With fantasy football drafts getting underway over the next couple of months, there is no time like the present to take a look at which fantasy football wide receivers to target.
Naturally, a few players appear poised to pick up exactly where they left off in 2015 when some mind-blowing fantasy stats were recorded. Meanwhile, other receivers will look to build on the promising numbers they posted last year.
Barring injury, here is a look at the top 10 fantasy football receivers heading into the 2016 NFL season.
1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown topped the fantasy charts for two years in a row after after averaging 1,766 yards per season and scoring a total of 23 touchdowns from 2014-15. Extremely valuable in PPR leagues, Brown saw 193 targets in 2015 and caught 70 percent of them, which equated to an average of 8.5 catches per game.
Considering that Martavis Bryant (one-year suspension) won’t be in the mix, Brown could potentially receive even more looks. At the very least, his fantasy outlooks remains extremely solid. There is absolutely no reason to believe he won’t finish 2016 with at least 1,500-1,600 yards and double-digit touchdowns.
2. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
If OBJ could get one complete 16-game season on the books, he would stand a better chance of becoming the leading fantasy football receiver in the league. So far in his first two years, Beckham has averaged 102 yards and nearly seven catches per game. Should Beckham suit up each week in 2016, a 1,600-plus yard season is easily on the horizon.
Fellow wideout Victor Cruz may return, but he shouldn’t eat into Beckham’s productivity. OBJ has that amazing ability to make the most of his targets and hauls in some sick catches on a regular basis. If anything changes, it might just be the receiver adding to his 13 touchdowns scored in 2015.
3. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Jones was the most targeted player in the NFL in 2015 when quarterback Matt Ryan threw 203 passes his way. For this, Jones turned 136 catches into a league-high 1,871 yards and and eight touchdowns, delighting fantasy owners along the way. It didn’t matter that the Falcons won only eight games when Jones was tallying an average of 116.9 yards per contest.
This year, Jones should still demand a huge portion of the targets in Atlanta and continue with his uncanny skill of evading double-coverage. Another 120-plus catch season resulting in at least 1,400 yards is completely feasible. And hopefully we can count on a few more touchdowns than the eight he hauled in last season.
4. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
The cool thing about Hopkins was that he received the third-most targets (192) in the league last year, despite playing under less-than-ideal quarterback circumstances. Now, with Brock Osweiler slinging the pigskin, Hopkins will have a quarterback who could help him up his production even more. In this, we could see him improving on his 58 percent catch rate from last year.
Proving that adversity doesn’t negatively effect him, Hopkins has gotten better in each of his three seasons in the league. If the trend continues, Hopkins could easily add to the 111 receptions, 1,521 yards and 11 scores he delighted his fantasy owners with last season.
5. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Robinson was a fantasy stud last season when he scored the fourth-most fantasy points of all wide receivers. He was quickly nabbed off waiver wires throughout country after his 155-yard, two-touchdown game in Week 2. The 1,400 total yards and 14 touchdowns Robinson finished the season with now have fantasy players salivating for more.
Working with quarterback Blake Bortles, who was a touchdown and yardage machine last year, Robinson should be poised for similar production. Keep an eye also on fellow wideout Allen Hurns, who also crested the 1,000-yard marker and scored 10 touchdowns as well last season.
6. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
With last year’s disastrous fantasy season in the rear view mirror, Bryant’s fantasy football owners should be excited. He has already said he expects to be better than he was in 2014, which is quite the bold statement. Bryant finished 2014 with a total of 88 receptions, amounting to 1,320 yards and a career-high 16 touchdowns.
The much-needed return of quarterback Tony Romo should ensure that Bryant receives his typical nine-to-10 targets per game to get his fantasy points back on track. Barring any unexpected health issues, Bryant should be back on course for a 1,300-plus yard season and at least a dozen touchdowns.
7. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
Putting aside Nelson’s injury year, we must note that he recorded an average of 1,416 yards and 10.5 touchdowns during his 2013-2014 campaigns. His absence in 2015 was painfully obvious on the Packers’ offense, as well as for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose numbers took a dive across the board.
Nelson will hopefully pick up where he left off. This equates to Rodgers getting back on track and targeting Nelson his typical eight-to-nine times per game. All signs would point towards Nelson resuming his WR1 status when he recorded 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014. A surge in Rodgers’ fantasy value is a side benefit as well.
8. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Green has been one of the most consistent fantasy football receivers since the start of his career in 2011. He has averaged 83 receptions, 1,234 yards and nine touchdowns per year. Green has a fabulous chemistry with quarterback Andy Dalton and he could garner even more targets now that fellow receivers Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu are gone from the picture.
It isn’t likely that Green will suddenly upstage some of his fiercer fantasy competition and record a 1,600-yard season. Though, it would be par for the course to see Green average at least 80-85 yards per game, score at least 10 touchdowns for the year and finish securely within the top 10 fantasy receivers.
9. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints
After completing his first 16-game season, Cooks impressed with 84 catches for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns, utilizing his blazing speed to perfection. Entering 2016, Cooks will look to at least match and potentially build on his numbers. He should be feeling mighty comfortable starting his third season playing with one of the best passers in the league in Drew Brees.
Brees averaged 28.5 completed passes and two touchdowns per game in 2015, which means there should be plenty of targets coming Cooks’ way this year. If he finishes 2016 with at least 1,200 yards and a dozen touchdowns, his owners will be thrilled.
10. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Evans has been quite the gem on the Bucs’ offense since being drafted in 2014. He has since assumed the role as the No. 1 receiver ahead of Vincent Jackson after tallying a total of 2,257 yards and 15 touchdowns during his first two seasons. It is worth noting that in 2015, Evans was the 10th-most targeted receiver in the league when rookie quarterback Jameis Winston lobbed 148 passes his way. Winston’s accuracy should improve, in-turn boosting Evans’ production.
The third year could be the charm for those want to invest in Evans moving forward. He is bound to add on to the three touchdowns he managed in 2015, as well as to his total catches. Another 1,200-plus yard season is completely realistic, along with the expectation that he crosses the end zone at least eight or nine times.