The Week 17 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Jan. 3, at 1 p.m. ET.
In this piece, I highlight wide receivers who stand out in our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically our FantasyLabs Models. While the Models are built for daily contests, this is an all-purpose fantasy article with actionable information for all formats.
Week 17 is heavy on news: Within the overall playoff picture, some teams are highly motivated while other teams are likely to rest starters. It’s probable that some players at the top of our Models and rankings early in the week will be much lower by the weekend.
As news breaks and we adjust our projections, where players rate in our Models will change. For updates, visit the Models directly.
New NFL DFS Trial Offer: Try our new football subscription for $4.95 and get access to our industry-leading tools and projections.
Top Wide Receivers in the FantasyLabs Models
There are seven wide receivers atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek), Ryan Hodge and I have constructed.
Here’s where they place within our Week 17 fantasy football rankings (as of Thursday morning).
- Davante Adams: No. 1 (PPR) | No. 1 (Half PPR) | No. 1 (STD)
- D.K. Metcalf: No. 9 (PPR) | No. 8 (Half PPR) | No. 6 (STD)
- Jerry Jeudy: No. 37 (PPR) | No. 37 (Half PPR) | No. 32 (STD)
- Gabriel Davis: No. 66 (PPR) | No. 63 (Half PPR) | No. 62 (STD)
- Josh Reynolds: No. 68 (PPR) | No. 69 (Half PPR) | No. 70 (STD)
- Jalen Guyton: No. 69 (PPR) | No. 67 (Half PPR) | No. 66 (STD)
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling: No. 73 (PPR) | No. 71 (Half PPR) | No. 68 (STD)
Of these seven, the two who stand out most to me are Adams and Davis. The other guys I will highlight as needed in the section on players with week-winning upside.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
For more in-depth NFL analysis, check out The Action Network.
Davante Adams: Green Bay Packers (-5) at Chicago Bears (52 Over/Under)
Let’s start with what’s obviously most important: I’m betting on the Packers this weekend.
I’m a pretty simple person: I like to bet on quarterbacks who win, and Rodgers wins.
For his career, he’s 117-84-5 against the spread (ATS), good for an A-graded 13.9% return on investment (ROI, per our Bet Labs database).
And he has been especially dominant against the NFC North, going 45-27 ATS (22.4% ROI) within the division. You can bet on this game at FanDuel.
At first look, Adams doesn’t have a good matchup with the Bears, who are No. 9 with a 0.1% pass-defense DVOA (per Football Outsiders). Opposing receiver units are No. 28 in the league with just 20.5 fantasy points per game on 176-2,283-13 receiving.
But the Bears are dealing with significant injury situations at cornerback: Starters Jaylon Johnson (shoulder) and Buster Skrine (concussion) have missed the past two and three games, and neither one practiced on Wednesday this week. I’m skeptical they will play against the Packers, and in their absence, No. 1 wide receivers Justin Jefferson (8-104-0, 11 targets) and D.J. Chark (4-62-1, seven targets) both had strong performances in Weeks 15-16.
While Adams is likely to line up most against starter Kyle Fuller, the Packers do move him all across the formation, so if Johnson and Skrine are out then Adams will almost certainly run 40-65% of his routes against backups Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley.
Vildor is a fifth-round rookie with 74 coverage snaps to his name and a touchdown yielded in each of his two starts. Shelley is a sixth-round second-year special-teamer who has allowed an 82.4% catch rate as the team’s primary slot defender over the past three weeks.
Both players are highly exploitable. Against the Bears in Week 12, Adams was 6-61-1 receiving on nine targets — and now they will likely be down two corners.
As I’ve said since the beginning of the season, Adams is the NFL’s best wide receiver. In the words of Carly Simon, “Nobody does it better.”
In the post-Jordy Nelson era, Adams has been exceptional: Since 2018, he has been the NFL’s most reliably productive wide receiver on a per-game basis (including postseason).
- Fantasy Production: 22.5 PPR points (1st) | 14.8 STD points (1st)
- Football Production: 7.6 receptions (2nd) | 95.5 yards (2nd) | 0.88 touchdowns (1st)
Over the past three seasons, Adams is No. 1 with 11.0 targets per game.
On a per-snap basis, he has been a top-five producer (per Pro Football Focus).
- 2020 (13 games): 0.47 PPR points (1st) | 0.32 standard points (1st)
- 2019 (14 games): 0.34 PPR points (2nd) | 0.21 standard points (5th)
- 2018 (15 games): 0.34 PPR points (3rd) | 0.23 standard points (4th)
This year he is No. 1 with 3.01 yards per route. Last year, he was No. 2 with 2.61.
Even though Adams played just half of Week 2, leaving the game early with a hamstring injury that sidelined him through the Week 5 bye, Adams is still Nos. 1 & 3 at the position with 19.5 expected fantasy points and 143.3 air yards and yards after the catch (AirYAC) per game.
AirYAC is a leading indicator of fantasy production and can be found in the RotoViz NFL Player Statistical Summary.
He’s No. 1 in the league with a 0.79 WOPR.
In his 12 full games this year, Adams is 106-1,292-17 receiving on 140 targets. For the year, Adams is No. 1 in Hayden Winks’ fantasy usage model.
This year, Adams has been a fantasy WR1 in 62% of his games (per RotoViz NFL Stat Explorer).
Baby, you’re the best.
Given that the Packers are playing for the No. 1 seed in the NFC and fully motivated to win, Adams is a strong pay-up play in DFS, especially in cash games. Adams leads all wide receivers in our Models with his median, ceiling and floor projections.
You can use our FantasyLabs Correlations Tool to research the overlapping production of receivers and passers, and over the past year Adams and Rodgers have a 0.56 correlation. For guaranteed prize pools, use our Lineup Builder to stack Adams with his quarterback.
Adams is the No. 1 wide receiver in the Bales, CSURAM88, Koerner, SportsGeek, Hodge and Freedman Models for FanDuel, where he has a position-high nine Pro Trends.
Gabriel Davis: Buffalo Bills (-1.5) vs. Miami Dolphins (44.5 O/U)
The investment thesis for Davis is straightforward.
- Slot receiver Cole Beasley (leg) is almost certain not to play after exiting Week 16 early.
- Wide receiver John Brown (COVID-19) might play this week but is still on the reserve list.
- No. 1 receiver Stefon Diggs might rest for part or all of the game given that the Bills cannot move up to the No. 1 seed.
In a worst-case scenario, Davis is likely to be the No. 3 wide receiver. In a best-case scenario, he will play as the No. 1 receiver for a supermajority of Week 17.
In his seven games this year without Brown (i.e. in his seven games as the No. 3 receiver for the Bills), Davis has certainly seen an increase in volume and production (per RotoViz Game Splits App).
And in his eight games with at least four targets, Davis has averaged 11.7 PPR and 8.3 STD points on 53.3 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game.
That production isn’t extraordinary, but it’s good for a rookie backup filling in as the No. 3 receiver while playing behind two guys in Diggs and Beasley having career-best campaigns.
A 21-year-old rookie with 8.6 yards per target, Davis certainly has potential and was criminally undervalued in 2020 rookie dynasty drafts. Here’s an excerpt of my post-draft writeup on Davis.
He’s young, big and adequately athletic, and he improved each year of college.
- 2017 (10 games): 27-391-4 receiving on 44 targets
- 2018 (12 games): 53-815-7 receiving on 92 targets
- 2019 (12 games): 72-1,241-12 receiving on 132 targets
Even though Davis isn’t a burner, he can get deep with his 13.6-yard average depth of target (per SIS), and despite playing outside at a mid-major school, he might be able to hang with NFL corners.
He put a show on against respected Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo last year, and in his two games against Power Five opponents last year, he was 14-214-3 receiving.
Davis is inconsistent, but he has upside. In the RV Prospect Box Score Scout, one of his five closest comps on the basis of draft position, physical profile and college production is JuJu Smith-Schuster.
One of his 10 most comparable players is Michael Thomas.
He doesn’t have a good matchup against the Dolphins, who are No. 6 with a -6.0% pass-defense DVOA, but as a cheap DFS option, Davis has a real chance to see the volume necessary to provide value.
Davis is the No. 1 receiver in the CSURAM88, Koerner and Freedman Models for DraftKings, where he has a position-high +4.71 Projected Plus/Minus.
Plus/Minus is a proprietary FantasyLabs metric that measures production adjusted for daily fantasy salary.
Wide Receivers With Week-Winning Upside
In this section, I highlight some wide receivers who I think will outperform expectations and whom I especially like as upside season-long and DFS tournament plays.
Calvin Ridley, Falcons (+6.5) at Buccaneers (50 O/U): No. 1 wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) is uncertain to play, and Ridley has gone off for an average of 114.9 yards on 11.0 targets across his seven career games without Jones. Ridley is No. 1 in the league with 160.1 AirYAC per game.
AirYAC (air yards + yards after catch) per game entering Week 17:
1. Ridley: 160.1 🏆
2. Hill: 144.9
3. Adams: 143.3
4. Diggs: 138.5
5. Metcalf: 134.1
6. McLaurin: 123.9
7. Kelce: 121.1
8. D.J. Moore: 120.9
9. Hopkins: 120.9
10. Jefferson: 115.0
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 31, 2020
Ridley was +9000 in May to lead the league in receiving: With 1,322 yards, he is still a live dog if he gets a few lucky breaks this week.
Stefon Diggs, Bills (-1.5) vs. Dolphins (44.5 O/U): In his first year with the Bills, Diggs has an NFL-high 120 receptions and 1,459 yards receiving. The Bills might rest starters because they cannot win the No. 1 seed, but if he plays Diggs could see a lot of work without slot receiver Cole Beasley (leg) and maybe wide receiver John Brown (COVID-19).
Justin Jefferson, Vikings (-6.5) at Lions (54 O/U): Since moving from the slot to the perimeter in Week 3, Jefferson is No. 3 in the league with 1,197 yards receiving. For the season, he’s No. 4 with 2.60 yards per route. Jefferson has had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time.
There’s only been three rookie WRs ever to have 10+ YPT on 100 or more targets.
Those three are
Justin Jefferson – 11.21
Randy Moss – 10.59
Odell Beckham Jr. – 10.04
Justin Jefferson is having one of the best rookie WR seasons ever.
— Dalton Kates (@DaltonGuruFF) December 30, 2020
Jefferson is just 111 yards away from breaking Anquan Boldin’s rookie record of 1,377 receiving yards.
Adam Thielen, Vikings (-6.5) at Lions (54 O/U): Since returning from injury in Week 13, Thielen has been the clear No. 2 option in the receiving game behind Justin Jefferson.
- Justin Jefferson (4 games): 27-349-1, 41 targets | 517 AirYAC
- Adam Thielen (4 games): 21-222-3, 27 targets | 299 AirYAC
But Thielen has 14 touchdowns receiving in 14 games thanks to his NFL-high 19 end-zone targets. The Lions are No. 32 with a 29.4 coverage grade and at cornerback are without No. 1 cover man Desmond Trufant (hamstring, IR) and No. 3 overall pick Jeffrey Okudah (shoulder, IR).
D.K. Metcalf, Seahawks (-6) at 49ers (46 O/U): The 49ers might be without starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman (calf) and K’Waun Williams (shin), and the Seahawks have a shot at the No. 1 seed with a win, so Metcalf should play his full allotment of snaps. Metcalf is just 22-243-1 receiving on 30 targets over the past month as the Seahawks have shifted back to a run-focused offense, but Metcalf is still just one of three wide receivers this season (along with Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill) with a 1,000-10 stat line.
A.J. Brown, Titans (-7.5) at Texans (56 O/U): The Titans have a slate-high 32-point implied Vegas total, and in quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s 25 regular-season starts with the Titans, the over is 20-4-1 (61.5% ROI). You can bet on this game at DraftKings.
Since his 2019 rookie season, Brown is No. 1 in the league with 11.0 yards per target. The Texans are No. 29 with a 26.2% pass-defense DVOA and seem likely to be without cornerbacks Bradley Roby (suspension), Phillip Gaines (knee/shoulder) and Eric Murray (COVID-19).
Brandin Cooks, Texans (+7.5) vs. Titans (56 O/U): This is an obligatory reminder that Cooks is now the No. 1 receiver for the Texans in the absence of Will Fuller (suspension), Randall Cobb (toe, IR) and Kenny Stills (release). In his 10 games since the firing of head coach Bill O’Brien, Cooks is 60-846-4 receiving on a team-high 82 targets, and he’s just 16 yards away from securing his fifth 1,000-yard campaign in six seasons. The Titans are No. 30 with a 26.7% pass-defense DVOA.
Robert Woods, Rams (+3) vs. Cardinals (40.5 O/U): The entire Rams pass offense is likely to suffer in the absence of quarterback Jared Goff (thumb), but Woods might enjoy extra target volume without slot receiver Cooper Kupp (COVID-19). In three matchups with cornerback Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals since last year, Woods is 30-324-1 receiving on 41 targets.
Corey Davis, Titans (-7.5) at Texans (56 O/U): The difference between Davis and second-year superstar A.J. Brown has been minimal this season.
- A.J. Brown (13 games): 60-922-10 receiving
- Corey Davis (13 games): 60-945-4 receiving
OK, five touchdowns is a big difference — but touchdowns are rather random, and Davis has been much more efficient (11.7 yards per target vs. 9.7). Davis is the Arbitrage Brown. He has an A-plus matchup with perimeter cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Keion Crossen.
D.J. Moore, Panthers (+6.5) vs. Saints (47.5 O/U): My best friend Calvin Ridley might disagree with me …
— CALVIN RIDLEY (@CalvinRidley1) December 24, 2020
… but Moore is one of the league’s best young receivers. He’s just eight yards away from becoming the seventh player in NFL history two 1,100-yard receiving seasons before the age of 24. The others on the list: Randy Moss (3), Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks and David Boston (2). Over his past four games Moore is a team-best 22-356-0 receiving with a 29% target share and an obscene 147.3 AirYAC per game.
Emmanuel Sanders, Saints (-6.5) at Panthers (47.5 O/U): No. 1 wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle, IR) and slot receiver Tre’Quan Smith (ankle, IR) are out, so Sanders could lead the Saints in targets. Without Thomas, Sanders is a respectable 8-159-0 receiving over the past two games. The Panthers have used cornerback Donte Jackson in shadow coverage for the past two weeks, but that’s not much of a deterrent. For his career, Jackson has allowed 8.9 yards per target.
Curtis Samuel, Panthers (+6.5) vs. Saints (47.5 O/U): Running backs Christian McCaffrey (thigh) and Mike Davis (ankle) almost certainly won’t play, and wide receiver Robby Anderson (groin) didn’t practice on Wednesday and is uncertain for this weekend, so Samuel could see massive surge in usage as both a runner and receiver. Coming off a career-best 5-106-0 receiving and 7-52-0 rushing performance last week, Samuel is just 70 yards away from his first 1,000-yard season. He’s in full Percy Harvin mode.
CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys (-1.5) at Giants (45 O/U): The winner of this game will be the NFC East champion if Washington loses on Sunday Night Football, so all Cowboys starters should see their usual playing time. Even without quarterback Dak Prescott (ankle) for most of the season, Lamb has 971 yards and six touchdowns from scrimmage on the season, and he has a good matchup against fourth-round rookie slot cornerback Darnay Holmes (knee), who is returning from injury and has allowed an 80.0% catch rate.
Sterling Shepard, Giants (+1.5) vs. Cowboys (45 O/U): Since returning from injury in Week 7, Shepard is a team-high 50-468-2 receiving on 70 targets, and he could see extra targets and more snaps in the interior without slot receiver Golden Tate (calf) who missed last week as well as Wednesday practice this week. Opposing receiver units are No. 2 in the league against the Cowboys with 28.7 fantasy points per game on 190-2,621-25 receiving.
Marvin Jones, Lions (+6.5) vs. Vikings (54 O/U): Quarterback Matthew Stafford (rib/thumb) is unlikely to play, so Jones is a speculative option, but since Kenny Golladay (hip) suffered a seemingly season-ending injury in Week 8, Jones is 49-572-6 receiving in nine games with a team-high 22% market share and 119.0 AirYAC per game. Receiver units are No. 5 against the Vikings with 27.1 fantasy points per game on 191-2,614-21 receiving.
Jamison Crowder, Jets (+3) vs. Patriots (40 O/U): In his 20 games with quarterback Sam Darnold over the past two seasons, Crowder has been the best version of himself.
Since Darnold returned from injury in Week 12, Crowder is a team-high 23-243-3 receiving with a 27% target share.
Tee Higgins, Bengals (+13) vs. Ravens (44.5 O/U): The Ravens could be without starting cornerbacks Marcus Peters (calf), Jimmy Smith (ribs/shoulder) and Marlon Humphrey (knee/shoulder), and Higgins could see extra targets if slot receiver Tyler Boyd misses a second consecutive game. Since his Week 3 breakout, Higgins is a team-best 64-873-6 receiving on 100 with a team-high 113.6 AirYAC per game.
So I woke up today, had a medium-sized cup of decaf coffee, did some jumping jacks and pushups, and then finally, while sitting down to write a fantasy article, looked at some stats and said:
“Tee Higgins is the WR1 in Cincinnati, and A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd aren’t.”
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) October 22, 2020
This tweet is true now more than ever.
Michael Gallup, Cowboys (-1.5) at Giants (45 O/U): It might sound ridiculous to say, but last season Gallup — not Amari Cooper — was the No. 1 receiver for the Cowboys, besting the ballyhooed receiver in targets (8.0 vs. 7.4), target share (22% vs. 21%), yards receiving (79.1 vs. 74.3) and AirYAC (122.4 vs. 108.1). And since Week 6, in the 10 games this year without quarterback Dak Prescott (ankle), Gallup has once again led the receiver unit in the metrics that tend to correlate with fantasy success.
- Michael Gallup: 20% market share | 7.0 targets | 87.2 AirYAC | 0.49 WOPR
- Amari Cooper: 19% market share | 6.6 targets | 82.8 AirYAC | 0.44 WOPR
- CeeDee Lamb: 18% market share | 6.3 targets | 77.2 AirYAC | 0.44 WOPR
Over the past month, Gallup’s usage has finally transformed itself into production: He is a team-best 18-256-4 receiving on 30 targets since Week 13.
Mecole Hardman, Chiefs (+3.5) vs. Chargers (44 O/U): The Chiefs are likely to rest most of their key starters, so Hardman could get extended playing time with … checks notes … quarterback Chad Henne. If not now, when?
Jerry Jeudy, Broncos (+2) vs. Raiders (51 O/U): In the four games since the unfortunate Week 12 “Kendall Hinton” incident, Jeudy is just 10-127-0 receiving, but last week he did see an unholy 15 targets, and for the year he has a team–high 109.6 AirYAC per game. Jeudy has an exploitable matchup with rookie cornerback Damon Arnette, who has allowed 13.1 yards per target with an 83.9% catch rate.
Darius Slayton, Giants (+1.5) vs. Cowboys (45 O/U): Without slot receiver Golden Tate (calf), Slayton saw eight targets last week, and Tate is uncertain for this weekend. Against the Cowboys in Week 5, Slayton was a season-high 8-129-0 receiving on 11 targets.
Tim Patrick, Broncos (+2) vs. Raiders (51 O/U): Since returning from injury in Week 9, Patrick has outproduced No. 1 receiver Jerry Jeudy.
- Tim Patrick (8 games): 26-342-4 receiving | 8.1 yards per target
- Jerry Jeudy (8 games): 24-357-1 receiving | 6.1 yards per target
The Raiders are No. 30 with a 35.0 PFF coverage grade.
A.J. Green, Bengals (+13) vs. Ravens (44.5 O/U): And now a few words from Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
This might be the last game Green ever plays for the Bengals. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Josh Reynolds, Rams (+3) vs. Cardinals (40.5 O/U): Slot receiver Cooper Kupp (COVID-19) is out, so Reynolds could see extra targets. In his eight games this year with five-plus targets, Reynolds has been serviceable.
Reynolds had season-best usage last week with 10 targets and a rush attempt.
Richie James, 49ers (+6) vs. Seahawks (46 O/U): Wide receivers Deebo Samuel (hamstring) and Brandon Aiyuk (ankle) are out, so James might operate as the top perimeter receiver for the 49ers. In his one previous game without both Samuel and Aiyuk this year, James was an electric 9-184-1 receiving on 13 targets in Week 9. For his career, James has an elite 11.5 yards per target.
The Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, Freedman is commonly called the Oracle & the Labyrinthian.
Pictured above: Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers
Photo credit: Quinn Harris/Getty Images