Every website has a list of pre-season rankings, and Fake Teams is no different. As we approach our drafts and for some our auctions, I want to look at what I believe to be the elite receivers in the NFL. In 2010, it is more important to have an elite receiver then an elite running back, since most teams have a time share splitting the carries between two backs. In my eyes, there are 12 receivers who are in their own tier and are a must own for the upcoming season. Sorry DeSean Jackson, but this list does not include you.
1.Andre Johnson, Hou: Many people would argue that Randy Moss should be the number 1 receiver overall, but unlike Moss; Johnson is Matt Schaub’s favorite receiver, where the argument could be made Tom Brady prefers to throw to Wes Welker. Johnson now has back to back seasons with over 1,500 yards and at least 8 touchdowns. There is no doubt in my mind Johnson is a top 10 pick, and I would be tempted to take Johnson at number three overall after Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson.
2. Randy Moss, NE: Write it down now, 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns, Moss is automatic. Reports of Wes Welker being ready for opening day would have many believe that it hurts Moss’s status, but I strongly disagree. With Welker and Julian Edleman causing damage, the Patriots passing game could reflect the 18-1 team. Now I don’t expect Moss to have 23 touchdowns, but I do expect him to put up batter numbers then the previous two seasons. Moss is a contract year, and with Moss in line for his last big pay day, 1300 yards and 14 touchdowns would not surprise me what so ever.
3. Brandon Marshall, Mia: With arguably the best hands in football, Marshall has averaged 102 receptions and 1,237 receiving yards the last three seasons. Marshall has shown that the quarterback doesn’t matter, so Chad Henne should be in for a treat. The Dolphins have lacked a red zone target in recent years, so Marshall will be there possession receiver, the down field receiver and end zone target. Some prefer to stay away from Marshall because of his character issues, but the Dolphins are a Super Bowl contender, so I expect Marshall to be great and for his behavior to be up to par. Many believe the Dolphins are a run first offense, but Henne averaged more than 40 attempts per game the final five weeks of the season, so Marshall should be in for a big season.
4. Reggie Wayne, Indy: Wayne now has six consecutive seasons of going over 1,000 yards, and is the best receiver on a team that struggles to run the ball (the Colts had the fewest rushing attempts in 2009) . Until December, Wayne was arguably the best receiver in the league, but with injuries and double coverage he slowed up, opening the door for other receivers. Owners are concerned with the emergence of Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie that Wayne won’t repeat his numbers from previous seasons, but like Moss in New England, Wayne will see single coverage and Peyton Manning will abuse those matchups.
5. Roddy White, Atl: In 2009 White took a dip in receiving yards but became an elite red zone target for Matt Ryan scoring 11 touchdowns. The dip in yards made perfect sense; the Falcons offensive line was pedestrian which led Ryan to have an inconsistent season. In 2010, I look for Ryan to bounce back, which means White could be in for the biggest season of his career. Not only should White surpass 1,200 yards but he should have a career high in touchdowns, while the Falcons become a pass first offense.
6. Larry Fitzgerald, Ari: For the first time in four years, I am weary of taking Fitzgerald in the first three rounds. Not only is he losing Hall of Fame bound signal caller Kurt Warner, but he is coming off a season where he didn’t surpass 1,100 yards, for the first time since 2006. Now with his running mate Anquan Boldin in Baltimore, and Matt Leinart at the helm, Fitzgerald could be in for the toughest year of his career. I love Fitz, but I don’t think he’s guaranteed to be a number one receiver and I believe the Cardinals will run the ball more than ever. I believe Fitz will still surpass 1,000 yards based on talent alone, but I would expect some games where Fitzgerald presence won’t be felt in the passing attack.
More WR rankings after the jump:
7. Calvin Johnson, Det: People need to understand that Johnson was not a bust in 2009, and that he was consistent the whole season. Johnson missed two games due to injury, left a game because of an injury and was without quarterback without Matthew Stafford for five games. In an injury plagues season, Johnson still managed 987 receiving yards, with a pedestrian offense, where he constantly faced double teams. Johnson who was targeted 20 times in the red zone in 2009 will have that number in the mid 30s by the end of this season, while doubling his touchdown total from a year ago (five). The Lions offense should be vastly improved in 2010, led by Megatron who will prove he was worth being the number two pick.
8. Steve Smith, Car: The Panthers will always be a run first team, but that doesn’t mean Smith won’t put up big numbers every season. Smith who had his streak of consecutive 1,000 yard seasons broke last year, when he broke his forearm in week 16 vs. the Giants. Smith should be ready for opening day and ready to start a new streak with a new quarterback Matt Moore. With Moore taking the snaps, Smith scored touchdowns in three consecutive games reminding you why you selected him to be your number one receiver. Many are weary of taking Smith because his injury and the lack of confidence in Moore, so he could fall to the 5th round, making him a steal for anyone who can grab him that late.
9. Miles Austin, Dal: He finished third in receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns, making Austin the best free agent pick up of 2009. From week five through week 17, Austin only had two games where he had less than nine fantasy points, so the expectation in 2010 are through the roof. He was so consistent week in and week out; it’s hard to fathom Austin being a one year wonder, especially in such a dynamic Cowboys offense. I am a little skeptical that Austin will match last year’s numbers because of the addition of Dez Bryant, and because I expect Jason Witten to be a big part of the red zone offense this season. Austin should be the go to receiver in Dallas, but I would lower my expectations, and would avoid taking Austin until the end of round three or early in round in four.
10. Greg Jennings, GB: Playing on a pass first run second team, it was a surprise that Jennings finished 2009 with only four touchdowns. At the end of the season, Jennings finished as the 20th ranked fantasy receiver, which didn’t meet his owner’s expectations, but was once again a solid contributor on a weekly basis. A consistent deep threat, Jennings is a guarantee to go over 1,110 yards, so based on that alone I like as a lower tier number one receiver. Jennings lacks upside because of all of the weapons in the Green Bay offense, but as the number one target for the number one fantasy quarterback (Aaron Rodgers), Jennings could repeat his 2008 numbers in a heartbeat.
11. Marques Colston, NO: When healthy Colston is an animal, grabbing at least 70 balls when he plays 14 games or more. The last three seasons Colston has averaged 1,012 receiving yards per season to go along with eight touchdowns, making him the Saints number one receiver. Like Jennings, the Saints have so many options on offense that Colston could go two weeks without making a major impact on the field, and then show up for two touchdown game. Colston like Jennings is a safe pick, but with such a drop off from the bottom tier number one receivers to a high end number two, Colston is too good to pass up.
12. Sidney Rice, Min: The ranking with Rice all depends on if Brett Favre comes back, and since I am going to assume he does, I think number 12 is extremely accurate. Rice was tremendous last season finishing with 1,312 receiving yards and eight touchdowns after being a no show in his first two seasons. My concern with Rice has zero to do with him, but with so many other options on the Vikings (Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Visanthe Shiancoeand Peterson) and with my expectations the Vikings run the ball more this season, Rice should see a decreased role in the offense. Rice will put up very good numbers in 2010, but I expect a small drop-off even with the return of Favre.