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2017 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings: Potential Flex Options

Enough of this “way too early” garbage. With Scott Hanson and his quad boxes of delight now three weeks removed, the fantasy football withdrawals are hitting harder than ever.  Fill the void and jump into our “not soon enough” 2017 Fantasy Football rankings.

Of course, values will change as the dust from free agency and the draft begins to settle. Still, it’s crucial to recognize your original thoughts BEFORE all of the other “expert” rankings pollute and bias your mind.  This way, you have a base of your own, independent gut feelings (a “Stream of Gut” if you will), before beginning your offseason research.

Blabber cease. On to the 2017 Fantasy Football rankings.  These assume 1/2 point PPR scoring to achieve a happy medium between the two formats (it’s also the best, most common format). As a huge sucker for tiers, I’ll be releasing different positional groups each day (i.e. RB1sRB2sFlex plays) before ultimately combining them all into a final Big Board by the beginning of February.

If you missed last week be sure to catch up on 2017’s fantasy football WR1s, the upside WR2s to target, the safe WR2s to balance out a riskier roster, plus the top guys to target for your WR3 spot. We also released our RB Rankings last week, don’t miss it.

Updated 2/13 to reflect a new opinion on Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell after his strong Super Bowl showing.

Tier 6 – Potential Flex Options

Though the below would best be treated as bench stashes, plenty will become viable starters throughout the season; many have the upside to explode.  Choosing between a less exciting, but higher floor veteran (i.e. Mike Wallace or Jeremy Maclin) versus a sexier but less reliable upside stab (i.e. Corey Coleman or Will Fuller) should hinge on your team needs. 

38. Sterling Shepard (NYG)

Though he was often touchdown or bust, Shepard did enough scoring (8 TDs) to be useful more often than not; the talented rookie topped double digit FPs on nine occasions in 2016, and definitely has the skillset to improve on his yardage outputs — Shepard was held under 70 yards in all but two contests.  If he sees a decent uptick here and maintains his red zone efficiency (Eli Manning loved Shepard on one-on-one corner routes to the pylon when in the red zon), Shepard will leap into WR2 territory.

39. Mike Wallace (BAL)

Already the Ravens leading WR in 2016, Wallace should own an even greater share of this aerial attack with Steve Smith retired; two of Wallace’s top three yardage efforts came when Smith was out of the lineup (4 for 97 versus the Giants and 10 for 120 versus the Jets).  Wallace proved he had plenty of gas in the tank, ripping off short slants and hitches for massive chunk plays all season.  Of course, the team could add another wide receiver — they are already being linked to Brandon Marshall — but should Wallace remain the top dog, his big play ability would bring a massive weekly ceiling to flexes, alongside some fair floor as the #1 target.

40. DeSean Jackson (FA)

Especially with his deep-game skillset, Jackson’s 2017 fantasy value is entirely dependent on his landing spot. After a slow, injury-hampered start to 2016, Jackson finished the year on a tear, topping 13 FPs in five of his last seven contests.  With a strong-armed quarterback and surrounding weapons, Jackson could pick up right where he left off and shoot up these rankings; however, with his attitude and limited route tree, Jackson could also flounder. All we have is speculation.

41. Kenny Britt (FA)

Despite being stuck in an abysmal offense, Britt really benefited from being the go-to guy, scoring double digit half PPR points in nine contests while topping 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.  At 6’3″ and 223 pounds, Britt could easily earn a #1 WR role and produce even more in 2017, but his landing spot will be key. Early reports suggest the Redskins are heavily interested, which might be the ideal landing spot if they lose both Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.  Even with horrendous QB play, Britt caught 7 of his 12 red zone targets, and turned five into TDs.  The upside is quite high here.

42. Jordan Matthews (PHI)

No one bores me more than Matthews. Yay, he’s a size mismatch out of the slot. What will this yield? 65 catches, 850 yards, and 3-7 TDs.  Yeah, that’ll probably be enough to top a WR42 ranking, but  I don’t like my ceilings so low and so firmly established.  Maybe, just maybe, Carson Wentz takes a major leap his sophomore year, but you’d have to imagine Matthews won’t be the the top dog and main beneficiary of this any longer.

43. UPDATED Malcolm Mitchell (NE) (Previously 49)

Update 2/13: On the grandest stage of them all and when the pressure was turned up to it’s peak, Brady turned to the rookie Mitchell over and over for chain-moving connections.  While recording 6 catches for 70 yards in Super Bowl 51, Mitchell continued displaying the timing and chemistry he and Brady had flashed in their brief 2016 time together. While only one game, I leave the Super Bowl convinced Mitchell will enter 2017 as the #2 WR in New England. True Rob Gronkowski will syphon tons of targets, and Mitchell’s production could be spotty, but he has the build and Brady’s trust to be a serious cog in one of the league’s most explosive attacks. Mitchell will be one of my favorite bench / flex WR targets in 2017.

Mitchell saw minimal action until after the Seattle game, whereupon he exploded for 17.8, 18.7, 12.2, and 12.1 fantasy points over the next four weeks.  He was then injured and has since faded, but Mitchell showed serious chemistry with Tom “Our Savior” Brady, connecting on a variety of timing routes while making plays at every level of the field.  As of now, Chris Hogan appears locked into the #2 wideout role, but this could certainly flip throughout the offseason. He’s undoubtedly a guy to keep on the radar.

Tier 6.5

While the above names are surer bets for weekly points, the following names drip with equal, if not more, upside. 

44. Corey Coleman (CLE)

Outside of a monstrous 5 catch, 104 yard, 2 TD Week Two, Coleman was nonexistent in 2016; he could never rebound from his broken hand. But damn… that Week Two was impressive.  He looked like an Alpha WR and his burners jumped off the page.  Plus, if Josh Gordon continues to be a fake human and Terrelle Pryor bolts in free agency, Coleman may be set up for a massive rebound.  Tons of uncertainty exists here, as the floor is another nonexistent campaig…but the ceiling is also humongous.

45. Josh Doctson (WAS)

Victim to an Achilles injury that never quite healed, Doctson’s rookie season was completely lost.  Nonetheless, Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both expected out, and, with only the diminutive 5’8″, 182 pound Jamison Crowder beside him, the 6’2″, 202 pound Doctson is best built for an Alpha #1 role.  In college, Doctson really went after the ball with rare certainty, high pointing over defensive backs both in the end zone and open field. These traits have earned him Alshon Jeffery and DeAndre Hopkins comparisons, suggesting enormous upside if this guy can stay out of the trainer’s room.  Given his lack of NFL experience, Doctson would ideally be a high-ceiling stash, but his potential role as the #1 target in a pass-heavy attack could yield some huge 2017 stats.

46. Chris Hogan (NE) 

Though his 2016 was too boom-or-bust to trust, Hogan has been an absolute monster this postseason.  He’s been operating as the clear No. 2 and flourished, with 13 catches, 275 yards, and 2 TDs in his past two games.  Of course, Hogan will be the #3 at best once Rob Gronkowski returns, and Malcolm Mitchell was plenty promising to end 2016.  Still, if Hogan’s usage appears more stable, his role as the Patriots big-play threat will yield some week-winners.

47. J.J. Nelson (ARI)

Though Larry Fitzgerald has announced his plans to return, Nelson’s arrow is still pointing upwards.  The enormous scoring threat benefited greatly from Michael Floyd’s release, scoring in four straight to close out 2016. Assuming Carson Palmer returns or has a competent replacement, Nelson has the burners to be an absolute force in 2017. He’ll be among my favorite 10-11th round targets.

48. Will Fuller V (HOU)

After following an explosive preseason with 19.2, 12.4, and 23.6 FPs in three of his first four contests, Fuller truly looked like the real deal. Unfortunately, Fuller never once topped double digit FPs again thanks to a horrendous combination of injuries and Osweiler; in fact, Fuller was help under 25 yards in 6 of his final 10 games played (in other words, a complete non factor). Still, the explosiveness was incredible when Fuller was at full strength, and the right quarterback could facilitate a major rebound.

49. Kevin White (CHI)

Ranking in the Top 50 after back-to-back zero campaigns is solely an endorsement on White’s freakish skill set; he’s truly built for a sudden 1,000 yard, 10 TD campaign. Still, the third-year pro is looking more and more like a one-hit college wonder.  Obviously, White can’t be drafted as an immediate starter, but there’s far worse ways to maximize a bench spot.

 

50. Jeremy Maclin (KC)

Yawn. After a strong Chiefs debut in 2015, Maclin fought through injuries and ineffectiveness to ultimately yield a useless 2016.  With Tyreek Hill emerging as a far more versatile and explosive option, Maclin should continue spiraling into irrelevancy in 2017. Who’s reaching for  4-5 balls for 40-50 yards every week? Not me.

This wraps up our first round of 2017 Wide Receiver rankings.  Stay tuned for Quarterbacks and tight ends in the coming week(s), as well as a Top-100 Big Board. 

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