An Early Gander at Fantasy Football Wide Receivers

This is an early peek at fantasy football wide receivers for the upcoming season.  From year to year, the wide receiver position is growing in popularity as a critical cornerstone in fantasy owners early round draft philosophy.  Factors including free agent movement, rookies entering the league and the relentless approach of father time change the landscape year after year.  In this early look at the wide receiver position for the 2015 season; we examine a sample of players that may remain at the top, players that may be poised for a regression in performance, and players that may provide a positive surprise for fantasy owners in 2015.

Elite Receiving Options:

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

2014 was Brown’s breakout season as he compiled career highs in receptions (129), yards (1,698), and TDs (13).  Brown went from being a solid PPR asset to the top fantasy WR in the league.  Considering he is only 27 this season, and the rest of the Steelers offensive pieces remain intact, Brown is a clear top choice at wide receiver in 2015.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

Thomas achieved career high results in 2014 with 111 receptions, 1,619 yards, and 11 TDs.  His partnership with Peyton Manning reached a new level of excellence last season.  What is perhaps most promising is that even when Manning’s production tailed off at the end of the season, Thomas remained very strong as he averaged over 19 fantasy points per game over the final 6 weeks of the season, and produced 19 points per game in a PPR format during the fantasy playoffs.  Even if Manning were to continue to regress in 2015, fantasy owners should have confidence that Thomas will produce at an elite level in 2015.

Exercise Caution:

Odell Beckham, WR, New York Giants

Beckham exploded on the fantasy scene in 2014 beginning with a solid performance in week 5 and continuing with performances that produced increasing fantasy results for owners week after week.  On the season, Beckham compiled 91 receptions for 1,305 yards, and 12 TDs.  What is more impressive is that he accomplished this feat over the course of 12 games.  Beckham certainly seems primed to have a monster season in 2015; however fantasy owners will likely be paying for monster stats when he is drafted in late August.  Any type of regression from his rookie season will likely leave owners over-paying for his value.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

Jeffery entered 2014 following a huge sophomore season in the NFL in which he produced 1,421 yards off of 89 receptions, and scored 7 TDs.  Unfortunately for fantasy owners he was often drafted in the top rounds with the anticipation that he would repeat, or even improve upon his 2013 performance.  In ’14 Jeffery had similar reception totals with 85 receptions, and 10 TDs which was in an improvement over his prior season.  Unfortunately, his yardage gained was down significantly with 1,133 yards.  With Brandon Marshall’s departure to the Jets, Jeffery seems to have the potential for more targets, and perhaps more production.  Owners need to consider however Jeffery had a poor 59% catch rate, so more targets may not mean more production, additionally the loss of Marshall may make Jeffery the target of far more attention from opposing defenses.  Jeffery will likely be a very productive receiver in 2015; however fantasy owners may want to make sure the price is right before they tie their fantasy fortunes to him this season.

Potential Value Targets:

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions

It is an extremely odd situation to rate Johnson as a value target, however considering that his 2014 season with 71 receptions and 1,077 yards receiving (both of which are his lowest marks since 2009) has been perceived as a dramatic disappointment by many fantasy owners, he may be undervalued on draft day.  Johnson was simply not healthy last season, and despite his down year, he was still able to produce over 17 points per game in standard PPR leagues.  This may finally be the year that fantasy owners will not have to spend a premium early 1st round pick in order to secure a player that could very well be the top fantasy wide receiver in 2015.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers

Allen entered the 2014 season with a fair amount of hype following his breakout 2013 season with 71 receptions, 1,046 yards, and 8 TDs.  A very slow start to 2014 (only 28 receptions, and 0 TDs through the first 6 weeks of the season) led many fantasy owners to lose faith in the young receiver.  Allen went on to finish the season with 77 receptions, 783 yards, and 4 TDs.  Although his overall final line of statistics appear very mediocre, fantasy owners should keep in mind that Allen is only 23 years old, and is entering his vital 3rd year in the league.  Additionally the Chargers offensive philosophy appears to continue to be robust in 2015 with plenty of targets to go around, and given the established relationship with Rivers, Allen may be in for his best season to date.

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