His 1,569 receiving yards last year were 200-plus above the league runner-up in his second straight 1,500-yard season. Given his role in the offense and that kind of elite consistency, he's head-and-shoulders above the rest.
Austin and Moss are incredible talents who are catching passes from primo quarterbacks. Not so for Johnson when it comes to his QB, Matthew Stafford. Still, he's got an unlimited ceiling and will be featured in an offense that figures to be much improved, with a young quarterback who can get him the ball. The addition of Nate Burleson at the other wideout should blunt some of those triple coverages.
Fitz drops a little this year because he doesn't have a good QB to throw to him, and the Cardinals are going to be run-first. Jackson could be the next elite WR, and he's in a pass-happy offense. Wayne barely makes this tier because he's getting up there in age and because the Colts have so many other pass targets, especially with Anthony Gonzalez back and looking good.
Don't sleep on Jennings, who is still a major red-zone target and talent -- in an elite offense -- despite a subpar 2009. White, Boldin and Marshall are also gifted receivers, albeit in offenses where the ground game is prominent.
Steve Smith North
We may be sliding out of WR1 territory with this bunch, but there's still much talent here. Colston is still a guy to target, even factoring in the possible Super Bowl hangover and the fact that the Saints have so many passing options, including two in the backfield. Smith and Eli Manning are developing quite a feel for each other. Crabtree is a little bit of a surprise this high, but I see him coming on like gangbusters now that he'll be in the offense for a full season. And as for the Bengals WR (the name his parents gave him is good enough for me), the addition of Terrell Owens just might cool off those double and triple teams.
Steve Smith South
Harvin figures to benefit the most by the injury to Sidney Rice. The migraines are definitely a concern, but they can disappear and quickly as they come on. He's as explosive in the open field as any player in the NFL, and the Vikings need him desperately now. Smith and his new QB look comfortable together, but the huge yardage days for him are more infrequent now and that's clearly a run-dominated offense, with no other strong WR to take the heat off him. I really like Bowe this year; he seems to have matured, and KC will have to throw a lot late. Floyd is the Chargers' clear No. 1 WR now, looks good hooking up with Rivers, has nice size, and they seem to have a very easy schedule. Sims-Walker is sneaky-good for a team that will have to throw
You can get some great bargains here. Garcon has shown he can easily become the next Reggie Wayne. Only problem is, he's competing with a lot of other talented targets on his own team. Jackson is obviously hard to rank, but grab him if you can get him late or cheap. Latest word is that a trade could be hammered out in the very near future. Some NFL team with no common sense will always take a chance on a me-first guy. Williams is a stud waiting to happen; don't let the TB after his name deter you. Lightning-fast Knox is a sleeper as the best Bears wideout, and he has a strong-armed QB to throw to him. However, his big games will be hard to predict because of the probable inconsistency of the Chicago passing game.
Lots of sneaky value here via guys who aren't their team's No. 1 receivers but who can benefit from double coverage elsewhere, and strong match-ups. (Get to know the DB talent level throughout the NFL; it's crucial for weekly lineup decisions.) Welker says he doesn't feel right in his rush return from his ACL, but if he can stay on the field he's a prolific guy. Maclin and Wallace are emerging stars. Beware of Driver falling off the usefulness cliff; he's 35 now.
We're now officially in iffy territory. Loving Jones as a sleeper. Britt is a great talent, but the knucklehead factor is holding him back -- a lot. Breaston could benefit from all of the attention on Fitzgerald, but that QB situation is dreadful.
Berrian has had a crummy preseason. He figures to benefit from Sidney Rice's injury but has a history of inconsistency. Good luck picking the one, maybe two, weeks that he goes off. Someone has to catch passes for the Browns, who'll be behind all season. Massaquoi has good hands and upside.
Kyle Orton says he'll get the ball to Royal much more this year. If he means it, that's a great sleeper pick. Robinson is the clear No. 1 in St. Louis; same for Murphy in Oakland, although Zach Miller will probably lead the Raiders in catches. If you're up for rooting for a guy like Owens -- whose game-by-game totals have been extremely inconsistent for at least a couple years now -- be my guest. The most consistent thing he's done lately is weekly yardage totals in the 30s. You can look it up. As for the rest, if you can make a strong case for why they're sleepers, I'd be glad to hear it.
Rice is out until at least November. Keep an eye on him, but don't muck up your bench with him for now. Gage is technically the Titans' No. 1 wideout, but his inconsistency makes him a poor option. McCluster gives you eligibility at RB as well, at least on Yahoo, and has the kind of upside that isn't bad at the end of your bench. The inconsistent Henderson will do what he always does: He'll go off for two or three weeks (either spread out or consecutive), you'll pick him up, wonder if you're chasing last week's stats -- and you'll be right about that 100 percent of the time.
Lots of names here. If there's anyone you think should be on the list, set us straight.
Friday, September 3, 2010