Just like the Quarterback rankings, these rankings take into account factors like, a players new team, age, development, and new additions around them. There are going to be some key players missing out my top 5. I'll explain the people falling out of the top 5 and also give you some sleepers that should have big years in 2010. Starting the list off at #5...
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5)"Megatron" Calvin Johnson- 2009 Stats - 67 receptions - 984 yards - 5 TDs - 14.7 avg
Megatron has the rare size (6'5") and speed combination (4.3), that you could only dream of making in a lab. He also possesses great hands. Johnson would be more of a household name if he wasn't so humble and quiet like Andre Johnson and instead had a brasher demeanor like Ochocinco and T.O. Another key factor that has kept him out of the limelight has been the guys that were throwing to him in Detroit. In his first 2 seasons in the league he was being thrown to by the likes of Jon Kitna, Dante Culpepper, and Dan Orlovsky. Yes, that's the same Dan Orlovsky who ran out of back of the end zone while fading back to pass against the Vikings. The inability to have a quarterback that could consistently deliver the ball slowed his development, but the franchise ultimately did right by him when they selected Matt Stafford with the first pick of the 2009 draft.
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Stafford showed that he has what it takes to be a NFL quarterback last season when forced his way back into a game against the Cleveland Browns severely injured. Unable to even hold up his non-throwing arm, and in obvious immense pain, he proceeded to throw the game winning touchdown. From that moment on, he garnered the trust of the team, fans, and management. Stafford will progress more this season with the front office adding more weapons around him. The Lions drafted Jahvid Best and also picked up tight end Tony Scheffler to go with 2nd year standout tight end Brandon Pettigrew.
Calvin Johnson also has Nate Burleson, Bryant Johnson, and Derrick Williams to help take some of the double teams off of him. Calvin has the most weapons accompanying him this year that he's ever had and a quarterback that has all the tools to get him the ball. Expect Johnson to become more of a red zone threat and have a breakout season that will have pundits mentioning him with the same tone they talked about Fitzgerald after the Super Bowl run a few years ago.
4) Desean Jackson - 2009 Stats - 62 receptions -1,156 yards - 9 TDs - 18.6 avg
I must admit, one of my fellow researchers, Brian Bosley has been trying to get me to come around on this guy since before last season started. I fought with him about this guy all of last year. It wasn't until now that I've come to realize that I just don't like Jackson's personality and I was holding this against his on field talent. Putting personal feelings aside, I can say now that I see Desean as the new Steve Smith (Carolina). A glance at the stats has Jackson's 18.6 yards per catch last season jump off the page. For a player with 62 receptions to have that high of an average is simply amazing. He has elite speed, good hands, and his best quality is his elusiveness as he can stop on a dime and change directions. Desean is a serious threat in the open field and his new QB, Kevin Kolb delivers a rocket, accurate pass. The combination of Kolb's ability to deliver the ball and Jackson's elusiveness will cause matchup problems with defenders as Jackson will get the ball in stride and be able to take full advantage of the separation between him and the corner.
The Eagles O-line will give Kolb plenty of time in the pocket to be able to deliver the deep ball to Desean and he should be good for years to come with a young core around him. Not only does Jackson have a QB in Kolb, but he has Jeremy Maclin on the other side that has to be respected too. Throw in a young dynamic running back in Lesean McCoy as another threat and Jackson could be a fantasy keeper for years to come.
Philly always has a strong defense. You might be asking what this has to do with Jackson's fantasy value. This defense will get a lot of 3 and outs and turnovers, which in turn will get more touches for Desean. All in all, the main weakness I see in Jackson is his "the world owes me everything" personality. To me, He is as likable as the old ‘say no to drugs ads' from the 80's..."I learned it from watching you dad." Don't act like you don't remember those commercials.
3) Reggie Wayne - 2009 Stats - 100 receptions - 1,264 yards - 10 TDs - 12.6 avg
This is Peyton Manning's #1 receiver. Enough said. I don't care if Bushwick Bill was Peyton's #1 receiver; he would still be in my top 5 fantasy receivers. Wayne is taller than Bushwick and as far as I know probably has better hands. Reggie has caught everything Manning has thrown his way for years. They are on the same page like an old married couple. Peyton can make any receiver good but Wayne is already good. Manning makes him elite. You already know going into the year that Peyton will pass for 4,000 plus yards and Wayne will be the main target during the campaign. There really isn't any reason to explain anything else. My wife could tell you that Peyton Manning will connect with Reggie Wayne for at least a 100 catches, 1,200 yards, and 10+ touchdowns this year. Now, if you want to argue with her, then good luck. You would have a better chance arguing with Peter Griffin about whether the Bird really is the Word.
2) Brandon Marshall - 2009 Stats - 101 receptions - 1,120 yards - 10 TDs - 11.1 avg
I know a lot experts are expecting a falloff this year from Marshall. They say Henne didn't put up big numbers last season. Henne also didn't have Brandon Marshall in 2009. Marshall made Kyle Orton look good catching an NFL record 22 passes in one game. Perhaps you can pick up the discontent I have for Orton. I know statistically he has a .604 winning percentage, but I really don't see how he's a starter on an NFL team... Okay, maybe I could see him starting in Buffalo. ) I just can't get past what I see as he consistently throws the short dump passes as if it's the primary route.
And when Orton tried throwing the deep ball, many of the throws were poor and just fell incomplete. Henne throws a beautiful deep ball and showed good accuracy in 2009. Dolphins have a good running game and Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, and Greg Camarillo all seemed to of developed into dependable 2nd and 3rd options. Also, Marshall can take the 3 yard pass and cut it back across the field and break 6 tackles in the process on his way to a 70 yard touchdown run. Ask Dallas what Marshall can do when you have "perfect" coverage on him on a short route.
There are some players that you can't stop. Brandon Marshall is one of those players.
1) Andre Johnson - 2009 Stats - 101 receptions - 1,569 yards - 9 TDs - 15.5 avg
One word "BEAST". Johnson is simply the greatest receiver in the game. Watching Johnson is watching greatness and history unfold in front of your eyes. Wouldn't you like to go back and watch Jerry Rice in his prime? Well, you can't do that but the closest thing to it is watching AJ play. Great size, hands, leaping ability, and he's humble. You don't see many athletes's this polished with no weakness to their game.
Johnson is also playing with the most underrated quarterback in the NFL, Matt Schaub. Schaub had the 6th best passing season in NFL History and practically no one no one talks about it! Why is it that no one talks about him being in the conversation as one of the top quarterbacks playing today? Because he doesn't date Giselle and do Stetson advertisements with his shirt open. Because he doesn't play for the media whore team in Dallas. Because his last name isn't Manning. While Schaub had the best passing season last year, he was only the 4th option to make the Pro Bowl for the AFC. Schaub and Johnson were the first quarterback and receiver to combo to lead the league in yards at their position since Favre and Antonio Freeman in 1998. If this is your first time hearing that stat, then you should realize that Schaub is underrated.
Teams will not be able to double team Johnson on every play with Pro Bowler Owen Daniels coming back to play tight end this season. There are also other weapons to take the pressure off of AJ. Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones forcing teams to play them legit. Johnson and Schaub had that tremendous season in 2009 with basically one of the worst running games in the NFL. This year they seemed to have that problem fixed with Arian Foster, Steve Slaton, Chris Henry, and Jeremiah Johnson all looking the part for the Texans running attack. Rookie running back Ben Tate could be out for the season after suffering an ankle injury in the team's first preseason game. Andre Johnson has led the league in yards the last 2 season...I'd put my money on 3 in a row.
Now, this is for all of you that are yelling at your computer screens because you think I left out someone who should have been in the top 5. I'll try and explain my reason behind this and if you still aren't happy with my reasoning, feel free to let me know why you still think I'm off.
I imagine that the name that most of you are upset about is Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is definitely an elite wide receiver. My leaving him off the top 5 has more to do with Matt Leinart than Fitz. I don't see Leinart being a solid quarterback that can get Fitzgerald the ball and throw him as many touchdowns as the other top 5 names will see. Fitzgerald will see a lot more double teams with Anquan Boldin gone this season. I realize that Steve Breaston and Early Doucet will step up and play solid roles but neither one is a true #1 like Boldin was for this team.
Randy Moss is another name that people just expect to be in the top 5. Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman's development will start taking away from Moss' stats starting this year. The Patriots O-line will take a hit this season and Brady won't be as sharp as years past. Be mad if you want to but this is what is going to happen.
Roddy White was really the hardest one for me to leave off this list. If you don't understand me leaving him off the top 5, I really can't argue with you. I even thought about putting him in a tie for 5th but that's a punk move. Matt Ryan will have his best year this year and White will benefit the most from this.
Sidney Rice was another one that I could see putting in the top 5. I pretty sure that Brett Favre will come back this year but with him not announcing it yet, I couldn't make Rice a top 5 WR with Tavaris Jackson as his quarterback.
Miles Austin will simply have too many receptions taken away by the rookie Dez Bryant. Bryant will become the team's #1 wide receiver next season. Witten will also get more red zone throws this season, which will bring down Austin's touchdown total from 2009.
Anquan Boldin will have a solid year. Flacco is a solid quarterback that finally got a great receiver. The problem is that this team is old school. This defense will beat you up and they will continue to run the ball down your throat. Boldin just want get enough touches to be a top 5 wide receiver.
Now that we got that out the way, let's talk about you waiting to late in your draft to pick up wide receivers. If you find yourself in the mid to later rounds and you need some receivers that will put you up some solid points week in and week out, then I'm going give you a few names.
First, I'm going give you some rookies that should have an instant impact, and then I'll give you some 2nd year stars. I'll finish you off with a mix bag of young veteran surprises.
Dez Bryant is the closest thing to Andre Johnson that a rookie could be. He's still raw in some attributes but he runs great routes, has great hands, speed, and gets the ball at its highest point. Jordan Shipley will get a lot of receptions this year in the slot. He won't get the touchdowns that you want; these will go to T.O., Ochocinco, and Jermaine Gresham. He will still have solid yards with a good amount of catches. Demaryius Thomas is a big physical receiver. He will be the #1 from day 1 if he can stay healthy. That's a big if, because he keeps getting nicked up. Mike Williams was a 4th round pick for Tampa Bay. He would have gone a lot earlier in the draft if it wasn't for character issue. Make no mistake about it; he didn't fall in the draft due to talent. He has already taken over as the teams #1 receiver and seems to be on the same page with QB Josh Freeman.
2nd Year Stars
Hakeem Nicks will be the premier receiver for the Giants early on in the season. His hands are ridiculous. Mike Wallace is a big play machine. My biggest question with him is who is going to be throwing him the ball early on in the season while Big Ben is out. Michael Crabtree was dynamic last season even though he missed all of camp and the first part of the season. Not doubt that he'll be even better with a season under his belt and a whole offseason workout complete with training camp and preseason. Johnny Knox is going to fit in well in Mike Martz new system in Chicago. He'll be what Eddie Royal was for Cutler in Denver, when Royal had 91 catches as a rookie.
Malcolm Floyd will benefit the most from Vincent Jackson not resigning in San Diego. He's 6'5 just like Jackson and runs routes and catches the same as V-Jack. Floyd will have a breakout year in 2010 like Jackson had in 2009. Donnie Avery will actually have a QB to get him the ball if rookie Sam Bradford can develop. Avery is a star just waiting to happen. Devin Aromashodu has been Jay Cutler's favorite target since last season. Cutler prefers bigger targets, like Marshall that he had in Denver. Devin is the biggest target he's got at 6'2. Jacoby Jones will benefit again from being on the same team as the greatest receiver in the NFL. His route running and hands have improved every year. If rookie return man Trindon Holliday can solidify himself as the Texans' return than Jacoby will be able to fully concentrate on the receiver position for the first time in his short career. - Jayson Braddock
Jayson appears on Sports Radio 790 AM in Houston, TX once a week as the football insider on the Dylan Gwinn show. He's a graduate of the Sports Management World Wide Football GM & Scouting Course and has been mentored by former NFL player / executive John Wooten and Sporting News.com NFL Draft Expert Russ Lande. His work is mostly appreciated by die-hard fans interested in every little detail about their team and not just watered down mainstream talk.
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