By Derek of The Sportmeisters
Hello football fans! It’s the end of July and that means OTAs and minicamps are all over and actual training camp is just underway. Preseason games start on Aug. 13 and boy oh boy I can’t wait.
Now, what I am here to discuss today are my preseason, pre-training camp fantasy rankings for the wide receivers. Remember, these rankings are based on the player lasting a full 16 games, I am not projecting injuries, but I will tell you who your injury risks are. Obviously, my rankings are likely to change, but here are my first projections of the year.
1. Randy Moss—New England Patriots—Projection: 92 Receptions, 1335 Yards, 17 TD
Most people will be surprised by my No. 1 receiver pick, but does 98 receptions, 1493 yards, and 23 touchdowns ring a bell? 2007 Season? Anyone? Bueller? Ok, I know, lame attempt at a joke, but seriously, does nobody remember the monster 2007 season that Moss had?
Everyone remembers him as a sort of bust last year with just 69 Receptions, 1008 yards, and 11 Touchdowns, but does anyone remember who was the quarterback last year?
That would be Matt Cassel!
Anyone remember who comes back this year? Does the name Tom Brady ring a bell? I fully expect Moss to see more deep balls and end zone grabs with Brady back behind center and I expect a 2007-like season. Look for him to be taken mostly in the second round, sometimes even as early as the first, and if your opponents are foolish enough to let him slide to the third, you snatch him up in a heartbeat.
2. Larry Fitzgerald—Arizona Cardinals—Projection: 99 Receptions, 1455 Yards, 12 TD
Most fantasy reporters have Fitzgerald ranked at No. 1 this year. However, even though I think he will have a great year, there’s just one thing that holds me back from drafting him. Just one thing that scares me this year. This may sound silly, but it has been a proven fantasy killer. That one thing is the feared Madden Curse! Fitzgerald will grace the cover of Madden 2010 and that right there means I am staying away on draft day. Now, I’m not telling you not to draft him, but I’m telling you that I certainly won’t. He will be taken in the first two rounds in most drafts and if you take him, just beware of the Madden Curse.
3. Andre Johnson—Houston Texans—Projection: 105 Receptions, 1485 Yards, 10 TD
Johnson finally lived up to his fantasy expectations last year, staying healthy for a full 16 game season and catching 115 balls for 1575 yards and eight touchdowns. His only problem now is waiting to see if his Quarterback can stay healthy. Matt Schaub is just as injury prone as Johnson used to be and they no longer have a backup if he goes down (Dan Orlovsky or Rex Grossman are slated to be the backup). However, Johnson is a beast and you shouldn’t be afraid to draft him and if you don’t someone else will. Look for him to go as early as the first two rounds, maybe even the first in PPR leagues.
4. Reggie Wayne—Indianapolis Colts—Projection: 100 Receptions, 1410 Yards, 10 TD
Wayne had a down season last year, only catching 82 balls for 1145 yards and just six touchdowns. However, Peyton Manning’s knee injury kept him out of training camp and the preseason, not allowing him to get into a rhythm with his receivers until later in the year.
He did have four 100+ yard games and was still a top 15 fantasy receiver. Manning is fully healthy this year and Marvin Harrison is gone, making Wayne the unquestioned No. 1 option in the offense. Remember, in 2007 he caught 104 balls for 1510 yards and 10 touchdowns while Harrison was injured and Manning was healthy. Look for 2007-like numbers from Wayne this year and expect him to come off the board in rounds two or three.
5. Calvin Johnson—Detroit Lions—Projection: 88 Receptions, 1340 Yards, 12 TD
Megatron was a one-man army for the league’s worst team last year. He showed no signs of a sophomore slump as he had 78 receptions for 1331 yards and 12 touchdowns catching passes from Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky, Drew Stanton, and Dante Culpepper. This year, he will be catching passes from either Culpepper or the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, Matthew Stafford. All signs point to Culpepper to start the season, but one thing is for sure, whoever is throwing the ball, Johnson is going to catch it. He will not make it past round three in any draft.
6. Steve Smith—Carolina Panthers—Projection: 95 Receptions, 1400 Yards, 10 TD
Smith missed two games last year due to suspension and still came out with 78 receptions, 1421 yards, and six touchdowns. Most of that was due to the fact that he had a real quarterback (Jake Delhomme) throwing him the ball, unlike 2007 where he had David Carr and Vinny Testaverde and wound up with 87 receptions, but just 1002 yards. With Delhomme back and the monster running game, Smith should post huge numbers and will be a No. 1 fantasy receiver. Look for him to go in the second or third rounds.
7. Anquan Boldin—Arizona Cardinals—Projection: 92 Receptions, 1225 Yards, 11 TD
After all the offseason controversy, Boldin is in camp and ready to go this year with Arizona. That’s great news for QB Kurt Warner because Boldin is a flat out BEAST! I mean, the guy missed four games and still had 89 receptions for 1038 yards and 11 touchdowns. Imagine what he will do in a full 16-game season! With offensive coordinator Todd Haley in Kansas City this year, the Cardinals may run more, but with Boldin and Fitzgerald at receiver, how can you not throw the ball? Expect Boldin to be just as valuable as Fitzgerald and look for him to go in the second or third rounds.
8. Roddy White—Atlanta Falcons—Projection: 90 Receptions, 1350 Yards, 9 TD
OK, it’s official, Roddy White is no fluke. He has posted back-to-back 80+ reception, 1200+ yard seasons and looks to be fully in sync with QB Matt Ryan. The addition of TE Tony Gonzalez and the running game with RB Michael Turner will take some pressure off of him and he should put up similar numbers to his 2008 season. Look for him to go in the second or third rounds.
9. Greg Jennings—Green Bay Packers—Projection: 86 Receptions, 1305 Yards, 10 TD
Jennings has now become the go to guy in Green Bay and put up huge numbers last year with QB Aaron Rodgers. His 80 receptions and 1292 yards were career highs and he scored nine touchdowns. Nothing has changed in the Green Bay offensive system, so expect similar numbers and look for him to go between the second and fourth rounds.
10. Terrell Owens—Buffalo Bills—Projection: 85 Receptions, 1255 Yards, 11 TD
Does nobody have any faith in the skills of T.O.? I DO! Look, the guy is still one of the best receivers in the game, even at age 35 (36 in December). He didn’t have a great year in Dallas last year, but he still had a good year, catching 69 balls for 1052 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s a bad year? Look, QB Trent Edwards may be young, but he can throw the football and T.O. will catch it. He should put up numbers close to his 2007 season of 81 receptions, 1355 yards, and 15 touchdowns and will be a steal in the third or fourth rounds.
11. Marques Colston—New Orleans Saints—Projection: 90 Receptions, 1175 Yards, 10 TD
Colston was a bust last year, but that was mostly due to missing six games with a torn thumb ligament and lingering knee problems. However, he exploded for 22 receptions, 306 yards, and four touchdowns in the last three games of the season and has reported to camp fully healthy after an offseason knee procedure. He is still Drew Brees’ favorite target and should put up similar numbers to his 2007 season (98 receptions, 1202 yards, 11 touchdowns). Look for him to be gone by the fourth round.
12. Wes Welker—New England Patriots—Projection: 115 Receptions, 1215 Yards, 7 TD
There has been no more consistent receiver in the NFL than Wes Welker for the past two years. Since coming to New England, he has put up back-to-back 110+ catch, 1150+ yard seasons. The only difference between 2007 and 2008 was that his touchdowns dropped from eight to three. With Tom Brady back and throwing deep to Randy Moss, Welker may see even more opportunities in the middle of the field and looks to put up yet another 110+ catch, 1150+-yard season. He should go in rounds three or four and may even go in the second round in PPR leagues.
13. Brandon Marshall—Denver Broncos—Projection: 90 Receptions, 1175 Yards, 7 TD
Marshall has to deal with a lot this year. He has a new head coach in Josh McDaniels, a new quarterback in Kyle Orton, a possible suspension for more off the field issues, and dealing with all the hoopla he created after requesting a trade. Despite all that, Marshall is a fantastic receiver and has put up back-to-back 100 catch seasons. I don’t think he will reach 100 receptions again without Jay Cutler, but he could come close, as McDaniels likes to throw the ball. You should see Marshall come off the board between the third and fifth rounds, and he may be a steal.
14. Dwayne Bowe—Kansas City Chiefs—Projection: 88 Receptions, 1200 Yards, 9 TD
Bowe is in a great scenario coming into this season. He has a new pass friendly offensive minded head coach and is the only real threat in the offense after the team traded TE Tony Gonzalez. Now, he doesn’t have a great QB in Matt Cassel, but he did pretty well last year with Damon Huard, Tyler Thigpen, and Brodie Croyle. Bowe should see an increased amount of balls thrown his way and should come off the board between the third and fifth rounds.
15. Chad Ochocinco—Cincinnati Bengals—Projection: 90 Receptions, 1200 Yards, 8 TD
OK, everyone already knows how bad Ochocinco was last year, but everyone also knows that was mostly due to QB Carson Palmer being injured. I mean, seriously, who is going to have a good season with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing the ball and their best running back being Cedric Benson? Well, Palmer is back and healthy this year, but Benson is still their starting running back. Even without a tremendous running game, Ocho should see his usual numbers this year with a healthy Palmer. He could be a huge sleeper in the fifth or sixth rounds.
16. T.J. Houshmandzadeh—Seattle Seahawks—Projection: 90 Receptions, 1150 Yards, 8 TD
T.J. Who’s Your Mama has moved from being second fiddle in Cincinnati to being the man in Seattle. Seattle had a terrible passing game last year (29th in the NFL) as QB Matt Hasselbeck was injured for most of the year, as were most of the receivers. However, Hasselbeck looks to be healthy this year and Houshmandzadeh will finally get to show that he can be a No. 1 receiver. However, Seattle has a new offensive coordinator in Greg Knapp and he hasn’t had a 1000-yard WR since 2003. Housh should break that mold and will probably come off the board in the fifth or sixth rounds.
17. Roy Williams—Dallas Cowboys—Projection: 85 Receptions, 1175 Yards, 7 TD
Williams was supposed to come into Dallas last year and be a huge part of the offense. Instead, he never fully got involved and caught just 19 balls for 198 yards and just one touchdown. However, that was last year and this is this year and this year Terrell Owens is gone and he has had a full offseason to get in sync with the offense and QB Tony Romo. Williams has plenty of skill left in him and his success in Detroit was no fluke. He should have a great year and will be taken in the middle rounds in most drafts.
18. Lee Evans—Buffalo Bills—Projection: 80 Receptions, 1100 Yards, 7 TD
Here is my pick for breakout receiver of the year. Lee Evans has been frustrating fantasy owners for years now, but there is one thing different about this year that he has never had before. That one thing is Terrell Owens. Evans has been the No. 1 guy in Buffalo for a few years now and has faced constant double coverage with no real threat on the other side.
Now, it will be Owens who sees the double coverage, leaving Evans one on one. Evans has the speed to burn a corner or a safety and should enjoy a huge breakout year being the No. 2 guy. You can probably grab him in the middle rounds and possibly get early round production.
19. DeSean Jackson—Philadelphia Eagles—Projection: 80 Receptions, 1050 Yards, 7 TD
Fraction Jackson broke onto the scene last year and put up great numbers in his rookie year. Now, he has Kevin Curtis healthy and rookie Jeremy Maclin to help in the offense, not to mention RB Brian Westbrook. He should see even more balls thrown his way this year and could be an asset in the return game also, if your league gets points for that. Look for him in the middle rounds.
20. Vincent Jackson—San Diego Chargers—Projection: 70 Receptions, 1100 Yards, 7 TD
Jackson proved to be QB Philip Rivers’ favorite target last year and looks to be the No. 1 guy again this year. TE Antonio Gates and RB LaDainian Tomlinson are fully healthy this year and that can only benefit Jackson’s production as defenses will have more players to key on and can’t focus on him. Look for him in the middle rounds.
21. Braylon Edwards—Cleveland Browns—Projection: 75 Receptions, 1050 Yards, 7 TD
Edwards is coming off a down year and we don’t know who will be his QB this year, but he can’t possibly be that bad two years in a row. The Browns drafted two rookie receivers and traded away TE Kellen Winslow, so Edwards should be the go to guy no matter who is the starting QB. He should see enough balls thrown his way to get back to 1000 yards and you could probably wait and grab him near the later part of the middle rounds.
22. Eddie Royal—Denver Broncos—Projection: 95 Receptions, 975 Yards, 6 TD
Royal was another rookie who had a great year last year. He grabbed 91 balls for 980 yards and five touchdowns, but that was with Jay Cutler at QB, not Kyle Orton. However, there is talk of him playing a Wes Welker type role in the new offense and that means a ton of catches, which is extremely useful in PPR leagues. Look for him in the later part of the middle rounds and definitely before that in PPR leagues.
23. Hines Ward—Pittsburgh Steelers—Projection: 78 Receptions, 1000 Yards, 7 TD
Ward was supposed to be headed for the down part of his career last year, but instead posted an 81 catch, 1043 yard, seven touchdown season. It looks like he still has plenty of gas left in the tank and could produce similar numbers this year. You can grab him in the later part of the middle rounds.
24. Santana Moss—Washington Redskins—Projection: 77 Receptions, 1000 Yards, 6 TD
Moss started off like a house on fire last year with 19 catches for 276 yards and three touchdowns in the first three games. After that, he only had two games with 100+ yards and just three touchdowns. The big problem is that the Redskins don’t have another receiver to go with him. They hope that second year guys Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly can step up this year and give Moss the help he needs. Moss could be a pleasant surprise this year, but you will find him in the later part of the middle rounds.
25. Santonio Holmes—Pittsburgh Steelers—Projection: 75 Receptions, 975 Yards, 6 TD
Holmes was a bit of a disappointment last year. He was expected to breakout as the No. 1 guy in Pittsburgh, but had less receptions, yards, and touchdowns than Hines Ward. He had just 55 receptions for 821 yards and just five touchdowns. He played a big part in the Super Bowl and that should carry into this year. Expect his numbers to be similar to Ward’s and you will find him in the later part of the middle rounds.
26. Anthony Gonzalez—Indianapolis Colts—Projection: 75 Receptions, 975 Yards, 6 TD
No Marvin Harrison means good things for Gonzalez. He had a good year last year with 57 receptions for 664 yards and four touchdowns. He played mostly in the slot last year and will move outside to Reggie Wayne’s old spot as Peyton Manning’s number two guy. He will still split receptions with TE Dallas Clark, but that should be enough to make him a steal in the later part of the middle rounds.
27. Bernard Berrian—Minnesota Vikings—Projection: 60 Receptions, 975 Yards, 7 TD
So we finally know that Brett Favre will not be throwing to Berrian this year. However, he will still be the No. 1 receiver on Minnesota. Whether it’s Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels throwing him the ball, Berrian will see his share of catches. Minnesota is a run-first team and Berrian is a streaky fantasy player, so beware. If you want him, you can find him in the later part of the middle rounds
28. Jerricho Cotchery—New York Jets—Projection: 80 Receptions, 1000 Yards, 5 TD
With Laveranues Coles moving on to Cincinnati, Cotchery becomes the No. 1 guy for the Jets. It is yet to be determined if Kellen Clemens or Mark Sanchez will be the starter, but whoever it is, they will have a steady receiver to throw to. The Jets have a great running game, so Cotchery should see plenty of balls, even with no other real receiving threat on the roster. He will most likely slide to the later rounds, so you may get a nice steal.
29. Lance Moore—New Orleans Saints—Projection: 70 Receptions, 900 Yards, 6 TD
Moore was a pleasant surprise last year when Marques Colston went down. The funny thing was that he played even better when Colston came back. He caught eight of his 10 touchdowns when Colston was in the lineup. Now, Moore is coming off a shoulder injury that required surgery, but he should be back soon. He plays for the pass happy Saints and with QB Drew Brees so you know he will see his share of catches. I wouldn’t reach for him too high, but you will probably see him go in the middle rounds, which I think is too high.
30. Devin Hester—Chicago Bears—Projection: 70 Receptions, 875 Yards, 5 TD
Here is my super sleeper of the year. Hester has breakaway speed and should be able to beat most corners one on one. He has a great QB in Jay Cutler and should find himself as the Bears No. 1 receiver. He had 51 receptions for 665 yards and three touchdowns last year and I expect much more from him this year. You should be able to find him in the later rounds and I think he will have a breakout year. Plus, he should have at least one return touchdown. He can’t go two years without one…can he?
There are my first projections for fantasy football. The WR position is one of the most important positions in fantasy football, so choose wisely. Any questions or concerns, email me at Derek@Sportmeisters.com.