Wide Receivers-Deep as Ever

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The NFL has evolved from ground and pound to an all-out aerial assault.  Quarterbacks are throwing more than ever, and in turn, that has allowed wide receivers to have a ton of fantasy value.  Even in non-PPR leagues, the WR class is ridiculously deep with solid options.  There has been an influx of young WRs that have come into the league in the past few years, so as former stars like Andre Johnson succumb to age, replacements are already waiting in the wings.  Calvin Johnson is easily in a class by himself.  He only scored 5 TDs last year and still set an NFL record for receiving yards in a season.  It’s been well-documented how he was tackled inside the five yard line a handful of times last season, so if he goes back to getting 10+ TDs, it’s scary to think of what his numbers might look like.  Megatron is a solid first round pick in all formats, and I would even put him in my top 5 overall in PPR leagues.

After Calvin Johnson, I think there is a second tier of 4 WRs who may all produce similar stats.  I have Dez Bryant as my #2 ranked WR, as he produced a monster second half of last year.  I had him in my keeper league, and foolishly benched him in the championship game because of fears of his broken finger.  He scored in double digits yet again, while his replacement in my lineup (Victor Cruz), scored less than 5.  I lost the title by 1.5 points, so needless to say, I was fairly unhappy.  AJ Green has the tools to rival Calvin, but has been held back a little by the inconsistent play of Andy Dalton.  He started off hot last year, but cooled off towards the end of the season.  He is still an elite option at the position and should only get better going forward.  Julio Jones has as much upside as any WR in the league, but has been quite inconsistent during his brief career.  He would have monster games of 8 catches, 120 yards and 2 TDs, only to follow it up the next week with 3 catches for 30 yards.  If I am going to spend a high pick on an elite WR, I want consistency, which is why I have Brandon Marshall ranked ahead of him.  Marshall was basically Jay Cutler’s only viable target last year aside from Matt Forte, and he had a ridiculous number of targets.  He was an absolute gold mine in PPR, and that should continue to be the case in 2013.  He had minor offseason hip surgery, but has looked fine and should be no worse for the wear.  I think it might even help his cause that the Bears now have Martellus Bennet, as he is one more option for defenses to scheme for and that could take a little pressure off of Marshall.  I will be trying to land Marshall in all leagues, as he is basically a lock for around 6 catches and 80 yards a week.

Things get a little murky after the top five.  WRs 6-10 are fairly interchangeable, and I don’t see too much of a difference in any of them.  Normally, Demaryius Thomas would be the best of the bunch, but I think that the addition of Wes Welker will cause his numbers to drop slightly.  He won’t be a bust by any means, but there’s only one football to around, and Welker will command 90 targets of his own.  The one to keep an eye on is Larry Fitzgerald.  He was a perennial top-3 option until last year’s abomination known as the Cardinals QB situation.  While Carson Palmer is on the downside of his career, he is a much better option than anyone under center in Arizona last year.  I can easily see Fitzgerald recapturing most of his past fantasy glory, and if so, you may have a steal on your hands if he lasts until round three or four.  Roddy White is the model of consistency, even if he is starting to slow down a bit.  If you want to play it safe, he is another option.  He is a solid WR1 play, even if he is the second option in the passing game these days.

While he cost me my keeper league title last year, Victor Cruz still had a solid year.  I’ll gladly take 1,000 yards and 10 TDs as an “off” year.  You’d like to see a little more consistency, but you can say that about many of the WRs this year.  Dwayne Bowe has flashed big-time potential, but like Fitz, was the victim of awful QBs last year in Kansas City.  He is now playing with an above average QB in Alex Smith, so if that doesn’t help return him to a top-10 finish, I don’t know what will.  I have him as my #10 WR, but have seen him as low as 16 and as high as 7, so his value is all over the map right now.  I would be fine with him as my WR2.

Outside of the top ten, there are a ton of question marks.  Randall Cobb was electric last year, but I’d like to see another season of sustained production before putting him in the upper echelon of receivers.  Vincent Jackson has all of the talent in the world, but has been quite inconsistent and is a victim of the erratic performances of Josh Freeman.  Andre Johnson used to be the top receiver in the age, but age and injuries have seen him lose a step.  He was remarkably healthy last year, but I’m not confident that he stays healthy again this year.  He also has first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins taking some of his targets, and he could very well be the focal point of the passing game later in the season.  Hakeem Nicks, Danny Amendola and Pierre Garcon are constant injury risks.  All three are excellent fantasy options, but they never seem to stay healthy.  If I had to bet on one to stay healthy, I will go with Nicks.  He is in a contract year and having a monster season can be parlayed into a large contract.  Some of you may feel that I have Wes Welker ranked too low, but I just don’t see how he replicates his numbers in New England.  I think he will get 85 catches, for around 900 yards and 6 touchdowns.  In a non-PPR league, those aren’t elite numbers and I’d rather let someone else reach for him.  If it were a PPR setting, I would move him into my top twelve.

That wraps up another of my position overviews.  Next, I’ll discuss my thoughts on the tight end class, and then do a brief one on defenses and kickers.

 

Here are my top 20 WRs in a non-PPR setting.

  1. Calvin Johnson
  2. Dez Bryant
  3. AJ Green
  4. Brandon Marshall
  5. Julio Jones
  6. Larry Fitzgerald
  7. Demaryius Thomas
  8. Roddy White
  9. Victor Cruz
  10. Dwayne Bowe
  11. Randall Cobb
  12. Marques Colston
  13. Vincent Jackson
  14. Andre Johnson
  15. Danny Amendola
  16. Hakeem Nicks
  17. Reggie Wayne
  18. Pierre Garcon
  19. Wes Welker
  20. Torrey Smith

About Ryan Lewis

I've been participating in fantasy sports for almost a decade. I first started off doing only fantasy football and baseball, but soon grew to love fantasy basketball and hockey as well. For fantasy football, I've participated in a variety of leagues, such as standard, PPR, and auction over the years. In the past 5 years, I've even branched out to fantasy golf and fantasy NASCAR. I've been a die-hard San Francisco 49ers fan for 23 years, which has had many ups and downs.

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