Wide receivers are the theme of today's release of my "Fantasy Outlook" series. The purpose is to illustrate situations that casual fantasy footballers may not be aware of or in a light they may not have considered.
The fantasy football valuation process of wide receivers varies greatly from standard scoring to PPR formats. The reception-rewarding setups can make an otherwise average player a weekly start (remember Davone Bess?), while more typical means of tallying points rely heavily on touchdowns and yardage.
New Marshall Plan?
Elite receivers can dominate nearly the same as the best running backs, especially in PPR. These beasts include the likes of Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, and a few others that are close. Be sure to know your league's scoring rules, as it is imperative when drafting, especially at this position.
Be sure to check out our Cheat Sheet Calculator for customized rankings tailored to your league's scoring rules.
Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears: A new offensive system should impact Marshall, to a degree. He and quarterback Jay Cutler always have had a great rapport, so there is that going for him. Marc Trestman's system could spread the wealth more than we witnessed last year in the Chicago offense. Marshall (hip) is also coming off another hip cleanup surgery, and, curiously, added weight to "break tackles." My point: Don't immediately chalk him up to being the same 118-reception, 1,508-yard guy from a year ago.
Denver Broncos wide receivers: Isn't this a mess? The only saving grace is we have seen Peyton Manning produce three 1,000-yard pass catchers in the same year back with the Colts. My fear is Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker will be maddeningly frustrating to play. I suspect Thomas remains the vertical threat and touchdown producer. Decker should get his, but to a lesser degree, and Welker is not a lock for 100 grabs as he was in New England. Just be careful when valuing these guys on draft day.
Larry Fitzgerald/Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals: The addition of quarterback Carson Palmer and an upgraded offensive line should do wonders from Fitz's return to fantasy stardom. Floyd is looking to break out in his own right after a 45-catch rookie season. He has had a great offseason and is one of my sleeper darlings for the upcoming year. Consider Fitzgerald a top-10 fantasy receiver in drafts.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers: After a breakout 80-grab season, the do-all Kentucky product is poised for a monster fantasy year. He should catch 100 balls in this offense as the chain-moving target for Aaron Rodgers. Consider me sold, and you should be, too!
Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints: This guy can't get any fantasy respect. The Rodney Dangerfield of wideouts, Colston has averaged basically 1,100 yards and eight scores for the last four years. He is a minor injury risky but remains among the league's most consistently productive options at the position. Enjoy the value pick when other owners take risks on more flashy names.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers: I am warming on Brown. He has been called a "glorified possession receiver" by this guy on more than one occasion. However, someone has to catch the ball in this offense, and Brown, seemingly, is their most talented option. I suspect he logs about 80 receptions that end up going for less than 11.0 yards per catch, on average. Touchdowns may be hard to come by, too. He is a weak WR2 in PPR setups.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans: Britt is healthy, has stayed out of legal trouble, and is ready to produce as Tennessee's No. 1 receiver. Oh, and he's in a contract year. The often-troubled receiver has all the incentive in the world to finally break out as his skill set suggests he is able to. I'm valuing him as a third receiver sleeper.
A little Britt intriguing
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts: My thought process is as follows: Reggie Wayne, 34, cannot separate as well as he used to, and that won't improve. He is a great route runner, but even that takes you only so far. Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) has hands of stone and is an injury liability. Hilton will be more involved this year and should expand on his 50-861-7 rookie season. Expect a lower yards-per-reception average (17.2 last year) and more receptions in his sophomore season.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns: Despite a two-game suspension, Gordon could emerge as a weekly starter in Norv Turner's long-ball offense. The athletic, second-year receiver is a big play in the making at all times and has more value in standard scoring formats than PPR, relative to his positional counterparts.
Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders: The most gifted receiver on their roster, Moore should post stronger numbers with Matt Flynn under center. The dynamic pass catcher has playmaking ability from end zone to end zone and makes for a great fourth receiver sleeper candidate.
Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks: A lot of owners are pointing to Sidney Rice having an uptick in production, and some reports even suggested Doug Baldwin, with Percy Harvin (hip) on the mend. While both may, Tate is the guy you want to own. He is coming on the cheap and could produce starter-worthy stats even through a potential return by the hobbled Harvin.
Rueben Randle, New York Giants: Looking for a late-round wideout gamble? Randle has all of the physical tools to shine in the pros, and he plays behind the extremely fragile Hakeem Nicks. The LSU product should lock down the WR3 job in New York, making him a matchup play during the regular season.
Jonathan Baldwin, Kansas City Chiefs: Watch his training camp and preseason closely. Baldwin likes Andy Reid's up-tempo offense and has shown flashes of dominance in the past, but he never could put it all together once the pads and lights went on. Skeptically observe, for now.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings: I am starting to favor the mindset that Patterson's only notable contributions this year will come on special teams. Minnesota's run-first O has a suspect quarterback situation to hamper him, and Patterson isn't known to be the fastest learner, so I'd save the pick on draft day.
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.