This is the third in a series of posts ranking players' fantasy potential for the 2014 NFL season. This post focuses on wide receivers. (Previous posts: Running backs, Quartetbacks)
1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: After some injury issues last season, Johnson is back to 100 percent, and will again be the focal-point of the Lions’ offensive attack. Johnson has been targeted at least 150 times in each of the last three years, and he makes the most of his opportunities, totaling over 1,000 yards in each of his last four seasons.
2. DeMaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos: Having Peyton Manning as your quarterback helps, a lot. Thomas leads the league in yards after reception in his two seasons with Manning, and in those two seasons he has compiled 2,800 yards and 24 touchdowns. Similar production can be expected from Thomas this year.
3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys: Bryant’s comfort-level with quarterback Tony Romo has improved over the past couple seasons, and he stands as the most explosive option in what should be a potent offense. Bryant is a deep-ball threat who doesn’t mind picking up yardage on underneath throws. What that means? Dez is likely to get a lot of looks this season. Double-digit touchdowns can again be expected.
4. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals: Green got the most targets (178) out of any receiver last year, and he is in line for a similar season. He is fast and explosive, and a favorite target of quarterback Andy Dalton. Green has totaled over 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, and if that’s not enough he is extremely durable. Green has only missed one game in his three professional seasons.
5. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears: Marshall has always been a fantasy threat, but he has absolutely exploded since he joined Jay Cutler and the Bears two seasons ago. He leads the league in targets over that two-year span, and has put up 23 total touchdowns. With Alshon Jeffery lining up across from Marshall, the Bears will have a fierce air attack, and Marshall should have every opportunity to continue to put up big numbers.
6. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: Jones is coming off a season marred by injury, so that itself is cause for concern. If he remains healthy however, Jones will be Matt Ryan’s top target, especially in the absence of Tony Gonzalez. In 2012, Jones put up 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. Owners should hope for comparable numbers this season.
7. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers: Brown stepped into Pittsburgh’s lead receiving role nicely last season, compiling 1,500 yards and eight touchdowns. With Emanuel Sanders now gone, Brown remains the Steelers’ top target and he should have another solid season. His 110 receptions in 2013 make him especially appealing in PPR-format leagues.
8. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears: Jeffery and Brandon Marshall form one of the league’s deadliest receiving duos, and while Jeffery may not be the top target on his own team, he will still get plenty of shots to shine. Jeffery exploded next to Marshall last year, tallying over 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns for the Bears. Cutler spreads the ball around a lot, and Jeffery may also benefit from extra attention being paid to Marshall.
9. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is going to throw a lot of passes for the Packers, and as long as that is the case, his receivers will have the platform to perform. Nelson had 85 receptions in 2013, which he converted into 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns; numbers that are attainable again in 2014.
10. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins: Garcon set career highs in catches and yards last season thanks largely to his 176 targets, which he converted into 1,300 yards and five touchdowns. While the addition of DeSean Jackson may slightly impact Garcon’s output, there should be work for both of them, as Jackson is more of a deep-ball guy and Garcon doesn’t mind going underneath for receptions.
11. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers: Allen may well develop into Philip Rivers’ go-to guy this season after posting an impressive 1,000-yard, eight-touchdown rookie season. Allen will get tons of targets, and could be a big fantasy factor if he performs like he did late last season.
12. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: Age, and in turn, durability is the biggest concern for Johnson, followed by who is throwing him the ball. At age 33, Johnson may have lost a step, but he is still a very viable fantasy option. Despite the Texans’ quarterback issues last season, Johnson posted 1,400 yards and five touchdowns. With some stability at the quarterback position, Johnson should be able to post another similar, solid fantasy season.
13. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers: Like Garcon, Cobb will benefit from the opportunities created from a healthy Aaron Rodgers. Coming off an injury-shortened season, Cobb has to prove that he can produce over the course of a season, but he can serve as a solid WR2.
14. DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins: It is difficult to project exactly how Jackson will produce in his first season away from Philadelphia, but he remains a big-play threat. Garcon working the underneath may work to open opportunities up for Jackson downfield. There is a chance he becomes a favorite target of a still-developing Robert Griffin III. While his numbers may be down from the 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns he scored as an Eagle last year, he is a 1,000-yard, eight-touchdown threat on the Redskins.
15. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: Gone are the days where Fitzgerald tops the fantasy football wide receiver list. While he is still extremely productive (950 yards, 10 touchdowns last season), he is no longer the fantasy game-changer he once was.
16. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jackson makes a great WR2 option. He has caught at least 70 balls each of the past two seasons, while totaling 2,500 yards over that span. At age 31, he isn’t as quick as he once was, but he will still get plenty of targets in Tampa Bay’s offensive attack.
17. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons: Age and injury issues are becoming concerns for White, who struggled with injuries for much of last season, which was weak statistically. White is no longer the top target on the Falcons, as that honor now belongs to Julio Jones, but he may still have something in the tank. If he’s healthy, there’s no reason to think White couldn’t post stats close to 1,000 yards and eight total touchdowns.
18. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos: Welker is as consistent as they come, but again age is becoming an issue. Welker missed three games last season with another concussion, and it is yet to be seen if he can string together a 16-game season. Still, with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball, Welker will have the opportunity to put up some points.
19. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers: Crabtree had a solid season in 2012 (1,100 yards, nine touchdowns) before taking a step back with an injury issue last year. Back to full health heading in 2014, Crabtree could emerge as QB Colin Kaepernick’s favorite receiving target. Crabtree is a legitimate option as a WR2.
20. Victor Cruz, New York Giants: Cruz had a down year statistically last season, but the targets (121) were there. Eli Manning led the league in interceptions, and they had offensive line issues. With Hakeem Nicks gone, Cruz will continue to get a lot of looks, and assuming that the offense ironed out some of their wrinkles, he could be poised for a bounce-back year.
21. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
22. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
23. Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks
24. Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
25. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
Below are the top 20 WR's for a PPR-style league from Ed Barkowitz of the Daily News:
Make sure to pick up a copy of the Daily News' full fantasy football preview - including complete rankings, mock drafts, and much more - available on newsstands Thursday.
1. Calvin Johnson, Lions
2. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
4. A.J. Green, Bengals
5. Brandon Marshall, Bears
6. Jordy Nelson, Packers
7. Antonio Brown, Steelers
8. Julio Jones, Falcons
9. Alshon Jeffery, Bears
10. Pierre Garcon, Redskins
11. Michael Crabtree, 49ers
12. Keenan Allen, Chargers
13. Torrey Smith, Ravens
14. Randall Cobb, Packers
15. Michael Floyd, Cardinals
16. T.Y. Hilton, Colts
17. Roddy White, Falcons
18. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
19. Andre Johnson, Texans
20. Riley Cooper, Eagles