Fantasy Football Preview: Wide Receivers

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Calvin Johnson

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been playing fantasy football for about eight years now, and this is the first year I’ve officially posted rankings and tiers for the various positions. It’s been one of the most rewarding (and challenging) things I’ve ever done in my fantasy career. It really forces you to do your homework and will best prepare you for your upcoming drafts. I’ve already previewed the quarterback and running back position, and without further ado, I present to you my wide receiver tiers and rankings.

Elite

1. Calvin Johnson
2. Demaryius Thomas
3. A.J. Green
4. Dez Bryant
5. Julio Jones

An argument can be made that Johnson deserves a tier of his own, and I don’t blame you. Three straight seasons of 150+ targets, and the touchdowns came back last season. He was the number three wide receiver last year and quite often he was playing hurt…Last year it was Peyton Manning who set records. This year with Eric Decker gone, it’s Thomas’s turn…If Andy Dalton wants to show the contract extension he got wasn’t a mistake, he’s going to have to throw to Green. A a lot…The offense is going to have to score a ton of points to keep the Cowboys in games, and Bryant will benefit…Jones was on pace for a monster fantasy season before going down with foot injuries. With veteran TE Tony Gonzalez gone, look for Jones to be in the race as the top WR at the end of the year…

 

Jordy Nelson

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Near Elite

6. Jordy Nelson
7. Brandon Marshall
8. Alshon Jeffery
9. Randall Cobb
10. Antonio Brown

Nelson was on pace for 1,500+ yards and nine touchdowns when Aaron Rodgers was healthy…Marshall’s been the epitome of consistency since him and Jay Cutler teamed up in Chicago. He’s been a top-11 wide receiver each of the last three seasons…Two Chicago WRs in the top 10? If you’re playing in OC Marc Trestman’s offense, fantasy points will be aplenty…It’s a contract year for Cobb, who is the Packers’ swiss-army knife. If he’s healthy, he’s a lock for 100 receptions…We probably saw the ceiling for Brown last season. He’ll still get his share of receptions, but I expect that TD total (8) to drop…

 

Michael Floyd

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Not Sexy, but Will Get the Job Done

11. Larry Fitzgerald
12. Vincent Jackson
13. Roddy White
14. Michael Crabtree
15. Andre Johnson
16. Pierre Garcon
17. Keenan Allen
18. Wes Welker
19. Michael Floyd
20. Torrey Smith

Fitz was a little boom or bust last season, but it’s Year Two of Bruce Arians’ offense in Arizona, which means nothing but good news for Fitz and Floyd…You know what you’re going to get with Jackson: someone who can score 20 on any given week, or two. I don’t recommend drafting him as your WR1, but if you surround him with solid picks, you can live with the bust weeks…When White was healthy, he was a monster for the Falcons. After struggling through the majority of the season, he put up 61 fantasy points in his last five contests…Crabtree is the key piece to the 49ers’ passing game, and I fully expect this year to be his breakout season…Johnson is disgruntled in Houston (who wouldn’t be), but that shouldn’t keep you from drafting him. He’s had 80 receptions and 1,200 yards in each season since 2008 except for 2011…It concerns me that Garcon was only the 13th ranked WR last season despite leading the league in targets, but the volume should still be there, even with DeSean Jackson in town…Allen had a remarkably consistent rookie campaign. He’ll only continue to grow as a wide receiver in his second season…Welker isn’t as young as he used to be, but he still will see the field a ton in Manning’s offense. Question is, do he and Sanders split snaps from the slot…There was room for Wayne and Hilton in Arian’s offense, why not Floyd and Fitz? Just as OC Gary Kubiak did with the Texans, the Ravens are going to run to set up the pass. Who benefits most than Torrey Smith?

 

Cordarrelle Patterson

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

WR3s with Upside

21. Cordarrelle Patterson
22. DeSean Jackson
23. Victor Cruz
24. Jeremy Maclin
25. Emmanuel Sanders
26. Golden Tate
27. Terrance Williams
28. Julian Edelman
29. Reggie Wayne
30. Kendall Wright

Patterson may be a better special teams player at the moment, but if he can put it together on offense, watch out…RG3 still throws one of the prettiest deep balls, so if he and Jackson can build some chemistry, you’re looking at a guy who will vastly outperform his ADP…I don’t expect Cruz to put up very good numbers in new OC Ben McAdoo’s West Coast scheme. He’s one of the worst WRs when it comes to yards after the catch…Don’t hold your breath for Maclin to put up the numbers Jackson did last season, but there’s no doubt he’s got some serious upside…If Sanders isn’t delegated to splitting time in the slot with Welker, he’s going to get a lot of what Eric Decker left behind…Tate leaves an offense where he was very efficient, but didn’t have the volume to sustain fantasy production. That’s going to change in Detroit…Williams showed some flashes his rookie year. There’s no reason why it can’t continue in Year Two…Tom Brady is going to have to throw to someone right? With Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski almost guarnateed to get banged up at some point, Edelman will look to build on a strong 2013…Wayne looks great in training camp, and is a player that I’m targeting in all leagues. He’s the type of player who’s value wins you championships…If Wright had four more touchdowns last year, he would’ve finished the season as a top-20 WR…

Depth

32. Marques Colston
33. Mike Wallace
34. T.Y. Hilton
35. Eric Decker
36. Percy Harvin
37. Anquan Boldin
38. Dwayne Bowe

Late Round Fliers

39. Brandin Cooks
40. Rueben Randle
41. Jarrett Boykin
42. Kelvin Benjamin
43. Riley Cooper
44. Sammy Watkins
45. Doug Baldwin
46. Mike Evans
47. Kenny Stills
48. Harry Douglas
49. Jordan Matthews
50. Cecil Shorts

My Strategy: 

The wide receiver position is one of the deepest in fantasy, so I’m comfortable waiting. If I have a late draft pick in the first round, I’m probably going with someone in the elite tier, and then stocking up on RBs from Rounds 2-4, and then taking value and upside guys as my WR2. There are just so many guys who can outperform their ADPs, so there’s no reason not to wait on this position…

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