Wide Receiver is always the deepest position in fantasy football, and it can be a prudent strategy to wait on wide receivers and grab a guy that has top fantasy potential for a small price tag. And as always, finding value in the draft is the key to winning your league.
One of our sleepers last year, Julio Jones, would still be a great fit as a high end sleeper option with top 3 WR potential this year, but we’ll focus more on the later round guys to find value there, rather than spending high picks on the WR position.
Eric Decker, WR, DEN
Tim Tebow’s favorite target no longer has to deal with having a passer as bad as Tim Tebow as his QB. In steps one of the greatest QB’s of all-time in Peyton Manning, who just simply never under-performs. He consistently has put up 4,000 yards passing and 30-40 TDs year in and year out. And Colts WRs like Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison were always top 2 rounds of fantasy drafts.
Now he’s got Eric Decker. Decker has been working closely with Manning this offseason building rapport and they’ve even been spotted hanging out at Rockies games together. Decker is a pretty big guy at 6’3″ 218, and is a big play threat with YAC ability.
If Decker is Manning’s go to target, look out, he will be a top 10 WR. And if he’s not, he’s probably still safely the 25th best WR (going on average as #27 WR on ESPN&Yahoo). Peyton Manning is always consistent, and even if John Fox’s offense dogs the numbers down, the TD’s have to go somewhere, Decker is a top choice for them.
PickingPros Projections: 55 rec, 818 Yds 5 TD 111 Pts #24 WR
Other Guys: ESPN #26 WR, Yahoo #28 WR
Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN
See a common theme here? Again, the 30-40 TDs Manning throws every year have to go somewhere. Will a good portion of them go to the ultra athletic former first rounder Demaryius Thomas. He plays bigger than his 6’3″ frame and he has incredible big play potential (see Steelers OT game in playoffs). Again, like Decker, if Thomas turns into Peyton’s favorite option, look out. He has top 5 fantasy potential with Manning behind center. Thomas is more raw than Decker, doesn’t run great routes. If he’s a good listener (to be seen) Peyton will teach him how to get open on every route.
Thomas should also be the #1 redzone threat for the Broncos, could rack up around 10 TDs under Manning. Thomas is currently going as the 24th WR in ESPN and 15th in Yahoo. The yahoo rank is probably where he should be, but definite value in ESPN and NFL.com leagues.
PickingPros Projections: 65 rec, 1010 Yds 5 TD 132 Pts #14 WR
Other Guys: ESPN #24 WR, Yahoo #15 WR
Antonio Brown, WR, PIT
Antonio Brown opened some eyes last year after posting 69 catches for 1,108 yards. The Steelers like him so much that they threw a 5 year $42 million contract at Brown, but wouldn’t pay speedster Mike Wallace, who is still holding out. Mike Wallace doesn’t have much choice but to report at the end of camp, so don’t expect Wallace to be out, but Brown could become Big Ben’s #1 option anyways. Antonio Brown was the #1 option in the last 6 weeks of the 2011 season, and could continue the trend for all of this year. If Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy it won’t matter if Brown is the #1 or #2 option, he’ll get a lot of looks and his 2 TDs almost have to improve.
PickingPros Projections: 56 rec, 865 Yds 4 TD 114 Pts #22 WR
Other Guys: ESPN #25 WR, Yahoo #25 WR
Torrey Smith, WR, BAL
Torrey Smith was very serviceable in 2011 tallying over 800 yards and 7 TDs. He had a dropped pass that woul dhave extended playoff s for the Ravens, but that shouldn’t make a bit of difference. It wasn’t even close with Smith being the #1 option late in the year for Joe Flacco. If you believe in Joe Flacco like he does of himself (best qb in the league) you probably won’t win your fantasy league. But the Ravens have a good offense and the passing game for the WR’s will remain wide open with Ray Rice doing what he does best.
Smith played through injury last year and still put up great numbers. He is an athletic freak, as he showed with this dunk, He’s also another one of those rookie receivers that didn’t get full training camps witht he lockout. With a full offseason with Flacco, their relationship could turn into some major fantasy numbers for a guy you can get late in drafts.
PickingPros Projections: 50 rec 780 Yds 4 TD 105 Pts #26 WR
Other Guys: ESPN #30 WR, Yahoo #30 WR
Other Value Plays
Denarius Moore with the Raiders could be the #1 WR there, and has explosive ability. Keep an eye on the Tennessee WR situation. It may be Locker, But Nate Washington has a chance to have another solid season with Britt missing time with injury and potentially suspension. Kenny Britt now turns into a sleeper for the 2nd half of the season since his fantasy value has dropped off a cliff. One of the few top 5 potential guys you can get in the late round of drafts at this point.