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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
Bills move Corey Graham to safety
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:01 am ET) The Bills have moved cornerback Corey Graham to safety, the Buffalo News reports.

Graham said that he and the team have discussed the move all offseason and decided to give the position change a try on Tuesday when the team held its first workout of OTAs.

"He’s got that unique ability where he can do both things," coach Rex Ryan said. "So let’s see what we have out there. And this is no slam on Duke or on Rambo or on Meeks or any of those guys, but this is us doing what’s best for the team. And if that means we feel good about [Graham] playing safety, then that’s where he’ll be."

Graham is enthusiastic about playing the safety position full-time.

"I want to try to really learn it and see where it goes, see how much my grasp is, see how I’m playing at it, see where it can take me," he said. "I look forward to it. It’s a challenge for me, but I’m actually very excited about it."

Graham recorded 84 total tackles last season, his first in Buffalo, while intercepting two passes.


Vikings' Bridgewater 'extremely comfortable' with leadership role
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Vikings second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is embracing his role as leader of the offense, the Star Tribune reports.

"I’m a young guy still on the team, but guys are pushing me forward to say something in the huddle, or break the team down, or break the offense down," Bridgewater said. "That just gives you that confidence in yourself, confidence in your leadership and I’ve been extremely comfortable doing that so far."

Coach Mike Zimmer is satsfied with the work Bridgewater has done during the offseason.

"It’s hard to never not be pleased with Teddy because he’s such a hard worker," Zimmer said. "We wanted him to get bigger and stronger; he looks a little bit bigger to me. He’s always worked real hard. The leadership things are starting to come better. I think he’s been doing a good job the two days we’ve been out here against the defense."

Bridgewater made 12 starts in his rookie season and played 13 games in all, racking up 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing 64.4 percent of his passes.


Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders hoping to reach 1,000 yards
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders believes the new offensive scheme in Denver will effect his numbers, accoridng to the team's website.

Sanders is working with new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and coach Gary Kubiak to install the team's new offense and noted it's very different from last year's spread attack.

"You talk about going from a no-huddle offense to an offense that's huddling up, to an offense that is predicated off running a football and then throwing it. It's different," Sanders said. 

"It's a totally different set up, but I tell you what, the more and more I'm in it," said Sanders. "Because we can get the run game going and just use my vertical speed on cross routes and all these different combinations of routes is based off the play action, then I think the offense will be successful with Peyton Manning at the helm."

Sanders, who totaled 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014, doesn't think he'll accomplish the same numbers.

"Of course obviously it's not going to be one of those offenses, well I'm praying that it is, but obviously it's not going to be one of those offenses where you catch it and you're going to have two receivers catching over 100 passes," said Sanders. "Hopefully, my goal is really to try to get a 1,000 yards to just help this team win ball games."


Cowboys rookie La'el Collins taking reps at RT in OTAs
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Cowboys rookie offensive lineman La'el Collins started offseason team activities on Wednesday taking reps at right tackle, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Collins, who was signed as an undrafted free agent, could also see time at left guard. But the rookie is taking his first reps with the team at right tackle with Darrion Weems while Doug Free recovers from ankle surgery.

"We think he has the physical ability to play a couple of different spots," coach Jason Garrett said. "He was a tackle for most of his career in college but did play guard. We see him as a guy who can maybe do both of those things as he goes.

"The big thing for him is to try to get him acclimated as quickly as we can. So right now he's going to play right tackle for us. He and Darrion Weems are competing at that spot in Doug Free's absence and we'll just see how that unfolds." 


Vikings' Adrian Peterson on absence from OTAs: 'It's business'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said in a statement on Wednesday that his absence from OTAs has "nothing to do with wanting to be traded," ESPN reports.

"The reason I'm not attending OTAs has nothing to do with wanting to be traded. It's about securing my future with the Vikings. It's business, not personal and I understand that firsthand. Go Vikings."

It was reported earlier Wednesday that coach Mike Zimmer said that Peterson could "either play for us or not play." The running back has expressed frustration with team management for not showing him support during his legal case for child abuse.


Report: Falcons' Dezmen Southward undergoes knee surgery
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Falcons defensive backs Dezmen Southward underwent a minor-knee operation Wednesday, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Southward did not attend Tuesday's OTA and it is not known how long he'll be sidelined.


Julius Thomas trying to fit into Jaguars' offense
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas said after Wednesday's organized team activity that he intends to make it work with quarterback Blake Bortles, reports The Florida Times-Union.

"There is no 'Here's me coming in, and Blake's going to get on my page.' I'm going to be on Blake's page," Thomas said. "Whatever he expects, that's what I am going to do. He's the quarterback. He's the one in control of that huddle, and I like catching passes so I will make sure I do exactly what he wants."

With Thomas entering his first season with the Jaguars, he said it will take time to develop a rapport with Bortles.

"I think that getting good chemistry with a quarterback probably takes a couple of thousand passes," Thomas said.


Cowboys RB Darren McFadden not concerned with playing time
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) With the Cowboys just beginning their organized team activities this week, running back Darren McFadden said he just wants to concentrate on becoming familiar with the team, reports the team's official website.

"For me, I'm just going out there grinding," he said. "However the coaches put me out there – whether it's first team or second team. When it comes time for them to make a decision, it's totally up to them. I'm just trying to get that playbook down and take advantage of this opportunity."

McFadden is competing with Joseph Randle to be the first-team running back, and he said he just wants to work hard and not worry about how many repetitions he's receiving with the first team.

"Once you've been in a place so long like Oakland, you can get set in your ways," McFadden said Wednesday, after his second OTA practice with the Cowboys. "Coming out here and being around guys that work so hard, it just brings out the best in you. It's something I look forward to."


Chiefs' Mike Catapano on his health: I feel better than ever
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) After missing the entire 2014 season with a gastrointestinal virus, Chiefs defensive end Mike Catapano was able to participate in the team's OTA on Wednesday, reports The Kansas City Star.

"Every time I step on the field now it's with purpose and with extra vigor that I never really had," Catapano said. "It feels great. I feel better than ever."

Catapano played in 15 games during his rookie season in 2013 and he totaled four tackles and one sack. He said he's ready to surpass that in 2015.

"I'm ready to show that I offer a lot to this team. I'm ready to step up in big situations and starting situations," Catapano said. "I just want to keep getting better every day… and play to the best of my abilities."


Broncos' Manning, Sanders keeping up with Thomas during holdout
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is holding out of offseason workouts while he continues to negotiate a long-term deal with the team, but teammates Emmanuel Sanders and Peyton Manning have been keeping up with the star receiver, the Denver Post reports.

"One thing a lot of people don’t realize is when you’re playing on a one-year deal, there’s a lot of things going through your head," Sanders said. "As much as you guys want to say, ‘Don’t think about it,' of course it’s going to cross your mind because you’re talking about a lot of money at stake. When you’re playing these one-year deals, it’s a lot of stress on you. No matter how much you don’t want it to be, it’s going to happen. We’re all human."

Manning would like to have Thomas in workouts but understands the business aspects of his decision.

"I keep up with Demaryius. He’s my buddy," Manning said. "They got that business side of it to work out, but he’s been a great teammate to me, been a great friend to me since I’ve been here in Denver, so I keep up with him. Obviously want him to get back here as soon as possible, but we want what’s best for him, and he certainly deserves what’s best for him."

Thomas has started 16 games for three straight season, topping 90 receptions, 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns in each.


 
 
 
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