clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2021 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings: Chase Claypool poised for breakout season

Looking at the top WRs in fantasy football for 2021. We will break down the best values, biggest busts, and deepest sleepers so that you are ready for your fantasy drafts.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

By far the deepest position in fantasy football, wide receiver is a position that you can find a starter at just about any point in your draft. I have been asked multiple times about the 0RB strategy, which seems to be gaining popularity in fantasy circles, and I just cannot get on board with it. The biggest reason why I am not a fan is because this position is incredibly deep.

In the 0RB strategy, you basically draft a bunch of wide receivers early on and wait to draft a running back until the middle rounds. I can understand why some would consider a receiving corps that includes, say, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, and D.K. Metcalf a positive thing, but if you play your starts and sits correctly, you can get solid production from mid to late round receivers. When it comes to running backs, there are only a few surefire workhorse backs, and those players are all gone by the second or third round. You cannot find a serviceable running back in the tenth round like you can receiver.

Today, we are going to rank the top 40 receivers in both PPR and non-PPR formats, and I will share with you my best values at the position, breaking down why I think those players are poised for breakout seasons. If you have any fantasy football questions or comments, especially when it comes to the Steelers’ receivers, put them in the comment section down below.

But without further adieu, let’s get the rankings!

2021 Fantasy Football Rankings (non-PPR)

1. Tyreek Hill (Bye: 12)

NFL: Super Bowl LV-Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Feb 7, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) runs the ball against Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (23) during the third quarter of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I understand why many people have Davante Adams here with Aaron Rodgers back, but I like the upside of Hill slightly better. Hill has been less injury prone than Adams over the past few years, and his usage will only go up in 2021. With Sammy Watkins out of the picture, Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson are the only receivers that could potentially see substantial targets. Travis Kelce will get his share of targets as well, but Hill still brings the most bang for your buck at the receiver position.

2. Davante Adams (Bye: 13)

I was quite low on Adams before Aaron Rodgers decided to return, but with Rodgers back in the fold, Adams should be considered a top three fantasy receiver regardless of format. He will still be one of the most heavily targeted receivers in football, but the additions of Amari Rodgers and former Packer Randall Cobb will hopefully draw at least a little attention from the defense and make Adams’ job easier.

3. Calvin Ridley (Bye: 6)

Many fantasy experts have dropped Ridley down their rankings ever since Julio Jones was traded, but Ridley was the hottest receiver in fantasy football while Julio Jones was out last season. He may not be the most explosive receiver in the world, but he gets open and makes tough catches. Kyle Pitts will have a major role in this offense, but Ridley will easily lead this team in receiving due to the boatload of targets he is going to see this year. He is the perfect combination of high floor and relatively high ceiling.

4. DeAndre Hopkins (Bye: 12)

Another year with Kyler Murray in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense should mean better chemistry and a better understanding of the playbook this season. Hopkins made his presence felt in 2020, but defenses can no longer focus solely on stopping him, as the additions of A.J. Green and Rondale Moore will likely keep opposing defenses on their toes. The less that Hopkins is double and triple teamed, the better.

5. Stefon Diggs (Bye: 12)

I expected Diggs and Allen to need a year to develop chemistry, but they proved me wrong last season. Gabriel Davis, Emmanuel Sanders, and Cole Beasley are all serviceable players, but none of them will demand a ton of volume. The Bills also passed on a running back early in the draft. I am a big fan of Zack Moss, but until their running game can prove its worth, they will be throwing early and often. Don’t expect Diggs to have the same numbers he did last year, but he is still in good position to have another successful season.

6. A.J. Brown (Bye: 13)

Even with the addition of Julio Jones, A.J. Brown is clearly the number one option in this offense. I expect Julio to eat a lot of the targets left by Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis, but Brown should not see any downtick in production whatsoever. This offense will always run through Derrick Henry, but let’s not forget that they are one of the most efficient passing offenses in football. If Brown falls to the end of the second round, he will bring excellent value to the owner that drafts him.

7. Justin Jefferson (Bye: 7)

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 20, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) runs with the ball during the third quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Jefferson was playing as well as any receiver in football during the second half of last season, and fantasy owners should expect that momentum to carry over into this season. Irv Smith should soak up most of the targets that Kyle Rudolph left, but as Adam Thielen continues to get older, they will likely depend on Jefferson more and more each season.

8. Allen Robinson, Jr. (Bye: 10)

The most notable quarterbacks that Robinson has played with during his career include Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Mitch Trubisky, and for a short time, Nick Foles. No matter who is the starting quarterback for the Bears, it will be the best quarterback play that Robinson has dealt with. Darnell Mooney is the only other receiver who could steal a ton of targets, so expect Chicago’s starting quarterback to get Robinson the ball often.

9. Robert Woods (Bye: 11)

I have never been a Jared Goff fan, and I think NFL fans underestimate the talent of Matthew Stafford. Different regimes prioritized getting Stafford more weapons or linemen while other regimes prioritized the defense. Needless to say, the organization never put a truly good all-around team on the field during Stafford’s tenure. With a coach that actually knows how to put his quarterback in good position, I expect Stafford and this entire Rams offense to take off, and Robert Woods would benefit from this more than any other receiver.

10. Keenan Allen (Bye: 7)

Allen was already a target monster, but with Hunter Henry out of the picture, I expect his role to increase even more. Justin Herbert developed a good rapport with Allen last season, and Herbert should have more time to throw this season with an improved offensive line. No other receiver or tight end on the roster really scares me when it comes to eating targets, and Austin Ekeler can only do so much as a running back. Allen is a terrific fourth round pick in ten team leagues and a solid third round pick in twelve or fourteen team leagues.

11. D.K. Metcalf (Bye: 9)

I love Metcalf’s big play ability and overall potential, but the addition of Dwayne Eskridge will only take away opportunities from Metcalf. Pete Carroll has also said that they want to run the ball even more in 2021. Metcalf has the ceiling to be the top receiver in fantasy football on any given week, but if Seattle truly commits to the run game even more, Metcalf may struggle to get a ton of targets week in and week out.

12. Terry McLaurin (Bye: 9)

Scary Terry is still the top option in this offense, but the additions of Dyami Brown and Curtis Samuel could take away a few of his targets. Logan Thomas could also play a factor, as Mike Gesicki was a top ten tight end in 2020 when Ryan FItzpatrick was the quarterback. I still expect McLaurin to be efficient with the targets he receives, but I am just not sure what his ceiling is with a potentially lighter workload. He is not my favorite option, but if he falls to the fourth round of your draft, I would be okay taking him there.

13. Chase Claypool (Bye: 7)

NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Jan 10, 2021; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool (11) catches a touchdown pass against Cleveland Browns cornerback Robert Jackson (34) in the fourth quarter of an AFC Wild Card playoff game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This is a higher ranking of Claypool than you will see just about anywhere. I am not trying to be biased here, but I believe that Chase Claypool could be the best receiver the Steelers have had since Antonio Brown. His big-play ability coupled with his huge frame makes him a guy who can not only win contested catches down the field, but also win in the red zone. Let’s not forget that he did not have a normal offseason his rookie year. Having a full offseason and a more creative offensive coordinator should only help Claypool’s cause in 2021.

14. CeeDee Lamb (Bye: 7)
15. Mike Evans (Bye: 9)

16. Diontae Johnson (Bye: 7)

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Jan 3, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) catches a pass as Cleveland Browns cornerback Robert Jackson (34) defends during the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

If you are in a PPR league, you should give serious thought to taking Diontae Johnson as early as the fourth round. He is not quite as valuable in non-PPR, but his ability after the catch still makes him worthy of at least a fifth round pick. Ben Roethlisberger will give him plenty of looks, as he is still longing for an explosive receiver that can run good routes and get open. He has not had a guy like that since Antonio Brown, and Johnson is the closest thing Ben has had since. Just like you could say for any of the receivers, the new offensive system should only help Johnson, as there will likely be more plays in the playbook than the same two yard routes over and over.

17. Ja’Marr Chase (Bye: 10)
18. Julio Jones (Bye: 13)
19. Michael Pittman, Jr. (Bye: 14)
20. Robby Anderson (Bye: 13)

I have begun to warm up on CeeDee Lamb, but I am worried about his overall target share with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup still in the fold. Evans’ biggest issue is target share as well. Chase and Pittman are difficult to predict, but I expect their roles to be massive in 2021. Julio should see a decent amount of targets in Tennessee, but he needs to stay healthy and find relevance in the red zone all season long. Even though Terrace Marshall and D.J. Moore will see a decent amount of targets, I like the chemistry that Darnold has with Anderson from their days in New York.

21. Cooper Kupp (Bye: 11)
22. DeVonta Smith (Bye: 14)
23. Courtland Sutton (Bye: 11)
24. Chris Godwin (Bye: 9)
25. Brandon Aiyuk (Bye: 6)
26. D.J. Moore (Bye: 13)
27. Kenny Golladay (Bye: 10)
28. Adam Thielen (Bye: 7)
29. Antonio Brown (Bye: 9)
30. Amari Cooper (Bye: 7)

Goff and Kupp just seemed to click when playing together, and I am not positive he will be the same player with Stafford at quarterback. However, until TuTu Atwell and Van Jefferson prove their worth in this offense, Kupp is clearly the number two option in the Rams’ passing attack. Smith is still working his way back from an MCL sprain, but he will get his share of targets from Jalen Hurts, who had experience playing with Smith at Alabama.

Sutton was on the verge of a breakout season before his injury last year, but he still brings value as a legitimate red zone weapon. Godwin and Moore are both excellent over the middle of the field, but how far back in line are they for targets in their respective offenses? First? Second? Third? Because of the uncertainty, I am not as high on them as many experts are. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel are very similar players and both bring a level of injury concern. I do think that the level of concern is slightly lower for Aiyuk, however. Thus, he gets a slight edge on his teammate.

31. Deebo Samuel (Bye: 6)
32. Jerry Jeudy (Bye: 11)
33. Tee Higgins (Bye: 10)
34. Darnell Mooney (Bye: 10)
35. Elijah Moore (Bye: 6)

36. JuJu Smith-Schuster (Bye: 7)

NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Jan 10, 2021; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) runs away from Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Mack Wilson (51) in the fourth quarter of an AFC Wild Card playoff game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

JuJu Smith-Schuster has been nothing but reliable for the Steelers over the past couple seasons, but his ceiling in fantasy football is definitely the most limited of the top three receivers for Pittsburgh. Although JuJu is the best third down receiver on this team, he does not have the quickness of Diontae Johnson, nor does he have the size of Chase Claypool. He is dangerous coming across the field and making the tough catches in tight coverage, however, and Ben Roethlisberger appreciates receivers with that ability. There is a pretty safe floor with JuJu, but if the Steelers focus more on the run, and if either Chase Claypool or Diontae Johnson break out into a true number one receiver, he will see fewer targets than in years past. If that happens, it will limit his overall ceiling, regardless of format.

37. Tyler Boyd (Bye: 10)
38. Amon-Ra St. Brown (Bye: 9)
39. Jaylen Waddle (Bye: 14)
40. Tyler Lockett (Bye: 9)

If you want to take a chance on a couple rookie receivers, I really like what I see from both Elijah Moore and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Moore has been impressing in camp, and Denzel Mims, who was expected to be the starter opposite Corey Davis, had food poisoning this summer and is still working his way back. Moore has been nicked up a little over the past month, but he could very well be New York’s leading receiver this year if he can remain healthy.

As for St. Brown, he is going to see a ton of targets, more than what most rookies drafted ahead of him will see. The Lions have the worst receiving corps in the league, and somebody not named T.J. Hockenson is going to have to catch a lot of balls. Not only does St. Brown have the talent to become the Lions’ leading receiver, but the Lions will also be losing in most games, which means that they will have to throw the ball more often than not in the second half. The opportunities will be there, and I think St. Brown will be up to the challenge.

2021 Fantasy Football Rankings (PPR)

Syndication: PackersNews
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) against Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (24) during the NFC Championship game on Sunday, January 24, 2021, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-W via Imagn Content Services, LLC

1. Tyreek Hill (Bye: 12)
2. Davante Adams (Bye: 13)
3. Calvin Ridley (Bye: 6)
4. Stefon Diggs (Bye: 7)
5. DeAndre Hopkins (Bye: 12)
6. A.J. Brown (Bye: 13)
7. Justin Jefferson (Bye: 7)
8. Keenan Allen (Bye: 7)
9. Allen Robinson, Jr. (Bye: 10)
10. Terry McLaurin (Bye: 9)
11. Robert Woods (Bye: 11)
12. D.K. Metcalf (Bye: 9)
13. Mike Evans (Bye: 9)
14. Chase Claypool (Bye: 7)
15. Diontae Johnson (Bye: 7)
16. CeeDee Lamb (Bye: 7)
17. Ja’Marr Chase (Bye: 10)
18. Cooper Kupp (Bye: 11)
19. Julio Jones (Bye: 13)
20. DeVonta Smith (Bye: 14)
21. Chris Godwin (Bye: 9)
22. Courtland Sutton (Bye: 11)
23. Michael Pittman, Jr. (Bye: 14)
24. Brandon Aiyuk (Bye: 6)
25. Robby Anderson (Bye: 13)
26. D.J. Moore (Bye: 13)
27. Adam Thielen (Bye: 7)
28. Kenny Golladay (Bye: 10)
29. Amari Cooper (Bye: 7)
30. JuJu Smith-Schuster (Bye: 7)
31. Deebo Samuel (Bye: 6)
32. Jerry Jeudy (Bye: 11)
33. Antonio Brown (Bye: 9)
34. Tee Higgins (Bye: 10)
35. Darnell Mooney (Bye: 10)
36. Amon-Ra St. Brown (Bye: 9)
37. Elijah Moore (Bye: 6)
38. Michael Thomas (Bye: 6)
39. Brandin Cooks (Bye: 10)
40. Jaylen Waddle (Bye: 14)

If you want the latest fantasy news, notes, and recommendations each week, listen to BTSC’s new podcast, The Steelers Fantasy Football Fix, hosted by Jeremy Betz. You can listen to his episode on wide receivers in the player below.

But what do you think of these rankings? Who is rated too high or too low? Which Steelers receiver do you trust the most in fantasy football? Light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things black and gold!