While running backs have always been the most important member of a fantasy owner's team, the NFL is passing more, and that means the wide receiver has seen its value climb as well.
The thing to remember with wide receivers is that just because the offense struggles, don't assume a guy can't be a top fantasy player.
Take Brandon Marshall for example. The Chicago Bears were a dismal 29th in passing offense last season (according to NFL.com), yet Marshall was the second-ranked fantasy wide receiver in many leagues.
This year sees the Bears with a new coach, featuring an uptempo offense, which will make it awfully hard for defenses to get more than one body on Marshall. Add to that a healthy Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett as well as a dynamic tight end in Martellus Bennett, and it's going to be awfully hard to keep focused on Marshall.
The Bears wide receiver is poised for another tremendous year. Don't sleep on him like the Dolphins did. You'll feel just as foolish.
Guys Who Just Missed the Cut
Johnson has the talent to be a top fantasy producer every year, but we saw the Texans move to a more Arian Foster-based offense. That stinks for Johnson's owners, especially since it skewered Johnson's touchdown total last year.
Johnson puts up tremendous yards, but the lack of touchdowns hurts his value, and unlike Calvin Johnson, it doesn't look like it will change. Megatron's issue was that the whole Lions offense wasn't scoring. Andre Johnson's issue is that the offense uses other players to score.
That's not to say Andre Johnson isn't an extraordinarily talented receiver or a fantasy force. Just that compared to the five players in the video, he lacks a critical piece for fantasy.
Thomas is a guy I have moved in and out of my top five several times so far this offseason. I fully expect him to have a great year, but adding Wes Welker could limit his overall improvement.
Sure, Welker won't get the 100-plus targets he did in New England, but he's going to get more than the 64 Brandon Stokley got last year. That's likely to hurt Eric Decker more than Thomas, but it will still affect Thomas. He'll see some decrease in targets. So while Thomas will be a top-10 wide receiver in 2013, he won't crack the top five.
Jackson had a great 2013, and if I'm the Chargers, I am kicking myself for not ejecting A.J. Smith earlier and fighting to keep Jackson. That's water under the bridge, though, and Jackson has more than settled into a rhythm in Tampa Bay.
The big issue for Jackson is one that is out of his control. That's Josh Freeman. Freeman has struggled the last few seasons, and that ultimately hurts Jackson, albeit only so much if you consider his overall numbers last year (1,384 yards and eight touchdowns). Still, it limits his totals and makes him just a little less reliable than the top five here.
I decided to call Fitzgerald "Star Trek". Throughout most of the time there have been Star Trek movies, every other one is good. One solid movie, one bad one, one solid movie, one bad one.
For the most part, that's Fitzgerald's fantasy output. Last season was a stinker, so he should be good this year, according to my theory.
And the signs all point to yes. Carson Palmer, while a shadow of his former self, can throw the ball well. The offensive line is improved (so Palmer has time to throw), there might be a legitimate run game and there could be some worthwhile receiving threats across from him.
The problem is, these are still the Cardinals, and there are still some real issues in the offense. The line is improved, but how much? The run game has more bodies, but can they produce and stay healthy? Even with decent receivers around him, Fitzgerald is so much better than everyone else he will still see a lot of double-teams.
Expect Fitzgerald to have a very good year, but once again finish a bit outside the top five receivers.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.
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