When evaluating a player's dynasty value, age, team system, team relationships, injury history, mileage, past production and pretty much any factor that could alter a player's value, in the short or long-term, should be taken into consideration. In redraft leagues, you want to get the player that will help you win for the current season, no more, no less; you want the best chance to win right now. But dynasty is a different animal, a different mindset. You're simply not drafting Tom Brady before Kyler Murray in a dynasty startup draft because even though Brady has the pedigree, he could be out of a starting job, or even the NFL, within the next couple years. Whereas Murray could legitimately be playing through 2035. In the case of wide receivers, the talent looms large in draft pools for this upcoming season, with a 2020 draft class full of promise and numerous established receivers looking to improve their game further. In this piece, I am going to highlight my top ten wide receiver options right now. These ten players all have the most upside of any wide receivers in the NFL right now when taking into account most of the aforementioned factors one should use when evaluating dynasty targets. This list could be different come 2021, but for right now, these are my top ten wide receivers options for your dynasty rosters.
1) Michael Thomas, 27-years-old, Saints
Thomas has been in the NFL for four years and has never had a season where he recorded less than 1,137 receiving yards. He's a 6'3'', 212 pound alpha-receiver who possesses elite footwork, agility, physicality, and route-running ability. More than likely, you've heard the argument that most of his production comes off slant-type routes, which has some truth to it, as his average depth of target in 2019 was just 8.2 yards. However, what makes Thomas different from the average receiver is his ability to make the most out of every target he receives. Per Pro Football Focus, Thomas has had the most targets with a step or more of separation among all wide receivers since 2017 with 276. This means 276 times in his NFL career, he was the able to separate from his defender, thus creating open field for him to rack up yards after the catch. It's regular for him, it's his game, and it's what makes him so special.
Even more, when he is thrown the ball, he's almost an automatic bet to catch it, as he earned a 94.9% true catch rate and a 63.3% contested catch rate in 2019, both marks being good for top five among NFL wide receivers. And to top it all off, there are no durability concerns, as he's played in all 16 games every season of his career thus far, except in his rookie season when he played in 15. Thomas is not the fastest receiver with a 4.57 40-yard dash time, but you don't have to be when you do everything else to the book and then some, and then a lot. He is the number one dynasty wide receiver until further notice.
2) Chris Godwin, 24-years-old, Buccaneers
Godwin broke out in 2019 to the tune of 121 targets, 86 receptions, 1,333 receiving yards, and 15.5 yards per reception. Godwin's yardage efficiency is nothing new, as he earned 14.3 yards per reception in 2018 and 15.4 in 2017. For those who were watching closely in 2018, he showed true glimpses of stardom with three 100+ yard games, all coming with less than 10 targets seen. Godwin doesn't need heavy volume to perform well, and that's the direct result of his natural abilities. However in 2019, Godwin saw exactly that, heavy volume. In 10 of his 16 games, he saw 8+ targets, while seeing 12+ targets three times. And as a result, he finished as the second overall PPR wide receiver in 2019, his third NFL season.
At 6'1" and 209 pounds, Godwin possesses excellent route-running ability, supported by a 4.42 40-yard dash speed and just pure athleticism. It is worth noting that Godwin did most of his 2019 damage while sharing targets with Mike Evans, one of the best wide receivers in football. Jameis Winston and a pass-first offense definitely helped Godwin flourish, so one may question if an aging Tom Brady can help Godwin produce similarly. Well as aforementioned, Godwin doesn't need heavy targets to put up elite numbers, he just needs opportunities. In 2019, he earned a 91.5% true catch rate on 94 catch-able targets and a 64.0% contested catch rate, per Player Profiler. Those are elite marks that back up his offensive production.
Additionally, four times last season Godwin earned 120+ receiving yards while seeing less than 10 targets. That is a player who uses all of his skills every time he touches the ball. Godwin is an unrestricted free agent in 2021, so a long-term extension should be at the very top of the Buccaneers to-do list. This is a wide receiver who is just getting his feet wet and has already had ten 100+ receiving yard games before his 25th birthday. In time, I fully expect Godwin to be the top dynasty wide receiver. He has unlimited upside and you should be thrilled to have him on your fantasy rosters. If you can still buy Godwin now from an owner who is speculative (and crazy), don't be afraid to offer a healthy haul for this monster of an athlete, he's just getting started.
3) D.J. Moore, 23-years-old, Panthers
When I think of D.J. Moore, I can't help but think the Panthers sat in the war room for hours trying to find the player that best resembled Steve Smith Sr.'s style of play, but maybe better. Enter the 6'0", 209 pound 23-year-old who can beat you with his speed, his hands, and through his incredible agility in the open field. In his sophomore season, Moore saw 135 targets, which was good for top 13 among all players in the league. Fast-forward to 2020, and the Panthers have Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, and Ian Thomas to help free up more space for Moore to work.
He's not the tallest receiver, or the strongest, yet in 2019 he had a 55.6% contested catch rate, highlighting his ball-hog abilities. Moreover, his 2.40 yards per route and 87.9 true catch rate highlight Moore's ability to safely secure the ball and then make guys miss, resulting in big plays and big time fantasy value, especially in points per reception leagues, as he is the number one passing option on that offense. To ice the cake, Moore could be due for some more touchdowns. Of the nine receivers who gained 1,175+ receiving yards, only Moore had less than 6 touchdowns. In addition to that, Moore saw 70+ receiving yards in 11 of his 16 games, production stemming from his ability to rack up yards after the catch. Moore's style of play will allow him to be productive with virtually any QB, as his route tree allows him to get open in a variety of ways. With many avenues for production, the sky is the limit for Moore going forward. Don't let him slip past you in dynasty startups this year, he's going to be great for a long time.
4) DeAndre Hopkins, 28-years-old, Cardinals
When you watch DeAndre Hopkins play, you can see he's not the biggest receiver, or even the fastest receiver, but he disguises his subtle deficencies with confidence, a ball-hog mentality, and arguably the strongest hands in the NFL. In 2018, he was the only wide receiver with 100+ targets and zero drops. Having an elite catch radius means a receiver has a variety of ways they can catch a football in a variety of situations. And as a result, that receiver usually has a higher yardage total ceiling than the typical receiver due to their unique abilities to make 25+ yard circus catches and jump balls that other receivers just can't against NFL defenders. In short, multi-faceted pass-catchers such as Hopkins can create production others cannot. This ultimately leads to elite production as a whole and that's exactly what we've seen from Hopkins throughout his career thus far.
In 2019, he earned 90+ receiving yards eight times, yet finished with his lowest yardage and touchdown totals since 2016, emphasizing just how dominant he has been over the last few seasons. In fact, he hasn't seen less than 1,165 receiving yards or 96 receptions since 2016.
Hopkins provides a very safe and elite fantasy floor to bet on and is now receiving throws from another budding young quarterback in Kyler Murray. There is no reason to anticipate a drop off in production. Even though it's possible we've seen Hopkins' ceiling already, his ability to stay on the field and produce elite numbers will help him maintain a top dynasty wide receiver ranking for years to come. Your confidence in Hopkins should be very stable.
5) Davante Adams, 27-years-old, Packers
A supreme route-route, a smart player, and a superior athlete; from being able to catch almost anything around him, to using his agility to get open and rack up yards after the catch, Davante Adams has very few holes to his game. To start, Adams has seen 10+ targets in 43.1% of the games he's played in since 2016. Being able to get yourself open and making contested catches on a consistent basis can lead to a consistent flow of targets, and that's exactly what's happened throughout his NFL career, with last season's 1.88 average yards of separation mark emphasizing Adams' ability to regularly separate from his defender when he's running routes.
Even with all these terrific aspects to his game, there's one part that significantly boosts his fantasy, and real life, value: he's domination in the red zone. In 2018, he saw 46 red zone targets, converting 28.3% of them into touchdowns. In fact, since 2018, all 18 of Adams' touchdowns have been caught in the red zone. The reason he's able to be so effective in the red zone is his ability to get open on a slant, a stick, a toss, or whatever he's asked. He possesses an elite route-running tree in short yardage situations. It makes it undoubtedly harder for defenders to deal with him in the red zone because he doesn't have a set route that he goes to; he keeps defenders guessing. Now, Adams has suffered knee, ankle, and head injuries, as well as dealing with turf toe last season, resulting in him never starting a full 16 games in a season thus far in his career. Nonetheless, the Adams we saw in 2018 is his upside, if he can stay generally healthy. I anticipate many more seasons of elite production and high target share from this dynamic wide receiver, but do be mindful of his mileage and demonstrated durability.
6) Kenny Golladay, 26-years-old, Lions
Last Thanksgiving, I witnessed Golladay feast on limited opportunties, five to be exact, from a 2019 undrafted free agent in David Blough. He turned those five opportunities into 158 receiving yards and a touchdown. 47.5% of those yards came on a 75-yard touchdown reception, but it was how Golladay got open to allow himself the chance to get the touchdown that drew my attention. Matched up with Prince Amukamara, Golladay used his 6'4", 214 Ib frame to immediately get inside of Amukamara, gaining slight separation right off the line. He turns his hips towards the middle of the field, selling a short flat, only to pivet his right foot into the ground and burst up field for a wide open touchdown. Amukamara had no chance the moment Golladay changed direction. The ability to do that is special and in the right matchups, he leaves his opponents helpless.
Catching passes from Matthew Stafford, Jeff Driskel, and the aforementioned David Blough, Golladay's week-to-week target share fluctuated. Despite the fact, Golladay's production did not miss a beat, earning 18.33 yards per reception, 10.19 yards per target and four touchdowns on 54 targets in his final eight games after Stafford went down with a back injury. His 75.6% true catch rate for the season isn't eye-opening at first glance, but when you take in account that only 86 of his 116 targets were considered catchable, per PlayerProfiler, and that he had a 54.2% contested catch rate, this is a guy who made the most of his opportunities, one of the most special aspects of his game. We've yet to see his ceiling, and with a healthy Stafford, 2020 could be the year he entrenches himself into consensus top five dynasty wide receiver territory.
7) Tyreek Hill, 26-years-old, Chiefs
Speed is not everything, but 4.34 40-yard dish sprint speed catches your attention. Hill suffered from several injuries last season, including a sternoclavicular joint dislocation that ultimately caused him to miss four games. In his other 12 games started, Hill saw 89 targets and caught 58 of them, leading to 860 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Coming off a career year, his 2019 season was an understandable disappointment for fans and Hill alike, but luckily, talent doesn't dissipate, it evolves.
What makes Hill so special is his ability to produce in the flat, on slants, on a fade and essentially anywhere he can get open, and it's not too hard for him to do so given his combination of route-running, speed, and athleticism. Per PlayerProfiler, Hill averaged 1.97 yards of separation per target and 2.70 yards per route in 2019. Both of these stats point to a receiver who uses his speed and agility to create enough separation to become an attractive target, and as a result of said separation, he easily racks up yards after the catch, ultimately leading to a solid amount of yards gained per route. One can bring up Hill's 5'10", 185 Ib frame to argue that he's not top tier because he can't win it with his hands like other receivers can. Well on the contrary, Hill led the NFL in contested catch rate in 2018, securing 13 of the 20 contested targets he saw. Moreover, given Hill's talent and speed, you don't run into a contested catch situation all that often. At just 26-years-old, and with plenty left in the tank, I would not be surprised to see Hill as the fantasy football WR1 numerous times for as long as he's in the league. He has generational abilities; think about his upside when drafting in your dynasty startup leagues this offseason.
8) Courtland Sutton, Broncos, 24-years-old
Coming into his second NFL season, I, for one, did not foresee Sutton improving his game so dramatically, specifically his route-running. Sutton easily used his 6' 3" frame to gain separation, and when you add in his 90th percentile catch radius, it's not hard to understand why he's so dangerous. Beyond this, Sutton possesses the ability to play in the slot, wide right, and wide left, or the X, Y, and Z offensive positions. Not every wide receiver with his physique, or wide receiver in general, has the talent to play allover the line of scrimmage, but that's another aspect of Sutton's game that makes him a special player. Additionally, after Sutton gains separation and secures the football, he can rack up yards after the catch using his strong, compact physique. In fact, his 5.01 yards after the catch per reception mark ranked 6th among all NFL wide receivers with 100+ targets, emphasizing his ability to rack up extra yardage without groundbreaking speed.
Furthemore, last season he saw six less drops on 36 more targets, decreasing his drop rate from its 2018 mark of 7.1% to 2.4%, a clear sign of growth. It is also important to note that Sutton caught passes from three different quarterbacks last season: Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, and Drew Lock, ultimately leading to a 73.0% catch-able target rate (Only 73% of his presumed 124 targets were considered catch-able). Wide receiver-quarterback chemistry is a real, lucrative advantage that can turn hopeless plays into big gains. Sutton had no chance to build that type of advantage in his second NFL season and still managed to earn 1,112 receiving yards and six touchdowns, finishing as a top 20 PPR wideout. Going forward, there is a lot of speculation in regards to Sutton's future production with the drafting of Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, along with the continued development of Noah Fant. Well here are the facts: Sutton is a now a vet and the other three pass-catchers have yet to see more than 66 total NFL targets, combined. Obviously that's because Jeudy and Hamler have yet to play a NFL snap, but it emphasizes how much further along Sutton is at the NFL level in comparison to his fellow pass-catchers. And besides, you aren't buying Sutton for 2020 in dynasty leagues, you're buying Sutton himself: an agile, competitive, aggressive, talented and still developing wide receiver. Don't be that guy to look at surface notes and decide Sutton isn't worth his draft day price, he's an athletic specimen who can do things on the field that not many others can do; buy the talent and don't look back.
9) JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers, 23-years-old
You don't have to be an expert to see that JuJu had a disappointing 2019 season. You also don't have to be an expert to realize that wasn't his fault. Big Ben suffered a season-ending elbow injury last September, a blow that ultimately costed the Steelers a chance at competing for a Super Bowl. Enter the infamous Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. Rudolph, a 2018 3rd round pick, was terrible under pressure, when blitzed, and in general, while the undrafted free agent option in Hodges was just as unproductive. Both quarterbacks totaled just 2,828 passing yards with a combined 18:17 touchdown-to-interception ratio. It's quite difficult to produce as a top fantasy wideout when all your quarterback options are playing at a level that is not just below average, but well below average. Still, JuJu ended his season with 552 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 12 games. In those 12 games, he managed to earn a 80.8% true catch rate, despite a 60.0% catch rate, due to his strong hands.
Heading into 2020 and beyond, it's important to understand that production and development are not always linear when it comes to NFL wide receivers. And what I mean by that is every year brings it's own trials and tribulations for a NFL team, usually on the unpredictable side, meaning injuries or unforeseen circumstances occurring that negatively affect a player and their performance in some manner. For the Steelers and JuJu last year, the trials and tribulations were losing Big Ben, negatively affecting JuJu's 2019 ceiling and production. However, the good news is that, for the most part, talent doesn't spontaneously dissipate. Physique is physique, ability is ability, talent is talent and JuJu possesses the proper amount of all three to dominate in the NFL, when the pieces around him are fully in place. It's one thing to have to deal with a backup NFL quarterback, it's another to have Rudolph and Hodges as your only quarterback options for an entire season. JuJu did the best he could with the hand he was dealt in 2019. Let's not forget that in 2018, JuJu earned 1,426 receiving yards, seven touchdowns, a 84.7% true catch rate, a 50.0% contested catch rate, and 16 red zone receptions, with his strong hands make him a trustworthy red zone option, only boosting his fantasy value. JuJu's career has only just began, let's not overreact to one down season that was largely out of his control, invest in the JuJu we've come to know and love, that's who we'll be seeing more of going forward.
10) Mike Evans, Buccaneers, 26-years-old
Mike Evans knows how to keep his year-to-year stat lines generally consistent, but how he gets there is usually an entirely different story. In 2019, he earned 69 or less receiving yards six times, but 180+ receiving yards three times. More than that, his target share outcomes ranged from 17 to 2. This is nothing new for Evans, yet in 2019 it felt like boom-or-bust every week. Chris Godwin definitely had a hand in this matter. Nonetheless, the answer to why Evans has seemed to have true monster weeks followed by random clunkers in the weeks that followed, or vice versa, over the past few seasons is another topic of discussion. What we do know, however, is that Evans is a big-bodied, ultra-talented receiver who can perform like the best in the game any given week.
At 6' 5", 231 Ibs, Evans has a body type comparable to receivers such as Vincent Jackson, D.K. Metcalf, and Brandon Marshall. On the field, Evans wins through using his physique to the best of his ability; beating defenders off the line and getting open for big plays. He easily wins one-on-one balls and doesn't have a hard time getting open against defenders. When you watch him on the field, you'd sometimes think he is the best wide receiver in football, because that is his upside. Unfortunately, his inconsistent weekly target shares create true fantasy headaches, and have ultimately affected his perceived fantasy reliability. Don't get me wrong, you're still drafting him as your WR1, or WR2 if you're lucky, due to his raw talent and upside. But as long as Godwin continues to emerge for the Buccaneers as a top receiving option, Evans' issues finding a consistent target share may linger, and look similarly to what we saw in 2019.
Just for the fun of it, I decided to give you all a visualization of Evans' 2019 target share fluctuation:
Reminds me of a roller coaster: keeps you guessing, with every turn or spin another sensation; an exhilarating, unpredictable ride. Evans will produce elite fantasy production in every season he plays in, when that comes for your fantasy team is another question. I always advocate betting on talent, so I think his ADP is justified. If he falls to you in the early rounds of a dynasty startup league draft, don't be afraid to take him. Given his natural abilities, a consistent weekly target share matched with consistent production is in the realm of possibility every season he plays a full 16 games, the only real issue is that Evans has, and will continue to have, a rather large realm of possibilities every time he steps on the football field.
1. Julio Jones
2. A.J. Brown
3. Odell Beckham Jr.
4. Terry McLaurin
5. Amari Cooper
In this #FantasyFootball piece, I broke down my top ten dynasty wide receivers going forward. Did I miss someone? Who is your favorite player out of these options? Please let me know! You can find me on Twitter @FantasyCentral1
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Written By: Micah S. Henry