Mike Tanier

Going Deep

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The Great Receiver Cliff

Monday, September 06, 2010


You may have noticed the huge gap between the first 10-15 wide receivers in the draft pool and the rest of the field. It's as bad as the gap used to be between the franchise running backs and the scrubs, back in the days before committee backfields ruled the world. The Great Receiver Cliff of 2010 is enough to catch even a veteran drafter off-guard. One minute, you're grabbing Reggie Wayne; the next minute, you're deciding between Sammie Stroughter and Jordy Nelson, and wishing for a do-over.

There are many reasons for the sudden drop. Teams like the Browns and Rams have terrible passing offenses, tight ends are making another comeback, and the uncertain status of big names like Vincent Jackson and Sidney Rice has eroded the middle tier. Whatever the reasons, the cliff is there, and you may have fallen off of it when you drafted.

If you haven't drafted, it's not too late to save yourself and get Rotoworld's Draft Guide.

To illustrate how bad the situation is, I crossed the 11 best receivers -- as chosen by a consensus of Rotoworld, Football Outsiders, and common sense -- off one of a cheat sheet: Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, Miles Austin, Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, and Steve Smith of the Giants. These are the No. 1 fantasy receivers for all of the teams in a 10-team league. Then, to find the best options at second receiver, I searched the Football Outsiders database for the next ten receivers, ranked according to the number of times they were targeted in the red zone. Marshall was targeted 29 times last year, Andre Johnson 27, but with those guys crossed off the list, these were the most prolific "goal line" receivers among the survivors:

Marques Colston 23
T.J.HoushmandzadehHines Ward 20
Roy Williams 17
Bernard Berrian 17
Chad Ochocinco 16
Wes Welker 16
Antonio Bryant 16
Nate Washington 16

What a scary list. You have Colston and Welker, who probably belong among the "cross off" list of No. 1 wideouts. Then, you have a player who was just released and then signed by the Ravens (Houshmandzadeh), a 34-year old dealing with musical quarterbacks (Ward), a total nitwit (Williams), a guy who may never play again (Bryant), and a journeyman on a run-happy team with an exciting second year receiver across from him (Washington). Ochocinco and Berrian make serviceable fantasy second wideouts, especially with Rice hurt in Minnesota, but the rest of these guys, despite the fact that they were frequent red zone targets last year, all have major question marks.

The numbers are as scary as the names. No other wide receiver besides these guys and the Top 11 had more than 15 red zone targets. That means, after this list, you must choose among players who average less than a red zone opportunity per game. You can gamble on Anquan Boldin getting more red zone opportunities in Baltimore this year, but he was targeted just 12 times in Arizona last season, and the run-heavy Ravens threw just 53 red zone passes last year, 16 of them to running backs. A team like the Jets might open up the red zone offense a little, but no Jets wide receiver was targeted more than nine times last year, so there's a lot of opening up to be done.


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