Wide receiver is by far the deepest position in fantasy football. There will be some taken as early as the first round (i.e Calvin Johnson and possibly Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson) who are most likely to have years that warrant such an early selection. You will also have receivers taken in the mid-to-late portion of the draft, which is where some of the best sleepers can be found.
Finding the best value at the pick you have is key in getting the greatest production possible. Carolina’s Steve Smith was taken in the eighth round of most drafts in 2011 and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green was going off the board in the ninth. Having a good idea of who will have the greatest return for their value is essential in having a productive season and ultimately giving a championship belt gesture to everyone in your league at the end of the season.
We will be looking at these players based on a 12-team ADP (average draft position) results as of August 17.
Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens – Although his last name may be average his numbers won’t be at the end of the season. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar at the beginning of last year but the alarm was loud and clear after his 153-yard, three-touchdown performance against St. Louis week three. Those who hoped to get that consistently the rest of the season were dreaming but by the end of the season he and Flacco combined for 50 catches, 841 yards and seven scores.
With his size, speed and downfield abilities, combined with an aging Boldin on the other side, Torrey Smith should be in for a great year with plenty more targets than the 96 he had last year. Smith is being drafted between rounds seven and eight (in 12-team leagues) but should be going ahead of guys like Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson and Denver’s Eric Decker who are currently being drafted in the fifth round. A six-touchdown, 1,000 season should be in order for this second-year wide out.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos – Thomas is another receiver who got a late start last season but finished stronger than most at the end of the year. He stepped on the field for the first time last season in week seven because of an achilles injury but found the end zone in his first game. Add an offseason of preparation which he didn’t get last season, a much better quarterback and also look at the fact that even in just 11 games he had 69 targets when Tim Tebow was throwing to him, you can see that Thomas will be in for a productive fantasy season.
Thomas is leaving draft boards in the fifth and sixth round but should be going off in the fourth ahead of guys like New England’s Brandon Lloyd and New Orleans’ Marques Colston. Lloyd and Colston are solid picks but they are also “safe” picks and you need to take risks if you want to win. Peyton Manning will find him early and often this year and the value had by Thomas will surely pay off.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears – Jeffery has done nothing but impress his teammates and coaching staff in Chicago. Coming out of South Carolina there were attitude problems and a weight gain that had forced some teams to look the other way when they saw his name still on the board when their team was on the clock. The Bears took what some considered a chance and drafted Jeffery in the second round and it seems as though he may be the number two receiver opposite side of Brandon Marshall. That will only mean good things for Jeffery and those who draft him.
Jeffery is going in the thirteenth round and sometimes goes undrafted, so target him in the late rounds just before you pick your kicker and D/ST.
Rueben Randle, New York Giants – Out goes Manningham and in comes Randle. It’s common for rookie receivers to be stuck in a position that lacks a quarterback and lacks an offense as a whole. Something both Randle and Jeffery both don’t need to worry about, unlike Jacksonville’s Justin Blackmon and Tennessee’s Kendall Wright. Randle is stepping into a situation where he’s playing next to two very good receivers (Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz) and one very good quarterback (Eli Manning). Nicks is hopeful that he will return by week one but there is a good chance he isn’t there for the first kickoff. Using a late-round pick on a receiver going into a high-octane offense like the one in New York would be smart.
Randle is going in the fourteenth round on average but you should make sure he doesn’t fall that far.
Randal Cobb, Green Bay Packers – Cobb is a sneaky guy to grab late in your draft. Sure, there are a lot of other guys in Green Bay that will take away from his opportunity but if an elderly Driver or an aging Jennings goes down with an injury, Cobb will be next in line. Cobb is talented enough to be a very dynamic player in the Green Bay offense and could score in a number of ways. You won’t start him in the beginning of the 2012 season but by the end of it you may.
Cobb is going around the tenth and eleventh rounds so targeting him in the ninth would be a wise move.