With pass-heavy offenses taking over the NFL, the proliferation of PPR leagues and high bust rate of top running backs (43%!) in fantasy football the last few seasons, more and more owners are leaning toward the top-tier wide receivers with at least 1 of their first two picks. I’m still an old-school RB-RB proponent as I covered in my RB ranks but I can’t argue with minimizing risk over your first few selections. I’ve always claimed that leagues are won in the middle and late rounds, but in order to compete you need at least decent production out of your first few picks.
Wide receiver is incredibly deep compared to the other offensive positions and you should be able to find useful players and potential breakout candidates as deep as the 14th-15th round. I get using one or both of your top picks one of the six receivers in the first tier, any of those 6 could outscore the top RBs, but don’t rush to fill out your starting WR slots. This year’s draft was one of the deepest ever at the WR position and the influx of talent made the position extremely deep for fantasy purposes. You could wait to draft a WR until the 5th round and still end up with potential studs like Percy Harvin and Cordarrelle Patterson. WR is loaded this season.
Whatever your strategy, you should find some use out of my wide receiver rankings. I’ve broken them down in categorized tiers, so don’t take the # rank literally. The “breakout” tier is ranked ahead of the “old reliable” tier, but it comes down to personal preference. I’m an upside guy, so I like rolling the dice on a potential breakout candidate over a known quantity, but I’ve certainly had guys like Fitz on plenty of my rosters in the past and will again.
The rankings, stats, and ADP data are all from default Yahoo scoring with the addition of .5 PPR. If you have any problems with my rankings or I forgot somebody, feel free to let me know in the comments.
Tier 1: Elite
Calvin really belongs in his own tier, but a 1-man tier seemed silly. Really though, Calvin is in a class all by himself and the only WR who is a no doubt 1st rounder and worth the auction prices of the top RBs ($50+). The rest of the elite tier is worth consideration anywhere after the 8th pick and a good value in the $40-$45 range.
1.) Calvin Johnson - The addition of WR Golden Tate might take a few targets away but it might also mean fewer triple-teams from opposing defenses. Megatron missed two games and played hurt (knee, finger) in four others which sapped his production a little, but he still finished as the 3rd best WR in fantasy. He took care of both his knee and finger issues in the offseason, so assuming full health you can expect Johnson to take back his spot as the top WR in fantasy again in 2014.
2.) Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Set career highs in receptions (93) and TDs (13) last season and at only 26 years old is just coming into his prime. Bryant became Romo’s #1 option in the red zone last year catching 9 TD passes of 5 yards or less. Expect that to continue and for Bryant to set new career highs in receptions, yards, and TDs… The Cowboys are going to throw more this year with one of the worst defenses in the league and new pass-happy OC Scott Linehan.
3.) Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – He has put up two almost identical seasons since Manning joined the Broncos averaging 93 catches, 1,432 yards, and 12 TDs. At the prime age of 27 I don’t expect anything to change this year. With the loss of red-zone weapon Eric Decker, Thomas’ TDs may even go up this year.
4.) Brandon Marshall, Bears – The Bears once futile offense was 2nd in the NFL in points scored last year and there is still room for growth in HC Marc Trestman’s 2nd season. The emergence of Alshon Jeffery hurt Marshall’s targets a bit, but he is still Jay Cutler’s favorite option and is a good bet for his 3rd consecutive 100+ catch, 1,200, 10+ TD season.
5.) A.J. Green, Bengals – Has finished with just under 100 receptions (97, 98) around 1400 yards and 11 TDs the last two seasons. Green is only 26, so despite the loss of OC Jay Gruden I don’t see those numbers going down. The Bengals may run more, but they aren’t going to forget about one of the most talented WRs in the league. Despite Andy Dalton’s many flaws, he has good chemistry with Green and will continue to get him the ball early and often.