2014 Fantasy Football: Finding Value in Wide Receivers
The wide receivers on your fantasy football teams are often the forgotten men. Unless you land one of the four or five bona fide superstars at wideout, your roster likely features one top-tiered receiver backed by three or four interchangeable retreads. The truth is you can save those valuable in-season adds and drops by finding value in wide receivers on draft night.
The 1st Round No-Brainers
Calvin Johnson – Once your top-tiered quarterbacks are off the market and the streak of elite running backs being taken is over it’s time to look for wide receivers. The undisputed number one wide receiver has been and remains to be Calvin Johnson, who has averaged 1,700 yards and double-digit TD’s the past three seasons. Even the arrival of the traditionally conservative Jim Caldwell to run the team shouldn’t derail Megatron, especially with former Saints QB coach Joe Lombardi at offensive coordinator.
Demaryius Thomas – Eric Decker is no longer there to take balls and TD’s and Wes Welker is on the fast decline so Thomas could actually improve on his 1,430 yard, 14 TD performance a year ago. With Cleveland’s Josh Gordon serving a season long suspension there’s only a handful of wideouts that should be selected in the first round, whereas Thomas is one of the two that could be selected in the top 5-10.
Dez Bryant – The talented Bryant has a couple positive things going for him in 2014. First off the Cowboys have brought in former Lions OC Scott Linehan to man the offense so Bryant could see more downfield opportunities coming his way. Second, the fifth year player is in a contract year which always seems to be added motivation. Finally the porous and banged-up Dallas defense means Romo, Bryant, and company could be on the field the majority of the game.
A.J. Green – It’s hard to argue with A.J. Green’s productivity the past two seasons (195 catches, 2,726 yards, and 22 TD’s) and that doesn’t look to change in 2014. New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is decidedly more run oriented but if anything that opens Green up for more downfield play action yards and TD’s on fewer catches.
Value Any Time
Julio Jones – It’s hard to predict where Jones will be drafted in 2014 fantasy drafts. He’s recovering from a foot injury that limited him to 5 games in 2013 and Roddy White is always a threat to steal balls. Still, getting Jones anywhere from the late 1st on should see good value.
Brandon Marshall /Alshon Jeffery – Even with the resurgence of Jeffrey, Marshall was able to rack up 100 receptions in 2013 as he’s still Jay Cutler‘s go-to-guy. Jeffrey’s stock is only rising in year two of Marc Trestman‘s offense and he’ll be a steal no matter where he’s drafted because teams can’t guard both guys.
Andre Johnson – He’s disgruntled with his contract and his QB prospects are anything but bright but Andre Johnson still has value wherever you select him. Even with a QB carousel in 2013 Johnson posted 109 catches and over 1,400 yards pretty much under the radar. The Texans will be better, but still probably bad so they’ll be behind in the game to keep chucking the ball.
Jordy Nelson / Randall Cobb – Another package deal who if anything steal stats from each other, Cobb or Nelson could both have blowout games any given Sunday. Both players want to perform in a contract year and both should benefit from third wheel James Jones heading to Oakland
The Next Level
Vincent Jackson – Once you start entering the third round of your draft and every stud WR is gone, it’s time to pick one that you won’t be entirely depressed about before they’re all gone. Jackson had a solid 2013 and should produce if Lovie Smith lets OC Jeff Tedford open up the offense. Plus new Josh McCown knows how to throw to big targets from his time in Chicago and rookie WR Mike Evans should attract some DB attention to free up V-Jax.
Emmanuel Sanders – It’s hard to go wrong drafting anybody who catches balls for the Broncos and Sanders will prove this year that Eric Decker’s 2013 numbers were a product of the system. Sanders caught a respectable 67 balls for 740 yards and 6 TD in Pittsburgh last year and can play both out wide and in the slot. Look for yardage and TD to almost double with Manning throwing him the ball and Welker wobbly.
Michael Crabtree – You could even substitute the steady Anquan Boldin in this position but a healthy Crabtree should take the next step in 2014. Kaepernick is a better QB when Crabtree is in the lineup and last year’s playoffs showed #15 is the favorite target for the gunslinger with 11 catches of 10+ yards.
Roddy White – If White plays like he did towards the end of 2013 when he was seemingly finally healthy, he’ll be a steal in the 4th or higher round in 2014. White had 8+ catches in 4 of the last 5 games with two yardage outputs of 143 and 141…without Julio Jones in the lineup mind you.
Victor Cruz – Cruz will fall to you this year because of an abysmal New York Giants 2013 season. There’s a lot of roster turnaround for 2014 but the biggest for Cruz could be Ben McAdoo bringing over a West Coast offense developed in Green Bay that could put Cruz back in the Pro Bowl as the main target now that Hakeem Nicks is gone.
Risky…But Worth It
Desean Jackson – With a fresh outlook on offense for 2014 Jackson could thrive with RGIII. That being said the relationship could also implode but he’s worth a flier if still there late in the draft.
Sammy Watkins – Admittedly hasn’t built a rapport with QB E.J. Manuel yet and 1st year WR’s are always a project. Buffalo mortgaged too much to move from 9 to 4 in the draft for Watkins not to be productive in 2014.
T.Y. Hilton – Had 5 games of +120 yards last year but also had 4 with less than 40. A definite value play for when one of you top-tier WR’s is on bye as you hope for a T.Y Blowout game.
Michael Floyd – Teammate Larry Fitzgerald will get drafted first in most leagues but it might be (will likely be) Floyd who has better numbers when the season concludes.