There is nothing worse for a fantasy football junkie then checking your team Sunday night and seeing that your top receiver had two catches for 34 yards and no touchdowns. Whether you are in a PPR league or standard scoring this weak performance will dramatically hurt your chances of winning your weakly match-up. In my personal opinion, a good receiver can be more valuable than any other position, especially when drafting in the first two rounds. The problem with waiting to draft receivers is that in a 10-12 person league, it is nearly impossible to find a quality wide out on waivers by week three, especially if each player in your league is likely to claim three to four receivers. This is why I would advise all fantasy players, even in my own league, to draft that game-changing receiver as soon you can.
Below is a list of my top 5 receivers to draft in the first and second round this year. A top wide out will get you 100+ yards per game and a least a touchdown every week, and if this player is the top target for one of the best quarterbacks in the league he is likely to get seven to nine receptions per game. When ranking these players I factor in not only how elite they are compared to the rest of the league, but also who is throwing the ball to them and what other offensive weapons surround their team.
1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Megatron has proven over the last four seasons that he is the most dominant football player in the game today. His size and speed is a match-up nightmare for undersized defensive backs and even if they double team him he still finds a way to shake off the defense and cause a mismatch. Last season Johnson had nearly 1,500 yards, which was significantly down from the season before, but his touchdowns increased by seven and he still averaged six catches a game. The Lions are coming off 7-9 season and this is going to be a big year for Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense, who have only made the playoffs once in the past five seasons. Expect Johnson to have another spectacular year and if you are fortunate to have number 81 available when you draft in the first round make sure you lock up this big playmaker.
Projected Stats: 1,620 yards receiving, 105 receptions, 12 touchdowns
2. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bangles
It was very hard for me to choose between Johnson and the Bangles top wide out A.J Green. I think I chose Johnson to edge out Green ever so slightly because I’m more confident in Matthew Stafford than I am Andy Dalton. I believe Cincinnati is the better offense, but from a fantasy perspective that could potentially mean fewer points for Green. However, if I have the option between the two I will be going back and forth until just before my draft time expires.
If Johnson is the number one receiver in the league, then A.J Green is one B and I believe by seasons end this debate will be even more prevalent. Last season Green had a career high in receptions, receiving yards, receptions per game, and he tied his career high in number of receptions per game and season touchdown totals. I fully expect him to continue progressing at an elite level.
Projected Stats: 1,580 yards receiving, 110 receptions, 9 touchdowns
3. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Over the past two seasons Denver’s Demaryius Thomas has reeled in nearly 3,000 yards, 24 touchdowns, and nearly 200 receptions. I believe these monster numbers will continue this season, which will translate into a great wide receiver one for any team. With the departure of Eric Decker, Payton Manning will be able to check down field to Thomas even more this season. I don’t see the addition of Emmanuel Sanders hurting Thomas’ fantasy numbers too much and I expect him to produce similar numbers as he has over the past two years. ESPN analyst Matthew Berry has Thomas as the second overall ranked wide out, but I’m convinced that Denver’s leading receiver from last year will take a step back to Green this season. However, this is not to say he won’t put up fantastic numbers.
Projected Stats: 1,380 yards receiving, 89 receptions, 10 touchdowns
4. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
Since Coming to the Bears two seasons ago, Brandon Marshall is arguably the best wide receiver in team history and remains one of best wide outs in the league. Even with the emergence of teammate Alshon Jeffery in the high-speed Marc Trestman offense, Marshall is still the first option for quarterback Jay Cutler. Marshall was the fifth overall wide receiver in fantasy football last year with over 200 points, only behind the three other players listed ahead of him and suspended Cleveland Brown receiver Josh Gordon. Marshall has over 2,800 receiving yards the past two seasons to go with 23 touchdowns and 218 receptions. His receptions per game dropped last season, while his total number of touchdowns went up. I expect this stat to swap this season, which will make him one of the best wide outs in a PPR league.
Projected Stats: 1,330 yards receiving, 108 receptions, 8 touchdowns
5. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
I think many football analysts are counting out the Atlanta Falcons this year after having an abysmal 4-12 season. The big mistake in thinking the Falcons will repeat this type of season is that Matt Ryan’s best weapon Julio Jones is once again healthy and hungry for his break out year. Jones missed 11 games last year after injuring his foot. Even with Roddy White and Harry Douglas, Jones remains the top receiving option for Ryan and the Falcons. Many people forget that this former Pro Bowler is only 25 years old and we have yet to see his best performances. In his first two seasons, prior to the injury last year, Jones averaged 1,000 yards a season, nine touchdowns, and nearly 75 yards per game. These numbers are great for a WR2, but in his five games last year he had 580 yards and averaged 116 yards per game. These numbers would have translated into a monster season had he not gotten hurt. I am predicting a big year out of Jones and even if the Falcons do not get back to elite status, you can pencil in Jones to be one of the best fantasy wide receiver options of 2014.