Ed Bonfanti
The New Tiers: WRs and TEs

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Last week we talked about the new fantasy football tiers for quarterbacks and running backs in this wacky season. This week we're going to talk about wide receivers and tight ends. Both positions have been pretty stable at the top of their position.  Calvin Johnson is still the best receiver in fantasy football as he's been for the last couple years. Any doubts we might've had with Calvin due to a midseason injury that caused him to miss a game and deliver two dud performances were immediately silenced after his 329 receiving yards game from a couple weeks back.

For the tight end position,
Jimmy Graham continues to be king and justify owners spending an early round pick on him. A case can be made that Rob Gronkowski is his equal but his injury woes put him a tier behind Graham in my opinion. Both players have dealt with injuries this season but Graham was able to play through his and still produce while Gronk took half of the fantasy football season before he started playing.

Let's start our look at the new tiers with the wide receiver position.

Wide Receivers


Tier 1

Calvin Johnson

 

 

If you consider the fact that he's missed a game to injury, his return game from that injury was his worst performance of the season with three catches for 25 yards, and that he's already had his bye, it's even more incredible that Calvin's still the Number 1 fantasy football scorer for receivers. The future Hall of Famer is in a league by himself.

Tier 2

After Calvin, you have about six receivers who are within spitting distance of each other. You really can't go wrong with any of these players because they are all elite. Still, I've ranked them even with the difference between them being so small.

1) AJ Green

He's such a tremendous talent and he's more of a focal point of his offense than Dez Bryant , who I consider his closest rival in this tier. Bryant has disappeared in a couple games this year while Green has four straight games of over 100 yards receiving. I'm giving the slight edge to Green here.

2) Dez Bryant

A couple weeks ago when Dez said that he's on the same level or better than Calvin he was a bit out of line. Still, he is on pace for a career high 18 touchdowns and he's been having a great season. He's in one of the best offenses in the league with one of the best quarterbacks passing to him and he's set to succeed for years to come.

3)  Brandon Marshall

This is the best Bears offense in decades with solid QB play, a great running game and a very strong receiving corps. Marshall finally has another quality receiver on the other side of the field in Alshon Jeffery , reducing the amount of attention defenses can now give him. The first half of Marshall's season had a couple duds but he's turned it on in the second half, cementing his years long status as an elite fantasy receiver.

4)  Desean Jackson

I've been a Desean hater for years and I give no apologies for that. He's been a boom or bust player his entire career until this season. Now, in Chip Kelly's offense, he went from a fantasy WR3 to an unquestioned WR1 all in the space of nine games. I'm a believer. Tied for 2nd in scoring among fantasy receivers, he's been the real deal this season and I see him staying that way for the foreseeable future in Chip Kelly's offense, regardless of who's playing QB.

5)  Wes Welker

Leading all fantasy receivers with nine touchdowns, he's been Peyton Manning's go-to red zone target all season long. He's also in the top-seven for receptions at 50 and he's exceeded expectations this year, and as always, has been especially valuable in PPR leagues. I give Welker the slight edge over Demaryius Thomas because he's superior to him in TDs (9-6) and also because he's been a little more consistent. It should also bear mentioning that Thomas hasn't had a 100+ receiving game since Week 1 so those kind of bonuses are especially important if the TDs are lacking in a close race like this.

6)  Demaryius Thomas

He's the most talented receiver on the Broncos. He's still had a lot of great games, despite playing in a crowded offense. He's the Broncos' No. 1 deep threat and has played at an elite WR1 level since Week 1.

Tier 3

Josh Gordon

I'm a little gun-shy about putting Gordon in Tier 2 after what happened to Justin Blackmon being suspended for the rest of the season due to substance abuse issues. Gordon has had a history of failed drug tests himself so he could be only one slip-up away from being suspended indefinitely. On the other hand, he's an elite talent with WR1 potential and has prospered this season despite playing with three different quarterbacks.  As long as he stays out of trouble, Gordon should have no problem invading Tier 2 in the near future.


Two receivers that barely missed the cut are
Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson . In PPR leagues, Brown is a WR1, leading all of fantasy land with 61 receptions. His lack of touchdowns (3), which has plagued him his entire career, prevents him from getting into elite status for standard leagues. For Nelson, I'd still like to see him play a full season healthy before I elevate him to elite status.



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