Wings, pizza, and beer, football is finally here! After an eternity of an off-season, the last preseason games are just around the corner. Training camp battles, surprise roster cuts, and dreaded injuries await, as fantasy owners gather round the television and draft season winds to a close . We have all heard the saying “start your studs,” but what about the players just outside of the top 10? For those of you who are drafting now or are just looking forward to the regular season, here is a preview of what you can expect from the semi elite wide receivers entering week one.
Semi Elite Wide Receiver Rankings
#11 Amari Cooper – WR – OAK
Last year the AC/DC connection was electric! Owners rejoiced when he started off the season averaging over 10 fantasy points per game. One of the most exciting rookies to watch, his cuts and footwork were on an NFL level before he ever stepped on the field. If it were not for a lingering foot injury down the stretch, Cooper could have finished as a top ten wide receiver. Coming into 2016 he has had an entire off-season to heal and is looks better than ever. Cooper has been rooming with quarterback Derek Carr to build more chemistry, and you can expect the pair to leverage it in their opening game against a horrible Saints DST. With an increase in targets and one of the best match ups in the league, Cooper will be a low end WR1 right out of the gate.
#12 Sammy Watkins – WR – BUF
Watkins is an elite talent that has been constantly plagued by injuries. In 2015 he battled with foot issues to start the year and underwent surgery during the off-season. You should keep an eye on his health during the preseason, but when he’s healthy he is one of the best. He finished last year as a legit WR1 averaging 5.4 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown over his last nine games. With no real competition in Buffalo he will continue be a prime touchdown candidate and should burn Baltimore’s weak cornerbacks in a great week one matchup.
#13 T.Y. Hilton – WR – IND
Last year was a rough one for the Colts. Their hopes of becoming “threepeat” AFC south champions were shattered by a plethora of year long injuries to their star quarterback Andrew Luck. Their offense looked anemic at times under backup Matt Hasselbeck, but even through their struggles Hilton was able to finish his third season in a row with over 1000 yards. In 2016, teammates Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett should draw plenty of coverage forcing defenses to have a hard time dealing with Hilton’s sharp route running. With Luck’s return Hilton should improve upon his 2016 performance against Detroit in week one.
#14 Brandin Cooks – WR – NO
Cooks was another strong finisher last year. He started the season out slow but finished his last 10 games averaging 12.8 fantasy points. In 2015 Cooks was thought to be a breakout candidate, but his ceiling was kept in check by Drew Brees’ vision and ability to spread around the ball. Although he has shown that he is a talented receiver, the addition of tight end Colby Fleener certainly doesn’t help Cooks’ 2016 outlook. Fleener will steal away looks in the red zone, but Cooks should remain a fantasy high end WR2 in a passing focused offense. Be sure to start him week one as Oakland runs up the score against a cardboard Saints defense and the game likely becomes a shootout.
#15 Brandon Marshall WR – NYJ
Coming off of a career 2015 season, Marshall is the reason the Jets signed QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for twelve million dollars. He pushed the higher ups to bring back the long time journeyman in hopes that he could become 2016’s number one wide receiver. Marshall is getting up there in age, but physically he is still in great shape. At 6’4” and 225 pounds his physical size allows him to hold off defenders and gain yards after the catch. There is plenty of upside in New York, but temper expectations a little bit as Marshall’s stats will likely regress toward his career average. Week one is a tough matchup against Cincinnati, but his fantasy outlook will hold up by a high volume of targets.
#16 Demaryius Thomas – WR – DEN
In recent years, Thomas has been one of the leagues top wide receivers. Even in Peyton Manning’s decline Thomas was able to finish as the thirteenth best wide receiver in 2015. Although the Broncos new quarterback Mark Sanchez is not expected to light up the world, he will be hard pressed to underperform “noodle arm” Manning. Sanchez should allow the Broncos to return to throwing the ball down field and Thomas can continue being one of the leagues’ elite deep threats. Expect Thomas to be a low end WR1 most weeks, but starting week one against an impressive Carolina defense you should be prepared for the game to turn into a low scoring slugfest.
#17 Golden Tate – WR – DET
Golden Tate had a monster season in 2014. With teammate Calvin Johnson suffering from an ankle injury, Tate finished the year with over 1,300 yards and just shy of 100 receptions. He showed us a glimmer of greatness and just how talented he is after the catch. His numbers may have regressed in 2015 with Johnson’s return, but 2016 is a different affair. Johnson’s retirement has paved the way for Tate to become the top threat in one of the leagues most pass heavy teams. Behind the Lions unimpressive o-line Tate will continue to be Stafford’s security blanket and the new addition wide receivers Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin should allow Tate to work further downfield. Tate has a high ceiling in a game that could become a shootout against the newly rejuvenated Colts offense.
#18 Randall Cobb – WR – GB
After a top 10 finish in 2014, Cobb’s 2015 season was incredibly disappointing. Teammate Jordy Nelson tore his ACL during the preseason and Cobb was set up to be top receiver on the leagues’ most high-powered offense. What followed was one of the most surprising under performances in recent memory. They entered the season as a super bowl top contender, but the entire team quickly floundered. Nelson wasn’t there to open the field, “Cheeseburger Lacy” had lost his explosiveness, and Cobb couldn’t get open against the leagues top defenders. Fantasy owners might be avoiding the Packers due to recency bias but they should get over it quickly. Going into 2016 they have one of the easiest wide receiver schedules and one of the best quarterbacks throwing the ball. The Jaguars have improved their defense during the off-season, but their fresh blood will be in for a rude awakening, when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers pick them apart. Nelson will catch the deep ball, Lacy looks to have left his fat suit at home, and Cobb will once again be taking advantage of mismatches in the slot. All lights are a go in Green Bay.
#19 Mike Evans – WR – TB
After a phenomenal rookie season Evans failed to crack the top twenty-five receivers last year. He improved in both catches and yards, but he finished the season with only three touchdowns. This year he has looked great in camp and over the off-season Evans has built up rapport with sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston. Entering his third season, Evans should have fewer drops, kick his allergy to touchdowns, and possibly crack into the top 10 receivers. Coming in at 6 foot 5 inches, Evans’ size will allow him to be a threat against any defenders, but tamper expectation for him, while the Bucks face some stout defenses early in the season. For week one against the Falcons expect Evan’s value to be largely carried by volume. In 2015 Atlanta gave up the second least fantasy points to wide receivers and they don’t look to be handing them out now.
#20 Jarvis Landry – WR – MIA
Last year Landry was a shining light on an otherwise dim Miami offense. During his first two seasons he has already reeled in 195 passes and has shown himself as a great value pick in PPR, but in standard leagues he has been underwhelming. Landry has been terribly inefficient, averaging less than 10 yards per catch and only 5 touchdowns per year. He has needed volume to make fantasy waves, but could be in for a decrease in targets, with the addition of 1st round pick Devante Parker and preseason stand out Kenny Stills. While not very fast or athletic, Landry has great route running and steady hands. He should remain the team’s top receiver and Ryan Tannehill’s go to under pressure in the Dolphin’s season opener against a fierce Seattle DST.