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In fantasy football pre-season rankings, the primary receiver positions - wide receiver and tight end - are where you start to see great variation between one person's draft board and another's.
Some owners are high only on No. 1 WRs (as opposed to those who are called the No. 2 or 3 on their teams - and it's not always bad to be No. 3, as they are sometimes the most reliable possession receivers). Other owners are high on any receiver who plays with a top five fantasy QB.
Here's my list:
1. Calvin Johnson, DET: Hard to bet against him, even with an erratic QB and the likelihood he won't come close to his own yardage record this season. The key to keeping him No. 1 at this position is believing he'll fulfill a promise for double-digit TDs after just five last year.
2. Dez Bryant, DAL: He was hyped big-time last season and fell short. Now, he's being hyped to the point where he may go off the board ahead of Johnson, but the difference is that he came alive the second half of last season, and should be the key to Dallas's offense this year.
3. Brandon Marshall, CHI: I know it's hard to trust Jay Cutler, but if the ball is within 10 feet of Marshall, he'll somehow jump high enough or dive far enough to catch it, or will beat the crap out of whichever defender does catch it and steal the ball back.
4. A.J. Green, CIN: I'm up and down on him. Big numbers last year, and he's one of the best running after the catch and catching deep passes. Still, this is the spot in my rankings where I see four or five receivers who are all about equal.
5. Julius Jones, ATL: Carrying that thought through to Jones, he's capable of games where he can get two or three TDs on just a few long catches, though Matt Ryan is pretty good at spreading the wealth, and Jones is starting to get noticed by opposing defenses.
6. Andre Johnson, HOU: Over-hyped and under-delivered for years, often due to injuries, but he quietly piled up the second-most receiving yards in the NFL last season. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up with more yards than Green or Jones, but yields TDs to Houston's running game.
7. Roddy White, ATL: More receiving yards than teammate Jones last year, but only seven TDs to Jones's 10. Unlike Jones, he doesn't need a big play to get his numbers. If you like safe and consistent veterans, he's not a bad choice ahead of Jones and maybe even Green.
8. Demaryius Thomas, DEN: He actually could see a drop off from 1,434 receiving yards last year with Wes Welker coming to Denver, but he was clearly on the same page last season with the rejuvenated Peyton Manning, and Denver will pass early and often.
9. Randall Cobb, GB: It's always hard to know who will become Aaron Rodgers' favorite target, but with Greg Jennings out of the picture and James Jones and Jordy Nelson both coming off of injury, the upstart Cobb is a pretty good bet.
10. Vincent Jackson, TAM: Some big individual plays including a 95-yard TD reception, and single-game performances, made Jackson's year last year. It's unclear whether inconsistent the Josh Freeman will have one of his good years or bad, but Jackson should be targeted often.
11. Reggie Wayne, IND: A lot depends on how much energy the veteran has left, and whether Andrew Luck suffers a sophomore slump. He was one of the most consistent yardage collectors week to week last year, unexpected in his first year without Peyton Manning.
12. Victor Cruz, NYG: The first guy outside of the top 10 who could easily find his way into the top two or three if Eli Manning is on this year. Cru is a Calvin Johnson/Dez Bryant type of talent, and if the Giants' passing game improves from last year's disaster, watch out.
13. Wes Welker, DEN: Another late-round lurker who could break toward the top of the list if Peyton Manning makes it happen. Welker started the 2012 season in the Patriots' doghouse, but he improved through the year and could rejuvenate further in Denver.
14. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI: His QB situation has improved from whoever wasn't injured last year to Carson Palmer this year. He's could be a bargain this low, but a lot depends on Palmer.
15, Antonio Brown, PIT: The departure of Mike Wallace should boost this big-play receiver, another who could work his way into the top 10 as the season goes on. Brown's yardage did dip from over 1,100 in 2011 to 787 in 2012, but he sure looks like the No. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh now.
16. Torrey Smith, BAL: Showed glimpses of greatness last season, but played second fiddle to Anquan Boldin, who has left town. With Baltimore's other top target, TE Dennis Pitta, out for the season, Smith should be busy.
17. Jordy Nelson, GB: Two years removed from a 15-TD output and injured since last mid-season, Nelson may look like a gamble even this low. But if he stays healthy and Rodgers has a great year, he could return to double-digit TDs.
18. James Jones, GB: At this point in the draft, Nelson and Jones are basically interchangeable. Jones was the Nelson of 2012, leading the league in TD receptions, but also is dealing with injury and will likely take a backseat to Cobb.
19. Marques Colston, NO: The best WR on a team with Drew Brees at the helm should go much higher, right? The problem fantasy-wise for Colston always has been that Brees spreads the ball around, though Colston should still lead New Orleans in receiving yards.
20. Danny Amendola, NE: And here's Tom Brady's best receiver, waiting until the late rounds to be drafted. Amendola is a proven talent, though injury-prone, and no one seems really sure, as usual, what Brady and Coach Bill Belichick are thinking about the game plan for this year.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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Posted on Jul 24, 2017