By Chris Wesseling
Dynasty Ranks: Wide Receivers
One of the keys to dynasty league success is identifying stars before they explode on the scene. Your challenge is to draft them or trade for them before they become untouchable. That's a tired old chestnut, but try roasting it like this: In a complex position often requiring a lengthy learning curve, try letting another owner develop your wide receivers for you. Attempting to rank receivers coming out of college is far too inaccurate of a science to invest your precious resources in their enigmatic development.
An elite young wide receiver, on the other hand, is worth his weight in gold because he can produce Top-10 numbers consistently whereas the turnover among the tier two and tier three wide receivers is staggering. The tundra is littered with early round receiving prospects who never made the leap to impact fantasy starter. Wait a year or two to identify those with a favorable chance to become a WR1 and strike while their value is still relatively low. If you do your homework, you should trust your gut instinct and have faith in your own analysis.
1. Randy Moss NE 31 - Staying in New England stabilizes both his and Brady's value.
2. Larry Fitzgerald ARI 25 - Young, ultra-talented, reliably consistent, and a target monster as well as red zone stud; ideal nucleus player.
3. Andre Johnson HOU 27 - The elite talent was always there, and now he has a QB who can get him the ball; only minor negative is history of unreliability at times.
4. Reggie Wayne IND 29 - Being Peyton Manning's #1 target is the perfect recipe for long-term value; high marks for consistency going forward.
5. Steve Smith CAR 29 - Personally, I'd take Smith ahead of Wayne and Johnson, but I'm a gambler. Smith would be fighting for the top spot on this list if not for short- & long-term QB issues.
6. Braylon Edwards CLE 25 - I'm expecting consistent TD numbers, but the targets and yardage may be slightly less than the guys ahead of him.
7. Marques Colston NO 25 - Seems to disappear for a 2-3 game stretch, but you can't argue with the success to start his career. Figures to stay consistently productive as long as Brees stays healthy.
8. Brandon Marshall DEN 24.5 - Target monster is due for an increase in TDs in '08; there's a hint of high knucklehead potential here.
9. Calvin Johnson DET 23.0 - I'm always willing to stick my neck out for dominant talent, and Calvin Johnson remains the most dominant WR talent to enter the league since Randy Moss; buy low.
10. Chad Johnson CIN 30 - Highly consistent seasonal numbers but schizophrenic game-to-game numbers. Would be higher if not for his more severe than usual shenanigans this off-season; becoming very high risk.
11. Terrell Owens DAL 34 - Worth more to an annual contender than he is to a rebuilder; a true difference maker at a position where there aren't many, T.O. still gives you a weekly advantage over most of the owners in your league.
12. Torry Holt STL 32 - After an impressive display with a bum knee in a sunk offense in '07, expect Holt to bounce back with another Tier 1 performance in '08. Age & gimpy knee keeping his value down just a tad.
13. Anquan Boldin ARI 27 - The difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 is weekly reliability, and Boldin hasn't been reliable for a couple of seasons now. The talent is top-notch, but the assurance is waning.
14. Roy Williams DET 26 - Another ultra-talented WR who has shown flashes but hasn't been able to consistently produce like the elites; free agent after '08 season likely to be tagged by the Lions . . . unfortunately.
15. Plaxico Burress NYG 31 - Years ago, Plax inspired me to create the phrase "high knucklehead factor" for a player who is under-motivated, prone to mental vacations and off the field imbroglios, and always a risk for a sudden reduction in value. If he produced like Randy Moss, I could easily see past it.
16. Dwayne Bowe KC 24 - Value is highly dependent on the Croyle situation this season; another elite physical talent at WR who should produce as both a playmaker and a possession WR.
17. T.J. Houshmandzadeh CIN 30 - Clearly the #2 WR in the Bengals offense, Housh has produced like a #1 for two years, but he's an ideal sell high this off-season due to his lack of staying power.
18. Lee Evans BUF 27 - Has Tier 1 talent but the Bills offense, especially the QB play, has held him back. Evans can be both a possession WR and a huge big play threat down the field. He has the whole package if his QB can get him the ball.
19. Santonio Holmes PIT 24 - Outstanding playmaker who excels at taking a short-to-middle pass to the house; not yet the go-to WR in his own offense, and I'm slightly concerned that he's not physical enough to be a high reception WR.
20. Greg Jennings GB 25 - Was the '07 TD total an aberration, or can we expect Jennings to overcome his low target numbers to produce like a star even with Rodgers taking over for Favre?
21. Wes Welker NE 27 - The Stokley and Furrey comparisons are ludicrous. Welker's role in the Pats' offense is too significant to expect a steep drop-off though the whole passing attack is likely to take at least a small step back in '08.
22. Santana Moss WAS 29 - Went from over-rated to under-rated in one season. His inconsistency from game-to-game and year-to-year will always keep him out of the top tier, but he's too talented to be passed up by flavors of the day.
23. Jerricho Cotchery NYJ 26 - Concerns: doesn't get in the end zone, has to fight Coles for top billing, and his QB has problems getting the ball too him consistently. On the flip side, he can makes some plays when given the opportunity.
24. Hines Ward PIT 32 - Off-season surgery should help him regain a step or two after playing through tears of his MCL, PCL, and right meniscus last season; as exhibited in the playoff game against JAX, he's still Big Ben's most reliable WR as well as a prime red zone weapon.
25. Anthony Gonzalez IND 24 - It's so tough to rank Colts offensive players on talent because the Peyton Manning factor skews the results. There's no reason Gonzalez can't produce like a starter as long as he plays like a starter---no sure thing with Marvin possibly bouncing back this season.
26. Roddy White ATL 26 - Prime sell-high. White did produce under all 3 woeful QBs in '07, but the Falcons had to pass a ton because their running game was so dreadful. With Mularkey's power running game and Michael Turner in town, and further poor quarterbacking, the passing numbers will suffer in '08.
27. #Marvin Harrison IND 36 - "Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun, but Mama, that's where the fun is." High risk, high reward. How lucky do you feel? I think Marvin could easily have another difference-making season left in him, but I'm not willing to invest heavily to find out at age 36.
28. Chris Chambers SD 30 - I've yet to see a convincing argument for Catch % as a tell-all metric, but that didn't stop the stats guys from hammering Chambers for years. He's still a very good talent, one of the better red zone receivers, and his current QB is a considerably better passer than any QB he ever had in Miami.
29. Sidney Rice MIN 22 - The talent is obvious. Rice should be a playmaker and a TD scorer in a normal offense, but the Vikes are far from a normal offense; pray for a QB trade.
30. Laveranues Coles NYJ 30 - With the explosion gone and his failure to ever exceed 7 TDs in a season, he looks like a poor man's Hines Ward to me.
31. Bernard Berrian MIN 27 - Grossman was a horrible QB, but at least he had eyes for Berrian. Changing teams is rarely friendly to non-elite WRs, and Berrian is headed to one quarterbacked by Tarvaris Jackson.
32. Vincent Jackson SD 25 - Did Vincent Jackson make the leap in the playoffs, or was it simply the result of increased opportunity with Gates so gimpy? He can be a red zone weapon, but there are only so many balls to go around in San Diego.
33. Donald Driver GB 33 - It doesn't pay to be Favre's go-to guy when Favre is no longer around; heading into his mid-thirties, Driver may be entering his last startable season.
34. Kevin Curtis PHI 30 - Explosive in doses but not reliable enough to be a weekly fantasy starter. Still, 1100 yards and 6 TDs isn't bad production for a WR3.
35. Nate Burleson SEA 27 - Plenty of opportunity in '08 with Branch injured and Hackett gone. If that translates into a marked increase in targets to go with his impressive '07 red zone production, Burleson could be a major sleeper.
36. #Javon Walker OAK 29 - Swampland in Florida, oceanfront property in Arizona---you name it, Walker is it. When your coach is openly pining for you to undergo microfracture surgery, then you might have a problematic future.
37. Chris Henry CIN 25 - Poor man's Randy Moss. High reward, little risk since it shouldn't cost much to gamble here. With Chad Johnson a possible holdout, Henry's playmaking skills are worth a roll of the dice.
38. D.J. Hackett CAR 27 - Being Steve Smith's partner isn't a good bet for steady production; would have been higher had he remained in Seattle.
39. Mark Clayton BAL 26 - Talk about a let-down season. As disappointing as Clayton's production was in '07, it's tough to muster up the faith again in '08. Seriously, zero TDs?! You better hope the string of foot, calf, and back injuries were much worse then he let on.
40. Ted Ginn Jr. MIA 23 - No matter how fast you are, it's going to be tough for an unpolished WR to produce in that offense. All upside, no production at this point.
41. Ronald Curry OAK 29 - I want to rank him higher, but I see tough days ahead in '08 with Russell learning on the job.
42. James Jones GB 24 - Favre's exit may lead the Pack to a gradual shift away from Driver and towards the younger receivers. Jones had a terrific rookie season as a 3rd WR in the Packers offense.
43. Reggie Brown PHI 27 - He just couldn't get the separation needed to become a reliable target for McNabb; may bounce back somewhat, but the lack of speed looks troublesome.
44. Jerry Porter JAX 30 - Extremely high knuckle-head factor, always an over-rated talent, and the Jags just don't pass enough. Still, it beats the Raiders offense.
45. Reggie Williams JAX 25 - Fluky TD total was the result of abnormally high blown coverage due to the Jags dominant rushing attack; he's improving every year, but he's not a good bet to surpass last year's numbers.
46. Drew Bennett STL 30 - Right now he's the #2 WR in an offense that could bounce back to put up some interesting numbers. By no means a reliable WR3, but he has a chance at regular startability in '08.
47. Donte' Stallworth CLE 27 - Has there been a bigger WR tease over the past 10 years? Stallworth always shows just enough to get his owners excited before letting them down with another season well under 1,000 yards.
48. Laurent Robinson ATL 23 - Needs to bulk up while he's stashed on your bench; it won't take much to bypass Michael Jenkins and Joe Horn, and he could end eventually end up with a Darrell Jackson type of career in right offense.
49. Robert Meachem NO 24 - Great buy-low as a '07 first rounder who redshirted last season with a bothersome knee. A good deal more talented than the WRs ahead of him on the Saints depth chart, so don't rule a fast move now that he's healthy and working with teammate David Patten to improve.
50. #Deion Branch SEA 29 - Formerly known as the captain of the all-overrated team with no seasons over 1,000 yards and never more than one 100 yard game in a season. He's still that guy, but now with an ACL injury and a half-season stay on the PUP list.
51. Steve Smith NYG 23 - Came on strong in the playoffs, but I believe his upside is still #2 WR in his team's offense.
52. Bobby Engram SEA 35 - Coming on age 36, but should be startable for at least another season as Hasselbeck's safety blanket in an offense lacking experienced receiving options.
53. Darrell Jackson SF 29 - Better find a home soon, or he'll slip all the way down to waiver wire material; it would behoove him to find the a West Coast Offense with a need at WR.
54. Demetrius Williams BAL 25 - Can he expand his game beyond deep-threat? Needs improved QB play and a larger role in the offense, neither of which should be unreasonable beyond '08.
55. Derrick Mason BAL 34 - Can he repeat his '07 season? I just don't see him approaching last year's target numbers again.
56. Bryant Johnson SF 27 - Can he become the #1 WR in Martz' offense? I thought he'd be a nice complementary #2 for a guy like Lee Evans in Buffalo, but I'm not sold on Johnson as a major piece of the 49ers offense.
57. Antonio Bryant TB 27 - If he has his act together, Bryant could leapfrog Galloway & Co. to become the Bucs most threatening WR. That's not saying much, I know, but Bryant has been relevant in fantasy circles before, and he's still only 27.
58. Patrick Crayton DAL 29 - Ideally, more of a 3rd WR so the Cowboys will continually look to upgrade.
59. Joey Galloway TB 36 - May still be in Gruden's doghouse for his playoff performance, and rightly so. At close to 37-years-old, the cliff is fast approaching.
60. Devin Hester CHI 25 - Intriguing stash; I still don't like his chances to ever become a fantasy factor on offense, but as long as the Bears are willing to give him a chance he's worth a roster spot.
61. Mark Bradley CHI 26 - Can he stay healthy? If so, the opportunity could be forthcoming in a talent-starved offense.
62. Jacoby Jones HOU 24 - How tough can it be to beat out Kevin Walter? The recent DWI didn't help matters.
63. Matt Jones JAX 25 - Pure wildcard. One of the few players who could conceivably see his value rise if his NFL team releases him. Has the talent to make a fantasy impact on the right team.
64. Chad Jackson NE 23 - He's been an injury-prone bust, and the Pats no longer need his speed game as direly now that Moss is around. He'd have to beat out Gaffney to have much of a role in the offense.
65. Craig Davis SD 22 - Looked like a reach in last April's draft, and now he's blocked at WR behind Chambers and V-Jax.
66. Jason Hill SF 23 - Injuries and inexperience made '07 a lost year for Hill, but there's nothing foreboding ahead of him on the long-term depth chart.
67. Ben Obomanu SEA 24 - Could be in for an expanded role with Seattle's relevant WRs dropping like flies.
68. Justin Gage TEN 27 - Started to show progress as Vince Young's go-to WR in the second half, but his upside is limited.
69. Isaac Bruce SF 35 - Might hit the startable level for one more year, but he'll turn 36 during the season.
70. #Mike Walker JAX 23 - Positive reports from last year's camp, but still injured and further blocked after the Porter signing.
71. Brandon Stokley DEN 32 - Will it take much to beat out Keary Colbert for the #2 WR spot opposite Marshall? I agree.
72. Arnaz Battle SF 28 - The original poor man's Hines Ward could've been a nice sleeper heading into '08, but he appears to be behind Bruce and Johnson on Martz' depth chart.
73. #Roydell Williams TEN 27 - Not a bad step forward in '07, but another Titans WR with limited upside.
74. #Brandon Jones TEN 25 - Possibly the most talented of the gaggle of Titans WRs, but that's damning with faint praise; Coach Fisher seems to have soured on him a bit.
75. Derek Hagan MIA 24 - Can he catch the ball? Does he have maturity issues? Those are the knocks that led the Dolphins to sign Wilford.
76. Koren Robinson GB 28 – Reclamation project, but nothing more than a roster stash at this point in his career.
77. Devery Henderson NO 26 - Failed utterly with his window of opportunity last season.
78. Troy Williamson JAX 25 - He simply can't catch the ball; still young and speed always buys opportunity, but this is likely his last chance.
79. Dwayne Jarrett CAR 22 - Disappointing '07, now blocked by Hackett and Muhammad.
80. Kevin Walter HOU 27 - Just not talented enough to turn that Texans #2 WR role into a long-term fantasy commodity.
81. Shaun McDonald DET 27 - His slot receiver value went out the door right right behind Mike Martz.
82. Keary Colbert DEN 26 - Can Denver really be counting on him to be the #2 WR this year?
83. Courtney Taylor SEA 24 - In line for an increased role if the Seahawks don't add any help at WR.
84. Logan Payne SEA 24 - Seattle GM Ruskell has been raving about the undrafted 2nd year WR.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
By Chris Wesseling