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 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 was fifth in targets there 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. 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 (184) and finished second in catches (111) and yards (1619). 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 completely 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.
3. Julio Jones (ATL) Age: 26
|Receiving Stats||Rushing Stats|
|2015 Projections||View Julio Jones's 2015 projected stats.|
Jones finished third in the league in receiving yards but likely would have been first had a hip injury not cost him a game against the Steelers' generous pass defense late in the year. In fact, but for the injury, Jones might have challenged the record for receiving yards in a game - he had 259 against the Packers when he was sidelined in the fourth quarter. Impressive per-game yardage and catch totals aside, Jones scored only six touchdowns, thanks to a paltry 12 red-zone targets, tying him for 38th with players like Doug Baldwin and Robert Woods. At 6-3, 220, Jones has excellent red-zone size, and not much competition for work in the area, now that Tony Gonzalez is retired and Roddy White (14 red-zone looks) is on the downside of his career. Expect Jones' red-zone work to increase toward the 20 targets he had in 2012 (he missed most of 2013 with a foot injury) and his touchdown totals to spike accordingly. Unlike most No. 1 receivers, Jones doesn't merely combine plus size with adequate speed, but he actually ran a blistering 4.34 40 at the NFL Combine a few years ago. That puts him in a class with Calvin Johnson as one of the league's rare freak athletes. As such, Jones is liable to make more big plays than your typical star wideout - he led the league with 31 catches of 20-plus yards and averaged 9.8 YPT (sixth among the league's 41 100-target WR). At press time, Jones is healthy, and the Falcons did little to boost their receiving depth this offseason. While last year's pass-friendly offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter could be missed, his replacement, Kyle Shanahan, also favored a pass-heavy attack during his stops in Houston and Washington. As such, expect another big workload for Jones, only with more red-zone targets.
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