Based on my first two installments to this year’s With Leather Fantasy Football Guide – which has already won 6 Peabody Awards for excellence in mixing semi-nude women with some dude’s thoughts about stuff – it’s clear that I value running backs first and quarterbacks second this year. That leaves wide receivers and tight ends, and let’s face it – tight ends are the bass players of fantasy football. So wide receivers are the next most important players, but why no love for the paws, the big ol’ paws?
It’s because this year, receivers are just incredibly deep. After the top guy, you can take your chances, because there are so many quality guys out there, and I really believe that you can mix and match a nice trio that will be serviceable and would look great with a top QB and great RB pair. That’s not to say that there aren’t certain guys I love more than others, but unlike previous years, you don’t have to go nuts because there are so many guys that are seemingly on the verge of becoming stars.
Plus, as we’ll see after the jump, some guys just don’t have that allure that they’ve had in seasons past.
In the past, there have been a few names on the surefire stud receiver list, but when it comes to taking a WR in the first round, there’s only one this season.
Calvin Johnson – Screw the Madden Curse. This guy is just amazing. Obviously.
I used to include two other guys in that surefire group with Calvin, but questions this year have changed that. I hope to be able to return these guys to their rightful status.
Andre Johnson – Please stay healthy. Just once, for a full season, be the guy that millions of people with the 7-11 pick have expected you to be.
Larry Fitzgerald – I love love LOVE Fitzy, but I do not like his QB situation. That said, FItzy will always get his stats, regardless of who is throwing to him, but I would rather take him in the second round and get a quality RB in the first.
The NEXT Guys
I think these guys will probably get close to Calvin status this season. Again, there’s only one Calvin, but I think these guys could become the next surefire stud picks.
Julio Jones – Everyone seems to agree, if JJ stays healthy, he’s going to be a monster of his own.
AJ Green – I don’t know if Green’s a certainty to jump to that elite level, seeing as he’s still growing with his young QB, but he was fantastic last season, so why the hell not?
The Gold Standard
These are the guys who anyone should be content to have as a No. 1 WR as the end of the second round and the beginning of the third approaches.
Roddy White – Mr. Dependable even with Julio Jones, will always be good for 90+ receptions.
Wes Welker – He’s still being drafted like an elite WR, so we should expect that he’ll still perform like one, but he’s not at the top of my list this year.
Greg Jennings – I don’t know what last season’s emergence of Jordy Nelson means for Jennings, but the fact that he always seems hurt has made me ignore him in drafts so far.
Brandon Marshall – It’s not the boldest prediction to say that Marshall is going to have a huge season reuniting with Jay Cutler and actually being happy where he is, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone when he does put up monster numbers.
Hakeem Nicks – I don’t even know if I agree with myself for putting him here, but I just don’t think you can go wrong with him.
The Almost Gold Standard
These fellas just need to prove they can have another big season and then I’ll subscribe to their newsletters.
Victor Cruz – Like I wrote about Cam Newton and Matt Stafford, I just want to see him do it again. Ever since I took a chance early on Miles Austin after his breakout year, I have been so weary of receivers who come out of nowhere. Especially those who come out of nowhere and suddenly beg for stardom.
Mike Wallace – I love Wallace and I think he and Antonio Brown are a filthy combo, but I am always hesitant with any speedster who holds out because them hamstrings ain’t getting any looser, you know?
The Young Guns
Here are the guys who make this year’s receiver pool so deep. Any of these guys could end up being stars, while some are more certain than others.
Dez Bryant – If he obeys his new rules, he’ll be a TD machine.
Jordy Nelson – Can he do it again? Will you take that chance with a third round pick? (I won’t, but a lot of people have.)
Demaryius Thomas – Can he be an incredible deep threat often now that he has an actual QB throwing to him?
Percy Harvin – Can he stay healthy? Is he a true No. 1 threat? Do you trust Christian Ponder?
Antonio Brown – Brown is my favorite guy this year. He’s already looked fantastic in preseason games as the No. 1 guy in Pittsburgh with Wallace out. It won’t make much of a difference with Wallace back.
Eric Decker – I think Peyton likes Decker more than Thomas. Most people probably agree with that. Honestly, you could flip a coin between them and I think their points totals will be similar at the season’s end.
Torrey Smith – I like the potential, but I don’t like Joe Flacco. Still, I’d take a shot on Smith.
Greg Little – This is a stretch because of Cleveland’s QB situation, but Little has been hyped since college. He’s not a No. 1, but he’s available late for depth.
Justin Blackmon – Again, another guy who is more for depth because of his upside in the face of a shaky QB situation.
Darrius Heyward-Bey – Realistically, Oakland’s offense could be insane if it ever clicks.
The Oh God Do I Really Trust These Guys?
These are not guys that you would ever want to move forward with as your No. 1 WR, but as No. 2 and 3 options, they’re worth it.
Steve Smith – He was awesome last year as Cam Newton’s go-to guy, but at his age you have to start wondering when it’s over.
Marques Colston – He’s just not consistent enough, especially now that Jimmy Graham is the main target.
Brandon Lloyd – I know that he loves playing for Josh McDaniels because they’ve been successful together, but who really knows if that will translate to an offense with 3 established receiving threats?
Jeremy Maclin – I don’t trust Michael Vick.
DeSean Jackson – I really don’t trust Michael Vick. (But I like Maclin for consistency over Jackson, who is better for big plays.)
Dwayne Bowe – Normally, I don’t trust Bowe because of Cassel, but he’s in a contract year, so I’d say he’s due to blow up and then disappoint next year again.
Miles Austin – He should have never dated Kim Kardashian. It has tainted him for good. Also, I like Kyle Ogletree to make Austin irrelevant within the next two seasons.
Steve Johnson – He’s the perfect No. 3 receiver.
The Second Chances
I’m not so much endorsing these guys as I am curious to see how they do with new roles on new teams.
Vincent Jackson – I always joke that you can start Jackson every 4 weeks for best results. Going from Philip Rivers to Josh Freeman? Make it every 5 weeks.
Robert Meachem – It’s obvious why New Orleans decided not to re-up with Meachem – the Saints just didn’t need him (and Lance Moore was cheaper). But is Meachem a No. 1, or will Malcolm Floyd benefit? Chin/ball scratcher.
Pierre Garcon – I don’t think he’ll ever be a true No. 1 in the NFL, but if he is it won’t be this season with a rookie QB. But, please, prove me wrong, Haitian Sensation. I’d love to see it.
Mario Manningham – I don’t know if Super Mario is supposed to be the No. 1 in San Francisco or if that honor goes to Michael Crabtree. But with Alex Smith as the QB, I don’t think it really matters.