Fantasy Football Rankings 2013: Star Receivers Worth Drafting Early

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIAugust 29, 2013

Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald
Arizona WR Larry FitzgeraldChristian Petersen/Getty Images

The 2013 NFL preseason is in its final week, and thus, the regular season is nearly upon us. While everyone impatiently awaits reality, some have already begun to dive into the world of fantasy.

The question is, how do you perfect your fantasy football approach?

Running backs are the buzz and quarterbacks are flashy, too, but the players who win and lose games remain at wide receiver. A dud of a performance by your starting wideout will crush your weekly score, while a standout performance will save you.

The issue, of course, is finding the right receivers.

Stars can be found early, but the true struggle is landing the wideouts who will round out your lineup on a week-by-week basis. It's then that you can start to master your fantasy craft, dominating point-per-reception and standard leagues.

They may be falling significantly further than they should, but the following receivers are worth taking earlier than their average draft positions. If you do, you'll save your season.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

ADP: 34.1

Position: Wide Receiver

Age: 29

2012 Season Statistics

71 REC, 798 YDS, 4 TD

Larry Fitzgerald was the victim of the worst quarterback controversy of our generation, as Kevin Kolb and John Skelton had an easier time getting injured than they did completing a pass. Paired with the fact that he lacked a true No. 2 receiver, Fitzgerald had a down year.

Expect him to remind us of the facts, re-affirming his position as one of the best in the world.

It's worth noting that, even during a year in which his quarterbacks were horrendous, Fitzgerald caught 71 passes for 798 yards and four touchdowns. Those aren't elite numbers, but considering what he was working with, they show you that he's far from past his prime.

With Carson Palmer under center and Bruce Arians as a head coach, all will be right in Arizona.

Palmer may receive his fair share of criticism, but he was 10th in the NFL in passing yards despite playing with one of the league's worst receiving corps. If that's not enough for you, Palmer earned that ranking while completing just 14 full games.

Fitzgerald will be back at 90-plus receptions with over 1,000 yards in 2013.

According to ESPN, Fitzgerald's current average draft position is 34.1. In standard 10-team leagues, that means one of the greatest receivers of all-time is available during the middle of the third round.

If you play in a point-per-reception league, You should begin eyeing Fitzgerald approximately 20 picks earlier.

Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills

ADP: 89.5

Position: Wide Receiver

Age: 27

2012 Season Statistics

79 REC, 1,046 YDS, 6 TD

The jury seems to be out on Steve Johnson, and those who have a defined opinion seem to think he's a great No. 2 receiver. The truth of the matter is, Johnson has dealt with terrible quarterback play over the past three seasons and still posted three consecutive seasons with at least 75 receptions and 1,000 yards.

Why not take a gamble on him now that EJ Manuel displays promise at quarterback?

Taking a gamble on Johnson is easy, as his current average draft position is an obscene and unjust 89.5, per ESPN. Behind average tight ends, rookie running backs and receivers who have flashed minimal star potential, it's puzzling to see him drop this far.

Especially when Manuel is the perfect quarterback for him.

We can label Manuel as a read-option quarterback, but Manuel played four seasons at Florida State and never completed under 65.0 percent of his passes. If there's one adjective that fits, it's "precise," as Manuel has perfected the short-to-intermediate game and will thrive in that regard.

You can pretend that rookie Robert Woods will take over Johnson's spot as the No. 1 receiver in 2013, if you'd like, but the numbers don't lie.

Drops are an issue and Johnson can lack focus, but if you're in a point-per-reception league, there's no excuse for letting him drop. He's a lock for at least 75 receptions, and that value is far too grand to flirt with the ninth round in 10-team leagues.

Draft Johnson significantly earlier and reap the benefits.

Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

ADP: 30.0

Position: Wide Receiver

Age: 31

2012 Season Statistics

92 REC, 1,351 YDS, 7 TD

Year after year, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White goes down as one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Whether we're speaking fantasy football or the league-wide fan perception of him, White's consistency is close to unmatched.

Just check the numbers to see how rare his company is.

If that's not enough to continue, then just keep following the numbers.

White has caught at least 90 passes in each of his past three seasons and more than 85 in his past five. He caught 83 in 2007 to make six consecutive seasons with at least 80 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards, topping seven touchdowns in his past five.

What more could you ask for?

Julio Jones may be a superstar, but the Falcons are a team that airs it out, and last season showed how well Matt Ryan shares the wealth. White and Tony Gonzalez each caught at least 90 passes for more than 900 yards, while Jones caught 79.

Don't be foolish enough to let Roddy White slip out of your grip if you need a star receiver—he's the type of consistent player that could make your season.