The advent of NFL training camps is upon us as teams approach their first preseason games. With the return of football comes the return of our favorite form of legal sports betting, fantasy football. As you scour the internet for the latest news and rankings getting ready for your league’s draft, we’ll be providing you lists of the top fantasy prospects by position for this season. We’ll begin with the most important position on the field and likely on your team: quarterback. (Note: All fantasy stats are based on CBSSports.com scoring/rankings from last season and projections are based on this year’s CBS Sports’ projections.)
Now, we take a look at wide receivers, some of whom have begun to make their case for being Top 5 fantasy football draft picks in the last several years, especially if you play in a points per reception league. These guys are some of the biggest game breakers on a week-to-week basis.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers wide receiver has established himself as arguably the top receiver in the game over the last four seasons. He’s averaged 120 catches, 1,579 yards and 10 touchdowns in that time span. Now, flush with a shiny new contract extension, Brown enters the 2017 season as the top receiver in fantasy by the projected numbers. He finished third last year with 193 total fantasy points and the CBS Sports projections have him topping that number with 215 (13.43 per week average). Stats-wise, they have him at 120 receptions for 1,551 yards and 11 TDs. At 29-years-old, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to expect any kind of slow down from Brown this year.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Jones has battled with Brown for that best receiver title the past few years but, he has had nagging injuries that he’s dealt with. Last season, despite missing two games, Jones finished sixth among receivers in fantasy points with 169 total. As long as he stays healthy this year, he’s projected to improve on those numbers with 109 catches for 1,738 yards and eight touchdowns for a total of 214 fantasy points (13.4 per week average).
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Evans has improved his production in terms of catches and yards in each of his three years that he’s been in the league. Last season, he finished second among receivers in fantasy points with 200 total thanks to 96 catches for 1,321 yards and 12 TDs. This year, he’s projected to be third, behind Brown and Jones, with 203 total fantasy points (12.7 per week average). The CBS Sports projection system has Evans slated for 105 receptions for 1,511 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year.
Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
Beckham has frustrated Giants fans at times with his antics on the sidelines, but he’s inarguably one of the best and most explosive receivers in football today. He’s got the pure speed to turn a short pass into a long gain with the leaping ability and hands to make spectacular catches over the top of corners. He finished last year fourth among receivers in CBS Sports fantasy football with 189 total points and he’s expected to be fourth among receivers again this year. But, the projection system have him dropping eight fantasy points to 181 total (11.3 average per week) with 103 catches for 1,334 yards and nine touchdowns.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
Nelson returned last season after missing all of 2015 due to a torn ACL and he barely skipped a beat. He had one less catch (97) than his 2014 season, but also one more TD (14 to 13). His yards per catch average dropped by two full yards, but overall, he was still a pretty impressive weapon especially considering that it was his first year back from the ACL. Now in his second year removed from surgery, Nelson is expected to put up 100 catches for 1,228 yards and 11 TDs this season for a total of 181 fantasy points (11.3 average per week). He is in his age 32 season, so there’s some concern about a potential drop off, but not a ton considering what he did last season.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Green has been Andy Dalton’s go-to weapon since he entered the league in 2011. Last year, he had a bit of a down season as he missed six games due to injury and fell short of 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Due to that, he was a disappointing fantasy option, finishing with just 113 total fantasy points. He was good when he was playing, but the games missed likely hurt many fantasy owners. This year, as long as he’s healthy, Green is expected to put up about 60 more fantasy points over the course of the season with 180 total (11.25 per week average) according to CBS Sports. He’s projected for 105 catches, 1,420 yards and eight touchdowns.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
Baldwin is likely not a receiver you’d expect to see on this list, largely because he doesn’t have the same name recognition as the guys above him. However, by 3-year averages, he’s hovered just outside the Top 10 of fantasy receivers. Last year, he was 10th among receivers in fantasy points with 153. So, he belongs in this spot, particularly because he has developed into Russell Wilson’s go-to guy. The projection system has Baldwin down for 98 receptions, 1,169 yards and nine touchdowns this season for a total of 167 (10.4 average).
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
This projection is based both on Thomas’ impressive debut last year, but also on the trade of Brandin Cooks to the Patriots. Cooks was the number one option in the receiver group last year and now Thomas is expected to step into that role. He actually finished ahead of Cooks last season with 161 total fantasy points to Cooks’ 159. So, this year’s stats are projected to be 100 grabs for 1,230 yards and eight touchdowns which would total 162 (10.1 average) points for the season. There’s a chance those numbers could be higher, but Brees spreads the ball around pretty effectively so this seems about right.
Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins
Pryor surprised a lot of people in his first full season as a wide receiver last year, putting up a 1,000-yard season with 77 catches and four touchdowns despite having a rotating cast of QBs in Cleveland. He moves to Washington now on a one-year deal and becomes the likely number one receiver due to the loss of both Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Kirk Cousins, whatever your opinion of him, is certainly better than whoever was under center in Cleveland last year, so Pryor should see at least as many opportunities. The projections have him down for 80 catches, 1,151 yards and six touchdowns, which would give him a total of 147 (9.2 per week average) fantasy points for the season.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers
Benjamin had a lot of people concerned when he showed up to team workouts this year seemingly having gained a few pounds. Recent reports have him rounding back into shape, so there shouldn’t be as many concerns once the season starts. That said, Benjamin took a step back in every statistical category last season, so this projection is likely based on an expected bounce back year. CBS Sports has him slotted for 69 receptions, 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns, good for 146 total fantasy points (9.1 average).