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Aug 16

Defend your position: staff Wide Receiver rankings discussion

We released our 2014 Fantasy Football Positional Ranks as a staff in July and have been updating them throughout the offseason in an effort to provide you with the most accurate rankings to use in your draft preparations. Of course, within our ranks you’ll see a variance on different players as each of our analysts holds different viewpoints about their potential outcome this season. To that point, we’re taking each other to task here inside the locker room in an effort to justify our positions and provide you with actionable information.

[This post appears as part of our free 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide]

[QB Ranks Discussion] [RB Ranks Discussion] [WR Ranks Discussion] [TE Ranks Discussion]

Wide Receiver Rankings: Mike Omlean promises he’s not an Eagles’ homer

At 20, you’re nine spots ahead of everyone else on Jeremy Maclin. Sure, he’s got game and is a great system fit for Chip Kelly’s offense, but convince us that your rank is legitimate… because this picture sure makes it seem like a homer ranking.

mike_eagles_tee

Haha where did you get that picture from!? Great game and times in Philly but no homerism involved with this rank. I am a Dez Bryant fan first and foremost. But I love Maclin in 2014 with Chip Kelly and this Eagles’ offense. I feel the injury concern is sometimes overblown. You can find good and bad examples from players returning from injury but this one I think is set to be on the ‘good’ side. Chip Kelly didn’t mind DeSean Jackson leaving, and has had a whole off-season to plan for Jeremy Maclin. I don’t think it was a coincidence DeSean Jackson had the best year of his career under Chip Kelly. We likely will be saying the same thing about Jeremy Maclin after his first full year with Kelly himself especially since Maclin can run more routes than Jackson could. Oh, and in Nick Foles’ 2012 rookie season, Maclin had two 100-yard games and two TDs in the final three games to end the season with no DeSean Jackson. It’s the return of the MAC in 2014.

 

Wide Receiver Rankings: Jon Collins stumps for a pair of young WRs

Alshon Jeffery over Brandon Marshall? Michael Floyd over Larry Fitzgerald? What’s with the veteran hate?

Its not as much vet hate as it is giving a couple of young guns their due. With regard to Marshall specifically, I’ve got him ranked right behind Jeffery at #7 so it isn’t as if I’m writing him off. I know people cite Cutler’s preference for Marshall (he received an average of two targets per game more than Jeffery with Smokin’ Jay at QB) but I expect things to even out this season as Jeffery grows in his third NFL campaign. If the targets trend toward even, Jeffery should see his TD numbers go up and he could approach 1500 receiving yards in a high-octane offense.

With Floyd/Fitzgerald, I do think the younger receiver is simply in a better place to contribute. Opposing defences still pay their due respect to Fitz which renders him a less appealing target than Floyd on most plays. His 1000-yard, five score season was just the tip of the iceberg – 600 of those yards and three of the touchdowns came in the team’s final eight games after Floyd markedly turned a corner, in a six reception 193 yard outing against Jacksonville. Expect more specific plays drawn up for him this season, while Fitzgerald’s return to double digit scores is in question, limiting his fantasy upside.

Neil Parker is among those expecting a big bounce back from Roddy White (Photo: David Goldman/Associated Press).

Neil Parker is among those expecting a big bounce back from Roddy White (Photo: David Goldman/Associated Press).

Wide Receiver Rankings: Neil Parker sees a near-WR1 season from Roddy White

There is a lot of talk about Roddy White as a bounceback candidate and ADP steal, but at 13 you’re way ahead of the rest and have him as a better play than Randall Cobb, Andre Johnson, and Pierre Garcon to name a few. Why so high?

I now have Andre Johnson ahead of Roddy White. Otherwise, I am still considerably high on White. There are a few reasons. First, the Falcons’ defense is awful, so the offense is going to have to air it out a lot. Tony Gonzalez‘s journey toward the fading sun will open up additional targets, and a healthy season from Julio Jones will keep the opposition honest in coverage.

Matt Ryan is a near-elite quarterback, too. If you have any concerns that White is slowing down, just look at his final five games from 2013. He went good for two scores, 43 receptions and 502 yards. Don’t let one season influence your judgment on what has been a terrific career, especially when White returned to health, and proved he is still a fantasy monster to finish 2013.

Wide Receiver Rankings: Chris Meaney is low on the Giants’ collection of receivers

With Victor Cruz at 20, Rueben Randle at 40 and Odell Beckham Jr. you’re unlikely to be tied to any member of the Giants passing game in most drafts. Is that a statement on their pass game? On Eli (who you ranked 23rd among QBs)?

I gave Eli the benefit of the doubt at 23, I could have easily put him lower. I’m not sold on the Giants run game which effects Eli and quite frankly, I think Cruz will miss Hakeem Nicks. 88 didn’t do much for the NYG last season, but he had an effect on the way others lined up against the Giants wideouts. Randle will have to prove that all the attention shouldn’t go to Cruz, and I’m not sure I see him taking that step. Cruz may just be a one man show, and most likely will need some help all season.

Wide Receiver Rankings: Chris Meaney won’t own Keenan Allen this year

You’re not giving Keenan Allen much of a chance to maintain his success from his rookie year (WR21). Similar to the question on Eli, should we expect overall issues with San Diego’s passing game or is this a player specific issue?

I recently bumped Allen to 21, but that is still not as high as most. I don’t like where he is going in drafts, ahead of some well known wideouts. At WR14 according to FantasyPros he is ahead of Garcon, Welker, Cruz, Crabtree, Jackson and White. All of those players, minus Crabtree are proven and I would much rather have any of them ahead of a second year wideout who had four 100 yard games during the regular season with a lot of mediocre performances. He had six games with three catches or fewer. I don’t doubt Allens skill, I like him a lot – just not as much as others. His strong finish last year has given others high hopes. As for the passing game, I don’t think the departure of Ken Whisenhunt helps Philip Rivers much, to be sure.

Wide Receiver Rankings: Jon Collins likes sophomore WRs Aaron Dobson and DeAndre Hopkins

You have a couple of sophomores back to back in Aaron Dobson and DeAndre Hopkins. Why so high (40/41) on each and which has the highest ceiling this year? The highest floor?

Aaron Dobson’s lingering foot injury is starting to trouble me, but with him taking to the practice field earlier this week it seems that he is on track for the start of the season most are expecting him to start on the outside for Tom Brady and the Patriots. If so, he’ll have a chance to build on a solid rookie season that projected to 700 yards and five scores over 16 games. In particular, he came on hot at the mid-way point of the season before suffering the referenced injury. With a pro year under his belt I expect Dobson to hit the ground running and draw a lot of looks on an offense that does not intend to feed 100 receptions to Julian Edelman again.

With regard to Hopkins, his health and his guaranteed role as the 2nd most targeted Texan give him the higher floor. Andre Johnson has reported to camp, but as the team prepares for an eventual life without him I’d expect a healthy dose of targets directed to Hopkins. He scored just twice last season and may never be a double-digit touchdown guy but with sure hands (catching 52 of 53 catchable balls last season according to Pro Football Focus) he’ll quickly become a trusted target of whoever is taking the snaps in Houston.

Wide Receiver Rankings: Neil Parker ranks his rookie WRs

Sammy Watkins > Mike Evans > Brandon Cooks > Jordan Matthews is an order reflected in our consensus rankings and also in your own ranks, but you are generally higher on the rookies than the rest of the group. Where should gamers start looking at drafting each of them? What are some realistic projections?

Again, in the flip-flopping-ranking month of August, Brandon Cooks has leapfrogged Mike Evans in my latest rankings, and Kelvin Benjamin is now ahead of Jordan Matthews. Regardless, the question is more about this year’s rookie-receiving class. Historical research about first-year wideouts highlights a pattern of limited fantasy success. However, not every class is created equally, and the NFL and fantasy football are evolving games. Locking yourself into a stance on rookie receivers, based on past events is highly unadvised. There are elite talents with exceptional opportunities in this year’s rookie-receiving class. It is obviously difficult to project any player accurately, but rookies are even more difficult.
Sammy Watkins could easily flirt with being a WR2 at season’s end, although E.J. Manuel raises concerns. Brandon Cooks has game-breaking ability, and he is attached to a high-powered offense, but he’ll likely be an inconsistent play from week-to-week. Evans is a matchup nightmare. He could lead all rookies in scores, but again, is he going to be a reliable weekly play? Matthews struggled in his first preseason game. It isn’t a huge concern, but it does highlight the difficulty of breaking into the league. He is a worthy addition late in drafts, because he has high-ceiling upside.
Expect Kelvin Benjamin’s stock to raise in the next few weeks. The Panthers are in need of a reliable receiver, and although raw, Benjamin has a beastly size-speed combo. If he can develop a rapport with Cam Newton — especially in the red zone — there is a lot to like here. He is being handed a starter’s job, too.
Backtracking, I would be comfortable with Watkins as my No. 3 wide receiver. The other four should be targeted to fill out your bench. However, preseason stocks can begin to soar, which is where the reminder about how few rookie receivers have turned into reliable fantasy options is needed. Don’t reach, but don’t avoid either.

Wide Receiver Rankings: Mike Omelan is digging veteran Steve Smith in a new city

We’re in the deep regions of the draft here, but you like new Ravens’ WR Steve Smith a lot more than everyone else (WR45 vs. WR56 consensus). Will AFC North defenders be icing up this season?

Like may be a strong word to use, but yes I don’t mind the veteran receiver in purple and black. Steve Smith is one of the most competitive athletes in the NFL and you know he will carry a big chip on his shoulder. He has been as feisty as ever according to reports from training camp and has a strong voice already in Ravens camp. With those #1 corners defending Torrey Smith, we might see some open lanes for Smith and I think he can put up some solid numbers. He is better than a couple young rookies and sophomores I can’t trust just yet in the fantasy realm.

Wide Receiver Rankings: Jon Collins contemplates Kenny Britt

Late round lottery: Kenny Britt, Kenny Stills, or Andrew Hawkins? Your ranks say Britt, but I’m giving you the chance to bail.

I’m sticking with my guns here. Britt was a surprise starter on St. Louis’ first depth chart issued in early August and could really make a splash with the number of targets that suggests. The knock on him was never talent, but ‘want to’. With a second chance in St. Louis I think that drive will be there, and while he remains a risky selection relegated to the late rounds the former 775 yard, nine touchdown receiver should be on drafters’ radars. Hawkins is a player of interest as well, given the dearth of receiving options in Cleveland.

Have a question about our ranks that hasn’t been covered? Hit us up on twitter @LRFantasySports or ask away in the comments below.

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