There were quite a few shake ups at the receiver position which makes some teams instant Super Bowl contenders, and has ruined others’ chances. Will all of these changes really matter if the new receiver is going up against a top-10 defense though?
Before you go drafting your set of receivers make sure you check their strength of schedule so you know exactly who will make you look like a genius at the end of the season.
Top Ten (1 to 10)
1. Darrius Heyward-Bey (Oakland Raiders)
The Raiders will finally have a decent quarterback under center, and his primary receiver will have an easy schedule ahead of him. The AFC West isn’t the easiest division to play in as a receiver, but the overall strength of schedule for Heyward-Bey should make him a real breakout candidate in 2010. His first two games will come against two of the worst fantasy secondaries. Games against the Seahawks, Dolphins and Jaguars later in the season make Heyward-Bey a steal in his projected 13th round.
Key Weeks: 1 vs Tenn, 2 vs St. L, 9/17 vs KC, 12 vs MIA, 14 vs JAX
2. Miles Austin (Dallas Cowboys)
Austin had a breakout season that was unpredicted by many (not including yours truly, but I am a fantasy genius after all), and he won’t fly under the radar again this season (Austin was drafted on average in the 11th round in 2009). The addition of Dez Bryant won’t jeopardize Austin’s job, and the addition of a deep threat won’t hurt Austin’s play either.
Austin was phenomenal at running after the catch, and when safeties are playing deep to cover Bryant it only leaves Austin more room to run. The NFC East is another division that isn’t easy for opposing receivers, but games against the Titans, Jaguars and Lions are.
Key Weeks: 5 vs Tenn, 7 vs Jax, 11 vs Det, 12 vs NO
3. DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia Eagles)
The Eagles’ fate rests on Kevin Kolb’s shoulders. Jackson has proven to be a gamebreaker and should be a very good receiver for a while to come, especially this season. Jackson will face a very tough second half of the season around fantasy playoff time. His first half of the season will be extremely easy which slightly skews his ranking.
The back end of the Eagles' schedule will be tough on Jackson so he could be great trade bait … or the Kevin Kolb experiment could work out and he could only get better after a good start working together.
Key Weeks: 2 vs Det, 3 vs Jax, 7 vs Tenn
4. Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts)
Like the Colts need anymore reason to have a good run of it offensively. It doesn’t hurt to play the Titans twice (the easiest team for receivers). Neither does playing the Jaguars twice (combined 294 yards and two touchdowns last season). The Texans are no slouch though, and Wayne didn’t do anything great in the team’s two wins against Houston.
Key Weeks: 4/15 vs Jax, 5 vs KC, 11 vs NE, 14/17 vs Tenn
5. Andre Johnson (Houston Texans)
See Reggie Wayne referring to the AFC South. The Colts aren’t as tough as the Texans are. The added games against the Broncos, Ravens and Jets will make it tougher on Johnson than Wayne … but not by too much.
Key Weeks: 6 vs KC, 10/17 vs Jax, 12/15 vs Tenn
6. Malcolm Floyd (San Diego Chargers)
Contrary to popular belief, the AFC West is not easy on it’s receivers. The Raiders and the Broncos are two of the tougher teams against receivers (ninth and fourth, respectively). The beginning of the season will be very easy for Floyd, however, who should also be the go-to-guy while Vincent Jackson is suspended (and maybe even no longer a Charger). Jackson will miss the first four games of the 2010 season, and in the first three weeks the Chargers will face three of the top-five easiest fantasy defenses against receivers.
Key Weeks: 1/14 vs KC, 2 vs Jax, 3 vs Sea, 8 vs Tenn
7. Steve Smith (New York Giants )
The Giants have the deepest receiving core in the league, they don’t have one big name star at the position however. The best on the squad is Steve Smith who may get the bulk of his respect from having the same name as another very talented Smith. The Giants’ Steve Smith had a more productive fantasy season than the Panthers’ receiver, and should have another good season and perhaps earn that “elite” status. The Giants receivers don’t have the easiest schedule this season, but they play few tough teams as well.
Key Weeks: 3 vs Tenn, 6 vs Det, 9 vs Sea, 12 vs Jax
8. Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers)
The original Steve Smith has a schedule similar to the Panthers’ version, no super easy games and no super tough games. This isn’t too terrible of a scenario for Smith and the Panthers. Whether it is Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen at the helm, Smith won’t be working with a very experienced quarterback.
With a consistent caliber of defense against Smith week after week could come mean a consistent performance from Smith. Considering this is the Panthers’ Steve Smith, the four time Pro Bowl Selection Steve Smith, you can expect it to be a good consistency.
Key Weeks: 13 vs Sea
9. Donnie Avery (St. Louis Rams )
The Rams don’t have many bright spots on their team besides Steven Jackson. Avery does have the distinction of the team’s number one receiver, but it didn’t help make Avery a top-50 receiver. The upcoming season will be a little easier for Avery, but I still don’t recommend picking him up unless there is a worthwhile matchup during another player’s bye week or due to injury.
Key Weeks: 4/17 vs Sea, 15 vs KC
10. Eddie Royal (Denver Broncos )
With the departure of Brandon Marshall comes new responsibilities for Royal. Royal had even less receiving yards than Avery did in 2009, and also never scored a touchdown. Thanks to an increased role, a loss of a Pro Bowl Receiver and a reliable tight end, Royal should also thank the schedule makers.
Key Weeks: 1 vs Jax, 2 vs Sea, 4 vs Tenn, 10/13 vs KC
Five Worst (5 to 1)
5. Marques Colston (New Orleans Saints)
The Saints will play the AFC North this season which is so tough against the pass that even the Browns are the fifth toughest defense against receivers.
4. Brandon Marshall (Miami Dolphins)
It will be a tough transition for Marshall in his first season in Miami. Two games on Revis Island could have him hating his new tropical lifestyle.
3. Randy Moss (New England Patriots)
In Moss’ two games against the Jets last year he accumulated 58 yards receiving, plus the patriots will play the AFC North and NFC North.
2. Hines Ward (Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Steelers’ easiest games for receivers come during Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension and will play only one team that was in the top-10 easiest against receivers while the remaining 15 will mostly be in the wrong top-10.
1. Anquan Boldin (Baltimore Ravens)
You thought the Steelers’ receivers had a tough schedule, but they don’t have to play the Broncos and Texans (fourth and fifth toughest, respectively). The Ravens do.