Justin Hunter, Aaron Dobson, Terrance Williams, Robert Woods, Kenny Stills, and Markus Wheaton are in a similar boat. All six receivers were drafted in 2013 (all but Stills in the second or third round) and are likely ticketed for a starting job as sophomores. Hunter will compete with Nate Washington to work as Tennessee’s down-field compliment to Wright. Dobson was volatile and dealt with rookie-season injuries, but easily could be New England’s top wideout in 2014. Williams has moved past Miles Austin in Dallas. Woods will reprise his rookie-season role as the No. 2 receiver behind Stevie Johnson in Buffalo. The release of Lance Moore has made Stills the favorite to start opposite Marques Colston in New Orleans. Wheaton barely played as a rookie, but the departure of Emmanuel Sanders opens up the No. 2 job in Pittsburgh.
Johnson, Roddy White, and Wes Welker are or will turn 32 this year. Johnson was No. 12 in fantasy points at wide receiver last season despite Houston’s offensive woes. He now has eight 1,000-yard seasons on his resume. White had a 2013 season to forget, dealing with injuries and Atlanta’s team struggles. He failed to reach 1,000 yards and six scores for the first time since 2006. Welker is the oldest in this group, but has significant short-term value as a near-every-down player in Denver. He scored on 10 of his 73 receptions last season. All three players deserve short-term attention but are already showing signs of decline.
Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, and Stevie Johnson are approaching age 30, but the trio enters 2014 with a starting gig in hand. Wallace struggled to develop chemistry with Ryan Tannehill in the battery’s first year together, but he does have three eight-plus touchdown seasons on his resume. Bowe was a fantasy bust during the first half of 2013, but was much better down the stretch and is back on the WR2 bubble going forward. With Woods and Marquise Goodwin emerging in Buffalo, Johnson is on the hot seat, but remains the team’s short-term No. 1 wideout.
It may seem hard to believe, but Brian Hartline has now put together back-to-back seasons with 74-plus catches and 1,000-plus yards. Wallace gets the headlines in Miami, leaving Hartline overlooked in fantasy circles. Of course, a big part of why he’s overlooked is a lack of scoring. Hartline has 10 career touchdowns in five seasons…A 2013 mid-season touchdown explosion was all Marvin Jones needed to finish No. 21 in fantasy points among wideouts. Despite playing a part-time role for most of the year, Jones hauled in 10 touchdowns on 51 receptions. Jones is only 24 and ticketed for a bigger role going forward, but those touchdowns are guaranteed to regress.
Drafted in 2010, Golden Tate and Emmanuel Sanders are currently free agents. Tate has shown signs that he’s an impact player in Seattle over the past four seasons, but his ceiling has been limited by the team’s run-heavy philosophy. Sanders has been inconsistent, but scored six times in a complimentary role to Brown in 2013. Both players produced WR3 numbers this past year, but neither are No. 1 WR material and future fantasy value will hinge on their destination.
Julian Edelman and Kenny Britt are currently free agents. Edelman caught 105 balls for New England in 2013, but figures to take a step back going forward with Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski back to full health, and the team’s young wide receivers emerging. Britt has been a headache off-the-field but is only 25 and has Top 10 ability…Mike Williams and Danny Amendola are each facing a bit of adversity this offseason. Both received hefty contracts last spring before disappointing over the past 12 months. Williams landed on injured reserve after a slow start to the 2013 season and off-the-field and dedication questions have surfaced. Amendola has now missed 24 games over the last three seasons due to injury. Both can be impact players and are in position to play regular snaps in 2014.
Riley Cooper, Chris Givens, Denarius Moore, Marlon Brown, and Jeremy Kerley are all between the age of 23 and 26 and in a position to start for their respective teams in 2014…Entering their second NFL season, Goodwin, Stedman Bailey, Quinton Patton, and Josh Boyce aren’t currently ticketed for starting roles, but all have intriguing upside and are worth stashing on your bench…Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin will struggle to generate many targets in Seattle with Marshawn Lynch and Harvin doing most of the damage, but both are good enough to warrant a stash.
Some of the top wide receivers of the last decade, Wayne, Boldin, Colston, and Greg Jennings have crossed over the age-30 hump. Wayne is coming off a torn ACL and is 35. Boldin re-upped with San Francisco for two more years, but Crabtree is back to full health and will be Kaepernick’s top target. Colston remains a solid play, but is limited by the Saints spread-it-around attack. Jennings is fading in the pecking order in Minnesota with Patterson and Kyle Rudolph on the rise.
Jarrett Boykin and Jerrel Jernigan are two intriguing breakout candidates for 2014. Boykin showed he can be an impact player when filling in for Cobb last season. He’ll be busy as the team’s No. 3 wideout in 2014. Jernigan, meanwhile, exploded for 19 receptions and three total scores during the Giants’ last three games of 2013. A third-round pick in 2011, he’s finally going to get his chance to play regular snaps this year.
Da’Rick Rogers, Ace Sanders, Marquess Wilson, and Kenbrell Thompkins are second-year receivers eyeing situational roles in their respective offenses…Harry Douglas busted out in 2013, but is older than you think at 29 and buried behind White and Jones in Atlanta…Stephen Hill, Leonard Hankerson, A.J. Jenkins, Ryan Broyles, Vincent Brown, and Brandon LaFell were early-round picks who have yet to live up to lofty expectations. LaFell is a free agent, while the other five are quickly losing job security. The talent is there for a potential rebound, however…Andre Roberts, James Jones, Sidney Rice, and Santonio Holmes are veteran receivers currently without a home. Roberts and Jones figure to land, at least, a No. 3 gig somewhere, while injuries and ineffectiveness may cost Rice and Holmes consideration for a significant role.
Steve Smith is now 35 and Carolina has made it fairly clear that they’re looking to lessen his offensive role…Andre Holmes and Rod Streater are best in a situational role, but both are approaching 26 and currently slotted into regular snaps in Oakland…An ankle injury limited Andrew Hawkins to eight games last season, but the shifty, 5’7 wideout has big play ability. He’s 28 and will struggle to find regular snaps in Cincinnati, however…Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews play the same position in Miami and are buried behind Wallace and Hartline…Miles Austin is 30 and expected to be cut loose by Dallas. His days as a WR2 are likely over…In their mid-20s, LaVon Brazill and Jarius Wright are set for situational roles in Indianapolis and Minnesota, respectively.