Tiers, Not Fears: WRs

He’s Miles Away From A Sure Thing
Photo Credit: Mang9

With the league settling into a pass-heavy era, WR production has never been better. Remember the days when rookies at the position had to wait at least two years before being considered fantasy relevant? Well those days are like Starbonell the morning after he shacks up with a female: gone.

Because breakout WRs are sprouting up left and right, the position has become flooded with starter-worthy options. Yet dumbass owners are still loading up on receivers early like it’s 2009. Fortunately, you aren’t a shit-for-brains fantasy owner since you are visiting this great site. To reward your intelligence, here’s a list of the top 94 WRs, broken into nifty little tiers. You’re welcome.

More after the jump:

The “One Man” Gang
In a class by himself…
1. Calvin Johnson
Do we even need to discuss why Megatron is king of the hill? No, no we don’t.

The “Just Short” Juveniles
The WRs in this tier are bona-fide locks for the top five (barring injury).
2. A.J. Green
Even with the anticipated increase in double-coverage, dude is money when the ball goes his way (which it will… often). Green is a certified beast.

3. Jordy Nelson
He may not score 15 times again, but he’ll be good for over 1,200 yards and a ton of big plays. He’s the true no. 1 WR on the team, even if Greg Jennings is at full strength.

4. Julio Jones
Clearly, he’s more explosive right now than teammate Roddy White. With the Falcons expected to go no-huddle-heavy under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, expect Jones’ production to shoot through the roof.

5. Brandon Lloyd
Is it ambitious to list Lloyd this high on my rankings? Hell nah. Lloyd brings that deep play threat Tom Brady was missing last year. Judging by how well the two are gelling this summer, Lloyd should easily finish the season with the best numbers of his career. Don’t be afraid to reach here.

The “Next Level” Lunatics
While they couldn’t sneak into the above tier, the fellows listed below are beasts in their own right. I told you the WR position is deep.
6. Victor Cruz
He was second among WRs last year in yards-after-catch and was one of the more productive receivers in football. Eli Manning loves him, so expect Cruz to again be heavily involved in New York’s explosive pass offense.

7. Larry Fitzgerald
Though “Leisure Suit” Larry is more talented than some of the players listed above, he gets knocked down a couple of pegs because of the horrific QB situation in Arizona. He should still be a clear WR1, but there’s only so much he’ll be able to do in the Cardinals’ offense.

8. Hakeem Nicks
Nicks is more physically gifted than teammate Victor Cruz and the argument can be made that he’s every bit as good as Calvin Johnson. Unfortunately, he’s always banged up and is the clear “second favorite” of Giants QB Eli Manning.

9. Dez Bryant
Bryant is always nicked up thanks to his physical style, but he’ll be the clear top dog in Dallas’ offense this season. Miles Austin ain’t shit (more on him later).

10. Wes Welker
“Double Dubs” should remain the most targeted receiver in New England, but with so many mouths to feed, he’ll see fewer passes thrown his way this season. Still, Welker is a tough player for teams to defend, especially now that the Patriots’ passing attack is as diverse as ever.

11. Roddy White
There’s still love for Roddy White (pause) in what should be a no-huddle-filled pass offense in Atlanta, but the emergence of Julio Jones has pushed him pretty far down the ranks considering where he was this time last year. He will continue to get a ton of targets, but the baton is clearly being passed.

12. Steve Smith
Though he’s 33 years old, Smith is still a deep threat who can make big plays. Cam Newton’s legs help keep defenses honest, giving Smith the room he needs to do work.

13. Brandon Marshall
Yes Brandon Marshall has had his issue with drops and cops, but his reunion with Jay Cutler cannot be dismissed. The two were money together during their time in Denver, and with Chicago’s receiving corps a hodge-podge of questionable talent, Marshall should see a shit-ton of targets.

The “I Suppose They’re Great” Goonies
There’s plenty of talent and potential in this tier, but there’s also some question marks.
14. Andre Johnson
While Johnson is a supreme talent, Houston is a run-first offense and ‘Dre has been a hurt-first WR the last two years. Here’s hoping he stays off the trainer’s table in 2012.

15. Percy Harvin
First Percy Harvin gets a migraine, then his fantasy owners get one. It’s a vicious cycle, and while his head was fine last year, there’s no telling if (or when) the migraine issues will creep up again. It’s a shame because he’s a dynamic playmaker who will see a lot of touches when he’s on the field, but you are no doubt assuming considerable risk by selecting Harvin.

16. Steve Johnson
He doesn’t get the respect he deserves in fantasy circles, but Stevie J is a solid WR to target considering his ADP. His groin seems to be fine (pause) and Ryan Fitzpatrick appears to be healthy, so another 1,000 yard season should be easily attainable if all goes well.

17. Marques Colston
With Robert Meachem gone, the sure-handed Colston should see more targets. Problem is, Jimmy Graham is now the no. 1 option in the passing game and we all know how Drew Brees loves to spread the wealth. Colston will be plenty productive, but you will have to deal with a few dud performances along the way.

18. Greg Jennings
The concussion issue is a big deal, but the Jordy Nelson factor is an even bigger one. If healthy, Jennings should be capable of carrying your team any given week. However, head injuries can be a lingering issue, so he carries some definite risk.

The “I Don’t Really Want To, But I Have To” Troupe
These names may not sound like the answer to your fantasy team’s prayers, but they are better than you think.
19. Pierre Garcon
People forget that Garcon had a major turnaround last season. Not only did he put up numbers with shit QBs, he dropped the ball just five times last year. He may not be a player that people associate with success, but he will be the clear top WR in Mike Shanahan’s intriguing offense.

20. Reggie Wayne
Don’t sleep on the old man. Wayne still has great hands, and new OC Bruce Arians has been lining him up all over the field to keep defenses guessing and to get Wayne open more often. Oh yeah, and Andrew Luck is pretty damn good.

21. Eric Decker
Decker has all the makings of a Peyton Manning fave: good hands, can grind out yards after the catch, white guy… this should go well.

22. Torrey Smith
He’s a bit of a one-trick pony as a deep play threat (led the NFL with 51 percent of his targets being of 20 yards or deeper), but that doesn’t negate the fact that he will have some monster outings this season. Sure he’ll disappear some weeks, but at the end of the year, the numbers will be there.

23. DeSean Jackson
A game-breaking play waiting to happen, D-Jax is worth taking in this spot in spite of the risk. Players who have the potential to carry you in any given week deserve your respect.

24. Dwayne Bowe
The drops are a concern (10 last year), but Bowe is still the lead guy of this receiving corps and is playing for a new contract. Even with a bum like Matt Cassel, Bowe should still be a very good WR2.

25. Mike Wallace
The wheels are sick, but Antonio Brown’s presence forces Wallace’s value to take a bit of a hit. Regardless, Brown would be just another solid NFL WR if Wallace didn’t open up the field for him. Wallace will see a lot of attention from opposing defenses, but he’ll still find a way to get enough separation to make plays.

26. Jeremy Maclin
Maclin gets no red-zone opportunities and his production is solely tied to his numbers between the 20s. Still, he has a world of talent and should see a heavy dose of targets.

27. Antonio Brown
While Brown isn’t as gifted as Wallace, he has good hands and is a more consistent option for fantasy purposes.

The “In-Between” Brigade
Though these gents are worthy of a starting fantasy role to start the season, there’s a touch of volatility that just doesn’t sit right.
28. Michael Crabtree
Michael Crabtree saw over a quarter of his team’s targets and still had underwhelming production. He reportedly is looking faster and healthier than ever this summer, so there is still some hope that he lives up to the hype that came with him to the NFL four years ago.

29. Denarius Moore
He’s seriously one of the most talented WRs in all of football. Great hands, great speed, big play monster. Yet Darrius Heyward-Bey is somehow considered the more valuable fantasy WR? Fuck that. Moore has to deal with a relatively weak-armed Carson Palmer, but his upside is higher than a college student on 4/20.

30. Robert Meachem
Big Meach has the deep-play potential Philip Rivers loves, and all accounts are that he’s the clear no. 1 WR in San Diego.

31. Miles Austin
This version of Austin 3:16 says “I Just Tore My Hamstring.” While Miles has a great rapport with Tony Romo and considerable upside, the injury-risk kicks him outside the top 30.

32. Greg Little
Brandon Weeden is an upgrade from Colt McCoy, but while Little has a lot of physical talent, he is still learning the WR position. Ole’ butterfingers dropped 14 passes last year.

33. Brandon LaFell
A deep-play threat with great hands, LaFell should see plenty of single coverage thanks to Steve Smith’s presence and Cam Newton’s legs. The only problem is that he may not see the targets necessary to warrant every-week starter status.

34. Titus Young
Megatron will draw a lot of attention, leaving Young with room to operate. Nate Burleson is still around, however, so Young’s target total may not be high enough for him to make a big-time fantasy impact.

The “Last Ditch” Degenerates
These are starting NFL WRs, so their presence on their team’s roster dictates you must take them at some point in the draft. This is where you have to take them because they could very well be 1,000 yard players. Of course, there’s a reason they’re sitting this low in the ranks.
35. Vincent Jackson
So Jackson, a big play threat, is signed by Tampa Bay to catch passes thrown by Josh Freeman (who doesn’t air it out) and play in offense that is expected to run often. Sure he’ll help stretch the field, but the opportunities for big games will be far more infrequent now that Jackson has left San Diego.

36. Demaryius Thomas
So much talent, so little refinement. A Peyton Manning pass offense is predicated on receivers going where they’re supposed to. Problem is, Thomas hasn’t really been asked to run precise routes thus far in his NFL career, and the raw product will likely see fewer targets than Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme.

37. Santonio Holmes
Holmes is a deep play threat who has zero QBs who can air it out. Sure he’s the no. 1 WR in New York, but that only gets you so far in this Jets offense.

38. Danny Amendola
The scrappy little guy has PPR potential, but Rams pass offense will continue to limit his upside. He’ll lead the team in targets, but Wes Welker he’s not.

39. Sidney Rice
He’s still a downfield threat despite the injury risk. The downside? He’s a major injury risk.

40. Santana Moss
Moss dropped 16 pounds this offseason and reportedly looks faster, but he’s third on the receiving totem pole behind Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis.

41. Malcom Floyd
Every year people predict a breakout for Malcom Floyd, so of course the same chatter is starting up because Vincent Jackson is gone. Robert Meachem is in, however, so Floyd is still the third guy to the table at the Philip Rivers buffet.

42. Anquan Boldin
Torrey Smith gives his value a little boost by stretching the field so that Boldin has room over the middle, but let’s just face facts: Boldin will never be as good as he was in Arizona. Ever.

43. Nate Washington
He found his niche in the slot and there’s something to be said for his durability throughout his NFL career. Unfortunately, still unproven Jake Locker has Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, and a couple of promising young WRs to throw to. It remains to be seen how targets will get doled out and whether those targets will be of the accurate variety.

44. Davone Bess
He’s the top WR in Miami by default, and that gives him more value than a lot of other fantasy WRs with more upside. Too bad he’s a possession receiver masquerading as a no. 1.

The “Sleeper” Squadron
They aren’t the only sleepers on this list, but these overlooked options can be quite the find if things break right for them in 2012.
45. Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery is a rookie and has a history in college of work ethic and conditioning problems. Still, he has an intriguing blend of size and speed. He also is part of a Chicago WR corps begging for someone to step up and start opposite Brandon Marshall.

46. Randall Cobb
The idea is simple: find a way to get the ball in his hands and watch him do work. Whether Cobb can develop into a reliable fantasy WR remains to be seen, but the upside is there.

47. Josh Gordon
Talent-wise, he’s one of the best rookie WRs in football. He’s still very raw and was taken in the supplemental draft, so he got a crash course in the Browns’ playbook. Still, all they have to do is put the ball in Gordon’s hands and watch him go crazy.

48. Justin Blackmon
Though a high draft pick, Blackmon isn’t that spectacular of a prospect. He’s not explosive, and he still needs work as a route-runner. Blackmon does possess excellent hands and leaping ability, however, so he’ll likely be the top target in Jacksonville’s shitty, shitty offense.

49. Jon Baldwin
Size, speed, little competition for targets after Dwayne Bowe… yeah, Baldwin’s a sleeper.

The “Can You Really Trust ‘Em?” Tools
Sure these players all have the potential to be great, but it’ll be a touch-and-go process in terms of being able to trust them with a starting (or roster) spot. Choose wisely, however, and you may wind up with a steal.
50. Kenny Britt
I was fully on board for a Britt breakout last year and it was happening… until he got hurt. Dude wrecked his knee so bad he actually tossed the football away while in the midst of a play. There’s no way he’ll be as good as he was pre-injury, but 70 percent of Kenny Britt is better than most WRs.

51. Darrius Heyward-Bey
Everyone’s loaded off DHB, but it’s Denarius Moore who will emerge as the top dog in Oakland. Heyward-Bey is mostly a deep threat, but Carson Palmer’s arm strength ain’t what it used to be.

52. Donnie Avery
With the Colts, Avery is expected to fill the “Mike Wallace role” in new OC Bruce Arians’ offense. Avery will need to prove he can stay healthy to really make an impact in fantasy, but he does have speed.

53. Roberto Wallace
A special teamer the last two years, Wallace makes this tier because, unlike all the other Miami receivers, he has upside. He does possess some deep-play ability though, so keep an eye on this one.

54. Lance Moore
Always a relatively safe pick, Moore should once again have some great performances, and some quiet ones. Guessing when those will happen is another story.

55. Golden Tate
Tate might finally cash in on all that talent with a competent QB under center and some valuable experience in Pete Carroll’s offense. The main obstacle will be earning enough targets with a slew of receiving options now in Seattle.

56. Mike Williams
The arrival of Vincent Jackson takes a lot of pressure away from Williams, but he’ll still need to generate more separation in order to re-establish himself as a fantasy starter. That will be hard to do in a run-first offense.

The “Second In Line” Locos
They may not be starting, but these “back-ups” all have the potential to emerge as relevant fantasy options.
57. LaVon Brazill
He’s a threat to score whenever the ball in his hands, but the Colts rookie is low in the pecking order for the time being. Still, OC Bruce Arians might be too intrigued by Brazill’s skill-set to keep him off the field.

58. Kevin Ogletree
We saw how Tony Romo turned Laurent Robinson into a very rich man, so there’s no reason to think Ogletree can’t become a solid fantasy option with the right amount of targets. It helps his cause that Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten are all dealing with injuries.

59. Jerome Simpson
He’s suspended for the first three games of the season and is always at risk of missing time with injuries, but Simpson is a deep-play weapon whom the Vikings signed to help stretch the field. Christian Ponder is a sneaky QB sleeper and this Minnesota pass offense will be better than people think.

60. James Jones
If he wasn’t in an Aaron Rodgers offense, he’d probably be off this list completely. Alas, he’s in an Aaron Rodgers offense and still has some untapped potential.

61. Louis Murphy
Landing in Carolina has saved his fantasy value as Murphy provides a speedy outside threat for Cam Newton. Sure he’s injury-prone, but a relatively healthy season could yield some solid returns.

62. Jacoby Ford
Ford has wheels, but he’ll have to settle for slot duty this season as the outside roles are taken. He might thrive working over the middle, but he’ll have to stay healthy (something he’s struggled with in the past).

63. Kendall Wright
Quick and sure-handed, all signs this summer have pointed to Wright having a big role in this offense as a rookie. Of course, Tennessee has a lot of options in the passing game, so it remains to be seen how targets will shake out.

64. Travis Benjamin
An explosive little guy, Benjamin is an interesting deep sleeper for fantasy owners. Though undersized and unlikely to thrive against more physical NFL defensive players, Benjamin is dynamic enough to carve out a role in Cleveland.

The “Probably Not” Possee
If you draft any of these players, it’s late in your draft and you’re hoping to get someone that you might be able to use down the road. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen with these guys. That said, they all have some trait that makes them interesting enough to draft. None of these players are worthy of my detailed prognostication, but they are all worth keeping an eye on for the remainder of the preseason and throughout the regular season.
65. Steve Smith (STL)
66. Laurent Robinson
67. Michael Floyd
68. Nate Burleson
69. Leonard Hankerson
70. Austin Collie
71. Dwayne Harris
72. Earl Bennett
73. Andre Roberts
74. Randy Moss
75. Stephen Hill
76. Mohamed Massaquoi
77. Doug Baldwin
78. Mohamed Sanu
79. Lestar Jean
80. Donald Jones
81. Harry Douglas
82. Domenik Hixon
83. Early Doucet
84. T.J. Graham
85. Steve Breaston
86. Jerrel Jernigan
87. Marvin Jones
88. Andre Caldwell
89. Jason Avant
90. Keshawn Martin
91. Devin Hester
92. Jacoby Jones
93. DeVier Posey
94. Danario Alexander

*Last updated 8/27/12. 


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.