1. Davante Adams
The only other player in contention for this #1 slot is obviously Stefon Diggs. He and Adams both achieve massive target levels, and while for me this is more of a 1A/1B ranking between the two than saying Davante is #1. Although, Davante ultimately ranks a hair higher due to the Aaron Rodgers factor.
Last season, it was obvious Rodgers was playing with nothing to lose, and in doing so he constantly audibled out of run plays in the red-zone in favor of passing ones, many of which were plays like this that included confusing motion for a simple, quick pitch to Davante:
It showed up on the stat sheet as Davante Adams received an enormous 148 targets and led the NFL in TD catches with 18 in 2020. If you saw Rodgers’ scathing returning press conference from a few weeks ago, you know he will once again play like it could be his last year.
This should result in unimaginable WR1 production from Adams like last year with him being among the top 5 leaders in TD catches. He was targeted at least 9 times in 14 of his 15 full games in 2020 and hit double-digit TDs for the 4th time in 5 seasons.
Last season, Adams posted a top-10 fantasy week in a position-best 57% of his regular-season outings while averaging a career-high (and league-high) 34% target share. Given that he’s now been at or above 30% target share each of the past three seasons, his WR1 floor should be unquestioned.
Once nick-named “Dropvante” as a young receiver by the Packers veteran WR corps, Davante Adams has come a long way as his remarkable route-running, hands, after-the-catch skills, and intelligence would likely empower him to be one of the league’s top 10 WRs regardless of Aaron Rodgers force feeding him the ball.
2. Stefon Diggs
Like Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs has a phenomenal connection with his QB, Josh Allen, and receives an almost ridiculous number of targets because of that. Couple those targets with Diggs’ remarkable quickness and ball skills and you have an irrefutable WR1 floor, much like Davante.
Diggs has cracked 1,000 yards for the past 3 seasons in a row, posted at least 6 TDs in each of last 4 years, and he managed a staggering 127 receptions and 1,535 yards in 2020, both of which led the league
His agility and particularly his route-running is the best in the league in my opinion. He makes it easy for a QB, as he’s often open by 5 yards or more coming out of his breaks.
As an example, check out this play where he beats the press coverage, sells the inside perfectly, then plants his right foot to break outside to absolutely COOK the DB on a corner/out route (granted, it is Jamal Adams):
Furthermore, two of the top factors determining any fantasy receiver’s success are target share and the type of offense they play in, both of which tip the scales in Diggs’ favor.
The former 2015 fifth-round pick set career-high and league-leading marks last season in targets (168), receptions (127), and receiving yards (1,535). Additionally, Diggs’ 29% target share was another career-high, and his third-place finish in fantasy points among receivers marked his 1st season finishing higher than 10th.
Josh Allen’s top target in one of the league’s highest-scoring and pass-heaviest offenses, Stefon Diggs owners will likely be disappointed without basically 20 points per game this year.
3. Tyreek Hill
While I honestly judge anyone who profits off of Tyreek Hill’s fantasy success (same goes for Joe Mixon owners, look up that video if you don’t know) after he choked and punched his at the time pregnant ex-girlfriend in the stomach before he was drafted.
Despite my judgement, Tyreek has to be talked about here as he could obviously be in contention for the #1 slot on this list by the end of 2021.
Tyreek Hill finished as a top-10 fantasy WR in 40% of his games last season (3rd best) and finished lower than 30th only 20% of the time (2nd best). Hill continues to bolster his fantasy production with crazy production when it comes to TDs (53 career offensive TDs, 31.4 OTD) and efficiency (career 2.5 YPRR).
Last season’s #2-scoring fantasy WR has a legitimate shot to take the top spot away from Adams in 2021.
Although I have my personal disdain for Tyreek Hill (and Joe Mixon) owners, I did say a few years ago that he might be the NFL’s most complete receiver in spite of his size given his speed, ability to go up and get the ball, ability to fight for the rock in traffic and hold on regardless of big hits, and the fact that he’s basically a running back once he gets the ball.
4. DeAndre Hopkins
Similarly to other top 2021 receivers, it is Hopkins dazzling hands, miraculous route-running, and high target share that yields him a top-5 ranking this season.
The Cardinals’ offense and his role helps his case tremendously as well. Hopkins is the Davante Adams of this offense as Kyler Murray often force-feeds him targets. Hopkins started off the season strong with at least 7 grabs in his first 3 games, but trailed off a little and showed some inconsistency.
However, Hopkins beats Calvin Ridley out to make it just inside this list’s top 5 because his receiving skills, target share, and history of dominance speaks for itself. The lowest receiving total Hopkins ever posted in a year was 802, and that was back in 2013 when he was a rookie.
If you’ve been living under not a rock, but a mountain for the past year, check out his insane game-winning catch against the Bills as a small sample of evidence for his ranking and talent:
In his first season with the Arizona Cardinals, Hopkins put up his 4th consecutive top-5 fantasy season (and fifth since 2015). He also finished 2nd among WRs in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.
Kyler Murray and Arizona’s fast-paced offense targeted Dhop early and often as he received 7+ targets in 15 of 16 games and had a target share of at least 26% each game (remember for reference, Stefon Diggs had a 29% career-high target share last year.
As a parting thought for his case, never forget Dhop’s remarkable streak of consecutive catches without a drop, when he obliterated the next-best receiver by over 100 catches:
5. Calvin Ridley
With Julio Jones gone, Calvin Ridley’s floor immediately vaults from top-20 to top-10, if it wasn’t there already. His blazing speed and pristine running is enough to terrify any NFL defense.
An absolute 💣 from @GageRussell in slow-mo 👀
📺 : FOX pic.twitter.com/jEME35qh4I
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) December 13, 2020
The Falcons offense is also conducive to airing it out constantly, which as you might guess is beneficial for all Falcons pass-catches, especially the team’s WR1 and top deep threat.
It helps that the Falcons’ top running back is Mike Davis, and even with a dominant running back it would be hard to imagine the Falcons franchise/offense pounding it between the tackles consistently.
Calvin Ridley is trending in a promising direction to say the least, as he posted career highs last season in catches (90), yards (1,374), and averaged an impressive (and also career-high) 15.3 yards per catch.
Furthermore, he was remarkably consistent towards the second half of the season and had at least 5 catches and 50 yards in every game after returning from the Falcons’ Week 10 bye. In my opinion, either him or Allen Robinson is this season’s most underrated receiver.
Beyond his cheetah-like speed, Ridley also has nearly every quality you could want in a receiver except for size, and he happens to be Matt Ryan’s most trusted target in an offense that is usually throwing and usually playing from behind.
While many might be concerned with Julio’s departure from an opposing defensive focus perspective in terms of the attention Ridley will receive, the Falcons’ addition of Kyle Pitts in the 1st round of the NFL draft will help balance the attention, and Russell Gage is no slouch either.
You could also make an argument that the Falcons are confident enough that Calvin Ridley would be their next generational talent and star of the offense for years to come that they were willing to trade Julio Jones the moment it seemed like age had starting catching up.
Ridley finished at least 9th among WRs in targets, receiving yards, TDs, and end zone targets in 2020. He was also fantasy’s #5-scoring WR. During the seven games Julio was out completely, Ridley had an immense 31% target share and was fantasy’s WR3.
6. Allen Robinson II
Allen Robinson’s placement on this list might have some of you wondering if I’m on crack. I can assure you I’m not, and as an Allen Robinson owner in 2020 I stand by this prediction.
Allen Robinson gets targeted like the Saints’ Mike Thomas. If you ever listen to or watch any clips of Bears games with coaches or players mic’d up, he’s treated like Mike Thomas too in terms of how many plays the coaches call specifically for him, and in terms of how often they take the time to marvel at his abilities in the midst of a competitive NFL game.
Allen Robinson had more targets (151) than all the guys ESPN has ranked in front him (and many of the players the people who think I’m on crack would rather see here) including D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Justin Jefferson, Terry McLauren, and Keenan Allen.
He also finished no lower than 6th in targets and routes during each of the past 2 years, Robinson’s 1,250 receiving yards in 2020 were his most since 2015, and his 15 end zone targets were 3rd-most in the NFL.
With some hopefully improved QB play, the sky is the limit for Allen Robinson especially with few mouths to feed when it comes to Bears playmakers. The former second-round pick has shown up the past 2 years in a big way with back-to-back top-10 fantasy campaigns, and looks to make it 3 in a row in 2020.
7. Justin Jefferson
Adam Thielen is still great, but Justin Jefferson is the man in Minnesota now. With more points than A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf in his his rookie year, he barely edges that duo for the #7 slot on this year’s list.
Moreover, the Vikings offense is just slightly less run-based than Seahawks or Titans, but still very run-based with Dalvin Cook pounding the rock, which is why he’s outside the top 5.
Jefferson was incredibly efficient with his looks in 2020, cracking 1,400 yards on 88 catches (15.9 avg., good for 9th among all WRs). After the second week of the season, the former LSU product received 8.6 targets per game which included a ridiculous 43% air-yard share.
As a small sample of his skillset, checkout this highlight of him straight up destroying a defender with one of the crispiest routes you’ll ever see, leading to a broken tackle and a score despite being double-covered by the Carolina secondary:
He also showed a massive upward trend heading into the end of the year that will likely carry into 2020, hitting double-digit targets in 5 of his final 6 games. Only three wide receivers scored more fantasy points than Justin Jefferson after Week 2.
A “Sim Reaper” of a receiver, Justin Jefferson proved to fantasy owners and NFL scouts alike last season that he’s got every intangible and quality you could possibly want out of a WR1. He can go up and fight for 50/50 balls, he runs crisp routes, he’s got great hands, and Jefferson is an explosive playmaker once he has the ball in his hands.
Jefferson’s efficiency matched his top-end usage, as his 11.0 yards per target and 2.8 yards per route run both ranked 2nd at the position. Anticipate even more targets and yards out of Jefferson in 2021.
8. D.K. Metcalf
As evidenced by his stats against single coverage, D.K. Metcalf is the closest thing we’ve seen to Calvin Johnson since the Lions legend retired. His combination of size and speed is definitely the best the current NFL receiver position has to offer.
The only things keeping D.K. from being placed in the top-5 are Tyler Lockett and the Seahawks obsession with running.
Metcalf finished 11th among WRs in targets last year with 131 and 6th in routes (577), receiving yardage (1,303) and TDs (10). Metcalf’s 15 end zone targets ranked 3rd in the NFL, and his career-high mark of 34 in that category is 5 more than any other player has received in a single season since he entered the league.
He finished 2020 ranked 7th among all fantasy WRs in 2020, and if Lockett gets injured or if the Seahawks decide to throw the ball more, Metcalf will finish a top-5 WR this season.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) December 6, 2020
9. A.J. Brown
Like the receiver above him on this list, A.J. Brown has an ideal size/speed combination for a receiver as he’s got the capacity to box out any defender with his body to go along with the speed and athleticism to petrify opposing defensive coordinators.
Similarly to D.K. Metcalf again, the major factor holding Brown back from a top-5 ranking is the fact that his offense is built around the run. With Derrick Henry running for 2,000 yards seemingly every year, that scheme doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.
With Julio Jones coming into the fold this offseason, Brown now has a legit threat across from him that will prevent himself from being doubled or heavily focused on by opposing defenses.
During the 15 weeks of the season Brown was healthy, he was the 4th-highest-scoring WR in fantasy. He averaged a hefty 28% target share (37% air-yard share) during 15 active weeks (which included one playoff game).
Brown has finished top-3 in yards per route run (YPRR) and top-8 in yards per target (YPT), RAC and TD% during both of his NFL seasons, and he looks to do much of the same in Year 3.
10. Keenan Allen
The only reason Keenan isn’t a top 5 lock is due to injuries. The Chargers and Justin Herbert are slinging it around as much as any team in the NFL, Keenan Allen is their unquestioned #1 receiver, and they don’t have a dominant ground game.
Keenan finished top-13 in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and fantasy points among receivers for the 4th season in a row last year. He also averaged 10.5 targets per game (his highest since 2015) and matched a career-high with 8 TDs last season.
Allen’s game and target share is very comparable to Stefon Diggs, and if he stays healthy all year long he’ll finish the season ranked closer to Diggs and the top of this list, rather than rounding it out.