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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Dynasty Rankings
Wide Receivers
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

The hardest and most volatile position to rank and project in fantasy football year in and year out is wide receiver. There are any number of reasons why this is the case, not the least of which is the fact 4-5 targets for a receiver can be a bad day at the office one week and an incredibly productive one the next, depending on whether or not they were caught and turned into long runs/touchdowns. If our running backs or quarterbacks only have 4-5 rushing or passing attempts, it can pretty much be assumed they didn’t have a banner day. While tight ends suffer from the same limited opportunities as receivers, there also isn’t as great of demand for them in fantasy with most leagues requiring only one starter at the position.

Another reason for the aforementioned volatility at receiver has to do with the depth at the position nowadays. The main reason for the depth has to do with the rather large spike in plays per game, with an increasing number of them being passing plays. More plays overall mean more opportunities to pass and score via the pass. In PPR leagues, more passes generally lead to more receivers getting involved, which should explain how the depth is created. With so many good options, the 40th-ranked receiver can become a top-10 wideout if most – if not all – of the obstacles that were thought to be in his way are cast aside either because of a move up the depth chart or injury.

Keep in mind the rankings below are based on PPR leagues where all touchdowns are worth six points. Let’s review the criteria for the basis of these rankings once again:

Considerations for WR

  • Six years of elite production remaining (priority given to younger players)
  • Age
  • Age/skill of supporting cast
  • Talent
  • Durability
  • Proven consistency
  • Coaching/scheme stability
 Wide Receivers
Chg Rk Player Team Bye
1 Calvin Johnson DET 9
2 Julio Jones ATL 6
3 A.J. Green CIN 12
Tier 2
4 Dez Bryant DAL 11
5 Randall Cobb GB 4
6 Demaryius Thomas DEN 9
7 Brandon Marshall CHI 8
8 Victor Cruz NYG 9
9 Percy Harvin SEA 12
Tier 3
10 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 9
11 Jordy Nelson GB 4
12 Dwayne Bowe Upside KC 10
13 Hakeem Nicks Risk NYG 9
14 Mike Wallace MIA 6
15 Eric Decker DEN 9
16 Vincent Jackson TB 5
17 Roddy White ATL 6
18 Andre Johnson HOU 8
Tier 4
19 Cecil Shorts Upside JAC 9
20 Josh Gordon Risk CLE 10
21 Tavon Austin STL 11
22 Antonio Brown PIT 5
23 Torrey Smith BAL 8
24 Steve Johnson BUF 12
Tier 5
25 Danny Amendola Risk NE 10
26 Pierre Garcon Risk WAS 5
27 Kenny Britt Risk Upside TEN 8
28 Michael Floyd ARI 9
29 DeAndre Hopkins HOU 8
30 Justin Blackmon Risk JAC 9
31 Kendall Wright TEN 8
32 Marques Colston Risk NO 7
33 Jeremy Maclin PHI 12
34 Greg Jennings MIN 5
35 Mike Williams (TB) TB 5
36 Cordarrelle Patterson MIN 5
37 James Jones GB 4
Tier 6
38 Wes Welker DEN 9
39 Michael Crabtree Risk SF 9
40 DeSean Jackson PHI 12
41 Danario Alexander Risk SD 8
42 Miles Austin Risk DAL 11
43 Steve Smith (CAR) CAR 4
44 Reggie Wayne IND 8
Tier 7
45 Denarius Moore OAK 7
46 Alshon Jeffery CHI 8
47 Keenan Allen SD 8
48 T.Y. Hilton IND 8
49 Vincent Brown SD 8
50 Chris Givens STL 11
51 Markus Wheaton PIT 5
52 Greg Little CLE 10
53 Rueben Randle NYG 9
54 Ryan Broyles Risk DET 9
55 Emmanuel Sanders Risk PIT 5
56 Justin Hunter Risk TEN 8
57 Aaron Dobson NE 10
58 Brian Hartline MIA 6
59 Mohamed Sanu CIN 12
60 Sidney Rice Risk SEA 12
61 Lance Moore NO 7
62 Brian Quick STL 11
Tier 8
63 Robert Woods BUF 12
64 Golden Tate SEA 12
65 Darrius Heyward-Bey IND 8
66 Rod Streater OAK 7
67 Stephen Hill Risk NYJ 10
68 Andre Roberts ARI 9
69 Anquan Boldin SF 9
70 Tommy Streeter BAL 8
71 Da’Rick Rogers Risk BUF 12
72 Santonio Holmes Risk NYJ 10
73 Nate Washington TEN 8
74 Brandon LaFell CAR 4
75 Marvin Jones CIN 12

Tier 1

Is there really any doubt that Johnson is No. 1? “Megatron” won’t turn 28 until September and is coming off a season in which he was among the unluckiest players when it came to scoring touchdowns (he was stopped at the 1-yard line six times). Despite scoring only five touchdowns, Johnson shattered his previous career high with 122 grabs and broke the NFL record for receiving yards with 1,964. With the addition of Reggie Bush giving Detroit another explosive weapon to occupy defenses, Johnson has a very good chance at being fantasy’s top wideout for a third straight season.

The real debate begins at the second spot, which will go to Jones for now. Despite the incredible start to Green’s career (he is 36 catches, 300 yards and two scores ahead of Johnson’s pace through two NFL seasons), his upside is capped a bit more than Jones’ given the offenses they play in and their respective quarterbacks. Matt Ryan has already established himself as a top-flight quarterback in a high-powered passing attack while Jones will probably overtake Roddy White as the Falcons’ top fantasy receiver this season. Green finds himself as the focal point of an offense that is more run-heavy and has Andy Dalton as its leader. In reality, choosing between Jones and Green is splitting hairs.

Tier 2

Bryant remains a bit of an off-field risk, but signs of his maturity began to show up on the field during the second half of the 2012 season. Going into his fourth season, Bryant appears to have found himself and is on the verge of big things – he will represent Jordan Brand but not get paid in the first year of his contract so as to prove he can stay out of trouble. Even if Jason Witten remains Tony Romo’s go-to guy in crucial situations, Bryant is the clear-cut WR1 in Dallas now. Given that 10 of his 12 TDs came after Week 9 last season, Bryant could give Johnson a run for his money as fantasy’s top receiver this season. Congratulations to the owners with the foresight (or had the good fortune) of choosing Cobb last season despite entering 2012 with an uncertain role. The youngest player to crack the top three tiers on this list, Cobb won’t turn 23 until late August and should have 6-8 years to post around 100 receptions per season from Aaron Rodgers.

Thomas stayed healthy for the first time in his three-year career in 2012 and obviously enjoyed his first year with Peyton Manning. Thomas falls behind Bryant and Cobb in this ranking due to Manning’s age plus the likelihood that his numbers over the next 1-2 years will fall off ever so slightly as the Broncos introduce PPR machine Wes Welker to the offense. It’s stunning to think Marshall just turned 29. Maybe it seems like he should be older considering his troubled past, but Marshall’s game is one that should age gracefully. Combine that with the fact that he has a quarterback that trusts him in every situation, is a physical mismatch for just about every cornerback and will be playing for a coach that understands how to run an offense for the first time in years and his age seems less of a big deal than it would for most players.

About the only concern facing Cruz right now is his (long-term) contract situation. With Nicks having established himself as a yearly injury risk and Cruz possessing a skill set ideal for the slot, the 26-year-old should continue making 80-90 catches per season in New York. Cruz is also not the typical chain-moving slot receiver either, he is very elusive and a big play waiting to happen. His combination of high volume and big-play ability is a recipe for fantasy success. Even though an ankle injury knocked him out for most of the second half of last season, Harvin was more an injury scare than an injury risk in his four years with the Vikings. In other words, concerns about his durability – once he discovered the cause of his migraines – were mostly exaggerated. However, it seemed like just as soon as his headaches started to subside, he began to create them for team management with contract squabbles and complaints about his role. Still, versatile 25-year-old playmakers like Harvin are rare. The fact he is joined at the hip now with Russell Wilson instead of Christian Ponder could skyrocket his fantasy stock.

Tier 3

A receiver’s ability to produce is invariably tied at the hip with the play of his quarterback. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald’s athletic prime has been sabotaged by the parade of league-average (and often much worse) signal-callers he has played with since Kurt Warner retired. The acquisition of Carson Palmer should put a stop to the game of musical-chair quarterbacks for 2-3 years while the hiring of HC Bruce Arians and his vertical passing attack should help Fitzgerald resume his 90-catch, 1,200-1,400-yard and double-digit touchdown ways. Age shouldn’t be much of a concern for Fitzgerald – who will turn 30 in August – since his work ethic should allow him to enjoy the same kind of longevity Jerry Rice had. The emergence of Cobb as well as hamstring/ankle woes in 2012 will likely drive down Nelson’s price in all fantasy leagues, but it really shouldn’t. Nelson was just starting to come on in a big way when Green Bay had little choice but to rely on Rodgers following the failed Cedric Benson experiment. The fact that Nelson was on pace for 91 catches, 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns after seven weeks despite a slow start means he has serious bounce-back potential.

If Fitzgerald thinks his quarterback play has been bad over the last few years, perhaps it helps to know there is a player like Dwayne Bowe. Since Bowe’s arrival in 2007, he has been subjected to the likes of Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Brady Quinn. By comparison, the addition of Alex Smith must seem like manna from heaven for Bowe, who will turn 29 in late September. New HC Andy Reid and his (likely fast-paced) West Coast offense should be a perfect fit for Bowe, who could make his run at the numbers he posted in 2010 (72-1162-15) in an attack suited for his talents. Despite possessing elite talent, Nicks has to be considered a WR2 because he simply hasn’t proven he can make it through an entire season. Last season, he was dogged by a knee and foot injury from Week 2 on. While 2012 was terribly disappointing for him, it is telling he was able to gut it out for as long as he did. Nicks is a high-volume red-zone beast, making his durability the only thing holding the 25-year-old back from being a Tier 2 – if not Tier 1 – receiver.

Since he possesses elite deep speed – and speed just happens to be one of the easier qualities to identify – Wallace gets a bit of a bum rap for being a one-trick pony. Although he didn’t have his best season in 2012, the soon-to-be 27-year-old displayed an ability to work well in the short and intermediate passing game when Ben Roethlisberger was healthy. Given the size of his contract (five years, $60 M), it is a pretty good bet Wallace will be doing a lot more catching than he did in Pittsburgh and serving less as the receiver who keeps defenses honest. The conventional wisdom is that Decker is going to suffer more than Thomas because he is more likely to lose targets to Welker. Don’t make that mistake. Decker was the most-targeted wideout in the red zone last year (24 targets), tied with Brandon Marshall for the league lead in most red-zone catches (16) and tied with James Jones for the most receiving scores inside the 20 (11). Red-zone targets speak to the level of trust a quarterback has in a player, so it is telling Decker was Manning’s favorite target in that area of the field. The addition of Welker is not Decker’s biggest concern (nor is it Thomas’), but rather the longevity of Manning. However, Decker’s age (26) makes him a fine dynasty receiver after the top ones are off the board.

The 30-year-old Jackson was brilliant in his first year with the Bucs and finally got to show off his skills as a receiver on something other than deep balls, as he had become accustomed to in San Diego. Like Marshall, Jackson’s incredible size makes him a good candidate to be productive well into his 30s. Whether HC Greg Schiano sticks with Josh Freeman into the future – more than likely he will – or goes with Mike Glennon, both quarterbacks have the arm strength necessary to make all the necessary throws and ensure that Jackson will continue being one of the league’s best downfield threats. White hasn’t caught fewer than 83 passes since 2007, but will be entering his age-32 season in 2013. Atlanta OC Dirk Koetter’s pass-heavy offense will keep his fantasy value very high (Tony Gonzalez’s eventual retirement might give him a temporary boost), but age figures to catch up to him over the next 2-3 years. And if Father Time doesn’t trip him up, Julio Jones’ rise to superstardom probably will.

Like Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson couldn’t seem to find the end zone despite an incredible season. Once Houston was comfortable with the hamstring injury that ruined his 2011 season, Johnson turned in a dominant second half. Like White, Johnson will turn 32 this season and, given his injury history, he’s a slightly worse bet that White to maintain his current level of play into his mid-to-late 30s.

Tier 4

There is no doubt there is a falloff – at least for dynasty owners thinking in the short-term – after Tier 3, although the falloff isn’t necessarily about talent. Shorts busted out in a big way last season once Chad Henne became the starter. Shorts has quickly become a very good all-around receiver and proved the Jags’ mediocre quarterbacking wasn’t going to hold him back from being a very good receiver. Attending Fitzgerald’s camp this summer and being in the starting lineup in Week 1 only figure to help Shorts remain a valuable fantasy commodity for years to come. Gordon is one of the best receiving talents in the game, yet still one of the rawest. His past – and his present, as it were –is/are the only reason(s) he is down this low on the list as he will be suspended for the first two games of this season and is already in Stage 3 of the league’s drug program. This obviously makes him quite risky for dynasty owners since another slip will cost him a year, but the talent and age (22) are too fantasy-friendly to pass on. He posted a 50-805-5 line as a rookie despite being in an offense that did not accentuate his strengths.

Tavon Austin hasn’t taken an NFL snap, his size is far than ideal and he joins a team that hasn’t been particularly good on offense since “The Greatest Show on Turf”. While the 5-8, 174-pound Austin can’t do much about his stature, he is entering a situation in which he will be the focus of a wide-open passing game in St. Louis. Assuming he can carry over the durability he has shown to this point to the NFL, Austin has serious potential in PPR leagues and probably will not see a ranking this low again for a while. Brown is coming off a slightly disappointing season, but is in prime position to become the clear WR1 in Pittsburgh following Wallace’s departure. Opportunity – and not elite talent – is what allows Brown to rank this high as the only proven receiver Ben Roethlisberger has. With Heath Miller working his way back from an ACL injury, Emmanuel Sanders too injury-prone and rookie Markus Wheaton a rookie, Brown may have about a two-year window to become a PPR stud.

A little bit like Wallace in terms of being labeled as a deep threat only, Torrey Smith hasn’t really yet been allowed to show off his short and intermediate game. He still may not get that chance given Joe Flacco’s connection to Dennis Pitta, but there is little doubt Smith will be asked to do more than run deep routes with Anquan Boldin no longer around. Smith has the upside to be a Tier 3 receiver at the least; he just needs to go from being a 50-catch receiver to a 70-catch wideout. Steve Johnson has been limited by a number of things (nagging injuries and quarterback play are two) since he first broke onto the scene in 2010, but new HC Doug Marrone’s up-tempo offense promises to give him at least as much opportunity as he enjoyed under former HC Chan Gailey. E.J. Manuel and Kevin Kolb figure to be a slight downgrade from Ryan Fitzpatrick initially, but that probably won’t remain the case as time moves on. Buffalo has assembled the skill-position talent to take some of the defensive focus off of Johnson, so it is very possible we have yet to see the best from him.

Tier 5

The next tier begins a handful of injury risks and/or players that should burst onto the scene but haven’t yet. By all accounts, Amendola should be the new Wes Welker and enjoy a long stretch of productive years. But with one 16-game season in four years of service, he obviously doesn’t possess the same kind of durability. Still, it is going to be awful difficult to pass on someone with 100-catch potential as a WR2 in PPR dynasty leagues. Were it not for his foot issues – which he chose not to have surgery on in the offseason – Garcon would rank be higher on this list. Garcon himself admitted in April that he doesn’t know if he’ll be 100% healthy this season, so he is certainly a risk-reward pick. Speaking of such players, Britt may take the term “risk-reward” to a whole other level. His talent is on par with the Tier 1 receivers, but injuries and off-field issues have severely stunted his growth on the field. Regardless, this ranking is a nod to his elite talent, the fact he is finally healthy and that he appears to be getting “it” as he enters a contract year. Jake Locker’s accuracy issues are a concern, but Tennessee also hasn’t had the benefit of a good play-caller over the past couple of years – which may allow both quarterback and receiver to enjoy more success.

Floyd matched Fitzgerald in targets over the last five games of last season, but both players should see a dramatic rise in their overall numbers in Arians’ offense since it complements their skill sets as downfield receivers. Carson Palmer is a serious upgrade at quarterback, so the main question is how much improvement the offensive line can make in one year. Hopkins is probably going to need to wait about two full years before he comes close to maximizing his fantasy potential, but his future is incredibly bright. While he will play second-fiddle to Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels in what promises to be a run-heavy offense under OC Rick Dennison, Hopkins could easily start taking over WR1 duties in Houston around 2015. Blackmon has done a fine job staying in the news off the field prior to the 2012 NFL Draft and the year-plus after, but like all the other “bad boys” above him on this list, he has serious PPR potential. Blackmon turned 23 in January, so assuming he is able to mature in the coming years, he should be able to be a solid fantasy WR2 in the years to come – even if Jacksonville doesn’t upgrade its quarterback situation right away. Obviously, his stock will soar if the Jags do find their long-term signal-caller.

Wright somehow posted 64 catches as a rookie despite Locker’s struggles and ex-OC Chris Palmer’s ineptitude as a play-caller. While he is currently listed at 196 pounds, reports have him dropping as much as 15 pounds this offseason as he prepares to be a “significant” part of the Titans’ attack under new OC Dowell Loggains. Assuming Britt is maturing and can stay on the field for any length of time – thereby commanding double teams – Wright has a huge opportunity to become a big-time playmaker. It doesn’t seem right to put the top Saints’ receiver this low, but Colston is sometimes the team’s third option on passing plays behind Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. Colston turned 30 in June and has stayed on the field for the most part in recent seasons in HC Sean Payton’s pass-happy offense, but one get the feeling his body isn’t going to hold up as well in the coming years as some of the other older receivers above him on this list.

Maclin has done a fine job at producing good numbers in each of his four years in the league, but injuries have continually limited his ability to take the next step. Entering his contract year, Maclin knows his financial future depends a lot on what he does this season. Even if DeSean Jackson outproduces him in Year 1 of the Chip Kelly experience (which shouldn’t necessarily be assumed as seems to be the case) and Maclin doesn’t get a deal done with the Eagles, Maclin should have no problem landing on his feet with another team as a fine WR2 in reality and fantasy. While Jennings was going to be hard-pressed to find a better fantasy situation than Green Bay, he maintained his short-term value by ending up as Harvin’s replacement in Minnesota. Jennings’ reputation as a durable receiver has taken a hit in recent years, although the 29-year-old (30 in September) should be able to be productive until the end of his contract – even if his quarterback isn’t Aaron Rodgers. Despite the addition of Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams returned to the statistical production he delivered in his rookie year of 2010. Williams hasn’t eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark yet, but that is more a matter of semantics than anything (964 yards in 2010, 996 in 2012). In the second year of OC Mike Sullivan’s offense, expect the Bucs to put up even better numbers across the board than they did last season.

Patterson has two substantial obstacles in his way towards becoming the next Julio Jones – a player he was compared to at times throughout the draft process: 1) he is much more raw than the Falcons receiver was coming out of Alabama and 2) Ponder is still very much a work in progress. Assuming Patterson can pick things up quickly, he should be able to help Ponder help himself, but neither one is a given. There’s a certain amount of skepticism that comes along with a sixth-year breakout receiver. Along with getting a chance to be something more than a fourth receiver for the first time as a Packer, James Jones was noticeably more focused than he had been in previous years. he emerged as Rodgers’ top red-zone option last season and, while he can’t be expected to match his league-leading 14 scores from a season ago since Cobb and Nelson will get some of them, Jones should make up for some of that lost fantasy production by drawing more targets outside the red zone.

Tier 6

It has been established that Welker does not see or feel like he should approach his 112-catch average from his New England days. However, that doesn’t mean the 32-year-old Welker isn’t still going to be a quality play in PPR leagues over the next 2-3 years. It’s probably a bit optimistic to assume that both Welker and Manning will maintain their current level of play beyond that, which makes Welker a player some owners may want to acquire during the season to make a push for a fantasy title in the short term. It’s probably a bit unfair to drop Crabtree so far down given the fact he may not even miss the season, but he finds himself in this spot because of the type of injury he suffered. Crabtree cannot be expected to return to form this year and the odds are probably no better than 50-50 that he’ll regain his pre-injury explosion in 2014. Even though Achilles’’ tears aren’t the career-ending injuries they used to be, wide receivers need their suddenness as much as any position to separate from coverage. Any injury that can affect a receiver for two years (if not more) is going to make that wideout a WR4 at best in dynasty leagues.

Jackson is a very difficult player to rank in dynasty or redraft leagues. His ability screams Tier 2 or Tier 3, but his lack of durability and an all-around game make him a bit of hit-or-miss WR3 type. The new regime in Philadelphia may be a better fit for his skill set than Andy Reid’s West Coast offense was, but there is no evidence to suggest he won’t raise a fuss about his contract again. While he is signed through 2016, the $10.25 M due in 2014 almost guarantees the two sides will revisit his deal next offseason. With no guaranteed money on his deal after this year, he’s not even a lock to be on the Eagles roster next season. Alexander’s biggest concern has always been durability. Despite not signing until mid-October, Alexander torched the opposition for 37 catches, 658 yards and seven TDs from Week 9 on – a pace that would have allowed him to post a 66-1170-12 line over a 16-game season. Alexander can’t be expected to repeat his 17.8 YPC average, but he’s always been a big-play receiver. He reported that his oft-repaired left knee felt like his right knee in mid-November, suggesting he may have finally cleared that hurdle. A full healthy season in 2013 with somewhat similar production could vault Alexander into Tier 3 or 4.

Miles Austin put together his third 16-game season over the last four years, but his hamstrings will likely continue to be a concern for him. Jason Witten has been Tony Romo’s security blanket for some time and Bryant passed Austin in the passing-game pecking order last season, meaning the soon-to-be 29-year-old won’t be featured nearly as much as he was in recent years. Although new OC Bill Callahan promises more running, the Cowboys will not stray too far away from the arm of their $119.5 M quarterback, meaning Austin could easily repeat his 66-943-6 line last season in 2013 and possibly even 2014. Steve Smith has defied the critics for most of his career and probably doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Smith turned 34 in May, but hasn’t really showed any signs of slowing down (only Calvin Johnson has more receptions of 20+ yards over the last two seasons). With no elite receivers joining him in Carolina anytime soon, he could easily put together three more seasons as suggested he could in late May. Wayne will turn 35 in November, which is a shame since he is Andrew Luck’s favorite target and a solid fit physically for new OC Pep Hamilton’s West Coast offense. It is likely Wayne has one – maybe two – productive fantasy years left.

Tier 7

Moore appears to be in a bad spot right now, but there’s a good chance Tyler Wilson will emerge at some point in 2013 to begin the process of salvaging his fantasy stock. Matt Flynn doesn’t possess the arm strength at this point to accentuate Moore’s ability as a downfield receiver, so his numbers will likely suffer if Flynn is named the starter. Regardless, Moore is the brightest receiving talent the Raiders have by a wide margin. Jeffrey is one of my favorite breakout candidates this fall, but is stuck fairly low on this list thanks to the incredible talent he has surrounding him. Still, Chicago’s offense has a chance to be truly dynamic this season and Jeffery has reportedly changed his body in a good way this offseason. He has the size and talent necessary to make teams pay for giving too much respect to Marshall. Drawing comparisons to Anquan Boldin and Miles Austin during the draft process, Allen should thrive in the Chargers’ new offense that will focus on shorter drops from Philip Rivers and quicker routes from the receivers. Allen dropped in the draft due to a slow-healing knee injury, but is a special run-after-catch player.

Hilton’s low ranking will likely come as a surprise to some, but his 5-10, 183-pounder is far from an ideal fit in a West Coast offense. Darrius Heyward-Bey is a better option than Donnie Avery was in 2012, which along with more emphasis being placed on the running game, may put a bit of a ceiling on his final numbers. Vincent Brown has the lowest upside of the three Chargers’ wideouts to make this list, but not by much. New HC Mike McCoy has already called him a “great route runner” and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Brown emerge as San Diego’s best fantasy receiver in 2013. However, if Alexander remains a Charger long-term, it is also quite possible Brown will settle in as one of the league’s top slot options while Alexander and Allen start on the outside. Givens did a fine job at being one of the league’s better one-trick ponies as a rookie in 2012 for an offense that needed every big play he could provide, but the Rams added so much talent this offseason that he can show off the rest of his game in 2013. Sam Bradford complimented Givens’ intelligence in June and suggested at the same time the second-year receiver will be asked to play both outside receiver spots as well as in the slot.

Wheaton can’t be expected to win the starting job out of camp – given the late start he’ll get because of Oregon State’s late graduation – but he gets the nod here over Emmanuel Sanders because he is less injury-prone and doesn’t face an uncertain short-term future with a contract that expires at the end of the year. Although he doesn’t have quite the speed as the man whose spot he will try to fill (Wallace), he’ll still be one of the most fleet-footed receivers in the league in short order. Assuming Gordon doesn’t have any more substance-abuse issues, Little is going to be a long-term WR2 in Cleveland. Even though his numbers didn’t necessarily reflect it, Little improved dramatically in 2012 and should be able to succeed in new OC Norv Turner’s offense. It’s unclear where exactly he’ll fit into the Giants’ plans as long as Nicks and Cruz are healthy, but Randle is going to force his way into playing time. Considered one of the more pro-ready receivers in the 2012 draft, Randle has his coaches raving this offseason and is too talented to keep off the field.

Broyles is undoubtedly a risky dynasty property given his injury history, but it is the only obstacle keeping him from being ranked much higher since Nate Burleson is likely done in Detroit at the end of the year. A gifted route runner with Calvin Johnson occupying the defense’s attention for the foreseeable future, Broyles has 70-80 catch upside in one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NFL. Sanders is a starting-caliber NFL receiver and played all 16 games for the first time in his three-year career last season, but has not been a picture of health otherwise. Entering a contract year after the Steelers matched the Patriots’ one-year offer sheet in restricted free agency, Sanders has already said it will take a very good deal to pass up unrestricted free agency in 2014. His talent is not such that he will be many teams’ top receiver for his possible new employer, so his dynasty stock is murky at best. Hunter is an exceptionally talented second-round rookie, but has no clear path to a starting job at the moment. Should Britt put it all together this season and Wright be a significant part of the offense as most are expecting, Hunter may have to wait a few years before making a 50-60 catch impact.

Dobson will try to avoid becoming the Patriots’ latest rookie receiver drafted in the second or third round to fall on his face. Unlike Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson, Dobson is a big receiver with good speed for a player of his size. But it might be his intelligence and sure hands that will win Tom Brady over and allow him to thrive where the aforementioned four receivers did not. Hartline likely enjoyed his career year in 2012, but his connection with Ryan Tannehill is real. His year-to-year upside is probably going to be somewhere in the middle between his 35-549-1 line from 2011 and his 74-1083-1 line from last season in an offense that will be much better in 2013. His catches and yards will drop since he’ll be the likely third option in the passing game behind Wallace and Dustin Keller, but his touchdowns should increase. Sanu probably will never be the most exciting option in fantasy, but he is the No. 2 receiver on a team that has dumped an awful lot of resources into improving its passing game in recent years. Sanu showed a nose for the end zone in the short time he started for the Bengals in 2012 before his season-ending foot injury and will likely continue to benefit from all the attention A.J. Green commands.

Rice was already a WR3 option at best thanks to the run-heavy Seahawks’ offensive scheme, but his fantasy stock took another big hit in the offseason with the addition of Harvin. To his credit, Rice turned in his second 16-game season in six years in 2012, but his injury history still cannot be ignored – especially in light of all the other aforementioned obstacles in his way. Lance Moore is fourth – at best – in the Saints’ passing-game pecking order. However, when a team throws for roughly 5,000 yards per season, players like Moore can remain viable in fantasy. Moore is far from a consistent option, but as a WR4 or WR5 option, he can be a great bye-week fill-in on the right week. According to recent reports, Quick has fallen behind Austin Pettis. Don’t expect that to remain the case when the pads come on. Quick has the size and talent to be a red-zone beast at the very least. It wasn’t realistic for a player coming out of Appalachian State to thrive as a rookie, but the Rams will almost certainly give him more of a chance to shine in 2013.

Tier 8

This final tier presents a number of talented receivers that have a number of potential roadblocks keeping them from a higher ranking. Woods is one such wideout. He has a strong chance to become the Bills’ WR2 with a strong training camp, but the presence of Da’Rick Rogers could make his stay in the starting lineup a short one if the undrafted rookie free agent keeps it together off the field. Tate began to emerge on a somewhat consistent basis down the stretch last season, enough that HC Pete Carroll stated the offense needs to get him the ball more often – even after the trade for Harvin. Over the last nine games of 2012, Tate tallied 32 receptions for 497 yards and four scores (the catch and yardage totals were slightly higher than Rice’s). Heyward-Bey’s spot in this ranking can be questioned, but it is hard to argue the Colts and Andrew Luck won’t give the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 draft his best chance to realize his potential.

Streater was able to move past Juron Criner on the depth chart last season and is line to start following the departure of Heyward-Bey. The undrafted free agent is a solid receiver in the short and intermediate passing game and stands a solid chance to rack up garbage-time stats this year. He could actually outproduce Denarius Moore this season since Matt Flynn isn’t exactly known for his arm strength. Hill is the first Jet in this ranking, which should speak to how dire the situation is in New York. Hill has plenty of athleticism, but is still very raw. The presence of Mark Sanchez – the likely starting quarterback – doesn’t help matters. Another complication is that Hill’s strength is his size and speed, not his route running – something that will probably hold him back in the Jets’ new West Coast offense.

With Fitzgerald one of the best receivers in the game and Floyd likely ready to break out this season, Roberts’ future is in the slot for Arizona – or for another team if he chooses not to return when his contract expires at the end of the season. Despite Arizona’s awful quarterback play in 2013, he still set career highs with 64 receptions, 759 yards and five scores. Whether he remains with the Cardinals or not, he should be able to produce 40-50 catches on a regular basis. Boldin will turn 33 during the season and is far from the dominant force he was in his prime with Arizona, but showed he can still turn it on when necessary during Baltimore’s Super Bowl run. Boldin has been accused of not being able to separate from defensive backs for years, but his bulk and strength work well in the slot. Although he could be one-and-done in San Francisco, he’ll have an opportunity to make that year a special one as the Niners need someone to step up in Crabtree’s absence.

Jacoby Jones is the supposed Opening Night starter for Baltimore, but the Ravens would probably prefer that he remain the WR3 instead. Streeter was unable to see the field thanks to preseason foot and ankle injuries in 2012. At 6-5 and 220 pounds with incredible speed, he possesses the kind of upside fantasy owners want at the end of their roster. Were it not for his numerous off-field issues, Rogers would have been drafted and ranked considerably higher. Buffalo is adopting a no-tolerance policy with him, but his talent is undeniable. He is ranked this low because he could be gone from the NFL with a misstep in 2013, but he also could be a starter by midseason if he has matured. Holmes’ status for Week 1 – if not the entire 2013 season – is still very much up in the air, meaning he is dealing with a foot injury and the Jets’ quarterback situation. Geno Smith could potentially help salvage his stock in 2014, but the upside isn’t worth the trouble in dynasty.

Washington probably does not have much of a long-term future in Tennessee after the Titans spent a second-round pick on Hunter this April, but he should be able to hold off the rookie for at least one year given the team’s edict to win now. After a career year in 2011, he came back down to his usual 40-catch ways in 2012 – which probably serves as a good baseline in terms of what to expect from him over the next 1-2 years. LaFell is the WR2 in Carolina for now, but his inability to take a firm hold of the job probably means he can (and will) be replaced sooner than later. Still, in a faster-paced Panthers offense this season, he could push 50 catches. Marvin Jones is a competition with Sanu for the WR2 slot in Cincinnati, but it is a battle the Bengals want Sanu to win. As a result, the most his fans can ask for in the short-term is that he plays well enough in the preseason to share snaps with his 2012 draft classmate.

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Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and appeared in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in 2010 and 2011. He hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday this past season. Doug regularly appears as a fantasy football analyst on Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive” and for 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C). He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.