If you’re reading this right now, you’re one of the many fantasy football owners/managers/GMs/players/whatever it is we feel like calling ourselves that are ready for Week 1 of the regular season to begin. And with it, the beginning of our long, winding road to our fantasy football championships.
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Week One is arguably the hardest week to predict when it comes to both reality and fantasy football. As good or bad as teams may have looked in the preseason, we honestly don’t have much to go by. You’re obviously not sitting your stud players unless they’re injured but should still be wary of tough match-ups that could have the potential to cap their upside for a given week. Here’s how I would rank the fantasy-relevant WRs for Week One.
1) Calvin Johnson - You don’t earn the nickname Megaton if you’re not an athletic marvel, which Calvin Johnson most certainly is, and I can’t wait to see what new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi can do with a WR the caliber of Calvin. Especially against a Giants team that may take a few weeks to find their footing.
2) Demaryius Thomas – This game could be a shootout and you know Peyton Manning wants revenge for last year’s heartbreaking 39-33 loss on the national stage. Demaryius stands to benefit as the number one option in a potent passing game.
3) Dez Bryant – The loss of Aldon Smith is a huge blow to the San Fran defense both on the field and emotionally. Look for Dez to show management that he’s earned that new long term contract he’s been pining for.
4) Julio Jones – One of the most explosive receivers in the game will be looking to start his 2014 as hot as he started his 2013 before his foot injury knocked him out for the year. This Falcons-Saints game has the potential to be a shootout, which benefits the skill position players.
5) Brandon Marshall – Alshon Jeffery may become the top receiver in the Windy City at some point in the nearish future. But for now, BMarsh remains the top dog in the #TeamTrestman aerial assault by virtue of his rapport with Jay Cutler.
6) Alshon Jeffery – That being said, #TeamTrestman supported two Top Ten fantasy WRs in 2013 and there’s no reason they can’t do it again in 2014. This game against the Bills will be a good chance for Jay Cutler to prove he deserves those 20:1 MVP odds he’s getting from Bovada and his two towering receivers should be the main beneficiaries.
7) Antonio Brown – These may not be PPR rankings but there’s still no good reason to downgrade Antonio Brown much. He’s still the number one receiving option in Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger‘s no huddle offense and where receptions come, yards and sometimes even TDs follow.
8) A.J. Green – Any concerns about the Bengals trying to become more of a running team should be offset by their move to a higher tempo of offense as well as the fact that new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson played a big part in Roddy White‘s breakout 2007 season and the one useful fantasy season we ever got out of Darrius-Heyward Bey. Start A.J. with confidence.
9) Eric Decker – The Jets can try to tell us that they want to be a running team all they want, but their actions say otherwise. Marty Mornhinwheg is a traditionally pass-happy offensive coordinator whose team spent a lot of free agent money and draft capital on improving the passing game for their volume passer in Geno Smith. If Decker can’t put up a Top Ten performance in Week 1 against an over-matched Raiders team, then maybe he wasn’t worth all that money he got in free agency. OK,maybe that’s a bit harsh but I’d like for him to play well enough to justify me ranking him this high.
10) Jordy Nelson – Being the de facto WR1 in Green bay comes with its advantages, but Jordy could be in trouble if he gets matched up against Richard Sherman. Either way, he has too much TD upside with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball to leave out of the Top Ten in what will be a huge test to start the year.
11-20) Mikey Floyd has been one of the unquestioned stars of the off-season and looks to make a statement on Monday Night Football against the Chargers. Will we see the beginning of the transition from Fitzy to Floyd as Arizona’s WR1? T.Y. has been something of a boom or bust play over the course of his short career but Indy finally looks like they’re ready to begin building their passing game around the first WR drafted specifically for Andrew Luck. He exploded
(literally) in last year’s playoffs and looks to keep that momentum rolling in a possible shootout against Denver on Sunday night. Percy should be looking to start his season off strong after arguably getting snubbed for Super Bowl MVP and he can give you points in a multitude of ways. Torrey doesn’t have the easiest match-up in the world against what should be a game Bengals secondary but he profiles well as the “X” receiver in Gary Kubiak‘s offense, a role that has seen Andre Johnson and Rod Smith record Top Ten positional fantasy finishes, and should be a safe bet to get you decent production in most weeks. And if Bernard Pierce can’t carry the running game during Ray Rice‘s suspension, Smith could see his number called early and often.
21-30) Victor Cruz started out his 2013 with a bang as he scored three TDs against Dallas before scoring only one for the remainder of the season. That happened in Week Four against Kansas City so it’s been almost a full calendar year since Cruz has scored a TD in a meaningful NFL game. Until we see that the new look Giants offense is clicking, Cruz is too much of a boom or bust play for me to feel comfortable on relying on too heavily unless I have to. I’m fully prepared to accept that I may have Keenan ranked too low, but need to see how first time offensive coordinator Frank Reich is planning on dividing up the San Diego receiving production before I can rank him much higher. Golden Tate gets his chance to shine on the national stage in Detroit’s Monday Night Football tilt against the Giants and has all the tools to help finally make the WR2 position in the Motor City fantasy relevant. CPatz is another player that can get you points either running, catching, or returning the ball and while it may take a little time for his potential to truly be unleashed, the fact that he’s so versatile makes him a high upside play.
31-40) I really hope that Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase looks long and hard at the Denver playbook and tries to come up with ways to keep Welker from getting killed/concussed when he catches the ball over the middle on those dangerous crossing patterns. He doesn’t look to miss any time from his third known concussion in the last 10 months and should still give you a healthy floor of production if he can stay on the field. Four of my draft day WR targets can be found in this next group of receivers: Hopkins, Randle, Benjamin, & Hunter. I’m also adding Brandin Cooks to this particular discussion. These guys all are part of the tier that I suggested could hold this year’s Alshon Jeffery and they have the physical tools, athletic measurables, and/or situations that could make them this year’s mid-to-late-round breakout fantasy WR story. All five of them have intriguing Week One match-ups that they can potentially put up big numbers in and continue to build off of for the rest of the season. But it’s important to remember that even if one or all of these guys start the season slower than you would like to see, that doesn’t mean you should give up on them. Before Jeffery blew up for 5-107-1 in Week Four of last year, he had only managed 13 catches for 104 yards and zero TDs over the season’s first three weeks.
41-50) I’m not sure what exactly we can expect from Mike Evans‘ NFL debut against a tough Panthers defense, but his TD upside is enough to keep him in my Top 50. Wheaton is entering a good fantasy situation as a starter in Pittsburgh’s no-huddle offense but is a virtual fantasy and reality unknown. If Joe Haden can limit Antonio Brown, Wheaton could put up bigger numbers than expected. Hakeem Nicks last scored an NFL TD on December 9th, 2012 while still a New York Giant. A fresh start in Indianapolis could be the kick in the pants he needs to get his career back on track. He still has all the physical tools to be a perennial Pro Bowler, but time will tell if the Colts bought damaged goods that are beyond repair. I’m of the belief that the loss of Sam Bradford won’t hurt the Rams as much as a lot of people seem to think it will, but that’s also under the assumptions that Shaun Hill doesn’t wind up being completely terrible and that Kenny Britt can keep his head on straight. If Britt can play to his full potential after several years of injury and ineffectiveness, he could be fantasy’s comeback player of the year. Speaking of potential comeback fantasy players of the year: if Miles Austin can shake off all the issues his troubled hamstrings have been giving him for the last several years, he could wind up being the next Miles Austin.
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