As deep as the receiver pool is to select from, you can’t overlook locking down a dominant playmaker on draft day.
Points Per Reception leagues are the most popular formats in fantasy and the money is made at this position.
You can either value someone like Wes Welker that leads the league in receptions just about every year or a Calvin Johnson that can get you all of the deep touchdowns. Either way, the mindset of solidifying your receiver spots with reliable options that you expect to perform doesn’t change.
There are very few players out there that can dominate the competition on a weekly basis, making the receiver position such a toss up. The key factor is to get someone that will perform more times than not. They’re all going to have a rough day here and there, otherwise cornerbacks would be out of jobs.
The main qualities that you want to look for in a receiver are: Does he have a viable quarterback? What kind of offense does he play in? Does he have to share the spotlight on offense? What’s the competition in his division like?
Brace yourself, that’s a lot to think about in the sixty seconds you have to draft the right player.
That’s why you do the research before hand.
If you look at someone like Reggie Wayne, who had the likes of Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter throwing to him in 2011, there’s no surprise why he went from one of the best options to own to merely underachieving. Now that he has Andrew Luck, he’ll be a better option. I didn’t say elite, but better.
I know that we don’t have all the time in the world to research the offensive strategies of teams, but you can easily make a quick decision on whether or not that team actually runs more or throws it more. If you look at the Packers, who only scored 12 rushing touchdowns in 2011, it’s a no-brainer. On the other hand, don’t expect a team like the Vikings to throw it every down with a back like AP in the offense.
When you’re thinking about selecting a star receiver, consider the other people that play in their offense. Just because he’s the best receiver, that doesn’t mean that he’s the focal point of the offense. The reason why Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are up on the list every year is because there is no other option in their respective offenses. Like the theory with running backs, they are their team’s offense. Sometimes it’s best to roll with a slot receiver because he’s getting those short route targets that generate a lot of points for catches.
Every year, owners try to find the next Randy Moss or Wes Welker on other teams and end up missing. Last season was no different when everyone was on the Eric Decker bandwagon in the first half of the season. When the comparisons come up, it’s always “he’s a Wes Welker-type of player.” What do you mean? They catch the ball a lot? Isn’t that their job?
It’s a lot easier to think of is this person a deep threat with their size and speed or a safety net.
You can’t go wrong with either type of player, but the deep threats have the biggest upside.
There are very few receivers that deserve to be considered in the first round, so you can wait until at least the second or third. It’s a very deep position, because teams carry at least three options, so pace yourself.
Let’s take a look at the most reliable receivers to draft in 2012…
Calvin Johnson- Reliable? Doesn’t he have the Madden curse? Yes he does, but he’s also one of the very few receivers who deserve consideration in the first round. He can catch a ton of passes, score a lot of touchdowns, and dominate as a deep threat. Johnson doesn’t have many bad days. The only way he’ll have a bad day is if the Lions are on a bye week. Detroit is scrounging for a running back for this season, so you can expect the Lions offense to rely on Johnson early and often. You will always have the Madden Curse in the back of your mind, but that’s a risk you’ll just have to take in the first round. If the best six players (Rice, Rodgers, McCoy, Brady, Brees, Foster) are off the board, you’re going to have a decision to make: bite the bullet and draft the cursed Johnson or pass him up and hope to take him in the second round? Odds are that someone in your league is willing to take a chance. Are you?
Brandon Marshall- So he’s named the Pro Bowl MVP and now he’s the number two receiver to draft? It’s a little more than just that. That was a preview of what to expect this year. Trust me. I covered Marshall last year with the Dolphins and I learned all I needed to know. He’s a lot smarter than he leads on, he’s a freak of an athlete, and he wasn’t happy with Dolphins. Let’s be honest, who was last year? Knock him all you want to saying that he wanted to play with a better quarterback, but fantasy owners were thinking it too. He re-unites with Jay Cutler this season, from their days with the Broncos, and it’s scary to think about how good they’re going to be. We’re talking about a tandem that had a couple of games when they connected on 12 passes. Marshall is primed for a huge bounce-back season to being the fantasy stud we all remember before he went to Miami. His trade to Chicago is the biggest fantasy offseason move, even bigger than Peyton to Denver. He could fall to the third round, but he’s not a reach in the second.
Larry Fitzgerald- Speaking of quarterback-reciever duos. Can we please get this guy a decent passer in Arizona? It doesn’t matter if it’s going to be Kolb or Skelton, they’re both nothing compared to what Warner did for Fitzgerald’s fantasy value. So why doesn’t he drop down the rankings? He’s just that good. Fitzgerald will get his numbers no matter what because he is the Cardinals’ offense. That could change this year with the emergence of Ryan Williams and the Cards actually end up running the ball, but that won’t be for a while. I’m just saying, if this guy can catch 80 passes and produce over 1200 yards receiving, then he doesn’t deserve to drop out of the second round. The fact that he’s that productive on a dud team like the Cardinals should speak volumes to you. The other factor is that he plays in the weakest division in the NFL, with the NFC West. I know the 49ers are an emerging defense, but they aren’t exactly sporting an elite secondary. Go ahead and plan on taking Fitzgerald in the second round of your draft.
Wes Welker- He’s coming off a season where he had career highs in almost every category. It was a nice bounce back season for him after a dismal 2010. This was all in the midst of the breakout of Gronkowski. Brandon Lloyd followed Josh McDaniels to New England, but that shouldn’t take away from Welker’s targets. Whether you’re in a PPR league or not, Welker is someone that you just can’t undervalue. You’ll try to downplay him on draft day because he’s not highly ranked, but all the guy does is produce. He thrived in McDaniels’ offense, so you can expect the same production this year. Despite all of the contract issues during the offseason, Welker isn’t the type of player that slacks off to get his way. He may not get you double digit touchdowns, but he’ll make up for it with all of the passes he’ll catch. Stop telling yourself this is the year he falls off and just take a reliable producer.
Roddy White- He’s be ranked higher if it wasn’t for Julio Jones. There’s no question about how much the Falcons are going to pass the ball, it’s just a matter of if there will be enough opportunities to go around. White isn’t exactly a red zone threat, like Tony Gonzalez, but he can stretch the field. The one factor against him is the fact that he led the league in drops in drops, primarily because Terrell Owens didn’t play last year. Regardless, it’s a very important factor to consider. He missed going three straight seasons of double-digit touchdowns, but has managed to be reliable for at least 80 catches and 1100 yards receiving per season. You can’t ask for much more from a NFC South receiver. Jones will eat into his targets, but White could drop slightly back from catching 100+ passes these past two seasons to back to a 80+ type of player. You can’t go wrong with taking him on draft day.
Hakeem Nicks- It’s crazy to think that Nicks is just entering his fourth season as a pro. He’s a slight risk to take in drafts just because he broke a bone in his foot this spring, so his Week 1 status is still up in the air. Beyond that, you’re looking at a guy that can get you close to 80 catches and over 1,000 yards per season. The Giants don’t have a dominant tight end this year, but they do have Victor Cruz to distract defenses. Those two factors there, set up Nicks for a big season. He’s been the number one target for New York since he was drafted, but this year he’ll have some help. Defenses will be preparing more for Cruz after his success in 2011, opening up more targets and one-on-one coverage for Nicks to take advantage of. If you’re find with the possibility of Nicks missing Week 1, then go ahead and get him in the third round.
Marques Colston- He’s starting to get some competition with Jimmy Graham on who’s Brees’ favorite target, but that won’t keep Colston from being good for 80 catches and 1,000 yards. Graham is the obvious favorite for end zone targets, but Colston can still stretch the field and be a safety net. The Saints offense is going to be different to say the least this year. The fact that they could carry five viable running backs on the roster suggests that they’re going to have a more balanced attack this season. He’s only had one year when he didn’t crack fifty seventy catches, but that was due to injuries in 2008. Colston is one of the most reliable receivers to own and can be a major contributor on a weekly basis. Teams could start to focus more on Graham, opening things for Colston. The Saints love to throw the ball, so someone’s gotta catch it. You can get Colston a lot later than most of the players on this list, so take advantage of the discount.
Dwayne Bowe- He’s signed his tender, he’s in camp, he’s playing, but just how good will he be? Brian Daboll is known as a running backs miracle worker, but he also knows how to get the most out of his receivers. The Chiefs have Steve Breaston and the emerging Jonathan Baldwin to utilize on offense, but Bowe is still the top target. Matt Cassell isn’t that great, but Daboll was able to do a lot with him that one year in New England. He did take a step back in 2011 after scoring 15 touchdowns in 2010, but Bowe is playing for a new contract with another team after this season. What motivates players more than money? Especially if you play for the Chiefs. He can produce 75+ catches and 1,000 yards on the season, he just has to become more of an end zone threat. Bowe’s ranked way down the list after his touchdown drop-off last season, so consider him a steal this year.
Greg Jennings- You want to talk about under-achieving? Greg Jennings just hasn’t been a consistent player throughout his career. When you look at players that have to share the spotlight, you have to consider Green Bay. There are just too many targets to share the ball. It’s great for Aaron Rodgers owners, but bad for everyone else. It basically comes down to whoever’s hot that week. Jennings has only caught 80 passes once in his career, double digit touchdowns twice, and over 1,000 yards just three times. That’s all in a seven year career. His numbers were down in all categories in 2011, from the previous season, including failing to produce his fourth straight 1,000 yard season. I’m not knocking Jennings’ ability, but the numbers don’t lie. This is a case where just because the guy is pre-ranked high, doesn’t mean he’s going to pay off. Is he better than some of the other options out there that didn’t make this list like an Andre Johnson? Yes. The difference is, Jennings can be a deep threat and catch a lot of passes, while Johnson is hit or miss and one-dimensional. That’s not even considering how injury prone Johnson is. Just keep in mind when you select Jennings that he has to share the spotlight.
Vincent Jackson- Same player, new uniform. Vincent Jackson finally has the contract he wanted and is playing with a team where he’ll be the star offensive player once again. Josh Freeman isn’t exactly the most elite option to be throwing the ball to him, but he’s never had a top target like Jackson. He’s only had three seasons of catching remotely around 60 passes, but he averages close to 19 yards per catch. In Greg Schiano’s offense, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch the ball. If you look at how successful Kenny Britt was for him at Rutgers, Jackson is primed to have his best season yet as a pro. Schiano does love to run the football, but he uses the pass to set up run. These pros are a lot more talented than the level of players he had at Rutgers, so just expect the Bucs to have a highly productive offense. Jackson is way down the draft board rankings, so you can afford to take a flier on him around the fifth or sixth rounds.