per game to opposing No. 1 receivers.
12. Willie Snead vs TEN – 8.75
13. Eric Decker vs JAX – 8.75
Eric Decker has scored in five of six games played, and in the one outing he failed to find pay dirt (at NE), he still logged a very respectable 6-94. Decker could be thrust into the No. 1 receiver role for the Jets if Brandon Marshall (toe/ankle) were forced to sit, but either way, Jacksonville is a pretty favorable matchup. Opposing receiver corps are averaging 14-166-1 against the Jags, who have also surrendered touchdowns to secondary receivers like Marcus Easley, Keshawn Martin, Danny Amendola, and Jerricho Cotchery. His success rides on Ryan Fitzpatrick being able to play effectively despite his thumb injury.
14. Martavis Bryant vs OAK – 8.75
Despite failing to find the end zone last week, Martavis Bryant nearly doubled his snap count from the two games prior, where he totaled three touchdowns. That’s great news because it means he’s back in game shape, and Bryant and Antonio Brown will be relied upon more now that Le’Veon Bell is on IR for the remainder of the season. Bryant has a pretty good matchup in the Raiders, who own the highest opponent passing play percentage (67%) and are allowing an astounding 26.5 targets per game to opposing wide receivers. Furthermore, according to Football Outsiders, Oakland is one of five teams allowing more than 65 YPG to No. 2 receivers.
15. Michael Crabtree at PIT – 8.75
Michael Crabtree has totaled more targets and receptions than Amari Cooper (with the same amount of touchdowns), and he has seen six red zone targets to Cooper’s one. Crabtree also has more targets inside the 10-yard line than every other Raider receiver, combined. That bodes well for him considering the Steelers have allowed the most red zone targets to wide receivers. Furthermore, according to Football Outsiders, Pittsburgh is one of three teams allowing more than 70 YPG to No. 2 receivers.
16. Jarvis Landry at BUF – 8.5
Buffalo is allowing only 92 rushing YPG, so the best way to beat their defense is through the air. Opposing wide receivers are averaging a whopping 26 targets per game against the Bills, who are also one of 10 teams to allow double-digit touchdowns to the position. Jarvis Landry is third among receivers in red zone target percentage (38%), and he ranks first in targets from inside the 5-yard line. Landry logged 8-67 versus Buffalo in Week 3, and that’s a safe floor for one of the most reliable producers in PPR formats.
17. Randall Cobb at CAR – 8.5
Randall Cobb owners are reeling after four straight games with less than 45 yards and zero touchdowns, and there’s not much relief in sight with the Panthers up next on the schedule. Carolina has only allowed four touchdowns to wide receivers, and only one wideout has topped 81 yards. The one thing working in Cobb’s favor is that he’ll avoid coverage from Josh Norman, who strictly covers outside receivers. Any receiver not on Norman has a chance for a decent game. Cobb has recorded the third-most catches inside the 5-yard line, so he’ll be a legit threat to score if Green Bay can get deep in the red zone, but don’t be surprised if we see more mediocrity from #18.
18. Dez Bryant vs PHI – 8.5
Despite a rumored pitch count, Dez Bryant played in 81% of snaps last week, so he should be all systems go in a must-win game for the Cowboys. Per their usual, the Eagles are a meaty matchup for opposing wide receivers, as they allow more than 15 catches, 190 yards, and a touchdown per game to the position. Bryant has scored in four of his last six games against Philly, while totaling seven touchdowns and averaging a beefy six receptions and 97 yards. Of course, Matt Cassel will still be under center for the Cowboys, so Dez deserves a downgrade, but on the bright side, Bryant saw more targets last week than every other Dallas wide receiver combined.
19. Stefon Diggs vs STL – 8.25
It’s time to play the extrapolation game! Stefon Diggs has only played in four games thus far, but his full season pace is 160 targets, 100 catches, 1,676 yards, and eight touchdowns! To put that projected target total into perspective, only three receivers saw 160 targets last season (Demaryius Thomas, Antonio Brown, and Julio Jones). Needless to say, Diggs is Minnesota’s primary pass-catcher, and his services will surely be needed against St. Louis. The matchup doesn’t look great on paper, as only one wide receiver has topped 100 yards against the Rams (Antonio Brown), and they have surrendered just three scores to the position. Cover corner Janoris Jenkins is no joke, but Diggs has become an every-week fantasy starter.
20. Allen Hurns at NYJ – 8.25
Under the assumption Allen Robinson will struggle to survive on Revis Island, Allen Hurns faces a far less daunting task running opposite Antonio Cromartie. The Jets have paved the way for some nice days by No. 2 receivers like Michael Crabtree (7-102-1), Danny Amendola (8-86-1), Kenny Stills (5-81-1), and Donte Moncrief (7-122-1). Hurns has burned plenty of teams this year, as he has scored in five straight games, and more specifically, scored and topped 115 yards in two of three road games (not including London).
21. Brandon LaFell vs WAS – 8.25
Brandon LaFell has looked a little rusty since coming off the PUP list, but he’s totaled 15 targets in his first two games back and should continue to improve each week. LaFell will have a chance to shine against the Redskins, who have allowed multiple wide receiver touchdowns in four of their last five games. For the first time all season, Washington will have their entire secondary healthy and in uniform, but that won’t matter against the Patriots’ prolific offense. LaFell is easily third or fourth in the pecking order, but that also means he will see plenty of one-on-one coverage, and at 6’3”, he has the size to win most jump balls.
22. DeSean Jackson at NE – 8.25
23. *Brandon Marshall vs JAX - 8
Brandon Marshall (toe/ankle) might be inactive this week, so you will want to monitor his situation very closely leading up to kickoff. Even if he plays, Marshall will be far from 100%, so his owners might need to temper expectations, even with a soft matchup on the docket. According to Football Outsiders, the Jaguars are one of seven teams allowing more than 85 YPG to No. 1 receivers. Surprisingly, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been cleared to start this game, so Marshall will be tough to sit (if active) considering he has topped 100 yards and/or scored a touchdown in six of seven games.
24. Pierre Garcon at NE - 8
The price of Pierre Garcon stock is set to drop with the return of DeSean Jackson, but Garcon could enjoy one more week as Washington’s alpha receiver. It’s yet to be seen how many snaps are expected of Jackson, and he could also very well be deployed as a decoy. As everyone knows, the Patriots can score points in bunches, and that’s why they are one of four teams with an opponent passing play percentage above 65%. Garbage time is to be expected, and Garcon should stay busy considering New England is allowing more than 14 catches, 192 yards, and a touchdown per game to opposing wide receivers.
25. Jordan Matthews at DAL – 8.0
For the most part, Jordan Matthews has been a bust, but at least he draws Dallas again, a team he logged 6-80-1 against in Week 2. Sadly, that was Matthews only touchdown so far, and he hasn’t topped 100 yards or caught more than six balls since Week 1. That being said, he’s still the best wide receiver on the team, and Matthews has 19 more targets that Riley Cooper and Miles Austin, combined. But this isn’t the best matchup on paper. Dallas has only allowed Julian Edelman and Julio Jones to top 100 yards, and they are the only two receivers (other than Matthews) to score against them this year.
26. Stevie Johnson vs CHI - 8
27. Malcolm Floyd vs CHI – 8
28. Allen Robinson at NYJ – 7.75
There’s a lot to love about Allen Robinson. Over his last six games, A-Rob is averaging 5.5-93-1, and on the season, he leads all receivers in catches of 20+ yards (14) despite already having a bye. But there’s one problem with Robinson this week… Darrelle Revis. Robinson has a one-way ticket to Revis Island, and he’s likely to see the lion’s share of shadow coverage.
29. Sammy Watkins vs MIA – 7.75
30. Donte Moncrief vs DEN – 7.75
31. Rueben Randle at TB – 7.75
32. Marquess Wilson at SD – 7.75
33. Rishard Matthews at BUF – 7.75
34. James Jones at CAR – 7.5
35. Robert Woods vs MIA – 7.5
36. *Anquan Boldin vs ATL – 7.5
37. Tavon Austin at MIN – 7.5
38. Marvin Jones vs CLE (Thursday) – 7.5
39. T.Y. Hilton vs DEN – 7.5
T.Y. Hilton supposedly underwent an MRI for his foot this week, which makes his prospects for this week that much worse. Denver has proven to employ a defense that should be avoided from a fantasy perspective, and with news of this injury, Hilton is a borderline bench candidate. The Broncos are allowing a mere 111 yards per game to wide receivers, and they have surrendered one … yes, one touchdown to the position.
40. Travis Benjamin at CIN (Thursday) – 7.5
41. Davante Adams at CAR – 7.25
42. Ted Ginn vs GB – 7.25
43. Jamison Crowder at NE – 7.25
44. Mike Wallace vs STL - 7
45. Terrance Williams vs PHI – 7.0
46. Dorial Green-Beckham at NO – 7.0
47. Marques Colston vs TEN - 7
48. Roddy White at SF – 6.75
49. Andre Johnson vs DEN – 6.5