2015 Top Tier Wide Receivers
There are so many good wide receivers in the league right now. That translates directly to how many good fantasy wide receivers there are as well. Among non-quarterbacks with more than 150 fantasy points in PPR leagues this season, there were 16 wide receivers, eight running backs and Rob Gronkowski. With so many good WRs, how do you separate the best from the rest? If you were going to use the No. 1 pick in your 2015 fantasy draft on a wideout, who is worth that billing? As this author sees it, there are five. In no particular order because there's an argument for each of them as the best for next season, they are as follows:
Among all non-QBs, Beckham finished 11th in PPR fantasy points during his rookie season. THAT came in just 12 games. Yep, Beckham didn't join the Giants until Week 5 because of a right hamstring injury that had him sidelined for all of training camp. His first two games were pedestrian as he put up a combined 19.2 PPR points. However, his third game of the year, against divisional foe Dallas, started a streak of games previously unthinkable for a rookie. He caught four balls for 34 yards and two touchdowns in that game and sparked a 10-game streak with 15-plus fantasy points that lasted the rest of the season.
In Week 12, Beckham got his second shot at the Cowboys. In that prime-time game, the LSU alum was introduced to the world in prime-time fashion. He caught 10 balls for 146 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns concluded what is, simply put, one of the greatest catches in the history of the league. On the first play of the second quarter, Beckham took off on a fly route up the right sideline. Quarterback Eli Manning, having dropped back behind the 50-yard line, launched a bomb in Beckham's direction. With Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr draped all over him, holding him and spinning him around, yellow flags flying in from two referees for the obvious pass interference, and Beckham falling backwards toward the goal line, the rookie reached up with his right hand, grabbed the ball and pulled it down into his body. The result: a one-handed, 43-yard touchdown, and a catch that will be talked about for years to come.
Over his shortened season, Beckham averaged 24.75 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. No non-quarterback averaged more. And would you believe he did it all with two tears in that problematic right hamstring? He's an easy choice for the top tier and could very well be worthy of being the first receiver off of 2015 fantasy draft boards.
It would be kind of difficult to justify leaving Brown off of this list. He's the only player in the league to post at least 100 receptions in each of the past two seasons. The 5-foot-10 Brown followed up his 110-catch effort in 2013 with an astronomical, league-leading 129 catches in 2014. He also led the league with 1,698 receiving yards. His 13 touchdown catches tied for second-most in the league. He tallied double-digit PPR fantasy points in every game this season, including a streak of six straight games with at least 20 fantasy points to end the year. One of the best things Brown may have going for him is the emergence and development of running mate Martavis Bryant. Bryant now has a season under his belt and is a definite threat, especially in the red zone, with his 6-foot-4 frame. Opposing secondaries will be flirting with disaster if they focus solely on Brown in 2015. With Le'Veon Bell manning the backfield and forcing defenses to be honest, and Ben Roethlisberger slinging the ball around the field, Brown is about as close to a lock as there is to catch 100 balls again next season.
Much like Thomas, Bryant has the size, speed and athletic gifts to make a case for himself as the top wideout for 2015 fantasy drafts. Along with Thomas, Bryant is one of two players at his position to post more than 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns in each of the past three seasons. While Thomas' version of this feat consists of more yards, Bryant is in the conversation to be the top WR in fantasy because of his touchdown prowess. Anytime a wide receiver averages a touchdown per game, he's entering elite territory. In 2014, Bryant became one of just 17 players in NFL history to score 16 or more receiving touchdowns in a season. Randy Moss did it thrice and Jerry Rice did it twice. That's not too shabby company to be keeping. Bryant is set to become a free agent in March, but the Cowboys are likely to do everything within their power to retain this superstar. Even if Bryant does move in free agency, there are a very small number of teams he could land on and not still be a top-flight fantasy receiver. With the on-field rapport he's developed with QB Tony Romo, staying with Dallas would make him tenable top-five pick in PPR leagues.
If not for a foot injury that ended Jones' 2013 season just five games in, this Falcon would likely be on the aforementioned lists with Bryant, Thomas and Brown based on the past three years' performances. In 2013, he was on pace for 131 catches and 1,856 yards. He came back from his injury in 2014 and posted career highs in catches (104) and yards (1,593) despite playing on one of the worst teams in the league. During a Week 14 Monday Night Football game against the Packers, Jones simply could not be covered. He hauled in 11 passes for an absolutely obscene 259 yards and a score. The defense knew Matt Ryan was looking Jones' way and could do nothing to stop them. That game, more so than anything else, showcased exactly why Jones belongs on the top tier. With a new coaching regime coming to town, the one constant is the connection Ryan has with his 6-foot-3 stud. Jones is just as good as the other guys listed above despite playing on an inferior team and is worthy of first-tier status.
Along with Brown, Denver's Thomas was the only other player to manage more than 100 catches, 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving in 2014. No one else has registered 1,400 yards receiving and double-digit touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, and he's actually done it in the past three. Thomas scored 17 or more PPR fantasy points in 13 of 16 games this season, including 12 of the last 13. If those aren't the credentials of a WR1 in fantasy football, nothing is. He's 6-foot-3, weighs almost 230 pounds and runs like a gazelle. While QB Peyton Manning played with two of the best receivers in league history at Indianapolis, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, there's a chance Thomas could end up having a better career than either of them. Five years in, Thomas has more catches (351) than Wayne did at the same point (304) and only about 240 fewer receiving yards than Harrison (5,554-5,317). He's also only six touchdowns (41) behind what Harrison had after his first five seasons (47). All that adds up to the complete justification of Thomas on the top tier of fantasy WRs in 2015, possibly even the best one overall.
There are a few players who are close to the top tier but, for various reasons, aren't quite on the same level as those we've singled out. Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, T.Y. Hilton and A.J. Green are right there in the mix. If you end up with one of them as your WR1 next season, there's nothing wrong with that. However, the things that place them in a tier slightly below the top five are legitimate. Johnson will turn 30 next season and has some injury concerns that can't be ignored. Nelson could very well be losing his top running mate, Randall Cobb, to free agency. While Packers rookie Davante Adams is good, the subtraction of Cobb would ostensibly increase the chances Nelson sees more double coverage. Hilton had a fantastic 2014 but needs to hit that double-digit TD mark to reach the top tier. Green is incredibly talented, perhaps more so than others on this list. It's his quarterback, Andy Dalton, who is holding him back. It's scary to imagine what Green could do with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers as his QB.
Related StoriesDr. Roto Video: Fantasy Baseball Draft Types
2015 Free Agent QBs & TEs Outlook
Dr. Roto Video: League Settings