With the NFL having morphed into a passing league over the past several seasons, the league is now littered with pass catchers capable of reaching the 1,000 yard plateau.
While that may sound like the beginning of an argument to hold off on drafting the position early in your fantasy draft, that isn’t the case. Not all 1,000 yard receivers are created equal, with the most important distinction being those that are solid red zone options for their teams together with the quality of the offense they play in.
For instance, Dez Bryant led the league in receiving touchdowns last year with 16 as the Cowboys main threat in the red zone while Julian Edelman found the end zone just four times despite catching 92 balls for 972 yards.
This year, there are between eight and 10 players that should be considered elite fantasy options at wide receiver, and it would behoove owners to do what they can to ensure they have at least one of them on their rosters.
Here are our initial 2015 fantasy football wide receiver rankings for redraft leagues, before the NFL Draft.
1. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Over the last three years, Thomas has averaged 1,494 yards and 11.7 touchdowns per season. The unproven Cody Latimer takes over for Wes Welker and the team’s other threat in the red zone, tight end Julius Thomas, is no longer in Denver. Expect more opportunities in the red zone for Thomas in 2015.
2. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
The Cowboys superstar has averaged 1,312 yards and 13.7 touchdowns over the past three years. With DeMarco Murray having left town and Jason Witten another year older, Bryant has to see his target count of 136 from a year ago increase.
3. Antonio Brown, Steelers
Brown isn’t the biggest or the fastest receiver in the league but he just might be the most productive. At least he has been over the last two years, accumulating 239 receptions for 3,197 yards and 21 touchdowns over that span. With the development of Martavis Bryant, his target total could take a bit of a hit next season but that’s a minor red flag.
4. A.J. Green, Bengals
Some nagging injuries and a concussion caused Green to put up career worst numbers in 2014 but a bounce back season seems in order for the smooth striding 26-year old Georgia product. Look for another 1,300 yard, double digit touchdown season, and over 160 targets given the massive talent difference between Green and the next talented receiver on the team.
5. Julio Jones, Falcons
Jones is clearly a wonderful talent coming off a monster season with career highs in receptions (104) and yards (1,593), plus six touchdowns. However, it’s hard to move him any higher considering he has found the end zone just eight times in his last 20 games.
6. Calvin Johnson, Lions
Seriously? Calvin at number six? C’mon, man! Let’s face it. People get old, folks. Johnson didn’t look as explosive last season as he did in previous years. Golden Tate deserves some touches, Eric Ebron should add something at tight end. Add it up and this is where Calvin landed. Sorry.
7. Jordy Nelson, Packers
While Nelson had the finest year of his career last season with 98 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns, it seems likely that the Packers spread the wealth around a little more in the passing game in 2015 with second-year player Davante Adams getting a bigger piece of the pie.
8. Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
The catch, 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games, the charisma, the swagger. What more can you say? This guy has perennial Pro Bowler written all over him.
9. Alshon Jeffery, Bears
High floor, high ceiling. With Brandon Marshall having been shipped to the Jets, Jeffery is all but guaranteed to reach a new career high in targets in 2015 as the focal point of the Bears passing attack. If quarterback Jay Cutler doesn’t implode, Jeffery should approach 1,300 receiving yards and double digit touchdowns.
10. Randall Cobb, Packers
Buyer beware. I am always more down on Randall Cobb than just about everyone else. And 2015 won’t be any different. From here, the perspective is of a player that probably can’t repeat his 12 touchdown count from a year ago and one unlikely to play 16 games with heavy usage.
11. T.Y. Hilton, Colts
While Hilton is a Smurf, he is also a speed merchant who just might improve upon his 82 reception, 1,345 yard, seven touchdown stat line in the coming season playing opposite Andre Johnson. Johnson’s presence should open things up for Hilton, if only slightly, and a double digit touchdown season could be in order in the Colts high powered offense.
12. Mike Evans, Buccaneers
This dude is the real deal. Despite shoddy quarterback play, he posted 68 receptions for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie. Evans was clearly the Bucs top pass catching threat and he would be a half dozen spots higher if he were catching passes from a top 10 quarterback.
13. Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos
His production from a year ago (101 receptions, 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns) says that he should be ranked much higher than we have him. But who do you move him ahead of? This dude has fantasy bargain written all over him in 2015.
14. Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers
Speaking frankly, there has to be some concern as to Benjamin’s upside. He caught a woeful 50.3% of his targets last season although he did top 1,000 receiving yards with nine touchdowns. And it’s those touchdowns that get him to this spot in the rankings. He is a candidate to move down depending on how the draft unfolds.
15. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
Andre Johnson is gone so Hopkins takes over as the Texans leading wide receiver. Oh wait, that happened last season when he produced 1,210 yards and six touchdowns on just 127 targets. We’d have him higher if not for the quarterback issues we expect him to face in 2015.
16. Jordan Matthews, Eagles
While I doubt Matthews will ever be considered an elite receiver, he is the leading receiving option on a solid Eagles offense with (apparently) a new quarterback in Sam Bradford who loves to throw the short and intermediate stuff. Expect 1,000 yards and between seven and nine touchdowns from Matthews in 2015.
17. DeSean Jackson, Redskins
While Djax wasn’t nearly as productive in his first season in Washington as he was in 2013 with the Eagles, he still managed to approach 1,200 receiving yards with six touchdowns despite the Redskins major issues at quarterback. That production is likely his floor in 2015.
18. Sammy Watkins, Bills
It is doubtful that Watkins will ever produce enough to justify the bounty the Bills paid to get him but he did enough last year to warrant mid-tier WR2 status in 2015. And, yes, there is always the chance he busts out despite the woeful quarterback play we expect in Buffalo.
19. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans
Jimmy Graham left town as did Kenny Stills and Marques Colston isn’t too far off from being sent to the scrap heap. Cooks has plenty of playmaking ability and we expect Saints head coach Sean Payton to force feed him the ball in 2015.
20. Brandon Marshall, Bears
This is the point where the question marks start getting pretty plentiful and where Marshall’s slide ends. We expect Ryan Fitzpatrck to start and feed him plenty of targets this season.
21. Keenan Allen, Chargers
While Allen was a bit of a bust last season, we expect him to approach his 1,046 yard, eight touchdown production as a rookie. Antonio Gates is a year older, Eddie Royal is no longer a Charger and hopefully Allen will remain injury free. He should rate as a bargain on draft day.
22. Golden Tate, Lions
Tate was a revelation during his first year in Detroit, reaching career highs in receptions with 99 and yards with 1,331. However, he was aided by injuries to Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush along with the slow development of tight end Eric Ebron. It’s a rock solid bet that he won’t approach the 143 targets he had last season unless Johnson is injured once again in 2015.
23. Julian Edelman, Patriots
If the last two years are the sample size we’re using, then Edelman should be good for close to 100 receptions and 1,000 yards and four to six touchdowns next season. Far more valuable in PPR, Edelman nonetheless rates as a mid to upper tier WR3 in standard scoring 12 team leagues.
24. Andre Johnson, Colts
Johnson departs the Texans for greener pastures in Indianapolis catching passes from Andrew Luck. Ignoring injury shortened seasons, Johnson last year failed to top 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since his rookie season. He would rank a lot lower if not for his touchdown potential as a Colt. This is a player in decline who will turn 34 years of age before opening day.
25. Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs
It’s hard to put Maclin this low coming off his career year last season with 86 receptions for 1,329 yards and 10 touchdowns (all career highs). Yes, folks, the Alex Smith factor is that strong.
26. Martavis Bryant, Steelers
Despite not seeing the field for the first six games of the season, Bryant still managed to finish his rookie season with 26 receptions for 549 yards and eight touchdowns. This guy is a play making machine and should easily shove Markus Wheaton aside as a starter in 2015. He has big upside but is bound to be an inconsistent fantasy option next season.
27. Victor Cruz, Giants
A torn patellar tendon ended his season early last year and Cruz will return to the Giants as the number two option behind Odell Beckham Jr. He should come as a bargain in this year’s drafts.
28. Mike Wallace, Vikings
With Adrian Peterson setting the table in the play option game, maybe Wallace puts together a big season in 2015. Then again, maybe not.
29. Allen Robinson, Jaguars
Without question Robinson is the type of player teams will never be satisfied with as their leading wide receiver. However, he was still solid as a rookie in a pathetic Jaguars offense last season, catching 48 passes for 548 yards and a pair of scores in 10 games before suffering a season-ending broken foot.
30. Michael Floyd, Cardinals
Floyd’s talent level gets him the final spot in the rankings because his production last year sure wasn’t the reason. If the light comes on, look out.