GLS Fantasy WR Preview

There are a lot of questions surrounding some of the top wide receivers in the fantasy football world. Sean Tomlinson and I attempt to answer them, but I’m sure we’ll end up mired in an exchange of personal attacks instead.

Differences in opinion

Brad Gagnon: The most obvious difference in or around the top 10 is that we essentially have Brandon Lloyd and Reggie Wayne in flip-flopped positions. A lot of people think Lloyd will come back to earth after having a fantastic season out of nowhere in 2010. I think that as long as Kyle Orton’s at quarterback and the Broncos are constantly playing catchup, Lloyd will continue to be a yardage machine. I still have him as a solid WR1, while you have him as a top-end WR2. And despite the Peyton Manning neck situation and a feeling that the Colts could take a hit this year, you’re keeping an aging Wayne in that top tier. I’ve explained why I prefer Lloyd to Wayne. Why do you feel differently?

Sean Tomlinson: Colts fans are understandably pushing the panic button because of Manning’s injury, but I don’t think fantasy owners need to do the same. It’s sounding like Manning will miss the first week, and the worst-case scenario has him perhaps out for the first two weeks. Clearly the newly signed Kerry Collins is a downgrade, but he’s always had a cannon, and will be able to feed a streaking Wayne downfield while subbing for Manning. And yes, Wayne turns 33 in November, which should make those in keeper leagues leery of a potential decline as he inches toward 35, the age when established stars can often take a dive off the wide receiver cliff. However, Wayne isn’t showing signs of a decline yet, as he hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season in 2001, and he has 2,619 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns over the past two years.

Brad: Okay, Miles Austin was a borderline top-10 fantasy receiver despite experiencing somewhat of a down year and not having Tony Romo for much of 2010. I see no way he isn’t in the top 10 this year. You have him five spots lower than I do and don’t seem to think he’ll be much more effective than he was without Romo last season. Why is that? One obvious possibility is that you’re expecting big things from Dez Bryant, who you have ranked ahead of Austin. I don’t even have Bryant in my top 20…

Sean: Maybe I’m getting old, and have a bit of Al Davis in me and am developing an infatuation with speed and athleticism. That’s downright scary.

Austin has plenty of those explosive qualities, and I’m not implying that he won’t have a monster season with Romo back under center. But with his Calvin Johnson-lite frame, Bryant is capable of nearly matching Austin’s speed, while far exceeding his physicality. The fear, of course, is a lack of targets due to the amount of offensive weapons in Dallas, but that’s a minimal risk acquired when drafting any Cowboy. Frankly, I’m shocked that Bryant isn’t at the very least worthy of a spot in your top 20.

Brad: From my perspective, he still has a lot to prove.

Overachievers

Brad: Mike Williams will have a big second year with Josh Freeman at the helm, good support from the running game and a solid offensive line. You seem to agree, but you’re not as high on Williams as I am. Is that because of his lack of complements in the receiving corps?

Sean: I quite literally have money invested in Williams’ continued breakout this year, and kept him in one of my leagues. But I made that move knowing that right now his primary source of production lies in the red zone, where Williams is getting more looks than Kellen Winslow and scored 11 touchdowns as a rookie. That’s great, and that alone shows how confident the Bucs are in their second-year receiver. What knocked him down a little further on my chart isn’t Williams’ supporting cast — it’s the other half of his fantasy game. While the end product reflected a fine rookie season with his 964 receiving yards, Williams had only one 100-yard game, and seven times had 55 or fewer. Most of his high-yardage games came before LeGarrette Blount truly emerged, and the Bucs may look to feed the running game more to see if Blount’s undrafted rookie season was a fluke.

Brad: Okay, I’ve got one more for you: Brandon Marshall. He had a tough first year in Miami, and while the Dolphins’ offense might not be much better, I’m hoping a new system will help Marshall score more touchdowns. He still had 1,000 yards last year, but no one seems to have faith in the guy. Remember: Marshall had 100 catches, 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns only a year ago, in 2009.

Sean: The list of receivers who deserve high-end fantasy consideration regardless of their quarterback situation is short. But Marshall still falls on that list despite his 2010 season, and despite the horrific options throwing the ball in South Beach. What discourages me from investing too highly in Marshall isn’t his talent, it’s his 2.8 yards after catch, a troubling number for a receiver known for his elusive ability.

Sleepers

Brad: I’ve got two deep sleepers who I’m keeping an eye on. Mike Sims-Walker immediately becomes a top option in St. Louis, where I think Josh McDaniels can take Sam Bradford and the passing game to the next level. Sims-Walker has apparently been performing wonderfully in training camp, so I’m getting excited about him. The only reason I’m still cautious is that Jacksonville let him walk. Why? Another guy I really like is Jerome Simpson, who can finally breathe with Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco gone. Simpson and A.J. Green could make up a stellar combo, but it won’t be easy early if Andy Dalton is throwing the passes in Cincinnati.

Sean: Jordan Shipley‘s sleeper status is also tied to Dalton after he somehow caught 52 balls for 600 yards during his rookie season last year while competing for looks alongside Simpson, Ochocinco, Owens, and Jermaine Gresham.

Despite the signs of a crumbling empire in the Empire State, I’ve made my love for the Giants’ offense well known in our other fantasy previews. That includes their receivers, and while Mario Manningham moved well beyond hidden gem status last year, Domenik Hixon could evade the radar of some fantasy managers after he missed 2010 with a knee injury. The void left by Steve Smith and the disappearance of his possession receiver skills in the slot needs to be filled, and Hixon has been getting plenty of looks with the first-team offense during the preseason.

Brad: Hixon and Victor Cruz could emerge, but things look pretty dire in the Giants’ world right now. We’ll see.

Underachievers

Brad: I only have one, and we already discussed him. I think Reggie Wayne finally runs into trouble this year. Actually, I think the entire Colts offense does, what with their poor running game, crappy offensive line and lack of receiver depth. I still think Wayne is a stellar fantasy option, but don’t buy too high. I’d rather invest in younger options like Mike Wallace, Calvin Johnson and Hakeem Nicks. I won’t make you defend your high ranking of Wayne again, but I’d be happy to shoot down any receiver disappointments you have on your radar!

Sean: When Reggie Wayne sets records in every passing, running, and receiving category while also selling several cookbooks this year, I’ll have a pile of crow ready for you.

I also only have one, and his name is Wes Welker. Now, ease up a touch, you keyboard warriors. Similar to Gagnon’s opinion of Wayne, I still like the Patriots little receiver who can, but don’t think that he’s worthy of a high investment. Randy Moss’ dominance was a major contributor to Welker’s success over the last several seasons, with the perennial diva providing the speed to spread the field and open up holes for Welker over the middle. When Moss left, Bill Belichick already had his contingency plan in place in the form of his two young tight ends. The aging Chad Ochocinco and Deion Branch can’t open up the same holes as the aging Moss, but when they do some of them are already occupied by Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

Brad: I agree. Although he’s still a fantasy starter, Welker will never again do what he did in 2009.

Busts

Brad: I’ve already talked about Dez Bryant, but I’ll also throw Sidney Rice out there. I understand that he has a history with Tarvaris Jackson, but I don’t think Jackson is going to keep that starting job and Charlie Whitehurst is more familiar with the safer Mike Williams. That move to Seattle really hurt Rice’s value, so don’t expect him to return to 1,000-yard land in 2011 just because he’s healthy again. And yes, I realize this isn’t a mind-blowing bust, but I didn’t have a lot of guys I was really against beyond Dez.

Sean: Earlier I mentioned a select group of receivers who should be drafted highly regardless of who they’re receiving balls from. Rice is loaded with talent, but isn’t nearly established enough to be included in that group, although like most I am willing to give him a pass on his 2010 season because of his injury, and Brett Favre’s old man syndrome.

Speaking of Favre’s fade, is there any reason to believe Donovan McNabb will be much better? That’s why Percy Harvin will continue to toil as your third wide receiver at best, flirting with a 1,000-yard season, but still not quite fulfilling the true breakout potential that his talent has teased us with.

Braylon Edwards is also another incredibly obvious bust. His value last year with the Jets lied primarily in his red-zone presence, a role that Vernon Davis occupies in San Francisco. Edwards will still be targeted due to his height and long wingspan, but his opportunities will face a sharp decline because of both Davis’ presence, and the quarterback atrocity known as Alex Smith.

Brad: I still have high hopes for Harvin, who could become the No. 1 target in Minnesota. Santana Moss held it down with McNabb last year, so we’ll see.

Rookies

Brad: I know this is stating the obvious, but if you’re in a keeper league A.J. Green and Julio Jones have to be considered in the top five rounds. As far as this year goes, I’m leaning toward Jones, who’s already a part of an established offense but will start, over Green, who has question marks surrounding his team’s offense. Beyond that, Jonathan Baldwin, Titus Young, Torrey Smith, Greg Little and Randall Cobb shouldn’t be touched in drafts.

Sean: I think you just covered pretty much the entire draft, so thanks for that. I’ll just add that even in non-keeper leagues Green and Jones have clear value, although Jones needs to come off the board far ahead of Green because of the Matt Ryan-led offense that he landed in, and because of the experienced veterans drawing attention at key offensive positions, starting with Roddy White on the opposite side of the field.

Brad: Then we agree on that. Everything else you said is completely wrong. I enjoy having the last word. Tight ends tomorrow. Here are the rankings…

BRAD’S LIST
1 Andre Johnson No one’s better on a per-game basis, and now he’s healthy again.
2 Roddy White Addition of Julio Jones will help, not hurt.
3 Greg Jennings Best WR in the league during second half of 2010. Nothing has changed.
4 Mike Wallace Fastest player in the league will become a superstar in 2011.
5 Calvin Johnson A tad worried about injuries, but a healthy Matt Stafford will be huge.
6 Larry Fitzgerald Finally has a real quarterback again.
7 Brandon Lloyd As long as Kyle Orton’s the quarterback he’ll be an acceptable WR1.
8 Hakeem Nicks Had 80 yards per game and 11 touchdowns in his second year.
9 Miles Austin Healthy Tony Romo boosts his stock.
10 Mike Williams He and Josh Freeman are growing into a superstar tandem.
11 DeSean Jackson Still getting better, and gives you a special teams boost.
12 Reggie Wayne Without a healthy Peyton Manning, the aging Wayne takes a hit.
13 Dwayne Bowe Lacks consistency, but still a great No. 2 fantasy receiver.
14 Stevie Johnson The only option in Buffalo is a bit of a wild card.
15 Marques Colston Consistently the most productive receiver in a great offense.
16 Brandon Marshall Have to believe he’ll score more touchdowns in 2011.
17 Vincent Jackson Philip Rivers will have his target from the get-go this year.
18 Jeremy Maclin Actually had better numbers than DeSean Jackson as a receiver in 2010.
19 Percy Harvin Has a chance to become the No. 1 option in Minnesota.
20 Kenny Britt Apparently the Titans will feature him throughout the year.
SEAN’S LIST
1 Andre Johnson A healthy Owen Daniels for a full season would be nice.
2 Roddy White Gonzo is fading over the middle, but now Jones arrives to draw looks.
3 Greg Jennings Similar to Johnson, will benefit from a healthy Pro Bowl caliber tight end.
4 Larry Fitzgerald Anyone would have been an upgrade at QB. We’ll settle for Kevin Kolb.
5 Calvin Johnson Eventually we’ll find out what he can do with Stafford for a full year.
6 Mike Wallace He’s aiming high, and wants to be a 2,000 yard receiver.
7 Hakeem Nicks Had nearly 80 receptions despite Smith’s presence.
8 Reggie Wayne Not slowing down with age yet, and isn’t ready to hit the wall.
9 Vincent Jackson Primed for major returns during a full season.
10 DeSean Jackson Motivated by a contract year.
11 Dez Bryant Really love his tools. Will equal and perhaps pass Miles.
12 Brandon Lloyd Orton’s chemistry with Lloyd will continue.
13 Santonio Holmes Cotchery and Edwards are gone, and Burress is a question mark.
14 Miles Austin My Bryant infatuation doesn’t subtract from Miles’ Romo re-connection.
15 Marques Colston Is hurt by Brees’ love for spreading touches.
16 Mike Williams Would like to see more yards, but red-zone are encouraging.
17 Dwayne Bowe Addition of Breaston won’t be a subtraction.
18 Wes Welker See: Marques Colston (just worse).
19 Jeremy Maclin Thrives with Jackson opening up lanes in the middle.
20 Brandon Marshall Paltry 2.8 YAC in 2010 is discouraging.

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