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Offseason Extra: WR tiers for 2014

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Early Tiers for 2014: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs

Two years ago I wrote a "rule" worth following when drafting receivers. The gist: Don't get caught without enough receivers you can confidently start. Kind of a no-brainer, but it's designed to remind you not to overlook the position in your quest to build your team.

(In other words, don't forget about receivers when you go chasing running backs.)

Things get hairy when you don't have enough quality receivers. With a fifth-round pick in a recent mock we did, I passed on Keenan Allen as my No. 2 receiver for Steven Jackson as my No. 4 running back. At the time I figured going with Jackson would bolster my running back depth, considering how thin that position gets. But all I did was trade a roster headache for a starting lineup headache -- I wound up with James Jones, Dwayne Bowe and Marvin Jones as my second, third and fourth receivers. In a perfect world I find a way to rotate those three in my lineup and maximize my Fantasy points. In reality, I have three suspect receivers I have to gamble with from week to week instead of one guy I could confidently start.

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The truth is that the number of receivers you'd confidently start isn't getting bigger. In 2012, there were only 15 receivers who averaged 10-plus Fantasy points per week, a number that ticked up to 17 in 2013, though it included three players who played in six or fewer games. Four wideouts topped the 200-point mark in 2013 and 15 scored 150-plus points. Those numbers are pretty much on par with what we've gotten from receivers over the last few years. The NFL is more of a passing league but it hasn't helped produce more prolific Fantasy wideouts.

Does this mean we should put a premium on receivers? I'd say so, but not to the point where you ignore other positions. Just to the point where you cover your starting spots. By doing so you should feel at least reasonably comfortable, if not out-of-your-skin excited, with who you'll roll with. If the ultimate goal in drafting receivers is to get ones that finish in the Top 24, then aiming to get one when the first 24 receivers go off the board is a good plan. Getting three guys hoping to land one that finishes in the Top 24? Not as good of a plan.

There's a built-in bonus with aiming for quality receivers for your starting spots: You won't have to draft many backups. Say you end up with Julio Jones and Pierre Garcon in a standard-scoring league that requires two starting receivers. Other than the bye week, under what circumstance would you consider sitting either guy? Even if the Falcons or Redskins played at Seattle (neither one does in 2014; the Redskins host the Seahawks though) you'd still start these guys. So how many backups do you need? One? Two? Two at the most -- that way you can dedicate more space to other positions.

When the studs are gone

Not everyone is going to be able to snag two or three great receivers. For those people, here's help.

When a talented player and a golden opportunity intersect, there's usually an abundance of stats to follow. Technically, every player in the NFL is talented and opportunities come every week. But it's those who take advantage of their moments who become heroes in our game.

For receivers, there's an added factor for them to be successful: A good quarterback. Usually that's needed in order for a receiver to shine, though the case of Josh Gordon in 2013 suggests otherwise. It doesn't have to be an elite passer like Peyton Manning or a cannon-armed stud like Ben Roethlisberger either -- just someone capable of regularly delivering accurate passes to receivers who get open. So long as all of that happens, there are chances for receivers to break out.

After the first 70 or so picks, you're going to need a list of wideouts who can either provide a spark off the Fantasy bench or even be a potential starter. The deeper the league, and frankly the more points each catch is worth, the more demand there will be for receivers. Among the players left over by the mid-point of the draft will include older guys who have familiar names but are removed from elite status, pass catchers with unfulfilled potential and youngsters who have proven little.

The older guys sound good. Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, Steve Smith, Greg Jennings. We've seen guys like those catch for 1,000 yards and a bunch of touchdowns before. Doesn't mean they're going to again. They're all 30 years or older and they all struggled for various reasons last year. Hard to trust them.

Then there are people like Victor Cruz, Mike Wallace, Torrey Smith, Steve Johnson and Justin Blackmon. Again, guys who have displayed amazing potential but still have their warts be it a weak quarterback, injuries, inconsistency or a suspension with no confirmed return date. No doubt these guys will have good weeks, but how many and how often? Hard to trust them.

But then you have young players who haven't necessarily posted huge numbers but still have ... potential. You'll hear us use that word all the time. It's something to hang your hat on, and if last year's breakout receivers are any indication, it's not necessarily a term with a hollow description.

Diamonds in the rough

Josh Gordon. Alshon Jeffery. Anquan Boldin. Keenan Allen. Julian Edelman. Marvin Jones. Riley Cooper. Michael Floyd. These are the only receivers to finish as Top 24 options and weren't taken with a Top 80 pick. And it's not like those last four set the world on fire -- each of them averaged between 8.0 and 8.6 Fantasy points per game and combined for 20 games with 10-plus points. Not great, but certainly serviceable.

(Maybe their finish in 2013 speaks to the greater plan of landing stud receivers for your starting lineup when you can.)

But it's worth considering what made them great. Three had great quarterbacks, four had over 130 targets, five are considered freak athletes, six are under the age of 27, seven are under the age of 30. And obviously all of them had plenty of playing time.

But with the exception of Gordon, who established himself as an elite wideout, the rest had a great teammate helping them get open. And if a very good, young player has someone drawing coverage away then the opportunity to put up numbers presents itself.

So with all of this as the criteria, here are some possible receivers worth keeping in mind as mid- to late-round picks in drafts this summer.

Jarrett Boykin, Packers (25 years old by end of season)
If James Jones leaves as a free agent then the Packers should feel fairly comfortable with Boykin. Per ProFootballFocus.com, Boykin caught just 21 of 35 passes for 435 yards and one score on catches 10-plus yards off the line of scrimmage last season. It's not great, but it shouldn't be a clear-cut indicator that Boykin is only a short-area guy.

Marlon Brown, Ravens (23 years old by Week 1)
Started 2013 strong -- thanks to replacing injured receiver Jacoby Jones -- but became really volatile in the last two thirds of the season. A strong offseason and push for a starting job this summer could make him a breakout candidate.

DeAndre Hopkins, Texans (22 years old by Week 1)
Hopkins really had only a couple of good moments in his rookie year. Despite catching 52 passes for 802 yards, he scored just twice, including only once after a game-winner in Week 2. He still has talent worth recognizing and the Texans should upgrade at quarterback.

Marvin Jones, Bengals (24 years old by Week 1)
If A.J. Green is on the field then Jones will be in single coverage quite often. That was the case for much of 2013, though Jones wasn't on the field as much as you would have thought. He never had more than 77.8 pct. of the snaps and was under the 60 pct. snap mark 13 times, including the first nine games of the season. With Hue Jackson in charge we'll see if Jones can surge.

Terrance Williams, Cowboys (25 years old by midseason)
His games when Miles Austin went down in 2013 were fabulous, but he couldn't keep it up. Williams posted 56 Fantasy points in Weeks 5 through 8 and 30 in the eight games after. The drop off is scary but if the Cowboys are wise they'll let Austin and his $5.5 million contract walk this spring and give Williams a starting job. He'll be facing single coverage constantly so long as Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are on the field.

Tiering up

Consider it a must to determine your receiver rankings before you draft. When you do you'll quickly see just how thin the position is. Only seven receivers are in my first two tiers and then there's a logjam over the next three tiers. It stresses just how top-heavy the position really is.

Remember, the point of tiers is to sort players by specific expectations. Then when your draft rolls on you'll be able to know when a position is getting thin. When you see that happen, jump in and grab a player at the highest tier level available. It'll help you draft efficiently and stay true to your own board.

Top Tier Second Tier Third Tier Fourth Tier
1,500+ yards, 11+ TDs 1,300+ yards, 10+ TDs 1,200+ yards, 9+ TDs 1,100+ yards, 8+ TDs
Calvin Johnson Julio Jones Jordy Nelson Larry Fitzgerald
Josh Gordon Dez Bryant Randall Cobb Andre Johnson
Demaryius Thomas   Antonio Brown DeSean Jackson
Brandon Marshall   Alshon Jeffery Vincent Jackson
A.J. Green   Keenan Allen Eric Decker
    Michael Crabtree  
    Pierre Garcon  
Fifth Tier Sixth Tier Upside Tier Sleepers
1,000+ yards, 7+ TDs 900+ yards, 6+ TDs 800+ yards, 6+ TDs  
Reggie Wayne Percy Harvin Tavon Austin Marlon Brown
Victor Cruz T.Y. Hilton Marques Colston Jarrett Boykin
Cordarrelle Patterson Dwayne Bowe Justin Blackmon DeAndre Hopkins
Julian Edelman Roddy White Steve Johnson Rueben Randle
Wes Welker Michael Floyd Kendall Wright  
  Riley Cooper Marvin Jones  
  Mike Wallace Terrance Williams  
  Torrey Smith Cecil Shorts  
  James Jones    

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
Marcus Lattimore eager to start pro career
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4/20/2014) 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore is ready to start his proffesional career. After blowing out his knee in a gruesome injury in October of 2012 at South Carolina, Lattimore told The State on Sunday that his knee rehab is complete and that he's "ready to play."

Lattimore, who will attend the first day of the team's offseason workouts, will enter a crowded backfield with Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James already backing up current starter Frank Gore. However, James has expressed his desire for a bigger role and could be dealt, opening the door for the No. 3 spot in the backfield.

"If that happens, it does put me in that No. 3 spot," Lattimore said. "But I've just got to go in there and work hard. I can pass-protect and run the ball. I've got to show that."


Raiders bring back Kaelin Burnett
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Raiders have inked exclusive-rights free agent Kaelin Burnett to a one-year deal. He's expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Dekoda Watson moving to strong-side LB
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


Brandon Gibson begins light jogging
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

'Humbled' Richardson explains 2013, promises a better 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Colts running back Trent Richardson spoke openly about his disappointing 2013 season, saying that it took him too long to learn a new playbook and get over leaving Cleveland after Week 2. Richardson also told the official team website that he's planning to do everything within his power to be as prepared as possible for 2014. 

"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. ... This season was a lesson to me."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


Aikman worried about Tony Romo
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."


Bengals, A.J. Green not talking extension - yet
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Bengals are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on receiver A.J. Green's contract by May 3, reports Pro Football Talk. But the sides have yet to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to the report.

The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


Chris Snee will give it a shot this spring
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Giants guard Chris Snee will attempt to go through the Giants offseason program once he's healthy, the New York Daily News reports. Snee had hip surgery last season and an elbow surgery earlier this year. There is no timeline for him to be at 100 percent but he is expected to be on the field for the "bulk" of offseason activities. 

 
 
 
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