2010 Fantasy Football Preview: WRs

ST. LOUIS - DECEMBER 20: Andre Johnson #80 of the Houston Texans carries the ball during the game against the St. Louis Rams at Edward Jones Dome on December 20, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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Are wideouts the new running backs? Not quite, but they continue to gain importance as more and more leagues make rules changes that enhance the value of the position. How do you know if you’re in one of these leagues? If your rules only require one starting RB spot and has a flex position, or if it awards one point per reception, you can start thinking about drafting a WR in the middle of the first round.

As I noted in the RB preview, there is a pretty sizable drop off after the first five or six running backs this season, so as soon as Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice are off the board, it’s time to consider going with a wideout. Frank Gore and Steven Jackson are justifiable picks at #5 or #6, but Andre Johnson is also worth consideration. And I’d rather have Larry Fizgerald than any of the RBs in the next tier (Michael Turner, Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, etc.).

If you’re in a league that does NOT require two starting RBs, and you’re drafting in the back half of round one, it makes a lot of sense to zag when everyone else is zigging, by grabbing a stud WR. You could even draft a second wideout early in the 2nd and wait to nab your first RB late in the third, when guys like Pierre Thomas, Chris Wells and Joseph Addai are still likely to be available. You could end up with Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Thomas as your core, and that’s a group that is projected (by Footballguys) to outscore a Turner/Mendenhall/S. Rice core by almost 100 fantasy points over the course of the season (assuming a high-performance, PPR league).

If you’re drafting in the first half of the first round and want to grab a stud RB early, don’t be afraid to go WR with your next pick, as there will be plenty of RB talent available early in the third round, and given the relative depth in rounds 2 and 3, you won’t be losing many points by letting Ryan Grant, Jamaal Charles or Knowshon Moreno go. Somebody comparable will be there in the 3rd.

Even if you load up on WR talent early, it’s always nice to be able to pluck a good WR out of the pack in the middle rounds. Here are a few players that are going in the 6th-10th rounds that should outperform their current average draft positions. (Note: All ADP data is from Antsports.)

Hines Ward (6.01)
It’s almost August, so that must mean I’m writing about Hines Ward as a value fantasy wideout. Sure, he’s 34, but over the last two seasons he has averaged 88-1105-6.5. He was WR14 last season and WR15 the year before, so why is he being drafted WR23? It’s not just his age — he’s going to be without Ben Roethlisberger for the first six games. But Byron Leftwich can hold down the fort, right? If he stays healthy, Ward should have another top 20 fantasy season.

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24: Percy Harvin #12 of the Minnesota Vikings returns a punt against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 31-28 in overtime. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Percy Harvin (6.03)
While Sidney Rice stole many of the headlines last season, Harvin put together a terrific rookie year en route to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Most wideouts take two or three years to get acclimated to the NFL, but Harvin had no issues, other than the occasional migrane. He finished with 60-790-6, and also gained 135 yards in the running game. He should be able to build on those numbers assuming #4 is back under center.

Santana Moss (7.02)
Even in what was rightfully considered a down year, Moss finished as WR28 with 70-902-3. He’s being drafted WR27, even though his QB situation has improved from Jason Campbell to Donovan McNabb, who is far more likely to throw the ball downfield with accuracy. Moss is 31, so age is a concern, but it’s not like he’s over the hill. Moss has a great shot to shoot back into the Top 20 in 2010.

Donald Driver (7.04)
The Packers are worried about Driver’s off-season knee scopes, but he said in mid-June that he feels so good that he wishes he had done it years ago. Driver is 35, so it’s important to keep perspective, but these are the kinds of middle round singles and doubles that can seal a fantasy playoff berth. Driver was WR21 last season and WR23 the year before, yet he’s going W28 in mock drafts. I figure he’ll finish in the low 20’s again with very little downside.

Mike Wallace (8.02)
I’d feel even better about this pick if Roethlisberger weren’t suspended for the first six games, but them’s the breaks. Wallace posted 39-756-3 as a rookie last season and gave the Steelers enough confidence to let Santonio Holmes go. He may not start for your fantasy team right away, but draft him as your third or fourth WR and you’ll probably be using him by midseason.

Malcom Floyd (10.05)
Floyd is 28, so he isn’t going to sneak up on anyone. But he did post 9-140 against the Redskins in Week 17 last year when Vincent Jackson sat out, and with V-Jax preparing for a long holdout, Floyd could emerge as the Chargers’ top WR option. He has a career average of 16.5 ypc, which is promising.

Derrick Mason (10.06)
Like Ward and Driver, Mason is a tried and true fantasy WR. He finished WR17 last season and WR20 the year before, but is being drafted WR41 for some unknown reason. Sure, he’s old (36), but he has three straight 1000+ yard seasons and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Anquan Boldin’s arrival may cut into his targets, but his catches per target should rise with the attention Boldin is going to get. It also doesn’t hurt that Joe Flacco has another year on his belt. If your WR corps is looking shaky in the 9th round, Mason can quickly stabilize it.

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 28:  Devin Aromashodu #19 of the Chicago Bears runs after a catch in front of Tyrell Johnson #25 of the Minnesota Vikings in the second quarter at Soldier Field on December 28, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Devin Aromashodu (10.03)
Don’t worry too much about Aromashodu’s current position on the Bears’ depth chart (WR3). Jay Cutler likes him and Mike Martz runs a lot of three-receiver sets. He posted 22-282-4 over the last four games of the season. By the way, I also like Devin Hester, who is currently going in the 11th round.

Here are our official WR rankings, by tier:

1. Andre Johnson

2. Larry Fitzgerald
3. Miles Austin
4. Reggie Wayne
5. Randy Moss
6. Roddy White

7. Calvin Johnson
8. Wes Welker
9. Marques Colston
10. Greg Jennings
11. DeSean Jackson
12. Steve Smith 2.0
13. Brandon Marshall
14. Steve Smith 1.0
15. Chad Ochocinco

16. Sidney Rice
17. Hines Ward
18. Percy Harvin
19. Anquan Boldin
20. Michael Crabtree
21. Hakeem Nicks
22. Mike Sims-Walker
23. Dwyane Bowe
24. Santana Moss
25. Terrell Owens
26. Johnny Knox

27. Donald Driver
28. Mike Wallace
29. Jeremy Maclin
30. Derrick Mason
31. Malcom Floyd
32. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
33. Mike Williams (TB)
34. Santonio Holmes
35. Pierre Garcon
36. Robert Meachem
37. Lee Evans
38. Jerricho Cotchery

39. Devin Hester
40. Steve Breaston
41. Vincent Jackson
42. Devin Aromashodu
43. Kenny Britt
44. Brian Hartline
45. Jabar Gaffney
46. Nate Burleson
47. Bernard Berrian
48. Mohamed Massoquoi
49. Dez Bryant
50. Jacoby Jones

51. Harry Douglas
52. Laurent Robinson
53. Chris Chambers
54. Donnie Avery
55. Eddie Royal
56. Chaz Schilens
57. Braylon Edwards

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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