Over the past few years, the wide receiver position has taken on new importance. That means our 2016 Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings mean even more than ever.
The running backs position has been slowly neutered since 2010 or so, and the NFL passing games have gone to a new level.
Meanwhile, the quarterback position has seen a great rise in production, but it has been even throughout, and there are only 12 starters in most Fantasy leagues. You can get good quarterbacks late, and often do (see Blake Bortles and Carson Palmer).
If you look at the top 25 single-season passing leaders, 18 of the 25 quarterbacks that have thrown for more than 4,718 passing yards are from the past five seasons. That’s 72 percent of the single-season leaders!
If we look over at the wide receivers position, though, just 10 of the past 28 single-season receptions leaders have happened since 2010. That’s just over 35 percent of the single-season leaders. So as you can see, the rise in Fantasy passing doesn’t automatically translate to the top Fantasy wide receivers like it does to the top Fantasy quarterbacks.
What’s more is that there are more active quarterbacks posting this big numbers than there are active receivers. Sure, Antonio Brown has done well, but after him, close-to-retirement players like Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White and Andre Johnson make up most of the other big-receptions players.
The top wide receivers aren’t distancing themselves from running backs and other wide receivers.
If we look at receptions as a measuring stick, we can see how the wide receivers position has changed. In 2015, there were seven WRs to catch 100 or more passes, and 17 of them caught 80 or more.
We’ll compare that to a few random years over the past 20 years! (Math is fun!)
- In 1996, three 100-catch WRs and 14 80-catch WRs
- In 2001, six 100-catch WRs and 17 80-catch WRs
- In 2006, one 100-catch WRs and 15 80-catch WRs
- In 2012, five 100-catch WRs and 14 80-catch WRs
There’s a small increase, but not the kind you’d expect to see. If the top wideouts are similar in number, then the question becomes where are the extra passes going?
We know the NFL passing game keeps ascending, so who’s getting those extra receptions?
It’s actually the middle group of wide receivers that seem to be benefitting the most. By drafting more wide receivers ranked between the top 25-40 in Fantasy value, you could have a better chance of success than if you tried the same with running backs.
Remember that the next time you choose to go the “Zero RB Theory” route. If you spent your early picks on wide receivers, then those middle picks you’d normally use on wide receivers will instead go toward risky running backs. Good luck with that!
2016 Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings
These rankings are based on standard non-PPR leagues, but you will soon be able to click the PPR tab to see how the rankings change for those leagues.
Once again, I’d prefer to load up on the middle tiers in the 2016 Fantasy wide receiver rankings, plucking several wideouts from the top 25-40 range, while also making sure I get three very good running backs early on.
Antonio Brown Photo Credit: OH_Photojournalist
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.