Fantasy Football 2014: Early Rankings for Top Wide Receivers

Nate LoopFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2014

FILE - In this May 28, 2014, file photo, Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson talks with the media after an NFL football organized team activity in Allen Park, Mich. Johnson become one of the great players in the history of the Lions, he's also been dependable and durable throughout his career. But toward the end of last season, the bumps and bruises finally seemed to be catching up with the star receiver. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Let's face it: Having a game-changing wide receiver on your NFL fantasy football team might be more fun than anything else in the competition.

The overall numbers are still slanted toward multipurpose backs who can catch and hit the hole between the tackles, and quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees throw up monstrous numbers week in and week out. 

However, few things are sweeter than the special wideout who can break a play for 50 yards and hit paydirt in the end zone, swinging your fantasy football contest in a matter of seconds.

Here is an early projection for the top 20 wide receivers in 2014.

2014 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings
Pos.PlayerTeam
1Calvin JohnsonDetroit Lions
2Demaryius ThomasDenver Broncos
3Dez BryantDallas Cowboys
4Brandon MarshallChicago Bears
5A.J. GreenCincinnati Bengals
6Julio JonesAtlanta Falcons
7Alshon JefferyChicago Bears
8Jordy NelsonGreen Bay Packers
9Larry FitzgeraldArizona Cardinals
10Randall CobbGreen Bay Packers
11Vincent JacksonTampa Bay Buccaneers
12Antonio BrownPittsburgh Steelers
13DeSean JacksonWashington Redskins
14Keenan AllenSan Diego Chargers
15Victor CruzNew York Giants
16Pierre GarconWashington Redskins
17Andre JohnsonHouston Texans
18Wes WelkerDenver Broncos
19Michael CrabtreeSan Francisco 49ers
20Eric DeckerNew York Jets
Nate Loop

 

Will Keenan Allen Suffer From a Sophomore Slump?

Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

The sophomore slump is a dreaded statistical quagmire for players in all sports. San Diego Chargers wideout Keenan Allen took the league by storm as a rookie, finishing with 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. He managed all this after tallying just three receptions and no touchdowns in his first two games of the year.

This might have some fantasy owners bullish on his future, and he should avoid a sophomore slump considering few wide receivers make any sort of noticeable impact in their first two years of play. Allen already has that obstacle out of the way.

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

The Chargers didn't do too much to add depth at wide receiver outside of Allen, hoping that Malcom Floyd will be able to make a solid comeback after missing the majority of last season with a devastating neck injury.

His presence in the deep-passing game could open up even more underneath routes for Allen, something he excelled at last season with his smooth route running.

Allen is sure-handed but doesn't have elite athleticism, which lowers his ceiling a bit. Expect him to enjoy similar production to last season, but don't look for him as a No. 1 wide receiver in most fantasy leagues.

 

How Will Eric Decker Fare in New York?

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Eric Decker was the ninth-best fantasy football wide receiver in the 2013 season, per NFL.com. He reeled in 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns.

However, Decker is truly a "buyer beware" as he has left the thin air of Mile High Stadium and won't see any more of Manning's tight spirals with the New York Jets. 

ESPN projects him as the 35th-ranked wide receiver for the upcoming season. The Jets have both Geno Smith and Michael Vick on the roster, neither one of whom looks likely to light up the scoreboard by tossing passes to Decker in this upcoming season.

Decker is an interesting case in that Manning's arrival came at the same time that many promising wide receivers are expected to begin producing.

Eric Decker Career Stats, Season by Season
SeasonAgeReceptionsYardsTouchdownsYPC
2010236106117.7
20112444612813.9
201225851,0641312.5
201326871,2881114.8
Pro Football Reference, highlighted seasons w/ Manning

His stats are surely a mixture of both Manning's greatness and his own hard work and abilities, which is what makes him so difficult to peg. He has all the expectations of a No. 1 but hasn't had the chance to prove he can do it without a top-flight quarterback, such as the way Larry Fitzgerald has in Arizona.

As the New York Post's Brian Costello noted, Decker faces enormous pressure in New York:

There is a ton of pressure on Decker. He arrives in New York armed with the big contract and even bigger expectations. Decker was the big free agent signing for the Jets. They added Michael Vick and Chris Johnson, who are more accomplished than Decker, but neither comes in with the type of money or expectations Decker brings.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Decker's numbers shouldn't dip too much as he will likely be the Jets' No. 1 option, but he could struggle if teams game-plan around him and running back Chris Johnson struggles to help the offense maintain balance.

He's not a safe bet as a top-10 wide receiver, although many fantasy owners could be tempted just by looking at prior production.