Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In the second part of the series, we will check out wide receiver rankings for the upcoming season.
I put up my original rankings about a month ago, but now it's time to fine tune the list with information learned at camps and in exhibition games (Note: I only watch preseason football for injuries - there is nothing to be learned from watching a quarterback throw against fourth-string defensive backs who likely will be cut before September 8th.).
We'll begin in Arizona where the talented Larry Fitzgerald heads the Top-20 list.
1) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona - In my mind Fitzgerald is the most talented receiver in the league. Add in that the Cardinals were No.2 in yards passing per game last season (292.1), No.2 in passing attempts (39.4) and he has a great complimentary receiver on the other side in Anquan Boldin and you have the perfect offense for Fitzgerald. It also doesn't hurt that Arizona will face the weakest conglomerate of passing defenses this year - a group which yielded a league-high 220.9 ypg in 2008. The only downfall could be his huge statistics rely on a 38-year-old quarterback.
2) Randy Moss, New England - The return of Randy Moss to prominence this season is obviously related to the return of Tom Brady to the Patriots starting lineup. Moss didn't have a bad year for a "mere mortal," (1,008 yards, 11 TDs) but following his record-setting 2007 season it was a disappointment. He'll return to greatness in 2009 as long as Brady's knee holds up.
3) Andre Johnson, Houston - Johnson finally put together the year all fantasy owners had been waiting for since he came into the league in 2003. He led the league in receptions (115) and yards (1,575) while scoring eight times. Only a disappointing Week 16 against the Raiders (two catches for 19 yards) marred a beautiful season. With quarterback Matt Schaub throwing 34.5 passes per game, nice complimentary receivers in Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels and a solid running game led by Steve Slaton, there is plenty of opportunities for Johnson and the Texans offense to excel and score.
4) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis - Wayne has been the definition of consistency. Since 2004, he has hauled in at least 77 balls, 1,055 yards and five or more touchdowns every season, while averaging 86-1,246-8. His numbers were down slightly last year because quarterback Peyton Manning came into the season at less than 100% following offseason surgery. That isn't the case in 2009.
5) Calvin Johnson, Detroit - "Megatron" proved what he could do despite a weak offensive line, rotating quarterbacks (Dan Orlovsky, Daunte Culpepper, Jon Kitna, Drew Stanton, Drew Henson) and a subpar running game, posting 78 receptions for 1,331 and 12 TDs. He now has a talented, though untested, rookie quarterback throwing to him, Matthew Stafford, which is the only reason he's not in the top-three.
6) Steve Smith, Carolina - With all the hype going to the Carolina running game last year, Smith's 78-catch, 1,421-yard, six TD season went almost unnoticed. How about eight 100-yard days in the final 11 weeks? Other than a training camp shoulder injury there is every reason to believe he can post those numbers again given that defenses are now geared to stop DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart.
7) Greg Jennings, Green Bay - Jennings had a great season in Brett Favre's final year in Green Bay posting 53 receptions for 920 yards and 12 TDs. His numbers were even better after Favre left and Aaron Rodgers stepped in - 80 catches for 1,292 yards and nine TDs. A mediocre fantasy playoff run (Weeks 14-16) was the only "black mark". As second-year starter Rodgers gets better, so will Jennings' numbers.
8) Roddy White, Atlanta - Despite contract troubles this offseason and training camp, White should continue his fine play of the past two seasons in which he's averaged 85 catches for 1,292 yards and 6.5 scores. The addition of future Hall-of-Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez might reduce White's catch total, but could help him increase his per-catch average as teams will now have to divide their attention. And now that quarterback Matt Ryan is more experienced, the team will likely loosen the reins on his passing options.
9) Marques Colston, New Orleans - His 2008 statistics were just mediocre due to a hand injury which kept him out of five games and at less than 100% for two more. But when you are the No.1 receiver on the No.1 passing team, fantasy owners are sure to draft you very high which explains his 29.8 RapidDraft ADP. I'm expecting a return to 2007 totals - 90+ catches, 1,200+ yards, 10+ TDs.
10) Anquan Boldin, Arizona - If Fitzgerald is the No.1 receiver on the Cardinals, Boldin is 1A. He could be the No.1 receiver on almost any other team in the league, but why would you want to leave Arizona and this prolific passing offense. He proved how tough he was after missing just three games following a vicious hit (fractured sinus membrane) by Jets defensive back Eric Smith. He'll have another 80+ catch season for 1,000 yards and double-digit scores.
11) Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City - Don't believe the junk you hear about Bowe being demoted to the second team. He is the team's best wide receiver and will lead the team in targets, catches and touchdowns. The only problem for Bowe and quarterback Matt Cassel is the 2009 schedule is the toughest to throw against in the league. Their opponents yielded just 187.5 ypg last season.
12) Brandon Marshall, Denver - Marshall is almost as much of a distraction to a team as Terrell Owens. Despite being as talented as anyone, Marshall continues to make life miserable for Denver fans and fantasy owners. Where he will end up this season is still up in the air. I think he'd like to get traded to Chicago to be with quarterback Jay Cutler with whom he had success - 2008 statistics, 104 catches, 1,265 yards, six TDs. Unfortunately, it looks like he'll be catching passes from Kyle Orton which may hamper his fantasy value. His RapidDraft ADP of 38.4 puts him behind Colston, Wes Welker, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Bowe and Owens despite better statistics.
13) Wes Welker, New England - Welker, the league's best "possession receiver" caught as many balls with Cassel at quarterback as with Brady the previous season (112 versus 111), only his touchdown total dropped (eight versus three). There is every reason to believe he will post a third consecutive 100+ reception season, which makes him a top-10 receiver in PPR leagues.
14) TJ Houshmandzadeh, Seattle - Playing "second banana" to Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati, Houshmandzadeh has still posted 90+ receptions for three consecutive seasons. His numbers dropped last year with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, but he'll have veteran Matt Hasselbeck, finally healthy, throwing to him this year. His TD total should rise from four last season to double digits.
15) Terrell Owens, Buffalo - Owens is an egomaniac, he's a pain-in-the-butt to head coaches and owners, but he's also extremely talented. Now with his fourth team, Owens has the weakest quarterback throwing to him of his career - Trent Edwards versus Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo. He's usually on his best behavior in Year 1 with a team, so he'll likely post a 80- catch, 1,000-yard season.
16) Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati - As long as Carson Palmer stays healthy, Ochocinco is a "lock" for 1,000 yards. Ochocinco put up six consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons until last year when his numbers dropped to 53-540-4. A happy Ochocinco produces and letting him get national attention for kicking an extra point was the perfect way to keep him in the public spotlight - which directly translate to Ochocinco's happiness. A big year is in store, so don't skip past him when he is available in the fifth round (RapidDraft ADP 52.2).
17) Roy Williams, Dallas - Williams was a disaster in 2008 (36 receptions, 430 yards, two TDs), but he'll have to be the No.1 receiver in 2009 if the Cowboys are to go anywhere. If Williams sees the ball as often as Owens did (140 targets), he'll produce an 80-catch, 1,100 yard, eight TD season, not bad production for a receiver with a RapidDraft ADP of 45.2.
18) Braylon Edwards, Cleveland - Ok, Edwards was horrible in 2008, but so was the entire Cleveland Browns offense. As a second-round draft choice (ADP 19.69) and fourth wide receiver selected, Edwards' totals of 55 catches for 873 yards and just three scores was totally unacceptable. This season he's being drafted in the fourth round (RapidDraft ADP 44.2) and if he can return to his 2007 production level (80-1,289-16) he could be a valuable fantasy property. He's in the final year of his contract which always makes for an incentive to play well.
19) Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay - Bryant, who entered 2008 with an ADP of 191.08, was a huge bargain, posting 83 receptions for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns. The 73rd receiver selected finished the year at No.8 with 217 fantasy points. He was particularly good in the "fantasy playoffs," posting 23 receptions for 435 yards and four scores over the three-week period. The primary question for 2009 is what quarterback will throw him the ball as the Buccaneers have to decide between rookie Josh Freeman, Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson.
20) Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh - Holmes was a bit disappointing during the 2008 regular season posting 55 catches for 821 yards and five scores in 15 games. Then he turned in a Super Bowl MVP performance on February 1st against Arizona with nine receptions for 131 yards and a score. Will the confidence he gained in the Super Bowl translate into a better 2009? He'll be used more in the slot this year in an attempt to slow all the double coverage he saw last season, which should improve his fantasy numbers.