1. Andre Johnson-Texans WR1-Average Pick 7(1)
Andre Johnson is in a class by himself among receivers this year. Typically, one receiver goes into the year with a bulk of hype and gets drafted way too soon. For example, Larry Fitzgerald was taken in the top six or seven picks last year, even though you could get someone of his tier in the late second. This year is the exception. AJ is the reigning points leader, and is situation has improved. The running game in Houston can only improve. Less drives killed by second and 12 means more points for Johnson. As part of an improved offense that is already one of the best in the league, Johnson's value is unprecedented among receivers. After the first tier of backs, there is absolutely nothing wrong with picking Andre Johnson.
Receivers are traditionally less risky than backs. Moreover, there are fewer good receivers this year than usual. The top wideouts are pretty obvious and you can't do wrong with any of them. The first tier is separated by thin margins and all of them are solid choice with small chance of disappointing you. I'd start looking at them in the mid-second. A very nice strategy, if you end up with a high pick, is to take two of these guys in the second and third rounds. With all the running backs available in the fourth and fifth, a foundation of Ray Rice, Miles Austin and Greg Jennings looks mighty fine. Low risk, and plenty of reward.
2. Miles Austin-Cowboys WR1-Average Pick 23(8)
Established number one option on a good offense that can go deep. Absolutely no reason to expect Austin to fail to repeat his last-year success.
3. Brandon Marshall-Dolphins WR1-Average Pick 19(5)
Some people are worried about Marshall's transition to Miami, but here's the thing. He is going to a better offense. He is going to a team that can run the ball and keep drives alive. If he can light up with Kyle Orton, he can put up numbers with Chad Henne.
4. Reggie Wayne- Colts WR1-Average Pick 16(4)
Number one target for Peyton Manning. As long as Wayne is on the field, he will score points. The floor is set high here.
5. Larry Fitzgerald-Cardinals WR1-Average Pick 14(3)
Still one of the top three talents, and as I've always said, top receivers get numbers in bad situations. But without Warner, I can't pick him ahead of guys with more secure situations. UPDATE: Moving down with injury news, Jennings and White definitively ahead of him now.
6. Greg Jennings-Packers WR1-Average Pick 28(10)
I'm coming in high here but I think Jennings' value merits it. He will be the top target for the top offense. Two years ago he was a surprise(sorta) fantasy star. Last year reality sunk in a bit and Driver grabbed a larger share of the touchdowns. This year Jennings becomes the receiver he really is and establishes himself as a perennial top fantasy pick.
7. Roddy White-Falcons WR1-Average Pick 22(7)
Got it done last year, he will do it again. Unless something changes, pick him here next year and the year after as well.
8. Desean Jackson-Eagles WR1-Average Pick 26(9)
Suffers a a qb change, but we saw him in action with Kolb last year and I have to say I liked what I saw. A deep threat that can produce 6 at any time, DJax is going to get numbers.
9. Vincent Jackson-Chargers WR1-Average Pick 58(20)
A special case because he is missing three games. His overall numbers will of curse suffer but beyond that, Jackson will produce. When drafting him, remember, he is going to be there during the fantasy playoffs, when it matters. If you think you can get through the first few weeks and still make the playoffs, then go ahead and take him.
Tier 2 guys have the opportunity to produce at the level of the first tier receivers. There are just some lingering questions, and they are much less of a sure thing.
10. Randy Moss-Patriots WR1-Average Pick 11(2)
While possessing the ability to finish top 5, I don't trust Moss in the event that the season turns downhill for the Patriots. A documented history of zero-effort season combined with advancing age makes me shy away from Moss well past the point where I could possibly draft him.
11. Calvin Johnson-Lions WR1-Average Pick 21(6)
The downside for CJ is what we saw last season. But with more experience at the qb position, the Lions should be good enough for Calvin to get his numbers. Stafford season 2 should produce at least well as previous Lions signal callers who allowed Calvin to be a fantasy force.
12. Sydney Rice-Vikings WR1-Average Pick 49(16)
Rice may be taken down by a failing Viking offense. There will be fewer touchdown catches overall and Rice should suffer. He does not yet have the track record that gives me faith he can still score during a team slump. UPDATE: Rice is actually a value now that he is dropping due to Favre retirement rumors.
13. Marques Colston-Saints WR1-Average Pick 21(11)
A bit of an oddball in this mix, with a lower ceiling and higher floor. He is a risk primarily because of how much the Saints spread it around. Still he is the only Saint I trust at all to get his share, and on a great offense, points will go to WR1.
The tier is split because the last three have just a few more questions. In the end, they makeup the last group of wideouts that I feel comfortable with. These guys could regain their form but I'm not banking on it. While I'd rather take one of them than someone without a proven track record. All the more reason to get two top tier guys and use picks in this range on running backs. There are enough prospects in the later rounds that you can draft three guys with potential to be a third wr.
14. Steve Smith-Carolina WR 1-Average Pick 33(12)
The issue with Smith is that he did not produce last year and he is on the wrong side of 30. On the bright side, he played much better with Moore than with Delhomme. With Moore at the helm for the whole year, Smith could be alright.
15. Anquan Boldin-Ravens WR1-Average Pick 36(13)
Like Smith, Boldin has been disappointing owners recently. He also has struggled to stay healthy and is joining a new team with a qb that may not mesh with his style. Still, he has all the talent necessary for a big year and will welcome a running game that take the pressure off the receivers.
16. Chad Ochocinco-Bengals WR1-Average Pick 41(14)
Actually did alright last year and is part of a team that should still be decent. I don't think TO makes much of an impact but I worry about his ability to put up huge numbers. Why is he part of this tier? Because I have no doubt he puts up decent second-third receiver numbers.
From here on out, you are looking at unproven or declining players. If you didn't get two of the above receivers, you did something wrong. More than likely, you are looking for one more starter. The best solution is take two or three that have potential.
17. Michael Crabtree-49ers WR1-Average Pick 51(16)
Despite an inordinate amount of hype, Crabtree has never really done anything. He played decently at the end of the year, but not number 2 fantasy receiver good. To think he is more than a risk/reward pick is foolish. But, as I'm high on Alex Smith, and high on the Niners, he is my favorite risk/reward pick.
18. Santana Moss-Redskins WR1-Average Pick 78(28)
After one of the most up and down careers we have ever seen, Moss remains a fantasy enigma. He has practically always provided feat or famine, alternating 200-yard games with 2-catch stinkers. However, he enters 2010 with the best quarterback he has ever had and personally I think their styles will work well together. McNabb excels at the deep ball and Moss catches nothing but.
19. Donald Driver-Packers WR2-Average Pick 64(23)
The risk with Driver is that the wheels fall off. He isn't getting older and last year could have been a final hurrah. But he is worth a risk because, he put up numbers last year and is part of an offense with serious power. Even as the number two, there may be enough touchdowns going around to make Driver an every-week starter.
20. Mike Sims-Walker-Jaguars WR1-Average Pick 50(17)
MSW is, as Mrs. Larusso would call it, up-and-coming. He put up some big numbers last year, amidst overall inconsistency. He has a chance to establish himself as a bonafide starter as the only legitimate option on a struggling offense.
21. TJ Houshmandzadeh-Seahawks WR1-Average Pick 80(29)
The risk is a repeat of last year, stuck on an offense that failed to move the ball or put up touchdowns. He remains a talented receiver who has done it before and if the Seahawks can improve a little, Housh may prove a starter once again. In reality, it probably cannot be worse than last year, and TJ still had decent yardage.
22. Steve Smith-Giants WR1-Average Pick 42(15)
Although Smith put up high yardage last year, there are some doubts about his ability to repeat. Many are high on Nicks, and while I have doubts about him as well, his presence is enough to cause concern. Moreover, one year is not enough of a history to consider Smith a proven commodity. The upside is, obviously, that he puts up another 1,200 yards.
23. Pierre Garcon-Colts WR2-Average Pick 70(24)
Like the Packers, the Colts have a good enough offense to support two receivers. And like the Packers, I think the number two option for the Colts is set in stone. Anthony Gonzalez may challenge Austin Collie for the third spot, but Garcon is a lock to be opposite Reggie Wayne. There is also a chance, and here is the upside, that Garcon becomes Wayne to Wayne's Harrison.
Aversion Tier-Highly rated receivers to avoid
Percy Harvin-Vikings WR2-Average Pick 92(32)
With the dip in Viking production, Harvin is the casualty in terms of fantasy relevance. No longer a team that can support gimmicky utility men.
Robert Meacham-Saints WR-Average Pick 90(31)
I absolutely don't trust any Saints besides Colston. IN the past, I've championed Meacham as a deep sleeper because of his ability to get deep and place on a top offense, but as mid-round pick, he is far too much of a gamble.
Hines Ward-Steelers WR1 and Mike Wallace-Steelers WR2-Picks 58(19) and 80(27)
If one of these two were “the guy” I might be willing to take them. That uncertainty, combined with Ward's age and Wallace's unproven record makes me shy away. And also, there is that Big Ben suspension.
Guys that will put up decent numbers but with little chance to put big numbers. You aren't looking for steady, dependable bench guys. You want guys with a chance to start. While most of these players will put up an occasional big game, you won't be able to predict it.
Dwayne Bowe-Chiefs WR1-59(20)
Wes Welker-Patriots WR2-61(22)
Braylon Edwards-Jets WR3-88(30)
Dez Bryant-Cowboys WR2-91(31)
Steve Breaston-Cardinals WR2-97(35)
Lee Evans-Bills WR1-105(37)
Jerricho Cotchery-Jets WR2-126(39)
Derrick Mason-Ravens WR2-127(40)
Devery Henderson-Saints WR-138(47)
Austin Collie-Colts WR3-141(48)
So who do you pick once those first 23 are gone? Well, luckily you have three of them already. That isn't too difficult as several of them are being draft much lower than 23. But once they are gone, you are looking for sleepers that could turn into a starter.
Devin Aromashadu (136(45)) and Johnnie Knox(107(38))-Bears WR1 and WR2The Bears will be back and one of these two will break out. Which is still up in the air. Aromashadu put up some highlights at the end of last year. Knox has looked good so far this summer. Either would be a good choice as a 4th receiver with upside.
Santonio Holmes-Jets WR1-Average Pick 101(36)
Misses a few games early but this follows the Vincent Jackson rule; he will be there at the end. He is the most talented of the Jets receivers and will establish himself as the go-to guy by the fantasy playoffs.
Malcolm Floyd-Chargers WR2-Average Pick 132(42)
Great value for the first three weeks during Vincent Jackson's suspension, but possesses value of his own as the number guy in a top offense facing an easy schedule.
Jeremy Maclin-Eagles WR1-Average Pick 77(27)
Value as the potential go-to for the Eagles, who should continue to move the ball. Being drafted fairly highly for a sleeper at the moment.
Kenny Britt-Titans WR1-Average Pick 122(39)
Should be the number one option in Tennessee.
Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey-Raiders
One of these three could end up worthwhile. Based on the end of last year, I'm gravitating towards Murphy.
Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams-Bucs
I liked Benn after the draft, as there is always room for one big target on a bad team. So far in the preseason, Williams has been more impressive.
Josh Morgan-49ers WR2
Very good value this deep as Crabtree is no sure thing and Morgan could end up as the top wideout on a playoff team.
Jacoby Jones-Texans WR2
If Jones can hold off Kevin Walter and establish himself as the second option, there are enough points for in the high-flying Texan offense.
Devin Thomas-Redskins WR2
Like him as a red zone target in the new Redskin offense.
Mohammad Massaquoi-Browns WR1
Was an inconsistent threat last year. Has the possibility of becoming a consistent target this year.