If you had a horrible receiving game last year like I did, it can affect your whole fantasy strategy from week to week. This year, unlike years past, I’m pulling for a wide receiver by at least the third round, no later than the fifth. To me, that’s saying something.
Here’s my list of receiving threats, from both tight ends and wideouts, that will get you where you want to go.
- Randy Moss — You must hate this pick already. He’s cocky, disruptive when he’s on a losing team (see Raiders) and absolutely the most gifted athlete on the field at all times. The problem is, the kid needs motivation. Enter newly healed, newly wedded and newly back with a vengeance, Tom “I’m a certified superstar” Brady. The quarterback boost will up his 69 catches and 11 touchdowns to his 2007 level, in which he tore up the league with Brady for 98 catches, 1,458 yards and a record 23 touchdowns. I expect big things. Bonus points for being the only receiver in a multi-millionaires league that looks homeless. Stay classy Randy.
- Larry Fitzgerald — What Fitzgerald Jr. did in the post season was absolutely amazing (30 catches, 546 yards, 7 touchdowns). What he did in the season? Well, what we expected him to do (96 catches, 1,431 yards, 12 touchdowns). I’ve been watching this guy since his junior year at Pittsburgh and his development is right on target. He comes up big when the spotlight is on and he thrives under pressure, most notably a Super Bowl performance for the ages (7 catches, 127 yards, 2 touchdowns). Now, if only Kurt Warner knew who the man was….
- Andre Johnson — Here’s the 2008 stat line: 115 catches (wowser!), 1,575 (pretty freaking awesome), and 8 touchdowns (WTF!?!?!). There’s no doubt Johnson is going to get the ball, but can and will he get in the end zone? Does it matter. With production at this height, assuming he can maintain it, the scoring options for most fantasy teams will make him a no-brainer. He’s like your second running back. Jump on his back and ride. The only worry is if Matt Schaub goes down, he’s gonna be catching passes from Rex Grossman. Ouch. Somebody, knock on wood.
- Steve Smith — Mr. Amazing does it year in and year out with a subpar quarterback and a mildly intriguing rushing game to keep defenses from doubling up. And yet, there is still no comparable talent lining up on the other side of the tackles. He’s mano-y-defense. Production was still amazing with 78 catches for 1,421 yards and 6 touchdowns. The yards per catch make him a solid pick anywhere in the top five receiver group.
- Reggie Wayne — 7 times out of 10, the quarterback makes the receiver. (Lame number, right?) But it just so happens that Reggie Wayne has always benefited from a great QB and a partner in crime (pun intended) who are some of the best in the game. Funny thing is, Wayne is one of the best in the game. And with his superstar QB in Peyton Manning, and Marvin Harrison a free agent, he’ll shine as the centerpiece with only Dallas Clark competing for catches.
- Calvin Johnson — Johnson plays for a miserable team, and I can’t get over that. If I were him, I’d be pouting. Don’t count this out. Remember, pouting killed Chad Ochocinco’s season last year. But with a strong showing of 78 catches, 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns, I don’t think a dip in production will put too much of a dent in any fantasy roster. He’s a solid No. 1.
- Anquan Boldin — Boldin will benefit from his own amazing talent (he could be a No. 1 on any team) and the fact that he has Larry Fitzgerald on the other side of the field. Sharing the ball between the two won’t be too much of a problem. Getting a running game going in Arizona to take pressure off the pass, will.
- Roddy White — After two years of solid production, and a quarterback I love, I won’t ignore Roddy White for five rounds like I did last year. You shouldn’t either. He has way more potential than a late No. 1 or early No. 2 receiver, because of the upside in Matt Ryan. White’s numbers last year were terrific (88 catches, 1,382 yards, 7 touchdowns) and with Ryan having his second go under center, we can expect the connection between the two to improve this season.
- Jason Witten — And with the first tight end on the list, I select Witten of the Cowboys for his relationship with Romo, the fact that he has hands of gold, and because the tight end has always been a featured portion of a Dallas offense. Last season, Witten didn’t reach the end zone much (7 touchdowns), but his production is as good or better than 80 percent of all wide receivers. He will not be denied.
- Roy E. Williams — No T.O. on the other side of the field, so it’s all on Williams to improve production and become a star. Last year, he tallied only 36 catches for 430 yards and two touchdowns between Dallas and Detroit. His success will also hinge on Tony Romo’s mental state and any lingering confidence issues, which I think both are concerned with after the offseason upheaval in Dallas. Again, sky is the limit talent wise, it’s everything else I’m worried about.
- Antonio Gates — He’s the top receiver for the Chargers and just an amazing athlete. Don’t sleep on this bad boy. If you’re feeling hesitant about any of the receivers left on the board, pick up this tight end and you’ll be assured some money points for the whole year, no doubt.
- Marques Colston — After being banged up a little bit last season, Colston returns in full reports the Times-Picayune for the glory years of Drew Brees. This man will be his top target. Fall in order, select Colston as a late first receiver, early second.
- Greg Jennings — Jennings is not so much getting better (80 catches, 1,292 yards and 9 touchdowns) as Aaron Rodgers is getting better. Together, this is a blessing for Green Bay to keep forgetting about Brett Favre, if that’s possible.
- Dallas Clark — When Marvin Harrison was out last season, Clark became the de facto second wide receiver. He relished in that role, with 77 catches for 848 yards and 7 touchdowns. He’s always been a top-3 tight end, but not he’s competing for time among the receivers. That’s awesome.
- Dwayne Bowe — Matt Cassell will make Bowe better. He better, or this will be another disastrous Kansas City season.
- Terrell Owens — Owens will make Trent Edwards better. He better, or this may be the end of the line for TO. Plus, Owens is known to tear it up in his first season with a new team. Unfortunately, this is the first time he goes to a team with a mediocre quarterback.
- Wes Welker
- Braylon Edwards
- Tony Gonzalez
- Santana Moss
- T.J. Houshmandzadeh
- Brandon Marshall
- Chad Ochocinco
- Vincent Jackson
- Santonio Holmes
Editor’s note: This is a series of lists I will be doing for the 2009 NFL Fantasy Football season. Tomorrow, expect the Top-20 Running Backs. Check out all of the lists so far here.