2021 Fantasy Football WR Rankings
BY KEVIN HANSON (@EDSFootball)
Updated: Monday, April 5th
The majority of free-agent signings are now behind us with the 2021 NFL Draft next up on the NFL calendar.
With (most of) free agency behind us, I have updated my fantasy football rankings for the upcoming season and I'll update these rankings after the NFL Draft and throughout the summer.
More way-too-early 2021 fantasy football rankings:
- Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings
- Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
- Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings
For now, here are our early fantasy wide receiver rankings for 2021 season:
Not only did Adams miss two games in 2020, but he has missed multiple games in three of his past four seasons. Even so, the seven-year veteran led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (18) and yards per game (98.1) and also set a career high in receptions (115). With double-digit touchdowns in four of five seasons, Adams has a total of 58 scores in 71 games over that span. With Aaron Rodgers still playing at an MVP level, Adams is the clear choice to be drafted as fantasy's WR1 in 2021.
2. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Few players at any position have as much upside as Hill to erupt for a massive performance in any given week. Setting a career high in touchdowns (17), Hill had 87 receptions for 1,276 yards and 13 carries for 123 yards in 2020.
3. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
In his first season in Arizona, Hopkins tied a career high in receptions (115) and his 1,407 receiving yards were the third most of his career while Stefon Diggs (166) was the only receiver with more targets than Hopkins (160). While his six touchdowns were a four-year low, Hopkins still finished as a top-five fantasy receiver in half-PPR formats.
4. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
Things could not have gone better for Diggs in his first season with the Bills. Buffalo's starters played fewer snaps than usual in Week 17, as Diggs played a season-low 48% of the team's offensive snaps. Even so, that Week 17 performance (7/76) was the only game over the final five weeks where Diggs had fewer than 128 receiving yards. A top-three performer across all scoring formats, Diggs led the league in targets (166), receptions (127) and yards (1,535) in 2020.
Ridley closed the season the same way he started it (with 100-plus yards in four of five games). Along with Davante Adams (six) and Stefon Diggs (three), Ridley was one of three receivers to finish as a top-two weekly fantasy receiver at least three times in 2020. Ridley finished last season with 90 catches on 143 targets for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns and should be a top-six fantasy wide receiver in 2021.
6. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
It was an injury-plagued 2020 season for Thomas, who failed to score in seven regular-season appearances. While Thomas played in the four Taysom Hill starts and had a pair of 100-yard games, both against the Falcons, the most-likely scenario for the 2021 Saints is that Jameis Winston takes over as the team's starter.
Before 2020, Thomas had improved every season -- 1,137 yards (2016), 1,245 (2017), 1,405 (2018) and 1,725 (2019). In his last full season (2019), he led the NFL in both receptions (149) and yards (1,725).
7. D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
The sky is the limit for Metcalf, who is coming off a breakout sophomore campaign (83/1,303/10). Through Week 9, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks passing offense were unstoppable and Metcalf had more than 90 yards in seven of his first eight games. Through Week 9, only Tyreek Hill had scored more fantasy points than Metcalf.
The only concern for Metcalf (and Wilson) is the Seahawks' desire to establish the run. Over the final eight regular-season games, Metcalf exceeded 61 yards in only two games. As great as Metcalf was in the first half of the season, he was tied with (now WFT receiver) Curtis Samuel as the WR25 from Weeks 10-17.
Brown missed a couple of games, but he followed up a strong rookie campaign (52/1,052/8) with career highs across the board -- 70 catches, 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns on 106 targets. Despite playing in a run-first offense, Brown has averaged 17.4 Y/R and scored a touchdown on 15.6% of his receptions through his first two NFL seasons.
The vacated targets left by Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith and Adam Humphries won't be entirely soaked up by free-agent additions Josh Reynolds and Marcus Johnson. In other words, Brown should see a significant bump in targets/share.
9. Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
Preventing Robinson from reaching free agency, the Bears used their franchise tag on Robinson. It's disappointing for fantasy managers that had hoped for an upgraded situation for the 27-year-old receiver, but Robinson has a total of 200 receptions and a minimum of 1,147 yards over his past two seasons in Chicago. In other words, A-Rob is a safe bet to perform as a WR1 despite his situation.
10. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
Jefferson exceeded all expectations in his inaugural season with 88 catches for a rookie-record 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns. Not only did the former LSU Tiger have seven 100-yard games, but he had double-digit targets in five of his final six games after doing so in only two of his first 10 games. Going forward, Jefferson should be the 1(a) to Adam Thielen's 1(b) in Minnesota's passing offense.
11. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Allen missed a couple of games and was limited in others, but he finished with 100 catches for the third time in four seasons despite playing with a rookie quarterback. Although just shy of the 1,000-yard mark and averaging a career-low 9.92 Y/R, Allen tied his career high (set as a rookie in 2013) with eight touchdowns. Along with Davante Adams and Diontae Johnson, Allen was just one of three receivers to get double-digit targets in 10 games in 2020.
12. Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team
While the team's quarterback play hasn't done him many favors, McLaurin managed to set career highs with 87 catches and 1,118 yards in his second season. While his Y/R dipped to 12.9 from 15.8, he set career highs in YPG (74.5) and catch rate (64.9%). Regardless of what WFT does in the draft, signing Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency boosts McLaurin's outlook and puts him squarely in the WR1 (top 12) mix.
13. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although he set a career low in yards per game (62.9), Evans exceeded the 1,000-yard mark -- now seven consecutive seasons to begin his career -- and set a career high with 13 scores. The Bucs have franchise tagged Chris Godwin, but Antonio Brown remains a free agent. If the team doesn't re-sign AB, it could lead to more week-to-week consistency.
14. Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Missing four games in the first half of the season, Godwin finished a disappointing 2020 campaign with 65/840/7 as he averaged 25.2 fewer yards per game than in 2019. An assortment of injuries and the presence of Antonio Brown (7.75 targets per game) interfered with Godwin's consistency last season. Godwin ranked third in targets (55) over the final eight games behind Evans (63) and Brown (62). While the Bucs may still be the favorites to re-sign Brown, it would benefit Godwin's fantasy outlook if AB signs elsewhere.
Jones missed nearly half of the season, but he finished with at least 94 yards in five of his nine games played in 2020. Averaging 85.7 YPG last year, Jones was still on a full-season pace of 1,371 yards. Before last season, he had a minimum of 1,394 yards in six consecutive seasons.
Even with Calvin Ridley taking a massive step forward, Jones is on the WR1 fringe and could reward fantasy managers handsomely if he's able to stay healthy in his age-32 season.
16. D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
Moore averaged only 6.9 targets per game through his first 10 games, but that number jumped to 9.8 per game over his final five games. In addition, three of his four 100-yard games occurred over that final five-game stretch. Even though his 55.9% catch rate was a career low, the 23-year-old receiver's ADOT (13.2), Y/R (18.1) and receiving yards (1,193) were all career highs.
17. Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
It was a disappointing season for Woods and the Rams offense in general. Woods tied a career high in receptions (90), but his receiving yardage (936) and yards from scrimmage (1,091) were three-year lows. Replacing Jared Goff with Matthew Stafford generates some optimism for all of the skill-position players.
18. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Thielen averaged only 61.7 YPG, but he scored 14 touchdowns in 2020. Only three receivers were targeted more often in the red zone than Thielen (19).
19. Kenny Golladay, New York Giants
Golladay exceeded the 1,000-yard milestone in back-to-back seasons (2018 and 2019) with the Lions and led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (11) in 2019. Although 2020 was a lost season due to a hip injury, Golladay had either 50-plus yards and a score or 100-plus yards in the four games he played before sustaining the injury. Signing a four-year deal with the Giants, the QB downgrade from Matthew Stafford to Daniel Jones limits his ceiling a bit, but he's still a solid No. 2 fantasy wide receiver.
Cooper finished 2020 with a career-high 92 receptions for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns. It was his third consecutive 1,000-yard season and fifth of his career. In 41 games as a member of the Cowboys, Cooper has averaged 73.9 yards per game.
With a healthy Dak Prescott, Lamb began his NFL career with two 100-yard games and a minimum of 59 yards in each of his first five games. During that five-game span, Lamb scored the 11th-most fantasy points (Amari Cooper was 12th) and only five other receivers had more receiving yards (433). Based on his skill set, Lamb should eventually emerge as the 1(a) for the Cowboys to Cooper's 1(b) ... potentially as early as 2021.
22. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
While Kupp averaged a career-high 6.1 receptions per game, he set career lows with 10.6 Y/R and only three touchdowns. As noted with Woods, the upgrade at quarterback should provide a boost to Kupp, Woods and the offense overall.
23. Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
Tied with Davante Adams and Keenan Allen, no receiver had more games with double-digit targets than Johnson (10). The second-year receiver averaged only 10.5 Y/R, but he turned his 144 targets into 88 catches for 923 yards and five touchdowns. While he needs to cut down on the drops, Johnson should be one of the league's most-targeted wideouts in 2021 even though the team re-signed JuJu Smith-Schuster.
24. D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars
Chark missed three games in 2020 and averaged 12.9 yards per game less than in 2019, but it's a virtual lock that the Jaguars will draft Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Improved quarterback play makes Chark a bounce-back candidate for 2021.
From Week 2 until Week 11 (Joe Burrow's knee injury), Higgins scored the 19th-most fantasy points (half-PPR scoring) amongst wide receivers. With A.J. Green signing with the Cardinals and assuming good health for Burrow, Higgins will have an opportunity for a second-year improvement in what should remain one of the league's most pass-heavy offenses.
26. Will Fuller, Miami Dolphins
Once again, Fuller missed five games, but this time it was due to suspension. In fact, he will finish serving his six-game suspension in Week 1 of the 2021 season. Fuller had set career highs in receptions (53), yards (879), YPG (79.9), Y/R (16.6) and touchdowns (eight) with DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona. Before the suspension, he was on a 77/1,279/12 pace. Signing with the Dolphins lowers Fuller's upside with the corresponding downgrade at quarterback from Deshaun Watson to Tua Tagovailoa.
27. Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
In 12 games as a rookie, Aiyuk ended the year with 60 receptions for 748 yards and five touchdowns and added 77 rushing yards. Aiyuk had a six-game stretch through Week 15 with a minimum of 73 yards per game and an average of 94.7 over that stretch.
28. Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers
Year 1 in Carolina was generally a success for Anderson, who set career highs in targets (136), receptions (95) and yards (1,096). On the other hand, he set a career low in Y/R (11.5) and his three touchdowns were a career low outside of his rookie season. Getting off to a great start, Anderson had 74-plus yards in six of his first seven games and all three of his 100-yard games during that span. Beyond that point, he reached 74 yards in only two of nine games and averaged nearly 40 YPG less over the final nine-game span (91.4 YPG in first 7G vs. 50.7 in final 9G). The free-agency departure of Curtis Samuel should help Anderson improve upon his 2020 numbers.
29. Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans
Averaging a career-high 76.7 YPG, Cooks finished his first season in Houston with 81 catches for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns. From Week 5 on, Cooks had at least 59 yards in 10 of 11 games. During that 11-game span, he averaged 6.5 catches and 92 yards per game. Provided that Deshaun Watson is under center for the Texans in 2021, Cooks could move higher in my rankings.
30. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
The full-season numbers (100/1,054/10, WR9 in half-PPR) look great and Lockett now has back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns and three consecutive seasons with at least eight touchdowns. That said, there were three huge games (9/100/3, 15/200/3 and 12/90/2) and mostly modest performances the rest of the season. From Weeks 4 to 16, Lockett finished as fantasy's weekly WR45 (or worse) in nine of 12 games. Given Seattle's run-first tendency, there is week-to-week volatility with the team's top pass-catchers.
31. Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers
Claypool scored 11 touchdowns -- nine receiving and two rushing -- in the regular season and added two more receiving scores in the team's playoff loss to Cleveland. Re-signing JuJu Smith-Schuster to a one-year deal diminishes Mapletron's upside in year two.
32. Curtis Samuel, Washington Football Team
Across scoring formats, Samuel was a top-25 receiver in 2020 despite playing with D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, both of whom outscored Samuel in half-PPR formats. Samuel set career highs in receptions (77), receiving yards (851) and rushing yards (200) in 2020. Immediately slotting in as WFT's WR2 behind Terry McLaurin, Samuel has a chance to be as productive in 2021 as he was last year with the Panthers.
33. Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos
Sutton missed nearly all of 2020 with a torn ACL, but he had a breakout season in 2019 with 72 catches for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns. Even though the team drafted Jerry Jeudy in the first round last spring, Sutton should reinsert himself as the team's top receiver and he's an upside WR3 heading into 2021.
34. Odell Beckham, Cleveland Browns
Beckham tore his ACL in Week 7. Outside of a massive three-TD performance against the Cowboys in Week 4, Beckham performed as a weekly top-40 wide receiver in only one other game. Excluding Week 7 when he sustained the injury, he averaged only 3.8 receptions per game and never exceeded five catches any week.
35. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
After averaging 65.5 and 89.1 yards per game, respectively, in his first two seasons with the Steelers, Smith-Schuster has averaged 46.0 and 51.9 per game in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The Steelers re-signed Smith-Schuster to a one-year contract and is a WR3 (both in fantasy and on his own team).
36. Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
Boyd had just one catch for one yard in Weeks 15 and 17 -- he was out in Week 16 -- as he failed to extend his 1,000-yard streak to three seasons. Through Week 11 (when Joe Burrow tore his ACL), however, Boyd was averaging 71.0 yards per game, which put him on a 16-game pace of 1,136 yards. With a healthy Burrow, Boyd is a solid WR3.
37. DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
Following up his breakout 2019 campaign, Parker disappointed fantasy managers with nearly 20 fewer yards per game and less than half as many touchdowns compared to the previous season. While Tua Tagovailoa should improve in his second season, the addition of Will Fuller IV -- and possibly a stud receiver like LSU's Ja'Marr Chase in the draft at No. 6 -- to a defensive-minded team means that Parker's 2020 numbers (63/793/4) should be considered more of his baseline than his 2019 numbers (72/1,202/9).
38. Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Foot and hamstring injuries (plus the COVID-19 list) limited Samuel to only seven games in 2020. Samuel played only one snap (his final snap of 2020) against WFT in Week 14, but he had 65-plus yards in each of the final four games in which he appeared before that. Due to his physical playing style, he's always a threat to miss time, but he's a viable WR3 (or better) in the weeks that he's on the field.
39. Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns
Traditionally vastly exceeding his preseason expectations, Landry finished 2020 as fantasy's WR36, identical to his final 2020 half-PPR ADP (via Fantasy Football Calculator). Landry set career lows in targets (101) and receptions (72) last season and his yards from scrimmage (850) and total touchdowns (four) were either the lowest or second-lowest of his career. Given that those numbers were mostly without Odell Beckham Jr. (ACL), it's unlikely that Landry outperforms last year's modest numbers (by much) in Cleveland's run-first offense.
40. Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
Jeudy had his moments, but it was generally an underwhelming rookie season given the Week 1 season-ending injury to Courtland Sutton. Per NextGen Stats, Jeudy's 31.46% share of his team's air yards ranked 14th in 2020. That said, he had a 46.0% catch rate on the year. Unless the Broncos upgrade their quarterback play, it may be difficult to vastly improve upon last year's numbers with the return of a healthy Sutton.
41. Ja'Marr Chase, Free Agent
42. Corey Davis, New York Jets
43. Sterling Shepard, New York Giants
44. Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens
46. Antonio Brown, Free Agent
47. Laviska Shenault, Jacksonville Jaguars
48. Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
49. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
50. Marvin Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars
51. Jamison Crowder, New York Jets
53. Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills
53. Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
54. DeVonta Smith, Free Agent
55. Darius Slayton, New York Giants
56. Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles
57. Jaylen Waddle, Free Agent
58. Josh Reynolds, Tennessee Titans
59. Emmanuel Sanders, Buffalo Bills
60. Breshad Perriman, Detroit Lions
Check out more of our content:
- 2021 NFL Mock Draft
- 2022 NFL Mock Draft
- 2023 NFL Mock Draft
- 2021 NBA Mock Draft
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