Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers (Part 1)

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Tier 4: Acceptable #1 WRs

If you missed out on the top 12, these are guys that you can get by with as your #1. They aren’t as exciting as the players in the preceding tiers, due to lack of upside, injury concerns, lack of targets, bad QBs, etc… but they have done it before and are good bets for another top 20 fantasy WR season.

13.) Victor Cruz, Giants – I went back and forth on this one. thinking maybe it was too low… But after watching Eli and Cruz struggle to connect in their new offensive scheme, it may be too high. Over-reacting to preseason games  is a rookie mistake, but man they looked really bad. On paper a short route, quick-hitting offense should be perfect for a slot receiver like Cruz, so don’t drop him too far. Nicks isn’t around anymore to steal targets, Randle is a space-cadet, they have no reliable receiving options at TE and O’Dell Beckham is already in Coughlin’s dog-house. Cruz is going to get a lot of targets.

14.) Vincent Jackson, Bucs – Josh McCown proved he could throw a good back shoulder fade last season and a decent deep ball which should bode well for Vincent Jackson’s numbers this season. Whether the O-line gives him enough time to get deep is another matter, they have looked pretty shaky so far in the preseason. V-Jax managed to catch 78 balls last year for 1,224 yards with an awful combo of Josh Freeman and Mike Glennon throwing him the ball, so I have a strong feeling he will find a way to get it done this year as well.

15.) Andre Johnson, Texans – The hold-out was troubling and the fact that Johnson is 33 isn’t great either, but he still passes the eye test. He may not score many TDs (9 total last two seasons) but he had over 100 catches and 1400 yards for two seasons in a two. Ryan Fitzpatrick is nothing to get excited about at QB, but either were his QBs the last two seasons (Schaub, Keenum, Yates). Johnson is a pro and he’s going to get open and catch everything thrown his way no matter who is at QB.

16.) Pierre Garcon, Redskins – Had a breakout season at 27 years old in a shaky offense as the only reliable option. This year RG3 is supposedly healthy and Garcon is surrounded by more talent than ever with the additions of DeSean Jackson / Andre Roberts and the potential emergence of TE Jordan Reed. With so many weapons, Garcon isn’t going to get 181 targets again, but he should still be the #1 option and should be able to do more after the catch with the defense’s attention spread thin. I think you will get at least 80, 1000, 7 out of Garcon with the potential for considerably more.

17.) Wes Welker, Broncos – He missed three games last season with a concussion and if he gets another one, that could be it for Welker’s career. He’s 33, so nearing the end anyway but the concussion risk knocks him down a few spots for me. When healthy, Welker is still an excellent slot receiver and Manning’s go-to guy on 3rd downs. His catches were down last year (73) and even adjusting his stats for the 3 games he missed only gets him to 90 catches and under 1000 yards (953), but his 10 TDs boosted his value. In the Broncos high-powered offense, Welker will always put up enough stats to earn a spot in your starting lineup, but he is slowing down a little and with the injury risk I feel much better with Welker as my #2 WR.

Tier 5: Breakouts

The stats back some of these up and some of these are just gut picks, but I think this group has the ability to be legit #1 fantasy WRs this season and out produce the safer options in tier 6.

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

18.) Michael Floyd, Cardinals – Showed flashes of breaking out last season with 1,041 yards, almost double his rookie production, but the lack of end zone targets kept his fantasy value in check (5 TDs). I live in AZ so I know a little more about the Cards than most teams and almost everyone that covers the Cards has talked about Floyd dominating in training camp and taking over as the #1 WR. Floyd averaged almost 5 yards more per catch than Fitz over the course of the season, but over the 2nd half of the year it was closer to 7 yards more. Floyd is their big play WR and Fitz is the possession guy now. Fitz is still a stud in the red zone so he will cut into Floyd’s TDs chances, but I am expecting a full-fledged breakout season from Floyd along the lines of 80, 1300, 10.

19.) Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings – Was one of my favorite sleepers this offseason until about a month ago when it seems everybody got on board the Patterson bandwagon. There is good reason too, the kid is as explosive as any WR in the game. Patterson is a threat to go to the house every time he touches the ball and after the job new OC Norv Turner did with 2nd-year WR Josh Gordon last year, it’s hard not to imagine a monster year from Patterson. We need to pump the brakes a little bit though, Gordon was a much more polished WR than Patterson, who is so raw that in order to get him the ball last year the Vikings had to put him in the backfield or throw him a steady diet of screen passes. His route-running needs a lot of work. Maybe Patterson put the work in this offseason and he’s ready for a Gordon-esque leap, but I’m guessing he will be better but still rely on QB-autonomous plays like screens and reverses to get his touches. Even if that’s the case, Patterson is a good bet for 10+ TDs for the season and solid yardage on a weekly basis.

20.) Michael Crabtree, 49ers – In his last full season, Crabtree put up 85 receptions, 1,105 yards, and 9 TDs. He missed most of last season, but his rapport with Kaepernick is obvious and Crabtree will be his go-to receiver all season if he can stay on the field. The Niners are going to throw more this year (or so they say) and if that happens, Crabtree could top 100 receptions.  Crabtree is a better receiver than most analysts give him credit for, the kid was unstoppable in college and has unique route running skills and some of the best hands in the league. At age 27 Crabtree is primed for a breakout season.

21.) Kendall Wright, Titans – 94 catches and only 2 touchdowns in an anomaly. Last year every receiver with over 85 catches had at least 5 TDs except Wright. In 2010 & 2011, 6 TDs was the low for receivers with over 85 catches. If Wright catches 90 balls again the odds are that he is going to find the end zone at least 5 or 6 times.  Add 4 TDs to Wright’s fantasy totals last season and he is a top 20 WR. His stats are limited with Jake Locker at QB, but even Locker can throw a screen pass and that is where almost half of Wright’s catches came last year. He has great hands, is elusive after catch, and he’s bound to have more luck in the red zone this season.

22.) Percy Harvin, Seahawks – Just know going in that Harvin is going to miss at least a couple of games this year with a migraine or some other undiagnosable injury. Harvin reminded us what he can do when healthy during the Super Bowl, it’s just a crap-shoot whether he’s going to play on a weekly basis. You basically have to have a starting caliber bench WR ready to go if you draft Harvin. That’s not hard to do with the ridiculous depth of this years WR class and Harvin’s upside is definitely worth it. I keep hearing rumors that the Seahawks are going to throw more this season and if that happens Harvin could finish as a top 10 WR (on a per/game avg at least).

23.) Terrence Williams, Cowboys – The Cowboys will be in a ton of shootouts this year and after Dez Bryant and Jason Witten what else do they have? Promising 2nd year player Terrance Williams (44, 736, 5) and not much else (little Cole Beasley (5’8), slightly taller Dwayne Harris (5’10), 4th round pick Devin Street). Williams has plenty of talent (44, 736, 5 as a rookie) and the targets are going to be there; I’m predicting  a 75, 1,100, 10 season.