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2011 Draft Prep: Wide receiver tiers and strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Dave Richard's Strategies & Tiers: QB | RB | TE | K & DST

If there's a position to hone in on when you start your drafts, wide receiver is it. The talent pool is not quite as deep as it's been in the past and is certainly the thinnest among all positions in Fantasy Football this year.

Which is why there's really only one good strategy to have with receivers this year: Draft several quality ones -- while you can.

This isn't to say spend your first five picks on receivers. That's silly. But a serious plan to pick three within your first six picks (and perhaps two of your first three) in standard leagues is recommended. And the more receivers you start in your league, and the more receiver-friendly your scoring system is (points per reception, for example), the more sound it is to get three pass catchers with your first five picks.

By doing this, you lock up starters who you can trust most weeks, if not every week. And with that being the case, you might recognize that drafting more than one or two backups isn't really necessary. You can dedicate more of your middle- and late-round picks to backups at other positions including fliers on running backs and potential sleepers (including sleeper receivers).

Honest to goodness, drafting receivers is as simple as that this year. No further explanation needed.

The Round 1 debate

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Should a receiver be taken in Round 1? If we're talking about a league where receptions count, obviously receivers take a big bump in value and should be considered as soon as seventh overall (Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson as candidates for the pick). Wideouts are good first-round picks in leagues with 14 or more teams too -- they're safe choices for people picking late in the round who don't want to run the risk of drafting a second-tier running back or quarterback with their top choice.

But most people play in standard-scoring leagues (non-PPR) with 12 or fewer teams. What about taking a receiver in Round 1 then? It's not necessarily a mistake if you do it toward the end of the round, but there might be some better choices. One, an elite quarterback might not only be a safer pick but certainly a player that will put up more points. Two, a very good running back fills a bigger need, particularly if it's a format where you start the same amount of running backs and wideouts. And three, even if you pass on a receiver with your top pick, you can get one -- likely an elite one -- coming back in Round 2. You might not be able to land an equally top-tier quarterback or second-tier running back when you're up to draft again. Furthermore, the quality of wide receivers going in Round 3 in drafts across the board does not represent a drop off in talent like there is with running backs. You should not feel obligated to take Johnson or White or, well, the other Johnson with a first-round pick if you miss on an elite running back in simpler formats.

What happens if you pass on receivers early?

One of the great benefits to drafting receivers early and picking up those three wideouts with your first five or six picks is eliminating any tough weekly lineup decisions during the season. You're never benching Larry Fitzgerald or Hakeem Nicks or Vincent Jackson, right? Of course not. Can you say that with the same conviction for Sidney Rice or Mike Thomas or Hines Ward?

A key to winning in Fantasy is to simplify your roster decisions. Drafting your first few receivers with picks after Round 6 or 7 will complicate your life -- unless of course you hit it big or get some playmakers to fall into your lap off waivers (hey, it might have happened last year). Point is, it might be OK to get away with it for one receiver, but even that isn't ideal.

Not only might you be forced into some major lineup juggling if you wait to draft most or all of your receivers, but you might feel obligated to draft more receivers than running backs and thus spend choices on players who have limited chances at breaking out. Now, if there's a treasure trove of sleeper receivers that you think you're going to come away with, go ahead and pass on receivers. But when you're starting Robert Meachem while your opponent is slotting in Mike Wallace, don't say we didn't warn you.

There's always waivers

Is there a magic secret to finding surprise receivers off waivers like Brandon Lloyd or Mike Williams? Last year owners who claimed them had an improved shot at winning their leagues, and it only helped them that they didn't have to spend a draft choice on them.

Those first couple of weeks of the season always seem to bear fruit, and usually it's the receiver with the quiet preseason who breaks out early and remains consistent throughout the year. Why those guys? The theory is simple: Coaches figure they have talent in these players but don't quite want to reveal them in meaningless August games. They will see a lot of first-team reps in practice and in that third preseason game but they won't usually deliver smashing numbers that might hint at their involvement. Oh, and they're also on teams that don't already have that bona fide No. 1 receiver. Lloyd and Williams are perfect examples from last summer, as are Anquan Boldin and Marques Colston from their respective rookie seasons.

Pay close attention to those receivers that see a good amount of playing time in their team's third preseason game. They might be worth drafting late in drafts or claiming off waivers before or after Weeks 1 or 2. Additionally, owners should be willing to part ways with someone they drafted late on their roster in exchange for one of these players during the year.

Just remember, relying on this is kind of like relying on a lottery ticket for income (albeit without the tax ramifications). If you draft wisely at receiver, you won't have to fret about claiming guys off waivers because they might (or did) have a good start to the season.

Tier time

If you're going to pick three receivers with your first four or five picks, you better have a good grasp on who's available. By putting receivers into small groups based on how you think they'll perform, you can quickly judge when you should draft one based on how your drafts are going. No fancy theories: You're going to want the best possible receivers from the highest tiers when you go shopping for a receiver.

Here's how my top six tiers break out (as of Aug. 26):

Elite Tier Near-Elite Tier Reliable Tier
175+ FPTS 140+ FPTS 120+ FPTS
Andre Johnson Reggie Wayne Jeremy Maclin
Roddy White Dwayne Bowe Anquan Boldin
Calvin Johnson Brandon Marshall Wes Welker
Greg Jennings Mike Williams (TB) Mario Manningham
Larry Fitzgerald Miles Austin Brandon Lloyd
Mike Wallace DeSean Jackson  
Hakeem Nicks Marques Colston  
Vincent Jackson Santonio Holmes  
  Dez Bryant  
  Percy Harvin  
Very Good Tier Major Upside Tier Medium Upside Tier
105+ FPTS 90+ FPTS 80+ FPTS
Kenny Britt Lance Moore Braylon Edwards
Steve Johnson Mike Thomas Hines Ward
Pierre Garcon Julio Jones Davone Bess
Santana Moss Danny Amendola A.J. Green
Steve Smith (CAR) Austin Collie Lee Evans
Sidney Rice Plaxico Burress Johnny Knox
Chad Ochocinco Deion Branch

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Buffalo is a 5-point underdog on Sunday.


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(5:26 pm ET) The Patriots placed cornerback Alfonzo Dennard on season-ending injured reserve with a hamstring injury, reports Field Yates of ESPN on Saturday. Dennard appeared in only six games this season, registering 15 combined tackles and one interception -- all season lows.

In corresponding moves, the Patriots elevated wide receiver Josh Boyce from the practice squad to take the spot of Dennard on the 53-man active roster. They re-signed Dax Swanson to the practice squad and released defensive lineman Cam Henderson.


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(5:07 pm ET) The Browns have fined rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel an undisclosed amount for arriving late to treatment on Saturday, reports Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer.

Manziel was placed on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 16 against Carolina. Although he's on IR and not eligible to play, he will accompany the team to Baltimore for Cleveland's season finale against the Ravens.

Manziel is expected to be fully recovered in time for OTAs. He finished the turbulent rookie season with 175 passing yards and a 42.0 quarterback rating. He also had two interceptions and one fumble lost.


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(4:35 pm ET) The Saints announced a pair of roster moves on Saturday. The team elevated quarterback Ryan Griffin to the 53-man active roster and placed nose tackle John Jenkins on injured reserve with an abdominal injury.

Jenkins registered 30 combined tackles and a sack in 12 games played.


Raiders CB T.J. Carrie downgraded to out for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:49 pm ET) The Raiders have downgraded cornerback T.J. Carrie (ankle) from questionable to out for Sunday's season finale against Denver, reports the Bay Area News Group. The rookie appeared in 13 games and posted 44 combined tackles and one interception.

Browns' Phil Bates takes Josh Gordon's roster spot for Week 17
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(2:25 pm ET) The Browns have elevated wide receiver Phil Bates from practice squad to the 53-man active roster following the suspension of wide receiver Josh Gordon on Saturday, per the team's official website. Bates has appeared in only one game this season with Seattle, before joining the Browns. The Browns downgraded Bates out for Sunday's season finale at Baltimore, per the Akron Beacon Journal.

Cowboys LB Rolando McClain downgraded to out for Week 17
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(2:07 pm ET) Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain will not accompany the team to Washington D.C. and was downgraded to out for Sunday's regular season finale against the Redskins due to an illness, reports the team's official website.

McClain posted 81 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception through 13 games. The Cowboys have already clinched a spot in the playoffs, and McClain is primed to be fully recovered for Dallas' first postseason game.


Browns suspend Josh Gordon for violation of team rules
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(1:56 pm ET) The Browns suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon for a violation of team rules, per the team's official website. Mike Silver of the NFL Network reported that Gordon and Johnny Manziel were absent from Cleveland's walkthru on Saturday, in preparation for Sunday's season finale against Baltimore.

Gordon emerged in 2013 as one of the most explosive skill position players in the NFL. Despite losing the first two games to suspension, he racked up 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. He served a 10-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy and didn't make his 2014 debut until Week 12 against Atlanta. His tumultuous 2014 campaign comes to an end with only 24 catches for 303 yards and no touchdowns in five games.

The suspension will prevent him from being an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season. He would have needed six games to earn a credited season. The one-game suspension by the Browns gives Gordon five games this year, making him a restricted free agent after 2015, not unrestricted.


 
 
 
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