June 11, 2021

2021 Fantasy Football WR Tiers

The 2021 NFL fantasy football season is closing in and our coverage never stops. We want you to feel so confident and comfortable entering your draft that you know you'll win your league and have bragging rights over your friends, family and coworkers. 

It all starts with ranking the fantasy football talent. Having a great plan starts with understanding the value of each position. Reaching on the wrong position or player can be devastating to your team.

Selecting the right set of wide receivers is pivotal for roster construction. The difference between a star and starter can be massive each week. You can't afford to start someone who doesn't have consistency or higher upside to explode.

We're breaking down every receiver who matters into five tiers. Let's get into it.

Fantasy Football Tiers: QB | RB | TE

Tier 1: The Dominators

Davante Adams | Tyreek Hill | Stefon Diggs | Calvin Ridley

This is the group we can fairly expect to eclipse the 200-point clip in 2021. Adams, Hill and Diggs each reached the prestigious achievement last season and have no reason to not continue their dominance this year. The one name that sticks out here is, of course, Ridley. 

Ridley's situation got a whole lot better as soon as Julio Jones was traded to the Tennessee Titans. His volume and production shot upwards as Julio missed seven games last season. Although Russell Gage is a legitimate complementary piece, he's not going to steal too many targets from Ridley.

Atlanta's offense will feed their receivers, too. We saw Arthur Smith work his magic with the Titans last year, and fantasy owners who had A.J. Brown and Corey Davis weren't complaining much. This offense can sustain a few high-profile pass catchers.

Adams and Hill are currently late first-rounders, whereas Diggs can be had in the early second. Ridley's ADP places him as the sixth wide receiver off the board. At the end of the second round, Ridley's an excellent value.

Tier 2: Weekly Stars

D.K. Metcalf | Justin Jefferson | Julio Jones |  A.J. Brown | DeAndre Hopkins | Allen Robinson | Tyler Lockett | Keenan Allen | Odell Beckham Jr.

Now we're really getting into the debatable ranges. Tier 2 has some no-brainers in Metcalf, Jefferson, Brown, and Hopkins. Everyone else is somewhat of a projection based on their situation. 

This tier all depends on who you trust. The Titans should open their playbook up a bit and can sustain two high-level receivers that end the year with 165 or more fantasy points. Some are less optimistic about Julio than us, but his film was still dominant in 2020.

The inclusion of Robinson, Lockett, Allen and Beckham really comes down to their situations. We've seen Lockett be consistently great with Russell Wilson and we're going to trust that the Seahawks QB will still cook in 2021

Robinson will benefit from the acquisition of Andy Dalton and Justin Fields. The Bears' offense is one I'm fully buying once Fields earns the starting gig. I'm giving boosts to Robinson, Darnell Mooney, and David Montgomery.

Again, the threshold here is 165 fantasy points for this tier. Is it reasonable to believe we see a little jump for Allen as he plays in three more games than 2020 in Justin Herbert's second season? I think so. 

Tier 3: The Upside Plays

Terry McLaurin |  Mike Evans | Michael Thomas | Chris Godwin | Amari Cooper | CeeDee Lamb | D.J. Moore | Adam Thielen | Brandon Aiyuk | Tee Higgins | Chase Claypool | Robert Woods

You'll notice a bit of a drop from Evans and Thielen into this tier from last year's production. But their touchdown numbers were unsustainable, or at least unpredictable. We can't possibly expect either to hit double-digits again in unique passing offenses. 

Instead, I'd prefer to take higher upside plays like McLaurin, Thomas, Lamb, Higgins and Aiyuk. It's important to not overthink veteran players while also not relying on their name recognition. We're also going to get some of those guys at a bargain price as Evans is a third-rounder and Thielen an early fourth.

That's above some of the second-tier guys. Don't fall into that trap. Those offenses won't sustain the high individual touchdown numbers year-to-year because they're not built to. They'll spread the wealth more without trying to.

Year 2 will be a big one for the 2020 receiver class. Adjust accordingly and reach for one. Come out of your draft with at least one of those three and you'll be loving your haul by the middle of the season.

Tier 4: Flex Options

Kenny Golladay | Cooper Kupp | Courtland Sutton | D.J. Chark | Ja'Marr Chase | Brandin Cooks | Will Fuller | Robby Anderson | Curtis Samuel | DeVonta Smith | Corey Davis | Russell Gage

Would you believe that the highest per-week producers from this tier in 2020 were Fuller and Cooks? Everyone else failed to produce over 10 points per week. Expect this group to average no more than that number.

Flex options have an issue with consistency but occasionally bring a big game that can swing a matchup. I love playing upside guys on weeks where I need a big game. Risking a low-output performance when you're the underdog is well worth it if there's a slight chance an explosive receiver can excel.

Chark and Chase are the most interesting players in this group. Both have great situations to outplay this expectation. No one should be shocked if Chark in particular becomes a WR2 despite having a seventh-round ADP.

Smith is a great fantasy option even though we're selling Jalen Hurts' pro prospects. Smith will get a ton of targets his way, including forced touches. There's not a good enough second option on the unit to consistently steal volume. He could put up Jarvis Landry-like numbers with a higher threat of big plays mixed in.

Tier 5: The Depth Guys

Diontae Johnson  | Deebo Samuel  | JuJu Smith-Schuster  | Jerry Jeudy  | Tyler Boyd  | Jarvis Landry  | Marquise Brown  | DeVante Parker  | Michael Gallup  | Mike Williams  | Michael Pittman Jr. Parris Campbell  | Marvin Jones  | Antonio Brown | Jaylen Waddle | Nelson Agholor | John Brown | Darnell Mooney | Denzel Mims | Gabriel Davis | Darius Slayton | Marquez Valdes-Scantling | Breshad Perriman

There are some darn good players in this tier. It's not an exhaustive list, but this is my priority of how I'd draft for depth. You'll notice some teams' No. 1 receivers are in here.

It's possible an injury or quarterback improvement significantly pushes up someone like Gallup, Pittman, Agholor or Slayton. And depending on the price, I want Brown, Parker, Samuel, and Jones on my team. We simply can't count on them becoming weekly starters based on what we know today.

Don't be afraid to tinker with your roster if you have two or more of these names. We have to cut bait quickly on certain guys who may be familiar names or have high expectations but aren't in well-defined offenses. It's possible guys like Waddle, Davis, and Perriman don't produce well enough to earn their keep in 2021 despite being highly talented. 

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