Fantasy Football Draft Guide 2014: Wide Receivers

Wide Receivers

 

Context

 

So far, I’ve been preaching the necessity of getting elite production at the running back and quarterback. Ideally you’d pick a top six running back in round 1 and then a top three quarterback in round 2. But if you do that, then other positions are going to have to suffer, right?

That’s where wide receiver comes into play. This position is extraordinarily deep which is why it’s fine to wait (a little while) to pick one. Sure, Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green would be fun to have on any team, but if I can hold off on that temptation and fill a scarce position (RB) with an elite guy and the highest scoring position (QB) with a tier one guy, then I know I have the foundation of my team set with the most important positions.

Furthermore, as I previously mentioned, nailing your picks in round 1 and 2 is vital, and wide receiver is the most dependent position with the highest variance from week to week. For example, last season there were only 13 WRs who played at least eight games and averaged 10 fantasy points per game. As a comparison, there were 18 such RBs.

A star quarterback is going to put up numbers no matter what, but if Calvin Johnson finds himself on Revis Island, you run the risk of getting little to no production from your top pick that particular week. So again, play it safe with your first two picks, then start swinging for the fences at WR.

And by swinging for the fences, I mean listening to my advice, because I’ve already weeded out the studs from the duds.

Let’s add on to some of the plausible draft combinations from before:

(Pick 4) Round 1: Matt Forte; Round 2: Monte Ball; Round 3: Antonio Brown

-Because you were shrewd enough to grab two stud RBs at the weakest position, you can now stock up on WRs until you pick a QB from Tier 3 or 4 later on. Antonio Brown makes a fantastic WR1.

 

(Pick 3) Round 1: Jamaal Charles; Round 2: Dez Bryant; Round 3: Giovani Bernard

-Because you got pick 3 that means you had pick 18 in the second round and there were no Tier 1 QBs still available. Dez is a fine plan B. Once you hit round 3, don’t reach for someone like Matthew Stafford. Trust the system and wait for a Tier 3 or 4 guy. Nab Gio now and your stable of running backs is fantastic in addition to having an elite receiver.

 

(Pick 5) Round 1: Eddie Lacy; Round 2: Drew Brees; Round 3: Jordy Nelson

-This is basically your best-case scenario with a crappy pick like pick 5 (if you follow my guide). The elite running back gives you tremendous consistency throughout the year, the Tier 1 quarterback gives you an advantage over your opponent every week, and the dependable WR (with a top QB himself) can stack up with the best of them. A+ so far.

 

Top 3

 

  1. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions (no. 8 overall)

 

Not everyone gets a nickname after a transformer. In fact, pretty much no one gets a nickname after a transformer, unless you are as good as Calvin Johnson at receiver of course. Since 2011, Megatron has over 1,000 more receiving yards than anyone else. Think about that for a second. Now that Matthew Stafford has proved he can stay healthy on a consistent basis, Calvin Johnson is unmatched, both in fantasy and in real life. Furthermore, the arrival of Golden Tate should alleviate some pressure from Johnson (albeit not much) and allow him even more space to operate. If you’re dead-set on picking a receiver in round one, Calvin is the only way to go.

 

  1. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals (no. 12 overall)

 

After being picked in the same draft class as Julio Jones, these two have forever been linked at the hip. Yet due to some unfortunate injuries to Julio, Green has clearly supplanted Jones as the best receiver from that class and the second best in all of football. His superb combination of speed, size, and hands makes him a nightmare for opposing corners and defensive coordinators alike. In his three previous seasons, Green has missed just one game (proving his durability) and has never had less than 1,000 receiving yards (proving his consistency). If you’re going to pick a wide receiver in the second round, you could do a lot worse than A.J. Green.

 

  1. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys (no. 18 overall)

 

As good as Dez was last year, the scary thing is that he has the potential to be even better in 2014. He was tackled 5 times inside the opponents’ 5-yard line, which is just absurdly unlucky. Assuming he gets better luck this season, the Cowboys’ receiver should find the end zone even more than the 13 times he did last season (already a great number). In addition, Dallas hired new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan (former Lions OC… that should tell you all you need to know) this offseason; a big deal considering his MO is to throw the ball all over the field. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dez surpass 100 catches and 15 touchdowns this season. As long as Tony Romo can stay healthy…

 

3 Sleepers

 

  1. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings (no. 47 overall)

 

I’ve put a lot of stock into Cordarrelle’s potential; he’s much higher on my Top 200 list than most experts have him. His speed is uncanny and his ability to get YAC is incredible, so why did he only have a 10.4 YPC average last season as a rookie? Well for starters, the Vikings’ revolving door at quarterback did nothing to try to get Patterson the ball. When Christian Ponder is the most effective option at QB, something is wrong. Secondly, Patterson was a raw prospect coming out of Tennessee. Sure, his straight-line speed was breathtaking and his special teams ability was NFL ready immediately, but his route running was definitely shaky at first. Yet over the final four weeks in 2013, Patterson outscored every single wide receiver in fantasy football. So for the fantasy playoffs, Cordarrelle was better than Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, and literally everyone else. Now with a season under his belt, the Vikings’ stud is ready to mature and breakout. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner loves to stretch the field (remember what he did with Josh Gordon in his second year in the league last season?) and Patterson should benefit from his play calling immensely. Consider this: of wide receivers drafted in the first round from 2009-2011, the average production in each players’ second season was 70 receptions, 991 yards, and 8 touchdowns. I’m all in on Patterson’s sophomore campaign.

 

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  1. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals (no. 56 overall)

 

The most iconic player on the Arizona Cardinals is undoubtedly wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. That fact remains true this year as well, but as hard as it is to say, Larry might just be more iconic than good. The Cards’ legend is now 31 years old and hasn’t posted 1,000 yards in either of the past two seasons. Not only that, but Fitz was just 16th in fantasy points among receivers last year, not a number that we expect from an “elite” wideout. And even 16th may be too high to expect for this season considering Fitz’s 10 touchdowns last season will be hard to repeat as his targets decrease with age. So how does Michael Floyd figure into all of this? Well, head coach Bruce Arians absolutely loves to stretch the defense vertically, and Floyd is now his best option to do so. Don’t be surprised when Michael Floyd is the leading receiver in Arizona at the end of the year.

 

  1. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles (no. 61 overall)

 

To go along with all the positives that Maclin brings to the table, there’s just one glaring question: has he fully recovered from his torn ACL? If the answer is yes, then there’s a lot to like with Maclin heading into 2014. The receiver has yet to play in Chip Kelly’s magical offensive that produced career years for Nick Foles, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, AND LeSean McCoy last season. It’s Jeremy’s turn this time. In addition, now that Jackson is gone, Maclin takes over the number 1 receiver duties. Kelly wouldn’t have cut the teams’ most productive receiver if he didn’t have a backup plan. So while Maclin will certainly be thrown into the fire quickly, I expect big numbers right away.

 

Buyer Beware

 

  1. Percy Harvin, WR. Seahawks (no. 65 overall)

 

I saw his kick return in the Super Bowl too. It was magnificent, electrifying, and the final dagger into the hearts of Broncos fans across the country. But as great as the idea of Percy Harvin sounds, the actual guy just isn’t worth it. He’s played in just 10 games over the past two seasons and has never posted 1,000 receiving yards or more than 6 touchdowns in any given season. This situation is much different than picking an injury prone player (say Rob Gronkowski) and hoping he can stay healthy. The difference is that Gronk has actually been productive when healthy. Harvin has not.

 

  1. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills (no. 79 overall)

 

Along with Johnny Manziel, Watkins is going to be the guy most over-drafted in fantasy leagues. I’m here to warn you against being that guy. As good as he’ll look on your roster on opening day, you’ll wish you invested in a safer option by seasons end. From 2009-2013, a total of 154 wideouts have been drafted and just six have finished in the top 20 in fantasy points as rookies. To scale that stat down a bit, of the past five WRs drafted in the top five of the NFL draft, the average stat line in their rookie seasons was 53 receptions, 794 yards, and 5 touchdowns. You know who had an almost identical stat line in 2013? Doug Baldwin. Do you really want to waste a sixth round pick on Doug Baldwin?

 

  1. Marques Colston, WR, Saints (no. 85 overall)

 

As a 7th round pick from Hofstra, Colston has certainly made a nice mark on the NFL. But after a four-year stretch of dominant fantasy relevance, Colston tailed off last year posting his worst yardage and touchdown totals since 2008. To make matters worse for the Saints’ veteran, 2nd year pro Kenny Stills is on the rise and the team brought in the shifty Brandin Cooks as well. Even though Drew Brees is better than everyone at spreading the ball around, targets will be harder to come by for Colston, especially since age is becoming an undeniable factor.

 

WR Ranks: Top 50 (With Stock Watch)

 + = Stock Up

* = Stock Neutral

– = Stock Down

 

  1. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions (*)
  2. J. Green, WR, Bengals (*)
  3. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys (+)
  4. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos (*)
  5. Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears (*)
  6. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons (*)
  7. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears (*)
  8. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers (*)
  9. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers (+)
  10. Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers (*)
  11. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers (+)
  12. DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins (+)
  13. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants (+)
  14. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans (-)
  15. Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins (*)
  16. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals (-)
  17. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers (*)
  18. Roddy White, WR, Falcons (-)
  19. Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers (+)
  20. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings (+)
  21. Wes Welker, WR, Broncos (-)
  22. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals (+)
  23. Y. Hilton, WR, Colts (*)
  24. Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens (*)
  25. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles (+)
  26. Percy Harvin, WR, Seahawks (-)
  27. Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins (+)
  28. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots (*)
  29. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts (-)
  30. Golden Tate, WR, Lions (+)
  31. Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys (*)
  32. Eric Decker, WR, Jets (-)
  33. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos (+)
  34. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills (*)
  35. Cecil Shorts III, WR, Jaguars (*)
  36. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs (*)
  37. Marques Colston, WR, Saints (-)
  38. Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles (*)
  39. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans (+)
  40. Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots (*)
  41. Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers (*)
  42. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Colts (+)
  43. James Jones, WR, Raiders (*)
  44. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints (+)
  45. Kenny Stills, WR, Saints (+)
  46. Justin Hunter, WR, Titans (+)
  47. Reuben Randle, WR, Giants (+)
  48. Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings (-)
  49. Steve Smith, WR, Ravens (*)
  50. Tavon Austin, WR, Rams (*)
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