Good luck finding a fantasy expert who doesn't rank Calvin Johnson atop the field at wide receiver. 'Tron owns the single-season yardage record, he's given us double-digit touchdowns in three of the past four years, and he's still only 28. He's the man at his position, no question. But who's the next man? OK, now that's a real debate. Three gurus surveyed, top three answers on the board. Let's play the feud...
Behrens goes Green: At the risk of torpedoing my argument right here at the top, I have to say that any of four different players would be a reasonable choice as the No. 2 wide receiver in your fantasy draft.
Just check the 2012-2013 production of the receivers who rank second through fifth on the Yahoo board:
Do you see any clear separation in that group, based on recent performance? No, of course not.
All four wideouts have ideal size (6-foot-2 to 6-foot-4), and all four are attached to offenses that ranked among the NFL's top-7 in scoring last season. Honestly, there isn't a bad choice in the bunch. In each of the past two seasons, the four receivers above produced at least 90 catches, 1200 receiving yards and 10 TDs per year. We're dealing with a collection of high-floor/high-ceiling skill players. This is a great, great group.
In fact, if I were picking tenth in a 12-team draft with all four of those WRs available, I'd pass on the position in Round 1. The projected difference between the receiver I'd take tenth overall and the guy I'd get at 15 is ... well, it's not even worth discussing. These guys are just about dead-even.
But still, I'm expected to rate the field, and you're expected to critique my ranks. That's the deal. Here's why I lean Green: In my eyes, A.J. is the receiver closest to Calvin Johnson in terms of physical tools, and his medical chart is relatively clean. I won't argue that Andy Dalton is anything special, but at least we know he has radar-lock on his top receiver. Last season, Green ranked third in the league in targets (180) — well ahead of Dez, Marshall and Thomas — just behind Pierre Garcon (184) and Andre Johnson (181).
And, um ... yeah. That's all I got. Again, if you draft any of the wideouts we're considering today, you'll be pleased with the returns. -AB
Del Don prefers Big D: I want to argue Bryant says he’s in the best shape of his life and is no longer a knuckle head, but those type of specious claims usually are unfounded, so let me just point out that over his past 24 games, Bryant has scored 23 touchdowns, which is more than A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson have scored over the past two seasons (and just one short of Demaryius Thomas over his last 32 games). Dallas’ defense already projected to be a major problem even before Sean Lee was lost for the season with a torn ACL, so this is a team that should throw the ball a lot (and its offensive line looks like a real strength as well).
New offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will take over playcalling, which will likely benefit Bryant’s fantasy value, as Linehan had no problem force-feeding his No. 1 WR in Detroit. In fact, Bryant has averaged 133.3 targets over the past three seasons compared to 172.7 for Johnson, when Linehan was his OC. (Johnson also missed one more game than Bryant over that span.)
This might surprise you, but Bryant is also younger than both Thomas and Green, despite him having two more NFL seasons under his belt. I like Terrance Williams, but Miles Austin is gone, Jason Witten is entering his decline phase, and DeMarco Murray can’t stay healthy. On a team that’s fielding such a bad defense in a division that should result in a bunch of shootouts, Bryant might see 50 more targets than his previous career high (he already led the NFL in targets inside the 10-yard line last year), and he’s only getting better as a player.
I agree with the general assessment there is no wrong answer when it comes to the top-tier wideouts, but I’ll say this: I’m closer to ranking Bryant first than I am taking either Thomas or Green over him. -DDD
Pianow is mile high: I'm considering this question to be "who's the No. 2 receiver on your board?" Not "who's the best value?" or "who can I get a round later?" If you told me I could take any wideout not named Calvin Johnson, I'd go Demaryius Thomas – no disrespect to the other chaps here, who can obviously play football very well.
Thomas had a better fantasy year than Green or Bryant last year, and he did it on less targets (and less work inside the red zone) than those other guys. Sure, Peyton Manning's dream season is going to regress, but it's not going to regress to Joe Flacco numbers. There are still a likely 40-plus touchdowns to go around in Denver, and Eric Decker won't be around to get his share of them. (Yes, the Broncos added some other complimentary pieces, but they're unlikely to come close to Decker's 2013 production or volume.)
Thomas is already a runaway freight train between the 20s (he led the AFC in yards after catch last year) and I'm expecting a mild spike in red-zone opportunity with the Decker defection. And isn't there something comforting about being tied to a Peyton Manning offense? You ride with Andy Dalton all you like, I'll go where I know the offense is likely to score 30-plus every week.
Yes, all of these teams scored a ton in 2013, but if you look back another year, the story changes. Denver was second in the league in scoring for 2012, while Cincinnati was 12th and Dallas 15th. Manning doesn't have off years. The early rounds are all about floor, fake footballers. I might have some Green and Bryant shares this year and I'm sure I'll enjoy them, but in a vacuum, I can't rank them over Denver's uncoverable freak. On my Mile High thermostat, the temperature's about 88. -Pianow