With quarterbacks already out of the way, it’s time to take a look at the wide receivers in this year’s draft. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve already started mocking on a weekly basis. If you don’t mock at all, wake the hell up. You’re only hurting yourself, and we don’t like waiting 20 minutes for you to make a pick. There’s a strategy to drafting receivers and backs, and you need to have your options set before the clock is ticking. Best advice I can give, don’t be afraid to reach. Know what you’re getting yourself into and don’t take someone your unfamiliar with. With that said, here are my top 25 wide receivers.
1. Calvin Johnson – I will take this man at 4, 5 or 6. Don’t be surprised if his yardage totals drop but expect the touchdown number to get back to where he was two years ago.
2. Dez Bryant – He’s stood out at camp all summer, looks like a beast, and claims to be close to 100%. With Witten on the decline and Miles Austin disappearing over the last few years, expect another top 3 finish from Dez.
3. AJ Green – Andy Dalton’s favorite target and seemingly the only consistent production out of Cincinnati’s receiving core. Expect that consistency to continue.
4. Brandon Marshall – Word out of camp is the Bears will feature Forte more in the passing game. Pile that on to the addition of Martellus Bennett and teams may find it difficult to double-team Marshall.
5. Demaryius Thomas – With Wes Welker taking over slot duties, look for Thomas to have more room on the outside. His after catch ability is remarkable and with Decker and Welker taking away coverage, Thomas has the path to be the favorite of Peyton Manning.
6. Julio Jones – Great talent, I was very high on him last year and he showed what he is capable of doing. The addition of Steven Jackson and return of Tony Gonzalez will help Julio get his separation down field. He’s in store for a monster season.
7. Roddy White – Mr. White has been targeted an average of 158.83 times over the last six seasons. In those 6 years, he has averaged 93.83 catches per season. Although his targets dropped from 181 in 2011 to 143 last season, he’s still a solid and consistent WR1.
8. Wes Welker – Will Wes Welker catch 100 balls this season? I don’t think he will. But don’t forget that he is very explosive after the catch. This is a WR1 that will more than likely go late third, early fourth round. Don’t be surprised if he becomes Peyton Manning’s favorite red-zone target.
9. Larry Fitzgerald – The reemergence of Larry Fitzgerald starts now. Expect to see him get back to his 2009 numbers with Carson Palmer. Palmer may not have the strongest arm, but he’s a veteran who will lean on his star wide-out when needed.
10. Vincent Jackson – One more year to become comfortable with Josh Freeman should help V-Jax keep his 1,000 yard season streak going. With the emergence of Doug Martin, expect the Bucs to air it out a little more while facing a loaded box. Jackson could flirt with 12 touchdowns this year.
11. Percy Harvin – Honestly, I don’t know here. Percy could be a monster in the red-zone for Russell Wilson. But does Wilson keep up his production? With a second year QB and an expanded playbook, it could spell trouble for Seattle wide-outs. It also could spell breakout season for Percy Harvin. With the injury history and learning a new system, I must warn you. Draft at your own risk.
12. Jordy Nelson – Injuries slowed down production last season. With Greg Jennings now in Minnesota and a continued question mark with the running game, look for Jordy to be a decent WR1 as he tries to get back to his consistent numbers of two seasons ago.
13. Andre Johnson – After looking like the Andre of old last season, expect his production to start to fade out. He’s lost a step or two and Houston has begun to look for his successor (DeAndre Hopkins).
14. Dwayne Bowe – I am all about this guy right here. Bowe possesses the skill set to put him above the rest. The addition of Alex Smith and the addition of a west coast system from Andy Reid should put Bowe in the position for a breakout year.
15. Reggie Wayne – After reemerging last season as Andrew Luck’s favorite target, expect a little less in 2013. With Luck entering his sophomore season, I see Reggie’s numbers falling off from where they were a year ago. He’s still a solid WR2 in my book.
16. Randall Cobb – If Cobb can stay healthy this year, he’s in line for monster production. The problem is can he stay healthy? He has the skill set to play multiple positions and Aaron Rodgers seems to trust him. Due to his draft position, he’s a little too risky for me this season.
17. Victor Cruz – Over the last two years Cruz has broken 1,000 yards each year and scored at least 9 times. While I don’t expect him to come close to the 1,500 yards he had in 2011, 1,000 yards and 10 scores will be enough to give your fantasy team a solid WR1.
18. Marques Colston – Drew Brees loves him, I can’t stand his inconstancy. I wouldn’t anchor my receiving core with Colston but in the right situation he would be a great addition. Brees likes to find the open man, no matter who it is. I’ve got him as a borderline WR1 with a consistency problem, but definite WR2 with a high upside.
19. Steve Smith – At 34, Smith does not seem to have lost a step when moving downfield. The one thing that stands out to me were the low touchdown total from 2012. Carolina is rumored to have moved back to a power run scheme and play-action could be his best friend this season. Smith should be around late and will be a solid WR2 with a WR1 upside.
20. Antonio Brown – With Mike Wallace gone, Antonio Brown could go either way. Roethlisberger likes to look downfield and Antonio Brown likes to run. Coverage will dictate his production this season, but Brown has the skills to break even short passes for six. Just like Steve Smith, he should be around late and has a great upside as a WR2.
21. Hakeem Nicks – Nicks is a big, strong receiver who makes the most out of each catch. His problem seems to be the injury bug that has followed him the last few seasons. On the upside, a lot of people are going to be going after Cruz first and Nicks should be available as a WR2 with WR1 talent.
22. Mike Wallace – New team, new offense and a second year quarterback scare the hell out of me. While Wallace does posses track speed and can break big when opportunity knocks, there is a giant question mark in the backfield. The possible lack of running game could lead to a lot of bracket coverage. I would stay away and let him be someone else’s problem.
23. Eric Decker – Peyton Manning loves to find the open receiver and coverage on Welker and Thomas should give Decker opportunities. I wouldn’t lay the house on him as your WR1, but Decker will be a solid WR2.
24. Anquan Boldin – Boldin had a great year last season while being over shadowed by Torrey Smith. The move to San Francisco should help his fantasy owners this year. With a second year QB, who has yet to play a full season, Boldin will lead this receiving core across the board. Vernon Davis will steal some red-zone opportunities but with Crabtree out indefinitely look for a solid season and borderline WR1 production.
25. DeSean Jackson – While rumors are that D-Jax will not be Chip Kelly’s version of LaMichael James, his matching skill-set is hard to ignore. Jackson’s speed will come in handy with this up-tempo offense and he could flirt with WR1 status by the end of the season.
Jeremy Maclin – I was very high on Maclin last year, but with the injury bug following him he was a disappointment. Look for Chip Kelly to take advantage of his size inside the 20. He’s definitely worth a flier in later rounds.
Cecil Shorts – Cecil would be inside my top 25 if it wasn’t for Blaine Gabbert. With MJD healthy going into this season, I can see Jacksonville leaning more on the running game. Do not expect Cecil to rack up monster catch totals this season, but he does posses the skill set to take advantage of his opportunities.
James Jones – With the departure of Greg Jennings and coming off a great season last year, Jones could be a steal. Rodgers loves to find him inside the 20 and Jones did not disappoint when opportunity knocked. With Nelson and Cobb stealing the attention this draft, Jones can be a great find in later rounds.
Tavon Austin – Smaller, rookie wide receivers come with a lot of question marks. Don’t jump on the Austin ship just yet, his after catch ability is going to make or break his season. St. Louis has said they would like to put Sam Bradford in a position to hit an open receiver no matter who it is. Is he worth a later round draft pick? Absolutely. The problem is he has been going off the board in the fifth or sixth round.
Danny Amendola – I won’t touch a wide receiver from New England this season. Tom Brady is a quarterback who will find the open man. While there’s a chance Amendola could take Wes Welkers spot as Brady’s security blanket, there is also a chance one of the other fifteen receivers could do it as well.
Miles Austin – If Miles can stay healthy he should pick his production out of the sewer. Jason Witten is getting older and Dez Bryant is going to see a lot of double and bracket coverage this season. I wouldn’t waste much on Miles, but at the right price he could be a steal this season.
Sidney Rice – With all the Percy Harvin hype, I like Rice a lot this season. Defenses are going to be focused on Harvin and Lynch all game which should leave a decent number of opportunities for Rice. He’s a big red-zone target, and Russell Wilson did not disappoint inside the 20 last year.
Emmanuel Sanders – I like him because of Mike Wallace leaving and I dislike him because of his consistency over the past few seasons. If Antonio Brown starts to take the top off of defenses, Sanders will benefit from the coverage shifts. Keep an eye on him for a mid-season trade.
DeAndre Hopkins – The apparent heir to Andre Johnson is DeAndre Hopkins. At 6’1 and around 220 pounds, Hopkins could make a splash inside the 20 as a rookie. He is absolutely worth a late round flier.
Josh Gordon – If he can stay out of trouble and stay on the field, Gordon has everything needed to be a productive fantasy scorer. The big question is can he grow up and focus on football instead of outside distractions. I like him in the later rounds as a WR2 or WR3 with a decent upside.
Alshon Jeffery – Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett should take away enough coverage for Alshon Jeffery to have a nice season. He has the talent and size to be a very productive receiver, but his production is going to depend on Jay Cutler’s efficiency. Stash him on the bench or keep an eye on him for a mid-season trade. He’s a WR3 with a very high upside.