Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball, here's our view on 10 intriguing over/unders at the WR position for the upcoming season.
Fill in the blank. __________ is the WR going after pick No. 75 overall in early drafts with the best shot at impersonating Josh Gordon '13.
Brandon – MIKE WALLACE. Wallace, like DeSean Jackson prior to last season, has pretty much been a one-trick pony in his career - go deep! But D-Jax's blazing speed was exploited in a variety ways in Chip Kelly's system last season, resulting in a career year (1,300-plus yards, 9 TDs). With Kelly disciple Billy Lazor running the offense in Miami, Wallace is already gaining preseason buzz for he's looked while being employed in a similar fashion in preseason workouts.
Brad – TERRANCE WILLIAMS. Expanded role, attacking vertical offense under Scott Linehan, light attention due to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, Tony Romo – the ingredients are there for a major leap off an impressive rookie campaign (44-736-5).
Andy – Well, I don't see anyone beyond 75 who looks like a 1,600-yard receiver, except Gordon himself. GOLDEN TATE should make plenty of noise, however, now that he's tied to a high-volume passing game. With an abundance of weapons on the field for Detroit at all times, Tate should see plenty of single-coverage.
Scott – KENDALL WRIGHT isn't far from fantasy stardom; he quietly posted a 94-1079 campaign as a sophomore despite a very mediocre supporting cast. Wright doesn't have the size (5-foot-10, 191 pounds) to dominate in the red zone, but last year's two-touchdown count goes down as a stone fluke. Heck, he scored four times on 30 less catches the previous year.
Dalton – TERRANCE WILLIAMS. Looks like I’m on board with the Noise here, as I have Williams as a borderline top-25 fantasy WR right now. Miles Austin is gone while Jason Witten is aging, and Dallas is going to have to throw a ton with what looks like a terrible defense in a division that should feature a lot of shootouts. Williams should be solid regardless, but if Dez Bryant went down, there’s huge upside.
Brad – UNDER. Johnson is to fantasy wide receivers what prom is to life – overrated. He's NEVER reached double-digits in TDs in a season. NEVER. He's also fallen short of the proposed number three consecutive seasons. In a run-first offense, he'll again land in the 3-5 range.
Andy – I'll take the OVER. Johnson's TD issues were never about the player, but about play-calling and system. We're talking about a 6-foot-3 wideout with five 100-catch seasons to his credit. He's exceptional, a decent bet for 7-9 scores.
Scott – UNDER on the Johnson props, amigos. Too much disappointing touchdown history here. Ryan Fitzpatrick is no star maker; look at all the touchdowns his wideouts didn't score last year in Tennessee. The Texans don't want to be an aerial circus.
Cordarrelle Patterson, who has gained serious momentum this offseason, final fantasy rank among wide receivers 20.5. (That is, will he be a top-20 WR?)
Andy – OVER, slightly. Patterson is a huge talent, a guy we've all ranked as a WR2 in 12-team leagues. But he's still attached to a Peterson-focused offense and a rookie QB.
Scott – UNDER for me. I can't get over the way his touchdown trend went last year, by month: 1-1-1-6. Norv Turner designed the Josh Gordon breakout; he can do good things with Patterson this year (even as it will have a different shape than Gordon's year did).
Dalton – UNDER. It takes quite a leap of faith to project a top-20 season from someone who failed to reach 500 receiving yards last year, but Patterson is a special talent who also ran for 108 yards over the last two games and totaled six touchdowns over the final five contests. There’s a bunch of room for growth, and Patterson’s targets could very well double in year two.
Michael Floyd, who many believe is on the verge of a devastating statistical eruption, targets in 2014 129.5.
Scott – UNDER, because Larry Fitzgerald isn't going to completely disappear. But this is a good number, probably within 10 in either direction.
Dalton – OVER. Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald are clearly trending in opposite directions at this stage of their careers. Floyd saw 54 targets over the final seven games as a sophomore last year, and that was with Fitz staying healthy. Floyd has been the star of Arizona’s camp and will finish with more fantasy value than Fitzgerald in 2014.
Brandon – UNDER. Last season, 130 targets would have put him in the top 20 among WRs. I still expect Larry Fitzgerald to pace Arizona in looks, and Fitz finished just over this number with 135, compared to 113 for Floyd. I'm guessing that's Floyd's targets go up slightly while Fitzgerald's drop ever-so-slightly, leaving both WRs just shy of this number.
Rookie Rundown. What first-year pass catcher makes the biggest impact: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin or Wildcard?
Dalton – EVANS. He’ll have to share targets with Vincent Jackson, and Josh McCown is a huge wild card, but Evans should immediately be a beast, especially in the red zone. The Bucs are going to have to throw a ton playing the Saints and Falcons in a quarter of their games.
Brandon – COOKS. I think Evans is close here, but I'll take Cooks to edge him out. The former Oregon State standout has amazing stop-start quickness and in a Sproles-ish kind of role, the Saints will go out of their way to exploit his in-space talents.
Brad – COOKS. Drew Brees sung his praises earlier this week hinting the ex-Beaver will benefit most from Darren Sproles' departure. Assuming that's the case, he's a near lock for 100-plus targets and 70-80 receptions. PPR pimpin'.
Kendall Wright, who exploded on the PPR scene last year hauling in 94 passes but only contributed modestly in standard formats with two TDs, end-zone dances this year 5.5.
Brandon – UNDER. I just can't put a whole lot of faith in Jake Locker and the Tennessee passing game. And, I'd expect Bishop Sankey, Justin Hunter and Delanie Walker to garner the biggest chunks of the red zone pie. Wright has just six touchdowns in his first two seasons, and I don't expect him to match that total in '14.
Brad – OVER. Wright enticed just 10 red-zone targets in 15 games last year, but with the Whizz now running the show, the Titans should be more pass-happy. Locker's inaccuracy is a concern, however, Wright should be in line for another 130-plus looks. Bet on six scores.
Andy – UNDER, because I kinda hate this offense and the quarterback situation. I'm penciling in Wright for 1,000 yards and five scores, a modest improvement over last year's production.
Marvin Jones, off a quiet 10-TD season and slated for an increase in snaps, receiving yards this year 849.5.
Brad – OVER. Hue Jackson has praised Jones this summer, penciling him in as the club's WR2. He saw just 52.3 percent of the team's snaps a season ago, a number that's destined to grow. In a healthy offense and with A.J. Green to relieve pressure, he could toe the 1,000-yard line. With an ADP in the 110s, he's terribly undervalued.
Andy – OVER. If he sees something like 25 additional targets, Jones should give us 880-940 yards. I won't make any promises about his touchdowns, but the yardage should trend upward.
Scott – Easy OVER. The snaps will increase, the targets logically will increase. And Jones will rarely have to take on the teeth of the opposing defense, given the presence of Green.
What 2013 fantasy king of pain has better odds of soothing the soul this year: Hakeem Nicks, Mike Wallace or Dwayne Bowe?
Andy – Gross. I'll say NICKS, but it hurts to do it. Indy's offense has a chance to be special. The Dolphins and Chiefs, not so much.
Scott – NICKS, because I would follow Andrew Luck into a burning building. And maybe Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride had something to do with Nicks's slump in New York.
Dalton – WALLACE. I’m not exactly overly optimistic about any of this trio, but I have Wallace comfortably first of the group. He saw 56 targets over the final six games last season, a span in which he scored four touchdowns. I’m also a believer new OC Bill Lazor will utilize Wallace far better than Mike Sherman did.
What late-round lottery ticket the best chance to cash: Andrew Hawkins, Markus Wheaton, Justin Hunter or Jerrel Jernigan?
Scott – WHEATON gets the nod, as I like how the Steelers value shop at this position. Playing time has opened up, and Wheaton's had a year to get his lay of the land.
Dalton – WHEATON. The speedy sophomore should replace Emmanuel Sanders as Pittsburgh’s starter at the “X” position. The Steelers’ schedule sure looks favorable, and he’s going to be given a major opportunity to be a big part of the team’s offense.
Brandon – WHEATON. All day and twice on Sunday. Pittsburgh has been above average the past two seasons in terms of pass attempts, and the defections of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery leave a 113 catch, 1,339 receiving yard and 16 TD void. Wheaton is in a position to backfill the lion's share of those numbers.
Cecil Shorts, who could be a targets hog on a rebuilding Jacksonville offense, receptions this fall 74.5.
Dalton – UNDER. This seems like a reasonable number, but I’m fading since health has been a major issue with Shorts throughout his career. Moreover, the QB situation in Jacksonville remains a question mark (he’s caught an anemic 51.5 percent of his targets throughout his career, in no small part because of who’s been throwing to him).
Brandon – OVER. I'm a believer that Toby Gerhart will give Jacksonville a legitimate ground-game threat. And that should make life a bit easier on Shorts, as should the addition of talented rookie wideouts Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Shorts was only 8.5 catches shy of this mark last season, in what was an abysmal offensive display by the Jags. If you believe the Jags will be more potent in '14, it's not hard to put faith in 75 catches for Shorts as the go-to guy in the passing game.
Brad – UNDER. Barely. Ball control is the M.O. of defense-minded Gus Bradley. Toby Gerhart, slated for 300-325 touches, is bound to be the offensive focal point. Throw in another year of Chad Henne duck-snorts and 75 catches seem like a stretch.
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