Mike Clay

Dynasty Rankings

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Dynasty Ranks: Wide Receivers

Thursday, March 07, 2013


Up next in our dynasty ranking series is the wide receiver position.

With more and more NFL teams leaning on the pass, wide receiver has quickly become the deepest position in fantasy. That goes for dynasty, as well, with the middle tiers full of young talent.

Consider the following trends:

Yr

Plays/G

Pass%

TD/G

%Pass

2008

61.9

57.5%

2.19

57.7%

2009

62.8

58.1%

2.25

62.4%

2010

63.1

59.1%

2.27

65.2%

2011

63.7

59.5%

2.25

65.4%

2012

64.3

59.8%

2.28

65.3%

All

64.0

59.7%

2.26

65.3%


NFL teams are averaging more and more offensive plays over the years, and the percentage of those plays that are of the passing variety is also on the rise. Additionally, offensive touchdowns are increasing, reaching a five-year high in 2012. Note that the percentage of offensive touchdowns that were passes is up to 65.3 percent – a massive uptick from the league’s 57.7 percent mark in 2008.

Why is this important to fantasy owners? Consider that NFL teams scored 118 more passing touchdowns and 74 fewer rushing touchdowns in 2012 than they did in 2008. With that in mind, it’s not hard to understand why the running back position has become shallower, while the quarterback and wide receiver positions are as deep as ever.

Without further ado, let’s get on to the rankings.

Note: Non-PPR scoring is assumed. Each player age listed is as of September 1, 2013, which will be near Week 1 of the upcoming season. The draft year and round is also shown for each player.

Be sure to also check out our Quarterback and Running Back Dynasty Rankings.

Tier 1

Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

1

Calvin Johnson

DET

27.9

2007-1

2

A.J. Green

CIN

25.0

2011-1

3

Julio Jones

ATL

24.5

2011-1



We kick off our list with none other than “Megatron” himself. Fresh off a season in which he put up an NFL-record 1,964 receiving yards, Johnson heads into the 2013 season as the centerpiece one of the league’s pass-heaviest offenses. He scored only five touchdowns in 2012, but was tackled at the one-yard line an NFL-high five times (not to mention another three times within five yards of the endzone). Still only 27-years-old, he figures to have, at least, five or so more years of dominance left in the tank.

Although Johnson is the obvious choice for our top spot, Green isn’t terribly far behind. He’s nearly three full years younger and is 36 receptions, 300 yards, and two touchdowns ahead of Johnson’s pace through two years at the pro level. Andy Dalton’s seemingly low ceiling and the Bengals’ more balanced offense, however, keep Green out of the top spot.

After a relatively quiet start to his NFL career, Jones has been dominant since midway through his rookie season. With Tony Gonzalez closing in on retirement, Roddy White nearing 32, and Michael Turner sent packing; Jones is locked in as Atlanta’s top offensive weapon. That’s especially the case with Matt Ryan, one of the game’s top, young quarterbacks, under center.

Tier 2

Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

4

Demaryius Thomas

DEN

25.6

2010-1

5

Dez Bryant

DAL

24.8

2010-1

6

Brandon Marshall

CHI

29.4

2006-4

7

Percy Harvin

MIN

25.2

2009-1

8

Michael Crabtree

SF

25.9

2009-1

9

Randall Cobb

GB

23.0

2011-2



If only because they were both selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, Thomas vs. Bryant has become an interesting debate in both redraft and dynasty formats. Bryant is nearly a full year younger and might be a slightly better athlete, but his persistent off-the-field issues make him the riskier bet of the two.

Thomas is certainly one of the game’s most-talented wideouts, but there’s justifiable concern about his long-term value when you consider the uncertainly of Denver’s post-37-year-old Peyton Manning quarterback situation. Still, albeit unconventionally, Thomas was fantasy-relevant with Tim Tebow under center in 2011, which suggests that he’s relatively quarterback-proof. At age-25, he’s locked in as one of dynasty’s top fantasy wideouts.

As mentioned, Bryant has seen his share of off-the-field issues, but he remains one of the game’s top, young talents at the position. Still only 24, and with Tony Romo expected to land a long-term extension, Bryant will carry the Dallas offense as long as he keeps his head on straight.

Simple regression, a new coaching staff, the development of Alshon Jeffery, and the likely addition of a pass-catching tight end means Marshall won’t ever again see 39 percent of the Bears’ targets. He’s closing in on 30, as well, but Marshall should continue to put up massive numbers as long as Jay Cutler is behind center. A few more 90-plus reception seasons appear to be in the cards.

Although Harvin is just 24-years-old, he has not one, but two red flags next to his name. One relates to durability, earned because of his history with concussions as well as an ankle injury that ended his 2012 season after nine games. The other is tied to constant squabbles between Harvin and the Vikings, which puts his long-term whereabouts in question. Still, he remains one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers, which essentially guarantees him a large number of touches regardless of where he lands. This is a classic high-risk, high-reward situation.

Crabtree’s first four-and-a-half years in the league were a bit underwhelming, but he finally exploded into a major force at the position when the 49ers turned the offense over to Colin Kaepernick this past season. A centerpiece of one of the league’s top offenses, the 25-year-old Crabtree has officially shed any traces of a bust label.

Another 2012 breakout wide receiver, Cobb is officially locked in as an every-down player for the Packers now that Greg Jennings is on to greener pastures. A versatile, underneath slot machine for Aaron Rodgers, Cobb should easily approach 100 receptions in one of the league’s top offenses for years to come.

Tier 3

Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

10

Victor Cruz

NYG

26.8

2010-U

11

Hakeem Nicks

NYG

25.6

2009-1

12

Jordy Nelson

GB

28.2

2008-2

13

Roddy White

ATL

31.8

2005-1

14

Vincent Jackson

TB

30.6

2005-2

15

Larry Fitzgerald

ARZ

30.0

2004-1

16

Dwayne Bowe

KC

28.9

2007-1

17

Andre Johnson

HST

32.1

2003-1

18

Mike Wallace

FA

27.0

2009-3

19

Eric Decker

DEN

26.4

2010-3

20

Wes Welker

FA

32.3

2004-U



The Cruz vs. Nicks debate is an interesting one, as both are in the prime of their career and closing in on long-term extensions with the Giants. Cruz will turn 27 during the 2013 season and has been a massively-used slot receiver for Eli Manning since his 2011 breakout campaign. Nicks is actually a little over a year younger than Cruz, but there are durability concerns here, as he’s missed at least one game in each of his first four NFL seasons (10 total). Of course, he remains one of the more physically-gifted players in the league, and will be responsible for a high percentage of Manning’s targets over the long-term. It’s not a bad time to buy after a down season.

Injuries limited Nelson to 12 games this past season, but he still finished as fantasy’s No. 30 wide receiver. In his prime at age-28, Nelson will be a major fantasy asset as long as he’s among Aaron Rodgers’ go-to targets in one of the league’s top passing attacks…White has yet to show signs of decline, but he’s nearing 32 and Julio Jones is set to take over as Matt Ryan’s No. 1 option. Of course, that isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of targets to go around, especially with Tony Gonzalez’s retirement closing in. He has a few years left as a borderline WR1…Off-the-field and contract-related issues have put a bit of a damper on Jackson’s career, but he remains one of the league’s most-talented wideouts. He recently reached 30 years of age, but is only entering year-two of his five-year deal with Tampa Bay. There’s a lot to like here, even if Tampa Bay’s long-term quarterback picture is a bit uncertain.

Fitzgerald is arguably a top-three talent at the wide receiver position, but his career has been derailed by some awful quarterback play over the past few seasons. Assuming Arizona can find, at least, an average arm, the 29-year-old Fitzgerald should be in for quick bounceback. He’s locked up with the Cardinals through the 2018 season…Bowe recently re-upped with the Chiefs for five more years. With Andy Reid in control of the offense and Alex Smith now under center, Bowe figures to see boost in the quality of his targets during the life of his new contract. Still only 28 and underrated due to the Chiefs’ offensive struggles over the last few years, Bowe makes for a decent WR2 in 12-team formats…Although his touchdown numbers have dropped off dramatically over the last two seasons, Johnson is fresh off a dominant 112-reception, 1,598-yard season. Set to turn 32 in the coming months, age is becoming a factor, but he has another year or three as Houston’s go-to receiver.

Wallace’s future home is yet to be decided, but he’s going to get the big bucks and, in turn, there will be big expectations. Nearing 27 and set to become the centerpiece of a team’s passing attack, Wallace has plenty of years left as a fantasy asset…Decker had a roller coaster 2012 season, but ended up as fantasy’s No. 7 point-scorer at the wide receiver position. Set to turn 26 in a few days, Decker has long career in front of him, but he’s only ranked at No. 19 because of Denver’s long-term question mark at the quarterback position…Welker is unemployed as of now, but all signs point to him re-upping with the Patriots for a few more years. Considering how consistent his numbers are, a new deal with New England locks him in as a WR2 in all formats. Welker’s age (32) is of slight concern, but he’ll be well worth the pick for a few more seasons of top-level production.

Tier 4

Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

21

Pierre Garcon

WAS

27.0

2008-6

22

Marques Colston

NO

30.2

2006-7

23

Greg Jennings

FA

29.9

2006-2

24

Antonio Brown

PIT

25.1

2010-6

25

DeSean Jackson

PHI

26.7

2008-2

26

Justin Blackmon

JAX

23.6

2012-1

27

Torrey Smith

BLT

24.5

2011-2

28

Josh Gordon

CLV

22.3

2012-U

29

Stevie Johnson

BUF

27.1

2008-7



Following a return from a foot injury that cost him a majority of the first half of the 2012 season, Garcon saw an enormous 31 percent of the Redskins’ targets the rest of the way. Easily Robert Griffin III’s favorite target, the two will be playing a ton of catch over the next few years…As always seems to be the case, Colston quietly put up another WR1 season in 2012. Fantasy’s No. 11 wideout will turn 30 this year, but doesn’t figure to take a step back as long as Drew Brees is throwing him passes. He remains a solid WR2 dynasty option…Jennings will move on from the Packers this offseason, but the 29-year-old is going to get a long-term deal with a team that needs a feature wideout. No longer will he have Aaron Rodgers throwing him passes, but Jennings has the skills and will see enough of a target volume to put up strong numbers.

With Mike Wallace out the door, Brown is set to take over as Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiver. Touchdowns have been hard to come by during his first three years in the league, but that figures to change with a much larger role going forward…Jackson’s value is definitely on the rise with Chip Kelly now in control of the Eagles’ offense. Expected to see more carries and, of course, his fair share of the targets, the 26-year-old Jackson’s career appears primed for a rejuvenation. A role that allows him 100-touches-per-season isn’t as crazy as it sounds…Despite underwhelming quarterback play in Jacksonville, Blackmon finished as the No. 28 fantasy wide receiver as a rookie. The 2012 first-round pick will only get better as he enters his prime over the next few years.

With the league’s highest average depth of target mark during each of his first two seasons, it’s easy to label Smith as a one-trick pony. Although that’s kept the 24-year-old with 1,696 yards and 15 touchdowns already to his name from entering the list of elite wideouts, he does enough damage to stick as a top-30 option at the position…Gordon is a bit of a wild card, but his arrow is pointing up after he went from a supplemental draft pick to Cleveland’s No. 1 wideout over a span of a few months. He needs some quarterback help, but the 21-year-old appears to have a bright future…The Bills new coaching staff is going to move Johnson all over the field in order to maximize his offensive production. The quarterback position remains a concern, but it appears Doug Marrone will build his up-tempo passing game around the 26-year-old Johnson.

Tier 5

Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

30

Kendall Wright

TEN

23.8

2012-1

31

Mike Williams

TB

26.2

2010-4

32

Reggie Wayne

IND

34.7

2001-1

33

Steve Smith

CAR

34.3

2001-3

34

Cecil Shorts

JAX

25.6

2011-4

35

James Jones

GB

29.4

2007-3

36

T.Y. Hilton

IND

23.7

2012-3

37

Jeremy Maclin

PHI

25.3

2009-1

38

Kenny Britt

TEN

24.9

2009-1

39

Michael Floyd

ARZ

23.7

2012-1

40

Denarius Moore

OAK

24.7

2011-5

41

Miles Austin

DAL

29.1

2006-U

42

Chris Givens

SL

23.7

2012-4



Wright led the Titans in targets as a rookie, but the explosive 23-year-old was used primarily as an underneath option, ranking near the basement in average depth of target among all wideouts. Going forward, expect Tennessee to build the passing game around Wright…Without the added pressure of working as a No. 1 wide receiver, Williams was rejuvenated this past season, falling just four yards short of 1,000 receiving yards. He’s entering a contract year, but Tampa Bay figures to lock the 25-year-old up for the long-term…Wayne and Smith will be fantasy assets during the 2013 season, but both are risky dynasty bets as they approach age-35. The two veterans are ideal targets if you need a short-term wideout to get you over the hump, but rebuilding teams should be looking to sell.

Shorts broke out in a big way during the 2012 season, finishing as fantasy’s No. 22 wideout despite missing two games. The Jaguars’ quarterback situation is a concern, but the Shorts-Justin Blackmon duo provides them with one of the league’s top, young one-two punches at the position…As one of the top-three wide receivers in the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers’ offense, Jones will make for an attractive short-term fantasy option. He’s entering a contract year at age-29, however, and is a slam dunk to regress in the touchdown department after scoring 14 times on only 64 receptions this past year…Hilton had some trouble with drops during his rookie season, but he appears to be locked in as one of Andrew Luck’s top-two receiving targets for the long-term. With the Colts’ building their offense around the pass, Hilton should be in the WR3 mix for years to come.

Maclin enters a contract season with his long-term status with the team in question. He’s still only 24-years-old, however, and will be one of the most sought-after free agents if he makes it to the open market…Britt is a poster boy for red flags, constantly struggling with injuries and off-the-field issues. Still only 24 and with no shortage of talent, Britt heads into a make-or-break contract year…Over the last five games of the 2012 season, Floyd was dead even with Larry Fitzgerald in targets. Arizona’s first-round pick one year ago, the former Notre Dame standout figures to become an every-down player during his sophomore campaign.

Moore didn’t progress into the franchise receiver many expected him to during his second season, but he still scored seven times in 15 games. His ceiling is limited until Oakland improves at quarterback, but Moore has a lot of years left as an impact wide receiver…Durability has been a serious concern for Austin over the last few seasons, but he’s locked up for four more years as a heavily-used No. 2 wideout in a decent pass offense…With the Rams’ offense finally showing signs of improvement with Sam Bradford under center, the speedy Givens will be a long-term fantasy asset if he can lock down the No. 1 wideout job. A strong rookie season provided reason for optimism.


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Mike Clay is a football writer for Rotoworld.com and the Founder/Managing Editor of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He can be found on Twitter @MikeClayNFL.
Email :Mike Clay



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