2014 Fantasy Football: Top Ten Wide Receivers
1. Calvin Johnson
Megatron is possibly the second greatest receiver we have ever seen in the NFL ,and he could give Jerry Rice a serious run for his money. He’s a 6-foot-5, 236-pounder that ran a 4.32 40-yard dash in a pair of borrowed cleats. His combination of freakish atheism, excellent hands and ability to run routes has never been equaled in the history of the league. Johnson is by far the safest pick in the draft. If he plays 16 games, you can pretty much pencil him in for at least 90 receptions, 1,500 yards and 10 TDs. For the first time in his career, he will actually be surrounded by serviceable talent to take some attention off him. The Lions added free agent Golden Tate and athletic pass-catching TE Eric Ebron this offseason. Anybody that doesn’t have Megatron No. 1 is just trying to be different. Kind of like when NBA fans try to justify saying any current player is better than LeBron James. Sometimes the obvious choice is obvious because it’s accurate (sorry Derrick Rose fans).
2. A.J. Green
Green is another sure thing. He’s an elite receiver, who has only missed one game in his career. Over the past two seasons, Green has been targeted 344 times, including 180 targets last season. Green is the most heavily targeted receiver in the NFL. With Marvin Jones out for an extended period of time, Green could earn even more targets early in the season. Green’s floor is 90 receptions, 1,300 yards and 10 TDs. Most receivers would kill for Green’s floor to be their ceiling. He’s not only an excellent PPR guy, but a dangerous deep threat as well. He was tied for the league lead with eight TDs on vertical passes. He is an excellent route runner with soft hands and superior athletic ability. Green is more talented than all but one of the NFL’s receiver. He should be the second receiver drafted in all formats.
Big Ben Roethlisberger has always relied heavily on his top target, regardless of who it has been. Brown may be the most gifted WR1 that Roethlisberger has thrown too. With Emmanuel Sanders gone, Brown should get even more targets this season. That’s saying a lot being that he is coming off a year in which he was targeted 165 times. Brown finished second in the league with 110 receptions. He added 1,499 receiving yards and 9 total TDs. He doesn’t get the same respect as Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, nevertheless he has just as much fantasy value. His ADP has him going one round later than Bryant and Thomas in most drafts. Brown is an elite WR1 and should have a repeat performance of his 2013 breakout campaign.
4. Dez Bryant
The Cowboys’ defense is so awful that they will constantly be airing it out to stay in games. It also helps that former Lions’ offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is running the offense. He is not shy about targeting one star or getting the ball downfield. Bryant could easily improve on his already impressive 13 TDs. He caught 93 passes for 1,233 yards on 160 targets last season. It is not a stretch to say that all signs point to Bryant being even more productive this year than he was last year. The biggest worry with Bryant is health, not only his own but the health of his QB Tony Romo as well. Bryant has managed to play through a number of nagging injuries throughout his career, however he has been limited at times. He has dealt with back issues in recent years. Romo is coming back from offseason back surgery and is now 34-years-old. It is very possible things get very ugly in Dallas this season.
5. Demaryius Thomas
Many experts have argued that Thomas should be the No. 1 WR drafted this year. Last season he racked up an impressive 92 receptions, 1,430 yards and 14 TDs. There are a lot of red flags being ignored with Thomas though. First and foremost, as great as Peyton Manning is, you need to look at the facts. He is a human being, a 38-year-old human being that is only a few years removed from career threatening neck surgery. His ability to get the ball deep down field is also declining. Surrounded by a number of good targets, Thomas will most likely get less targets than everyone ahead of him on this list, and the odds are Manning will not throw 55 TDs again this season. Thomas is very dependent on TDs due to the fact that he does not get the targets of the other players ahead of him on this list. Remember, he’s still No. 5 on the list, these comparisons are only to the most elite WRs in the league, and if all goes well in Denver, he could very well end the season higher. If Manning were to falter, Thomas would obviously be in trouble. His career highs were 32 receptions, 551 yards and 4 TDs prior to being paired up with Manning. He has also suffered from injury issues in the past.
Marshall is Jay Cutler’s favorite target and it’s not close. These two were drafted together and know each other as well as any QB/WR duo in the league. In any season in which Cutler was his starting QB, Marshall has never caught less than 100 passes or been targeted less than 150 times. Since his rookie season in 2006, Marshall has never failed to reach the century mark in any season and has only missed the double-digit TD plateau twice with Cutler under center. He has been relatively healthy and only missed five games in his entire career. Alshon Jeffery will start opposite Marshall to draw attention away from him. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder is still in the prime of his career and still the top WR on the Bears.
7. Julio Jones
Jones followed up his 2011 rookie season with a breakout sophomore campaign. He put up 79 receptions, 1,198 yards and 10 TDs in 2012. Last season Jones was on fire before getting injured in his fifth game. Through five games he pulled down 41 receptions, 580 yards and two TDs. He was beginning to separate himself from the pack, both on his team and in the league. Nonetheless, he will have to split targets with a healthy Roddy White and is a major injury risk. Jones would be much higher on this list if it wasn’t for injury concern. His foot has to be a major concern for anybody that drafted him. If healthy Jones could outperform his No. 7 ranking on this list by a long shot. He has as much talent as any WR in the league not named Calvin.
The Haitian Sensation shattered his career best fantasy numbers in 2013. Garcon caught a league leading 113 passes for 1,346 yards and five TDs. He earned the second most targets in the NFL. The acquisition of DeSean Jackson this offseason will only help Garcons production. Jackson can draw attention and blow the top off opposing defenses. Have no doubts that Jay Gruden will find plenty of passes to go around. If Garcon could manage to pull down just a few more TDs, he could have elite PPR potential.
9. Keenan Allen
Many have forgotten that Allen caught just three passes in the Chargers first three games last season. As a rookie he still managed to catch 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight TDs. A year of experience and tremendous chemistry built with QB Phillip Rivers can go a long way for a young talented WR like Allen. He has great hands, runs great routes and is the undisputed top guy in San Diego. He is poised for a monster year in the Chargers’ high-tempo offense. Expect him to lead the way with a ton of targets and a ton of production.
10. Mike Wallace
In his inaugural season with the Dolphins, Wallace struggled mightily. He never seemed to find where he fit in the offense and never appeared to be on the same page with QB Ryan Tannehill. This preseason, in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s offense, it appears Wallace has found his place quite nicely. Last season wasn’t a total loss for his owners. He still managed 73 receptions, 930 yards and five TDs. He also was targeted 142 times. He should see plenty of targets this season and Lazor will find creative ways to deploy him. Expect Wallace to bounce back in a big way this year.
**Bonus** Emmanuel Sanders
Sanders was already very close to making this list. Now with the 4-game drug suspension piled on top of Wes Welker’s concussion issues, Sanders needs an honorable mention. The young WR will earn a lot of targets from Peyton Manning and has a real shot to be a high-end WR2 this season.