The Fantasy Football season is less than 20 days away. The preseason week two games have started and we are in the middle of mock draft season. It is time to start thinking about the Week One fantasy rankings. Whether you play in redraft leagues, dynasty leagues, or daily fantasy sports, it is vital to determine the order in which players are valued for the opening week.
Top 20 Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings for Week One
The best place to start is at the most talked about position among the fantasy community: wide receiver. According to fantasypros.com, six of the top twelve draft picks are currently wide receivers. The “Zero RB” theory of waiting on running backs is now the fantasy norm. The importance of the wide receiver position has never been higher in the history of fantasy football.
Regardless of where players are drafted, it is always about the game day matchups. Here is a look at the top 20 fantasy wide receivers for week one.
Week 1: Wide Receivers #11-20
- DeSean Jackson (Washington) vs. Pittsburgh: The defending NFC East champions open the season at home versus a porous Pittsburgh pass defense. Kirk Cousins will throw plenty in this game, and DeSean Jackson is a sure bet for at least two big pass plays. Jackson is historically a very “feast of famine” player, but is already motivated for the season. This ranking does come with risk, but he gets the nod over teammate Pierre Garcon. The 29-year-old Jackson has been cutting his teeth against new Redskins All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman every day in practice. In eight games last season, Jackson had ten catches of 20+ yards and four catches of 40+ yards. Assuming he’s healthy week one, the Steelers defensive backs simply can’t play deep enough. In the first game of his contract year, DeSean Jackson puts up top 20 fantasy numbers.
- Mike Evans (Tampa Bay) at Atlanta: The Buccaneers open the season in a divisional matchup at Atlanta. Mike Evans had a strong statistical year (72 receptions, 1206 yards) but only caught three touchdowns in 2015. Part of the blame goes on Evans’ shoulders, as his Velcro-less hands led the NFL in drops (11). Still, Evans’ 148 targets and a second year of quarterback Jameis Winston should be effective enough against an average Falcons pass defense. Mike Evans is a solid wide receiver two pick for the opening week.
- A.J. Green (Cincinnati) at New York Jets: No, this is not a misprint. Andy Dalton will look A.J. Green’s way often, but when he looks that way he will see Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles has a strong defense, one that will be focused on taking away the only wide receiver threat for the Bengals. Last year, in weeks four through 11, A.J. Green had only one double-digit fantasy week. This was especially surprising because of how well Andy Dalton performed. Green is already more volatile than most fantasy analysts realize, and opening on the road against a stingy Jets defense will be a major challenge. A.J. Green’s fantasy numbers in week one will be much less than most will expect.
- Rishard Matthews Tennessee (vs. Minnesota): Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews to the top 20 week one wide receiver list. Week two last year? Six receptions and 115 yards. Week three last year? Six receptions, 113 yards and two touchdowns. Week six? Six receptions for 85 yards. There are many more. An underrated and disrespected performer in 2015 moves to a new team and becomes the automatic top wide receiver. Matthews has a better quarterback this year, and will be the featured wide receiver in a run heavy offense. In many ways, Matthews is Jeremy Maclin with a better quarterback. Wait for that Marcus Mariota roll-out bomb to Matthews in week one. It’s coming.
- Sammy Watkins (at Baltimore): This ranking is heavily influenced by Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor. In his return to Baltimore, Taylor should be focused for a revenge game after just signing his new contract. Watkins finished as the number 15 fantasy wide receiver last year while only playing 13 games. Always a touchdown threat, Watkins has 15 in just his first two seasons. Year three is historically a big breakout year for wide receivers, and Sammy Watkins will start that breakout at Baltimore in week one.
- Golden Tate (at Indy): 150. That’s the number of targets the retired Calvin Johnson has vacated. Over the past two seasons, when Calvin Johnson did not play, Tate averaged 7.7 receptions, 101 yards and a touchdown. Detroit ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards last year, which should mean quarterback Matthew Stafford will be throwing a ton in this game. Against an Indianapolis defense that ranked 26th in yards allowed in 2015, Tate should lay claim to inherit the top wide receiver spot in Detroit.
- Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona) vs. New England: Was there a news report that says Larry Fitzgerald is in a nursing home? He finished as the number 11 overall wide receiver in 2015. The Cardinals open up the season at home, on Sunday Night Football, against the New England Patriots. Standout New England cornerback Malcolm Butler will probably draw Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd, leaving Fitzgerald to roam the intermediate routes all night. Fitzgerald is 33 years old, but no wide receiver is in better shape. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Arizona, but Larry Fitzgerald will star in week one.
- Allen Robinson (Jacksonville) vs. Green Bay: Everything points to a Jaguars resurgence in 2016. Jacksonville’s high-octane offense should be ready to roll week one vs. Green Bay. According to Fantasy Pros, Allen Robinson was the eighth most targeted wide receiver last season (151 targets). With an over/under Las Vegas line of 47 points, this game promises to have plenty of fantasy scoring opportunities. Roll confidently with the best returning wide receiver in this game, Allen Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
- Keenan Allen (San Diego) at Kansas City: There are people who believe in “organic everything.” Many children believe in the Tooth Fairy. Fantasy football drafters should believe in the San Diego offense when Ken Whisenhunt is the offensive coordinator. The last time (2013) Whisenhunt called the plays in San Diego, the Chargers offense was one of the NFL’s best. Since the game is in Kansas City, the expectations for Keenan Allen are downgraded to a low end wide receiver one. Regardless, Philip Rivers will look to Allen early and often. Before his kidney injury last season, Allen had 89 targets through seven and a half games. With wide receiver Stevie Johnson now out for the season, Rivers will look to Allen even more and provide a very solid stat line in a difficult opening week environment.
- Eric Decker (New York Jets) vs. Cincinnati: Death, taxes and Eric Decker. At what point will the pundits stop doubting him? Decker faces a Cincinnati Bengals team that ranked 20th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game last season. The “Rodney Dangerfield” of the NFL will never get any respect from a Cincinnati team that must focus on Brandon Marshall. Decker led the league with a 38.2% Red Zone Target Share (playerprofiler.com). This means 38% of all Red Zone pass attempts for the Jets in went to Decker. He is an automatic top 12 fantasy wide receiver at home vs. Cincinnati. Pay your taxes and start Eric Decker with confidence in week one.
Week 1: Wide Receivers #1-10
- Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders) at New Orleans: What game has the highest projected scoring for Week 1? Oakland Raiders at New Orleans Saints with a Las Vegas over/under total of 50.5. Besides Brandin Cooks, the other top receiver in this game is Oakland’s Amari Cooper. He had a great rookie campaign with 72 receptions for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. With a year under his belt and a signed contract by counterpart Michael Crabtree, expect Cooper to shine in 2016. The Saints ranked 31st overall in team defense last year, and 31st against the pass. Both top wide receivers will score big. On the fast New Orleans turf, Cooper rates as the tenth best play in week one.
- Randall Cobb (Green Bay) at Jacksonville: The Jacksonville Jaguars ranked 29th in pass defense last year, and Randall Cobb will try to bury his disappointing 29th overall fantasy wide receiver 2015 ranking. It will start well in week one as Jordy Nelson’s return should open up the middle of the field for Cobb. The Jaguars run defense is very improved. They have added new personnel and will have another year of Gus Bradley’s defensive guidance. The Packers will be passing a lot here, and Cobb will be the primary target. A top ten week one finish in on the horizon for Randall Cobb.
- Dez Bryant (Dallas) vs. N.Y. Giants: There was concern about this ranking until Dez Bryant played in the preseason opener in Los Angeles. He looks completely healthy, which is important for week one because Bryant does not have a great history at home vs. the Giants. In the last five home games against the Giants, Bryant is averaging 4.8 receptions, 76.2 yards, and 0.2 touchdowns per game. That will clearly not be good enough to justify this ranking. The gut instinct supersedes the statistics however, as opening night in Dallas with a healthy Tony Romo will produce at least one touchdown. Bryant goes for 100+ yards and a touchdown, which will be good enough for a top ten opening week ranking.
- T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis) vs. Detroit: Most of the fantasy community forgot that Andrew Luck was a first round draft pick in 2015. After an injury-filled season, the Indianapolis Colts offense is not getting the respect it deserves. Similarly, Luck’s top wide receiver, T.Y. Hilton, is also being underrated. Over the past three seasons, when Hilton has played at home, he has averaged 9.04 targets per game. With tight end Coby Fleener gone, and an improved Colts offensive line, Hilton will have a huge week one game. With an over/under of 49, this game will definitely be high scoring. Hilton is the best receiver on either team, and he gets over 100 yards and a touchdown in Luck’s return.
- Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh) at Washington: The consensus overall number one fantasy football pick only rates out at the sixth best wide receiver in week 1. Reasons? First, Pittsburgh is on the road. Over the past two seasons, Brown only has five touchdowns in 16 road games. In the 16 games at home he has 18 touchdowns. Second? Brown will have new Redskins cornerback Josh Norman covering him. Third? No Le’Veon Bell, no Martavius Bryant, and it looks like no Ladarius Green. Antonio Brown is matchup proof, and he should find the end zone in this game. However, he does get a slight downgrade in week one.
- Brandin Cooks (New Orleans) vs. Oakland: Last year at home, Brandin Cooks averaged 80 yards and 0.75 touchdowns per game. That’s a floor of about 13 standard fantasy points. Now entering his third year, Cooks will take a monster step forward and it all begins in week one. Oakland Raiders, coming cross country for a one o’clock start, rates as an ideal week one opponent. Similar to Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh, the Saints will find ways to get Cooks the ball in a variety of ways: bubble screens, quick slants, and deep balls. The volume will be there and so will quarterback Drew Brees. A huge week one is coming for Cooks.
- Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants) at Dallas: Four career games against Dallas, four touchdowns. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s not true. Odell Beckham enters year three of his career and has a strong connection with quarterback Eli Manning. With Victor Cruz’s shaky health, and a rookie wide receiver in Sterling Shepard starting opposite him, it is inconceivable that Beckham has anything less than twenty fantasy points in this game. Both defenses are suspect, and the scoreboard should be lighting up like a pinball machine. Beckham against the archrival Cowboys in week one is a lock for a top five wide receiver finish.
- Doug Baldwin (Seattle) vs. Miami: The key to successful and accurate weekly fantasy rankings is predicting game flow. Traveling to Seattle for a week one matchup is a daunting task for a Miami Dolphins team with a new head coach and mediocre starting quarterback. This game has the highest week one point spread: Seattle is favored by ten points. The Miami front line of Ndamakong Suh, Cameron Wake and newly acquired Mario Williams should keep the Seahawks running game stifled. At some point, Seattle will break this game open, and the Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin connection will start up once again. This will be a big game for Wilson, which means a big game for Baldwin. Seattle is home, and playing a suspect road defense. Don’t fall in love with the big name receivers, Baldwin will be top three in week one.
- DeAndre Hopkins (Houston) vs. Chicago: 111 receptions, 1,521 yards, 11 touchdowns. All of those numbers came with a far worse quarterback than he has this season. Hopkins gets former Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler in 2015. Osweiler’s strong play on the defending Super Bowl champions gives confidence that Hopkins will even improve of last year’s statistics. Hopkins finished third among wide receivers in Red Zone Target Share, getting 36.7% of the team targets from the 20 yard line or closer. He was the top wide receiver in Air Yards getting 1,348 yards before the catch (playerprofiler.com). Hopkins is a big play receiver who will have a quarterback upgrade in week one. At home playing against an average Chicago pass defense, DeAndre Hopkins will have a monster week one.
- Julio Jones (Atlanta) vs. Tampa Bay: Don’t make this difficult. Julio Jones had the most targets (203), most receptions (136), most receiving yards (1,871), and most yards after the catch (679) among all wide receivers. At home against Tampa Bay last year, he recorded 12 catches for 162 yards and one touchdown. Jones is the feature wide receiver in a Kyle Shanahan offense, which means plenty of targets. He had six games last year with at least 15 targets. Jones is one of the best athletes in the NFL at any position. The great Julio Jones earns the top wide receiver spot for week one of the NFL season.