Now that Ive done a few drafts and were heading into the big draft weekend, its time to solidify some rankings and clarify some thoughts. As always, I'm not just going to give the order, I'm going to give some rationale so you can change things where you disagree. I'll start with receivers since it is the simplest and most obvious.
I said in February that there were a big 7/9 and I still completely agree. My order of the 9 has changed however. These nine guys are still as safe as fantasy picks get.
While I believe the margin between 1 and 3 is razor thin, I think Andre Johnson(1) is the clear number one. He, along with Calvin Johnson(2), has proven he can put up numbers with any quarterback and in any situation. I see a big year for the the Houston offense. There will not only be more Texan touchdowns to go around, but Kevin Walter will be pulling in less. The Lions terrible team status actually helps Calvin Johnson, who has proven to be the garbageman; noone is better at grabbing 60 yard touchdowns late in the game and trailing by 20 points. Larry Fitzgerald(3) is right on their tale, but I'm slightly worried by the fact that he put up his biggest numbers with a healthy Warner and an injured Boldin. Take away either of those factors and I believe he slides to three.
My fourth pick is the extremely safe Reggie Wayne(4). The Colts will bounce back due to (a) the laws of nature and (b) an easy schedule. Wayne should be the prime beneficiary and I would not be surprised if he put the most points on the board of any receiver. Remember you're drafting fore surety at the top, the rest of these guys have a few concerns.
Roddy White(5) has risen the most since February. Part of this is the decline in my mind of the Atlanta Falcons. They will be behind more this year than last. They'll be throwing more. They won't be able to pound it until Turner can run it on the goal line as much. They will be tossing bombs from the 30 to White.
When i say I'd pick Randy Moss(6) as the sixth receiver, I mean I'd pick him and then trade him, because I'd never have a Patriot on my fantasy team. I can be objective about where they rank, I just can't start them and be forced to root for their success. In one league this year, I drafted Fred Taylor just so I can trade him when he is affirmed as the starter. In any case, most people are very high on Moss, but I worry because, he tanked without Brady, and a receiver that is tied to any qbs health is a bit too much risk for me. Even with Brady, I doubt the Pats run up the score like they did in 2007, so he won't be catching bombs when they are up 20 to replicate the 07 numbers.
Steve Smith(7) was 5th among receivers last year. Is there any reason to doubt he won't put up the same numbers? His quarterback is the same. His schedule is mercifully harder, which factors the same way it does for White. He doesn't quite have the upside of the guys above him, and his shoulder is a slight concern. He will still do the business.
Eighth is a bit of a slip from Greg Jennings'(8) last year finish but there a few concerns, and I believe he ends with more yards and fewer TDs. I think Rodgers will spread it out a bit more, giving more touchdowns to Driver and the tight ends and slot guys. Most importantly, a few more of those Packer touchdowns should fall to Ryan Grant, who is being vastly underdrafted.
Finally, Anquan Boldin(9) brings up the rear because of his injury risk. However, I think this risk has been overstated and I believe he actually ends up higher than this. I'm just not confident enough to draft him higher than any of those eight. He is a bit more risk/reward than the others. The best receiver in the league before he got injured, he is being underdrafted and should be
taken immediately after Jennings.
The second tier should be looked at in around the third round. For the rookie, I mean that when you are picking 23rd and none of the above is left, you probably shouldn't take the tenth guy. It is probably time to address another position. This next group is full of safe choices. They primarily lack the upside of the top group but even in the third, you are better of with one of these guys than a risky running back.
My rankings haven't shifted too much since February, so I may repeat myself a little.
Marques Colston(10) is the only Saints receiver I have faith in. surprisingly, the numbers Lance Moore put up last year are being entirely ignored by this years fantasy owners, he may actually be a good sleeper on a team I have high expectations for. Brees will throw 40 touchdowns, some of them have to go elsewhere. I'm also not worried by the recent concerns about Dwayne Bowe(11). He had inconsistent qbs last year, his situation can only get better. These two are going right where they should in drafts.
Someone who I like just as much is going much lower. Vincent Jackson(12) is routinely drafted in the 50s. He is mister consistent, and the Chargers are going to put up points this year. You might consider waiting and taking him in the fourth, which is still more than safe to get him, as his value is considerably more than that. He was 12th last year, He'll be at least as high on an improved Charger team. The margin between Jackson and Colston is slim, but I think you can wait on him and get two of these three. This is especially handy if you missed the top tier by taking an elite qb.
TJ Houshmanzadeh(13) has given cause for concern recently, due to some injuries on the Seahawk offensive line. I think he still slots in here, though closer to the guys below him than the guys above. I've soured slightly on Terrell Owens(14); age is a tough nut to crack. Bernard Berrian(15) doesn't move too much from the Favre signing. He is just as dependable as ever. he gains a little upside but not enough to push to the next group.
Why is Antonio Bryant(16) slipping so much? Sure the Bucs qb situation is uncertain but it isn't as if it was stellar last year. After fifteen, there is a lot less safety at wr. I'd take the guy who put up numbers last year. Right after that I'd take the guy, Wes Welker(17) who is dependent on a quarterback that already had an injury scare.
Desean Jackson(18) is the biggest riser on my board. The Eagles could spread it around but I think the second year wideout makes the leap. Were in the period where some of these guys have the capability to finish in the top 5 but are a risk. Ideal third receivers, if you have a top tier guy and a consistent number 2. At this point I consider Brandon Marshall(18) and Chad Johnson(19). Marshall is the trickiest pick because at the moment, its possible he doesn't play at all. Ochocinco, looks good and could return to his previous form.
A more consistent option would be Hines Ward(20) or Donald Driver(21) who have shown no real reason to believe that their production drops off this year. Nothing fancy about them, just guys that should produce at near last years level.
The receiver I always end up with on my bench is Devin Hester(22). Sadly his stock has been rising as my original assumption that he would be great with Cutler has been proven correct in the preseason. I've been waiting on him and grabbing in much later rounds, but this is my impression of his value. Gonna be a big year.
Eddie Royal(23) has shown in the preseason that he has a place in the Orton office, which I doubted this offseason. He is worth a shot at this point, as is Roy Williams(24) who could take TOs looks this year. But realistically I'm not going to end up with any of these guys, because they are drafted too soon and are never a good value. I'm not even going to assign a number to Braylon Edwards(I guess it'd be 40 something) because there's no way he lasts to a point where he should be considered.
You should have your three receivers at this point but if not there is still relative safety in Lee Evans, Kevin Walter, Anthony Gonzalez or Jerricho Cotchery. Those guys would be a fine solid number three as long as you match them with a risk/reward 4 like Santonio Holmes. After that its just picking your sleepers, and working the wavier wire.