Two weeks ago I released “My Top 10 Fantasy RB’s of 2019” listing the top Running Backs set to have the best fantasy seasons and my projection of their 2019 stats. This week I am focusing on the NFL pass catchers set to put up the most numbers for your fantasy team.
Drafting in the first round is getting increasingly harder as the seasons go by. Depending on the League you play in, standard or PPR, and where your pick is, you may be faced with the dilemma of whether the best option is a bell cow Running Back or stud Wide Receiver. In order to assist you in the process I have put together my list of the best Wide Receivers in the NFL and ranked them based on their potential to put up the most points.
A reminder as we get started that this is not my ranking of best WR’s in the league but rather the ones who are in the best position to maximize your fantasy output each week. So, without further adieu here is another “McLaughlin Top 10”
#1 Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
Thomas became the first big offensive playmaker holding out of training camp to get his deal, Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliot have still yet to report. Signing a 5 year $100M contract extension to keep him in the bayou through the 2023 NFL season.
This contract now makes him the highest paid wideout in NFL history! That coupled with being the Saints only top-tier receiving threat, and #1 asset for future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees, makes him the best WR to grab in the 1st round. Thomas led the NFL in catches last year with 125 and finished 6th in yards (1,405). His 9 TD’s last year though, were only good for 12th in the league and are the only concern of his fantasy production.
However, the Saints enter 2019 lacking the goal-line brute of Mark Ingram, leading me to believe we will see more Red-Zone targets and production from Thomas. The only threat to his production is Tight End Jared Cook, which basically means, there is no threat to his production. Look for Thomas to finally hit double digit TD’s for the first time in his career and capture his 3rd straight season of 100+ receptions.
My Stat-Line Prediction for Michael Thomas- 175 Catches, 1,650 Yards, 15 TD’s
#2 Deandre Hopkins – Houston Texans
A lot of people have Nuk at #1 and it’s hard to argue that, in truth it was hard for me to put him here myself but it’s the fact he’s on the Texans that makes him my #2. Hopkins ranked in the Top 5 of all major receiving categories last year: 163 Targets (5th), 115 Receptions (3rd), 1,572 Yards (2nd) and 11 TD’s (5th).
The biggest stat that I focus on though for him is his Catch Percentage 70.5 which didn’t even land him in the Top 25 of eligible candidates. Not saying that 70% is great, but when you look at his amount of targets and how Michael Thomas was able to perform better with fewer it raises concerns. Concerns not for him but more so how consistent his QB play will be.
Deandre Hopkins does have the unique trait of being the ONLY offensive weapon, outside of QB Deshaun Watson, on this Texans team. Some would say that with Watson’s injury history and limited experience, only having one full season of play under his belt, that Hopkins IS the Texans Offense. His ability to make insane circus catches and also do so in the Red-Zone is what puts him over Julio Jones (whom we’ll get to later) in my books.
My Stat-Line Prediction for Deandre Hopkins: 105 Catches, 1,600 Yards, 12 TD’s
#3 Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers
You can’t have a Top 5 list without considering the lead dog in Aaron Rodgers’ arsenal. Consistently putting up double digit TD’s Adams flourished in his first year being a starting wideout. Having spent his first 5 seasons in the league behind Randall Cobb, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams enters this year as the lone wolf for Aaron Rodgers.
Adams started to take this roll on last year. When Randall Cobb missed 7 games last year Adams stepped up with 3 100+yd games on his own. Tacking on a few more 100yd performances Adams finished the 2018 season with 1386 yards and 13 TD’s. As long as Aaron Rodgers is at the helm the Packers will always be a competitive team. Now with a new head coach Matt Lafleur Adams will have the opportunity to make plays early and often.
A refined route runner Adams has the potential to be lethal over the middle and on the deep ball, possessing blazing speed on the perimeter. Rodgers will have the best of both worlds with Adams this year, we sometimes forget the Packers are a great team still an injury riddled 2017 season and a 2018 year of internal coaching struggles are what have held this team back from the playoffs.
My Stat-Line Prediction for Davante Adams: 118 Catches, 1,550 Yards, 15 TD’s
#4 Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
Julio could be a lot of peoples #1 NFL Wide Receiver , but this is a list of fantasy production and he has not been a consistent and reliable enough target in the Red-Zone for QB Matt Ryan.
Atlanta finished 10th last year in red-zone TDs with 64% conversion rate, which may not sound that bad until you look at the 9th place team and see the NFL’s last place Cardinals above them, I think I just felt you raise your eyebrows. On top of that the year prior they finished sub 50% with a conversion rate of 49%, so are the Falcons just not looking Jones’ way or is he just not able to get open in the redzone. This is a huge factor and concern for an elite wideout. The big question now becomes will his production increase or dip now that Atlanta has a solid #2 in Calvin Ridley. Jones will always have upside in a pass happy Falcons offense but his days of #1 fantasy threat may be coming to an end.
Julio Jones could find himself on the wrong side of 30 this year but I still see him being a viable late 1st round pick in your fantasy draft, especially if my top 2 options are not available and the RB selection is thin when you pick. Jones will still top the 1000 yard mark, but his endzone scores will likely stay the same or dip from his 8 last year.
My Stat-Line Prediction for Julio Jones: 90 Catches, 1,400 Yards, 9 TDs
#5 Juju Smith-Schuster – Pittsburgh Steelers
Juju Smith-Schuster enters 2019 as the uncontested WR1 for a Pittsburgh team that missed the playoffs for only the second time this decade. Smith-Schuster recorded his first 1,000 yard year all while playing second fiddle to Antonio Brown.
“Big Ben” Roethlisberger loves his WR1’s as we’ve seen throughout the years in Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Antonio Brown. The difference is he is also used to having a significant #2 as well alá Antwan Randle El, Santonio Holmes (when Hines Ward was #1) and Mike Wallace. This year however Pittsburgh has no clear cut secondary option leaving a sky high limit for Smith-Schuster whose predecessor led the NFL in catches numerous times.
Juju is going to see a lot of targets and could find himself leading the NFL in catches this year if he meets the Steel City standard. A bigger more physical target than Antonio Brown, Juju is faster and stronger than he was last year and has a whole offseason of preparation to take his team back to the playoffs. Playing all but one game as the #2 to Antonio Brown, Juju had A.B beat in most stats, ranking 5th to Brown’s 11th in receiving yards, 7th to Brown’s 8th in receptions, all while doing it on 2 less targets.
Juju will have a bigger roll this year being the #1 means more TD looks and red zone opportunities. This is something he didn’t benefit from last year (as he only got 7 TD’s to A.B’s 15) but will get this year. Juju was listed as my ‘X’ Factor for Pittsburgh this year, so he will be getting his chance to shine.
My Stat-Line Prediction for Juju Smith-Schuster: 115 Catches, 1,500 Yards, 14 TD’s
#6 Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs
Tyreek Hill was good with Alex Smith in 2017, in 2018, with Patrick Mahomes launching the ball, he blossomed into an NFL weapon. Hill possessing blazing speed and superb release abilities, he gets separation from Cornerbacks better than ANYONE in the league. In 2018 him and Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers we’re the only two players to finish in the Top 5 in both Receiving Yards and Yard per Catch.
Hill averaged 17 Yds/Catch in 2018 and totaled 1,479 yards on 87 catches last year, lets also not forget his 12 touchdowns to boot. It was a nerving offseason for the K.C. superstar as a child abuse investigation threatened his season. Already seeing what happened to Kareem Hunt last year, it was worrisome for the explosive wideout and had his draft capital fall and lead some to suspect he may not play the whole year. Now with that behind him Tyreek is in line to continue this journey to the NFL elite.
The pairing with Patrick Mahomes last year was magical and lives many to think the sky is the limit for them in 2019. This offense has a lot of explosive potential but can they continue to be consistent? I think that is keyed to how well Tyreek Hill can get open and how often can he get the ball into his hands, he is a Home-Run hitter for a Chiefs team hungry to return to the big stage for the first time since 1969.
My Stat-Line Predicition for Tyreek Hill: 88 Catches, 1,400 Yards, 11 TD
#7 Odell Beckham Jr. – Cleveland Browns
The offseason trade that OBJ to the land shook up the entire league as well as made the Browns, for the first time since their 1999 revival, a contender. Paired now with a Quarterback just beginning his career rather than one near the end gives Odell some of the biggest upside he’s had in his whole career. On the flipside though he has one of the lowest floors of his career now too.
Beckham was a model of consistency in his New York years, missing only the 2017 season and a few games last year. Still, posting 1,000 yard season in 2018 with only 12 games is impressive, and now he gets re-paired with college teammate Jarvis Landry.
This Cleveland offense is loaded and has a lot of mouths to feed which may lower Beckham’s opportunity for maximum production. However, having such a plethora of receiving options makes it almost near impossible for a defense to cover anyone specifically, Beckham will get his share.
My Stat-Line Prediction for Odell Beckham Jr: 102 Catches 1,200 Yards, 12 TD’s
#8 Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Regardless of who he had throwing to him last year Mike Evans was unstoppable and he has been for the last three years, in fact he is the only player other than Julio Jones and Michael Thomas on this list to hit over 1,000 yards consecutively in the past three years.
Mike Evans now finds himself the lone wolf again with DeSean Jackson returning to Philly in the offseason. Evans has a lot of potential to flourish into an even more explosive and deadly fantasy pick in Bruce Arians’ offense. This is the same coach that was able to utilize Larry Fitzgerald into the twilight of his career.
Evans has the prototype size for an NFL wideout possessing a matchup nightmare height/weight of 6-5/231. He is a borderline Tight End size with receiver skills allowing making it almost impossible to cover him with an average corner. He will have plenty of opportunities to lead the league in Receiving this year, that is, if Jameis Winston can prove consistent.
My Stat-Line Prediction for Mike Evans: 94 Catches 1,400 Yards, 8 TD’s
#9 Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings
Now paired with a consistent and healthy Quarterback, Adam Thielen brokeout in 2018 for his second straight 1,000 yard campaign but increased his touchdown total by 5 and his receptions by another 22. Thielen has become a featured part of this Minnesota offense along with his counter part Stefon Diggs.
However what ranks Thielen above Diggs is his ability to get open and take the hard catches over the middle. Thielen has shown the ability to consistently put up reliable points to his fantasy owners, a gsolid WR2 lock last year Adam Thielen could be a WR1 this year especially if you spend you first to picks on a RB and can get him in the 3rd round.
In an NFL loaded with a lot of offensive fire power pairing Thielen and a Bell cow back should be your goal in this years fantasy draft.
My Stat-Line Predicition for Adam Thielen : 118 Catches 1,400 yards, 9 TD’s
#10 Keenan Allen – Los Angeles Chargers
What? No Antonio Brown, yes, with the uncertain and shaky offseason Brown has had I can’t find him being a consistent receiver in a new offense with a new Quarterback, his year will be one to monitor. Plus he now once again has a solid #2 in Tyrell Williams lining up opposite him, whose addition clears up the potential for my #10 fantasy choice Keenan Allen.
The Chargers we’re so good last year and if they didn’t have the tough road of being a 12-4 Wild Card team having to go through New England and Kansas City for a title they may have been a Super Bowl contender. Imagine if the Chiefs lost one more game last year, the Chargers would have home field advantage through the Playoffs.
Keenan Allen has put himself amongst the Elite in his NFL career and without the deep play stretch of Tyrell Williams the Chargers will be a more clock managing team that has the ability to make continuous long scoring drives through out a game. Look for more Red-Zone trips in L.A. and more looks to Allen in those situations, especially if Melvin Gordon holds out into the season. Never sleep on Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen nor their potent offensive attack.
My Stat-Line Prediction for Keenan Allen: 93 Catches, 1,375 Yards, 10 TDs