Make no mistake, once the Tokyo Olympics ended, there were some withdrawals as I wondered where all my TV time would go without them.
Then, like a lightbulb moment inside my sports obsessed head, I realised my No. 1 lovechild was less than a month away.
The NFL is coming.
With 100% capacity stadiums, a bevy of major off-season moves and more than your average storylines across an NFL off-season. To be frank, there’s no actual off-season in the NFL – it’s full noise 24/7.
As Aussies, we love us some Fantasy Football. I’m no guru and I’m often guilty of picking players with my heart and ignoring my head but because I’m excited and many of my mates are, too, let’s get some rankings in order for our upcoming Fantasy Football drafts, beginning with wide receivers.
*All rankings are considered for regular scoring. Non-PPR (points per reception).
1 DAVANTE ADAMS (Green Bay – Last season: 1,374 yards, 18 TD)
Adams’ connection with Aaron Rodgers is a thing of beauty.
Even on 1st & goal when you’d swear they’d give the ball to star back Aaron Jones, Rodgers would hurl the rock out to Adams for one of his 18 touchdowns on the season. And remember this, he missed two games.
His 115 catches on 149 targets is supremely efficient. DVA’s footwork, size and hands are all deadly weapons.
With Rodgers back in the fray and Adams looking for a large contract, expect things to continue to roll in Packerland.
2 DEANDRE HOPKINS (Arizona – 1,407 yards, 6 TD)
Before QB Kyler Murray slowed up thanks to a few injuries, Hopkins was balling as the league’s top WR. His Hail Mary catch to defeat the Bills was the signature of his season. A season which saw him log 114 catches and 1,407 yards. His six touchdowns was a slight lowlight for a wideout as blessed as he is in the red zone.
A.J. Green’s arrival may actually assist Hopkins, taking some of the defensive attention away without losing too many targets overall.
Hopkins is not the fastest, biggest or strongest of the elite receivers but he has magnetic hands and loves the confrontation with opposing corners.
Provided Murray remains sound and his play continues to trend north, Hopkins will remain one of the premier wideouts in the NFL – and I expect his TD totals to rise.
3 TYREEK HILL (Kansas City – 1,276 yards, 15 TD)
The Cheetah is the owner of the nest nickname in football (now that Megatron has retired) because he’s legitimately a Cheetah on two legs. His speed is unguardable and with Mahomes slinging him the rock, they’re basically an unstoppable duo.
Hill’s routes are continuing to refine, which is why he amassed 15 receiving TD’s, plus a couple more in the run game.
KC used Tyreek in more short yardage situations last season, leaning on his ability to create separation with his electric speed and dynamic change of direction.
4 STEFON DIGGS (Buffalo – 1,535 yards, 8 TD)
I ignored Diggs’ too much last season, despite the fact he was balling for all to see. As Josh Allen’s rise to superstardom continued, Diggs provided him with the No. 1 receiving weapon he needed.
Diggs’ routes are electric and his versatility and adaptability as a receiver make him such a tough coverage. Without significant and consistent WR2 options (Cole Beasley aside), Diggs will continue to see something close to the 166 targets he got in 2020.
Eight touchdowns was a reasonable result but there’s scope for another couple to really solidify himself as a genuinely elite wide receiver across the NFL.
5 D.K. METCALF (Seattle – 1,303 yards, 10 TD)
Alongside Justin Jefferson, Metcalf was my FF shining light last season. His ability to catch the deep ball is breathtaking and he and Russ Wilson were killing early in the campaign.
He played every game, logged 10 scores and more than 1,300 yards. It was an outstanding effort for a sophomore receiver who was overlooked by many in his draft process.
With his Calvin Johnson-like blend of size (6-4″, 235) and speed (he ran a 10.37 100m sprint this off-season) make him a brutal assignment for opposing corners. He surpassed 90-yards in seven of his opening eight games last season but did have a slower end to his 2020 campaign.
6 CALVIN RIDLEY (Atlanta – 1,374 yards, 9 TD)
Those who choose not to do any homework will suggest Ridley may struggle without the presence of Julio Jones. The truth is Ridley had games of 110, 124, 130, 136 and 163 yards when Jones was sidelined. Safe to say he can handle the added attention.
Rookie TE Kyle Pitts should take some of the defensive attention but also some of the targets. IF Ridley can go close to 150 targets then he’s set for another monster season.
The Falcons offence is now led by Ridley. Gone are Julio, Austin Hooper and Todd Gurley – among others – so the time is now for the former Alabama receiver to do work. And he will.
7 JUSTIN JEFFERSON (Minnesota – 1,400 yards, 7 TD)
Jefferson was a first round selection by Minnesota coming off an unbelievable season at LSU. He was the Tigers’ No. 2 option behind Ja’Marr Chase but the Vikings knew what was under the hood.
Jefferson began the NFL season as the team’s No. 2 but 1,400 yards later it was clear his future is as a standout WR1. He ended the season only 15th for receptions but fourth overall for yards, showcasing his ability to make a big play on any ball thrown his way.
His 23 20-yards-or-more catches were equal most in the NFL, alongside Calvin Ridley and TE Travis Kelce.
8 A.J. BROWN (Tennessee – 1,075 yards, 11 TD)
There will be times this season where you can mount the case that A.J. Brown will be the third option on the Titans offence. Derrick Henry is the clearcut top dog but Julio Jones arrives in town and, when healthy, he’s a Hall of Fame entrant when it’s all said and done.
Brown, however, is an improving do-it-all receiver with great ball skills and the ability to take things to the next level. His 11 scores were a highlight and hopefully there are another 100+ targets coming his way in 2021.
Only a lack of touches can slow down this beast of a wideout.
9 CEEDEE LAMB (Dallas – 935 yards, 5 TD)
Here’s the training camp Twitter video guy we always fall in love with. CeeDee has been making incredible plays on the national stage since he was an Oklahoma Sooner and he showed glimpses of his elite talent last season as a rookie.
Dak returns and I can foresee Lamb taking over as the Club’s No. 1 receiving option in an offence which is expected to put up plenty of yards and points.
Many of us – me included – will be interested to read between the lines when Dallas appears in the upcoming Hard Knocks series. It’s not the first time we’ve been able to pick a handy FF performer from an NFL doco – think Tyler Eifert as a Bengals rookie and David Johnson when he exploded for Arizona.
10 ALLEN ROBINSON (Chicago – 1,250 yards, 6 TD)
Sometimes you just got to give a man his props. Robinson is a player I’ve traditionally avoided in FF because he’s regularly had to contend with subpar quarterback play. The Bears are claiming to have Andy Dalton as their QB1 but the hope is Justin Fields will be that guy. Then, Robinson becomes a top shelf WR option.
Even last season, with the Bears’ QB queries he threw up 1250 and half a dozen scores. AR15 is often one of the forgotten receivers whenever we talk about the game’s elite pass-catchers.