Mike Clay

Dynasty Rankings

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2014 Dynasty Rankings - WR

Monday, March 10, 2014


Next up in our 2014 dynasty ranking series is the wide receiver position.

This time last year we discussed the fact that more and more NFL teams are leaning on the pass, which has led to the wide receiver position quickly become the deepest 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%

2013

64.9

60.6%

2.37

65.9%


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 2013. Note that the percentage of offensive touchdowns that were passes is up to 65.9 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 159 more passing touchdowns and 63 fewer rushing touchdowns in 2013 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.

Note: Non-PPR scoring is assumed. Each player age listed is as of September 1, 2014, which will be near Week 1 of the upcoming season. Draft year and round is also shown for each player.

Be sure to also check out our Quarterback and Running Bank rankings.

Tier 1

Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

1

Calvin Johnson

DET

28.9

2007-1

2

Dez Bryant

DAL

25.8

2010-1

3

Josh Gordon

CLV

23.3

2012-U

4

A.J. Green

CIN

26.0

2011-1

5

Julio Jones

ATL

25.5

2011-1

6

Demaryius Thomas

DEN

26.6

2010-1


No longer is Calvin Johnson a spring chicken, but he’s in his prime at age 28 and remains in position for long-term success in the Lions’ pass-heavy offense. Johnson missed a pair of games in 2013 but still finished No. 3 in fantasy points at the position. He’s now put together three consecutive seasons with 84-plus receptions and 1,489-plus yards. “Megatron” has scored 12 or more touchdowns in a single season four times since 2008. The other wideouts in our top tier are younger, but none are quite as dominant as Johnson. He’s still the man to own at the position.

Fantasy’s No. 5 scorer at wide receiver last season, Dez Bryant may not even be at his peak yet. The 25 year old has put together back to back seasons with at least 92 receptions, 1,249 yards, and 12 touchdowns. With Scott Linehan now calling the team’s plays, it’s expected that Bryant will be even more involved in the team’s pass-heavy gameplan. Bryant always seems to be a bit beat up, but he’s missed just one game over the last three seasons. An elite, young talent in a strong, pass-oriented offense, Bryant is primed for many more huge fantasy seasons.

Josh Gordon was suspended for the first two games of 2013. That didn’t stop him from finishing No. 1 in fantasy scoring at the wide receiver position. So why is Gordon, who is nearly seven years younger than Johnson, not ranked No. 1? Two reasons. First of all, there are serious off-the-field/maturity questions surrounding the 22 year old. Even if he does have his act together, he’s one strike away from a long-term suspension. Second, as dominant as Gordon was in 2013, he’s an obvious regression candidate with Norv Turner gone and Kyle Shanahan in as play-caller. The Browns will run more as they become more competitive, leaving Gordon without as much of the garbage-time production he racked up in 2013. Gordon is an elite dynasty prospect, but he has more work to do before he’s safe to rank in the top spot.

It’s hard to find more consistent stat lines than those A.J. Green put up over the last two seasons. He caught 97 balls for 1,350 yards and 11 scores in 2012 before racking up a 98-1426-11 line in 2013. Green was fantasy’s No. 4 wide receiver both seasons. Say what you want about Andy Dalton, he gets the ball to his best receiver. The Bengals’ offense scored a ton of points in 2013 and is loaded with young talent. Only 25, the future remains bright for Green.

A foot injury landed Julio Jones on injured reserve after only five games last season. Of course, Jones was dominant when active, racking up 41 receptions, 580 yards, and two touchdowns. If we extrapolate that line over 16 games, Jones would’ve finished 0.2 fantasy points behind Gordon for the top spot. Coming off the injury, 25-year-old Jones is going to be undervalued this offseason. It’s a good time to try and acquire him at a discount.

Peyton Manning’s top target in Denver’s record-setting 2013 offense, Demaryius Thomas hauled in 92 of 142 targets for 1,430 yards and 14 scores. That came one year after he caught 92 of 142 targets for 1,430 yards and 10 scores. How about that for consistency? Thomas won’t always have Manning throwing him passes, but he’s proven that he has the talent to sustain significant fantasy value. Only 26 and a top-five producer at the position each of the last two seasons, Thomas is as strong a player you’ll find for your top wideout slot.

Tier 2

Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

7

Alshon Jeffery

CHI

24.5

2012-2

8

Cordarrelle Patterson

MIN

23.4

2013-1

9

Keenan Allen

SD

22.3

2013-3

10

Randall Cobb

GB

24.0

2011-2


The 2013 season showed us that Alshon Jeffery is going to be a playmaker in this league for a long time. Following an injury-plagued rookie campaign, Jeffery became a dominant producer opposite Brandon Marshall in 2013. The 2012 second-round pick hauled in 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven scores, while also adding 105 yards on the ground. That was good enough to make him fantasy’s No. 9 wideout. Jeffery is 24 and will have no trouble finding targets, especially near the goal line, in Marc Trestman’s offense.

Despite working as a returner and situational fourth receiver for most of his rookie season, Cordarrelle Patterson scored seven touchdowns, including three on the ground. The do-it-all play-maker was No. 38 in fantasy points at the position. Primed for a much larger role going forward – not to mention eventual improvement at quarterback – 23-year-old Patterson is one of 2014’s top breakout candidates.

Injuries above him on the depth chart forced Keenan Allen into San Diego’s starting lineup early in his rookie season. He was ready for the promotion. Philip Rivers’ top target hauled in 71 balls for 1,046 yards and eight scores. Including the playoffs, 6’3” Allen scored seven times over the team’s last six games. Amazingly, Allen already has a 1,000-yard season under his belt despite not yet turning 22. He’s the youngest player in our Top 15. If there’s one concern here, it’s Allen’s dedication to the game. Prior to playing regular snaps, he admitted that he considered quitting football to pursue a music career. There’s no current sign Allen will step away, but it’s worth noting in the event that he or the team face serious adversity in the coming years.

A broken leg held Randall Cobb to only six games this past season. That’s the bad news. The good news that Cobb was as strong a fantasy asset as expected when healthy. He was No. 8 in fantasy points per game when active and scored four times in six regular-season games. With Greg Jennings leaving Green Bay after 2012, and James Jones and Jermichael Finley likely moving on this offseason, Cobb is guaranteed a feature role in the Packers’ high-scoring offense. Still only 23, Cobb has many years of WR1 production left in the tank.

Tier 3

Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

11

Percy Harvin

SEA

26.2

2009-1

12

Michael Crabtree

SF

26.9

2009-1

13

Kendall Wright

TEN

24.8

2012-1

14

Antonio Brown

PIT

26.1

2010-6

15

Michael Floyd

ARZ

24.7

2012-1

16

Torrey Smith

BLT

25.5

2011-2

17

DeAndre Hopkins

HST

22.2

2013-1

18

Brandon Marshall

CHI

30.4

2006-4

19

Pierre Garcon

WAS

28.0

2008-6

20

Jordy Nelson

GB

29.2

2008-2

21

Tavon Austin

SL

23.4

2013-1


It was a lost 2013 season for Percy Harvin. Acquired by Seattle last offseason, hip and concussion issues held Harvin to one target during the entire regular season. Having now missed 22 games over the last two years and at least one game in four of his five NFL seasons, durability is an obvious concern for Harvin. Of course, he’s only 25, the featured receiver in Seattle’s highly-productive offense, and one of the game’s top playmakers. He remains a strong dynasty asset and can probably be had at a discount this offseason.

Not unlike Harvin, Michael Crabtree missed a significant portion of the 2013 season due to injury. A torn Achilles cost him all but five regular season games. Crabtree quickly became Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target back in 2012 en route to an 85-catch, 1105-yard, 9-touchdown season. He was fantasy’s No. 15 wideout. Crabtree’s ceiling will be limited a bit by San Francisco’s run-heavy offense and the presence of ageless Anquan Boldin and touchdown-monster Vernon Davis. Still, he’s only 26 and one of the top talents at the position.

Following impressive, but under-the-radar breakout sophomore seasons, Kendall Wright and Michael Floyd enter 2014 as two of the game’s top young wide receivers. In his first year as a full-time starter opposite Larry Fitzgerald, Floyd caught 66 balls for 1,054 yards and five touchdowns. Wright’s 94 receptions were seventh-most at the position, allowing him 1,079 receiving yards. Wright was only targeted in the end zone once all season, however, which limited him to two touchdowns. Floyd was No. 23 in fantasy points, while Wright was No. 31. Both players are 24 and will be key components in their respective team’s offenses over the next decade.

Pierre Garcon (113 receptions) and Antonio Brown (110) finished one-two in the NFL in receptions last season. Force-fed the ball by Robert Griffin III for a majority of the season, Garcon put up 1,346 yards and scored five times. He was fantasy’s No. 13 wide receiver. Although he’s never scored more than six times in a single season, Garcon is in his prime at 28 years old and has a clear path to a significant offensive role. Brown did not disappoint in his first season as Pittsburgh’s top wideout. The former sixth-round pick nearly reached 1,500 receiving yards and scored eight touchdowns. Only six wideouts scored more fantasy points. Still only 25, Brown is a borderline dynasty WR1.

Following the departure of Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith took over as Baltimore’s top wideout in 2013. The Ravens’ offensive woes limited the talented 25 year old to only four touchdowns, but he did haul in 65 balls for 1,128 yards. Smith has never missed a game in his career and has put up at least 841 receiving yards in each of his three NFL seasons.

DeAndre Hopkins and Tavon Austin disappointed a bit as rookies, but both have youth, talent, and opportunity on their side. Hopkins showed flashes of his enormous talent early on in 2013 before struggling along with the Houston offense down the stretch. Still only 21, Hopkins is certain to become a more featured option in the Texans’ offense with Bill O’Brien now in control, and Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels approaching their mid-30s. Austin scored six times as a rookie, including five on 49 offensive touches. Standing at 5’8/176, Austin will struggle to find targets near the end zone, but has the quickness and talent to generate big plays. The Rams’ offense is headed in the right direction and the 23-year-old Austin will be a bigger part of the gameplan going forward.

Considering that he’s put together seven straight seasons with at least 80 catches and 1,000 yards, Brandon Marshall may seem low as a third-tier wideout. As strong as Marshall has been, he’s about to turn 30 and Jeffery is quickly making a push to take over as Chicago’s franchise wide receiver. Marshall remains a quality short-term WR1, but it’s easier to downgrade older players with the position as deep with young talent as ever before.

Fantasy’s No. 11 wide receiver in 2013, Jordy Nelson racked up career-highs in targets (127), receptions (85), and yards (1,314). Now 28, Nelson has plenty of years left as one of Aaron Rodgers’ top targets, but the return of Randall Cobb and more of a dedication to the run game will limit his ceiling more than in past years.

Tier 4

Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

22

T.Y. Hilton

IND

24.7

2012-3

23

Rueben Randle

NYG

23.3

2012-2

24

DeSean Jackson

PHI

27.7

2008-2

25

Victor Cruz

NYG

27.8

2010-U

26

Justin Blackmon

JAX

24.6

2012-1

27

Eric Decker

FA

27.4

2010-3

28

Cecil Shorts

JAX

26.6

2011-4

29

Larry Fitzgerald

ARZ

31.0

2004-1

30

Vincent Jackson

TB

31.6

2005-2

31

Jeremy Maclin

PHI

26.3

2009-1

32

Hakeem Nicks

FA

26.6

2009-1


Forced into an expanded role with Reggie Wayne on injured reserve, T.Y. Hilton reached 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career last season. Wayne and Dwayne Allen will be back in 2014, but Hilton is only 24 and locked into Indianapolis’ starting lineup…Like Hilton, Rueben Randle is entering his third NFL season. Unlike Hilton, this will be Randle’s first shot at a clear starting gig. With Hakeem Nicks expected to sign elsewhere, 22-year-old Randle will start opposite Victor Cruz and is already in the mix for WR2 numbers in 2014.

DeSean Jackson was fantasy’s No. 10 wide receiver of 2013, but his target numbers took a big dip when Nick Foles took over around midseason. Consider that Jackson eclipsed six targets in a game only once after Week 8. Working in the Eagles’ offense will allow plenty of scoring opportunities, but Jackson’s long-term future with the team is far from a lock. He’s still one of the game’s top playmakers at age 27…Cruz struggled along with the rest of the Giants’ offense last season. He missed two games and scored only four times (three of which came in Week 1) after putting up a total of 19 during the previous two seasons. Of course, he’s still only 27 and New York’s top wideout with Nicks likely gone. It’s not a bad time to try and buy low.

Only 24 and one of the most physically-gifted wide receivers in the league, Justin Blackmon would be much higher on this list if not for serious off-the-field concerns. After missing the first four games of 2013 due to suspension, Blackmon was sat down indefinitely for another violation of the league’s substance abuse policy in November. He’s expected to be reinstated in time for Week 1, but it’s no lock and he’s working on his third strike…Fellow Jaguars wideout Cecil Shorts has now missed five games due to injury over the last two seasons. Following a breakout 2012, Shorts was targeted more often in 2013, but saw his yards-per-reception mark drop by six yards and his touchdowns falls from seven to three. Shorts is 26 and will continue to be featured in a Jacksonville offense expected to upgrade at quarterback as soon as May.

Currently a free agent, Eric Decker has been a hot topic for debate this offseason. Was his success in Denver a product of Tim Tebow’s propensity for long, play-action passes and Peyton Manning’s elite ability, or is Decker a legit No. 1 or 2 NFL receiver? Regardless of which side you’re on, 6’3” Decker’s ability to find paydirt is undeniable. The 26 year old has scored eight or more touchdowns in three straight seasons, including a total of 24 over the last two years. Fresh of back-to-back seasons with 85 catches and 1,000 yards, Decker’s fantasy upside will depend on his destination, but he’s unlikely to be anything worse than a strong WR3.

Larry Fitzgerald and Vincent Jackson have, for the most part, been mainstays in the WR1 conversation for nearly a decade. Both, however, are headed for a decline as they enter 2014 at age 31. Fitzgerald hasn’t reached 1,000 receiving yards since 2011, but did catch 82 balls and scored 10 touchdowns last season. Floyd is emerging in Arizona and some third-year progression could get him atop the depth chart by 2015. Jackson now has five 1,000-yard and five seven-plus touchdown seasons under his belt. He remains the clear-cut No. 1 wideout in Tampa Bay. Both players finished in the Top 16 at wide receiver last season and remain solid short-term options.

The rookie deals on 2009 draft selections Jeremy Maclin and Hakeem Nicks expired this offseason. Both set to enter 2014 at 26 years old, Maclin already re-upped with the Eagles for one more season, while Nicks remains an unrestricted free agent. A torn ACL cost Maclin the entire 2013 season. A WR2 producer from 2010 through 2012 in Andy Reid’s pass-heavy offense, Maclin has missed at least one game in four of his five NFL seasons. Primed for a lesser role under Chip Kelly and with his long-term home in question, Maclin is a shaky WR3. Nicks, meanwhile, has struggled mightily over the last two seasons. He scored a total of three times during that span, mostly due to the fact that he’s failed to catch a single end zone target. Nicks has never played 16 games in a single season. Although he seemed to have lost a step in New York, he’s one of the better physical wideouts in the game and has age on his side. It’s reasonable to think a fresh start will rejuvenate Nicks’ career.


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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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