The first week of preseason is in the books, and a lot of things are coming clearer into focus. Ryan Matthews will break a bone walking up the stairs apparently, as he broke his collar bone after his very first carry of the year. Regardless of whether he’ll be back by week 1 or not, I just can’t take the chance of having my first-round pick be a risk for injury all year round. My hair is turning gray enough as it is.
Also, Andrew Luck has impressed, throwing his first touchdown pass as a 60-plus-yard swingout to Donald Brown. I was scooping both guys up extremely late in some mock drafts, but after this performance, I have to figure that both guys will be going earlier.
Another guy who is going to be going pretty early is Julio Jones, who went over 100 yards with a TD in limited playing time.
Last week I examined the potential values in running backs by committee. This week, I’m looking at the wide receivers. The position is crazy deep this year, with many teams featuring multiple receivers that could yield seriously good returns on the initial draft investment. I’m going to identify the guys I think are going too high, and the guys who will provide some serious value.
Just like with the running backs, there are some teams with a clear-cut number one receiver: Detroit (Megatron), Arizona (Larry Fitzgerald), Houston (Andre Johnson), Minnesota (Percy Harvin), Carolina (Steve Smith), Cincinnati (AJ Green), Kansas City (Dwayne Bowe), and Indianapolis (Reggie Wayne). Wayne is the lowest of these names, and I’ve targeted him as my WR3 in many different leagues.
As for everybody else, it’s up in the air! Let’s start with my beloved New York Giants.
New York Giants: Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz?
This is a tough one, because Nicks has the experience edge, but he’s hurt (although he’s going to be good to go for Week 1 by all reports), and Cruz has the bigger home run ability, but was last season the real deal or just an anomaly? Cruz has gone before Nicks in all mock drafts, though not by much (Cruz is a late second-round pick, Nicks an early third round pick). Personally, I’d rather spend the third round pick on Nicks if he’s available over the second round pick on Cruz. Eli’s definitely going to have to throw the ball a lot this year, and I think both of these guys are going to be around the same in targets. With the stats just about even, I figure I’m going to get better value out of Nicks a full round later than Cruz. If both are available in the third round (doubtful), I’ll pull in Cruz.
Dallas Cowboys: Miles Austin or Dez Bryant?
Neither can stay healthy, and there’s no telling what kind of punishment will be handed down on Dez from either the NFL or the Cowboys themselves. Personally, where these guys have been going (Austin in Round 4, Dez in Round 5), I’ve found healthier, better-behaved, and all-around more reliable WR choices like Steve Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, and others. So my answer? Neither. If I knew about Dez’s future and whether or not he’d miss any games because of his suspension, I’d figure Round 5 would be an absolute steal to get him, but until his future is more clear, I’m staying away. He obviously gets my vote over Austin though.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jeremy Maclin or DeSean Jackson?
Both of these guys are a steal where they’re going. I think I’m going to get second round value out of Maclin, who is going in the fourth, and fourth round value out of DeSean Jackson, who I’ve seen fall as low as Round 8. I think people are scared of DeSean because of his bust year last year. But he’s a whiny diva brat receiver who is also scared to go across the middle for fear that Dunta Robinson will lay him out again (and I don’t blame him). But my personal dislike for DeSean aside (and I really don’t like him), I have to realize that he got paid, and he should be satisfied and willing to produce. Maclin unfortunately suffered all season long last year with a mysterious illness, but still managed to put together some decent games. I’ve heard no signs that any symptoms of the illness has lasted, so Maclin’s posing to be a beast this year. And I think DeSean will pull of some big games as well. It pains me as a Giants fan to say this, but I’m targeting both guys for my roster. Maclin will produce more because he’ll be more of a possession receiver than DeSean, but D-Jax will pull off some big moves.
Washington Redskins: Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, or Leonard Hankerson?
There’s a fallacy in fantasy that a high paid guy will automatically be better than anybody else. No doubt Garcon got paid this year, but I’ve rolled the dice on him before and gotten burned. He was at his best when Peyton Manning was healthy and throwing to him, and with all due respect to RG3, no matter how proficient of a passer he is, he is not Peyton Manning. Garcon is going in Rounds 8-10, and by that point, I’m looking for an RB3 as opposed to a WR4. If Round 10 rolls around and Garcon is still available, I’ll definitely look into it. Where I think there is a huge bargain, however, is in Santana Moss. Moss produced quite well for me last year in some leagues, and he’s going late. I mean LATE. I did a mock with 10 teams where he wasn’t drafted at all. Has the arrival of Pierre Garcon really deflated Moss’s fantasy value? I understand he’s a year older, but he has BEEN this team’s receiving corps for years, and if anything, Garcon being on the field will keep defenses more honest. I haven’t given up on Moss yet, and he’s definitely a WR5 candidate for where he’s going in drafts. Admittedly I don’t know much about Hankerson but some reports have him pegged as the WR of the future. I haven’t seen anybody drafting him but I’m keeping an eye on him as the season progresses.
Green Bay Packers: Greg Jennings or Jordy Nelson?
Here’s a situation similar to what’s going on with the Giants. Do you go with the trusted hand or do you go with the guy who had an amazing year last year? Normally I’d tell you about regression to the mean and how Jordy Nelson won’t have a year similar to last year because it was a career year, but as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy and throwing in Green Bay, all bets are off. Jennings is worth the value of the second round that he’s going in, and Nelson is going right behind him. I’ve scooped up Jennings, but haven’t had the opportunity to grab Nelson in any mock drafts I’ve done. Their production is completely tied to Aaron Rodgers’s health, but I expect both to repeat their performances from last year.
Chicago Bears: Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Devin Hester or Earl Bennett?
Just thinking about the Chicago Bears WR corps reminded me of Johnny Knox and that awful back injury he suffered last year. Gives me shivers just thinking about it. Yeugh. So yes, obviously Marshall is the big ticket on this team, and should be nabbed in the third round. His arrival, along with rookie Alshon Jeffery, obviously drops the fantasy value of Devin Hester and Earl Bennett. I’ve heard for two years how Bennett’s rapport with Jay Cutler was going to equal fantasy goodness, and for two years I’ve been burned. No more, Mr. Earl. Hester is a great special teams guy that just won’t translate to the WR corps. I know nothing about Jeffery, so I’m not targeting him in any of my drafts so far, but I’m going to have my eyes open this preseason for sure.
Seattle Seahawks: Terrell Owens, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Braylon Edwards, or Doug Baldwin?
Yikes. These waters got muddied right quick, didn’t they? I was all ready to sing the praises of Baldwin and Tate, especially Baldwin, but then the Seahawks decided to vet up and signed Butterfinger Braylon and Getcha’ Starbucks Ready TO. I have no clue, none at all. Rice got paid but can’t stay healthy. Braylon’s cooked…or is he? And how many balls can go around for Baldwin and Tate to grab? Just like the Carolina Panthers backfield, I’m willing to make this somebody else’s problem to have. If TO is available in the 14th or 15th round, I’m willing to take a speculative flyer on him, because what’s the harm if he doesn’t pan out? But I wouldn’t take ANY of these guys in the first 12 rounds.
San Francisco 49ers: Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, or Michael Crabtree?
Egads! It doesn’t end, does it? The 49ers are going to be an offensive force this year. They have some serious weapons surrounding Alex Smith. A loaded backfield, a star TE, and an upgraded receiving corps. The bitch of the thing will be figuring out who is going to get the stats. If I had to draft ANYBODY from this San Francisco team (other than the defense), I’d go with Vernon Davis. Personally, I think Crabtree will do the best out of these three, but that’s only because he knows the system. I’ve taken Crabtree late, but have stayed shy of Moss and Manningham. I’d be read to pull these guys off the waiver wire if they go off one week though.
St. Louis Rams: Danny Amendola or Brian Quick?
Reports out of St. Louis Rams training camp list Amendola as the WR1. Amendola is a poor man’s Wes Welker and is a PPR’s dream…if he can stay healthy. He has never started a full season. Quick’s a second round draft pick, and will likely be called upon to produce early. I have no idea if he’ll be capable of doing so, and am not willing to waste a draft pick on him. If he’s in the waiver wire pool, and produces, I might be interested. There’s also Danario Alexander, and (the other) Steve Smith in the mix. Overall, unless you’re in a PPR league and want Amendola, I’m steering clear.
New Orleans Saints: Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, or Lance Moore?
Robert Meachem’s departure clears up the Saints mess a bit. The rule of thumb is that Colston (along with Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles) eats first, and the scraps are divided among the rest. Henderson’s more of the home run threat than Moore, but Moore gets his possessions and TDs. I had Lance Moore on multiple teams last year and it was maddening. Every time I started him, he did nothing. Every time I sat him, he went off. I’m not getting any Saints WR other than Colston this year. Again, make it somebody else’s problem. If Henderson or Moore go off, all the best to those who drafted them.
Atlanta Falcons: Roddy White or Julio Jones?
Ah yes, the Nicks/Cruz and Jennings/Nelson dilemma. Jones’s presence is definitely a double-edged sword for Roddy White. On the one hand, Jones’s targets eat into White’s, who has been on the top of the targets leaderboard for two straight years. On the other hand, Jones keeps defenses from doubling up on Roddy, allowing him better chances to get open. I like both guys a lot, and have taken Rowdy Roddy as my WR1 in the second round in a couple mocks this year. Jones will be shooting up draft boards after his performance last week, which might possibly make people think twice on Roddy White, allowing for him to be scooped up in the late second/early third round. I like the potential value that Rowdy Roddy could deliver.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vincent Jackson or Mike Williams?
It’s obviously V-Jax, as he’s the more talented of the two, but I feel that Williams is due for a bounce-back year after an extremely disappointing year last year (I felt the burn because I went all-in on the Bucs last year, drafting Freeman, Blount, and Williams in multiple leagues). But the Bucs are a see-saw team who have crappy years followed by good years followed by crappy years and so on. I expect this year’s Bucs, under coach Greg Schiano who did the impossible by making Rutgers Football relevant, to perform well. I’m grabbing Martin, I’m grabbing V-Jax, I’m grabbing Williams late to stay on my bench, and I may even grab Freeman off waivers.
New York Jets: Santonio Holmes or Antonio Cromartie?
What, haven’t you heard? Cro thinks he’s the second-best WR on the team. Unfortunately for you, you can only draft Cro in an IDP league, so we’re left with a motley crew of scrubs and rookies to vie for the WR2 spot on the Jets. It’s rookie Stephen Hill, former Raider Chaz Shillens, incumbent WR3 Jeremy Kerley, and some other guy I can’t remember. I’m not touching the Jets this year, although Holmes was an okay WR3 for me last year and I think he’d do well here. Again…SOMEBODY’S gotta score the touchdowns on this team, right? If Holmes is available in Round 10, I’ll take him. But that’s about it.
New England Patriots: Brandon Lloyd or Wes Welker?
If there’s anything I’ve learned from fantasy football, it’s that contract dispute = terrible fantasy production. I’m not going anywhere near Welker this year, who is playing under the franchise tag. Now, Welker has stated that he’s going to play hard and try and earn a big contract at the end of the year, but you know the fact that he wasn’t signed to a long-term deal has gotta be eating at him, especially when all the squeaky wheels who cause trouble get the grease. Lloyd’s got all the pieces in place…Brady throwing to him, and reunited with Josh McDaniels on their THIRD TEAM TOGETHER, a team that likes to put their foot on the gas pedals. Obviously the TEs will drain the amount of targets that the WRs see, but this is a juggernaut team that will put up the points. Lloyd is perfect where he’s being drafted (third or fourth round), and I think Welker’s going way too high, unless it’s a PPR league.
Miami Dolphins: Chad Johnson, Davone Bess, or Brian Hartline?
Brandon Marshall ended up doing pretty well last year when the quarterback situation was, shall we say, less than stellar. Things don’t look any better for Miami this season, as they whiffed on Peyton Manning and had to settle for Ryan Tannehill’s hot wife. But it’s actually David Garrard who has the nod for starting QB (for now). So who is the new starting QB going to throw to? It won’t be the former Ochocinco. He got released after allegedly headbutting his wife in the backseat of a car and getting arrested. Chad is a me-first diva receiver (albeit talented) who cares more about attention (of any kind) than winning football games. I think he would be a perfect fit for the Jets! I would have taken a speculative late-round draft pick on him, but of the two receivers left, Bess and Hartline, I’m staying away completely. I’d go for Bess in the late round of a PPR league though.
Buffalo Bills: Stevie Johnson or David Nelson?
It’s obviously Stevie, but I’m surprised at how low in drafts he is. Weird behavior and that one awful drop against Pittsburgh aside, he seems like a capable dude at WR. He also recently got a contract extension, so he won’t be exhibiting the typical diva WR behavior that DeSean Jackson showed last year. I’m targeting Stevie in a couple of drafts. I’d stay away from Nelson unless Johnson goes down with an injury.
Cleveland Browns: Greg Little or Mohammad Massaquoi?
I’ve mentioned in previous columns that I’m high on Little, if only that he’s the most talented receiver in an offense that will have to throw the ball, especially when they’re down. Little’s definitely a WR4 on anybody’s team. I’ve taken waiver wire flyers on Massaquoi in previous years and have been burned. That doesn’t necessarily mean that this won’t be his year, but history is not on his side.
Baltimore Ravens: Torrey Smith or Anquan Boldin?
This is a poor man’s White/Jones, Nicks/Cruz, and Jennings/Nelson problem. Boldin’s the proven guy and he still has stuff left in the tank, and is going much later than Smith, who had a good year last year in his rookie season. His sole method of doing damage is with the homerun ball, and you have to remember who’s throwing to him. Joe Flacco tried to pull an Eli Manning this offseason and say that he was an elite quarterback. If people chuckled at Eli’s proclamation, they must be dying of laughter at Flacco’s notion. The Ravens have a lot of strengths, but their quarterback play isn’t one of them. So I’d definitely want Torrey Smith on my team as a WR3, but he’s going at a WR2 price, so that’s too rich for my blood. Boldin’s definitely good to have on my bench as a bye-week plug in.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Wallace or Antonio Brown?
I’m staying far, far away from Mike Wallace and taking Antonio Brown a round earlier than I should. This is a no brainer. Wallace is a deep threat, but this holdout is ridiculous and will only hurt him. The Steelers know where the true talent is and they rewarded Antonio Brown accordingly. He’s the real WR1 on this team, not Wallace, and the draft projections should really be reversed. Whatever, I’ll take advantage of those who don’t know any better. Brown, Brown, Brown.
San Diego Chargers: Robert Meachem or Malcolm Floyd?
I covered this in my first column, but I think Floyd will outperform Meachem if he stays healthy. I think Vincent Brown should also be factored into the mix, as he had a couple of good games last year during his rookie season. I’ll gobble up Floyd and keep him on my bench as a WR5. If he blows up, I did well.
Oakland Raiders: Denarius Moore, Darius Heyward-Bey, or Jacoby Ford?
I have no idea. It seems like this team is the WR equivalent of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. One goes off, the other doesn’t. One week it’s Moore, the other it’s DHB. I haven’t read any reports out of training camp that one has garnered more attention from Carson Palmer than the other. I’m definitely interested in both Moore and DHB in my draft, because they’re going very late and could pay off some serious value. I’m staying away from Jacoby Ford, who is mostly a return specialist.
Denver Broncos: Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker?
Every analyst I’m reading says to take Decker over Thomas because he’s developed better rapport with Peyton Manning, and I’m inclined to agree with them. Thomas is going earlier than Decker, so I’m more likely to reach for Decker and let Thomas go by the wayside. Both could put up some serious numbers though.
Tennessee Titans: Kenny Britt or Nate Washington?
Britt’s gotta be suspended. He just recently complained on Twitter (albeit with awful grammar and spelling) about the Titans fine for his arrests. Plus, as dynamic as he is, he’s just as injury-prone. Britt’s going really early, and I’ll gladly let somebody else take him and free up a possible draft pick for me to take that round. Washington performed admirably in Britt’s absence last year, paying off serious dividends for me in a few leagues where I picked him off waivers. I’m looking at Washington as a late-round WR4.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon or Laurent Robinson?
This is one of the more interesting WR corps we have. We have the top-picked WR in the draft who is coming off a DUI charge and could face a possible suspension, and we have a WR3 on the Cowboys last year who outperformed his usual standards and earned himself a huge payday in Jacksonville (ala Pierre Garcon). As soon as I know what Blackmon’s situation is regarding any possible suspensions, I’m looking to take him, as he’s going pretty late. Robinson’s been available late in drafts as well, but I’ve found that I’ve stayed away from him in mocks. I don’t really know why…possibly because there are more appealing options at that point in the draft (like Nate Washington).
That’s all for this week! I’ll be back next week where I will rate every position! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @PocketSeagull