In week 3 of Fantasy Fridays, we take a look at the wide receiver position. With the way teams spread the ball around in today's NFL, the wide receiver position has never been so valuable and deep in fantasy football. The good thing is, with most teams utilizing 3 wide receivers, you can find some solid contributors later in the draft and even on the free agency wire. As always, keep in mind, these rankings are done based on PPR scoring.
1. Calvin Johnson, Det
No other position group has such a clear cut top choice. Johnson has the size, speed, hands and power that cause a problem for every defense in the NFL and causes joy for every fantasy owner of Johnson. Over the last 3 seasons, Johnson has averaged 111.67 YPG, 6.57 Rec/g and .72 TD/g. Regardless of your league's scoring rules, that is a lot of points.
2. Demaryius Thomas, Den
No one has benefitted from Peyton Manning more than Demaryius Thomas. In his 2 seasons with Manning, Thomas has averaged 93 receptions, 1,432 yards and 12 TDs. The only concern with Thomas (as with any Manning weapon), is that if a defense wants to take him away, Manning will simply throw to someone else. In 2013 Thomas had 4 games with less than 60 yards receiving.
3. A.J. Green, Cin
Say what you want about his QB, Green has produced big number ever since he broke into the league. In his last two seasons, Green has averaged 11 TDs, 97.5 receptions and 1,388 yards. If the Bengals commit more to the run under Hue Jackson, that could cut in to Green's numbers, but not much.
4. Julio Jones, Atl
Like Green, Jones has excelled from day one in the NFL. Unlike Green, Jones has not been able to stay healthy - missed 3 games in his rookie year and 11 games in 2013. If healthy - a big concern since the Falcons have yet to clear him - Jones is a top flight WR. Prior to his foot injury in 2013, Jones was averaging 8.2 receptions and 116 YPG.
5. Dez Bryant, Dal
Few receivers are as physically gifted as Dez Bryant. Over the last two seasons, Bryant has played in all 16 games and averaged 12.5 TDs, 92.5 receptions and 1,307.50 yards. Those are top fantasy numbers. My concern with Bryant is in between his ears.
He loses concentration and drops easy balls and he is emotionally unstable. Big numbers are a given with Bryant, but when picking Bryant, it is a buyer beware. If he can't control himself, he may find himself missing games due to his attitude and players on the bench don't get points.
6. Antonio Brown, Pit
I love Brown as a WR and he is golden in a PPR league. In 2013, Brown had 110 receptions for 1,499 yards and 8 TDs. In fact, Brown had more yards than everyone but Josh Gordon and more receptions than anyone but Pierre Garcon. The beauty about a guy like Brown in a PPR league is the Steelers will use him in so many ways, oftentimes throwing him short easy passes (and easy FF points) as a substitute to a run play. Brown isn't a sexy pick, but he is a good one.
7. Brandon Marshall, Chi
In 2013, Marshall pulled in 100 receptions, 12 TDs and secured his 7th straight 1,000+ yard season (1,295). Marshall is another big physical receiver that is tough for DBs to matchup against and has great chemistry with Cutler. In his 7 years as a starter, Marshall has had 1,000+ yards every season, caught 10+ TDs three times and 100+ balls 5 times.
My only concern for Marshall is with the emergence of Alshon Jeffrey and the presence of other viable weapons around him (Forte and Bennett), he may see less targets in 2014.
8. Randall Cobb, GB
I love Cobb for the same reasons I like Brown - he is fast, quick, catches a lot of balls and is used in a lot of ways. Prior to breaking his foot in week 5, Cobb was averaging 10 targets/g, 81.25 YPG and was on pace for 93 catches, 8 TDs and 1,300 yards.
9. Vincent Jackson, TB
Jackson has fallen off a lot of radars since going to Tampa Bay, but in his two seasons there, he has averaged 75 receptions, 1,304 yards and 7.5 TDs...and that is with QB's of Josh Freeman and Mike Glennon (and a terrible NFL coach). Now with McCown at QB, Mike Evans on the opposite side and a healthy Doug Martin (and a real NFL coach), I expect a big year from Jackson.
10. Larry Fitzgerald, AZ
Speaking of guys that have fallen off the radar, Fitzgerald almost seemed forgotten over the past two seasons. In 2012, Fitzgerald was handcuffed by QB play (71 receptions, 798 yards and 4 TDs). While Palmer may not be Manning, Fitzgerald had a bounce back year with Palmer at QB (82 receptions, 954 yards and 10 TDs).
At age 30, the Fitzgerald of old may be too much to ask for, but in his second year with Palmer and some improved second year weapons (Ellington and Floyd), 90+ receptions, 8-10 TDs and 1,200+ yards for Fitzgerald seems obtainable.
11. Jordy Nelson, GB
Every receiver who has Rodgers throwing them the ball is valuable in FF and Nelson is no different. When healthy, Nelson has put up big numbers. Over the last 3 seasons, Nelson's per start averages are .86 TDs, 94.9 yards and 5.77 receptions. The only problem is Nelson has missed 13 starts over the past 3 seasons and often is on the injury report. After starting 16 games in 2013, maybe Nelson's injury bug is behind him.
12. Alshon Jeffrey, Chi
Usually a WR with 1,400+ yards, 89 receptions and 7 TDs would be higher than 12, but with Jeffrey, I am still a bit hesitant after his terrible rookie season (24 receptions, 367 yards and 3 TDs). While I think the real Jeffrey is closer to 2013 Jeffrey, he has guys like Marshall, Forte and Bennett who will be taking balls away from him.
The Second Dozen
13. Victor Cruz, NYG
After bursting on the scene in 2011 (82 receptions, 1,536 yards and 9 TDs in just 7 starts), Cruz has cooled off a bit - averaging 1,045 yards, 14 games, 79.5 receptions and 7 TDs per season. Some of his dip in productivity is a result of health and what defenses are doing to him, but most of the time, his biggest problem is that his QB keeps throwing the ball to the other team.
When Eli plays well, Cruz is a top 10 WR. When Eli pulls an Eli, Cruz disappears and your fantasy team crashes. In his 14 games in 2013, Cruz had 7 games with 50 yards or less and 5 games with 42 or less.
14. Keenan Allen, SD
This might seem a bit high for Allen, but here is why I like him so much - he is Rivers only true receiving threat. Gates is old (34), slow and always banged up. Floyd is big (6'5" 225) but 9 years into his career has only caught 50+ balls once, and Brown and Royal are more slot receivers. In 2013 Rivers had 32 TDs and 4,478 yards and a bulk of those TDs and yards are going to go to Allen. In just 14 games as a rookie, Allen had 71 receptions, 1,046 yards and 8 TDs.
15. Wes Welker, Den
Welker can be a bit of a health risk, and his 1,300+ yard seasons are likely over, but the amount of catches and TDs he pulls in makes him a great pick in a PPR league. Since 2007, Welker has averaged 8.1 receptions per start. If healthy - Welker has never started 16 games - he is still a #1 FF WR.
16. Pierre Garcon, Wash
I have always felt Garcon was overrated in real football and FF, but after his 2013 season (113 receptions, 1,346 yards and 5 TDs), even I have begun to warm up on him. While the presence of DeSean Jackson will take some targets away from Garcon, it will also take some coverage away from him as well - and with Jay Gruden as the Redskins head coach, you can expect a lot of passing in 2014.
17. Percy Harvin, Sea
Harvin is a high risk high reward pick. He has huge health concerns and has yet to play in Seattle, but if healthy, Harvin is one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL. With the loss of Tate and an otherwise unimpressive group of weapons in Seattle, Harvin should see a ton of balls thrown his way in Seattle - easy points in a PPR league. While I will admit this is high for a guy that has never surpassed 1,000 yards receiving, I like Harvin's potential in 2014.
18. T.Y. Hilton, Ind
I am a lot higher on Hilton than most, and here is why - Andrew Luck. Both players are entering their 3rd year in the league and I expect a jump in production from both. Hilton had a solid 2013 (82 receptions, 1,083 yards and 5 TDs), but with the age and injury of Wayne, I see Hilton's numbers going up. I think the addition of Nicks will also open things up for Hilton as well.
19. Andre Johnson, Hou
At age 32, Johnson is still one of the best receivers in the league and he had possibly the quietest 109 reception, 1,407 yard season in the history of the NFL last year. However, Johnson will be 33 before the season starts, he has a new (and questionable) QB in Fitzpatrick, and I expect Hopkins to start taking away some of Johnson's targets. 19 may be low for Johnson, but I see his arrow pointing down at this point in his career.
20. Julian Edelman, NE
This may sound high for Edelman, but take a look at his 2013 season - 105 receptions, 1,056 yards and 6 TDs in 11 starts. In a PPR league, those are top 20 numbers and Brady loves his small, reliable receivers.
21. Roddy White, Atl
From 2007-2012 White averaged 1,296 yards, 93.8 receptions and 8.1 TDs. If not for injuries in 2013, White likely would have kept up the stats. With Jones and Jackson back, I expect big numbers again from White.
22. Michael Crabtree, SF
In 2012 Crabtree finally began to fulfill his potential and then in 2013 he got injured. Crabtree and Kaepernick clearly have good chemistry and as Kaepernick continues to develop, Crabtree's value keeps rising. In 2014 I expect 80+ catches and 1,100+ yards from Crabtree.
23. Golden Tate, Det
Here is my sleeper in the top 24. Despite being the #1 WR in Seattle, Tate has never surpassed 70 receptions or 900 yards, but has also never been in a pass happy offense like Detroit and is not a #1 WR. With Johnson, Tate will see single coverage every Sunday and should flourish in those situations. Call me crazy, but I see Tate pulling in 75+ catches, 1,000+ yards and 7-10 TDs.
24. Cordarelle Patterson, Min
24 seems high for a second year receiver who only had 45 receptions, 469 yards and 4 TDs as a rookie, but Patterson, like Harvin, is dynamic and will be used in a lot of ways on offense. In 2014, Patterson should see a ton of touches in 2014 and may get you 300+ yards rushing on top of 60-70 catches and 800-1,000 yards.