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2014 Fantasy Football Preview: Wide Receiver Rankings

Posted Aug 15, 2014

SportingNews.com's Matt Lutovsky provides his expert analysis on the top fantasy football wide receivers heading into the 2014 season.

For more fantasy football analysis, follow Matt Lutovsky on Twitter (@MLutovsky) and listen to the Sporting News Fantasy Football Podcast.

Pretty much every fantasy football position has some sort of narrative, at least in terms of grouping players into tiers. Well, maybe not kickers because no one cares about kickers.

And, come to think of it, not D/STs because they're lame, too.

And maybe not even tight ends because they're also kinda “ehh”.

OK, let me start over. Quarterbacks and running backs often have some sort of narrative, at least in terms of grouping players into tiers. (Nailed it.) That's not really the case with wide receivers because from No. 7 to No. 21 or so, they're all basically the same dude. Then, from No. 22 to, say, No. 39...same dude again.

MORE POSITION PREVIEWS: Quarterbacks | Running Backs

Some are injury-prone; many have worries about their QBs or a new offensive schemes; all are “boom or bust.” Basically, it comes down to who stays healthy, who gets red-zone looks, and who makes a few extra big plays. Other positions are like that, but the difference with WRs is even though you know they're going to be on the field, you don't know if they're even going to touch the ball on any given Sunday.

So, instead of trying to weave a narrative, let's break down my Top 50 WRs so you see why I like some players more than others.

MORE FANTASY FROM MATT: Twitter | Sporting News archive | RB Preview Podcast

1.    Calvin Johnson, Lions. He's nicknamed Megatron, which says it all.
2.    Demaryius Thomas, Broncos. Actually had more fantasy points than Megatron last year.
3.    A.J. Green, Bengals. T-3rd in targets, 4th in targets inside 10-yard-line last season.
4.    Brandon Marshall, Bears. 7-straight 1,000-yard seasons; crusades for worthwhile causes.
5.    Dez Bryant, Cowboys. Could be higher, but just a touch too “passionate.” Just a touch.
6.    Julio Jones, Falcons. Foot injury is a legit worry, but damn he's good.
7.    Antonio Brown, Steelers. Explosive PPR machine; only game in town in Pittsburgh.
8.    Alshon Jeffery, Bears. T-6th in targets inside 10-yard-line, one spot behind teammate Marshall.
9.    Vincent Jackson, Bucs. Better QB this year could yield better numbers.
10.    Jordy Nelson, Packers. Slight worries about Cobb stealing targets, but Nelson's still a rare big-play and possession guy.

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11.    Andre Johnson, Texans. T-1st in targets last year; QB situation can't be any worse.
12.    Randall Cobb, Packers. All-purpose beast who just has to stay healthy.
13.    Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals. Still catches everything; 7 more targets than teammate Michael Floyd inside the 10.
14.    Victor Cruz, Giants. Low TDs/end-of-season concussion made last year's stats look worse than they were; still explosive.
15.    Roddy White, Falcons. Late-season surge after letting ankle heal; should get more targets with Tony Gonzalez gone.
16.    Michael Crabtree, 49ers. Slight worries about Anquan Boldin stealing targets, but Crabtree has always flourished with Kaepernick.
17.    Percy Harvin, Seahawks. If healthy, could be a top-7 guy; injury likely, though.
18.    Pierre Garcon, Redskins. T-1st in targets last year; passing game could open up with new coach.
19.    Keenan Allen, Chargers. No reason to dislike him, at least, none I could find. And I looked.
20.    Michael Floyd, Cardinals. Could be higher after steady year, but Carson Palmer can unsteady anything in a hurry.
21.    Wes Welker, Broncos. Very TD-reliant last year, but why would his red-zone targets change?
22.    DeSean Jackson, Redskins. Targets could be an issue, but things set up well for him as No. 2 receiver in a smart, spread-it-around offense.
23.    Jeremy Maclin, Eagles. Injuries a big worry, but Maclin takes the DeSean spot that yielded 1,332 yards and 9 TDs last year.
24.    Torrey Smith, Ravens. Yards way up but TDs down last year; imagine if he puts both together...
25.    Julian Edelman, Patriots. Want to put him higher because he's a PPR monster, but it's the Pats, so, trust no one.
26.    Marques Colston, Saints. Foot issue could slow him down, but the yards/TDs will be there in Saints' offense.
27.    T.Y. Hilton, Colts. Only scored in two games last year, but targets/yards not an issue.
28.    Kendall Wright, Titans. Ultra-consistent, though not ultra-productive (just 2 TDs last year); more TDs could yield top-15 status.
29.    Anquan Boldin, 49ers. No. 15 fantasy WR last year; averaged solid 9.3 targets and 85.3 yards in 8 games with Crabtree.
30.    Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos. Won't replace all of Eric Decker's production, but he'll get a good chunk. Decker was 3rd in targets inside 10-yard-line last year.
31.    Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings. Not as high on him as most (who's the QB?), but talent alone should make him an every-week starter.
32.    Eric Decker, Jets. Produced before with shaky QB play (Tebow); still very talented.
33.    Mike Wallace, Dolphins. Finished strong last year; can still make big plays...probably.
34.    Terrance Williams, Cowboys. Big-play maker should get more targets in pass-happy offense.
35.    Golden Tate, Lions. The Lions throw a lot and Tate isn't terrible. Sometimes that's all it takes.
36.    Riley Cooper, Eagles. Upside is big in Eagles' offense, especially with only injury-prone Maclin in front of him for targets.
37.    Sammy Watkins, Bills. Super talented, but rookie wideouts with inexperienced QBs rarely find consistency.
38.     Reggie Wayne, Colts. Coming back from a torn ACL at 35 isn't easy, but Wayne is returning to a great situation.
39.    Tavon Austin, Rams. If the Rams unleash him, he could outproduce Patterson.
40.    Cecil Shorts III, Jaguars. Already dealing with a sore hamstring, the injury-prone Shorts is a risk, but he's underrated and heavily targeted around the goal line.
41.    Brian Hartline, Dolphins. Two-straight 1,000-yard seasons makes him consistent, if unspectacular, WR4.
42.    Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs. I have nothing positive nor overly negative to say about Bowe.
43.    Rueben Randle, Giants. Expect big increase in targets with Hakeem Nicks gone.
44.    Jarrett Boykin, Packers. Green Bay's No. 3 receiver had at least 635 yards and 7 TDs in '11 and '12; Boykin/Cobb had 1,114 yards and 7 TDs last year.
45.     Andre Holmes, Raiders. Finished last year strong; “turning heads” in training camp as de facto WR1.
46.    Brandin Cooks, Saints. Don't expect consistency right away, but big plays are guaranteed.
47.    Mike Evans, Bucs. Will be drafted higher, but even with his height, I'm not sold on season-long prospects.
48.    Jerricho Cotchery, Panthers. Super boring, but someone has to catch passes in Carolina.
49.    DeAndre Hopkins, Texans. Upside pick who was solid as a rookie.
50.    Kenny Britt, Rams. The talent is there, but … well, you know.

Late-Round Fliers: Justin Hunter (Titans), Kenny Stills (Saints), Harry Douglas (Falcons), Doug Baldwin (Seahawks), Miles Austin (Browns), Marqise Lee (Jaguars), Jordan Matthews (Eagles), Robert Woods (Bills), Steve Smith (Ravens), Greg Jennings (Vikings), Kelvin Benjamin (Panthers), Malcom Floyd (Chargers), Hakeem Nicks (Colts), Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants), Josh Gordon (Browns, likely to get at least 8-game suspension), Justin Blackmon (Jaguars, suspended at least 9 games).

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