Thursday, August 1, 2013

2013 Wide Receiver Tiers

The injuries are just starting. First it was Michael Crabtree tearing his Achilles in May. Now Percy Harvin is out an estimated 12-16 weeks because of hip surgery. That means as long as you haven't drafted already, Harvin will likely go in the last couple rounds or undrafted. And if you did draft him already, well, sucks to be you. *Update: Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander suffered season ending injuries as well.

Like the quarterback class, we have a very deep wide receiver pool. Players like former top five wide receiver Greg Jennings, number one wideout in San Francisco Anquan Boldin, emerging T.Y. Hilton, Torrey Smith, and Miles Austin can all be drafted in the 25-35 range. That's value.

You know what these receiver are like? The book Holes. In that book there's a lot of holes. Go figure. And they're deep. Just like there are a lot of receivers that make for a deep class. Yeah, that was a stretch. I'm sorry.

Well, to save my credibility after that awful analogy, I would like to let you all know that I am now engaged. And the best part of this? She is going to play in her first fantasy football league this year. Maybe that's not the best result of the engagement but it's pretty high up there. That and the prospect of marrying my best friend. Yeah, there's that.

So anyways, get on your horse. Here are your 2013 wide receiver tiers.

Tier 1: The Mega(Tron) Elite
1. Calvin Johnson (ADP 8.7)

Why does he have a tier of his own? It probably has something to do with the fact that he only caught five touchdowns but still led his position in fantasy points. Or it could be that he broke the single-season yards receiving mark previously held by legendary Jerry Rice. Or maybe it could be that he was targeted an NFL-high 205 times. Or it could be that he was tackled at the one-yard line five times yet still had the most points. Or maybe it's that he remains the only receiver worthy of a first round pick. As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why he has a tier of his own. I just wanted to name a few.

Who I want the most: Is this a trick question? Well actually, I do not plan on ever taking Calvin Johnson in any leagues this year. Nor did I take him in any leagues last year. With the wide receiver depth and lack of running backs this year, it is imperative to take running backs early. The only spot I would consider Calvin is with the snake picks 10 and 11 since I'll for sure get a top ten running back. But essentially, that will leave you with a Darren McFadden or Montee Ball as your number two. Risky, but with Johnson, it could still be worth it.

Tier 2: The Elite
2. A.J. Green (ADP 14.8)
3. Brandon Marshall (ADP 21.3)
4. Dez Bryant (ADP 17.8)

These guys are studs. Green has averaged 9 touchdowns and 1,200 yards in first two seasons. Marshall seems to be the only guy catching passes from Cutler and has caught over 100 passes in four of his seven seasons (and two others with over 80). And Bryant has 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Not too shabby of elites, eh?

Who I want the most: Brandon Marshall. You already know he is going to get somewhere around a floppity-bajillion targets. The chance to get him late second round or early third is a bargain. And he's the perfect pick for the Adrian Peterson owners. You'll get AP number one and then odds are on the next snake pick you can have Marshall and another choice of your own.

Tier 3: The Clear Number Ones
5. Julio Jones (ADP 21.6)
6. Roddy White (ADP 30.1)
7*. Percy Harvin (ADP 35.1, if he was not hurt)
7. Demaryius Thomas (ADP 25.9)

I might as well have thrown Wes Welker and Eric Decker in here and you'd have the Falcons and Broncos wideouts. Julio just edged out White last year by four points and that should only increase from here on out. While White and even Tony Gonzalez will still get plenty of looks, Jones is the now and future of the Falcons passing attack. He continues to amaze in camp and still had the best warm-up catch I've ever seen. And Thomas finally emerged once the chains of Tim Tebow broke away. But unlike the duo of White and Jones, the trio of Thomas, Welker, and Decker may bring some trouble. Last year's slot receiver Brandon Stokley receiver marginal targets and Welker is sure to receive more than that. But I'm not too worried as Thomas will still be the big-play and favorite target of Manning.

Who I want the most: Roddy White. But what about Julio Jones you say? He is simply incredible. He had double digit touchdowns and was 11th in receiving yards last year to build off a solid rookie campaign. He will only get better as time comes. But fantasy football is about minimizing your risk. I'll take White because I believe him to be the safer option that you can get nine picks later.

Tier 4: The Veteran Number Ones
8. Larry Fitzgerald (ADP 35.2)
9. Vincent Jackson (ADP 34.4)
10. Andre Johnson (ADP 31.2)

Fitzgerald, a perennial top 10 option was rendered useless by Moe, Larry, and Curly. Sorry, I mean Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, and Ryan Lindley. Wait wasn't there a fourth stooge at one point? Oh right, you can't forget Brian Hoyer. With a proven, decent quarterback in Carson Palmer coming to town, I expect Fitzgerald to return to his top 10 status. And Vincent Jackson, who continually underachieved in San Diego, finally broke through in Tampa Bay and is looking for another big season. Meanwhile, Johnson finally put together a completely healthy season for the first time since 2009. And even though he finished seventh among wide receivers, he was pretty inconsistent with a 33 point effort skewing his stat-line.

Who I want the most: Give me Fitzgerald and it is not even close. Johnson is on my seasonal avoid list because of injuries concerns and the run-happy Texans. And Jackson still has to catch more than 72 passes in a season, a sign that he still is not quite ready to stick with the big boys. I'll take the relatively safe in every league given the choice of these three.

Tier 5: High End Number Twos
11. Randall Cobb (ADP 36.3)
12. Victor Cruz (ADP 38.3)
13. Wes Welker (ADP 37.0)
14. Marques Colston (ADP 48.2)

Cobb emerged last season while Cruz stayed steady after his phenomenal breakthrough season. Welker and Colston remain solid and consistent options. Cobb has become Aaron Rodger's favorite target and is primed for a 100 catch season. Colston, while not spectacular, has averaged about 1,100 yards and 8.5 touchdowns over the last four seasons. And Welker joins the Broncos to form the best trio of wideouts in the game. But the odds of Welker seeing 174 targets again are slim and a drop-off would not be surprising.

Who I want the most: Randall Cobb. He has earned the complete trust of the best quarterback in the NFL and is entering the magic number year three. I really do expect close to 100 catches and a true breakout season from Cobb.

Tier 6: Solid Twos
15. Jordy Nelson (ADP 48.5)
16. Danny Amendola (ADP 53.3)
17. Reggie Wayne (ADP47.4)
18. Dwayne Bowe (ADP 61.1)
19. Mike Wallace (ADP 50.5)

Nelson was injured throughout last season and disappointed after his remarkable 2011 season. Amendola has played just 12 games in the past two seasons. Yet he could very well be a slightly-less-good version of Wes Welker. Bowe has suffered from terrible quarterback play his career and Mike Wallace enters a whole new situation in Miami. The one consistent man here is Reggie Wayne. People counted him out last year but I did not. He probably won't repeat last season, but he sure won't be drafted outside the top twenty anymore.

Who I want the most: Reggie Wayne. He has by far the least amount of question marks here. He will still be Andrew Luck's favorite and most reliable option for at least one more season. Wayne is not done yet.

Tier 7: The Last of the Number Twos
20. Antonio Brown (ADP 68.9)
21. Steve Smith (ADP 61.9)
22. Hakeem Nicks (ADP 59.3)
23. Torrey Smith (ADP 71.0)
24. Eric Decker (ADP 61.8)

Like Demaryius Thomas, Decker broke out last season. And as a thank you, he gets Wes Welker to steal plenty of his targets. Nicks struggled immensely with a nagging hamstring but still flashed his potential. Smith stuck around the top 20 and Torrey Smith just missed out. Brown largely disappointed as he received plenty of targets but also missed three games.

Who I want the most: Torrey Smith but Antonio Brown comes in a close second. With Wallace gone and a healthy body, I think Brown will finally become what Mike Wallace was not: a complete receiver. Two seasons ago, Brown outplayed Wallace in the second half and has the hands and speed to be a reliable option. But Smith is just too great of value here and with Joe Flacco riding on his high, Smith will benefit. Losing Anquan Boldin will also help as Smith Flacco's unquestioned favorite.

Tier 8: Depth
25. DeSean Jackson (ADP 77.4)
26. Pierre Garcon (ADP 71.6)
27. T.Y. Hilton (ADP 93.4)
28. Cecil Shorts (ADP 80.1)
29. James Jones (ADP 74.4)
30. Greg Jennings (ADP 79.4)

This is where the value comes in. You have last year's receiving touchdown leader, a former top five receiver, a very underrated burner in Indianapolis, and playmakers in Garcon, Jackson, and Shorts. I really would be happy with any of these guys although Jennings probably has the lowest ceiling with Christian Ponder as his quarterback. With Jeremy Maclin out, Jackson may finally bounce back and put up 2010 numbers. And if Garcon is healthy, look no further than what he did in week one last year to see what he can do now.

Who I want the most: Jackson, then Garcon, Hilton Shorts, Jones, Jennings. This tier is loaded with depth that I want. And I want it bad. Each of these guys could easily crack the top 20, if not the top 15. But Jackson possesses the highest potential in Chip Kelly's new offense and the best past (besides Jennings) here.

Tier 9: Depth Round Two
31. Anquan Boldin (ADP 80.1)
32. Steve Johnson (ADP 88.2)
33. Tavon Austin (ADP 77.7)
34. Mike Williams (ADP 97.7)
35. Danario Alexander (ADP 95.6) *Update: out for season.
36. Miles Austin (ADP 93.8)

We makin' it rain free depth here. High upside Tavon Austin is here while veterans Boldin, Johnson, Williams, and Miles Austin can all contribute. These guys could be low-end number two options but make great third receiver or flex options.

Who I want the most: Steve Johnson. He's been over 1,000 yards the past three seasons now but has a bit of a quarterback situation. Questioned first round pick E.J. Manuel is there or three-game-stud Kevin Kolb. No matter which starts, I expect Johnson to be the favorite target and to put up average numbers. Playing more out of the slot this year will help his consistency.

Tier 10: Marginal Upside
37. Josh Gordon (ADP 125.2)
38. Emmanuel Sanders (ADP 117.3)
39. Kenny Britt (ADP 112.2)
40. Sidney Rice (ADP 109.5)
41. Lance Moore (ADP 108.5)
42. Denarius Moore (ADP 121.0)
43. Chris Givens (ADP 124.3)

Gordon has upside. So does Sanders. Britt did have upside. Rice did when Brett Favre was around. Lance Moore is about as consistently mediocre you can get. Denarius Moore dipped from 14.3 to 9.3 yards per catch last year. And Givens is nothing flashy unless Bradford breaks out of mediocrity.

Who I want the most: Josh Gordon. He put up surprisingly solid numbers last year. The former supplemental draft pick is suspended for two games but could put up even better numbers in the Browns new vertical offense. He does have legitimate potential to be in the top 20 although that would be a bit of a stretch.

Tier 11: Rounding Out the Top 50
44. DeAndre Hopkins (ADP 132.7)
45. Michael Floyd (ADP 136.8)
46. Jacoby Jones (ADP 143.1)
47. Brian Hartline (ADP 145.3)
48. Justin Blackmon (ADP 147.4)
49. Greg Little (ADP 155.1)
50. Alshon Jeffery (ADP 139.9)

Hopkins and Floyd are the best sleepers here. But Little and Jeffery could emerge this season as well. Hartline and Jones will be hit or miss and Blackmon still has either Chad Henne or *gulp*, Blaine Gabbert throwing to him.

Who I want the most: Michael Floyd. He exploded in week 17 last season against San Francisco and now has Carson Palmer to throw to him.

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