Tier based drafting is an important strategy to consider when drafting your fantasy football teams. It is a much more powerful tool than just looking at a rankings list cheat sheet because it forces you to draw lines in the sand on players and decide where the value drop offs are for each position. It is enormously helpful in deciding if you can wait to grab a certain position or if there is danger in waiting because you are nearing the end of a tier. These are fluid rankings and will certainly change when we find out what teams draft the rookies, where players move in free agency, and as offseason injuries occur. This week we look at the wide receiver position.
In a tier by himself. Not much else to say here. Megatron is far and away the #1 fantasy WR to own. If you want to own Calvin Johnson draft him in the 1st or early 2nd round or you will not get him.
AJ Green had a nine game touchdown scoring streak in 2012. His production tailed off toward the end of the season, scoring only one touchdown in the final 6 games. The great thing about AJ Green though is that his quarterback has no problem force feeding him the football. Even without touchdowns he makes a great fantasy start every week because of his receptions and yards. He will continue to be the #1 option in the passing game for the Bengals and next season he shouldn’t see nearly as much bracket coverage.
Dez Bryant is an extreme talent. He answered many of the questions surrounding him last season. Whether it was the alleged 24/7 monitoring by the Cowboys, or Bryant finally growing up, the much maligned receiver became exactly what the Cowboys hoped he would be when selecting him with a first round pick. Of all the wide receivers in this tier, Bryant has the best chance of joining Calvin Johnson in the first tier. He just has to keep working hard and stay out of trouble off the field.
Julio Jones ahead of Roddy White? Yep it’s true. While Roddy White will continue to be the favorite possession receiver for Matt Ryan, Jones has overtaken White to become the #1 option in the Falcons passing game. His unique size and speed combination allow him to do things that White simply cannot. Consider him a legit top 10 WR going forward and draft accordingly.
With Peyton Manning as his quarterback, Thomas finally realized his full potential as a true NFL and fantasy WR1. Not only did he make it through the full 16 game season for the first time in his career, he also pulled down 94 receptions for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns. Some are concerned that he will lose targets to Welker, but I don’t believe that to be the case. Welker’s targets will come from Stokley and the tight ends, not from Thomas or Decker. All three can be very good fantasy wide receivers in this offense.
Brandon Marshall was the one and only option in the Bears passing attack in 2012. Jay Cutler force fed him the football to the tune of 194 targets, 2nd only to Calvin Johnson’s record breaking 205. You have to think that Alshon Jeffery develops and Martellus Bennett takes some of those targets in 2013, but Marshall will continue to be the apple of Jay Cutler’s eye.
Percy Harvin joining the Seahawks is a huge upgrade for both the team and the player. Harvin gets a huge upgrade at quarterback, and instantly becomes the best offensive weapon on the Seahawks. An argument could certainly be made for having him in tier 2, especially in PPR leagues, but let’s see how Coach Pete Carroll uses him first.
Andre Johnson started with a big game in week 1 of 2012 but then had a 4 game slump where he didn’t record more than 3 catches in a single game, including a 1 catch game for just 15 yards. Following that game, Johnson went on a tear, silencing critics that wondered if he had anything left. Johnson finished the season with 112 catches and 1,598 yards; a career high. The touchdowns were down to just 4, but remember that AJ has never been a huge touchdown guy. He has never reached double digits in a season. Andre Johnson should finally get some help in the Texans wide receiver crew this offseason. The Texans are likely to take a wide receiver early in the draft, maybe even Tavon Austin if he falls to them. More talent for the Texans at wide receiver will help Johnson with constant double coverage and he should again be among the lead leaders in targets and receptions in 2013.
I’m not just the President of the Larry FItzgerald owner support group, I’m also a client. The QB play this season in Arizona HAS to improve right? RIGHT? I actually really like Carson Palmer to revitalize his career ala Kurt Warner. I’m not saying he will achieve the same level of success as Warner did, but in terms of Larry Fitzgerald’s fantasy success I’d say it will be a lot closer to the Warner years than it has been the last two years. He is a legit low end WR1 with top 5 type upside.
Roddy White will continue to be a safety valve for Matt Ryan but in my opinion his days as the WR1 in Atlanta are over. He may very well have more receptions than Julio Jones again in 2013, but I’m betting he doesn’t have nearly as much production as Jones on a per catch basis. Still a solid low end WR1 to mid WR2 for your fantasy team but he won’t have the kind of production we have come to expect.
Flip a coin on who will be more productive for our fantasy teams with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. I see more touchdowns for Nelson but more catches and yards for Cobb. Nelson struggled much of the year with injuries while Cobb flourished in his new “Percy Harvin-like” role. Both players represent good value in the 3rd round or later.
I like Victor Cruz, but we need to see where he lands in free agency to really take a shot at his value. If he returns to the Giants then vault him to the top of this tier. If he ends up on a worse team we will have to reevaluate this ranking.
Tier 4 starts off with Vincent Jackson; an explosive wide receiver that has a tendency to disappear for several games each season. He is a high end boom/bust play, but in his case the big games are so big that you have to play him nearly every week. A great WR2 and a fantastic WR3 for your fantasy team should you be lucky enough to draft him as such.
I am excited about Danny Amendola in New England. At this point in their careers, dare I say that Amendola can be better than Wes Welker in the New England offense. He can run outside routes which Welker doesn’t do well and he doesn’t drop nearly as many balls as Welker. Danny Amendola can certainly catch upwards of 90 balls in this offense. He caught 85 in 2010 with the Rams and as long as he can stay healthy he can easily eclipse that with Tom Brady as his quarterback.
Reggie Wayne silenced a lot of critics last season. They said he was too old to produce at a high level with a rookie QB. While youngsters TY Hilton and LaVon Brazil will certainly be more involved, the veteran will still be the go to receiver for Andrew Luck. If you wait on wide receiver, draft Wayne in the 5th or 6th round and you won’t be disappointed with your return on the investment.
Marques Colston will again be a solid value in the draft. Sean Payton is back at the helm and he along with QB Drew Brees will again make Colston a solid fantasy WR2 with WR1 upside in any given week.
The Giants’ reluctance to sign Victor Cruz long term speaks volumes on how they feel about Hakeem Nicks. When Nicks is healthy he is without question one of the best in the game. Unfortunately, he has been hurt more than he has been healthy the last two seasons. The reward is worth the risk somewhere in the 4th - early 6th round as your WR2.
James Jones finally lived up to his potential in 2012, catching a league high 14 touchdowns. With Greg Jennings moving on to the Vikings, Jones will be lining up across from Jordy Nelson. I don’t think he catches 14 TDs, but I see Jones as a solid fantasy WR2 in 2013.
I’m intrigued about how exactly Wes Welker joining the Denver Broncos is going to affect the rest of the passing game. As mentioned earlier, I believe it changes very little for Demaryius Thomas. If anything it should help him. Eric Decker however is another story. I think his targets suffer a little and I can see him taking a big drop down this list. Perhaps even 2-3 tiers. For now though I think his value holds steady as a low end WR2 to mid range WR3 while Welker will be a solid mid to high WR2 in PPR leagues.
Pierre Garcon was a fantasy WR1 last season when both he and RG3 were healthy and in the lineup. If RG3 is the opening day starter Garcon will be moving up at least a tier if not two.
Old man Steve Smith is still a low end fantasy WR2 with WR1 upside in any given week. He does tend to disappear completely a few games each season, but I would not be sad to have Smith as my WR2 or WR3 on my fantasy teams. I think Carolina may add another weapon or two in the draft this season to take some of the double coverages away from Steve Smith.
Dwayne Bowe got the big contract, an upgrade at QB, and a new head coach that is known for his passing offense. I have never been a Bowe fan and I would argue now that he has been paid we are going to see a less productive player. The upside is there in Reid’s system and he is clearly the only real target the Chiefs have in their wide receiving corp, but I’m not sold. If you can get him as your WR3 or as a late WR2 he will have some value but he will likely be drafted much too high for my tastes
Like Bowe, Steve Johnson is far and away the #1 target in his passing offense. The problem here is that he doesn’t have a QB. As of this writing, Tarvaris Jackson is the opening day starter for the Bills. Yea, they need some help there. Buffalo is a potential landing spot for Geno Smith if he makes it past Arizona. Another option would be to pass on QB in the first round and then draft Ryan Nassib in the 2nd round. Nassib was new Bills head coach Doug Marrone's quarterback at Syracuse last season.
Dez Bryant has clearly surpassed Austin in the Dallas WR pecking order, but when healthy Austin is still a great receiver for Tony Romo and a good one for your fantasy team. The health is been the real issue the last couple of years. Lately, it seems like Miles Austin strains a hammy every time he sneezes. As a fantasy WR3? Sure. As a fantasy WR2? I’ll pass.
Greg Jennings has the potential to tumble down these rankings. He is really going to miss Aaron Rodgers after a few games of Christian Ponder throwing him the football. Fantasy owners that draft Jennings highly will be disappointed.
To be honest, I don’t have a great feel for how Mike Wallace is going to do in Miami. He could easily move up or down this list significantly. I really do like Ryan Tannehill. He is not Ben Roethlisberger though, at least not yet. Miami continues to add offensive weapons which should help take some coverage away from Wallace. There is certainly some things to like for Wallace’s new situation, but something just doesn't feel right about it to me. I view Wallace as a guy that relies heavily on his speed. What happens to him when he loses a step? Love him as a fantasy WR3. He will be over drafted so if you like him more than I do be prepared to grab him somewhere around WR25 off the board. wait much later and you will likely miss out.
Cecil Shorts was one of the few bright spots for the Jags last season. He seemed to perform equally well with Gabbert and Henne throughout the second half of the season. I am optimistic about his ability to play well again in 2013 with Gabbert or another QB they drafted.
In tier 6 we really start getting into the players that don’t want to have to start as anything more than a WR3 or perhaps WR2 in a bye week or injury situation. Now that Mike Wallace is in Miami, Antonio Brown is going to need to step it up and show that he can be a true NFL WR1 and deal with the coverage from the opposition’s best cover corner. Brown is much more valuable in PPR leagues due to his low touchdown production. That could change this season but he has never shown a strong propensity for the end zone.
Torrey Smith lost Anquan Boldin so will likely see lots of double teams in 2013. Jacoby Jones has been better than expected, but isn’t consistent enough to draw the focus of the defense. Smith could be in for a tough year despite being Flacco’s best target.
DeSean Jackson is mind numbingly inconsistent but so explosive that it is hard to take him out of your fantasy lineups. He is one of those players that can have an entire fantasy day on a single play. As such he will likely never be much more than a WR3 or flex play for fantasy purposes. I am very interested to see how he performs in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Anquan Boldin joins the 49ers for 2013 where he will certainly eat into Michael Crabtree’s production. Boldin is still one of the toughest players in the game at the WR position. Think of him as a Hines Ward with more size and better hands at this point in his career. Jim Harbaugh is likely salivating at using Boldin as a blocker in the run game as he is one of the best in the business in that part of the game. For fantasy purposes he is likely a low end WR3 or flex play.
Danario Alexander was a fantasy WR1 for for a five game stretch in 2012. His talent is undeniable, but neither are his health concerns. He has yet to put together an entire 16 game season. If he comes back to San Diego I think he could become Mike McCoy’s new Demaryius Thomas as long as he can stay on the field. Draft him as a fantasy WR3, but realize that WR1 upside is there.
TY Hilton surprised a lot of people last year. He is a burner that makes his money by getting behind the defense. As of right now the Colts haven’t brought in another receiver so it looks like they are going with him across from Reggie Wayne. A perfect fantasy WR3.
I actually like Jeremy Maclin more than DeSean Jackson because he is a more complete receiver and a much better red zone threat. He has struggled with his health the last couple of seasons though and we aren’t yet sure what his role will be in Chip Kelly's offense. He could move up a tier or two, but for now consider him a WR3 or flex play.
Justin Blackmon really started to come on towards the end of the season and showed that he might not be a complete bust. His coming out party was against the Texans in week 12. In that game the rookie put up a monstrous 7 catches for 236 yards and a touchdown. I consider him a WR3 or flex play at this point but here’s another guy with a real shot to move up the rankings.
If I had to to use one word to describe Lance Moore, it would be, “solid”. He is involved in the offense every week and very rarely ever gives you a goose egg. He is a great WR3 with WR2 upside. With Coach Peyton back in town he could move up a few tiers.
In 2012 Mike Williams rebounded from a disappointing second season. What we learned about him is that he is a fantastic NFL WR2 when he has someone else to draw the other team’s #1 corner. Vincent Jackson joining the Bucs last season via free agency may have saved Mike Williams’s career. A very good jump ball receiver (especially in the end zone), Williams put up nearly 1000 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. I don’t think there is a lot of room for improvement there but he will make a great WR3 or flex play for your fantasy team with high WR2 upside in any given week.
Kendall Wright has a real opportunity to take over the #1 WR role in Tennessee. Kenny Britt, while extremely talented continues to have off the field issues as well as health concerns after surgery on both knees. Nate Washington is still around as well but Wright is the best receiver on the Titans right now. A lot of his success will depend on the play of QB Jake Locker. Wright flashed several times last season but needs to be more consistent. Another offseason with Locker should help the two develop chemistry that will carry over to the regular season.
A lot of criticism was directed at the Browns for giving up a 2nd round pick to draft Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft. I’d say they look pretty smart now. Gordon surprised to the tune of 50 catches, 806 yards and 5 touchdowns. He and QB Brandon Weeden breathed life into the Browns’ passing attack despite another disappointing season from teammate Greg Little. Gordon will be a great flex play week in and week out after serving that pesky two game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy
If Ryan Broyles can return from his 2nd ACL injury in as many years than the Lions may really have something here. Reports out of OTAs are that he will be able to practice during training camp so if he is available in the final rounds of your draft I advocate taking a flier on him.
Nate Burleson is one of my favorite “sleepers” for 2013. With Broyles suffering an ACL tear on his right knee late in the season (and an ACL tear on his left knee the year before in college) and Titus Young out of the league, Burleson has a real opportunity to be the #2 WR on a pass first team that has Calvin Johnson drawing constant double teams. Nate Burleson is a savvy veteran that will make the most of his opportunities and played well last season when he was healthy. Draft him as a flex play, but he has WR2 upside in any given week.
Kenny Britt and Nate Washington are playing second (and third) fiddle to Kendall Wright next season. Both could have value as a flex play or bye week fill in, but not much more than that at this point. Britt has all the physical talent in the world but his knees are pieced together like Frankenstein’s monster after back to back season ending knee surgeries. He disappointed in 2012, but could bounce back. Quarterback Jake Locker’s development is also a key factor here. There are too many question marks in the Tennessee passing game right now for me to advocate drafting any of their wide receivers unless significant value presents itself late in the draft.
Lloyd was cut by the Patriots. We need to see where he lands before we can give a true projection of his value. He is in tier 8 based on his talent alone.
Brian Hartline had a very good 2012 and developed some nice chemistry with his QB Ryan Tannehill. As a result, the Dolphins rewarded Hartline with a nice contract and signed Mike Wallace to give him some help in the receiving game. While Hartline struggled at times as an NFL WR1, he should flourish as a WR2 with Wallace garnering most of the defense’s attention. I like him as a WR3/flex play in 2013 with low WR2 upside.
I’ll be honest, I have no idea what to do with Denarius Moore. He has both fantasy and NFL WR1 ability and has flashed that at times, but he hasn’t put it all together yet. He could easily move up several tiers, but I’m not willing to do so just yet.
Sidney Rice and Golden Tate will now be playing second fiddle to Percy Harvin in the Seahawks passing game. I think Tate suffers quite a bit more than Rice because Harvin is a similar player to Tate, but better in every facet of the game. Rice will maintain his redzone and deep ball value because of his ability to high-point passes. Harvin could open things up a bit for Rice but I want to see it first before we move him up.
Andre Roberts was one of the lone bright spots in 2012 for an Arizona Cardinals team that lost 11 of it’s last 12 games. I have liked Roberts since coming out of the Citadel in 2010. He is a very fluid receiver that is more quick than fast. He makes great adjustments when the ball in the air and has good hands. That said, he definitely benefitted from constant double and triple teams on Larry Fitzgerald in 2012. There are a couple of things not to like about Roberts in 2012. Teams now have game tape on him and won’t be caught off guard as they were at times in 2012. The Cardinals also spent a high first round pick on Michael Floyd last season and are sure to get him more involved. I think Andre Roberts is better suited to be a slot receiver anyway so I’m not as concerned about Floyd. With improved offensive line and quarterback play in 2013, Roberts could again put up flex worthy numbers, especially in PPR leagues.
With the departure of Mike Wallace to Miami, Sanders steps into a starter role for the Steelers opposite Antonio Brown. He has flashed ability but has had trouble staying healthy throughout his short career. As of this writing, rumors are flying that the Patriots are interested in Sanders but have yet to submit an offer sheet. My feeling is that if they do in fact go after Sanders it will be with a deal that the Steelers won’t be able to match. Sanders will certainly move up this list if he is a Patriot in 2013.
I probably have Malcom Floyd too low on this list, but for now this is where I am comfortable placing them. Danario Alexander seems to be the new #1 target in San Diego, but we can’t ignore the chemistry that Floyd has with quarterback Philip Rivers. Malcom Floyd caught Philip Rivers’s first ever touchdown pass and has been with him his entire career. Floyd’s issue has always been his health. In eight seasons, Malcom Floyd has played a full season only once. He does have two young receivers that may push him for playing time this season in Vincent Brown and rookie Keenan Allen
Santonio Holmes still plays for the Jets and his quarterback is still Mark Sanchez but he is still a talented receiver. Lately though his dissatisfaction with the organization has been more publicized that his play. When healthy and happy, Holmes has top 20 ability. He could be under the radar for 2013 and drafting him late could look like a smart move in December.
Chris Givens led the Rams in receiving yards as a rookie and with Danny Amendola now in New England he should repeat that again in 2013. For a stretch in the middle of the season it seemed like he was catching a 50 yard bomb from Sam Bradford every week. I love him as a flex play and possibly as a WR3 in 2013.
Alshon Jeffery was starting to look like a legitimate weapon for the Bears last season until he was derailed by a knee injury that sidelined him for six games in the middle of the season. He is a fantastic jump ball receiver and a great red zone threat for Jay Cutler. The Bears will need him to contribute this season and with Brandon Marshall getting most of the defenses attention he could develop into a nice fantasy flex play in 2013.
Michael Floyd was drafted with the 13th overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2012. His lack of production in 2012 can mostly be attributed to the abysmal quarterback play last season. However, a highly drafted receiver playing across from Larry Fitzgerald needs to show more than he has so far. His talent has never been questioned but his work ethic certainly has. Last offseason Fitzgerald publicly called him out on twitter, basically calling him lazy. With improved quarterback and offensive line play in 2013, he should capitalize on some of that potential. In most leagues he will go undrafted (as he probably should) but keep him on your waiver wire speed dial if he shows anything early in the season. If someone dropped him in your dynasty leagues, pick him up and stash him away.
Is Brandon LaFell the answer at WR2 across from Steve Smith for the Panthers? He has certainly flashed, often alternating big games with tight end Greg Olson, but he has yet to play with any consistency. I’d expect Carolina to draft a receiver fairly high. Perhaps even someone like Tavon Austin.
Mohamed Sanu was on a bit of a roll towards the end of 2012, catching touchdowns in 3 straight games (2 against Oakland) before suffering a season ending foot injury. He is a legitimate red zone threat that could emerge in 2013.
Unfortunately for Stephen Hill, Mark Sanchez is still his quarterback. He did flash at times and had several good games as a rookie. If the QB play can improve than Hill, as the primary deep threat for the Jets, could have some success in 2013.
I don’t know what to do with Greg Little. He reminded me a lot of a faster, more powerful Anquan Boldin coming out of college, but he hasn’t shown much yet. Perhaps in year three we see a breakout but I’m not counting on it.
Basically everyone else is in this final tier. My favorites for 2013 are Rueben Randle, Julian Edelman, and Andrew Hawkins.
Randle has the potential to be an NFL WR1 but is sitting behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz currently. He will be the Giants 3rd receiver in 2013, but we all know how often Nicks gets banged up. Keep him on your radar because if Nicks misses any time next season, Randle will be the primary beneficiary.
Julian Edelman will be behind Danny Amendola in 2013, but like Nicks, he has trouble staying healthy. Edelman has already shown that he can do a poor man’s Wes Welker impression so if Amendola gets hurt again this season, Edelman should put up some nice numbers for your fantasy team.
The Bengals don’t have another receiver on their roster that can do what Andrew Hawkins can do. Either Mohamed Sanu or Marvin Jones will likely be lining up across from AJ Green in in 2013, but that’s ok. “Young Baby Hawk” is more suited to the slot anyway. He has good hands, phonebooth quicks, and the ability to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Think of him as a shorter Percy Harvin. I expect the Bengals to get him more involved in 2013.
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