Before I give you this year’s wide receiver rankings, a few quick notes:
#1. PPR (Points Per Reception) is factored into all of these picks.
That's what makes someone like Hines Ward slip so far. I don’t care how many touchdowns you had in ‘06—if you don’t get the ball, you can’t score Fantasy points.
#2. Don’t fall in love with a name.
2006 Randy Moss owners can tell you all about it. Does that mean avoid Eric Moulds? Maybe. At the same time, don’t forget about players a year or two removed from Fantasy greatness. Unlike phased-out running backs, old names can resurface at wideout. A good example is Drew Bennett, who will be the #2 to Torry Holt...and will hopefully replicate his 2004 stat line.
#3. Changing offenses isn’t nearly as big a deal as changing quarterbacks. Case in point: Ward isn’t going to go through as much of a transition as Andre Johnson, who'll have to develop new chemistry with Matt Schaub.
With that out of the way, here’s your tier-by-tier wideout breakdown for 2007:
#1. Chad Johnson
Ocho Cinco put up 87 receptions for 1300+ and 7 TDs during an off-year—he’s usually closer to 95 receptions and 9 TDs. Some of of that production went to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but a lot of it was the Bengals babying Carson Palmer's knee. With Palmer fully healthy, most of the touchdown vultures in jail, and a schedule that’s so easy it’s unfair, I can honestly predict 100 catches, 1500 yards, and 10+ TD.
#2. Marvin Harrison
Surprise! It’s not Steve Smith! Harrison put up the best numbers of any receiver last year: 95 receptions, 1300+ yards, and 12 TDs. He also averages 12 TD a year, a pretty impressive total. That said, he's number two on this list because he's one injury away from losing his WR1 spot to Reggie Wayne, who looks better every year. Also, Manning is going to be under more pressure with a rookie protecting his blindside. A slightly risky pick at two, but I think Marvin's worth it.
#3. Terrell Owens
Love him or hate him, he’s really good. Owens may not have great hands (or even average hands, judging from all those drops last season), but if he keeps bullying Romo to throw him the ball, he’s going to score every week. I could honestly see 90 receptions and 15 TD from T.O. this year...if Romo can deliver
#4. Torry Holt
Captain consistency. Guaranteed for 90 receptions and 10 touchdowns every year. The real question concerns how the offense will work with Bennett lining up instead of Isaac Bruce. If Bennett opens up the field, Holt could easily wind up with 100 catches and 14 TDs. If Bennett turns into a vulture, watch out!
#5. Steve Smith
Is Jake Delhomme starting, or is David Carr? Whoever's under center in Carolina, Smith is the man at wideout. Smith's 2005 campaign was an aberration, but he’s still an amazing player, and 90 receptions and 10 TDs is hardly farfetched. If Smith stays healthy, you’ll be glad you grabbed him here.
#6. Reggie Wayne
One Harrison injury away from becoming “The Man” in Indy, Wayne has increased his reception count every year (86 in ’06), and has slowly been gaining Manning’s trust. 90 receptions and 10 touchdowns is certainly possible, but expect a few weeks of nonproduction while Manning-to-Harrison drives you insane.
#7. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Housh apparently spent all of the offseason adding some lean muscle mass to get faster. Yes, you read that right. Opposite the perpetually double-covered Johnson, Housh is going to have all the chances in the world. 95 receptions and 9 touchdowns is certainly possible, but it remains to be seen whether he gets the red-zone looks.
#8. Donald Driver
As much as Favre loves him, Driver can’t be happy with all of Favre's red-zone giveaways. Driver generally maintained a solid level of production in '06, but he has almost no upside this year. Favre will slip a little more, and Rodgers probably won’t see action at all—or at least not until the end of the season (Favre could be on a respirator and he’d still get the nod). 90 receptions, 7 TDs, and 1250 yards is good enough for me.
#9. Roy Williams
Talk about your pass-happy offenses. You have Mike Martz and Jon Kitna? How could you lose? Aside from a few injury-related duds (Weeks 5, 7, and 15 come to mind), Roy was as consistent as he was dominant in 2006. Unfortunately, on the Lions, his measly 7 TDs don’t look to increase much. 85 receptions, 8 TDs, and 1350 yards will have to do.
#10. Javon Walker
Walker’s production is based entirely on Jay Cutler’s performance. With the Denver running game opening the field, Walker should be able to mimic his performances from early last season. If Cutler gets the job done, I'd say 75 receptions and 9 TDs is a possibility.
#11. Lee Evans
AKA “Mr. Spaz.” If you remove four weeks from the season, Evans didn’t do much of anything. But look at Week 11: 11 receptions, 265 yards, two touchdowns. Evans is capable of that every week, and Losman improves every year. If Evans phones it in during the first half like he in '06, though, you’ll be pulling your hair out. His numbers may seem normal when you take the season total, but be warned that while he will likely dominate in the playoffs, he may not get you there.
#12. Larry Fitzgerald
Fitz got hurt, plain and simple. He missed three games, and two of them were Green Bay and Oakland—easy stat days. He got back on track towards the end of the season, but Leinart isn’t going to be the guy to help him regain his ’05 form. Look for 85 receptions and 6 TDs.
#13. Anquan Boldin
See: Larry Fitzgerald. I’m not joking—it’s pretty much drafting the same guy.
#14. Plaxico Burress
Touchdowns come and go—and so will Burress’ value. Expect a lot of droughts, but when the TDs come, you’ll be happy. Assuming Elisha (why do they insist on that now?) can improve, Burress could get 10 or 11 TDs and 65 receptions.
#15. Darrell Jackson
Banished from Seattle, DJ finds himself in the Frank Gore show…which is remarkably similar to the Shaun Alexander show, minus the experienced QB. Alex Smith should improve (or else), but expect a numbers dip. 60 receptions, 9 TDs, and an injury seems to be a good bet.
#16. Laveranues Coles
With Jerricho Cotchery still establishing himself, Coles is the WR you want. Yes, Colston had more TDs, but Coles had 91 receptions and more overall looks. The touchdowns may not come when you want them, but the receptions will keep you in the game. How Thomas Jones impacts the offense remains to be seen, but 90 receptions and 6 TDs certainly seems fair.
#17. Joey Galloway
In: Garcia. Out: Gradkowski. Galloway has already established a rapport with Garcia, and Garcia loves to stay in the pocket. Honestly, Galloway could be a serious sleeper this low. 75 receptions and 9 TDs is probably his ceiling. Don’t expect those numbers, but don’t be totally shocked by them either.
#18. Marques Colston
Not being a TE drops him down on the list. Bush will get the majority of the looks (hardly seems fair), but Colston established himself as a the red-zone option. If catches don’t matter in your league, then push him up. 75 receptions and 8 TDs seems fair enough.
#19. Andre Johnson
I love Andre, but I have no idea what Schaub is going to do in the Houston offense. If you can get AJ here, pat yourself on the back, because he's an insane competitor. 103 receptions shows he has the hands, but playing for the Texans will kill your TD numbers. 90 receptions, 5 TDs.
#20. Hines Ward
A conservative offense and a weak supporting cast will hurt Ward’s production. 65 receptions, 6 TDs, and less than 1000 yards will keep him low. His inconsistent performance will push him down to #20.
#21. Reggie Brown
Big sleeper potential here. Brown played well with McNabb when Stallworth was out. Stallworth is gone now, but is McNabb healthy? If he is, Brown becomes a 60-catch, 10-TD possibility. Of course...can McNabb play a whole season?
#22. Randy Moss
After escaping from Oakland, Moss looks to establish a happy “You throw the ball and I catch it” relationship with Tom Brady. The only problem is Brady likes to spread the ball around. Assuming Moss is willing to go over the middle and use his height (followed by a pounding that Stallworth can’t take), he could easily rack up 70 catches and 8 TDs. On the other hand, he could always phone it in again...
#23. Calvin Johnson
Yes, he's supposed to be a monster—but so were Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. The only thing Johnson does is open the passing game more for Roy Williams. Look for 50 catches and 6 TDs.
#24. Chris Chambers
Out with the quarterback carousel, in with the Trent Green. Chambers is bigger, faster, and a better route runner than Eddie Kennison ever was. I’m not saying he’ll get Gonzo numbers, but with Randy McMichael on the Rams, who else can Green throw to?
#25. Donte Stallworth
Crazy potential. If he can get the ball with half a step on someone, he’s gone. Keyword: If. If Stallworth can stay healthy. If Stallworth gets the ball on a streak route. If Brady throws to Stallworth often enough. A lot of ifs...and many facts point to another half-season of production. Good enough for a draft and trade in Week 4.
#26. Braylon Edwards
Shows signs of improvement, but the supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired. I expect Edwards to stay around 60 catches and 6 TDs, but he might have a few bust-out weeks that will push you over the top. Solid production for his spot.
#27. Deion Branch
With the exception of week 11, Branch was sub-par all season. With Shaun Alexander back in the mix, Branch will either continue to suck or get a few more shots in the red zone. 55 receptions and 5 touchdowns is a long way from his New England days, but the truth hurts.
#28. Santana Moss
Really inconsistent play puts him at #28. Monster performances in Weeks 4, 13, and 17, but where was he the rest of the year? Hopefully Jason Campbell can get him back on the right track. Expect Moss to miss at least two games to injury, and to frustrate you all year. 60 receptions and 6 TDs seems fair. Great bang for the buck this low, though.
#29. Vincent Jackson
I think he’s a bit overrated, but he certainly has become a red-zone favorite of Philip Rivers. Aside from endangering Gates’ production, Jackson has also started to look like the real WR1 that San Diego hasn’t had (don’t even get me started on Keenan McCardell). 8 TDs is possible, but so is 4.
#30. Mark Clayton
The way he takes balls from Derrick Mason is starting to show, but with McNair at the helm, every touchdown is going to go to a TE. Increased production is a fair expectation, but those 5 TDs will hurt.
#31. Terry Glenn
With TO bullying Romo into throwing the ball his way, Glenn likely won’t see the end zone very often. It’s too bad, because Glenn put up a pretty impressive season last year. He’s older and slower, but he’ll still get 60+ receptions and 5 trips to paydirt provided Romo stays the course.
Oakland has a QB with a cannon arm, no running game, and a wide receiver who runs really fast. Sounds like last year’s formula, except that Moss and Brooks aren’t in it. I’m not saying Oakland has a chance in hell of producing points, but Porter could still grab some major yardage and 4 or 5 TDs.
If things don’t work out with Reggie Brown, McNabb has another friendly target. Curtis might actually turn into the #1 at some point, so he’s worth a pick.
Yes, he’s on the Rams. Yes, the Rams have five great receiving options. Yes, he’s one of them. Enough said. Hopefully double coverage on Holt will open some nice seams for Bennett...if he can stay healthy.
He’s not getting any faster, but his quarterback is getting better. Provided that the Sex Cannon decides to work on his pump fake instead of his other pump action, Muhammad could rack up 70 catches and 7 TDs.
Probably going to be used as a decoy, but he’s still worth a look.
He’ll be available really late, and he could line up as a solid #2 next to Chambers.
AVOID THESE GUYS
Rod Smith, Michael Clayton, Amani Toomer, Mike Furrey, Reggie Williams, Devin Hester (you heard me), Matt Jones, Nate Burleson