The focus of our position-by-position fantasy previews shifts to wide receiver, where Sean Tomlinson and I finally have some serious disagreements.
Differences in opinion
Gagnon: I suppose we’ll once again start at the top, where I’m going with the obvious choice, Andre Johnson. The guy has dominated for back-to-back seasons and he’s still young (maybe only entering his prime now) and part of a great offence in Houston. I see no reason why he won’t be the best wideout in fantasy this year, and I can’t understand how you, Mr. Tomlinson, have Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss ahead of him.
Tomlinson: Much like the running backs, this is a position where there’s little separation at the top in my opinion. I have Fitzgerald ahead because it seems everyone is bolting from the Cardinals after the retirement of Kurt Warner and departure of Anquan Boldin. Few seem to believe in Matt Leinart. But he’s had nearly three seasons to watch and learn from Warner, and while there will be a drop, it won’t be massive. And Steve Breaston had 712 yards as the third receiver buried behind Fitz and Boldin last year, making him a more than capable replacement.
As for Moss, he gets the edge over Johnson because I don’t have total confidence in Matt Schaub duplicating his 2009 performance. The Brady-Moss connection has gelled for quite some time, and despite his age, Moss is only two years removed from a 23-touchdown season, and he has Julian Edelman emerging on the other side of the field to attract attention.
Gagnon: Yeah, he also has some guy named Wes Welker. But Johnson was even a baller in 2008, before Schaub really took off as a top-end quarterback. It seems like it doesn’t matter who’s throwing the guy the ball. I will give you this: Moss is in a contract year, so there’s a decent chance he becomes a monster again. Still, Johnson is without a doubt the top fantasy receiver, in my opinion.
And my other bone to pick with you is this Calvin Johnson ranking of yours. I’ve seen him ranked low in a few places, but 13th? The guy’s a 24-year-old freak of nature in an offence that continues to get better. I think he becomes a top-three fantasy receiver this year.
Tomlinson: Yes, I’ve noticed your Detroit Lions infatuation, and while I’m excited to see Detroit’s young talent grow as well, I don’t quite share it. Ahead of Johnson I went out on a limb with my prediction of a bounce-back year for Dwayne Bowe (more on that later), and Steve Smith can also be questioned in that shaky Carolina offence (more on that too), but the rest are monsters of their own in equally bulldozer-like offences. Look, I like Calvin, and I see him continuing to forge a strong bond with Matthew Stafford. But this is still Detroit, the 21st-ranked passing offence in the league last year.
Steve Smith or Steve Smith?
Gagnon: Another thing that just blows me away is that you don’t even have Steve Smith of the Giants on your list, yet you have Carolina’s Steve Smith in the 10 spot. This despite the fact you’ve said you don’t believe in Matt Moore. The Giants’ Steve Smith is 25, is only getting better and had way better numbers last year than the Panthers’ 31-year-old Steve Smith, who I believe is in decline.
Tomlinson: You’re right, I’m not a Moore fan, and I may or may not list the Panthers’ Steve Smith as a potential bust (I’m such a tease). But although his yardage numbers dropped off last year, Smith is still reaching the end zone on a steady clip. Numbers aside, the Smith in Carolina presents a far greater home run threat than the Smith in New York, who is largely a possession receiver and narrowly missed out on my top 20. Now, let’s never debate two players with identical names again.
Gagnon: I’ll agree to that so long as you agree to never refer to yourself as “a tease” again. I really like Jeremy Maclin to bust out this year. The guy might actually be a better player than DeSean Jackson, which sucks from a fantasy perspective because the two are on the same team. I think the Jackson-Maclin duo is the next big wideout pairing in the NFL.
Tomlinson: I’m excited about the tools Maclin brings to the Eagles offence as well, but am still mildly concerned about Kevin Kolb, the new starter in Philly who everyone is giddy about after only two starts.
I’ll go with Dwayne Bowe as my sleeper candidate, and he’s a sleeper only because you’ll likely get a major discount on the Chiefs receiver following his awful 2009 season. Sure, the Chiefs’ woeful offence had a lot to do with it, and especially the offensive line. But Bowe also missed significant time due to injury and an early season suspension. Charlie Weis is in town now, Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones will keep the running game moving, and, assuming the O-line can make even a modest improvement and keep Matt Cassel upright, things could line up nicely for Bowe.
Gagnon: Keep in mind, please, that while Calvin Johnson’s Lions were 21st in passing last year, Dwayne Bowe’s Chiefs were 25th.
Also, watch for Malcom Floyd in San Diego. Someone will have to become Philip Rivers’ favourite outside target if Vincent Jackson isn’t around for a good chunk of the season. I also like Devin Aromashodu and Johnny Knox in Chicago. They’ll benefit from the presence of a revitalized passing attack.
Tomlinson: Hopefully Mike Martz works wonders and turns around Jay Cutler in addition to helping along the likes of Aromashodu and Knox. I won’t ruin our rookies section like I did in the RB preview, but watch for Mardy Gilyard to emerge late in season on a young receiving corps in St. Louis.
Gagnon: Another glaring difference in our rankings is you have Miles Austin fourth while I have him way down in 12th. Austin is my major bust candidate for 2010, mainly because I’m not convinced he’s quite as good as his numbers revealed last year, defences will be preparing for him this year and he not only has to fight for catches with Jason Witten and Roy Williams, but Dez Bryant now too.
Tomlinson: No one will be surprised by Austin this year, but that’s no reason to stay away. This is an offence based around a strong aerial attack, and the other targets were there for Tony Romo last season too, when Austin emerged. Witten will continue to be the safety valve up the middle, Williams will be the overrated veteran, and Bryant will present the only true threat to Austin’s touches.
Gagnon: Well, I think that could become a significant threat quickly. Don’t you love that the world is right again and we disagree on everything?
Tomlinson: It really is a beautiful place. This is awkward, because Steve Smith, the same Steve Smith from Carolina that I defended a moment ago, is my bust. I stuck up for the flag football pro because I like him over his namesake from New York, but that doesn’t mean I’m that high on him overall. Smith will still put up serviceable numbers no matter who is behind centre, as he did with the always erratic Jake Delhomme chucking the ball around. But Smith’s years as an elite wide receiver are behind him, at least until the Panthers get some stability at quarterback.
Gagnon: I’m embarrassed for you.
Gagnon: It’s tough to become a fantasy threat as a rookie receiver, but usually two or three guys emerge each year. This season, Bryant is the obvious first choice, but beyond that I’m feeling Demaryius Thomas, simply because there aren’t a lot of other options in Denver and Josh McDaniels will make that passing game better than it looks on paper.
Tomlinson: Aside from Gilyard and his impressive length, and Bryant, who everyone expects to be a factor, Golden Tate is the rookie with the best chance to produce. He’ll likely break camp as Seattle’s third receiver behind T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch, and will be a boom-or-bust option that could be used as a surprise deep-play threat.
Gagnon: Arrelious Benn is an intriguing option in Tampa, too. With no proven starting receivers on the Buccaneers roster, a good preseason from Benn or fellow rookie Mike Williams could make either into a legit starter quickly. But I wouldn’t draft either until there’s an indication that things could swing that way.
Alright, that’s it for wide receivers. Tight ends are next. And unfortunately, I’m not referring to these.
|1||Andre Johnson||Most productive wide receiver in the league for two years running.|
|2||Calvin Johnson||This is the year the 24-year-old takes off, along with the rest of that offence.|
|3||Reggie Wayne||Very consistent and you can’t really go wrong with Peyton Manning.|
|4||Larry Fitzgerald||Worried about what Kurt Warner’s retirement and the loss of Anquan Boldin.|
|5||Brandon Marshall||He’ll lead the league in receptions.|
|6||Randy Moss||Is this the year age catches up to him?|
|7||Sidney Rice||Only going to keep getting better.|
|8||Wes Welker||Obviously the knee is something to keep an eye on.|
|9||DeSean Jackson||I love the guy, but I feel Jeremy Maclin will get a lot of looks, too.|
|10||Roddy White||See: Sidney Rice|
|11||Steve Smith (NYG)||Only small concern is there are a lot of potential options for Eli Manning.|
|12||Miles Austin||I can just see Roy Williams and Dez Bryant stealing some of the spotlight.|
|13||Greg Jennings||Numbers dipped a bit last year, but you know what you’re getting.|
|14||Anquan Boldin||A bit of a mystery, but should see plenty of passes in Baltimore.|
|15||Marques Colston||Too inconsistent to be a No. 1 fantasy receiver.|
|16||Vincent Jackson||Suspension and potential holdout kill his value.|
|17||Dwayne Bowe||Giving him a bit of a mulligan for last year’s mess. Still young and talented.|
|18||Michael Crabtree||Should bust out in his first full season.|
|19||Mike Wallace||Could step into Santonio Holmes’ shoes.|
|20||Jeremy Maclin||My biggest sleeper. Can honestly see him pushing DeSean Jackson on paper.|
|1||Larry Fitzgerald||Don’t be scared away by Matt Leinart.|
|2||Randy Moss||Patriots offence is still the Patriots offence.|
|3||Andre Johnson||Just simply strong and fast with great leaping ability.|
|4||Miles Austin||Dez Bryant only real threat to steal touches.|
|5||Reggie Wayne||Consistent with at least 1,200 yards in three of his last four years.|
|6||Roddy White||Even with Matt Ryan’s struggles still had highly productive year.|
|7||Greg Jennings||Blazing speed as main option in high-octane passing offence.|
|8||Brandon Marshall||Height and hands went nowhere, but questions surround Chad Henne.|
|9||DeSean Jackson||Love the offence overall, but still unsure of Kevin Kolb.|
|10||Steve Smith (CAR)||Diminishing, but still home run threat.|
|11||Marques Colston||Great talent, but offence too spread out.|
|12||Dwayne Bowe||Healthy, and prime bouce-back candidate with Weis running offence.|
|13||Calvin Johnson||A monster in a young, highly skilled offence.|
|14||Sidney Rice||Brett Favre will come back, Rice’s rise will resume.|
|15||Chad Ochocinco||Now shares the ball with Terrell Owens.|
|16||Anquan Boldin||Now the first option again with move to Baltimore.|
|17||Vincent Jackson||Stays here only if regular-season holdout avoided (unlikely).|
|18||Michael Crabtree||Shaky QB situation, but still showed enough to believe in breakout this year.|
|19||Percy Harvin||Adds electric return ability to speed as slot receiver.|
|20||Santana Moss||Uncertainty with declining Donovan McNabb.|