The 2014 season is drawing near and many crazy enthusiasts (mainly just me) are already mock drafting. Here’s my early ranking of the top fantasy football wide receivers in 2014. While you’re at it, check out my early running back rankings, my early quarterback rankings or my early tight end rankings.
1. Demaryius Thomas – Broncos*
2. Calvin Johnson – Lions
3. A.J. Green – Bengals
4. Dez Bryant – Cowboys
5. Julio Jones – Falcons
6. Antonio Brown – Steelers
7. Brandon Marshall – Bears
8. Jordy Nelson – Packers
9. Vincent Jackson – Buccaneers
10. Alshon Jeffery – Bears
11. Pierre Garcon – Redskins
12. Victor Cruz – Giants
13. Randall Cobb – Packers
14. Keenan Allen – Chargers
15. Wes Welker – Broncos
16. Roddy White – Falcons
17. Michael Floyd – Cardinals*
18. Andre Johnson – Texans
19. Larry Fitzgerald – Cardinals
20. Michael Crabtree – 49ers
21. Emmanuel Sanders – Broncos*
22. Torrey Smith – Ravens
23. Percy Harvin – Seahawks
24. Mike Wallace – Dolphins
25. Terrance Williams – Cowboys*
26. DeSean Jackson – Redskins*
27. Golden Tate – Lions
28. Jeremy Maclin – Eagles
29. Kendall Wright – Titans
30. T.Y. Hilton – Colts*
*Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
I’m sorry. Seriously, I strongly apologize to the world a thousand times over for committing the great sacrilege that is putting Calvin Johnson up as the no. 2 receiver overall. Before I get severely pitchforked, I’d like to say that the Lions are in for a spectacular offensive season with a legitimate second receiver behind Calvin. As such, I think Megatron and Golden Tate will split targets fairly evenly and end up with stat lines similar to the duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in Chicago. I think Thomas is on his way to his best season yet – especially with the target hog, Eric Decker, out of the way. In 2012, Thomas had 94 receptions for 1434 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2013, he had 92 receptions for 1430 yards and 14 touchdowns. I can see the lack of Decker pushing him to over 100 receptions for 1500-1600 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2014.
*Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
Yeah, I get it – I’m being blasphemous again. I put Michael Floyd ahead of his teammate, the great Larry Fitzgerald. In his second professional season, Floyd exploded with 66 receptions for 1054 yards and 5 touchdowns. I expect to see a Julio Jones and Roddy White type of situation where Floyd takes over as the top wideout. Quarterback Carson Palmer is underrated in many esteems and actually put up over 4,000 yards last season. It isn’t hard to believe that Floyd could take a bigger piece of that pie in his third season. I expect 1200-1300 yards and 8+ touchdowns.
*Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos
I’ve moved the former Steelers receiver far ahead of his ADP on most sites and find myself reaching to snag him in most drafts. There is an overwhelming number of writers claiming that, even at his original price, Sanders is incredibly overrated and will not perform in fantasy football. The entire argument from every analyst is that Sanders is not as good as Decker. Period. What they often fail to address is that Eric Decker was used almost exclusively in bubble-screen plays. Sanders, although arguably inferior to Decker as an all-around receiver, is absolutely perfect to run bubble-screens and will do so at a level well above Decker. In fact, to manage big yardage off of Peyton Manning‘s favorite play, a receiver needs to force a few missed tackles and be elusive. Sanders forced a missed tackle every 4.47 receptions last season; that was the fourth highest average in the NFL. Expect Sanders to bring up slightly less targets than Decker did last season, but to come out with roughly the same yardage.
*Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys
In his 2013 rookie campaign with Dallas, Williams managed 736 yards on only 44 receptions and added 5 touchdowns. Rookies are rarely used in the NFL, despite their hype, and are even less likely to perform. Though 700 yards may not excite fantasy team owners, that sort of performance by a rookie is outstanding. Williams is also sitting in an ideal situation: he’s on a pass-first team with a quarterback who has averaged over 4,000 yards throughout his last three seasons; what’s even better is that Williams has superstar Dez Bryant to peel defenses. Don’t be surprised if Williams ends as this season’s Alshon Jeffery and sneaks his way in to the top 10 at his position.
*DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins
D-Jax is climbing boards rapidly as his new teammate, Pierre Garcon, has been steadily dropping in value. It seems the general assumption is that Jackson will slide in to Washington and immediately repeat his career-high statistics from last season. It should instead be noted that, before last season, DeSean Jackson averaged 55 receptions for 959 yards and 4.6 touchdowns through his career. His breakout season came on a revolutionary high-octane Chip Kelly offense with very little target competition. Expect Jackson to drop back to reality with Washington and fall slightly below his career averages. Garcon will definitely remain the star of the Washington receivers.
*T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
Hilton finished last season as Andrew Luck‘s favorite receiver with 82 receptions and just over 1,000 yards. He is also on a great offensive team with excellent quarterback play and enters his third year (usually the breakout year for receivers). So why have I dropped Hilton six spots below his ADP? Even as the thirtieth receiver off the board, I’d strongly consider skipping Hilton (or any Indianapolis receiver for that matter) in fantasy drafts. OC Pep Hamilton and head coach Chuck Pagano seem hell-bent on establishing a run game for their team – even if it features Trent Richardson. Not only that, Hilton’s relevance was aided by injuries and a lack of competition. Now, the young receiver needs to battle with Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief for targets. I’d avoid the entire group of receivers, if possible.
featured image source: espn.go.com