Wide Receiver Tiers for 2021 Fantasy Football Drafts

Davante Adams Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver

A great part about doing a bazillion fantasy football drafts is that you get to see trends develop. A quarterback run here, a drop-off in talent there; you start to see the ebbs and flows of the draft. It’s a hard-earned dataset, gotten through endless hours of mock drafting and poring over the data. Or, you take 20 minutes on 4for4 and snag their ADP data and break it up into tiers… Anyway, here are the fantasy football wide receiver tiers as broken up by average draft position data for a 12-team league, as well as some thoughts on the players going inside said fantasy football running back tiers. ADP data are for 12-team leagues and 6.03 means the sixth pick of the third round, 12.12 means the twelfth pick of the twelfth round, et cetera.

In a glow-up from last year’s iteration of the wide receiver tiers article, I’ve included my tier, where I have the player, by my projections.

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 1: The Studs
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
8 WR-1 Tyreek Hill KC 1.08 1 1
9 WR-2 Davante Adams GB 1.09 1 1
13 WR-3 Stefon Diggs BUF 2.01 1 1
15 WR-4 DeAndre Hopkins ARI 2.03 1 2
16 WR-5 Calvin Ridley ATL 2.04 1 1
My Favorite: Stefon Diggs

This is a fun tier of guys to dip into on draft day. You can’t really go wrong with any of them; they’re called The Studs for a reason. There’s one interesting thing, here: DeAndre Hopkins is a bit mismatched with where I have him in my tiers. A tier one guy, to me, has a shot at #1 overall. I think DeAndre Hopkins is extremely safe in the second tier, but I don’t see him finishing #1 overall. So, he ends up in tier two.

These other guys though…wow. You can’t really go wrong with any of them; they’re all the alpha wide receivers in their offense who could command 10+ targets a week for multiple consecutive weeks at any time. Tyreek Hill is one of the most explosive wide receivers in the history of the NFL, and Davante Adams has the Aaron Rodgers Revenge Tour in his back pocket. Here’s the thing, though: I’m not going to draft them at ADP.

You can see that there are three other guys (one below) that are tier one wide receivers who you can draft in the second round. That means, that unless you want to go zeroRB and take two wide receivers to start the draft, you’re better off snagging a tier one or tier two wide receiver in the second round. I love snagging Calvin Ridley or Stefon Diggs this way. But, my favorite wide receiver of all goes in the second tier…

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 2: The Stud-Adjacent
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
19 WR-6 DK Metcalf SEA 2.07 2 2
22 WR-7 A.J. Brown TEN 2.10 2 1
23 WR-8 Justin Jefferson MIN 2.11 2 2
27 WR-9 Keenan Allen LAC 3.03 2 3
28 WR-10 Terry McLaurin WAS 3.04 2 4
29 WR-11 Allen Robinson CHI 3.05 2 2
My Favorite: A.J. Brown

This tier is mostly people who went running back early in the first round snagging a wide receiver on the comeback to start with a solid WR/RB base. But, this is a pretty strong group of wide receivers overall. In fact, my WR1 in 2021, A.J. Brown, lives in this tier. Brown is my favorite because he should take a step forward in targets while maintaining (at least most of) his efficiency. He should maintain a lot of his efficiency because so much of what he does comes after the catch, with 6.2 of his 15.4 yards per catch coming after the reception.

It’s hard to go wrong with the rest of this tier, too (pun intended). Among these guys, Justin Jefferson has the highest upside (1,400 receiving yards in your rookie year will do that). But, this tier represents a transition from the high upside guys like Brown, JJeff, and D.K. Metcalf to the extremely solid, high-target guys who will reasonably finish between WR8 and WR15.

And those guys are valuable. Allen Robinson is a nine-target per-game mainstay, and Keenan Allen means you can pencil in 95 catches for 1,100 yards to start your draft. But Terry McLaurin is the interesting case, here. Many peg him for a big season this year, but I don’t really see it. There are simply too many mouths to feed in a team built to shorten games for him to fit alongside either of the AJB/Justin Jefferson/Metcalf or the Keenan Allen Robinson Tier. He’s still set to be really good, but I’m just not as bullish on him as a lot of people.

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 3: Cowboys and Buccos and Your Last Shot at WR1s

ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
33 WR-12 CeeDee Lamb DAL 3.09 3 3
35 WR-13 Mike Evans TB 3.11 3 4
36 WR-14 Robert Woods LAR 3.12 3 3
37 WR-15 Amari Cooper DAL 4.01 3 3
40 WR-16 Julio Jones TEN 4.04 3 5
43 WR-17 Chris Godwin TB 4.07 3 5
My Favorite: CeeDee Lamb & Robert Woods

This is where we start to get highly talented wide receivers who might take a back seat to another wide receiver on their squad… but we cram two of those duos into this round. If I don’t get CDL or Robert Woods, I’m probably skipping this tier entirely. This is where ADP and I really start to differ. Woods and Lamb are my WR11 and WR12 in half-PPR. They are the last shot at getting WR1s, so that’s why I will snag them and not the rest. Lamb had a big rookie year (935 receiving yards), which is especially impressive when you consider something called a “Bendy Noochy” threw him the football last year.

The Buccaneers wide receivers are just slightly lower for me than the consensus has them. This likely stems from my feeling that Antonio Brown will take a bigger role in the offense than a lot of people drafting would want to admit. That pushes down both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for me. Not for a lack of talent, but because Tampa Bay has only one football to throw at a time. Inevitably, one of the three wide receivers will suffer an injury, which will make the other two must-start. But, I refuse to draft that way in the fourth round.

Julio Jones could be really good, or he could get relegated into being a hypertalented Corey Davis for the Titans. Tennessee brought him in to bolster their offense, not take it over. I believe he helps Ryan Tannehill far more than he hurts A.J. Brown. I don’t want him in the fourth, but I’ve seen him as low as the sixth round. As you see how this draft develops, you can see how Julio in the sixth is a smash and a half.

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 4: Solid WR2s
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
47 WR-18 Tyler Lockett SEA 4.11 4 4
48 WR-19 Adam Thielen MIN 4.12 4 6
49 WR-20 Cooper Kupp LAR 5.01 4 3
51 WR-21 D.J. Moore CAR 5.03 4 5
My Favorite: Cooper Kupp

This tier is the wildest one for me. Four guys, four different tiers, all going within five picks of each other. One player who I don’t want at all under any circumstances whatsoever (Adam Thielen). One I would prefer a tad bit later (D.J. Moore). A third who I think is correctly rated (Lockett), and a fourth who gets utter disrespect by going almost exactly a round later than his teammate, Robert Woods.

Cooper Kupp is my favorite guy in this tier because he’s WR13 going at a much cheaper price. He and Woods have nearly identical combined 2019 and 2020 seasons. Over the last two seasons, Robert Woods averages 75.5 yards per game, on 5.8 receptions, while scoring 6 touchdowns per 16 games. In the same timeframe, Cooper Kupp averages 70.1 yards per game, on 6 receptions, while scoring 7 touchdowns per 16 games.

So, I’m not entirely sure why Kupp takes such ADP step-down here compared to his teammate, Robert Woods. If you want Robert Woods and whiff on him, I can offer you Cooper Kupp a whole tier later.

As for D.J. Moore… I don’t know. He’ll be on his third week one quarterback in three seasons, but he just consistently averages 76 yards per game no matter who slings him the rock. The problem comes with his touchdowns. I’m not entirely certain where they are supposed to come from. He has 8 touchdowns over the last two seasons. It’s just not a part of his profile; 34 wide receivers had at least 100 targets last year, and he held the seventh-lowest touchdown rate among these receivers. That’s bad. Hopefully, that changes, but scoring just four touchdowns without Christian McCaffrey certainly doesn’t make me feel good about his touchdown scoring potential in 2021.

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 5: Talented Guys With Question Marks
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
56 WR-22 Diontae Johnson PIT 5.08 5 5
60 WR-23 Brandon Aiyuk SF 5.12 5 8
61 WR-24 Ja’Marr Chase CIN 6.01 5 6
63 WR-25 Michael Thomas NO 6.03 5 10
64 WR-26 Chase Claypool PIT 6.04 5 5
65 WR-27 Tee Higgins CIN 6.05 5 6
66 WR-28 Kenny Golladay NYG 6.06 5 4
67 WR-29 Odell Beckham CLE 6.07 5 8
My Favorite: Chase Claypool (should his ankle injury clear up)

This tier has a lot of intriguing players, as long as you avoid the injury landmines (Kenny Golladay and Michael Thomas). Outside of that, you have a potential smash, breakout seasons from basically every guy on here not named Odell Beckham. Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool both have a case to lead the Steelers in WR fantasy points, as do Chase and Higgins. They are both situations where one of the two solidifying their slot in their respective teams will create league winners.

The Brandon Aiyuk situation is the same, where he could be the top target on the 49ers. But… I don’t buy it. The Niners start their game-planning by chunking off between 25% and 33% of their targets for George Kittle. Then, they build from there. Aiyuk will have a good and solid season, but I doubt he reaches the heights that some expect of him. But I think him ending up in about this range is a worst-case scenario, which is a nice floor to have.

Then we get to Odell Beckham, Jr. Please don’t. He hasn’t been good on the Browns, and now he’s recovering from injury. The Browns are run-first and when they don’t run, they just dump off to Jarvis Landry. No thanks to trying to recapture the magic from the Giants’ iteration of Odell Beckham.

Since joining the Browns, he has two games with more than 90 receiving yards, one game with multiple receiving touchdowns, and averages just 4.4 catches for 62 yards per game with the Browns. That comes out to 985 yards across a full sixteen-game season. So, Odell Beckham no longer has boom games, he no longer has a high floor, and he doesn’t bail you out with touchdowns. So why draft him?

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 6: Strong Wide Receivers in Crowded Situations
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
74 WR-30 JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT 7.02 6 8
75 WR-31 Courtland Sutton DEN 7.03 6 6
76 WR-32 Robby Anderson CAR 7.04 6 9
79 WR-33 D.J. Chark JAX 7.07 6 9
80 WR-34 Jerry Jeudy DEN 7.08 6 7
81 WR-35 DeVonta Smith PHI 7.09 6 8
82 WR-36 Deebo Samuel SF 7.1 6 8
My Favorite: Courtland Sutton

This tier is an interesting one, because all of the players in this tier have some definite talent, whether they flashed it in the NFL or if it caused them to get drafted in the first round (like DeVonta Smith). However, the concerns surrounding the number of good players in their wide receiver rooms cause them to fall. JuJu coming back to Pittsburgh caps his upside, though I love him to replicate what he did last year in PPR. Courtland Sutton, D.J. Chark, and Deebo Samuel all flashed their talents in the 2019 NFL season, but injuries to Sutton and Deebo, and ineffectiveness from Chark have drafters shying away from this them. Of those three, I prefer Sutton above them all. Deebo has injury concerns but is electric on the field, and I just… don’t think D.J. Chark is the first, or even second-best wide receiver on his team.

Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton are both very talented wide receivers potentially held back by Drew Lock. I prefer Courtland Sutton because we’ve seen him be good in the NFL before. Really, that’s it. And he’s getting moved down draft boards specifically because we have decided he isn’t as good as he is. I just want to send us back to 2019. In the first seven games of 2019, Sutton averaged 80.6 yards per game. When the Broncos traded Emmanuel Sanders, and we hoped that Sutton would take a step forward. Instead, he took a step back, averaging 60 yards per game. Then, he tore his ACL in week one of 2020 and spent the vast majority of 2019 on IR. I love taking that discount on Sutton, who seems to be past the ACL tear at this point.

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 7: “Hey I know this guy!”
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
87 WR-37 Tyler Boyd CIN 8.03 7 8
90 WR-38 Brandin Cooks HOU 8.06 7 5
92 WR-39 Will Fuller V MIA 8.08 7 8
My Favorite: Brandin Cooks

These are three guys who have had great seasons in the last few years, but who seem to be discounted for one reason or another. Ja’Marr Chase joining the Bengals suppresses Tyler Boyd’s value, Will Fuller switching to the crowded wide receiver room in Miami (and playing without Deshaun Watson) suppresses his value and… the Texans being hilarious suppresses Brandin Cooks’ value?

Since this tier is just three guys, I’ll rank them for you: Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, and Tyler Boyd. Tyler Boyd is last despite the fact that he likely outscores Will Fuller this season… because he’s more likely to play more games. Fuller’s already in a hole after he suffered an injury in camp to go with his suspension. But… at this point in the draft I would take him over Tyler Boyd. Boyd is WR37, but his upside is around WR25. Fuller’s upside is top-five. I don’t want a solid guy here who can fill in in bye weeks. I want an upside play. If you want to take a shot between Boyd and Fuller, I would go with Fuller, completely knowing he’s not Mr. Right, he’s Mr. Right Now.

But you can skip all that nonsense and just take Brandin Cooks. Brandin Cooks is my WR18 right now and goes 20 WR later. I participated in an analyst draft this past weekend through Draft Night Out, and I snagged him in round nine of a Superflex. So, you can really wait on Cooks; even the experts are sleeping on him at this point. The man simply produces fantasy points, and even though we don’t know his QB, it’s probably Tyrod Taylor. If it’s Tyrod Taylor, then he will have a competent baseline quarterback. A quick reminder that after his rookie season in 2014, Cooks has one year 67 yards per game.

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 8: Fantasy Big Brain Time
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
98 WR-40 Curtis Samuel WAS 9.02 8 7
99 WR-41 Antonio Brown TB 9.03 8 6
101 WR-42 Jarvis Landry CLE 9.05 8 9
My Favorite: Antonio Brown

I’m not entirely sure why Antonio Brown is down here. Sure, the Buccaneers’ passing game is crowded. It was crowded last year, and last year he was WR22 in fantasy points per game. So, what’s the deal, here? Sure, yes, Chris Godwin was banged up down the stretch, but he still averaged 7 targets per game in the second half of the year. Is it because he might not be good? For reasons? Guess who else might not be good?

Curtis Samuel and Jarvis Landry. But Samuel & Landry have never been WR1. Now, I’m not saying Antonio Brown is WR1; those days are long in the past. But Antonio Brown as WR41 is unconscionable behavior from fantasy football drafters. I don’t even want to talk about Samuel and Landry here because I can’t distract from the singular focus that you should get Antonio Brown, here.

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 9: Keep on Going
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
105 WR-43 Marquise Brown BAL 9.09 9 9
106 WR-44 Jaylen Waddle MIA 9.10 9 9
108 WR-45 Laviska Shenault Jr. JAX 9.12 9 9
110 WR-46 Michael Gallup DAL 10.02 9 8
My Favorite: Jaylen Waddle

This is an interesting tier because you could ask 100 fantasy analysts and they would have these guys in 100 different spots. There are a lot of Shenault heads out there but the guy can’t track a ball downfield and is just going to be a gadget guy… when the Jaguars have a better person to fill the WR/RB hybrid role in Travis Etienne. I’m not particularly interested in Viska when Marvin Jones Jr. is in the next tier.

The guys I want in this tier are Michael Gallup and Jaylen Waddle, but for two different reasons. If you need a solid PPR contributor who has done it in the past, you want to get Gallup. But if you want to take a shot on getting one of the 19% of rookie wide receivers who finish top-36, then you want to get Waddle. Really, at this point, unless you went high-risk guys, the play is probably Waddle outside of deeper leagues. You can get 80% of Michael Gallup off of the waiver wire, for free! Take your shot on Waddle and pick up 2021’s Cole Beasley if he doesn’t pan out.

I’m just going to ignore Marquise Brown because Lamar Jackson usually does.

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 10: Don’t Make Me Pick
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
114 WR-47 Michael Pittman Jr. IND 10.06 10 13
115 WR-48 Mike Williams LAC 10.07 10 8
119 WR-49 Marvin Jones Jr. JAX 10.11 10 7
120 WR-50 Darnell Mooney CHI 10.12 10 10
My Favorite: Darnell Mooney! No, Marvin Jones! Wait… Michael Pittman? Is it Mike Williams?

Don’t make me choose! This tier is great, and honestly, I’m usually skipping Tier 9 wide receivers to get one of the guys in this tier. Michael Pittman is easily last for me, as you can see from the tiers. Mooney is a hot sleeper pick with Justin Fields suddenly giving the Bears competent quarterback play.

But the real picks here are Marvin Jones Jr. and Mike Williams. Marvin Jones is the best wide receiver on the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s also the cheapest from an ADP standpoint. So, if you believe Trevor Lawrence will sustain one fantasy football wide receiver, then you should probably make sure you leave your draft with Marvin Jones.

If you want to take a swing on a guy who could have the DeVante Parker or Corey Davis ascendance, then you want Mike Williams. Williams has had 10 touchdown seasons, he’s had 1,000 yard seasons. He, unfortunately, just hasn’t put them together. But he’s the #2 target for Justin Herbert in an offense that should hopefully grow as Herbert grows. If he puts it together, then Tyler Locket’s standard-issue 1,000 and 10 is in the cards.

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 11: Post-Hype Duds
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
122 WR-51 Mecole Hardman KC 11.02 11 9
124 WR-52 Henry Ruggs III LV 11.04 11 9
126 WR-53 Corey Davis NYJ 11.06 11 10
132 WR-54 DeVante Parker MIA 11.12 11 12
133 WR-55 T.Y. Hilton IND 12.01 11 9
My Favorite: Henry Ruggs III

There are acolytes for all of these players in various players on fantasy football Twitter. Unfortunately, most of these guys are just deep upside plays where upside might not exist. The best case for upside in this tier is Henry Ruggs III getting force-fed nine targets per game because Jon Gruden needs to prove to the world that yes, he should have taken Ruggs over CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, Tee Higgins, Chase Claypool, and even Jerry Jeudy. But that’s the big plus for Ruggs: his coach is insane.

Corey Davis plays for a rookie quarterback and a rookie signal-caller, for a rookie head coach. I’m not sure what his argument is other than volume. I want to refer you back to Michael Gallup: you can probably get Corey Davis production off of the waiver wire.

Mecole Hardman and DeVante Parker are both on the “I read breakout pieces on these guys last year” train. But don’t ride that train. Hardman’s going to be a part of KC WR roulette. You could hit on him, but if you picked the correct WR2 in Kansas City in 2020, then you ended up with WR40. I guess that’s an improvement if it’s Hardman every week?

As for DeVante Parker? Just… no. He’s entering year seven, the Dolphins added Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle, and he has one season over 800 yards under his belt at this point. What’s the point, there? Where do you think he ends up?

T.Y. Hilton gets drafted here in a “what if” situation but I think Michael Pittman marginalizes him enough that he falls out of fantasy football consideration and relevance for 2021.

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Tier 12: No, I Hear What You’re Saying. I Just Don’t Care
ADP WR-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
139 WR-56 Cole Beasley BUF 12.07 12 8
145 WR-57 Russell Gage ATL 13.01 12 9
149 WR-58 Rashod Bateman BAL 13.05 12 8
157 WR-59 Nelson Agholor NE 14.01 12 9
160 WR-60 Emmanuel Sanders BUF 14.04 12 10
165 WR-61 Randall Cobb GB 14.09 12 14
167 WR-62 A.J. Green ARI 14.11 12 13
168 WR-63 Tre’Quan Smith NO 14.12 12 11
174 WR-64 Jamison Crowder NYJ 15.06 12 10
My Favorite: Nelson Agholor

This last tier is big and varied and I don’t want any of it. I can’t get into big details about these guys but I will just tell you this: if you’re picking in this tier, then don’t be shy with the drop button.

The only guy I really want to take a shot on is Nelson Agholor to see if he can continue his breakout 2020 campaign in a new location. After posting an average per-16 stat line of 50 receptions, 567 yards, and 4 touchdowns in Philadelphia, he broke through in Las Vegas last year. In sixteen games, he finished with 48 receptions, but for 896 yards and 8 touchdowns. He posted the highest yards per target of his career (10.9) by nearly 3 yards per target. You can stash him on your bench to see what happens there.

Everyone else here, you can have. Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders will cannibalize each other. Russell Gage is just a guy and remains a distant third in the Falcons’ pecking order. Bateman was intriguing but a groin injury will sideline him until at least the first few weeks of the season, so he loses intrigue.

A.J. Green is washed. There’s no greater specimen of a washed player in the league. Tre’Quan Smith hasn’t even shown he deserves a spot in the bath to get washed, at this point. Crowder solely provides solid PPR value for bye week fill-ins.

Though I love Randall Cobb in the Randall Cobb Role.

Do you want more 2021 fantasy football discussion? Then check out these links!


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About Jeff Krisko

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