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I'm gonna jump right into rankings here - but it's been a rough go already at the position. Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, and Michael Crabtree - all Top 30 guys - are done for most or all of the year. Riley Cooper is out. Injury concerns remain for guys like Sidney Rice (what's new)?
That being said, from a draft perspective, you feel pretty good about any of the top 12 guys here as your #1. And then you feel somewhat decent about guys 13-20 as a #2 receiver. After that, there's a lot more questions than answers. The good news is that anyone in the 21-40 range is probably startable at least as a flex, and a lot of names in there have WR2 upside. But most of them are kind of the same guy. Probably 800-1000 yard receivers with single digit touchdowns. So, I guess the moral of this story is to grab 2 guys you feel REALLY good about, and then play the upside the rest of the way. For example, I have Eric Decker ranked at 23, but I think if I'm drafting a 3rd receiver I'd rather have T.Y. Hilton, Antonio Brown, or even Sidney Rice. Not because I don't like Decker. But because I know what Decker is. Those other guys all have WR2 and even WR1 potential that, for whatever reason, hasn't been tapped yet.
Make your own calls. Your own preferences. There's guys I think will pop. There's guys you believe in. It's all a blind darts game after the Top 25 anyway. Here's a stab at it:
Pretty much everybody's Top 5 contains the same guys, just in various orders. I happen to like Brandon Marshall more than most, because I do think that Marc Tressman's offense will air the ball out more, which is also why I think Alshon Jeffery will be a nice sleeper pick in the late rounds. I'm the least high on Dez Bryant. He has the potential to be the #1 fantasy wide receiver. He also has the potential to get inside his own head and be a huge bust. If you're a gambler, he's the guy you want, but I tend to be more risk-averse. I don't wanna a guy that by all accounts is the Amanda Bynes of the NFL as my #1 wideout.
Most of the Top 10 is pretty ho-hum as well. I think Wes Welker will lead the Broncos in catches, but I think DeMaryius Thomas will continue to be Peyton Manning's red zone guy and lead the team in fantasy points. I also think Larry Fitzgerald can return to #1 receiver status with Carson Palmer throwing him the ball. We're not that far removed from Fitzgerald putting up win-your-league numbers with Kurt Warner. And while Palmer is no Warner, he's certainly an upgrade from Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, and Ryan Lindley. Arizona's offensive line is bad, but Palmer is actually a better-than-you-think passer under pressure and Fitzgerald is the best receiver he's ever played with.
Of the guys 11-20, I'm comfortable with most of them as my 2nd wide receiver, and in some cases (Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson) there's significant upside. If I had to pick one guy to be a fantasy bust in 2013 (outside of Hakeem Nicks and his multiple injuries), it would be Mike Wallace. Reports are that he's not having a great camp, and I already don't love the fit in Miami. I do think Ryan Tannehill is legit, and I think Wallace will get 100 targets. But I'm concerned about how Wallace will be an every week starter with a QB that only threw 12 touchdowns all of last season. You'll also notice Dwayne Bowe in my Top 20. I don't like Alex Smith, but I think Andy Reid will find ways to make him successful...and Dwayne Bowe is how you make Alex Smith successful. He'll be utilized a lot in this offense, which I think will be better than it was with Matt Cassel at the helm.
As I said before, there's a lot of questions in the 21-40 range, but a lot of guys that could pop as well. Any fantasy expert you ask loves Tavon Austin and likens him to a Randall Cobb/TY Hilton type athlete, and I agree. I think he's the best receiving weapon that Sam Bradford has had in his career. Danny Amendola and Pierre Garcon both have WR1 potential in their respective offenses, but health continues to be a concern. If you're okay with 10 games of each guy, be my guest. Garcon is the guy I prefer. Can T.Y. Hilton be an every-down receiver? Can Antonio Brown be a go-to guy for the Steelers? Can Greg Jennings be a viable option for Christian Ponder? We're guessing at this point, but I would say yes-sort of-no for those three. I like Hilton to potentially be a WR2 most games this year. Reggie Wayne will continue to be the guy for Andrew Luck, but don't think for a minute that Chuck Pagano is going to think that newly-acquired Darrius Heyward-Bey is a better burner than Hilton. I think Brown could be a go-to-guy for Todd Haley's offense in Pittsburgh, but with a team that thrives on low-scoring games and will run a lot with Le'Veon Bell in the red zone, I don't know how much weight you can put on that. Jennings, health issues aside, is the one guy that I will not have on any of my teams this year. He's a deep ball receiver playing with a QB who had the worst completion percentage on deep balls last year. It will not surprise me at all if rookie Cordarrelle Patterson ends the season with more fantasy points than Jennings.
Once you're past 30, it really is "who do you think could pop"? I think that Lance Moore is really undervalued. He's inconsistent, as are most Saints receivers, but he finished in the Top 20 in fantasy points, and there's no Devery Henderson this year to stand in his way. He can go from a 20 point game to a 5 point game in an instant, but I have no problem with him as a flex or a WR3. I want to like Danario Alexander more than I do - he showed WR2 potential last year, but I just think that the Chargers offense is going to be terrible - it's a bad line with a limited running game and a QB with diminishing skills. I'd draft Alexander with tempered expectations, but he's got one of the highest ceilings of the guys in this range.
Speaking of high ceilings, how about Kenny Britt? Injury issues, off-the-field problems - all of this stands in his way which is why you don't draft him to be a starter, but Britt has the physical tools and ability to be a Top 10 wide receiver if everything falls into place. I'd put the probability of that happening somewhere between 0 and the Browns' odds winning the Super Bowl, but if it happens, you got a steal at 41. Once you're drafting your 4th, 5th, and 6th wide receivers, you're really looking for upside, which is why I'd much rather a guy like Alshon Jeffery or Ryan Broyles than a safe play like Santana Moss or Brian Hartline. Broyles has to stay healthy, but he got 33 targets in just 6 games last year. He plays alongside the most double-covered receiver in the league, and for the team that throws more than any other. If he put in 16 games last year, he would have collected a respectable 58 catches on 88 targets for 826 yards and 5 TDs. Not great numbers, but certainly decent for a rookie playing alongside Calvin Johnson. This is the Lions' guy as a 2nd receiver, and they're going to try to get him more involved in 2013.
You want deep sleepers? Ok, well DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans is a popular name. Houston thinks they've found their 2nd wideout...my concern here is that the Texans run more than any other team inside the 20. Robert Woods of the Bills projects as their #2 receiver. If E.J. Manuel turns out to be what the Bills drafted him to be, Woods could be interesting, but I think he's still a year or two away. I'm planting my flag on two guys outside the top 50 - maybe for their names, or maybe for their talent. Ifeyanyi Momah - and no, I don't know how to pronounce it - is probably not a starting wide receiver for the Eagles. But the physical tools are there for him to be a beastly Megatron-esque player. The Eagles need a big receiver for Michael Vick to throw to. Desean Jackson is their burner, and Jason Avant is kind of whatever to me. And while I think Damaris Johnson could be interesting out of the slot, the 6'7 Momah is a likely candidate to get some big red zone targets. I want to see him in the preseason before I jump to any conclusions, especially coming off of an ACL injury, but I like him a lot. I also like Julian Edelman in Tom Brady's offense. He needs an injury to be fantasy-relevant, but Danny Amendola ahead of him gets hurt a lot. Aaron Dobson is an unproven rookie, and the starting tight end is likely to be Jake Ballard, which doesn't inspire me. Edelman could be sneaky last-round pick with some flex play upside.