Part 3 of the Year in Review series focuses on the wide receiver position in 2017. With PPR scoring quickly becoming the standard scoring system in fantasy football, the entire position is filled with so much depth now as teams start to use 3 and 4 wide looks to spread out defenses. 5 receivers caught over 100 balls this past season, and no surprise, those 5 were in the top 6 of fantasy scoring at the position. Antonio Brown kept his stranglehold atop the position with a fantastic year that is seemingly becoming routine for him, with over 1500 yards receiving, 101 receptions and 9 touchdowns. Last season’s #2 receiver Mike Evans dropped off due to quarterback play and lack of volume, but he may not get back to #2, as DeAndre Hopkins looks poised to challenge Brown as the best receiver in fantasy. Hopkins turned in a great season, leading the league in touchdown catches and with a full season with Deshaun Watson, the sky is the limit. Let’s take a look at some wide receivers who either went above and beyond or faltered based on their surroundings in 2017.
DeAndre Hopkins – 96 rec., 1378 yds., 13 TD (WR #2)
The fact that DeAndre Hopkins put up those video game numbers despite the trash heap of quarterbacks that Hopkins had throwing to him aside from Watson is amazing. Considering the attention that he got from opposing defenses and he still produced week after week… the man has broken out and is the best non-Antonio Brown wide receiver in the NFL today. Hopkins was targeted a league-high 164 times in 2017, led the NFL in touchdown receptions, and imagine what he’ll do with a full season with Deshaun Watson. He’s in rarefied air as a 1st round fantasy wide receiver and I’d be supremely confident if I had picks #6-9 to select him in my draft.
Jarvis Landry – 112 rec., 987 yds., 9 TD (WR #5)
Jarvis Landry was a PPR machine in 2017, notching either 5 catches or a touchdown in every game this past season. In fact, there were only 2 weeks this season where Landry failed to score at least 10 points in full point PPR. As somebody who was drafted as a WR #30 in drafts, he won’t be there coming up in 2018 drafts. You got great value if you selected him, but his price is going up and may go up further depending on where he calls home in 2018. He could be on the move so his destination may drive his price up even higher. Keep an eye on his situation, but the middle to end of the 3rd round is a great place to start with as far as 2018 value goes.
Tyreek Hill – 75 rec., 1183 yds., 7 TD (WR #8)
The “post post post post post” hype breakout of Alex Smith benefitted two receivers mostly, one of them being Tyreek Hill. Hill was excellent in 2017, even if he was all over the map a bit in terms of consistency. He dominated the opener in Foxboro with 133 yards and a touchdown, but then entered a lull with a couple of nice games, but people were looking at him as a boom or bust DeSean Jackson-type player. Which there’s nothing wrong with, Jackson has been a serviceable player in fantasy for a number of years, but was Hill going to be dependent on the deep ball for fantasy success? After Week 8, Hill never scored any less than 11.5 FPTS in any game he played, and with Pat Mahomes entering in at QB in 2018, we’ll see if that success translates to the new QB. There will be growing pains, but an early 4th round selection seems about right for Hill to not pay a super-premium price. Hill could be a big time steal if Mahomes gets on the right track early as the Chiefs’ signal-caller.
Mike Evans – 71 rec., 1001 yds., 5 TD (WR #17)
Mike Evans has always been a receiver that has tantalized with his high point catching abilities and massive frame. The sky is certainly the limit for him, but with the murky Buccaneers’ QB situation in 2017, Evans was inconsistent and hard to pin down. He only notched 100 yards receiving once and scored only 1 touchdown the rest of the season after Week 8. Evans did lead the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards in 2017, but he was a bit of a fantasy casualty as several other receivers saw an increased number of targets around him, including Cam Brate, Adam Humphries, and the aforementioned DeSean Jackson. Evans has all the talent in the world, and he had a #2 finish in fantasy points as recently as 2016. With some stability at QB with Jameis Winston getting healthy for the start of 2018, Mike Evans should be ready to get back to what he does best, which is produce. Look for him in the early 3rd round of drafts as he should be a bit of a bargain from last year’s price, which was a late 1st/early 2nd round selection in most fantasy drafts.
T.Y. Hilton – 57 rec., 966 yds., 4 TD (WR #27)
Take away 4 games where T.Y. Hilton had 100 yards (and also 3 of his 4 touchdowns in those games) and Hilton would arguably be the biggest colossal non-injury bust of the year, at least in the AFC. Jacoby Brissett’s top receiver was Jack Doyle, not Hilton, as Brissett connected with Hilton on just a shade over half the time on his targets. It’s safe to say that Hilton needs a bit of Luck (pardon the terrible Hilton in 2017-like pun) to succeed in 2018. With a healthy Andrew Luck, look for Hilton to get back to his productive ways, where I’d be comfortable drafting him at the end of the 3rd round, in the mix with Jarvis Landry and Alshon Jeffrey, but if there are questions about Luck’s return still as training camp begins, I’d drop him down a couple rounds. There’s too much volatility without Luck there to really trust him.
Jordy Nelson – 53 rec., 482 yds., 6 TD (WR #45)
Jordy Nelson’s WR #45 finish put him as bench fodder in most leagues and more than likely, dropped in the others. The rapport that Nelson had with Brett Hundley was nowhere near what he had with Aaron Rodgers, or frankly, what Hundley has with breakout WR Davante Adams. The easy narrative to go with is that Nelson, in his age 33 season coming up in 2018, is toast. Yesterday’s news. Now I don’t see that, it’s really hard to judge a player not playing with arguably the best quarterback in the league and say he’s done, especially considering his 2016 in which he fell just short of 100 receptions and led the NFL in touchdown catches. I’m not saying that it’s not possible for him to have fallen off, it certainly is. But it would be a curious case for that drop off considering he turned in that 2016 season after he came back from a torn ACL and before Aaron Rodgers’ injury, he was on pace for 80 catches, almost 1000 yards, and an absurd 24 TD? Using that trajectory, there’s no possible way he would’ve gotten close to 20 TD, much less 24, but I don’t see how even catching 6 more touchdowns to put him at 12 would be out of the ordinary. Those projections put him at around WR #12-14, which would be a down year for Nelson, but a valuable fantasy commodity nonetheless. I see 2017 as a complete anomaly and would love to see Nelson prove his detractors wrong.
Be sure to tune in for the next installment in the Year in Review, where we look at the Tight Ends, Defenses, and anything yet to be covered before we wrap up on 2017!