Mar 29, 2010
The WR position is a little different than the QB and RB positions in that there’s a lot more depth. You can go at 100+ deep at the position and still find viable options. Of course, with great depth will come fewer true studs, so a higher priority should be placed on the elite options at the position, the serious go-to guys. In addition, your scoring system can greatly affect the fantasy landscape at this position, and those in PPR leagues will find certain players are much more attractive than those in non-PPR leagues.
You would think there would be more slam-dunks at the top of this position, but other than Andre Johnson (Hou, 28), Calvin Johnson (Det, 24), Reggie Wayne (Ind, 31), and Larry Fitzgerald (Ari, 27) there aren’t many obvious no-brainers. These four guys are, based on their talent (especially Calvin) and their good situations.
There are certainly some other highly desirable options like Greg Jennings (GB, 26), Roddy White (Atl, 28), and Miles Austin (Dal, 26). It may be premature to list a guy like Austin among the truly elite, but I think he’s the real deal, and I like his youth and the mojo he has with his QB. Jennings is in a great situation with QB Aaron Rodgers, while White’s clearly a legit #1 NFL wideout with a nice option at QB in Matt Ryan.
The next players are a notch below the guys listed above, but they’re still highly desirable. Players like Vincent Jackson (SD, 27), Brandon Marshall (Den, 26), DeSean Jackson (Phi, 23), Marques Colston (NO, 27), Randy Moss (NE, 33), and Sidney Rice (Min, 24). Moss is getting up there, but until he really falls off, you have to be encouraged with his potential. I really like Rice as an emerging stud, but he’s being held back here due to the potential issues at the QB position. Even if Brett Favre plays in 2010, Rice has got an issue in 2011 because Favre won’t be there (we think). But he’s still an excellent keeper. (Vincent) Jackson’s got some character issues, but he’s a young stud in a great situation if he stays in SD. Obviously, Marshall’s a major wildcard. Talent-wise he’s a top-5 guy, and he’s very young, but his future is up in the air, and until further notice, you worry about off-field implosions. But he’s hard to pass up based on his potential to be dominant. Also, (DeSean) Jackson’s clearly a very good prospect. It looks like the Birds will be set at the QB position for years to come, so given his explosive potential, he’s obviously a really nice option. Colston’s not a beast talent, but he’s more attractive playing with QB Drew Brees, and he’s obviously a fine keeper.
Next up we have a combination of older players still getting it done, like Chad Ochocinco (Cin, 32), Steve Smith (Car, 31), Anquan Boldin (Bal, 29), Wes Welker (NE, 29), Hines Ward (Pit, 34), and Donald Driver (GB, 35) and young guys who look very promising, like Santonio Holmes (Pit, 26), Steve Smith (NYG, 25), Michael Crabtree (SF, 22), Dwayne Bowe (KC, 25), Mike Sims-Walker (Jac, 25), Robert Meachem (NO, 25), Jeremy Maclin (Phi, 21), Percy Harvin (Min, 22), Hakeem Nicks (NYG, 22). Whom you keep from this group depends on your expectations for the short-term and the long-term. If you’re ready to seriously challenge for a title now, guys like Ochocinco, Smith, and Boldin are great options (Welker obviously is, too, but his injury situation is a major concern for now). Even Ward and Driver, although not quite as appealing as those other players, are attractive, despite their age, because they are in good situations and are still playing at a high level. I do tend to target young studs, of course, and Crabtree, Meachem, and Harvin really stand out there. Crabtree isn’t the finished produce and doesn’t have the greatest QB throwing him the ball, but he has #1 NFL wideout written all over him. Meachem’s a legit upside guy with tons of talent, and Harvin looks like a do-it-all player who could be special. Holmes, Sims-Walker, Bowe, and Maclin may not have the potential to be truly elite, but they are very solid, and young, so they are fine keepers. Holmes and Bowe are very talented, but they have some concerns due to some inconsistencies in their careers thus far – and possibly some character issues. Maclin looks like a really nice player who showed a lot as a rookie, but he does have to show he can produce on a consistent basis over the course of a full season. I also really like Nicks, so while he has a lot to prove still as well, I’m comfortable placing him in this high-end group. He has the potential to be comparable to what Boldin’s been over the last 4-5 years, which is an excellent #2 fantasy wideout who at times produces like a #1.
If you’re looking for some viable guys who can (probably) rely on for production for the short-term, Antonio Bryant (Cin, 29), Jerricho Cotchery (NYJ, 28), Braylon Edwards (NYJ, 27), Terrell Owens (FA, 36), Derrick Mason (Bal, 35), Lee Evans (Buf, 29), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Sea, 32), and Bernard Berrian (Min, 29) are decent options. I don’t feel really great about any of them, honestly, but Bryant’s talented, Cotchery underrated, and Mason is still productive. Edwards and Owens could certainly be helpful, but Edwards’ career seems to be stuck in mediocrity, and the aged Owens doesn’t even have a team as of this writing (3/29). Houshmandzadeh and Berrian are really just #3 fantasy WRs (at best) for the next 1-2 years. Evans is a good player, but he has been stifled by poor QB play. At least he’ll be the unquestioned #1 in Buffalo for the near future.
I’d be more inclined to go for some of the younger options in their tier or realm of players, with guys like Pierre Garcon (Ind, 24), Kenny Britt (Ten, 21), Steve Breaston (Ari, 27), Mohamed Massaquoi (Cle, 23), Eddie Royal (Den, 24), Donnie Avery (Stl, 26), and each of the three Bear guys in the mix for starting jobs: Devin Aromashodu (Chi, 26), Devin Hester (Chi, 27), and Johnny Knox (Chi, 23). I’m high on Garcon, in part due to his talent and what he showed in 2009, but also because of his excellent situation. If he can retain a starting job on the outside (to be determined), he should only get better. Britt has elite tools and could be a nice #1 NFL wideout, but his production may be somewhat limited in Tennessee and with the erratic Vince Young under center. Breaston’s a nice player, but he has to prove he can excel on the outside – and with the shaky Matt Leinart at QB. Massaquoi looks like a solid prospect, but he’s probably best cast as a #2 for the Browns (who are looking for speed opposite him). For now, though, he’s their top guy, and he should be helpful. Royal’s obviously coming off a dreadful season, but if Brandon Marshall departs, Royal’s role should increase greatly, plus you don’t catch 90+ balls as a rookie and not be legit (unless your name is Michael Clayton, who actually caught only 80 balls as a rookie in 2004). Avery’s pretty decent, and if he can get better QB play, I can see him settling in as a really nice #2 fantasy wideout, a guy who’s routinely ranked in the low-20s for fantasy each season. As for the Bear guys, I actually like Knox the best, based on the elite potential I saw from him last year. But he might be stuck as their #3 under Martz. If that’s the case, then Aromashodu should start. I’m not down on Hester, but I feel Aromashodu, at this point, has better starter potential in that he has better size and also good speed. He projects as a starter, and if he’s starting for Mike Martz and continues to grow, he could be this year’s Miles Austin. The Bears are high on him, so I’d seriously consider him if possible. Hester’s a little hard to get a handle on. He still has excellent potential, but other than (surprisingly) showing an ability to be an effective possession guy in 2009, his overall performance left me a little flat. He’s at best a #3 fantasy wideout for the long-term. From there he could go either way. He could grow into being a viable #2, or he could fade a little and be nothing more than a fantasy backup. It really depends on what Martz and head coach Lovie Smith have planned for him, and it’s still early to know what that is.
Next up, we have some viable veterans, but guys who also have issues. Roy Williams (Dal, 28), Kevin Walter (Hou, 29), Malcom Floyd (SD, 29), Santana Moss (Was, 31), and Chris Chambers (KC, 32) are in this mix. Of these five, I probably like Floyd best for his upside, but even that’s limited on a Charger team that has two other great weapons. Walter looks decent for the next couple of years in Houston, but he’s coming off a down season. Moss can still play, but he’ll fall off soon, and injuries and poor QB play are issues. Williams has been a train wreck, and it’s not inconceivable that he’s replaced as a starter in Dallas in the next 1-2 years, so he’s shaky. Chambers is really a year-to-year guy, but he’s at least back in KC, where he has a starting job solidified.
I’d be more inclined to look at the younger guys, like Julian Edelman (NE, 24), Laurent Robinson (Stl, 25), Austin Collie (Ind, 24), Mario Manningham (NYG, 24), Mike Wallace (Pit, 24), Chaz Schilens (Oak, 24), Anthony Gonzalez (Ind, 25), Jordy Nelson (GB, 25), Josh Morgan (SF, 25), and Davone Bess (Mia, 24). None of these guys are sure things, but Edelman’s play in 2009 was promising, and the Welker injury definitely helps him. Robinson’s a major injury concern, but he showed some promising game early in 2009 and has the tools to be a nice player. Collie’s a really nice option in a PPR, even if Gonzalez re-establishes himself in Indy. Wallace may not be more than a complementary player the next 1-2 years, but he has a key role, and he showed major playmaking ability as a rookie. Nelson’s progress has been slow, but he could easily still replace Driver in 1-2 years and emerge as a really nice option in this favorable situation. Morgan’s been a disappointment, but they are still pretty committed to him as a starter in SF, and he has the ability to produce like a decent #3 for the long-term if he can continue to grow and get good QB play. Bess, in a PPR, looks like a nice guy to have around, since his role as a key receiver from the slot should be secure, even after they find 1-2 new starters on the outside. I’m not sure about Manningham with the two other solid receivers here, but he certainly did prove to be quite an explosive weapon in 2009, so there has to be a place for him. As for Gonzalez, his future is a little up in the air based on what transpired in 2009, and his slotting has been adjusted accordingly. He’s a very solid player, though, and still in a good situation.
Most of your other options are younger players, and these are guys you’re just hoping pan out because none of them seems destined to come through. Brandon Tate (NE, 22) has the tools to replace Randy Moss in New England, but he has to stay healthy. Devin Thomas (Was, 23) may get another chance in Washington, but his seemingly appealing talents have not come to the surface yet. Louis Murphy (Oak, 23) is a definite talent, but he’s not even starting yet – and it’s the Raiders. Early Doucet (Ari, 24) should be a productive slot guy for the Cards, while Deon Butler (Sea, 24) and Brandon Gibson (Stl, 23) have youth, potential, and a chance to possibly play key roles for their teams.
Also in this realm are some older players who don’t have anything in terms of juicy upside potential, but do still have some value now, such as Nate Washington (Ten, 27), Nate Burleson (Det, 29), Jason Avant (Phi, 27), Devery Henderson (NO, 28), and Mark Clayton (Bal, 28). Washington and Burleson do still start, while the other players look like mediocre #4 WRs in 2010, so they’re nothing special at this point.
Once again, this deep, it makes more sense to look to the younger guys who have a chance to emerge as contributors. Darrius Heyward-Bey (Oak, 23), Brian Hartline (Mia, 23), Andre Caldwell (Cin, 25), Lance Moore (NO, 26), Ted Ginn (Mia, 25), Jacoby Jones (Hou, 26), Earl Bennett (Chi, 23), Brian Robiskie (Cle, 22), Malcolm Kelly (Was, 23), James Jones (GB, 26), and Maurice Stovall (TB, 25) are viable. I’m not enamored with any of them, quite frankly. Heyward-Bey can fly, so you have to give him a chance, but things could not have possibly looked grimmer for him than they did in his 2009 rookie season. Ginn has talent, but he should almost be written off at this point as a wideout, so he’s worth keeping just in case a light bulb goes on for him. Caldwell and Moore are pretty decent, but have limited potential, since they’re really #3s for their respective teams. (Jacoby) Jones is probably out of luck in Houston, but he is a playmaker who can score any time he touches the ball. Bennett’s going to be “just a guy” in Chicago. Robiskie didn’t get a chance to show anything this past year, which isn’t a good sign, but he could still develop into a solid PPR guy. Stovall’s had plenty of chances, which isn’t a great sign, but he should get another one this year, and if he can develop some chemistry with young QB Josh Freeman, Stovall may have a chance to be the best of this group.
Back to some older guys who have a chance, we have Justin Gage (Ten, 29), Jabar Gaffney (Den, 29), Brandon Lloyd (Den, 29), Patrick Crayton (Dal, 31), Michael Jenkins (Atl, 28), Reggie Brown (TB, 29), and Donte Stallworth (Bal, 29). None of these guys does anything for me, but Gaffney could be a decent PPR guy this year, Lloyd could play a lot more if Brandon Marshall is gone, and Jenkins does still start. Brown may now start in Tampa, for what it’s worth (probably not much).
As for the rest of the keeper options, we’re strictly looking at long-shots, so we’re focusing in on younger players like Josh Cribbs (Cle, 27), Derrick Williams (Det, 24), Harry Douglas (Atl, 26), Mike Thomas (Jac, 23), Demetrius Williams (Bal, 27), Steve Johnson (Buf, 24), Dwayne Jarrett (Car, 24), Dexter Jackson (Car, 24), Sammie Stroughter (TB, 24), Chansi Stuckey (Cle, 26), James Hardy (Buf, 24), Limas Sweed (Pit, 26), and Danny Amendola (Stl, 24). Of this group, Williams and Thomas intrigue me the most. They may just be slot guys their whole careers, but both have potential to move into a starting role on the outside eventually. Cribbs is really tough to get a handle on, and he’s obviously worth a lot more if you include his return production into the equation. Williams is talented, but he’s been a bust for the Ravens, and it’s almost time to give up on him. Johnson is someone to keep an eye on because he’s got some size and speed, unlike Hardy, who is slow and soft. Sweed’s time in Pittsburgh may be over soon, so he might not even be worth listing. Amendola’s not a sexy name, but he could be a nice little slot guy for the Rams for years to come, which is worth noting for those in PPR leagues.
Some other youngsters worth listing are Juaquin Iglesias (Chi, 23), Jerome Simpson (Cin, 24), Lavelle Hawkins (Ten, 24), Brooks Foster (Stl, 24), Kenneth Moore (Car, 25), Johnny Lee Higgins (Oak, 27), Ramses Barden (NYG, 24), Kevin Ogletree (Dal, 23), and Patrick Turner (Mia, 23). There’s not much to get excited about here, but Hawkins could be a decent slot guy for the Titans, while Foster (who missed most of 2009 with an injury) does have the talent to be a difference-maker. Barden is a huge receiver with some intrigue, but there’s a major logjam at WR on the Giant roster, so I’m not expecting much. Turner may actually get a chance to start this year, so he’s probably higher on someone else’s list. He’s low on mine because he’s painfully slow, so we’re thinking they’ll have to find someone else. The Cowboys are pretty high on Ogletree, who appears to be about where Miles Austin was here a couple of years ago. If Roy Williams is jettisoned or phased out, Ogletree could get a shot.
And finally, we have some older guys who, at best, may be worth picking up at some point in the near future for depth – but don’t count on that for anyone here between
Josh Reed (30), Bryant Johnson (29), Brandon Stokley (34), Deion Branch (31), Brandon Jones (27), Roscoe Parrish (28), Sam Aiken (29), Kelley Washington (31), Dennis Northcutt (32), Antwaan Randle El (31), and Torry Holt (34).