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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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Player News
Texans' O'Brien: WR DeAndre Hopkins can 'be one of the best'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is very encouraged by the performance of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, per ESPN. O'Brien went as far as to say that Hopkins can be one of the best.

"He had a really productive year," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "The thing that we really like about Hop and that we want him to continue to do is his work ethic. He’s a hungry player. He works every single day. He came into the spring a year ago and he was learning the offense and thinking out there, then all of a sudden you could see all the work he put in and learning, he just took off."

Due to the departure of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the progression of Hopkins will be under the microscope as he is now the focal point of the passing offense.

"We just want to see him continue and progress," O'Brien said. "We think he can be one of the best, we think he is one of the best. We have a lot of confidence in him and we’re looking forward to seeing him progress when the offseason program starts."

In two years with the Texans, Hopkins has reeled in 128 receptions for 2012 yards and eight touchdowns.


Giants won't rush WR Victor Cruz back to the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Although Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be ready by training camp, the team will not rush him back, reports ESPN.

"I shouldn't say this, because medically I really don't have a definite answer, but by training camp hopefully, even if it's just to bring him," Coughlin said. "We're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I hope that would be the target."

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in week six of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. Coughlin is hopeful that he'll return to be the player that he was before the injury.

"I think he'll be the player that he was, and hopefully better," Coughlin said of Cruz. "But as far as when, I would be careful of what I would say there. Hopefully it's the first game. But if it isn't, you know we've done that one before. We just went through it. But I'm hoping it would be."

The former undrafted free agent has tallied 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take more chances through the air
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system for the first time last season. The team plans on taking more chances down the field in Stafford's second season in the new offense, Lombardi said, according to the team's official website.

“In his second year (in the offense) he’s going to be that much more comfortable,” Lombardi said.

“We’ll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he’s good at. I thought he played smart football and sometimes to a fault. We’ll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football.”

Although Stafford didn't take many shots down the field, he did throw a career-low 12 interceptions in 2014. 

The former first overall draft pick has thrown for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns and 85 interceptions during his six-year career.


Colts OLB Robert Mathis plans to be ready for training camp
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is not ready to run yet, he told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. Mathis added that he plans to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like to, but we are getting well and we should be clicking in camp,” Mathis told Sirius.

Mathis was suspended for the first four games of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He then suffered a torn achilles, forcing him to miss all 16 games of the 2014 season.

During his 11-year career with the Colts, Mathis has collected 487 total tackles, 111.0 sacks, 15 passes defensed and 48 forced fumbles.


Lions TE Eric Ebron has been working out with Matthew Stafford
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that tight end Eric Ebron has been working out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta this offseason, reports the Detroit News. Lombardi also said that the plan is to have Ebron be the No. 3 weapon in the passing game this year.

Ebron, 21, finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. 


Cowboys' Tony Romo: DeMarco Murray asked me to take a pay cut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was really hoping to remain with the Cowboys this offseason. So much so, he asked quarterback Tony Romo to take a pay cut to remain with the team, Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, per the Dallas Morning News.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."


Giants QB Eli Manning wants to take offense 'to another level'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Giants quarterback Eli Manning is entering the second year in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system. Manning is ready to take the next step now that he is familiar with the system, reports the NY Daily News.

““This year will be a much easier transition, knowing that we have been through so much of it already,” said Manning, who recently had been working out at Ole Miss with some of their receivers and alumni. “It’s definitely a different starting point. I feel good about it. I feel that I have a good understanding of it.

“But there is still room to grow and that is why I try to keep it as fresh in my mind as possible. Looking at old game-plan sheets and calling plays in my head – throwing routes with receivers trying to call out plays to myself, so you don’t let it slip away. It was new last year and it wasn’t something I have been doing for 10 years, so you want to keep it fresh and go through your reminders and all your checks. So when we come back I haven’t taken a step backwards and have to re-learn things. It is still all there. There will be new stuff and we will be taking it to another level.”

Manning has started all 16 games in each season since 2005, throwing for 39,755 yards with 259 touchdowns and 185 interceptions.


Saints TE Josh Hill wants to grow into new role
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) After trading trading Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, tight end Josh Hill is ready to step into his new role with the Saints, according to the team's offical website.

“I think it might open a few opportunities for me as I continue to grow in my role and just do everything they ask me to do,” Hill said when asked about the trade of Graham to the Seahawks.

Hill recognized that Graham helped him transition from college to the professional level.

“It’s a big difference, especially coming from a smaller school and a smaller city," Hill said. "He was always there for me. We became pretty good friends over the past few years so it will definitely be different without him.”

Head coach Sean Payton believes that Hill is ready to step up.

“Josh Hill is a player that we value a lot," Payton said last week at the NFL annual meeting. "He’s not on anyone’s fantasy first three rounds, I promise you, but he’s a real good tight end. He’s versatile in the running game, in the pass receiving game, a special teams player.”

Hill, heading into his third year in the NFL, has recorded 20 receptions for 220 yards and six touchdowns. 


Cowboys QB Tony Romo excited about this offseason
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is excited about what the offseason holds for him, according to ESPN.

“This is the first offseason where I’ve been able to kind of get after it this early and be able to kind of improve in a lot of different areas that I think you aren’t able to until you get healthy enough to attack it,” Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday. “I’m just excited about that, really.”

Romo, 34, is encouraged by the fact that he is able to do a lot of different things during the offseason process while working out.

“Now I’m able to do that while actually doing functional strength training through different versions of squats,” Romo said. “I’m not putting anything on my back and doing stuff like that but you are doing a lot of single-leg stuff and different things that I started getting into during the season that helped a lot. Now it’s nice to be able to do that in the offseason.”

Romo has thrown for 33,270 yards with 242 touchdowns and 110 interceptions in his 12-year career. 


WR Dwayne Bowe looks to revitalize himself with Browns
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is looking to revitalize his career now that he has joined the Browns, reports ESPN. Bowe was cut by the Chiefs in the middle of March.

"I have a chance to revitalize myself," Bowe, 30, told ESPN.com via telephone Tuesday. "Just sit back and watch."

Browns general manager Ray Farmer has familiarity with Bowe from their time with the Chiefs. The two sat down and watched tape from the 2010 season when he racked up 15 touchdown receptions.

"Him knowing what I can do, seeing me in practice, making crazy plays, splitting the safeties, he knows I still can do that," Bowe said. "I couldn't showcase that last year. He was pulling up old plays, saying, 'We are going to use you just like that.' Moving around, going on motion, trying to hit the deep ball, trying to break plays."

The 30-year-old wideout appreciated his time with the Chiefs and he has no regrets.

"It's been up and down, but it's been fun," Bowe said. "I don't regret nothing. People can talk about the NFL and playing wide receiver -- I feel I still have a good four more years in me."

Over his eight-year career, he has totaled 532 receptions for 7,155 yards and 44 touchdowns.


 
 
 
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