Tunnel Vision: Week 16


Dominick Petrillo @Envisionff

Tunnel Vision: Week 16

A Baker’s Dozen Wide Receivers

In the third installment of the baker’s Dozen series, we are going to be looking at the position in fantasy with the biggest discrepancy in ranks between analysts. Not just at Fantasyhotread.com, but in the industry. The wide receivers. Unlike the running back position which is either a draft them high or wait, wait, wait situation, the wide receiver position is deep, and you can get solid contributors throughout the draft.

Again, like with the quarterbacks and running backs, this is simply the Fantasyhotread.com way to early 2019 consensus rankings. I have polled the writers and other owners and based upon the responses I got, these are the players we feel most confident in going into the next season. I decided to do 13 at each position just because I wanted to call it Baker’s dozen and well a baker’s dozen is 13. Simple. The players will be listed in the order I have them ranked, followed below by the consensus.

My Rankings:

Michael Thomas (1) – 92 receptions as a rookie and 99 is simply led us to wonder what else he could do. Well, this season has been incredible as he has caught over 80% of his targets from the future hall-of-famer Drew Brees. Any game can be a monster game, and this is why he decided to one in my rankings. With Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram providing a double threat and a top offensive line, Thomas has become elite this season and will continue in the future as he will only be entering his forth NFL season in 2019.

Even with Mark Ingram likely to depart, Kamara will still provide the run threat needed to keep defenses honest and New Orleans are sure to bring in another back to compliment him. If Tre’quan Smith can break outnext season, this will only add another weapon across from Thomas making him aneven higher upside play with touchdown progression potential. He should surelybe in the conversation for the first wide receiver taken in drafts in 2019.

Odell Beckham Jr. (2) – Although proving to be fragile when it comes to injury, he is still one of the best receivers in the NFL and going into only his fifth season he has many more years of elite play ahead of him. A lot of his future production will be determined by what quarterback is in New York, but he is most likely going to have Eli for the 2019 season.

This should not instill the utmost confidence but look what he has done with the same player so far in his career. So, it could be worse. Ask A.J. Green and even Amari Cooper how it feels.

Beckham’s talent will outweigh his lack of great quarterback and the Giants should be better next season with Saquon Barkley in his second season and Evan Engram hopefully back to full health. If anything is going to go right in New Jersey it is going to have to go through the offense and thismeans good things in 2019 for possibly the most talented receiver in the game.

Julio Jones (3) – The issue with Julio Jones has always been and will always be his touchdown production. His targets, receptions and yardage are always among the tops and Matt Ryan, despite his limitations is a good quarterback and more than solid enough to know who to get the ball to him in the offense. With the running game in shambles this season due to the injury to Freeman and the complete inefficiency of Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith it has fallen to Jones to give the team a needed lift. He has done it as best he can, but he just cannot do it alone.

When Freeman comes back next season, look for the needed running threat to return, even without Coleman on the team to back him up and spell him when needed. This will mean more chances for Jones to get open and hopefully get some more RedZone targets.

If the Falcons return to form next season and Calvin Ridley continues the progression we saw earlier in the season, Jones could finish as the wide receiver one in a call back to the days of Roddy White and Julio Jones in the passing game for Atlanta.

DeAndre Hopkins (4) – We have seen in recent season’s DeAndre Hopkins, while not quarterback proof, is pretty good no matter who the quarterback is. Now that Deshaun Watson is the man behind center and we have seen his leg is healthy, this should only make us more confident in the return on value in Hopkins in the offense.

My only hesitation and the reason he is as low as this in my rankings is the surrounding cast of characters. Will Fuller can be explosive, but only the four games a season he is on the field and Lamar Miller, while playing well this season is stuck behind a terrible offensive line which has no signs of improvement. If Hopkins wants to be truly his best, it is not going to happen in Houston with the other options lacking in the offense. Miller may be on his way out of Houston this offseason and we will have to see who replaces him in the backfield. People are in love with Foreman, but we have yet to see anything from him and taking so long to return from his ACL should also be concerningto anyone counting on him.

If the Texans can get a consistent running game and another weapon in the passing game, I can see Hopkins beating this rank. As it is, he will not be any higher in my rankings.

Antonio Brown (5) – Still considered the best receiver in the NFL, Brown is quickly being surpassed by others, not just in the league, but on his own team. Although the consensus number one, I have him ranked at five and he only came in first on half of the polls showing his precarious position on the top. Of course, he is still elite and deserves to be anywhere in the top five but with the uncertainty surrounding Ben Roethlisberger on a yearly basisand the real chance Mike Tomlin does not return if the Steelers fail to make aplayoff run, we don’t know what the team dynamic will be next season.

The Steelers may want to see what they really have in James Conner before deciding to sign him long term and this could mean a return to full running mode such the Seahawks are employing this season. There is no reason to avoid him for sure, just be wary as he is not the absolute number one he was only a few years ago.

Davante Adams (6) – Yes Aaron Rodgers has had a down year in 2018 but this has not affected Adams in the least. Rodgers is still great, and he will prove it again next season and the main beneficiary of it will be Mr.Adams. He has become a true elite number one receiver and unlike other number one receivers such as Julio Jones or even T.Y. Hilton there is no touchdown concerns to go along with it. Of all the players on this list he may be the safest production wise and with Aaron Jones hopefully coming back healthy in 2019 there will finally be a running game to help take some pressure off of himto be the only one producing. This will mean less loaded secondaries and morechances for a down field connection with Rodgers. He will surely be gone byethe second round and he is easily in consideration for the first round as well.

T.Y. Hilton (7) – Now that we know Andrew Luck is healthy it is easy to put Hilton this high in my rankings. Other than the tight end position, the only real targets Luck likes to go to is Hilton and this will mean good things next season. It started off slow in 2018, not only for Hilton but for Luck as well,  but since Week 4 both have been playing out of their minds including a nine reception for 199 yards line in Week 14 against Houston in a key divisional win.

The biggest concern for Hilton this season has been his health missing a few weeks with a soft tissue groin injury. These injuries can be fluky and should not hopefully be an issue as he could be a top five receiver if completely healthy for Indianapolis.

Tyreek Hill (8) – What a season. Being number one for most of the season, Tyrek Hill is having a monster of a season right along with his teammate Patrick Mahomes and this is going to be a duo to watch for many seasons to come. We will have to truly see how the offense changes with Kareem Hunt out of the mix making it imperative the Chiefs address their running game in the offseason, whether it be through the draft or in free agency. If they do so and Sammy Watkins can stay on the field, Hill is in for another monster season. If they do not get a good run game again or Watkins remains a part-time player, Hill will have the full attention of opposing defenses which is why he is not any higher in my rankings.

If all goes according to plan in Kansas City look for Hill to finish top three at the position. If not, look for him not be in the range of wide receiver 12 to 15 as his talent is to much for him to completely falloff a cliff.

Adam Thielen (9) – Speaking of falling off a cliff, the number one receiver after the first two months of the season, Adam Thielen has done nothing in the last two months. The Vikings have been crashing right along with the production of Thielen and it shows they need him to stay relevant. The start of his season was unsustainable, but the second half has been just as much of an under production for him which means if he settles somewhere in the middle next season, he should still be a top 10 receiver in the Vikings offense. Surrounded by Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs, Thielen can be lost in the mix playing the slot position. Which makes it more likely for him to be the receiver who leads the team yet again over the speedy but downfield player Diggs.

Keenan Allen (10) – I wish I could have put Keenan Allen higher and it may happen before the 2019 season starts. For now, though hecomes in at number 10 which could make him the lowest ranked player on this list who could finish at number one. Although there is one more player I might like even better. With the development of Mike Williams and Melvin Gordonturning into a top five NFL running back Philip Rivers has weapons to work withand with Hunter Henry hopefully ready to cash in his potential the entireoffense could take a step up to the level of the Saints, Rams and Steelers whenit comes to unstoppability

If this happens it will fall on the shoulders of Allen to lead the charge making his potential much higher than his current rank. As we have seen in the past though, the Chargers seem to get snake bitten every season whether it be injury or relocation, so we will wait and see before adjusting the ranking.

Brandin Cooks (11) – With the Rams being one of the best offenses in the NFL it only seemed right to have one of their receivers on this list. Although Cooper Kupp is my favorite his injury leads me to Brandin Cooks instead. His ability to get downfield with his explosive speed also gives him the edge and at 25 years of age, he has many years of production left with Jared Goff. Robert woods is a good complimentary wide receiver, but this pass game is going to go through Cooks making him the number one in Los Angeles.

He had a few good seasons with the Saints followed by his 90-catch season with the Patriots before heading to the city of angels and another good season in 2018 in which he already has 72 receptions for 1,107 yards and three touchdowns.

We would like to see more touchdowns out of Cooks and my feeling is we will start to see this in 2019 as he becomes even more of the dominant number one guy due, as I said to the Kupp injury and a possible departure from Robert Woods.

Amari Cooper (12) – It is no secret to anyone at Fantasyhotread.com that I am not the biggest Amari Cooper fan. This said, the move to Dallas and away from John Gruden has done wonders, both for him and the Cowboys pass game.

He is the clear number one receiver in Dallas and with a massive contract coming his way in the offseason he will remain so for the coming future. The first-round pick given to Oakland for Cooper seemed too high at the time, and it may be, but you can not argue with the results so far and if he continues to produce in this manner, Jerry Jones will easily be happy with the usual 8-8 seasons which are sure to follow under Jason Garrett.

JuJu Smith-Shuster (13) – Despite being on the same team as Antonio Brown, JuJu is still in my top 13 because of the pass offense in Pittsburgh in which in 2018 has seen Ben Roethlisberger have the most completions and attempts in the NFL and be second in pass yards behind only Patrick Mahomes.

When I spoke earlier of Keenan Allen being able to be the top receiver, the other receiver I was talking about who has a good chance to finish at number one is Smith-Shuster. With Brown on the field JuJu will always be the number two option for opposing defenses to cover and this will allow him to continue to get free in the slot. In his first two seasons in the league, Smith-Shuster has two 97-yard touchdown receptions and while this is not going to continue each and every year his ability to do so will making his yardage numbers likely to remain high as his touchdown production only increases.

This makes him very dangerous and based on draft capital needed, he could be my favorite player on this list.

Consensus:

Antonio Brown

Michael Thomas

Odell Beckham Jr.

DeAndre Hopkins

Devante Adams

Julio Jones

Tyreek Hill

Keenan Allen

Adam Thielen

T.Y. Hilton

A.J. Green

Kenny Golladay

Stefon Diggs




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