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posted: 8/31/2012 6:00 AM

Fantasy owners should salivate at depth at WR

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  • Julio Jones is poised for a huge season in Atlanta. Fantasy football writer John Dietz believes Jones will finish second among wide receivers when the season is over.

      Julio Jones is poised for a huge season in Atlanta. Fantasy football writer John Dietz believes Jones will finish second among wide receivers when the season is over.
    Associated Press

  • Jordy Nelson exploded onto the scene in 2011 and John Dietz believes it will continue into 2012.

      Jordy Nelson exploded onto the scene in 2011 and John Dietz believes it will continue into 2012.
    Associated Press

 
 

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Then load up ... and smile all the way to the bank.

That, in a nutshell, is how I would sum up what every fantasy football owner should do when it comes to dealing with wide receivers on draft day.

In standard leagues, smart players will use their Round 3-5 picks on three straight wideouts and end up with guys like Julio Jones, Mike Wallace and Percy Harvin.

I use these three as an example because it's the trio my brother ended up with three days ago in a points-per-reception league draft. And get this: He even screwed up taking Wallace -- in my mind anyway -- because Brandon Marshall was still on the board.

But the point is clear. Take a look at the top 20-25 WRs in my rankings and you know almost any combination of three should produce big points all season.

Always a crapshoot:

Figuring out the WR list is my toughest chore every preseason. Every year there are huge surprises (Jordy Nelson and Victor Cruz) and colossal disappointments (Andre Johnson and Miles Austin).

With that in mind, let's take a look at 10 guys who deserve your attention -- for better or for worse.

Julio Jones (No. 2):

I thought I was making some sort of bold prediction here, but according to fantasypros.com 43 of the 111 fantasy analysts they track had Jones ranked second or third. And why not? Take out his two duds last season and Jones was on pace for 1,381 receiving yards and 12 TDs. Those numbers would have ranked sixth and third, respectively among wide receivers. Assuming he stays healthy, Jones will outpoint teammate Roddy White.

Victor Cruz (No. 3):

Most analysts have Cruz much lower than this (as a matter of fact, I am in a group of just four of 112 who have him second or third). And while I don't think he'll repeat the yardage number of a year ago, I'll take Cruz over Larry Fitzgerald because my gut says there's no doubt he'll be in the end zone more often.

Larry Fitzgerald (No. 5):

This guy has been over-ranked for three straight years now. To be sure, Fitzgerald (2,548 yards, 14 TDs last two years combined) is an amazing talent but I don't see him cracking 10-plus TDs with John Skelton or Kevin Kolb at the helm.

Percy Harvin (No. 10):

How many catches do you think Harvin had last season? 55? 65? 70? Try 87! Even if that decreases to 80, if you throw in the fact the Vikings figure to get him 20-35 rushes, Harvin should have 100-115 touches this season. Can't ask for much more than that out of your second WR.

Marshall (No. 11), Jeffery (No. 52):

Marshall should approach 100 receptions, but it's Jeffery we should keep our eyes on. The second-round pick out of South Carolina is an inviting red-zone target for Jay Cutler. If he can crack the starting lineup and be consistent, Jeffery could be a nice bye-week fill-in.

Titus Young (No. 27):

Every year I try to identify a semi-off-the-radar receiver who has a good chance to erupt. It's kind of like a Madden curse in that I'm not often right, so my apologies to Young at this point. The second-year product out of Boise State had a solid rookie campaign with 48 catches for 607 yards and 5 TDs. Reports say he's having a monster camp, and with Matthew Stafford as his QB, there's no reason to think Young can't approach 1,000 yards and 8 TDs. Take him as your fourth WR in about the eighth or ninth round and see what develops.

Kenny Britt (No. 33):

If you can somehow make Britt your fourth receiver, take the chance. He's coming off ACL surgery and facing a suspension, but his upside is through the roof.

Justin Blackmon (No. 34):

The fifth overall pick in the draft, Blackmon has been solid in the preseason. He hauled in 4 passes for 72 yards in the team's third game and is clearly the team's No. 1 wideout. Problem is, his quarterback is Blain Gabbert. Long-term, Blackmon's ceiling is very high and he should be serviceable enough to work his way into your lineup once in a while this season.

Lance Moore (No. 36):

Robert Meachem's departure to San Diego means more chances for Moore, who is coming off back-to-back 8-TD seasons. Drew Brees loves him in the red zone, so if you're in a TD-heavy league, slide him up a few spots.

Tight ends

When Antonio Gates was posting ridiculous numbers on a yearly basis, my draft-day strategy always included trying to take him with a late third- or early fourth-round pick. My thinking was it gave me a decided advantage over the entire league at one starting spot.

Well, now we've got two monster tight ends in New England's Rob Gronkowski and New Orleans' Jimmy Graham. The problem is that these two are so good, there's no sneaking them onto your team in the fourth round. In many drafts they are gone by the 25th pick.

Grabbing them that early isn't a terrible idea if you believe (as I do) that about 1,100 yards and 10-14 TDs are coming from both. Which receivers besides Calvin Johnson can you say that about?

If you miss out on the Big 2, don't want to risk Gates' health issues, don't believe in Vernon Davis and still need a tight end in the middle to late rounds, I don't think you'll be hurt by grabbing Washington's Fred Davis (796 yards in 12 games), Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez (at least 6 TDs last four seasons), Philly's Brent Celek (800-plus yards two of last three), Detroit's Brandon Pettigrew (83 catches last season) or even Tennessee's Jared Cook (a 6-foot-5 up-and-comer who caught 21 passes in the Titans' last three games).

jdietz@dailyherald.com

John Dietz ranks the wide receivers

Player, team Projected Projected Comment

yards TDs

Cream of the crop

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions 1,425-1,600 12-16 Amazing 8 100-yard games in '11

Still rock solid

2. Julio Jones, Falcons 1,200-1,400 9-13 393 yards, 6 TDs last four games

3. Victor Cruz, Giants 1,225-1,375 8-11 5 catches of 68-plus yards last yr!

4. Roddy White, Falcons 1,225-1,325 8-10 Avg. last 5 years: 94-1,284-8.4

5. Larry Fitzgerlad, Cards 1,200-1,375 7-9 Only 14 TDs combined last 2 yrs.

6. Jordy Nelson, Packers 1,150-1,225 8-11 404 of 1,263 yards on 6 catches!

7. Wes Welker, Patriots 1,250-1,425 6-8 110-plus catches 4 of last 5 years

8. A.J. Green, Bengals 1,175-1,300 7-10 Ready to take the next step

9. Andre Johnson, Texans 1,075-1,325 7-10 Never had double-digit TDs

10. Percy Harvin, Vikings 900-1,100* 7-9 Receptions keep going up: 60-71-87

11. B. Marshall, BEARS 1,100-1,275 7-10 Avg. 1,188 yards last five

12. Hakeem Nicks, Giants 1,100-1,250 8-11 Needs to improve on 7 TDs in '11

13. Greg Jennings, Packers 1,150-1,250 8-10 Always posts solid numbers

14. Brandon Lloyd, Pats 1,150-1,275 7-10 Lots of mouths to feed in N.E.

15. Mike Wallace, Steelers 1,150-1,275 7-10 Players who hold out scare me

16. Dez Bryant, Cowboys 1,000-1,175 8-11 Zero 100-yard games last year

17. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs 1,075-1,225 6-10 TDs in 5-year career: 5-7-4-15-5

Still solid

18. Marq. Colston, Saints 1,050-1,200 7-9 Career high is 1,202 yards

19. Stevie Johnson, Bills 1,075-1,175 7-9 Averaged 76 ypg last 6

20. Steve Smith, Panthers 1,100-1,300 6-8 Make sure to monitor foot infection

21. DeSean Jackson, Eagles 1,050-1,150 5-8 TDs going wrong way: 9-6-4

22. Miles Austin, Cowboys 700-1,175 7-10 Hamstring woes a big concern

23. Vincent Jackson, Bucs 975-1,100 6-8 Never had a 70-catch campaign

24. Antonio Brown, Steelers 1,075-1,175 5-8 May do better than Mike Wallace

25. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles 900-1,050 5-8 Steady stats, great high-end WR3

26. Reggie Wayne, Colts 1,000-1,125 5-7 Worst TDs (4) last year since 02-03

27. Titus Young, Lions 800-1,075 6-9 Ambitious ranking, but I believe

28. Torrey Smith, Ravens 900-1,100 5-7 317 of 841 yards came in 2 games

29. Eric Decker, Broncos 825-1,000 6-8 A bit safer pick than D. Thomas

30. Dem. Thomas, Broncos 775-1,000 6-9 Does Manning still have arm?

31. Pierre Garcon, Redskins 850-950 5-7 Has nice chemistry with QB Griffin

Questions beginning

32. D. Heyward-Bey, Raiders 800-1,000 5-7 433 yards last 4 games of 2011

33. Kenny Britt, Titans 725-900 4-8 2-3 game suspension looming

34. Justin Blackmon, Jags 775-925 4-7 8-120, TD in 5 preseason quarters

35. Malcolm Floyd, Chargers 725-825 6-8 Poised for solid season

36. Lance Moore, Saints 700-800 6-8 Brees loves him in red zone

37. Anquan Boldin, Ravens 800-900 4-6 Just 14 TDs last 3 seasons

Now you're reaching

38. Denarius Moore, Raiders 700-875 4-6 Missed most of camp (hamstring)

39. R. Meachem, Chargers 750-850 5-6 Decent player for your bench

40. Nate Washington, Titans 750-850 4-7 Had first 1,000-yard season in '11

41. Michael Crabtree, Niners 775-925 3-6 Receptions trending up: 48-55-72

42. Santonio Holmes, Jets 750-850 3-6 Just don't trust this offense

43. Mike Williams, Bucs 750-850 3-6 253 targets last 2 seasons

44. Kendall Wright, Titans 725-825 3-6 7 catches in 5 preseason quarters

45. D. Baldwin, Seahawks 725-900 3-5 Very solid slot receiver

46. Brandon LaFell, Panthers 725-825 3-6 Third-year player will be solid

47. Sidney Rice, Seahawks 750-875 4-6 Played total of 15 games last 2 yrs.

48. Davone Bess, Dolphins 700-850 3-5 About as boring as it gets

49. Greg Little, Browns 700-850 3-5 QBs are struggling in a big way

50. Randy Moss, Niners 600-800 3-7 At this point, why not take him?

The next 11: 1. Santana Moss (Redskins); 2. Alshon Jeffrey (BEARS); 3. Austin Collie (Colts); 4. Danny Amendola (Rams); 5. James Jones (Packers); 6. Jon Baldwin (Chiefs); 7. Nate Burleson (Lions); 8. Mario Manningham (Niners); 9. Leonard Hankerson (Redskins); 10. Ruben Randle (Giants); 11. Laurent Robinson (Jaguars)

Guys to keep a close eye on: 1. Emmanuel Sanders (Steelers); 2. Randall Cobb (Packers); 3. Lestar Jean (Texans); 4. Donald Jones (Bills); 5. Vincent Brown (Chargers, out til about Week 6); 6. Andre Roberts (Cardinals)

John Dietz ranks the tight ends

Player, team Projected Projected Comment

yards TDs

Cream of the crop

1. Rob Gronkowski, Pats 1,000-1,250 10-14 Amazing: 7 games with 2 TDs in '11

2. Jimmy Graham, Saints 1,100-1,275 9-13 11 games of 70-plus yards

Rock solid

3. Antonio Gates, Chargers 750-925 8-12 Foot (supposedly) is finally OK

4. Vernon Davis, Niners 775-950 7-9 TDs by year: 3-4-2-13-7-6

Still solid

5. Jerm. Finley, Packers 725-825 6-8 Still waiting for that huge year

6. Aaron Hernandez, Pats 750-900 6-8 387 yards last 4 games of 2011

7. Brent Celek, Eagles 800-975 5-7 250 of 811 yards came in 2 games

Questions beginning

8. Jason Witten, Cowboys 750-850 5-7 Let's hope spleen not a factor

9. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons 725-850 5-7 Ageless wonder 5 TDs from 100

10. Jared Cook, Titans 750-975 4-8 335 yards last 3 games

11. B. Pettigrew, Lions 750-825 5-6 83 receptions last season

12. Fred Davis, Redskins 700-800 4-6 Will rookie QB slow him down?

Now you're reaching

13. J. Gresham, Bengals 550-650 4-7 Dalton's 2nd option after Green

14. Dustin Keller, Jets 675-775 4-6 120-1,502-10 last two years

15. Jacob Tamme, Broncos 600-725 4-6 Reunion with Manning will help

16. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings 500-650 5-6 Ponder loves him

The next 5: Owen Daniels (Texans); Martellus Bennett (Giants); Kellen Winslow (Seahawks); Greg Olsen (Panthers); Marcedes Lewis (Jaguars)

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