With a rash of injuries across the NFL and offenses and defenses starting to take shape, week 3 starts to have some clarity as we start to realize what matchups to avoid and other to attack. It’s also desperation time for fantasy owners and NFL teams who are looking to avoid 0-3 making lineup choices this week even more critical.
The most volatile but critical position on a week-to-week basis is Wide Receiver where value swings wildly and can quickly make or break your week. Here’s our top 20 for week 3 based on the composite rankings of myself and Leo Howell who also covers fantasy football for Fansided.
If you have a question or comment on the rankings or want to know who I’d start on your team send it to me on twitter @ZT_Sports or write it in the comments at the bottom of the post. I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can.
Here’s our top 20 wide receivers for week 3:
1. Calvin Johnson-Detroit Lions
Johnson bounced back from a rough week 1 with 116 yards and a pair of scores in the Lions loss in Arizona. Megatron and the Lions face the Redskins pass defense that was demolished by Aaron Rodgers last week and struggled with Michael Vick in week one. Look for another big week from Johnson especially if Reggie Bush is out and the Lions have to throw more than usual.
2. A.J. Green-Cincinnati Bengals
Green didn’t have a huge game against the Steelers even though he was targeted 14 times. He finished with just 41 yards but this week takes on the Packers who have allowed more passing yards than any team but the Eagles and Chargers. Green should be a great play in what should be a shootout in Lambeau.
3. Brandon Marshall-Chicago Bears
Marshall has had two solid weeks with 15 catches on the year on 20 targets. His stat lines have been virtually identical with eight catches for 104 yards and a touchdown followed by seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. This week he faces the Steelers who did a solid job on A.J. Green in week 2 (see above) but Marshall is a matchup proof WR1 at this point.
t4. Julio Jones-Atlanta Falcons
Jones had a monster game against the Rams with 11 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown as Matt Ryan fed him the ball consistently with Roddy White ailing with a high-ankle sprain. Jones is a top option again this week with Atlanta visiting the Dolphins. Miami’s pass defense allowed T.Y. Hilton 124 yards last week, so expect another big week from Julio.
t4. Dez Bryant-Dallas Cowboys
Bryant had a rough week one and was banged up coming into Sunday’s action but showed no signs of slowing down catching nine passes for 141 yards and a score on 13 targets. He is dealing with a sprained foot, but it didn’t hamper him last week and shouldn’t this week either as the Cowboys host the Rams. St. Louis’s pass defense ranks 27th (out of 32) in the league heading into week three after getting whooped by Jones and the Falcons last week.
t4. Demaryius Thomas-Denver Broncos
Also part of the three-way tie for fourth is Demaryius Thomas who doesn’t play until Monday Night against the Raiders. He’s a matchup-proof WR1, to be sure, but he did have just five catches for 52 yards week 2 against the Giants. The Raiders actually rank in the top five in the early going in fewest passing yards allowed, but they should be in for a big regression facing Peyton and Co. The question is just whether Thomas is the recipient of the Manning numbers or if the Raiders focus on taking him away while getting beaten by other options. Leo is higher on Thomas than I am, but I see him as slightly below the other two options t4.
7. Desean Jackson-Philadelphia Eagles
D-Jax has two 100+ yard games after going for 193 in the Eagles week two loss to San Diego. He should be extra-motivated to show Andy Reid, his former coach, what he can do in the new-look Eagles offense. He’s a perfect fit in this system and should continue to be a top ten receiver as long as his health permits.
8. Randall Cobb-Green Bay Packers
Cobb has also had two games with over 100 yards and a touchdown in each finishing last week with 128 yards on nine catches. He only didn’t convert one of his ten targets and now faces a solid Bengals defense in what I think could quickly be a shootout meaning plenty of looks coming Cobb’s way.
9. Victor Cruz-New York Giants
Cruz matched his week one total with 118 yards against the Broncos, but unlike week one, he didn’t find the end zone after catching three touchdowns in the opener against the Cowboys. Cruz is a top-ten option as the G-men head to Carolina to face the Panthers 22nd-ranked pass defense.
10. Wes Welker-Denver Broncos
Welker had just three catches on eight targets for 39 yards aginst the Giants. He’s out of my top ten, but Leo had him high enough to put him in this spot. He does continue to find the end zone with three scores in two games, but I expect the Broncos to blow out the Raiders and spend most of the night running the ball. Welker is a risky option as your WR1 since the Broncos spread it around, but he can definitely be a WR1 when he’s rolling and Peyton’s primary.
11. Anquan Boldin-San Francisco 49ers
Boldin followed his monster week one (208 yards) with a dud in week two against Seattle catching just one pass for seven yards. The Seahawks shut down Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco, but I think they’ll bounce back this week against Indianapolis. He wasn’t quite this high on my list, but Leo had him all the way up at seven. In my mind, he’s a solid #2 receiver this week as he takes on Indy who rank in the middle of the pack against the pass.
12. Dwayne Bowe-Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs head to Phily as they take on Chip Kelly’s up-tempo Eagles on Thursday Night. Only the Chargers have allowed more passing yards than the Eagles this year and Eddie Royal scored three touchdowns against them week 2. Bowe has started slow with just four catches in each of the Chiefs two wins for a total of 86 yards and a touchdown. His matchup makes him a solid WR2 this week though.
13. Vincent Jackson-Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jackson hasn’t found the end zone but has 231 yards in the first two weeks with double-digit targets from Josh Freeman. Jackson was able to manage 77 yards even though Freeman threw for just 125 and had a long TD called back which would have made his day even bigger. V-Jax is a great WR2 as the Bucs take on New England at Gillette this Sunday.
14. Larry Fitzgerald-Arizona Cardinals
Fitzgerald disappeared late last week with a hamstring injury but said there’s no question he’ll play Sunday against the Saints. New Orleans secondary is in the top ten after holding the Bucs and Saints to 392 combined yards. I still think Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer have solid weeks in what should be a high-scoring game at the Superdome.
15. Reggie Wayne-Indianapolis Colts
Wayne had a quiet week against the Dolphins but was still targeted eight times. This week he and the Colts face the tough 49ers defense, but Aaron Rodgers was able to move the ball against San Francisco so Wayne is still a WR2, in my opinion.
16. Pierre Garcon-Washington Redskins
Garcon had a monster week 2 against the Packers catching eight passes for 143 yards and a score. He’s been targeted 11 or more times in the first two games of the season and the Redskins defense has struggled to the point that every game will need to be a shootout. RG3 definitely throws it his way more than any other option, so I expect Garcon’s numbers to improve as Griffin and the ‘Skins offense get back in the groove.
17. Marques Colston-New Orleans Saints
Colston and the Saints host the Cardinals who got beat by Calvin Johnson last week. Colston’s numbers haven’t been huge, but he’s a solid, reliable option and Drew Brees will get him the ball keeping him a WR2 throughout the season.
18. Jordy Nelson-Green Bay Packers
Even though James Jones had a huge day, it was Nelson who found the end zone twice while hauling in three catches for 66 yards. He has a total of 196 yards and three scores in the first two weeks of the season and is a better option than James Jones this week against the Bengals.
19. Torrey Smith-Baltimore Ravens
Smith was targeted 13 times by Joe Flacco last week against the Browns finishing with 85 yards on seven catches. Ray Rice may be out this week and the Ravens will need to make plays against the Texans secondary, so look for Smith to get enough work to make him a WR2.
20. DeAndre Hopkins-Houston Texans
Hopkins is a great WR2 play as he and the Texans face the Ravens. Andre Johnson had a concussion last week opening the door for a breakout performance for the rookie from Clemson who caught seven passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. If Johnson can’t play Sunday against the Titans, look for Hopkins to go off.
Honorable Mention: Steve Smith-Carolina Panthers, Miles Austin-Dallas Cowboys, Josh Gordon-Cleveland Browns, Julian Edelman-New England Patriots, Mike Wallace-Miami Dolphins