The top wide receivers to draft for the 2015 fantasy football season in keeper/dynasty leagues.
1. Odell Beckham (NYG) Age: 22
|Receiving Stats||Rushing Stats|
|2015 Projections||View Odell Beckham's 2015 projected stats.|
Beckham's rookie season defied laws of physics and limits of credulity. After missing most of training camp and four games with a hamstring injury, and seeing only six targets in his first two games, Beckham went on a 10-game rampage peak-Jerry Rice would envy. From Weeks 8-17, he went 85-1,233-11, a pace that prorates to 136-1,973-18. That would give him the second-most single-season receptions of all time, the most yardage and the third-most TDs. Before we scream "regression to the mean," of which there will almost surely be some, it's worth noting Beckham was a rookie learning a new system without the benefit of training camp reps, working with a quarterback for the first time while claiming to battle a hamstring injury all year. At 5-11, 198, Beckham has only average size, but ran a blazing 4.31 unofficial time at the NFL Combine (his official one was a merely fast 4.43). He also plays big thanks to a 38.5-inch vertical leap, elite ball skills and large hands, allowing him to operate in the red zone — he tied for fifth in red-zone targets with 26 in only 12 games. Beckham remarkably dropped only two of the 130 passes thrown his way, several of which he snagged with one hand. He also averaged 10 yards per target (4th among the league's 41 100-target wideouts). Beckham had the benefit of being the only game in town for much of last season — at least until Rueben Randle came on during the final two games. With Victor Cruz presumably returning from a knee injury early in the year, that might not be the case in 2015. Still, even if Cruz were 100 percent healthy and Randle emerges as a consistent option — two possibilities that are far from assured — Beckham is the team's unquestioned No. 1 target and one of the rising superstars in the league.
2. Antonio Brown (PIT) Age: 27
|Receiving Stats||Rushing Stats|
|2015 Projections||View Antonio Brown's 2015 projected stats.|
In 2013, Brown was the lone small receiver atop a leaderboard filled with athletic freaks and monsters. Last year, he was the monster. Brown had the second-most receptions in NFL history and led the league in receiving yards with the sixth most all time. He also tied for second in TD receptions, with only Dez Bryant's 16 preventing Brown from a receiving triple crown. Brown was also the league's most consistent fantasy player last year with at least 70 receiving yards in all 16 games. Put differently, he never once failed to eclipse 13 points in PPR formats. At 5-10, 186, Brown is not your typical red-zone target, but he saw 34 from that area (2nd), and his 18 targets from inside the 10 tied him with Demaryius Thomas for the league lead. Although Brown is fast — his 4.47 40 is above average — he excels with uncanny quickness, excellent hands and first-rate ball skills. And while he didn't make an inordinate amount of big plays (19 catches of 20-plus, four of 40 or more), Brown averaged a robust 9.4 yards per target (9th among the league's 41 100-target WR) on heavy volume thanks to his 71-percent catch rate (4th). It's hard to find much downside, but the volume could drop slightly with Martavis Bryant likely to have a bigger role and rookie Sammie Coates providing an upgrade over last year's fourth option. And whenever you're looking at a historic season, some regression is always a prudent bet. Even so, in PPR leagues, Brown is the clear No. 1 choice.
3. Demaryius Thomas (DEN) Age: 27
|Receiving Stats||Rushing Stats|
|2015 Projections||View Demaryius Thomas's 2015 projected stats.|
Peyton Manning didn't repeat his historic 2013, but that didn't matter to Thomas. Despite a slow start, Thomas led the league in targets and finished second in catches and yards. While he tied for seventh in touchdowns (11), he led the NFL in targets inside the 20-, 10- and five-yard lines, so it wasn't for lack of opportunities from in close. At 6-2, 220, with 4.5 speed, Thomas is the prototypical dominant, physical No. 1 receiver in the modern NFL, and at 27 is still in his late prime. While Thomas' per-play production dropped from 2013 to 2014, his 14.6 YPC and 8.8 YPT on heavy volume were still strong, if less than elite. Thomas also finished second in catches for 20-plus yards (25) and tied for fourth (with five other players) with six receptions of 40 yards or more. Keep in mind it took Thomas 50 more targets to get there than Odell Beckham Jr., T.Y. Hilton or DeAndre Hopkins. The bigger concerns for Thomas, however, are the age and health of Manning, who turned 39 in March, dropped off significantly in last year's second half and was terrible playing through a quad injury in the divisional playoffs against the Colts. At press time, Manning is healthy, however, and because his game is timing, accuracy and reading defenses rather than mobility or arm strength, it's likely he'll be good enough to keep Thomas productive. The arrival of new coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison add two more variables, but as Manning is essentially the team's play-caller and a player-coach at this point, it probably won't make a significant difference. The tight-end swap of Julius Thomas for Owen Daniels is unlikely to move the needle, either.
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