In the past, the fantasy football world as a whole loved to zig-zag draft strategies from one year to another. If running backs dominated round one, the following year would likely favor wide receivers. But for the past several years, predicting wide receivers has become a much more difficult task.
Recent History of Wide Receivers Drafted in Round 1
In 2018, there were four wide receivers being drafted in round 1. Antonio Brown was the first at #4, next was DeAndre Hopkins at pick #7, followed by Odell Beckham at #10 and Julio Jones at #12.
Entering 2019, DeAndre Hopkins stayed at #7 but was now WR1. The consistency of Adams moved him up to #9, while Julio and Odell rounded out picks #11 and #12. By 2020, Michael Thomas moved up to pick #7 as WR1, while Tyreek Hill entered the picture at pick #12, right after Devante Adams.
Each year, wideouts have been pushed further down the draft board, as running backs once again return to dominance. Even if you would rather not take a running back with your first pick, your hand might be forced by the draft room.
2021 Fantasy Football Consensus Rankings
According to Fantasy Pros consensus rankings, there are now only two wide receivers being drafted in round 1: Tyreek Hill at #9, and Devante Adams at #11. Here is how the top 24 players are currently ranked in PPR, as of August 3, 2021:
- Christian McCaffrey – RB1
- Dalvin Cook – RB2
- Alvin Kamara – RB3
- Ezekiel Elliott – RB4
- Derrick Henry – RB5
- Davante Adams – WR1
- Saquon Barkley – RB6
- Tyreek Hill – WR2
- Stefon Diggs – WR3
- Aaron Jones – RB7
- Austin Ekeler – RB8
- DeAndre Hopkins – WR4
- Calvin Ridley – WR5
- Jonathan Taylor – RB9
- Travis Kelce – TE1
- Darren Waller – TE2
- Nick Chubb – RB10
- D.K. Metcalf – WR6
- Jusin Jefferson – WR7
- Keenan Allen – WR8
- Joe Mixon – RB11
- A.J. Brown – WR7
- Antonio Gibson – RB12
- Allen Robinson – WR10
- Patrick Mahomes II – QB1
- George Kittle – TE3
If you took a look at this list two weeks ago, things would look vastly different. Towards the end of July, out of the first 25 picks, just eight players were wide receivers. And there was little consensus at the top.
However, Aaron Rodgers has now solidified Devante Adams as the #1 WR. And I cannot argue with that at all. The other major change that has shaken up the rankings was losing Rams RB Cam Akers for the season.
Currently, there are 10 WR being taken in the top 26 picks. Moving into the top 25 over the past couple of weeks are Allen Robinson and Keenan Allen.
Battle of the Allens: Keenan Allen vs. Allen Robinson
Of the two, I much prefer A-Rob, who has consistently put up great numbers with sub-standard quarterbacks. As soon as Justin Fields is anointed Bears starting QB, Allen’s stock will rise.
Fantasy Football Wide Receivers to Target in 2021
With running backs pushed up draft boards, there are more wide receivers to pick from as the draft progresses. But volume doesn’t necessarily mean depth, meaning choosing correctly from this large pool of players will be crucial if you’re going to be hoisting a virtual trophy at the end of the year.
Tyreek has the highest floor, and it’s arguable who has the highest ceiling. So, Tyreek is WR1 in my book. And regardless, I can’t draft Davante Adams until Aaron Rodgers is seen wearing a Packers helmet. I have no problem with where Stefon Diggs is being drafted, but he’s clearly behind the first two for my money.
I’m scratching my head wondering why DeAndre Hopkins is all the way down at pick 15. I’m going to guess that his ADP moves up. And if not, I’ll be ending up with a lot of Hopkins on my teams.
Value Picks at Wide Receiver – Top 50
- DeAndre Hopkins – ADP #16
- Calvin Ridley – ADP #19
- AJ Brown – ADP #25
- Allen Robinson – ADP #32
- Diontae Johnson – ADP #48
What these five receivers have in common is they are the clear #1 WR option on their teams. AJ Brown, of course, now has competition from Julio Jones. And Diontae Johnson is part of the Pittsburgh Triumverate, which includes Juju and Chase Claypool. But that’s why you can get Diontae down at pick 50, where I feel he could be a steal.
Allen Robinson has an ADP about 10 picks worse than it was last year, despite proving he’s a top 12 WR yet again. And now with a QB upgrade, potentially the best QB play he’s ever seen, A-Rob is a value where he’s currently being picked.
Why is DeAndre going so far outside of the first round? In any sport, but especially in fantasy football, you need your first-round pick to not be a bust. And outside of injury, which can’t be predicted, DeAndre Hopkins is potentially the safest wide receiver you can draft.
Value Picks at Wide Receiver – Picks 51 to 100
- Kenny Golladay – ADP #58
- Tee Higgins – ADP #57
- DeVonta Smith – ADP #83
- Will Fuller – ADP #93
Kenny Golladay is never the sexy pick, but he has quite an attractive floor. It cannot be overstated how important it is to avoid busts with your first handful of picks. And I think it is highly unlikely that Kenny Golladay is an outright bust as the #1 option on his new team.
Tee Higgins similarly should be the most targeted wide receiver on his team. Although Higgins does have rookie Jamar Chase and Tyler Boyd to contend with, his ADP in the fifth round presents a high potential for profit.
Another player who could be a steal at his ADP is Will Fuller. While he’s as injury-prone as they come, the expected lost time is baked into his price. And when he’s on the field, he’s another high-upside player who should demand a large share of targets from Tua.
Value Picks at Wide Receiver – Picks 101 to 150
- Brandin Cooks – ADP #100
- Antonio Brown – ADP #108
- Darnell Mooney – ADP #125
People are sleeping on Brandin Cooks big time. I don’t care who the QB is, this man is going to produce as he always has when he’s on the field. If any WR is used to a new QB every year, it’s Brandin Cooks. And if Watson does suit up for the Texans, Cooks’ value will skyrocket.
Antonio Brown is simply a no-brainer after pick 100. The upside there is clearly immense, I expect this ADP to move up 10-15 picks over the next few weeks.
The last player I’ll point out is Darnell Mooney. The Bears were blown away by Mooney in his rookie season, especially down the stretch in 2020. Cemented as the clear #2 WR without any clarity who will be behind him on the depth chart, Mooney should see a strong target share in Chicago’s offense. And as a burner with moves, this could translate quickly into a very profitable pick.