- Associated Press - Sunday, August 20, 2017

When it comes to fantasy football we all hear several pieces of advice. Don’t draft quarterbacks early as that position is deep. Make sure to get at least one top running back in the first couple of rounds as that pool will dry up quickly. Don’t ever take a kicker or defense/special teams until the last few rounds. What about wide receivers?

It’s no secret that the NFL is a passing league. It seems every rule change over the past 5-10 years has been geared toward the benefit of throwing the ball and putting points on the board with quick, exciting plays. In fantasy, we are slowly but steadily seeing a switch to point per reception (PPR) leagues. This puts further emphasis on pass catchers early in our drafts. Some also view receivers as safer picks early in drafts because they don’t take the hits that running backs do and thus have a better chance at staying healthy over a long season. Throw in the fact that in most leagues you will start three WRs and a possible fourth in the flex position and we can start to understand why the position is so important.

Antonio Brown will more than likely be the first WR taken in your league as he is about as steady as they come. There was a time when catching more than 100 balls in a season would raise everyone’s eyebrows. Well, Brown has averaged more than 120 receptions over the past four seasons. That’s just incredible when you throw in that over that span he also averaged 11 touchdowns and 1579 yards. Some might want to debate that Odell Beckham Jr. should be picked first overall but that seems like a reach. While it’s true that he’s dynamic and a highlight reel waiting to happen, he has only eclipsed 100 receptions once in his career (101 last season) and the addition of Brandon Marshall will give Eli Manning another true receiving threat.

Mike Evans, Julio Jones, and A.J. Green are also sure to go in the first round of your fantasy draft. Some fantasy owners may wonder if the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard will take away targets from Evans. Sure, that could happen, but Jackson will also take away opposing safeties from latching onto to Evans as they will have to respect his ability to blow the top off the defense. We all love Jones, but those nagging foot injuries are a concern. Green is also a step below the others as he plays with the least accomplished QB and there is also some concern as to whether or not the offensive line in Cincinnati will give Andy Dalton enough time to look deep.

Jordy Nelson, Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks, Doug Baldwin, T.Y. Hilton, Amari Cooper, and Dez Bryant finish up the top 12. Thomas is a top talent, but still needs to show whether he can become a true No. 1 WR. Hilton’s value could go up or down depending upon the health of Andrew Luck.

Two receivers who were taken in the first round of a majority of leagues this year have fallen out of favor this season. DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson are still loaded with talent but questionable quarterback play has seen their draft stock take a tumble.

Several top 25 receivers have also changed teams, which is not always a good thing. Terrelle Pryor, Alshon Jeffery, Sammy Watkins, and Brandon Marshall have changed addresses. Trust and chemistry issues - not to mention knowledge of the playbook - can be issues when receivers change teams.

While there is sure to be one or two rookie WRs that stand out this season let’s remember that you need to proceed with caution when drafting one. Not only do they have the same issues as free agents who changed teams, they also may not be trusted with running every route or they may not be a true red zone threat. Keep that in mind when you’re thinking about Corey Davis or Zay Jones.

Davante Adams and Cooks should be other names that go early, and Golden Tate and Jarvis Landry are prime PPR second fantasy WRs. Keenan Allen is a top guy when healthy, and Michael Crabtree and Larry Fitzgerald are very reliable veterans. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are dependable types from Denver. Tyreek Hill, Jamison Crowder and Martavis Bryant are your big-play upside types. Stefon Diggs, Willie Snead and Pierre Garcon are ideal third fantasy wideouts and Cameron Meredith, Adam Thielen and Kenny Britt are capable of filling that role for you. DeVante Parker and Cooper Kupp are two deeper ranked guys who could rise in 2017.


This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, https://FNTSY.com

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