Fantasy Football: WR Rankings Analysis

The studs, the sleepers, the overpriced, and a call to shift first round fantasy draft strategy in 2015

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Fantasy QB Rankings Analysis](http://www.colts.com/news/article-fantasyfootball/Fantasy-Football-QB-Rankings-Analysis/fdbdbfb2-45d3-45d7-be85-db35924e0137)

INDIANAPOLIS --- The wide receiver invasion will continue in fantasy football in 2015. Mark my words. Half of the top-12 flex (RB/WR/TE) scoring leaders in 2014 were wide receivers in standard scoring. If you expand the list to the top-24 flex scoring leaders, half were still wide receivers.

In point per reception leagues, even more wideouts cracked the flex scoring leaders. Receivers accounted for 8 of the top-12 scoring leaders (including Antonio Brown #1 overall in PPR) and 14 of the top-24.

So why are we still married to drafting a running back in the first round, when they keep burning so many of our teams? At the risk of sounding emo, it ends tonight! I'm breaking up with you, "must draft a running back in the first round" strategy.

Two of the top-5 RBs drafted in fantasy last year didn't finish among the top-10 RB scoring leaders (Charles and Peterson). Plus, have we already forgotten the 1st Round Running Back Massacre of 2013? Four of the top-5 RBs drafted that year finished no better than 10th at the position with three finishing outside 24th.

I should be clear though. If you have a top-5 pick in standard scoring drafts, you should draft one of the stud RBs (Bell, Peterson, Lynch, Charles, Lacy), because there will still be a stud WR there in round two to also draft but not vice versa. However, if you have a mid-to-late first round pick, then the top stud WRs (Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, and Jordy Nelson are my top-3) just look safer to me and have just as high a ceiling as the RB alternatives. So with that, here are the WR rankings:

2015 NFL.com WR Rankings (Average Draft Round on NFL.com 10-team leagues)

PIT Antonio Brown (1st)

DAL Dez Bryant (2nd)

DET Calvin Johnson (2nd)

DEN Demaryius Thomas (2nd)

GB Jordy Nelson (2nd)

NYG Odell Beckham (2nd)

ATL Julio Jones (3rd)

IND T.Y. Hilton (3rd)

GB Randall Cobb (3rd)

CHI Alshon Jeffery (3rd)

CIN A.J. Green (3rd)

WAS DeSean Jackson (5th)

HOU DeAndre Hopkins (4th)

DEN Emmanuel Sanders (4th)

PHI Jordan Matthews (5th)

NO Brandin Cooks (5th)

CAR Kelvin Benjamin (4th)

KC Jeremy Maclin (8th)

NE Brandon LaFell (9th)

SF Torrey Smith (10th)

BUF Sammy Watkins (6th)

TB Mike Evans (4th)

WAS Pierre Garcon (15th)

IND Andre Johnson (6th)

MIA Jarvis Landry (6th)

DET Golden Tate (9th)

ARI Michael Floyd (13th)

NYJ Brandon Marshall (10th)

CHI Kevin White (7th)

NE Julian Edelman (5th)

BAL Steve Smith (11th)

OAK Amari Cooper (7th)

NYJ Eric Decker (15th)

SD Keenan Allen (8th)

MIA DeVante Parker (14th)

OAK Michael Crabtree (13th)

ARI Larry Fitzgerald (14th)

TEN Kendall Wright (14th)

MIN Charles Johnson (13th)

TB Vincent Jackson (11th)

---

Commit to Getting One of the Top-9 WRs: The top-9 look so good and so dependable this year that I do not want to go into my fantasy season without one of them. Hopefully, that means traditionalists in your league will still go RB-RB to start, so you can still snag one of these guys even if you have an early first round pick and have to wait until the end of the 2nd round to get one of them. I will not be going RB-RB in any of my leagues this year. I guarantee it.

Calvin Johnson #3?: When healthy, you obviously can't argue with this ranking, but Johnson finished 14th among WRs last year in standard leagues after missing three games. He was also a little inconsistent when he came back with only five points in weeks 11, 12, and 15 last year (a fantasy playoff killer for many). Johnson missed two more games in 2013 as well. Again, if he's healthy, I can't argue with this ranking, but I'd prefer drafting Brown, Bryant, Thomas, Nelson, and Beckham over him this year.

My WR tiebreaker philosophy: There will undoubtedly be a few times when you draft this year when you are trying to decide which receiver to take between two or more of them. My decision in these situations is always simple. Which player has the more reliable quarterback? It's why despite the rankings above I'll always draft Emmanuel Sanders over DeSean Jackson and DeAndre Hopkins, Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin over Jordan Matthews (although I usually give a Chip Kelly offense the benefit of the doubt), and Andre Johnson over Sammy Watkins and Pierre Garcon. You can't catch a lot of passes without a good quarterback, right?

Andre Johnson: I'm bullish on Andre Johnson's fantasy prospects after signing with the Colts. He's solidly in my WR2 rankings, even in 10-team leagues. I would draft him over anybody listed 15-23 ahead of him above, except for Benjamin and Evans. In March, I explained in depth what to expect from Johnson in his age 34 season, compared to similar wide receivers of his caliber on the all-time receptions and yards lists. Hint: there were a lot of 1000 and 1100 yard seasons on that list. We haven't even talked about the TD possibilities in this Colts offense yet either. Draft with confidence. Why can't Hilton and Johnson both put up elite fantasy WR numbers in the same offense? Nelson and Cobb do it every year, as have the 2 best Broncos WRs.

Patriot Games: My biggest confusion with the NFL.com receiver rankings is why Brandon LaFell is so high and Julian Edelman is so low. Yes, LaFell outscored Edelman in standard scoring last year (by all of 3 points), but LaFell was still only the #23 WR. He also had seven games with 6 points or less. Edelman obviously gets the bump over LaFell in PPR leagues, but in standard, his #30 ranking is still too low for me. He missed two games last year and still finished 25th among WRs in standard scoring.

Value Picks: Players that are being drafted too low that you can capitalize on

Golden Tate (9th round? Wow. Just wow. #13 WR last year in first year of a new offense)

Jeremy Maclin (his numbers will go down going to KC from Philadelphia, but an 8th round pick makes him a big bargain, which sets up nicely for RBs in the mid rounds before snagging Maclin in the 7th/8th)

Pierre Garcon (15th round?! I'm not high on him, but for a 15th round pick, sign me up...113 rec, 1346yds, 5TD in 2013)

Steve Smith (He's 36, but if healthy, has new OC Marc Trestman to help. An 11th round pick is more than worth it.)

DeVante Parker (Every bit as much upside as a rookie WR as Amari Cooper and Kevin White and a better QB situation than them...could be the fantasy steal of the year in round 14. At that price, what do you have to lose?)

Larry Fitzgerald (averaged more than five receptions and 80 yards per game last year when Carson Palmer was healthy...WR2 upside in round 14 if Cardinals QB situation stabilizes)

Overpriced Picks: Players that are being drafted too high that you should avoid - DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, Kevin White, Julian Edelman, Amari Cooper

PPR Bump: Players that drop a couple spots in point per reception leagues - DeAndre Hopkins, DeSean Jackson, Sammy Watkins, Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Maclin

Sleepers ranked outside NFL.com's top-40 WRs: ARI John Brown, PIT Martavis Bryant, NO Marques Colston, BAL Breshad Perriman, PHI Nelson Agholor, MIA Kenny Stills, NYG Victor Cruz (if healthy, big if, very tough knee injury)

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