Dez is starting to emulate another famous blue-clad 88. (USAT)
It may seem insane-ludi-ridiculously early for fantasy football ranks, but with the NFL draft beginning Thursday, it's time for a refresher. In the third part of a special four-part series, the Noise takes on WRs, and gets you a leg up on scoring extra beer money this fall. Team Huevos, shout, shout, let it all out in the comments section below.
Depth, balance, sustainability – these are the characteristics that typically define the wide receiver position. In this era of downfield proclivity, it's lusher than ever before. Once top-heavy just a few short years ago inflating draft day price-tags of pacesetters like Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens and Torry Holt, WR today is essentially one giant Vince Young yard sale, a position sporting bargains galore.
Coaches’ willingness to throw and the immense QB talent pool has blown receiver production into uncharted waters. At least, that’s what most owners commonly perceive. One can always cherry-pick the stats to prove a point. For example, at the beginning of the century only 13 wideouts netted at least 10 fantasy points per game. A season ago 20 targets reached that feat. However, the yearly difference in receiver production is, in general, negligible.
Compared to QB, RB and TE, the position hasn’t undergone a complete makeover in standard formats. Last year’s tier-to-tier drop-off (WR1-WR36 = 6.7 fan points/game) was in line with recent seasons and also with those during run-friendlier times. PPR enthusiasts, too, haven’t experienced measurable change. In total, 22 receivers hauled in at least 70 receptions a season ago, two fewer than in 2005, a year that ranks No. 24 in passing yards per game per team all-time (2012 is No. 1).
In an age where vertical records are shattered virtually every year, it would only seem plausible WRs would also universally increase in value. But because most NFL teams often feature three, four or in the case of the Saints, five-wide sets, that trend hasn’t materialized. Passers are spreading the wealth, which explains why WR scoring has evened out.
Expect more of the same in 2013.
Obviously, Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green will attract early round selections, deservedly so, but bypassing them for commodities in the next or third-best class is a savvy strategy.
Sorting through the madness, here are my top-60 wide receivers entering Thursday’s NFL Draft:
Don't expect Welker to climb the statistical mountain in Denver.
Gordon could really strut his stuff in 2013. (USAT)
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