Week 17 Wide Receiver Rankings

Author Matt Conley
Jordy Nelson goes out on top, with our No. 1 WR ranking in Week 17. (Photo: Icon Sportswire)
Jordy Nelson goes out on top, with our No. 1 WR ranking in Week 17. (Photo: Icon Sportswire)

Words by Matt Conley
Rankings by Paul Charchian and Matt Conley

  1. Jordy Nelson @ DET – 9.75
    Few players are as blazing hot as Nelson. In the last four weeks, Nelson has posted at least 110 yards in three games and has scored five total touchdowns. The Lions defense has now given up at least one touchdown to a wide receiver in three straight games, and their cornerback depth chart is worse than average without Darius Slay, who has now missed two straight games with a hamstring injury. Even if he plays, Rodgers won’t avoid Nelson for the sake of Slay. He was active in Week 3 when Nelson had a 6-101-2 line.
  2. Golden Tate vs GB – 9.5
    In the past four weeks, Golden Tate has gained at least 50 yards in every game and gone over 120 twice. He’s a solid start now, but his first game of the year against Green Bay was during his horrific start to this season when he averaged just 27 yards per game. The Packers have been torched the past two weeks by two Bears (Deonte Thompson and Cameron Meredith) and a Viking (Adam Thielen), none of whom were on fantasy rosters two months ago. Cornerback Damarious Randall has been dreadful all season (PFF ranks him 116th among cornerbacks) and stays planted to the left side of the field, so look for Tate’s best opportunities to come when he lines up opposite Randall.
  3. Julio Jones vs NO – 9.5
    After battling nagging injuries all year, Julio Jones returned last week, and be a factor in this game, as Atlanta can secure a first-round bye with a win. Jones has over 100 yards in five of the last eight games he has played, and even gimpy, he’s is a threat to do that in Atlanta’s potent passing offense. Jones’ worst game of the year was his first game against the Saints this year, with just one catch for 16 yards, as the Saints skewed coverage to him to such an absurd extent that Atlanta scored 45 points by just throwing it to uncovered players all game long.  New Orleans should be a little more conventional this time around, and they have given up six touchdowns to receivers in the past five weeks.
  4. Mike Evans vs CAR – 9.25
    The owners of Mike Evans breathed a sigh of relief last week as Evans got back into the end zone after taking a three week break from scoring. His 97 yards also broke a three-game string of less than 60 yards.  The last time Evans faced Carolina, he put up a 6-89-1 line. The Panthers have given up the fifth-most yards to receivers the past five weeks, although they’ve spread the damage out to multiple targets (only two receivers, DeSean Jackson and Michael Crabtree, gained over 100 yards). Evans will contend with the 6’1” pair of corners, James Bradberry and Daryl Worley, both of whom have improved as the season has gone along but still are young, vulnerable players.
  5. Julian Edelman @ MIA – 9.25
    After Julian Edelman only gained more than 70 yards once in the first eight weeks of the season, you might have buried him in your league. But those with patience were rewarded. He has topped the 70-yard mark in each of the past seven games. Edelman’s only good game in that first half did come against these same Dolphins, a 7-76-0 game with Jimmy Garoppolo (remember him?) at quarterback. Slot cornerback Bobby McCain has not played particularly well, and since the Patriots need a win to clinch the one-seed in the AFC I would anticipate Edelman getting every opportunity to continue his 70-yard streak.
  6. Davante Adams @ DET – 9.0
    With three 100-yard receiving days in his last seven games, Davante Adams is continuing to show that his breakout this season is no fluke. Adams also has five touchdowns in his five games, and could have had more if he hadn’t dropped two of them two weeks ago. The drops have become an anomaly, however, and the Lions are ripe for exploiting. They have given up six touchdowns to receivers the past three games, and with their best cornerback, Darius Slay, sure to be focused on Jordy Nelson, Adams will have the advantage against Detroit’s lesser cornerbacks Nevin Lawson and Jonathan Bademosi.
  7. Brandin Cooks @ ATL – 9.0
    Since getting zero targets five weeks ago, Brandin Cooks has been quite good. He’s had at least 60 yards in all four games, and showed what he can do when he hits his upside like he did with his 7-186-2 game two weeks ago. Historically, Cooks has struggled mightily against the Falcons, with just 25 yards per game in his last three meetings with them going back to 2015. But Desmond Trufant was on the field to help shut him down in those games, and Trufant isn’t around anymore.
  8. Doug Baldwin vs SF – 9.0
    Now with touchdowns in each of his past two games, Doug Baldwin is starting to get more looks in the red zone, against the wishes of cornerback/self-appointed offensive coordinator Richard Sherman. Baldwin torched the 49ers for an 8-164-1 line in Week 3, and essentially the only thing that makes the San Francisco pass defense not look worse (237 yards per game, 12th-best in the league) is that their run defense is so bad (171 yards per game, worst by a mile) that teams do not feel the need to pass much against them. Seattle is a bad running team, though, so they will still pass and shouldn’t expect much in the way of resistance.
  9. Larry Fitzgerald @ LA – 8.75
    Even with Michael Floyd gone, Larry Fitzgerald has slowed down as the season has progressed. He has just 33 yards per game in his last three games, and he hasn’t scored since waaaaay back in Week 5. The Rams, though, are in a defensive slump. They’ve given up 175 yards per game in the past five weeks to receivers, to go along with nine touchdowns—second -most in that span. Excellent slot cornerback LaMarcus Joyner is only 5’8”, which could be a problem against Fitzgerald, especially in the red zone.
  10. Adam Thielen vs CHI – 8.75
    Although Adam Thielen’s 12-202-2 day romping through the Green Bay secondary was a surprise, truth be told, he’d been the best receiver on the Vikings for several weeks, even with Stefon Diggs back. Thielen has had at least 60 yards and/or a touchdown in six of his seven previous games prior to last week’s explosion. The Bears’ defense is shockingly competent, but they aren’t exactly good. They have given up 189 yards per game to receivers the last three weeks.
  11. Cameron Meredith @ MIN – 8.75
    Cameron Meredith re-emerged as a fantasy asset after Matt Barkley took over quarterback duties in Chicago, a phrase I never imagined saying at any point in my lifetime. Meredith gained 67 yards four weeks ago and his totals have risen each week to last week’s peak of 135, and he has scored two touchdowns to boot. Minnesota’s collapse (sorry, Charch) has even infected the formidable defense, as several receivers in the last few weeks have put up huge games. The list includes usual stars Jordy Nelson (9-154-2) and Dez Bryant (4-84-1) but also Anquan Boldin (7-69-1) and Marqise Lee (5-113-0).
  12. DeSean Jackson vs NYG – 8.75
    One of greatest boom-or-bust fantasy receivers ever, DeSean Jackson has been living in boomtown for a while now, with at least 100 yards in four of his past six games and three total touchdowns. In typical Jackson fashion, his production has been built on the big play, as he has four plays of 57 yards or longer in that stretch. Normally, the Giants would represent a challenge for Jackson, as Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have been playing as well as any cornerback duo in the league. But, the Giants are locked into the No. 5 seed, and I don’t expect that Jenkins will play after getting hurt last week.
  13. Michael Thomas @ ATL – 8.75
    While Michael Thomas doesn’t quite have the explosive capabilities of teammate Brandin Cooks, he’s been the more consistent player. He’s had more than 50 yards in all but three games this year. Against Atlanta in Week 3, he had a 7-71-1 line, and that was when the Falcons’ best cornerback, Desmond Trufant, was playing. Trufant is on injured reserve and while Jalen Collins has been good in limited snaps, he’s still a rookie. The Falcons have given up touchdowns the past two weeks to big, physical receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Rod Streater.
  14. Malcolm Mitchell @ MIA – 8.75
  15. Marqise Lee @ IND – 8.75
  16. J.J. Nelson @ LA – 8.75
    Were you aware that J.J. Nelson has scored a touchdown in four consecutive games? He’s also a significantly bigger part of the offense now. In the two games since Michael Floyd got a DUI and was dumped, Nelson has received 18 total targets, more than any other Cardinal. Nelson will line up most often against either Troy Hill, easily one of the worst cornerbacks in the league (111th per PFF, and that seems generous), or E.J. Gaines (115th per PFF), who is just as bad. It’s hard to know which horrible cornerback the Rams will play there. Small outside receivers such as Nelson’s teammate John Brown (10-144-0), Golden Tate (8-165-1) and Tyler Lockett (11-239-1 in two games) have eaten the Rams alive. Nelson’s firmly ahead of Brown in the pecking order now.
  17. TY Hilton vs JAC – 8.5
    With the struggles and injuries to the other Colts’ receivers this season, TY Hilton has shined, particularly the last four weeks. He has three games with more than 100 yards in that span. Jacksonville’s cornerbacks are led by the talented rookie Jalen Ramsey, but no matter where Hilton lines up he’ll see a quality cornerback as Prince Amukamura and slot corner Aaron Colvin have both played well. Jacksonville has only allowed three receivers to gain more 100 yards all season. They’ve also only allowed three touchdowns to receivers in the past seven games after giving up ten in the first eight as their young defense has started to clamp down on opposing offenses.
  18. Alshon Jeffery @ MIN – 8.5
    Alshon Jeffery returned to action two weeks ago and has averaged 90 yards per game, with a touchdown, in those two games. The Bears have long been eliminated from the playoffs but Jeffery has a new contract to play for. Jeffery had a 4-63-1 line in his first meeting with Minnesota, and that was before the defensive backfield decided mutiny was a valid coverage strategy. The Vikings have given up the fourth-least yards to receivers this year overall, but the sixth-most in the past five weeks as the Vikings’ defense has started to falter.
  19. Sammy Watkins @ NYJ – 8.5
    Sammy Watkins had a classic Sammy Watkins game last week for the first time all season, but now he’ll catch “passes” from E.J. Manuel, who last started a game in 2015.  Watkins had a 5-48-1 line in that game. But against the Jets, none of that may matter much. The Jets have shown about as much interest in finishing the season as a dog does differential calculus. In the last five weeks they’ve conceded big games to Julian Edelman (5-89-0), Jarvis Landry (3-108-1), TY Hilton (9-146-0) and Kenny Britt (7-109-0). And the most depressing thing for Jets fans is that you can honestly say that if Darrelle Revis covers Watkins, then Watkins should be able to get open down the field.
  20. Jamison Crowder vs NYG – 8.5
  21. Taylor Gabriel vs NO – 8.5
  22. DeAndre Hopkins @ TEN – 8.5
    It has been a very poor season for DeAndre Hopkins, even considering his abysmal quarterback situation. Tom Savage looks no better than Brick Osweiler, and he only targeted Hopkins six times last week, after he targeted Hopkins 15 times the week before. Still, the Titans’ secondary hasn’t found a passing game bad enough for them to stymie. They are giving up 198 yards per game to wide receivers in their last five games and their cornerback depth chart is a mess. After injuries and cuts, terrible cornerback Valentino (formerly known as Antwon) Blake now mans one side, and undrafted rookie LeShaun Sims the other. Even the Savage-Hopkins duo should be able to succeed against this bunch.
  23. Allen Robinson @ IND – 8.5
    If you made it to your Week 17 championship game while owning Allen Robinson, congratulations on your in-season transaction prowess. Robinson blossomed last week with his 147-yard game, as that was more than he’d gained in his previous five games combined. Whew. The Colts’ best cornerback, Vontae Davis, has played badly this year, possibly due to injury. Indianapolis’ overall numbers look good, giving up just 120 yards per game to all wide receivers the past five weeks, but it’s been done mostly against poor passing offenses and they’ve still given up five touchdowns in those five games.
  24. Tyreek Hill @ SD – 8.5
    Steve Smith @ CIN – 8.5
    Steve Smith has scored a touchdown in each of his last two games and four of the past seven. This will very likely be his final NFL game, and with nothing to play for Ravens could make a point to feature him. Against the Bengals earlier this season, he had his worst game of the year and Bengals’ cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick called him trash. The prideful Smith will have all the motivation he needs in this game. The Bengals have not allowed any receiver to catch more than 80 yards in the last five games and have only given up two touchdowns in that span but if there’s one thing Steve Smith probably doesn’t care about, it’s any of those numbers.
  25. Terrelle Pryor @ PIT – 8.5
  26. Brandon LaFell vs BAL – 8.25
  27. Demaryius Thomas vs OAK – 8.0
    Still averaging 10 targets per game in the past five weeks, Demaryius Thomas’ dud last week was the first time he’d failed to get at least 60 yards since Week 9. That was, however, Denver’s first game of the year with Oakland. The Raiders have only given up 100-yard games to two receivers the past five weeks, both of them speedsters in TY Hilton and Ted Ginn. Denver’s defense may be able to at least provide decent field position for the offense, as Oakland will need to start Matt McGloin at quarterback. Paxton Lynch might start for Denver, and Thomas caught a touchdown in two of his previous three starts.
  28. Jarvis Landry vs NE – 8.25
  29. Randall Cobb @ DET – 8.25
  30. Willie Snead @ ATL – 8.25
  31. Anquan Boldin vs GB – 8.0
  32. Donte Moncrief vs JAX – 8.0
  33. Jordan Matthews vs DAL – 8.0
  34. Pierre Garcon vs NYG – 8.0
  35. Dontrelle Inman vs KC – 8.0
    The worst game of the last five weeks for Dontrelle Inman was last week, when he got his highest number of targets and was playing Cleveland. Go figure. He’d posted at least 60 yards or a touchdown in all four previous games. As San Diego tries to restore some of its wounded pride following its loss to the Browns, Inman’s matchup represents their best chances. Kansas City’s outside cornerbacks have played very well, but slot cornerback Steven Nelson has struggled, and Inman has a four inch height advantage. Kansas City has given up just 97 yards to receivers per game the past three weeks, fourth-least, but they haven’t faced a team with a good slot receiver in that time.
  36. DeVante Parker vs NE – 8.0
  37. Emmanuel Sanders vs OAK – 8.0
    Although in his first meeting with Oakland didn’t show it (just a 5-47-0 line), Emmanuel Sanders should have an advantage against Oakland’s bigger, stiff-hipped cornerbacks Sean Smith and David Amerson. Sanders has had over 100 yards and a touchdown in two of his past five games, but has less than 50 yards and no scores in the other three games. If Paxton Lynch starts, keep in mind that Sanders had 80 yards in both of Lynch’s first two starts, but just 28 in his most recent start four weeks ago.  Oakland has worked its way from the worst pass defense in the league to one that is ranked middle-of-the-pack, 16th, the past five weeks. No matter who starts at quarterback, Denver’s offense is tough to trust and Sanders, despite his talent, is no exception.
  38. Kelvin Benjamin @ TB – 8.0
  39. Ted Ginn @ TB – 7.75
  40. Tyrell Williams vs KC – 7.75
  41. Amari Cooper @ DEN – 7.75
  42. Eli Rogers vs CLE – 7.75
  43. Sterling Shepard @ WAS – 7.75
  44. Michael Crabtree @ DEN – 7.75
  45. Dez Bryant @ PHI – 8.75
    [Downgraded on news that many Cowboys starters, including Dak Prescott, are expected to play minimally.] The Cowboys say they won’t rest players in this tune up for the playoffs. They certainly didn’t in Week 16, and I’m hoping that Dez plays most of the game. Dez Bryant has had at least 70 yards in six of his last seven games and has scored six touchdowns in that span, succeeding even in Dallas’ run-heavy offense.  In his previous matchup with Philadelphia, Bryant turned a season-high 14 targets into a 4-113-1 line. The Eagles’ pass defense has struggled in the second half of the season. They have allowed a receiver to gain 95 yards in six of their last seven games and have given up nine touchdowns to the position in that time.
  46. John Brown @ LA – 7.75
  47. Travis Benjamin vs KC – 7.75
  48. Jeremy Maclin @ SD – 7.75
  49. Kenny Britt vs ARI – 7.75
  50. Brandon Marshall vs BUF – 7.75
  51. Stefon Diggs vs CHI – 7.75
  52. Tavon Austin vs ARI – 7.75
  53. Odell Beckham @ WAS – 7.5
    Focused on the game on the field (and not on kicking nets) for weeks, Odell Beckham has averaged 100 yards per game the past five weeks and has scored four touchdowns total in that span. The Redskins’ formerly flammable defense against receivers has settled in the past five weeks, ranking 19th in yards against. However, Beckham had one of his best games earlier this year when he played Washington in Week 3, with a 7-121-0 line in spite of his histrionics with Josh Norman. Remember, he’s gotten the better of Norman in both of their past two meetings. Note: Keep an ear out for any indication that the Giants will rest starters in this game. Their playoff seeding is locked.
  54. Quincy Enunwa vs BUF – 7.5
  55. Rishard Matthews vs HOU – 7.5
  56. Tyler Boyd vs BAL – 7.5
  57. Chris Hogan @ MIA – 7.5
  58. Jermaine Kearse @ SF – 7.5
  59. Mike Wallace @ CIN – 7.75
  60. Paul Richardson @ SF – 7.5
  61. Kenny Stills vs NE – 7.5
  62. Robby Anderson vs BUF – 7.25
  63. Cole Beasley @ PHI – 7.0
  64. Terrance Williams @ PHI – 6.0