Fantasy Football 2013: WR “Tiers, Not Fears”

Bowe Knows Busts
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall


You all know the deal with the WR position. It’s more top-heavy than Dolly Parton. There are a lot of points to be had at the position, and unlike running back, there’s less volatility. That doesn’t mean the position is without its warts. There are plenty of overvalued players this year, and they decidedly outweigh the sleepers (in both quantity and quality). Just as easy as it is to assemble a diesel crew of WRs, you can quickly put together a dead-in-the water party that torpedoes your championship designs before the blueprint is even finished. 


As Walter White would say, “Tread Lightly.”


More after the jump:


The One Man Gang
No surprises here. Dude rocked just five TDs last year, but that number is bound to go up (he got tackled five times just before the end zone last year). He’s the focal point of a pass-heavy offense and came just 36 yards short of the 2,000 mark last year. Oh, he’s also the most beastly physical talent on this list. You won’t find me paying the market price, not when there are so many elite players at the position. Yet that doesn’t change the fact that he’s the clear-cut no. 1 WR.

1. Calvin Johnson, Det


The “1A” Associates

It’s almost unfair to put Green and Bryant in an entire tier below Megatron, but the consolation is that I’d rather own either one of these WRs instead of Calvin Johnson. Alright, that’s strictly because the price is way more reasonable on Green/Bryant, but regardless, you are still talking about two of the more dominant forces in fantasy. Green gets the slight nod above Bryant since he doesn’t have to share the rock (whereas Bryant will cede some targets to Jason Witten and Miles Austin). 

2. A.J. Green, Cin 

3. Dez Bryant, Dal 


The “Can’t Be Mad” Contingency

The players in this tier are not as tremendous as the above players, but they are elite nonetheless. Fitzgerald finally has a capable QB and should get plenty of usage in Bruce Arians’ system. Once a wildcard, Marshall is a legit beast in fantasy and should continue to dominate the targets in Chicago. Though Roddy White will still get his, the writing is on the wall: Julio Jones is taking over the top spot in Atlanta. Thomas would have been ranked higher on this list if Peyton Manning didn’t have more mouths to feed Mrs. Wayans, but he should still post excellent stats.

4. Larry Fitzgerald, Ari

5. Brandon Marshall, Chi

6. Julio Jones, Atl

7. Demaryius Thomas, Den


The “Try To Find Flaws” Federation
The difference between this tier and the ones above is wider, but these guys still have the goods to play like WR1s. V-Jax is historically a boom-or-bust option, but Tampa Bay will be lining him up all over to create mismatches, so expect him to be force-fed the rock. Cobb is also likely to be used in a variety of ways, and he would have leapt up to the next tier if I wasn’t so concerned about target sharing in Green Bay. While Hakeem Nicks is the more talented Giant, Cruz is Eli Manning’s favorite and sees a good number of red-zone looks to boot. Clearly I’m higher on Amendola than most, but I don’t see how he won’t kill it from jump street. He’s filling the target-heavy Wes Welker role and should see plenty of usage since the Patriots receiving corps is filled with rookies (not to mention the team is down one murdering TE). Roddy White may not be Matt Ryan’s favorite anymore, but he’s still a reliable WR1 who has topped 1,250 yards the last two years.

8. Vincent Jackson, TB

9. Randall Cobb, GB

10. Victor Cruz, NYG 

11. Danny Amendola, NE 

12. Roddy White, Atl 


The “Next Best” Neanderthals

All of the dudes in this tier can flirt with WR1 value, but there’s a reason they aren’t in the top 12. Andre Johnson and Steve Smith are old men at the position, but are the clear top targets on their respective teams and can still put up great numbers. Colston, Jones, and Decker all have to share the ball, but they are also part of pass-heavy offenses and each of them can score over 10 TDs as red-zone favorites of their respective QBs. Torrey Smith, T.Y. Hilton, and DeSean Jackson can break off a score any time the ball is in their hands. Smith has to prove he’s not a one-dimensional deep threat, and he’ll get that opportunity in Baltimore’s thin WR corp. Hilton is the most talented receiver in Indy right now and is truly a special talent (he just has to share with Reggie “I’m Getting Too Old For This Shit” Wayne). A fragile player (both physically and mentally), D-Jax is ready to shed his poor reputation and do serious work. He’s been killing it in Eagles practices, showing a renewed focus. With no Jeremy Maclin, he could really go off in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense.

13. Andre Johnson, Hou 

14. Marques Colston, NO 

15. Torrey Smith, Bal 

16. T.Y. Hilton, Ind 

17. DeSean Jackson, Phi 

18. Steve Smith, Car 

19. James Jones, GB 

20. Eric Decker, Den 


The “Potentially Great” Goonies
You can find something negative about each of these players, but there’s high ceilings attached to each and every one of them. Tate, in particular, is a favorite of mine. A true playmaker, he should see a lot of targets from the “elite approaching” Russell Wilson with Percy Harvin out. Nelson and Nicks could be top 10 WRs, but injury-woes might cause them to be poor draft day value picks. Welker and Bowe will be experiencing change, with Welker joining a new team and Bowe having to learn a “spread the wealth” offense. They are both capable of terrific production, but have a WR3 floor (which makes them somewhat risky). Turning 35 in November, Wayne’s best days are behind him and while he will still see a lot of targets from Andrew Luck, you can’t expect him to repeat 2012’s success with Bruce Arians gone. Josh Gordon is a wild card. He’s a truly explosive player with all the tools to be a fantasy superstar, but with a two-game suspension (and Brandon Weeden as his QB), he’s no slam dunk.

21. Golden Tate, Sea 

22. Jordy Nelson, GB 

23. Hakeem Nicks, NYG 

24. Wes Welker, Den 

25. Dwayne Bowe, KC 

26. Josh Gordon, Cle 

27. Reggie Wayne, Ind 


The “Not Quite Settling” Settlers

You may not be waving pom-poms after rostering one of these dudes, but they all can be pieces of a great fantasy WR corp. In my opinion, the real Stevie J lives in Atlanta, but this Buffalo impersonator isn’t a bad second. He isn’t exceptionally talented, but he is hard to defend and keeps corners guessing, getting open at will. He’s got a solid shot of stringing together his fourth consecutive 1,000 yard season, even with (another) shaky QB situation. Garcon and Wallace are burners with legit questions marks. Garcon was placed on Don Brown’s Do-Not-Trust injury list, so you KNOW the odds of him missing games or struggling are pretty strong. Where’s Wallace String? He’s in Miami learning a new offense and getting a downgrade at QB. Wallace still has upside, but the floor is lower than you like. Brown and Givens are newly-minted WR1s on their respective teams. Givens is more talented and has more upside as deep-threat with plus athleticism, but Brown is a safer bet to give you WR3 production. Shorts has a terrible QB situation, but he is shifty, can make plays after the catch, and should see a lot of targets even after Justin Blackmon returns (Jacksonville will be playing from behind a lot). I’m expecting Floyd to take a big step forward with Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer now in Arizona. Floyd’s workload is supposed to be substantial, so expect him to break out this year. Austin 3:17 (the lesser known verse) says “I’m third in the feeding line in Dallas.” So that means he’ll “only” have 100-110 targets.

28. Stevie Johnson, Buf 

29. Pierre Garcon, Wsh 

30. Mike Wallace, Mia 

31. Antonio Brown, Pit 

32. Cecil Shorts, Jac 

33. Chris Givens, StL 

34. Michael Floyd, Ari 

35. Miles Austin, Dal 


The “Hope Floats” Hooligans

These players all have the upside of being a WR2, but they also have a low floor. Moore is the best talent in this group, but he’s growing out of favor in Oakland and has one of the weaker-armed QBs in football throwing to him. Williams is a red-zone threat, but isn’t much of a playmaker and you shouldn’t expect big yardage totals. On the downside of his career, Boldin sneaks into this tier thanks to his expected large role in San Francisco’s offense. Moore will have some monster weeks, but he’ll also have some duds (like any other Saints WR). The blend of Jeffery’s size and speed is enticing, but you’re banking on Jay Cutler A) getting better and B) throwing the ball to anyone not named Brandon Marshall. 

36. Denarius Moore, Oak 

37. Mike Williams, TB 

38. Anquan Boldin, SF 

39. Lance Moore, NO 

40. Alshon Jeffery, Chi 


The “You Have To Take Them” Thugs

These guys have a way of forcing themselves onto your roster, mostly because you can’t pass them up at this stage of the draft. Britt and Brown are recovering from major injuries. Britt is the far more talented of the two, but he’s still recovering two years after a horrid knee injury and he may never be the same. Brown is the current de facto WR1 in San Diego and has some upside, but it remains to be seen if he will capitalize on the opportunity. Jennings is the top option in Minnesota’s passing game, but that ain’t saying much. The Vikes are a run-first offense (with a pass-wack QB) and Jennings has been injury-prone the last couple of years. Sanders will see more targets with Mike Wallace gone, but lower-body injuries may have sapped some of his burst. LaFell was used a lot out of the slot last year and saw few deep targets, which is stupid considering he has some downfield ability. LaFell looked an upside-laden WR on the rise two years ago, so he's a solid value pick as Cam Newton's WR2. Rice is still a talented receiver with a terrific QB, but health is his chief obstacle.

41. Kenny Britt, Ten 

42. Greg Jennings, Min 

43. Vincent Brown, SD 

44. Emmanuel Sanders, Pit

45. Sidney Rice, Sea

46. Brandon LaFell, Car


The “Got A Chance” Charlatans

There’s talent and/or opportunity sitting in this tier, but things also need to break right for these players in order for them to make a big impact in fantasy. The lack of red-zone options in Houston means the rookie Hopkins could leap into an important role right away. Of course, having weak-armed Matt Schaub as your QB means the yardage totals will be inconsistent. Little has always had the immense skill-set to succeed, but drops and a tendency to “look lost” have plagued him. Suspended for the first four games and a head case that could go off the rails at any moment, Blackmon is not a safe player by any means. But what Blackmon lacks in maturity, he more than makes up for in red-zone potential. Randle could turn into a fantasy star this year if the fragile Hakeem Nicks misses significant time, but right now he’s the no. 3 in NY. I don’t think Thompkins is an especially impressive talent, but he’s leading the pack for WR2 duties in New England and looks to be building a good rapport with Tom Brady

47. DeAndre Hopkins, Hou

48. Greg Little, Cle 

49. Justin Blackmon, Jac 

50. Rueben Randle, NYG 

51. Kenbrell Thompkins, NE 


The “Fingers Crossed” Conglomerate
There’s some talent here, but a variety of factors means these dudes could very well make a minimal impact in fantasy this season. Kerley and Woods have the total skill-set (good hands, can make plays after the catch, strong route-runners) to be WR2s in fantasy… if they were linked to a better QB. Wright, Patterson, Boyce, Austin, and Hill have considerable upside in terms of individual ability, but I don’t see them being key kogs of their respective offenses this year (barring an injury or their team wising up to see that they need to get these dudes more involved). It's sounding like Patrick Edwards will play a big role in Detroit’s pass-first offense and may even be the starter opposite Megatron. The presence of Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles may limit Edwards' snaps, but he's a decent cheap sleeper.

52. Jeremy Kerley, NYJ 

53. Robert Woods, Buf 

54. Patrick Edwards, Det 

55. Cordarrelle Patterson, Min 

56. Josh Boyce, NE 

57. Tavon Austin, StL 

58. Stephen Hill, NYJ 

59. Kendall Wright, Ten 


The “Best of the Rest” Renegades

The title says it all. You have some intriguing young players (Dobson, Graham, Streeter) and a hodge-podge of players who could get opportunities to produce this year. However, overall you are hoping these roster-fillers can at least provide some depth for your fantasy squad.

60. Malcom Floyd, SD 

61. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ind 

62. Aaron Dobson, NE 

63. Jacoby Jones, Bal 

64. Brian Hartline, Mia 

65. Rod Streater, Oak 

66. Mohamed Sanu, Cin 

67. Julian Edelman, NE 

68. T.J. Graham, Buf 

69. Tommy Streeter, Bal 

70. Jason Avant, Phi 

71. Andrew Hawkins, Cin 

72. Riley Cooper, Phi 

73. Doug Baldwin, Sea 


*Last updated 9/2/13.


About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.