Note that I am defaulting to half-PPR scoring, so feel free to adjust players up or down a bit for standard or full-PPR formats. Best of luck to you in your drafts!
1. Julio Jones, Falcons (bye: 9)
There are a number of excellent candidates for the top spot at this position — meaning that, ideally, you’d rather be picking toward the end of the first round than somewhere in the middle — but I’m going with Jones because of his half-decade of consistent excellence. Over that span, he has averaged 1,599 yards, which is more than any of the next four players have notched in any season. The knock on Jones has been a relative lack of touchdowns, but Atlanta seemed to rectify that over the second half of last season, as he scored eight times in the Falcons’ final nine games.
2. Davante Adams, Packers (11)
It’s good to be Aaron Rodgers’s favorite receiver. Adams’s 169 targets last season were second only to Jones’s 170, and he was tied for second with 13 touchdown catches. Green Bay has some up-and-coming talent at WR but no one who appears ready to eat into Adams’s piece of the passing pie, while a head coaching change could lead to a more dangerous overall offense.
3. Odell Beckham Jr., Browns (7)
There’s a little too much uncertainty about how things will unfold in Cleveland to place Beckham higher, but given that he’s finally going to play with a QB worthy of his enormous talents, a truly monstrous, Calvin Johnson-esque season seems within the range of possibilities.
4. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans (10)
The No. 1 WR on a lot of draft boards, Hopkins had 2018 numbers that put him near the top in every major category (and some obscure-but-meaningful ones, as well, such as share of team’s air yards). There’s little reason to think things will be much different this year, especially given the bolstering of Houston’s offensive line with left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
5. Michael Thomas, Saints (9)
With Drew Brees now 40 years old, New Orleans figures to continue its trend away from a high-volume passing attack, but that’s less of an issue for Thomas than it might be for a WR who was not in the habit of hauling in darn near everything thrown his way. He managed 125 receptions last year on just 147 targets for a ludicrous, league-leading catch percentage of 85.03, and he should again benefit from the lack of a clear secondary receiving option for the Saints.
6. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers (7)
Without Antonio Brown around, the sky’s the limit for Smith-Schuster, who posted 111 catches for 1,383 yards and seven TDs on 166 targets last season despite being the second banana, at least in theory. There is some question about how the third-year player, who turns 23 in November, will handle being the focus of opposing secondaries, but he has aced every test so far.
7. Tyreek Hill, Chiefs (12)
The top scorer among WRs last year (in half-PPR formats), Hill avoided a suspension from the NFL after an investigation into child-abuse allegations. He’s probably on a very short leash, though, and Kansas City is unlikely to post quite the same eye-popping passing numbers it did in 2018.
8. Mike Evans, Buccaneers (6)
Evans has never posted fewer than 1,000 yards receiving in his five NFL seasons, and he has at least eight TDs in three of them. With Jameis Winston expected to improve under new Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians and a poor defense that should have the Bucs throwing early and often, Evans could be poised for his best season yet.
9. Keenan Allen, Chargers (12)
Arguably the game’s best route-runner, and with two straight years of relative good health under his belt — although an ankle injury makes him slightly less than a lock to play in Week 1 — Allen represents a safe, if somewhat unexciting, pick for steady production.
10. Amari Cooper, Cowboys (8)
If you want more excitement, or at least the promise of a roller-coaster ride, look no further than this guy, who has been all over the map in his four NFL seasons. Getting traded to Dallas, though, appeared to unlock much of Cooper’s potential, and now he’ll have had an entire offseason to hone his rapport with QB Dak Prescott. Cooper has missed practices with a foot/heel issue, so as with Allen, just be sure he’s actually playing in Week 1.
11. Antonio Brown, Raiders (6)
I wouldn’t blame anyone for wanting nothing to do with Brown at almost any draft spot, but it’s still far more likely than not that he plays in nearly every game this season, and plays well. The foot problems should be behind him by Week 1, and the helmet issue also appears to be resolved (and not a moment too soon). That still leaves Brown as a first-class diva who has undergone a downgrade at QB, but all that is balanced by the fact — and let’s not lose sight of this completely — that he’s still one of the best in the game.
12. Stefon Diggs, Vikings (12)
Over the second half of last season, Diggs took over from Adam Thielen as the highest-scoring Vikings WR, and only nine others at the position topped him from Weeks 11 through 16. It still feels like the best is yet to come for the former fifth-round draft pick.
13. Brandin Cooks, Rams (9)
You could make a case here for any of the Rams’ three top WRs, including Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, but Cooks has done it the longest and for several teams, providing the most confidence that his talent will enable him to thrive in any situation.
14. Adam Thielen, Vikings (12)
After starting 2018 with a record eight straight 100-yard games, it was all but inevitable that Thielen would come back to earth. Sure enough, he did. Thielen’s up-and-down second half, plus an expected change in Minnesota’s offensive approach, gives some pause, but he should be a safe WR2.
15. Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (11)
Lockett may be hard-pressed to replicate the efficiency of his 2018 season (57 catches, 965 yards and 10 TDs on just 70 targets), but with Doug Baldwin gone, he won’t have to. Some much-needed volume, albeit probably not a ton in Seattle’s run-heavy attack, is set to come Lockett’s way.
16. Robert Woods, Rams (9)
Woods led Los Angeles last year in targets (130), receptions (86) and receiving yards (1,219), and he was tied for the lead in receiving TDs (six). He doesn’t do anything at a particularly elite level, but he is reliable and obviously has the trust of QB Jared Goff.
17. D.J. Moore, Panthers (7)
This is a fairly aggressive ranking, given that Moore is coming off a 788-yard, two-TD rookie season and has a QB, Cam Newton, still working on overcoming shoulder and foot issues. Newton’s health problems last season actually put Moore’s numbers in a better light, though, and with the departure of Devin Funchess, the first WR off the NFL’s draft board last year is set to have many more chances to show off his explosive yards-after-the-catch abilities.
18. Kenny Golladay, Lions (5)
Detroit may not want to throw much if it can help it, but it may have to err on the side of airing it out over a season-opening stretch that includes the Cardinals, Chargers, Eagles, Chiefs, Packers and Vikings. That should give Golladay time to establish himself as a go-to receiver and ultimately improve on his 70-1,063-5 line from last year.
19. Chris Godwin, Buccaneers (7)
Yes, I’m buying the hype. Tampa Bay has the look of a pass-heavy team this year, and with the departures of Adam Humphries (76-816-5) and DeSean Jackson (41-774-4), the third-year WR is well-positioned to sop up work and soar over the 1,000-yard mark.
20. Julian Edelman, Patriots (10)
With the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and very little else left in New England’s receiving corps in terms of proven commodities, Edelman was looking like he would put the “PPR” in the phrase, “Peppered with targets.” The reinstatement of Josh Gordon figures to eat into that workload a bit, but Edelman is still a solid WR2.
21. Calvin Ridley, Falcons (9)
With rookie growing pains out of the way, Ridley should be able to improve on his catches (64) and yardage (821), even if he probably won’t continue to score TDs at a gaudy 10.9 percent rate (10 in 2018 on just 92 targets).
22. Cooper Kupp, Rams (9)
Kupp is a bit of a risky top-24 pick, as he is coming off an ACL tear and the Rams are showing signs of lessening their devotion to three-WR sets. However, he reportedly looks good in training camp and was on a blistering pace (prorated to a 96-1,402-16 season) before getting hurt in Week 6.
23. Josh Gordon, Patriots (10)
Did I say Kupp was a risky pick? Gordon is even more so, but ohhhh so tantalizing. Sure, his breakout 2013 season was quite a while ago, and he could be suspended or decide on his own to step away from football at any moment, but he’s just 28, and New England has a Gronk-sized need for a receiving threat next to Edelman. After coming over from the Browns last year in a trade, then getting up to speed with the Patriots’ playbook, Gordon had a seven-game stretch in which he averaged 82.4 yards. He is tied with DeSean Jackson for most yards per catch (17.4) among active players.
24. T.Y. Hilton, Colts (6)
The retirement of Andrew Luck plunges Hilton to fringe-WR2 status. Jacoby Brissett and the Colts’ offense can be expected to be better than in 2017, when he stepped in for Luck and connected with Hilton for just 57 catches, 966 yards and four TDs, but there are simply too many WRs in this range with better QBs throwing them the ball.
25. Tyler Boyd, Bengals (9)
26. Allen Robinson, Bears (6)
27. A.J. Green, Bengals (9)
28. Robby Anderson, Jets (4)
29. Mike Williams, Chargers (12)
30. Jarvis Landry, Browns (7)
31. Alshon Jeffery, Eagles (10)
32. Sammy Watkins, Chiefs (12)
33. Curtis Samuel, Panthers (7)
34. Dede Westbrook, Jaguars (10)
35. Will Fuller, Texans (10)
36. Christian Kirk, Cardinals (12)
37. Corey Davis, Titans (11)
38. Sterling Shepard, Giants (11)
39. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Packers (11)
40. Marvin Jones, Lions (5)
41. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (12)
42. Anthony Miller, Bears (6)
43. Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos (10)
44. Geronimo Allison, Packers (GB)
45. Donte Moncrief, Steelers (7)
46. Dante Pettis, 49ers (4)
47. Courtland Sutton, Broncos (10)
48. Jamison Crowder, Jets (4)
49. Albert Wilson, Dolphins (5)
50. Golden Tate, Giants (11)
51. Michael Gallup, Cowboys (8)
52. DeSean Jackson, Eagles (10)
53. John Brown, Bills (6)
54. Tre’Quan Smith, Saints (9)
55. James Washington, Steelers (7)
56. Tyrell Williams, Raiders (6)
57. Ted Ginn, Saints (9)
58. DK Metcalf, Seahawks (11)
59. DaeSean Hamilton, Broncos (10)
60. Devante Parker, Dolphins (5)