Keenan Allen, Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffery, and T.Y. Hilton are just several players to emerge into an already stacked class of receivers. Let’s take a look at the top 20 for next season.
1. Calvin Johnson: Consistently dominant the past 4 years despite seeing double and even triple teams and has shown no signs of slowing down.
2. Josh Gordon: High risk, extremely high reward. Anyone who managed to grab this kid last year probably got him off waivers or in the later rounds and benefited immensely. He is known as a deep threat, but he tore up defenses on slants, crosses and screens, and to top it all off, designed run plays. Simply put, he is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. He put up 1,646 yards and 9 touchdowns despite missing the first 2 games of the year, and having a carousel of Weeden and Campell under center. The quarterback situation for next season remains to be seen. Regardless, his ADP will likely be all over the place due to a number of reasons including the threat of suspension in the event of another failed drug test, but it would not be at all surprising if he ends up being the #1 fantasy receiver if he doesn’t succumb to the devil’s lettuce.
3. Demaryius Thomas: The perfect blend of size and speed makes him an elite receiver, and Manning ensures that he is top 3 fantasy-wise. The Broncos like to run plenty of screens for him, where he is capable of breaking off for huge plays. He is entering the prime of his career and is expected to have another great year.
4. AJ Green: Game in and game out, one of the most consistent receivers in the league. Dalton loves to throw his way, as Green had the 3rd most targets in the league. He put up 1,426 yards and 11 TD’s and there is no reason to think he can’t do it again next season.
5. Dez Bryant: Another 1,000+ yard and double digit touchdown season under his belt. Despite having success at their run game, Dallas tends to move away from it for whatever reason and get pass happy. With the hire of former Lions playcaller Scott Linehan, Bryant can only stand to benefit as history shows us that Linehan likes to run a pass-heavy offense, as he did with the Lions.
6. Brandon Marshall: The emergence of Alshon Jeffery did not stop Marshall from putting in a top 5 fantasy performance for 2013. In games that Cutler started, Marshall gathered 884 yards and 10 touchdowns compared to Jefferey’s 903 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cutler still greatly favors Marshall in the endzone and Jeffery may alleviate defensive pressure on him.
7. Antonio Brown: The most unappreciated fantasy receiver in the league, he nearly outscored the likes of Brandon Marshall and AJ Green. Many doubted his ability to succeed as the #1 receiver for the Steelers, but he came through in a big way. He finished with 1,499 yards and 8 touchdowns, and really turned it on towards the 2nd half of the year. He is also especially valuable in PPR, pulling in 110 receptions, 2 shy of tying Hines Ward’s single season record.
8. Julio Jones: Would have likely finished as a top 3 fantasy receiver if he hadn’t gotten injured. Through 5 weeks, he had 580 yards and 2 touchdowns. He will likely climb a few spots depending on how his injury progresses and if he is 100% by season opener. Many may be reluctant to draft him due to his history of injury, so he could potentially be a steal.
9. Randall Cobb: Was off to a terrific start until he broke his fibula in week 6 and missed all but the final game of the regular season, where he made an incredible 48 yard touchdown catch on 4th and 8 to win the NFC North. Before going down, he was Rodger’s favorite target, leading the team in targets and receptions. “I’m going to let this pain that I feel right now fuel me to come back stronger and better next season.” Barring any setbacks, expect him to be 100% ready by the season opener.
10. Keenan Allen: The rookie out of Cal quickly became River’s favorite target mid-way through the season, amassing 1,046 yards and 8 touchdowns. He will be the Charger’s #1 receiver next year with a revitalized Rivers, and presents tremendous upside.
11. Jordy Nelson: His production suffered greatly once Rodgers went down with injury. In the 8 full games with him, Nelson put up 810 yards and 7 touchdowns. He would have easily eclipsed double digit touchdowns. The return of Rodgers will restore Nelson’s lofty fantasy value for next season.
12. Desean Jackson: Desean flourished under Chip Kelly’s offense, having the best statistical year of his career (1,332 yards and 9 touchdowns), one year removed from his worst year (700 yards and 2 touchdowns). He is poised for another big year as the offense gets more settled in and the improved Nick Foles continues to start. Additionally, having arguably the best running back in the league forces the defense to respect the run, further opening up the pass game.
13. Pierre Garcon: Wasn’t the same big play threat that he was in 2012 but still put in a solid year despite RGIII’s struggles throughout the year and wasn’t at all bothered by the foot issue that once plagued him. Consider him a high WR2 with big upside, as the Redskins offense hopes to get back on track.
14. Alshon Jeffery: Enjoyed a huge breakout year and will be a stud for years to come. He is a big play receiver, who made some ridiculous grabs last season. Despite sharing the field with Marshall, he is a high-end WR2 with upside.
15. Vincent Jackson: Game to game production is the epitome of feast or famine, but season to season has put up solid numbers for the past 3 years. If Glennon continues to improve, expect another great season.
16. Andre Johnson: Lack of touchdowns keep him from being an elite fantasy receiver, but he compensates with great yardage totals. He will turn 33 this summer, but he is still capable of big games as the Texans still rely heavily on him in the passing game. With the Texans quarterback situation up in the air, Andre’s value is subject to change. Stay tuned.
17. Michael Crabtree: An achilles injury put a screeching halt to his 2013 season, and was expected to have a big year to followup his 2012 campaign. He returned towards the end of the season and wasted no time in filling up the stat sheet, hauling in a 60 yard bomb his first game back. Expect a productive season as he looks to get back on track.
18. Eric Decker: Denver expects Decker to test free agency this summer. His value is entirely determined on what team he lands on. If he resigns with Denver, then we can expect another great year from him.
19. Larry Fitzgerald: The addition of Bruce Arian’s offense and Carson Palmer gave Fitz a boost in stats compared to the previous season. Though he finished with double digit touchdowns, he failed to reach 1,000 yards. He is widely considered to be one of the most talented wideouts in the league, but his situation buts a damper on his fantasy relevance.
20. Victor Cruz: Anyone who drafted Cruz last season, likely expected WR1 numbers, but was left sorely disappointed. 3 of his 4 touchdowns of the year came in one game and he finished the year with just under 1,000 yards. The Giants passing offense was sloppy at best the entire year. With a new OC in town that wants to run a more “up-tempo” offense, look for the Giants offense to bounce back, and Cruz can be had for great value.