Are you ready for some fantasy football? Whether you are an agent, financial planner, or even an NFL player yourself, you are most likely going to be fielding a team this year. Our resident football analyst, Brandon Thorn, will be churning out posts to help you make your picks leading up to the start of the 2009 NFL season. Every post will include his top 10 at a specific position along with his sleepers, who you should consider picking up in the late rounds. The WRs are below.
1. WR Larry Fitzgerald ~ Arizona Cardinals = It’s safe to say that Fitzgerald has taken over as the best receiver in football. Even with the uncertainty of fellow teammate Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitz should produce another stellar season in Arizona. Last season he along with WR Calvin Johnson led the NFL in touchdowns with 12. Fitzgerald also had 96 catches for 1,431 yards which was his second year in a row with 1,400+ yards and 10+ touchdowns. Expect more of the same from this acrobatic superstar, who along with WR Andre Johnson are the clear cut 1 & 2 ranked receivers heading into the 2009 season.
2. WR Andre Johnson ~ Houston Texans = Big Andre showed that when healthy, he is one of, if not the best receiver in the game. Hailing from the “U” (University of Miami), Johnson lead the NFL in catches last year (115), yards (1,575), and had 8 touchdown catches. He also had more 1st down grabs than any player in the league (79). If there is anybody in the league who is a team’s clear cut #1 option, it’s this guy in Houston. I expect him if healthy, to equal his 08 numbers, with an increase in touchdowns. Between him and Fitz, you can’t go wrong in picking one before the other.
3. WR Calvin Johnson ~ Detroit Lions = Calvin Johnson could be the third best receiver in football right now and after this season, be alongside Andre & Larry. Johnson is an athletic phenom at 6’5″ 239lbs. with sub 4.4 speed and a 40+ inch vertical. With his incredible work ethic, he has continued to develop his game despite being on the worst team in football for the past few seasons. Last year Calvin had 78 grabs for 1,331 yards, 12 touchdowns, and a very impressive 17.1 yards per catch. This season the Lions should be significantly improved throughout the offense, and with a motivated, healthy Daunte Culpepper, Johnson should see plenty of deep balls. His catches, yards, and even touchdowns all could improve. The sky’s the limit for the 2 year pro out of Georgia Tech.
4. WR Randy Moss ~ New England Patriots = Moss last year had only 69 catches for 1,008 yards and 11 touchdowns. The previous season Moss broke the NFL record for touchdowns in a single season with 23. I expect Moss to have a big rebound season, especially considering all-pro QB Tom Brady will be back as the team’s starter. Brady & Moss have a powerful chemistry together and should connect for 1,300+ yards and at least 10 touchdowns this season. Even though Moss is 32 years old, don’t be surprised to see his name a top the league in touchdowns.
5. WR Reggie Wayne ~ Indianapolis Colts = Wayne has proven to be one of the more underrated receivers in the game, yet he has been one of the most consistent. The 8 year pro out of the “U” hasn’t missed a game in 6 years. Last season with his mentor WR Marvin Harrison out most of the year he had to step up and he did. He posted 82 catches for 1,145 yards and 6 touchdowns. Keep in mind in 2007, Wayne had 104 catches for 1,510 yards and 10 touchdowns so he is very capable of putting up numbers equal to anybody. With him now being the man in Indy, I expect QB Peyton Manning to look his way often and together put up numbers to send both of them to Hawaii next year.
6. WR Roddy White ~ Atlanta Falcons = Matt Ryan to Roddy White is something you should get used to hearing. This new, young, QB/WR duo appears to be the next in line of great QB to WR connections. Last season was their first together, and Ryan loved going to his speedster #1 option. White had the best year of his young career with 88 catches for 1,382 yards and 7 touchdowns. What makes White so intriguing is the fact he still has room to get better, a lot better. If he can develop more consistent hands expect him to improve on all numbers next season, despite the team’s addition of TE Tony Gonzalez.
7. WR Greg Jennings ~ Green Bay Packers = Jennings is like a stick of dynamite off the snap and runs some of the best routes in the NFL. At only 5’11” 197 lbs. this guy is one of the top playmakers at his respective position. Last season Jennings caught 80 passes for 1,292 yards and 9 touchdowns, while leading the NFL in 40+ yard receptions with 8. QB Aaron Rodgers picked off where Brett Favre left off and has made Jennings his number 1 option. With his trusty hands and a very good counterpart (Donald Driver) opposite him, don’t expect anything less than an 80+ catch, 1200+ yards, 10+ touchdown year from the former Western Michigan Bronco.
8. WR Steve Smith ~ Carolina Panthers = This is the lowest I think Steve Smith has ever been ranked in fantasy and there’s only one reason why. His quarterback Jake Delhomme appears to be losing his edge with each passing season and can’t seem to stay healthy. With backup QB’s Luke McCown and Matt Moore, I’m not comfortable enough to say Smith’s numbers won’t fall slightly with one of these two in the starting role. However, this is no knock on Smith being one of the biggest playmakers in the entire NFL. Last season he once again had a brilliant year, catching 78 passes for 1,421 yards and 6 touchdowns. Carolina also has one of the top rushing attacks in football, so Smith’s touchdown numbers will suffer. Even though I have him ranked 8th overall, I would feel comfortable having Smith as my #1 or #2 receiver.
9. WR Brandon Marshall ~ Denver Broncos = Marshall is a top 5 talent as far as receivers go in the NFL, yet he comes with the threat of an off the field incident waiting to happen. Marshall has caught 206 passes over the last two seasons which ranks second to WR Wes Welker’s 223 and has posted back to back 1250+ yard seasons. Under new head coach Josh McDaniels, Marshall will get a lot of short to intermediate balls thrown his way, and with his break tackle ability and strength, this could mean another 100+ catch year with 1,250+ yards and 10-12 touchdowns.
10. WR Anquan Boldin ~ Arizona Cardinals = whatever team Anquan plays for in 2009, the 6 year pro will produce. Anquan set a career high last year in touchdowns with 11, as well as 89 catches for 1,038 yards all while missing 5 games. Boldin is a horse when he has the ball in his hands, he runs great routes, plays with wreckless abandon, and is one of the toughest players in the league. With arguably the best receiver in football to take up most of the double teams, Boldin will once again be a big time threat running crossing routes all over the field. Expect more of the same from the former Seminole, somewhere in the 75 catch, 1,200+ yards, 8-10 touchdown range.
1. WR Santonio Holmes ~ Pittsburgh Steelers = After last season’s Super Bowl MVP performance and great postseason play, Holmes appears to make the leap from the team’s secondary target to the team’s number one. The 3 year pro out of Ohio State hasn’t had more than 55 catches in one season, nor has he eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark. With his sudden emergence as a top flight receiver in the league, the two time Super Bowl Champion should get more opportunities to be the man in Pittsburgh and I expect him to have 75+ catches for around 1,000-1,200 yards and 6-9 touchdowns.
2. WR Anthony Gonzalez ~ Indianapolis Colts = The former first round draft pick out of Ohio State has steadily improved in his first two seasons in the NFL. Last year he improved his receptions by 20, and had 664 yards with a respectable 4 touchdowns. With WR Marvin Harrison gone and virtually a bunch of rookies behind him, he is expected to take over the #2 role in the offense. With one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL throwing the ball, a sure to be dynamic run game (with rookie RB Donald Brown added to the mix), expect Gonzalez to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark as well as double his touchdowns from last year (4).
3. WR Vincent Jackson ~ San Diego Chargers = “V-Jack” is a man amongst boys at times. QB Philip Rivers has the arm to throw the long ball which is when Jackson is at his best. At 6’5″ 230 lbs. he is one of the most physically imposing yet athletic pass catchers in the game today. He needs to develop more consistency catching the football first and it appears he is doing just that. Last season Jackson had 59 catches for 1,098 yards and 7 touchdowns. Expect at least 15 or more receptions, and another 4-5 touchdowns added to last season’s total.
4. WR Hakeem Nicks ~ New York Giants = Of all the rookie receivers, Nicks is in the best position to succeed this year. With a veteran QB in Eli Manning who thrives when he has a big, reliable target to throw to, Nicks can possibly gain a 1,000+ yards and score around 5-7 touchdowns for you. If you are in a position where you want to make a splash and take the first rookie receiver, go ahead and select Hakeem Nicks.