The NFL has changed so much over the years. The days of power running formations are gone as the league is becoming dominated by the passing game. Three and four wide receiver sets are becoming more common. Tight ends are being utilized in the passing game more than ever. The fullback position is almost a thing of the past as many teams don't even carry one on the roster. Two-back systems are now in place as the halfback position continues to be devalued each year.
These changes in the NFL game have had an immediate impact on fantasy football. The past few seasons the quarterback position is said to be deeper than ever as you can find a quality starter in the later rounds. Wide receiver is also loaded with talent as some NFL teams have three receivers who hold fantasy value from year to year in even the shallowest of fantasy leagues. I don't expect this year to be any different.
While the top 6-8 guys may be in a class of their own, there is so much value in the mid to late rounds once again. My rankings are based off of standard scoring redraft leagues. Six points for a touchdown, 1 point for every ten yards, and no PPR. The rankings also assume that Josh Gordon will be out with a potential one-year suspension looming. If he were to only miss half of the year, I believe he would be well worth a mid to late-round flier as he was the number one fantasy receiver a season ago in just 14 games.
Tier 1- WR1 Studs
1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions- The Lions have added more playmakers in an attempt to take some attention away from the best receiver in the game.
2. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos- Legit stud who has the ability to beat you in so many ways with his impressive blend of size and speed.
3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys- Expect a monster year in Scott Linehan's pass-happy offense.
4. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals- Has been one of the most consistent receivers since entering the league in 2011.
5. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons- No Tony Gonzalez will create more targets for the extremely talented fourth year star.
6. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers- Number one target for arguably the best quarterback in the league.
7. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears- May be on the downside of his career but will still be productive in an offense loaded with playmakers.
Tier 2- Proven Players in WR1 Conversation
8. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers- Has really developed into one of the better young receivers in the game.
9. Alshon Jeffery, Chicaco Bears- Breakout season a year ago puts Jeffery in top ten but I need to see more to put him any higher.
10. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers- Big time potential, especially in PPR leagues if he and Rodgers can stay healthy this year.
11. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals- Michael Floyd's emergence will help keep some attention off of the 8 time Pro Bowler.
12. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Durable and talented receiver is a good bet for another 1,200 yard, 8 touchdown type of season.
13. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers- Showed legitimate WR1 potential last season as Philip Rivers' favorite target.
14. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans- The fact the Texans waited so long to take a QB tells me they want to run the football early and often.
15. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins- DeSean Jackson's presence will really help Garcon as I expect a huge year.
16. Victor Cruz, New York Giants- Expect to see flashes of the 2011 Cruz as I believe he will bounce back from a down season in 2013.
Tier 3- Talented but Need to be More Consistent
17. Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals- Reportedly has looked amazing so far this spring and could be primed for big season.
18. DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins- Could be a great fit with RG3 who has tremendous accuracy on his deep ball.
19. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers- Having Crabtree healthy for a full season will not only help the 49ers but also his fantasy value.
20. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens- A healthy Dennis Pitta and the signing of Steve Smith should help open things up for Torrey Smith down the field.
21. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos- Assuming he can stay healthy he could be one of the best values this year if you can grab him this late.
22. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons- Injury concern but he won't get near the attention on the outside with the return of Julio Jones.
23. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts- Burst onto the scene in his sophomore season with over 1,000 yards and 5 scores.
24. Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks- Talent is evident but injuries and a run-first offense push him down a little.
25. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles- One of Philly's receivers will likely have big season, but will it be Maclin?
26. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots- Proved to be a PPR stud and Brady's go-to-guy last season as Gronkowski and Amendola struggled with injuries.
27. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs- Disappointment a season ago but could his big game in the playoffs of 8-150-1 be a sign of things to come?
28. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts- Figures to be the chain-mover once again for the Colts and Andrew Luck if he can bounce back from a torn ACL a season ago.
29. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints- Has the potential for a big game any given week but just one of many weapons at Drew Brees' disposal.
30. Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins- Wallace will never live up to his big contract but Miami's offense should be improved from a season ago.
Tier 4- Solid Players in WR3-WR4 Range
31. Cordarralle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings- Lots of developing to do as a receiver but he is certainly a special talent.
32. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions- Run heavy offense to pass happy offense will really help his fantasy outlook.
33. Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans- Is a master at working underneath routes but subpar quarterback play will likely limit his production.
34. Eric Decker, New York Jets- Won't be nearly as productive in New York but should be good bet for 6-8 scores.
35. Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos- Intriguing fantasy outlook in great offense but will have to beat out second rounder Cody Latimer for the #3 receiver job and many others for targets.
36. Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys- Has a great opportunity to become the #2 receiver in a prolific passing offense.
37. Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers- Still like his game but adding Steve Johnson will likely limit his targets.
Tier 5- Exciting Players with Area for Concern
38. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Will make immediate contribution in the red zone with his big frame to bully defensive backs.
39. Rueben Randle, New York Giants- Thought he had a great chance for huge season before the addition of Odell Beckham in the draft.
40. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills- In a run-first offense with an unproven quarterback in E.J. Manuel, don't reach for the talented rookie.
41. Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts- Great opportunity with a star quarterback to revitalize his career but can he stay healthy?
42. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans- Showed flashes as a rookie but will likely have a downgrade at quarterback in a run-first attack.
43. Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars- Will likely lose some targets to second rounders Lee and Robinson but still an exciting player.
44. James Jones, Oakland Raiders- Should see plenty of opportunities as the Raiders figure to be in catch up mode for much of the season.
45. Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers- Nice potential but will have to beat out second round pick Davante Adams for the #3 role.
46. Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles- I expect him to overtake Cooper for the #2 job before season's end.
47. Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots- Showed flashes but was extremely inconsistent in his rookie season.
48. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints- Big play guy will have a role in one of the best passing attacks in the league.
49. Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans- Great talent who will get his chance from week 1 with Kenny Britt off to St. Louis.
50. Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals- Could be on verge of breakout season after scoring 10 touchdowns a season ago in limited playing time.
51. Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins- Won't score many touchdowns but will be productive enough to be quality depth player.
52. Danny Amendola, New England Patriots- Could be a great value this late if he can stay on the field, especially in PPR formats.
Tier 6- Late Round Fliers Who Could Contribute
53. Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings- Doesn't get the national attention of teammates Adrian Peterson and Cordarralle Patterson but still a quality NFL receiver.
54. Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles- Seemed to have a rapport with Foles a season ago but really fell off late in the year.
55. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers- May be a bit of a project after only one productive season at Florida State, but will get every opportunity to become Carolina's #1 receiver.
56. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams- Will he be able to build off of his late season emergence in 2013?
57. Odell Beckham, New York Giants- Has the necessary talent to help Eli put his ugly 2013 season behind him.
58. Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills- A big fan of his talent but the Bills figure to run the ball often after leading the NFL in rushing attempts a season ago.
59. Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens- Doubt he has much left in the tank but should see enough targets to warrant a late round pick.
60. Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints- The addition of Cooks will hinder his breakout potential but still figures to have larger role in year two.
It is obviously way too early to predict the value of many of these players as OTAs have yet to get underway. There is much to be sorted out as some players are fighting for their NFL lives while others are competing for a starting job. All of this is important to keep an eye on as the 2014 NFL season approaches as they could have a major effect on the fantasy football landscape.