Johnson & Johnson top the rankings for fantasy football wide receivers going into the 2009 season. Of all the offensive positions one can project, future production by a wide receiver is far and away the most difficult to get a handle on.
So many facets of the offense must work together to create the opportunity for the receiver to catch the ball. Then, he must catch it. With that said, let's take a look at who we think will be the Top 30 Wide Receivers in 2009. Beside each player is that player's projected totals for the 2009 season.
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1. Andre Johnson (HOU) 1575 PYD / 12 TDs
Johnson finished up the 2008 season with the most receiving yards of any receiver, but four touchdowns short of the league leaders. The core of the offense remains in place in Houston, so expect and Johnson to put up a couple more touchdowns than last year.
Quarterback Matt Schaub has another season under his belt, so if he and Johnson can stay healthy, the Texans offense should make great strides this season.
2. Calvin Johnson (DET) 1450 PYD / 12 TDs
Calvin Jonson is the most talented receiver in the NFL. Period.
Johnson fought through three quarterbacks last season—none of which was overly talented—and still finished second overall in non-ppr leagues.
With the departures of John Kitna and Dan Orlovsky, expect Johnson to be able to develop some rapport with Daunte Culpepper in the offseason, which should translate into a higher conversion rate on his nine-plus targets per game.
Regardless of which quarterback is throwing him the ball, Johnson will catch it and to see that is a thing of beauty.
3. Randy Moss (NE) 1203 RYD / 12 TDs
Randy Moss makes what should be his last appearance in preseason top five rankings. The reappearance of Tom Brady this season should increase Moss’ yardage totals, but his touchdowns should remain the same.
One should expect to see some changes to the New England offense under the sole direction of Bill Belichick, but any drastic departure from the scheme that won 18 games would be a surprise.
4. Greg Jennings (GB) 1350 RYD / 10 TDs
Last season, Jennings spent the year getting to know Aaron Rodgers. This year, he’ll spend the year proving that he’s an elite receiver.
Jennings has the talent, explosiveness, and vision to dominate defenses and shift coverage. With the emergence of Rodgers as a top five fantasy quarterback, expect Jennings to live up the hype of his late second round ADP.
5. Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) 1305 RYD / 10 TDs
Last year’s best fantasy wide receiver will likely experience some let down in 2009.
The stars aligned last season allowing a Warner-to-Fitzgerald hook-up nearly every game. The possibility of a Super Bowl hangover is very real, and should be taken in to account before drafting Fitzgerald in the first round, as seems to be the trend.
Another issue to keep your eye on, if you’re eyeing Fitzgerald in the first or early second rounds, is the status of Anquan Boldin. Should Boldin be shipped out of the desert, it’s not known the impact such a move would have on Fitzgerald.
While Fitzgerald is a very talented receiver, he benefits greatly from the presence of Boldin on the opposite side, which prevents defenses from tilting coverage toward Fitzgerald.
6. Anquan Boldin (ARI) 1230 RYD / 9 TDs
Should I stay or should I go? It seems that Boldin wants to stay with the Cardinals, but just wants to get paid like the elite receiver that he isn’t.
Boldin might be the toughest receiver in the league, but elite he is not. He is Kurt Warner’s favorite target inside the twenty yard line, and there’s no reason that should change this year. That is, unless Ken Wisenhunt decides to drastically alter the offensive scheme after the departure of offensive coordinator Todd Haley to Kansas City.
Wisenhunt learned in Pittsburgh that running the ball is the key to victory, and that was demonstrated with the selection of Chris Wells (RB, Ohio State) in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft.
Expect the Cardinals to slowly transition in to a run-first team, but the upcoming season should be dominated by touchdown passes from Warner to Boldin and Fitzgerald.
7. Marques Colston (NO) 1103 RYD / 10 TDs
Colston enters 2009 after battling a hand injury for a majority of the 2008 season. His recovery was anything but quick, but he did perform well during the last few weeks of the season.
For 2009, look for a repeat of the 2007 season when Colston burst on the scene.
The key offensive pieces are still in place in New Orleans, and with the addition of a solid running game via Pierre Thomas, Drew Brees should have more opportunities to move the ball through the air. While Brees is happy to distribute the ball to any receiver that is open, he clearly favored Colston even while he was not 100 percent.
8. Reggie Wayne (IND) 1350 RYD / 8 TDs
Reggie Wayne’s struggles last season can be attributed primarily to Peyton Manning’s struggles to regain control of the passing game after knee surgery. Then there was the issue with Joseph Addai.
Now that Manning is nearly two years removed from the knee surgery, he should return to his old self, with Wayne being the primary beneficiary. Look for Joseph Addai to reassert himself, or for Donald Brown to step up in the running game, forcing defenses to respect the run once again and allowing Manning to be the Manning of old.
9. Steve Smith (CAR) 1375 RYD / 7 TDs
After serving a brief suspension at the beginning of last season, Smith stepped up as one of the top fantasy wide receivers.
With the emergence of DeAngelo Williams and the continued development of Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers are a run first team. If the backfield can continue to produce like last season, the opportunities should continue to be available to Smith to catch balls and score touchdowns.
10. Roddy White (ATL) 1382 RYD / 7 TDs
A true surprise last season, White emerged as a legitimate top 10 fantasy wide receiver.
The arrival of quarterback Matt Ryan spurred White’s development. White is as talented of a receiver as you’ll find, and with the addition of tight end Tony Gonzalez, White will truly have the opportunity to shine.
The Falcons will continue to run the football, but now that defenses must account for Gonzalez, White will continue to put up top ten fantasy numbers.
11. Dwayne Bowe (KC) 1100 RYD / 8 TDs
New quarterback, same offensive line. It is assumed that Cassel will throw out of the shotgun which should give him enough time to complete passes.
That is, if Bowe can catch them. If Bowe can overcome his case of the dropsies, he should have a fine year considering he is the only receiving threat in Kansas City.
12. Braylon Edwards (CLE) 1030 RYD / 8 TDs
Hello, Mr. Stonehands. Hopefully Edwards spent the offseason with a football in his hands so that he remembers how great it feels.
Things should work out well with Brady Quinn at quarterback, as Edwards excels in the intermediate passing game—Quinn’s bread and butter.
13. Roy Williams (DAL) 1020 RYD / 8 TDs
The departure of Terrell Owens creates a void at wide receiver which should be filled by the man who cost 10,000 draft picks.
Williams has the talent, there’s no question. But can he be “the man?” That remains to be seen.
14. Terrell Owens (BUF) 1000 RYD / 8 TDs
Welcome to Buffalo. It’s cold there, so be ready.
With Owens patrolling the intermediate field and Lee Evans as a deep threat, defenses should have to present a balanced coverage scheme allowing Owens to excel.
But don’t expect the world. Trent Edwards is still Owens’ quarterback. But he is his quarterback.
15. Brandon Marshall (DEN) 1100 RYD / 7 TDs
Look for a bit of a down season from Marshall. The addition of Kyle Orton is not necessarily bad news, but Marshall’s upside is not near what it was a year ago.
During the second half of last year, Marshall’s production dropped off to a level of what should be expected going forward.
16. TJ Houshmandzadeh (SEA) 1101 RYD / 7 TDs
Here's another receiver on the move. TJH is now the man in Seattle.
Hasselbeck should have recovered from his back injury, and will be able to get TJH the ball. He will catch a lot of balls, but will not find the end zone all that often. PPR gold, as they say.
17. Wes Welker (NE) 1165 RYD / 6 TDs
More PPR gold. Welker was targeted over nine times per game last season, and caught nearly 75 perecent of the balls thrown his way.
Those are extraordinary numbers. Brady and Welker work well together. A solid WR2 to round out your squad.
18. Anthony Gonzalez (IND) 1050 RYD / 7 TDs
Entering his third year in the league, Gonzalez will be expected to take on an increased role in the offense.
Gonzalez will step up and perform this year without having to look over his shoulder. He’s a receiver in Peyton Manning’s offense. What more could you want?
19. Eddie Royal (DEN) 1025 RYD / 6 TDs
Royal enters 2009 coming off of a fantastic rookie season posting 980 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Royal put the world on notice in Week 1 last season torching the Raiders for 146 yards and a touchdown.
Expect good numbers from Royal again this year as he enrolls in his first year of the Josh McDaniels School of Fantasy Production. Imagine Wes Welker in orange. There you go. Eddie Royal.
Keep in mind that these projections are for standard scoring leagues. Should you be in a points per reception league, knock Royal up a few spots on your draft board.
20. Laveranues Coles (CIN) 900 RYD / 8 TDs
Another wide receiver in a new town. Coles should fit well with Carson Palmer and Chad Ocho Cinco.
Coles is a complementary receiver that will work well in the scheme. He’s currently going in the mid-to-late rounds in mock drafts, so grab him as your WR3 or WR4 and you may be pleasantly surprised.
21. Bernard Berrian (MIN) 964 RYD / 7 TDs
A very solid receiver that’s going to have to adjust to a new quarterback. We just don’t yet know which quarterback it will be.
If Brett Favre drops by for a season, you should expect his projected numbers to increase. But he is by far the top wide receiver on the Vikings’ squad.
22. Hines Ward (PIT) 982 RYD / 7 TDs
Ward finished last season as the 16th best wide receiver in non-ppr leagues.
While the Steelers found a running game with Mewelde Moore, expect a healthy Willie Parker to provide more receiving opportunities for Ward. And don’t let anyone fool you. Ward is still the number one wide receiver in Pittsburgh
23. Santana Moss (WAS) 1044 RYD / 6 TDs
He’s still the man in Washington, but the rest of the offense isn’t anything to write home about.
The offensive line is weak, the running game is about to fall off of a cliff, and Jason Campbell is in the wrong system. I wouldn’t bank on Moss to bring home the bacon, but he could be a nice player to round out your squad.
24. Vincent Jackson (SD) 998 RYD / 6 TDs
With Jackson, we’re looking at a possible slight drop in productivity with the expected return of Tomlinson to full strength.
The passing game just will not be relied as much as it was in 2008.
25. Kevin Walter (HOU) 899 RYD / 7 TDs
Walter will continue to be an important member of the passing attack in Houston. He’s the do-everything wide receiver that is the perfect complement to Andre Johnson.
As long as Schaub continues to look his way, Walter will continue to be a solid WR3 on your fantasy squad.
26. Devin Hester (CHI) 902 RYD / 6 TDs
Jay Cutler has to throw to someone, right?
Outside of tight end Greg Olsen, Hester is the best receiver in Chicago. Cutler can only be good for Hester’s development as a wide receiver, so expect solid production.
27. Lee Evans (BUF) 950 RYD / 6 TDs
The addition of Terrell Owens can only be good for Evans. Owens will dictate coverage allowing Evans to excel on the outside where he belongs.
Evans has shown flashes over the last couple of seasons, but he might finally be able to take the next step in his development with Owens attracting the defense’s attention.
28. Antonio Bryant (TB) 1050 RYD / 5 TDs
A solid receiver without a solid quarterback option. With the singing of Derrick Ward, Tampa Bay’s focus will be on running the ball.
Bryant can continue to be a solid possession receiver, just don’t expect huge numbers.
29. Jordy Nelson (GB) 900 RYD / 6 TDs
This is his year. The Packers must recognize that Nelson is better than Donald Driver.
With Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback, the sky’s the limit. Nelson should be able to take a big step forward this year. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your 2009 sleeper candidate.
Of course, this breakout year is dependant upon Donald Driver's departure or phasing out of the offense. Either is a distinct possiblity.
30. Donnie Avery (STL) 850 RYD / 5 TDs
Avery is far and away the best receiver in the STL.
The offensive line is neither worse nor better than last season, which may inhibit Avery’s ability to have passes thrown his way.
But if Steven Jackson can get the running game going, Avery has the potential to have a solid year.
31. Derrick Mason (BAL) 1037 RYD / 5 TDs
The Ravens failed to add any offensive weapons in this year’s draft, which hopefully won’t stunt the growth of Joe Flacco.
Mason is a great possession receiver, and was one of Flacco’s favorite targets ending last season. Mason is a much better option in a ppr league than a standard scoring league.