Coaster's Top 10 Wide Receivers 2017 NFL Season
1. Antonio Brown
Without a doubt the most explosive receiver in the NFL with his ability to catch in traffic and quickly get in and out of his cuts. Antonio Brown has been a deadly weapon for the Steelers the last 4 years and has only missed one game over that span while averaging over 115 catches, 170 targets and 1,500 yards. Defenses all around the league have a game plan that revolves around Brown which usually results in double coverage but because of other weapons on the offense, Brown manages to be the scariest opponent in the NFL as a defensive back in the NFL. With Martavis Bryant coming back into action this year, most are saying his production should see a slight decrease but for that exact reason I expect a bump in receptions and yardage from last year. More focus will need to go towards the WR2 in Pittsburgh pending his reinstatement, I project a similar season to 2014 where he accomplished 13TD, 1,698 yards and 129 catches.
2. Julio Jones
As far as complete wide receivers go, Julio Jones is the most talented wide receiver in this league with his incredible speed which contrasts his impressive size. Jones is clearly the backbone of the high octane offense down in Atlanta, which is exhibited in his last 3 seasons where he caught on average 1,624 yards per season but only averaging just under 7 TD’s per season. Julio has no competition in Atlanta for targets which makes him an intriguing option for Matt Ryan on any given down which is a reason that bolsters my reasoning for him as the #2 WR for 2017. Injury concerns are a constant topic with Julio Jones not because of his lack of playing but more so Julio’s frequency to play a game with a small injury week to week. He has only missed 3 games in the last 3 seasons and there is no reason for this offense to slow down this year, my projection for Julio is a career high 10TD and 1,500 yards with 120+ catches.
3. Odell Beckham Jr.
With only 3 seasons under his belt, Odell has established himself as one of the most elite wide receivers in the league by accumulating 1,300+ yards in each of his first 3 seasons. Eli has shown trust in the wide out by delivering 130+ targets in each season with those numbers on a steady increase year over year. The difference for Odell this year will be having another threat on the opposite side of him in Brandon Marshall who was acquired earlier via free agency. This is another tough situation to analyze because the argument goes both ways in terms of hurting or increasing the production for Beckham with the Marshall signing, but we also must factor in the 1st round draft pick, TE Evan Engram who is supposed to make an immediate impact. With all this being said, I just see Beckham’s target share going down from what we have seen in the past because there is a lot more talent around him than he is used to but should still produce 100+ catches and 1,300 yards but the double digit TD will be in question this year which he has achieved every year so far.
4. A.J Green
Unfortunately for fantasy owners last year, Green was sidelined for 6 games which really put a halt on a great looking season where he was able to get 964 yards on 100 targets. A.J Green gained a legit WR2 this year by the Bengals picking up John Ross in the 1st round who is known as the fastest man in the NFL which really contrasts Green’s game well. I think this season we will see a break through for AJ with numbers like his 2015 or 2013 season where he was able to put up double digit touchdowns and have 1,300+ yards. The new look Bengals have the same offensive line problems but have more playmakers with the two rookies in Ross and Mixon which only bodes well for Green’s production, prior to this Green has not had another threat on the Cincy offense. If health does not affect him this year, expect Green to be a top 5 wide out in the 2017 season where Dalton will rejuvenate their chemistry.
5. Mike Evans
What scares me about this beast of a human is he is only 24 years old, in his first three seasons he has exploded onto the scene with his yardage, targets and receptions all growing at a fairly consistent rate. He has reached the 12 TD mark twice already and is the clear favorite target of the once #1 overall pick in Jameis Winston. Now the Bucs have helped Winston even more by accompanying Evans with DeSean Jackson, rookie O.J Howard; who can only improve their offensive fire power. We have to see a slight regression in targets from Evans this year who received an outstanding 173 last year but I do not forecast his production to really drop significantly this year because of the opposing defenses needing to watch more than just Evans. I project another 1,200 yard season with his touchdowns coming close to 10 but would not be surprised if it is only 6-8.
6. Jordy Nelson
The scary thing is the number one receiver of 2016 is dropping to the #6 in the rankings on many websites including this one and it is only because of the potential of the top 5 have this upcoming year. Still Nelson remains one of the best red zone targets in the NFL which was displayed through his 14 TD last year and oh yeah how can we forget one of the best QB’s, Aaron Rodgers is throwing him the ball. Just to clarify, the last two seasons Jordy has played his stat lines are nearly identical, 98 receptions vs. 97, 151 vs. 152 targets, 1,519 yards vs.1,257 yards and 13vs.14 touchdowns. No new receivers have landed in Green bay however TE Martellus Bennett could pose as a threat in the red zone for Nelson. As one of the best route runners in the league still at a dependable age of 32, I expect Nelson to have another great year but I do not think he can replicate last year. I expect a slight regression in both receptions and TD’s but the yardage should stay around the 1,200 mark.
7. Michael Thomas
The first thought for Michael Thomas is that he plays on the most pass happy offense team in the league, and the second for this year will be the possible sophomore slump. Although that usually is the case for NFL players, I think with the loss of Cooks it is near impossible we will see any decrease in Thomas’ stats, because the only offensive player play maker that has been added to the Saints is the one man wrecking ball in Adrian Peterson. Thomas, as a rookie, was able to muster 121 targets, 92 receptions, 1,137 yards, and 9 TD… not bad if you ask me. With Brees still in town, and Thomas having the 7th easiest strength of schedule for WRs this year, I see similar numbers to Jordy Nelson of last year without as many touchdowns, it would not surprise me one bit to see Thomas in the top 5 but he is still young so I cannot go all in.
8. T.Y Hilton
The leading yardage receiver of 2016 due in large part to some injuries on the wide receiver corps of the Colts and having Andrew Luck will also help. Hilton has yet to see less than 130 targets in the last 4 years and has gained at least 1,000 yards in all of those seasons as well. The reoccurring problem with Hilton due to his small size, is his touchdown production where he has yet to cross the 8 touchdown threshold. Getting him the ball is not a problem because of his agility and great hands but more often than not his touchdowns come in the form of being a 20+ yard reception where he uses that speed to beat defensive backs to the end zone. Yes we all know Luck’s injuries have hindered Hilton’s production and for this upcoming year, this could be another issue considering we do not know his status for week one. Pending Luck does not miss significant time, I see Hilton having a little regression from last year with a healthy wide receiver corps around him but still will achieve 1,000 yards and I think he will get that 8TD he has been waiting for.
9. Amari Cooper
The Alabama product has been great and Oakland knows his play is capable of going to the next step to becoming an elite talent in this league in the nearby future. His first two seasons he has seen over 130 targets, gained 1,000+ yards, but has only seen the end zone a combined 11 times. This can be in thanks to his WR2 in Crabtree who is a bit bigger target and can take away from the red zone targets from Amari but because of Crabtree, Cooper is able to see less double coverage. I think the addition of Beast Mode will bolster Cooper to the next level, the ability the Raiders will have to take deep shots more often will play into Cooper’s benefit. Oakland is being viewed as a very legitimate contender this year to the Patriots and they will need Cooper to have the best season of his young career if they wish to strengthen those chances. I forecast Cooper to break the 1,200 mark and accompany that with 7TD.
10. Dez Bryant
Injury problems and the addition of Zeke Elliot hurt Bryant’s positioning in the ranking because the last time he had a healthy season he did finish as WR4 on the season. With the Cowboys new plan to feed Elliot the ball as much as possible, Bryant will presumably see the ball less and he hasn’t played a full season in the past two years. His talent and size cannot be forgotten however, Bryant remains one of the best red zone targets in the league and is still the best offensive weapon through the air the Cowboys have. I expect Bryant to bounce back this year and pending he can stay healthy will cross the 1,000 yards barrier while coming down with 8TD. Even though he missed 3 games last year, Bryant still turned in 8TD which further proves his red zone dominance and another year gaining more chemistry with Dak will only aid his production.