Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss Among Top Fantasy Wide Receivers for 2009

Daniel MaderContributor IJune 3, 2009

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 23:  Wide receiver Calvin Johnson #84 of the Detroit Lions lines up during the NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field on November 23, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan.  The Buccaneers defeated the Lions 38-20.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Wide Receivers are the most unpredictable group of players in all of fantasy football. Picking between a tandem of running backs can be difficult, but it just does not compare to the parade of receivers each team can use.

On top of that, there is a drop off between the top receivers and the mid level receivers this year in the NFL. Here I will give you my best, my worst, and of course my sleepers for this season.


Top Five

1. Calvin Johnson is a 6'5" phenom. He was the only bright spot for a winless team in Detroit. He had 78 catches, 1,331 yards, and 12 touchdowns last season with unreliable quarterbacks throwing the ball his way.

In fact Daunte Culpepper may prove to be better than the array of QBs that started for the Lions last season, even with bum knees and being over the hill.

Calvin Johnson was double teamed and at times even triple teamed during games, yet he still found a way to get open for his quarterback to throw. His numbers will only increase no matter how bad the Lions are and Johnson is very consistent when scoring touchdowns, only having four games in which he did not score.


2. Larry Fitzgerald has plenty of buzz surrounding him this season, especially for the fantasy football owners. Fitz put up superb numbers with 96 receptions, 1,431 yards, and a league leading 12 touchdowns, tied with Calvin Johnson.

Anquan Boldin is still a Cardinal, so Fitz is not the sole go-to guy on his team. Boldin will get his numbers as well, taking away from Fitz, but as we saw last season it doesn't effect either receiver too much.

If the Cardinals can even get a resemblance of a run game then the prospect of Fitz becomes even more dangerous. 

Picture safeties actually thinking about the run against Arizona and then feel the wind of Fitzgerald blowing past them—could be a great mix if you get your hands on him.


3. Andre Johnson had the best statistical numbers of all the wide receivers last season as far as catches and yards (115 receptions and 1,575 yards). The reason why I have him third is only because he had eight touchdowns, which is good but not elite.

In FF touchdowns count for a great deal along with getting them consistently. The one problem last season was there were nine games that A. Johnson did not score. 

Don't read this the wrong way though Andre Johnson is a great pick to be able to build your FF team with this year. If he has a healthy Matt Schaub to throw him the ball, Johnson will have those touchdowns increase this year, as well as having elite numbers in every other category.


4. Randy Moss has one thing on his mind—Tom Brady is back!

With Cassell at the helm, Moss had 69 receptions, 1,008 yards and 11 touchdowns,  ranking second in the NFL for touchdowns. Remember he put up those numbers without Tom Brady there. The year before with Brady, Moss had 98 receptions, 1,493 yards, and 23 touchdowns.

I'd say that's a substantial difference. Though the pair may not make history again upon Brady's return, Moss's production takes an immediate jump with him back.

Prediction: Moss leads the NFL wide receivers in touchdowns this season.


5. Steve Smith (Carolina) continues to be one of the best play makers in the NFL. Smith had 78 receptions, 1,431 yards and six touchdowns.

If you want those extra points for long yardage receptions, Smith is your guy, having 29 times had a catch for 20 or more yards. Smith has been consistently good throughout his career and has proven to be durable as well, making him a safe pick to ensure production during the season.

One flaw about Smith is that he never produces a real high touchdown total. His highest total was back in 2005 when he had 12. However, he has never gotten real close to that total in any other part in his career.

Smith's production in the other categories more than compensates, making him a great weapon for your team.


Top Sleepers

1. Steve Smith (New York Giants) will benefit from the fact that he is now Eli Manning's top target. He has proved to have a solid skill set in his time behind Burress and Toomer.

Now he is no Steve Smith (the other Steve Smith) but he will be able to produce for a guy who will be there late in most drafts. As the third receiver, he had 57 catches, 574 yards, and one touchdown—Typical numbers for a third receiver on the depth chart.

What makes him a sleeper this year is the fact teams will play the run first against the Giants. I am not a big Eli guy by any means, but when he can play action pass he is about as good as anybody and the guy he will look for the majority of the time will be Smith.


2. Marques Colston has a lot of people sleeping on him this year. Colston missed six games due to injury last season. He had 47 catches, 760 yards, and five touchdowns in a matter of 10 games.

Colston should return to his status of being the number one wide receiver on the Saints, whose offense was No. 1 in the NFL last season by throwing the ball. If nothing else, Colston should get a lot of touchdown passes inside the red zone because of his 6'4" frame.

Look for Colston to make a push to be among the elite receivers this season with the great chemistry that he and Brees share.


3. Anthony Gonzalez may not have wished for the departure of Marvin Harrison, but he probably wasn't heart broken over it, either. He is now the No. 2 receiver on a team that has been one of the most potent passing offenses over the last decade.

Gonzalez might not be the No. 1 guy, but he will have a lot of receptions running those underneath routes. Look for him to chalk up a bunch of yards this season in which he will have the ability to break a lot of 20-plus yarders for extra points.

Gonzalez has great hands and reminds me a lot of Wes Walker. The one problem with that is, don't expect a bunch of touchdowns.


4. Laveranues Coles will finally have the benefit of playing for a team with a pass-first mentality.

As of right now, he is the No. 1 receiver, but I don't expect for a second that Chad Ochocinco won't report to training camp when that comes.

Coles had 70 receptions, 850 yards, and seven touchdowns on a team that was run first, and had an over the hill quarterback who had just as many interceptions as touchdowns. 

Instead, this season he will have the advantage of having an elite talent QB (when healthy) throw him the ball. We saw TJ Houshmandzadeh put up very good numbers on the other side of Chad Ochocinco, so there should be no worries of Coles not being able to achieve superb numbers as well.


5. Torry Holt is another receiver who found a new place to call home this year. Holt is in the latter part of his career, though playing for the dismal Rams offense last season probably didn't help his numbers either. 

64 receptions, 796 yards, and three touchdowns is not what I would call typical Torry Holt numbers, but remember, the Rams were ranked 26th in passing and 31st in total points scored.

Holt can have a fresh start this year with the Jaguars. He will be the number one option for David Garrard down field. The second receiver on this team is Dennis Northcutt, so it's safe to say Holt will have the majority of throws sent his way.

An advantage Holt also has is the fact that Maurice Jones-Drew will attract the attention of the opponents' defenses this season.

Teams are going to send up a safety to put eight guys in the box for helping to slow the young running back, giving Holt more one-on-one opportunities.


Bottom Five

1. Braylon Edwards' extremely disappointing season last year will not improve by much this year.

The Browns really don't have a clue at this point who will be the starting QB (I tend to think Quinn will win the job). Their offense probably won't have much of a running game, with an aging Lewis and an unreliable O-line to lessen the pressure on the passing game.

Defenses will single out Edwards in coverage, making it very difficult to get open. Furthermore, Edwards will have to significantly improve his catching ability as he led the NFL in dropped passes last season.

It would seem that the stage is not set for Edwards to succeed this season.


2. Bernard Berrian has a similar situation as Edwards as for as not knowing who his QB will be. Whether it's Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson, who are at camp, or whether it's the mob scene of Favre coming out of retirement the second time, the team still has no clue.

Berrian has never had a real big season, but has that attraction of catching those bombs for extra points. 

If that's the case, fantasy football owners better hope Rosenfels wins the job  because if Jackson wins, Childress will run that Philadelphia intermediate quick strike passing game that takes away those big gains.

The team's offense is based around Adrian Peterson, already making Berrian a secondary option. But the addition of Percy Harvins will now take away additional looks as long as he continues to progress through camp.


3. Justin Gage is the No. 1 passing option on his team, but that doesn't mean he will put up overly impressive stats this season.

Besides the Titans being run-first offensively, the passing game is very conservative. Gage had 34 catches, 651 yards, and six touchdowns, which is worse than a lot of second receivers on teams. Granted he was hurt off and on last season.

Collins is likely to start one more year, in which he often plays the don't-lose-the-game role as the QB. This basically means no down-field, high-risk passes, making all passing gains mediocre at best.

Gage's tall frame really isn't taken advantage of in the red zone, giving him close to no value.


4. DeSean Jackson had a great rookie year.

So why do I have him on my avoid list?

Well, while Jackson is quick and can put up a bunch of yards, his touchdown production is next to nothing. Jackson had just two touchdowns last season.

As a fantasy football owner, you need receivers that will score a decent number of times. Yards are great and can accumulate some points here and there 

As he develops further I am sure the total touchdown numbers will go up, but not this year.

In fact, Jackson may never be a big time scorer. His tiny frame may prevent him from scoring on a regular basis. It may be hard for Jackson to ever become a big fantasy star.


5. Devin Hester is still a project in the making. I think a lot of people are thinking of taking him late because of Cutler.

As much as I like Cutler, he is not a miracle worker and can't run routes for Hester. I agree that having Cutler with his cannon arm will give Hester half a chance on the deep ball, many of which were thrown short last season.

Hester still has the potential to be a big game breaker and is getting closer to that goal. Hester still is raw in skill and has not harnessed the ability enough this season to make a big fantasy impact.

As the number one receiving option for the Bears last season, Hester had 51 receptions, 665 yards and three touchdowns. The numbers pretty much indicate how the passing game for the Bears went last season. 

The only player on the Bears I'm taking for fantasy is Forte, and that's it.


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