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1) Andre Johnson (HOU): No shocker here, as Andre Johnson leads off a stellar class of receivers in 2010. Andre is an absolute beast: he’s led the NFL in receiving yardage the past two seasons, and has eclipsed 100 receptions both years. He’s been the most productive receiver in the league since ’08, and as the top receiver on the pass-happy Houston Texans, there’s no evidence to suggest a decrease in Johnson’s numbers. Regardless of format, draft Johnson as your number one wideout.
2) Reggie Wayne (IND): Wayne isn’t a particularly sexy pick, and he doesn’t present much upside, but you know what you’re going to get out of him: elite, consistent production at the WR position. Wayne’s surpassed the 1,000-yard milestone six consecutive seasons, and has had 100 receptions or more in two of the last three. For those that are concerned about his age—Wayne turns 32 in November—he had more receptions, yards and touchdowns last season than the year before. You want a sure bet at your WR1 slot, and Peyton Manning’s favorite target is just that.
3) Calvin Johnson (DET): There’s a reason he’s nicknamed “Megatron.” A 6’5” receiver with blazing speed, Johnson burst onto the scene as a rookie, compiling 1,331 receiving yards and 12 TDs. However, things didn’t go Johnson’s way last season. Hampered with a left knee injury, Johnson missed two games, and only played one quarter of a Week 5 matchup versus Pittsburgh. Moreover, Lions starting QB, rookie Matthew Stafford, missed six games with an injury of his own. Nevertheless, Johnson managed quite a productive season given the circumstances. He fell just short of 1,000 receiving yards (984) and had 67 receptions, many of which came from the likes of Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton.
Now fully healthy, I expect Johnson to improve upon his monster 2008 rookie season. For the past two years, Johnson was Detroit’s lone offensive weapon. But with the additions of Jahvid Best and Nate Burleson and a year under Stafford’s belt, Johnson will finally be in a position to thrive. Third seasons can be make or break years in the NFL, and I fully expect Johnson to reemerge as a top receiving threat in 2010.
4) Roddy White (ATL): Like Reggie Wayne, Roddy White has been a model of consistency. White has surpassed 80 receptions and 1,000 yards three years in a row, and found the endzone a career high 11 times in 2009. He was the second most targeted receiver last season—only Andre Johnson was thrown to more—and his 30.1 percent team target percentage (proportion of Falcons’ passes that were thrown to White) was the highest amongst all receivers. A healthy Michael Turner can only help White’s fantasy cause. Defenses will have to respect Atlanta’s run and pass games, creating more single-coverage opportunities for White. Tony Gonzalez will leach some of Roddy’s red zone targets, but he’s still a surprisingly consistent, elite option at WR.
5) Brandon Marshall (DEN): This time a year ago, Marshall was making headlines for punting footballs in practice and feuding with Josh McDaniels. By Week 16 of ’09, those episodes were forgotten, for Marshall—despite missing two weeks—finished the year with 101 catches, 1,120 yards and 10 TDs.
Relocated to Miami, Marshall looks poised to improve upon those totals in 2010. Miami’s offense is much better on paper than Denver’s, but perhaps more importantly, Marshall heads into this season free of the negative publicity that surrounded him in ’09. As we saw during his record-setting 21-catch performance against the Colts in ’09, the sky’s the limit for this fifth year wideout.
6) Randy Moss (NE): While Moss put up big totals last year, I’m concerned with how he closed the 2009 season. After a nine catch, 179-yard performance against the Colts in Week 10, Moss failed to go over the 75-yard mark in a game for the remainder of the season. It’s hard to tell with Randy, for it could have been fatigue—Moss is 33—or disinterest that led to his decline in production (remember Moss’s one catch for 16 yards performance against Carolina, where Panthers DB Chris Gamble accused him of giving up?). I think the days of 1,200 yards and 15 TDs are done for Randy, but he’s still a premier red zone threat on one of the best offenses in the league. Expect less yards, fewer receptions, but still a lot of scores for Moss in 2010.
7) Miles Austin (DAL): Austin exploded onto the scene in Week 5 against the Chiefs, recording 10 receptions for 250 yards, including the game winning TD. There was no looking back for Austin, who finished third in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,320. Despite his reserve role prior to Week 5, Austin still finished the season third in the league in yards per game (82.5). Now starting the season as a legitimate primary target on one of the league’s best offenses, Austin appears poised to duplicate his monster 2009 season.
8) DeSean Jackson (PHI): Jackson proved in his rookie season that he’s one of the premier big-play threats in the NFL. He averaged a ridiculous 17.9 yards per catch (third in the NFL) and scored touchdowns in five of the Eagles’ last six games. Kevin Kolb appears to be an adequate replacement to Donovan McNabb, and Jackson should continue to thrive as a deep-ball specialist for Philadelphia. Moreover, Jackson returns punts, elevating his value in formats award points for return yards (as RnD’s and my league does).
9) Larry Fitzgerald (ARI): The consensus number one fantasy receiver going into 2009, Fitzgerald’s stock has significantly dropped due to the departure of incumbent QB, Kurt Warner. With Matt Leinart at the helm, Arizona’s passing attack has looked shaky. Fitzgerald is as talented as ever, but the question remains, can Leinart get him the ball? He’ll still get an abundance of targets—especially in the red zone—but Warner’s departure plus Ken Wisenhunt’s reliance on the run will limit Fitzgerald in 2010.
10) Greg Jennings (GB): Donald Driver’s reemergence cut-down on Jennings’ ’09 stats, but Driver is 35 and Jennings is Green Bay’s number one on paper. He’s risky because he relies on the big play and doesn’t catch a ton of passes (only 69 receptions in ’09). Still, he’s put up big TD totals in the past and he’s playing alongside the best young QB in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers. Jennings is probably less valuable in ppr formats and I see him as a low-end WR1, but he has the potential to become a top 5 WR.
11) Wes Welker (NE): Simply put, Welker’s a ppr King. He led the NFL in receptions last year, was second in yards and also returns punts. The downside? He’s coming off a torn ACL suffered during a Week 16 loss to the Texans. While such a serious injury is not to be downplayed, all signs point to a miraculously speedy recovery. Welker is back on the field for New England and should be starting week one. He’ll likely slip in your draft because of the injury, but grab him if you can as your WR2.
12) Marques Colston (NO): Colston’s got big-time potential and is the No. 1 on the league’s best offense. The downside? He’s often hurt and Drew Brees loves to spread the ball around. New Orleans has a talented group of young receivers in Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Lance Moore, and should something happen to Colston he could lose the clear-cut title of number one wideout. On the plus side, he’s a big target and when healthy, scores often. He’s certainly got WR1 potential, but know the risk before you draft him.
13) Anquan Boldin (BAL): Like Colston, Boldin has always been injury plagued. In seven seasons, Boldin has only played 16 games twice. If healthy, he could thrive out of Larry Fitzgerald’s shadow. He’s always had the talent, and is perennially one of the top receivers in terms of yardage. If he can stay on the field, the production will be there for ‘Quan.
14) Percy Harvin (MN): Yes, the migraines worry me a little, but this isn’t something new. He’s been battling migraines his whole life and has always managed to play through them. As a proud fantasy owner of Harvin in ’09, I can tell you firsthand that he sat out multiple weeks of practice due to migraines, only to suit up Sunday and put up big numbers. He’ll frustrate you, scare you, and lead your team in “news and notes” updates, but come Sunday, he’s usually ready to go.
Not to mention, Sidney Rice’s injury leaves Harvin as the Vikings No. 1 receiver to start the season. Don’t let the migraines scare you away, for Harvin is a multidimensional fantasy weapon waiting to explode.
15) Steve Smith (CAR): Carolina’s QB situation worries me, but Smith is still a top tier talent at WR. His receptions have declined the last two years—thanks to Carolina’s lackluster QB play—but he’s still a great receiver in this league. If the pick fits, snag him as your WR2.
16) Steve Smith (NY): A nice surprise last year, eclipsing 100 catches and 1,200 yards, but when healthy the Giants are a run first type of team. The Giant’s also have a talented core of young wideouts hungry to distinguish themselves. In particular, Hakeem Nicks seems like he will threaten Smith’s targets and possibly his title of No. 1 receiver. The wealth will be spread in New York this year, and while Smith should still see lots of touches, you’d be a fool to overpay for him in 2010.
17) Mike Sims-Walker (JAC): Sims-Walker had an impressive sophomore season, catching 63 balls for 869 yards. He’s David Garrard’s top target and should see plenty of chances in 2010.
The downside? The Jaguar’s offense has a tendency to disappear, and Mike Thomas—another young, talented receiver—is coming off an impressive rookie campaign.
18) Chad Ochocino (CIN): Ochocinco’s fantasy prowess doesn’t merit all the Ochocinco buzz. All the same, you can bank on Chad for one thing: yardage. Throw out the 2008 season when he missed three games and played hurt for more, Ochocinco has gone over 1,000 yards every year other than his rookie season. While he’s unlikely to put up double digit TD numbers, it’s practically a guarantee that he’ll haul in close to 1,000 yards. Don’t worry about TO limiting Chad’s touches. If anything, he’ll take some of the pressure off Ochocinco.
19) Dwayne Bowe (KC): Bowe’s 2009 season was marred from the get go. He came into camp in bad shape and was tossed in head coach Todd Haley’s doghouse, never to reemerge. Well, Bowe’s back in shape by all accounts, and has a lot of upside heading into the 2010 season. He caught 86 passes for over 1,000 yards in 2008, and could easily put up similar numbers in an improved KC offense. He’ll likely slip down the draft board, but the former LSU tiger has yet to reach his ceiling.
20) Pierre Garcon (IND): Garcon came on late as a Colts’ starter in 2009, and put together some nice games late in the season. With Anthony Gonzalez coming off a knee injury, Garcon will start the season as Indy’s number two wideout, enough to merit anyone a top—20 ranking. Manning will undoubtedly spread the ball plenty in 2010, but the speedy Garcon should see a fair share of passes come his way.
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