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With the rise of points-per-reception leagues, WRs have started working their way up the fantasy football player ladder. If you're in a 12-team league, one or two top-ranked pass catchers could be taken in the deep end of the first round.
TEs are another matter. Though the top-ranked TE is a first-round talent and very nearly the best of all options in PPR leagues, fantasy value and reliability falls sharply after the top five at the position.
1) Calvin Johnson, DET: Reports out of Detroit suggest QB Matthew Stafford is doing well with some adjusted throwing mechanics and new offensive schemes, which is even more reason to have faith in Megatron over any other WR - not that we questioned our faith.
2) Demaryius Thomas, DEN: Though Megatron is the clear No. 1 WR, it may not be by much. Thomas is the top weapon of the top fantasy QB, and was the most explosive after-the-catch WR last season among players with more than 65 receptions.
3) Dez Bryant, DAL: And though Thomas is clearly No. 2, Bryant should close the gap this season. He has a strong chance to catch more TDs than anyone else at the position, and should be more of a deep threat this year. Gets double-covered a lot, but he's the clear No. 1 receiver in Dallas, where Tony Romo will be throwing a lot because they'll be behind so much.
4) Brandon Marshall, CHI: Unlike the three guys ahead of him, Marshall wasn't the receiving yardage leader on his own team in 2013, a title that went to Alshon Jeffery, but he has never had fewer than 100 receptions playing with Jay Cutler, and is a solid bet for 12 or more TDs.
5) A.J. Green, CIN: His WR mate Marvin Jones will miss the first several games, which is even more reason Green should get a steady diet of deep passes from QB Andy Dalton. Green's total catches each of the last three years: 65, 97, 98. He'll break into the 100 club this season.
6) Alshon Jeffery, CHI: Monster games appear to be his thing. A few of them last year made his season, and he should only get more consistent. Most obvious stat ready for an upgrade is TDs. He had seven last season, and should get into double digits this year.
7) Julio Jones, ATL: Was on pace for a tremendous season in 2013 before being lost to injury. There could be a question of how quickly he finds his mojo again, but after averaging 116 yards per game before his injury, second among all WRs, he almost seems like a bargain at this ranking.
8) Randall Cobb, GB: Another explosive player lost to injury in the first half of 2013, Cobb should be the No. 1 receiver for the second-best fantasy QB. Given a full slate of games, he could post numbers that put him in the top five by end of season.
9) Antonio Brown, PIT: Underrated deep threat surprised everyone last year by totaling 1,499 yards, second among all WRs. This may have been due to a couple monster games, but he was also second among all WRs in first-down catches, which means the Steelers really trust him.
10) Jordy Nelson, GB: A lot of people will argue it's Nelson and not Cobb who is the No. 1 receiver in Green Bay, though I still get the sense that Nelson benefited in recent seasons from Aaron Rodgers as a star-maker more than his own play-making ability. (Don't tell him I said that.)
11) Larry Fitzgerald, ARI: Almost no one has him ranked this high, but he is still one of the NFL's best WRs, if not in terms of fantasy value. I think his value rebounds this season with QB Carson Palmer and head coach and offensive wizard Bruce Arians becoming comfortable.
12) Keenan Allen, SD: One of the biggest surprises of 2013, Allen was a top target for resurgent QB Philip Rivers, surpassing 1,000 yards receiving on 71 catches. Imagine what he could do with about 20 more receptions. If Rivers is good again, Allen could approach 1,500 yards receiving.
13) Victor Cruz, NYG: Missed a couple games and didn't break 1,000 yards last year, yet his yards per game increased from about 68 to just over 71; remarkable considering the Giants' offensive collapse. Cruz remains a guy who can make his fantasy day on one deep-ball catch.
14) Roddy White, ATL: Atlanta's collapse was as bad as New York's. White missed a few games and, with Julio Jones out, Harry Douglas ended up being the No. 1 WR, but expect ATL to bounce back and bank on Jones and White being the Falcons' answer to Chicago's Marshall-Jeffery.
15) Percy Harvin, SEA: Came alive in the Super Bowl, and reminded us why he seemed like one of the best young WRs a few years ago. Seattle doesn't pass long or often, but with his breakaway speed Harvin can turn a short pass into a long TD, and could even take a few handoffs.
16) Andre Johnson, HOU: Third among all WRs last year with 109 receptions, which sure makes it seem like he hasn't lost his touch, but also had only five TDs. Houston's offense is a bit of a question mark, and he already is nursing a hamstring injury this preseason.
17) Pierre Garcon, WAS: More receptions than any other receiver last year with 113, but stuck with a QB in Robert Griffin III who is inconsistent and doesn't throw long. But if RG3 has a strong year we could be talking about Garcon as a top 10 WR.
18) T.Y. Hilton, IND: He had a great one-third of a season last year after Reggie Wayne went down with a season-ending injury. He also had a habit of missing catchable passes, but managed enough big games that I'm drinking the Kool-Aid, though that's mostly because I believe in QB Andrew Luck.
19) Wes Welker, DEN: The No. 2 weapon of Peyton Manning should probably be ranked higher, but Welker, though reliable, is far removed from from his days as a 100-catch WR for Tom Brady. His main value is as a TD target, which is not a bad thing, especially in Denver, where TDs happen often.
20) Vincent Jackson, TAM: Somehow managed 1,224 yards receiving for a horrible team with QB issues. Consistently among the best WRs, but he'll have his work cut out for him again, Josh McCown notwithstanding.
Sleeper: Reggie Wayne, IND. Okay, so he's too well-known to be much of a sleeper, but I think he's the one WR that most fantasy watchers are ranking outside the top 30 at this position who has the best chance of turning in a top 10 or perhaps top five season. He only played seven games last year before tearing an ACL, and recovery can be a bitch (ask Derrick Rose), but if Indy's offense clicks under Luck this year, Wayne could make the world remember him very quickly, and surpass teammate Hilton.
1) Jimmy Graham, NO: The only question around Graham is when to draft him, and I'm seeing more rankings slotting him seventh or eighth overall than a couple weeks ago.
2) Julius Thomas, DEN: Went from no-name to instant star in Denver's first game last season, and went on to deliver 12 TDs. Looks an awful lot like he's Peyton Manning's No. 2 target overall.
3) Rob Gronkowski, NE: The question, as always, is if he can remain healthy. He had a brilliant half-season in 2013 that would have translated to second-most receptions and yards among all TEs if he had played the whole year.
4) Vernon Davis, SF: His 13 TDs in 2013 was second among TEs to Graham's 16, yet he had only had 52 receptions to Graham's 86. Could be the high scorer of the bunch.
5) Jordan Cameron, CLE: Looks like QB Brian Hoyer will get the starting job over Johnny Manziel, which is great for Cameron - Hoyer captained his star-making three-TD game last year.
6) Jason Witten, DAL: I keep thinking the grizzled veteran should drop lower in the rankings, but he was tied for fourth in targets and catches among all TEs last year, and Romo loves him. Plus, Romo will be throwing a lot because the Cowboys will be behind so much.
7) Greg Olsen, CAR: Lack of veteran WRs in Carolina should be a good thing for Olsen's quantity of targets, which tied for fourth with Witten last year. But which Cam Newton will we get?
8) Dennis Pitta, BAL: Missed 2013 with injury after fantasy experts had already slated him for big things. We're still expecting big things.
9) Kyle Rudolph, MIN: Former sleeper, former chic fantasy pick, mild disappointment. Yet, he's intriguing again, supposedly quicker after losing weight. Caught 30 of 46 targets last year.
10) Jordan Reed, WAS: Being RG3's TE can be both a blessing and a curse. Frequent short-range passes should mean a busy year, unless RG3 runs, or overthrows him, or fumbles.
11) Martellus Bennett, CHI: I'm mystified by his sudden image as a bad guy. On the field he often has looked like the Bears' best TE in years. Should be again with great WRs drawing coverage.
12) Charles Clay, MIA: One of only seven TEs to be targeted more than 100 times last year, he scored seven TDs overall (one rushing), enough to rank as a fantasy starter at this position.
13) Delanie Walker, TEN: Last year's 60 catches on 86 targets make him sound pretty reliable.
14) Coby Fleener, IND: Supposed rapport with collegemate Luck finally paid off with 52 catches and 608 yards last year. Will Reggie Wayne's return mean fewer targets?
15) Brent Celek/Zach Ertz, PHI: Celek spoiled what was supposed to be Ertz's breakout year in 2013. As we're in TE-2 territory here, take whoever you like better. A productive offense will find him.
16) Antonio Gates/Ladarius Green, SD: Green allegedly is ready to send former workhorse Gates to the second string. Again, a good offense if you want to handcuff these two.
17) Tyler Eifert/Jermaine Gresham, CIN: Eifert is the rising star, but it won't be clear how soon he'll rise until the season starts. I would draft Eifert late and put a waiver wire watch on Gresham.
18) Anthony Fasano/Travis Kelce, KC: Kelce is making noise in the preseason, but mostly with the second stringers. In Andy Reid's offense, one of these guys should get a lot of work, but which?
19) Heath Miller, PIT: Another vet who manages to hang on to some fantasy relevance, though he is no better than a bye-week starter or maybe occasional match-up play.
20) Jared Cook, STL: Another we had high hopes for last year who turned out to be a fantasy bust, though five TDs still makes him a bye-week play and low-risk investment.
Sleeper: Richard Rodgers/Andrew Quarless, GB. Sure seems like the TE playing with the second-best fantasy QB should rate higher. Regardless of who gets the starting job, he'll be in line behind Cobb, Nelson, RB Eddie Lacy and possibly even WR-3 Jarrett Boykin as a target for Aaron Rodgers. Rookie Richard Rodgers could be the low-price, high-ceiling bet to take if you believe there will be plenty of receptions in Green Bay for everyone.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.More from Beachwood Sports »
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Posted on Apr 24, 2017