Fantasy Football Pre-Season Preview: Receivers

John Tuvey, @jtuvey

OTHER POSITIONS:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Receivers

Wide Receiver Totals by Year

Year Targets Comps Receiving Yards Receiving TD Runs Rush Yards Rush TD
2005 9,962 5,514 74,065 421 239 1,189 7
2006 9,719 5,349 72,546 431 246 1,463 5
2007 10,231 5,915 77,272 483 208 869 4
2008 9,690 5,563 73,039 416 240 1,642 9
2009 9,846 5,648 74,564 431 317 2,102 7
2010 10,098 5,764 76,403 485 331 2,108 7
2011 10,031 5,681 78,470 473 283 1,775 6
2012 10,481 6,040 80,755 491 265 1,572 2
2013 10,556 6,098 81,395 481 197 1,387 6

The disturbing lack of the end-around—wide receiver rushing attempts were at a 10-year low, while rushing yardage hit its lowest mark since 2007—is the only area in which current wide receivers are falling short. After reaching new heights in targets, completions, yards and touchdowns last year wide receivers continued to outdo themselves by topping those marks in three of the four categories. Yep, it’s a passing-game world and we’re just living in it—and thriving on the fantasy production of those wideouts.

Top Ten Wide Receiver Totals

Year Targets Comps Receiving Yards YPC TD FF Pts
2004 1,433 869 12,808 14.7 119 1,923
2005 1,528 907 13,142 14.5 100 1,914
2006 1,521 853 12,552 14.7 90 1,795
2007 1,559 938 13,191 14.0 124 2,063
2008 1,420 845 12,778 15.1 93 1,836
2009 1,398 861 12,417 14.4 103 1,860
2010 1,409 835 12,337 14.8 105 1,871
2011 1,355 839 13,592 16.2 97 1,962
2012 1,541 963 14,233 14.7 91 1,975
2013 1,532 922 14,062 15.3 106 2,062

After 2012’s peak numbers, the top 10 wideouts dialed back slightly last year—though they still posted top-three numbers in targets, completions, yardage, touchdowns, and fantasy points. The numbers also show the return of the deep ball, as the top 10’s yards per catch average climbed above 15 for the second time in three years but just the third time in the past 10. Catches, yards, TDs and the long ball; it’s the golden age of the fantasy wideout.

Tight End Totals by Year

Year Targets Catches Yards Touchdowns
2005 3,093 1,932 20,171 140
2006 3,104 1,911 20,282 158
2007 3,257 2,095 22,131 183
2008 3,250 2,085 22,658 139
2009 3,558 2,274 24,960 193
2010 3,554 2,252 24,902 190
2011 3,658 2,310 26,672 197
2012 3,746 2,397 26,122 197
2013 3,713 2,390 27,374 237

You can blame Rob Gronkowski’s injury for tight ends failing to establish across-the-board highs; as it was, they posted the second-most targets and catches in the past 10 years while blowing past previous highs in yardage (by more than 1,200 yards) and touchdowns (by a whopping 40, a 20 percent jump over the high-water mark established in 2011 and matched in 2012). No wonder tight ends are demanding to be paid like wide receivers—more and more frequently they’re starting to perform like them.

Top Ten Tight End Totals

Year Targets Catches Yards YPC Touchdowns FF Pts
2004 997 669 7,688 11.5 62 1,141
2005 1,084 675 7,978 11.8 57 1,140
2006 1,027 629 7,483 11.9 58 1,096
2007 1,053 683 8,267 12.1 66 1,223
2008 961 652 7,524 11.5 55 1,082
2009 1,157 779 8,947 11.5 77 1,357
2010 959 628 7,551 12.0 70 1,176
2011 1,106 740 9,327 12.6 78 1,413
2012 1,088 749 8,328 11.1 66 1,088
2013 1,084 723 8,686 12.0 85 1,387

It’s not that tight end play peaked in 2009, when the position’s top 10 established high-water marks in targets and catches, or in 2011, when the top 10 set benchmarks for yardage, yards per catch, and fantasy points. It’s that as recently as five years ago there were a dominant handful of fantasy performers and then a whole bunch of everybody else. Now, many if not most teams have quality pass-catching tight ends and aren’t afraid to use them. In fact, some teams have multiple TEs that vulture value from each other, which may be why most numbers—while still very solid—aren’t as high as they used to be. And then, of course, there’s the fact that last season the top 10 tight ends scored 17 more touchdowns than any other top-10 TE group in history.

Breakdown of all receptions

   Catch %   Catches  Receiving Yards Receiving TDs
Year RB TE WR RB TE WR RB TE WR RB TE WR
2003 27% 18% 55% 2,644 1,731 5,287 20,158 18,176 70,929 78 128 441
2004 25% 19% 56% 2,439 1,889 5,417 18,844 19,846 76,403 77 188 465
2005 24% 20% 56% 2,326 1,932 5,514 17,440 20,171 74,065 75 140 421
2006 26% 20% 55% 2,519 1,911 5,349 19,377 20,282 72,546 58 158 431
2007 24% 20% 56% 2,529 2,095 5,915 18,889 22,131 77,272 55 183 483
2008 24% 21% 55% 2,416 2,085 5,563 18,926 22,658 73,039 88 139 416
2009 24% 22% 55% 2,437 2,274 5,648 19,275 24,960 74,564 84 193 431
2010 24% 21% 55% 2,492 2,249 5,737 19,888 24,874 76,114 72 190 484
2011 23% 22% 55% 2,430 2,310 5,681 19,694 26,672 78,470 75 197 473
2012 22% 22% 56% 2,361 2,397 6,040 18,849 26,122 80,755 66 197 491
2013 23% 22% 55% 2,581 2390 6,098 20,030 27,374 81,395 84 237 481

The subtle shift in throwing to tight ends instead of running backs continues, though RBs did edge up just a bit from last season’s 10-year low of 22% of all receptions. What’s notable is that the high tide of the passing game floats all boats: both tight ends and wide receivers established new marks for most receiving yards while running backs, despite the smaller slice of the pie, came within 128 yards of setting a high-water mark of their own. The biggest impact of the RB-to-TE shift can be seen in the red zone, as tight ends blew their old touchdown mark out of the water even as RBs and WRs posted top-five TD totals of their own.

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The tables below show the split between all passes thrown to either a tight end or a wide receiver and what their respective share of those passes is. The rankings shown are from their fantasy rank that year for each position against all other NFL teams.

Arizona Cardinals

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 22% 53 579 4 23 78% 192 2761 15 9
2012 26% 72 655 0 30 74% 209 2334 11 23
2013 27% 73 760 5 24 73% 199 2706 17 10

It’s still a two-man show in Arizona, but at this juncture the padawan learner, Michael Floyd, is overtaking the Jedi master, Larry Fitzgerald. Rookie John Brown flashed briefly in minicamps and could push Ted Ginn to replace Andre Roberts as the third man in, and another rookie—second-round tight end Troy Niklas—could bump perennial fantasy tease Rob Housler from the starting gig. However, even though tight end receptions have climbed under Bruce Arians there’s still a ceiling to the fantasy value of Cardinals tight ends—and it ain’t a vaulted one.

Worth Watching: Michael Floyd

Atlanta Falcons

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 31% 91 954 8 10 69% 204 2843 17 7
2012 32% 100 959 9 5 68% 214 2996 19 6
2013 30% 94 914 10 10 70% 224 2796 10 17

Two major story lines to track here. First and foremost is the return to health of Julio Jones, who if intact should blow by Roddy White to reclaim WR1 status. White is still a solid option, but he definitely takes a back seat to a healthy Julio. The other development in Atlanta is to what extend second-year tight end Levine Toilolo can fill the considerable shoes vacated by the retirement of soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez. Over the past three seasons Falcons tight ends have accounted for a third of their downfield passing game, thanks in no small part to Gonzo. Can Toilolo come anywhere close to Gonzo-esque production? Harry Douglas, solid but unspectacular in place of the injured Jones last year, returns as third wheel—though if Toilolo can’t carry Gonzo’s jock he may bite into that tight end share of the passing game pie.

Worth Watching: Julio Jones, Levine Toilolo

Baltimore Ravens

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 45% 94 933 8 11 55% 115 1848 10 29
2012 34% 82 894 7 10 66% 161 2422 14 19
2013 29% 78 803 5 22 71% 193 2623 13 16

Maybe it was the injuries to tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Maybe it was Joe Flacco trying to justify his $120 million contract. Whatever the reason, the Ravens suddenly went bombs away as throws to tight ends declined again and throws to wideouts continued to climb. New OC Gary Kubiak should abate that trend, with Owen Daniels mentoring Pitta on the art of the short game. That doesn’t necessarily mesh with the talents of Torrey Smith, though he’s still the WR1 here with free agent signee Steve Smith sliding in at WR2. After that the wide receiving corps is a mess—much like it was with Kubiak in Houston, where not so coincidently tight ends typically accounted for 40 percent of the receptions.

Worth Watching: Steve Smith, Dennis Pitta

Buffalo Bills

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 18% 49 468 6 22 82% 220 2626 16 11
2012 25% 56 701 8 15 75% 171 2035 13 28
2013 30% 63 786 3 28 70% 144 1924 11 28

(Rookie Watch) Doug Marrone’s first year in Buffalo saw a relatively balanced offense, but there’s no question it was a work in progress. Year Two brings Sammy Watkins to the club, a downfield threat who moves immediately into the WR1 role in hopes of making the Bills’ selection of E.J. Manuel in the first round a year ago pay off. Robert Woods performed well as a rookie and should settle in at WR2, pushed by former Buc Mike Williams, while speedsters Marquise Goodwin and TJ Graham battle for the right to be the deep threat. Scot Chandler remains at tight end, though if healthy Tony Moeaki could unseat him and make the position at least interesting from a fantasy perspective.

Worth Watching: Sammy Watkins

Carolina Panthers

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 35% 85 1008 9 6 65% 160 2478 11 17
2012 34% 77 951 6 11 66% 150 2357 10 25
2013 32% 74 828 6 16 68% 156 1983 15 26

(Rookie Watch) Per the Twitter, Greg Olson is grumpy that the media is saying his Panthers don’t have anyone to catch the ball. He should be grumpier about an offense that hasn’t had much of anything in the passing game other than him yet still throws only a third of its passes to the tight end. First-rounder Kelvin Benjamin may not be ready for his close-up just yet, leaving Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant as the team’s starting wide receivers. Cam Newton just threw up in his mouth a little.

Worth Watching: Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin

Chicago Bears

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 14% 25 256 7 27 86% 159 2369 9 23
2012 13% 29 297 3 32 87% 197 2526 17 14
2013 23% 66 772 5 23 77% 224 2980 23 4

What’s not to like? Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery formed one of the biggest and most successful receiver duos in the league while similarly sized Martellus Bennett rejuvenated the tight end position in Chicago. A second year of understanding Marc Trestman’s offense, a full season of Jay Cutler… this is poised to be one of the most potent passing attacks in the league, with the only burning question being is this the year Jeffery usurps Marshall as the primary?

Worth Watching: Status quo

Cincinnati Bengals

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 28% 72 755 7 17 72% 183 2403 14 16
2012 25% 72 838 5 18 75% 220 2712 22 8
2013 29% 88 918 7 11 71% 215 2859 23 5

This act remains AJ Green and the Other Guys, though at times various “other guys” stepped up for solid solo turns. A healthy Tyler Eifert, last year’s first-round pick, coupled with a banged-up Jermaine Gresham could spell a changing of the guard at tight end and give Green a wingman, but for the most part Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, and Dane Sanzenbacher remain the backup singers.

Worth Watching: Tyler Eifert

Cleveland Browns

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 36% 91 898 7 13 64% 162 1935 9 28
2012 33% 82 774 4 24 67% 166 2310 11 24
2013 34% 95 1052 9 8 66% 188 2675 13 14

Last year was all about Josh Gordon, with a side dish of Jordan Cameron tossed in. With Gordon facing a year-long suspension and the Browns breaking in a new OC and still sorting out their quarterback situation, this year has many more questions. Cameron might just be the go-to guy, with a motley crüe of receivers like Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin and Nate Burleson battling for Johnny Manziel’s attention. A healthy Austin has some upside, but there are so many moving parts to the Cleveland passing game equation that it’s tough to bank on any of them for fantasy assistance.

Worth Watching: Jordan Cameron, Miles Austin

Dallas Cowboys

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 38% 111 1187 6 7 62% 182 2698 27 5
2012 35% 123 1160 4 8 65% 224 3122 23 3
2013 31% 94 1058 10 6 69% 209 2661 22 6

There’s good—Dez Bryant playing for a payday, the emerging Terrance Williams, a rock-solid young offensive line—and there’s the unsettled—Tony Romo coming off back surgery. Bill Callahan’s influence on the play-calling, as well as a healthy DeMarco Murray, cost the passing game a few touches overall but aside from that this remains a formidable and effective passing game. The wideouts’ share of the pie has increased as Jason Witten has aged, and Gavin Escobar isn’t quite ready to assume that mantle just yet.

Worth Watching: Terrance Williams

Denver Broncos

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 19% 30 402 3 29 81% 132 1868 14 27
2012 29% 98 974 7 9 71% 237 3167 28 2
2013 27% 101 1064 14 2 73% 268 3696 38 1

The biggest concern here isn’t Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas in walk years, or whether Wes Welker can stay healthy, or even whether Emmanuel Sanders can step seamlessly into Eric Decker’s role. With Knowshon Moreno gone, the biggest question in Denver’s passing game is whether or not Montee Ball has picked up enough pass protection to keep Peyton Manning upright. Aside from that, all systems go from this passing game—with the potential to go four deep at receiver if second-round pick Cody Latimer lives up to the hype.

Worth Watching: Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer

Detroit Lions

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 34% 115 1166 11 3 66% 223 3135 25 3
2012 34% 118 1221 5 4 66% 227 3122 16 7
2013 26% 68 739 9 14 74% 192 2832 17 8

(Rookie Watch) Give the Lions credit for trying to fix the “Calvin Johnson and everybody else” issue. First-round pick Eric Ebron brings another matchup problem to the red zone, and if new OC Joe Lombardi uses him like the Saints used Jimmy Graham he might wind up being Megatron’s primary wingman. Free agent signee Golden Tate is another candidate for Detroit’s WR2 vacuum, or maybe Ryan Broyles if he can find a way to stay healthy. Make no mistake, the Lions’ passing game is still all about Calvin, but the potential for help with the heavy lifting is more real than in previous campaigns.

Worth Watching: Golden Tate, Eric Ebron

Green Bay Packers

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 22% 67 858 10 9 78% 235 3667 38 1
2012 25% 77 938 5 13 75% 237 2926 35 1
2013 23% 70 762 6 19 77% 234 3319 18 3

Over the past couple of seasons the Packers have lost Donald Driver and Greg Jennings and not missed a beat, so losing James Jones shouldn’t leave a mark. Now if Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarret Boykin—all in walk years—leave following this season, things might be different but for this year at least all is fine in Green Bay. Where Aaron Rodgers needs help is in replacing Jermichael Finley, or at least what a full season of Jermichael Finley used to mean. The replacement might be rookie Richard Rodgers, or it might be the return of Finley himself. Cobb and Nelson remain the go-to guys, and Boykin will be pushed by talented rookie Davante Adams for reps—valuable experience for Adams should any one of the three guys in front of him on the depth chart depart this offseason.

Worth Watching: Randall Cobb, Davante Adams

Houston Texans

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 42% 83 1054 9 4 58% 116 1632 8 31
2012 41% 124 1309 12 2 59% 175 2439 8 27
2013 31% 92 1041 9 9 69% 202 2652 9 22

A change in offensive philosophy likely means the end of the run for Houston tight ends; the drop-off began last year as their share of the downfield passing game dropped from 41 percent to 31 percent. That doesn’t bode well for Garrett Graham, or for up-and-comer Ryan Griffin or rookie CJ Fiedorowicz, either. Bill O’Brien would love to lean on veteran Andre Johnson, but he’s reportedly unhappy and looking for a trade. DeAndre Hopkins was solid as a rookie and could take over for AJ, but the cast behind them is wafer-thin. And don’t forget, it’ll be Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing the ball their way.

Worth Watching: DeAndre Hopkins

Indianapolis Colts

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 24% 64 584 3 24 76% 199 2421 11 19
2012 24% 74 825 5 19 76% 230 3215 16 4
2013 25% 65 731 5 25 75% 200 2509 14 19

Over the past two seasons the only thing holding back the Colts’ passing game has been OC Pep Hamilton’s penchant for the running game. Word out of Indy is that Hamilton might not force-feed the ground game this year, giving Andrew Luck free rein to toss to a bevy of targets—not just emerging star TY Hilton but veteran Reggie Wayne (who appears to be recovered from last season’s knee injury) and free agent Hakeem Nicks, playing on a “show-me” one-year deal. And don’t forget the return of Duane Allen to team with fellow tight end Coby Fleener. If indeed Hamilton turns Luck loose, that’s a lot of potential fantasy helpers waiting to be fed.

Worth Watching: Hakeem Nicks

jacksonville jaguars

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 30% 52 609 1 28 70% 121 1359 8 32
2012 21% 55 552 4 28 79% 206 2690 14 15
2013 21% 56 754 7 17 79% 210 2436 8 24

(Rookie Watch) No Justin Blackmon, no Ace Sanders for four games, Cecil Shorts in a walk year, and Chad Henne keeping the QB spot warm until Blake Bortles is ready. Anything in there float your boat? Maybe Shorts playing to get paid, but he’ll have to keep rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson at bay—and it’s still the utterly adequate Henne at the helm. On the bright side, all those rookies won’t have to share with the similarly mediocre lack of talent at tight end, which has accounted for just 21% of downfield receptions over the past two seasons. The rallying cry, “Wait ‘til next year!” is getting all too familiar in Jacksonville.

Worth Watching: Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson

Kansas City Chiefs

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 16% 34 325 1 32 84% 184 2436 9 21
2012 30% 44 587 2 29 70% 105 1405 4 32
2013 31% 53 541 5 31 69% 120 1544 9 32

The overall volume went up, but the productivity stayed roughly the same and that’s bad news fantasy-wise. Dwayne Bowe was a disaster, Donnie Avery only slightly better, and Andy Reid got virtually nothing out of his tight ends. Little has changed heading into 2014, unless you’re keen on the Chiefs trading one first-round bust for another and adding AJ Jenkins to the mix. A healthy Travis Kelce could push Anthony Fasano for looks at tight end, but even with Alex Smith chasing a contract this is not a fantasy-friendly passing game.

Worth Watching: Travis Kelce

Miami Dolphins

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 16% 33 459 5 25 84% 169 2319 10 22
2012 20% 41 332 5 31 80% 166 2294 3 30
2013 27% 82 860 7 13 73% 226 2776 14 12

The passing game perked up last season, though a) it was starting at or near rock bottom and b) it wasn’t nearly as Mike Wallace-centric as his contract might have led one to believe. In fact, tight end Charles Clay sparked as much of the resurgence as any of the wide receivers. However, new OC Bill Lazor comes from the Chip Kelly school of speed, speed, and more speed so maybe it’s time to put Wallace to better use. Brian Hartline will again be a steady low-level contributor, while second-round pick Jarvis Landry should also benefit from the “more plays” mantra. Clay may have peaked last year, but as we saw in Philly last season there’s room in this offense for a tight end as well. The biggest issue may be a patchwork, rebuilt offensive line that might not afford Ryan Tannehill the time to take advantage of his weapons.

Worth Watching: Mike Wallace, Charles Clay

Minnesota Vikings

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 28% 64 667 6 19 72% 168 2123 10 26
2012 29% 69 614 9 16 71% 166 1927 8 31
2013 29% 78 851 5 18 71% 192 2466 12 23

(Improving) Volume increased as the Vikings threw more last year, and while Norv Turner is a noted ground-game guru the combination of improved quarterback play, Cordarrelle Patterson in Year Two and Turner’s penchant for tight end productivity suggests the ceiling has yet to be reached. Patterson may be overhyped fantasy-wise heading into 2014, but the upside is undeniable. Greg Jennings returns to provide veteran leadership, and while Jarius Wright could win the slot gig he’ll still be the third receiver in a run-first offense. Kyle Rudolph should benefit mightily from Turner’s presence and play-calling; if he stays healthy, a top-five finish among tight ends isn’t out of the question.

Worth Watching: Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph

New England Patriots

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 46% 169 2237 24 1 54% 195 2615 15 12
2012 34% 116 1479 16 1 66% 230 2708 14 13
2013 18% 53 744 6 21 82% 243 2858 16 9

As expected, Tom Brady’s numbers held relatively steady despite the gutting of his receiving corps—save for the shift towards wideouts due to Rob Gronkowski’s injury and Aaron Hernandez’s incarceration. A healthy Gronk would tilt those numbers back towards the tight ends, and the hope is that Danny Amendola stays healthy and Aaron Dobson develops in Year Two. The receiving corps behind them is, like last year, a collection of “just guys”, but somehow the Patriots regularly manage to squeeze a modicum of productivity out of “just guys” like Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce. Every once in a while fantasy owners can do the same.

Worth Watching: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Dobson

New Orleans Saints

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 34% 108 1350 12 2 66% 206 2924 24 4
2012 34% 97 1065 13 3 66% 185 2943 20 5
2013 40% 111 1485 19 1 60% 164 2433 14 21

(Rookie Watch) Whew! Jimmy Graham, tight end or receiver, is inked and back as the hub of the New Orleans passing game. Last season tight ends accounted for 40 percent of the Saints’ downfield passing game—not surprisingly, no NFL team directed a larger share to its tight ends—and there’s no reason to believe that will change. The Saints have gotten younger at wide receiver, where complementary pieces like Lance Moore and Devery Henderson have been replaced by Kenny Stills and rookie Brandin Cooks. Marques Colston still holds the honorary WR1 role, but he’s clearly Graham’s wingman—and don’t be surprised if Stills and/or Cooks bump Colston down the pecking order sooner rather than later.

Worth Watching: Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks

New York Giants

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 20% 55 833 5 18 80% 214 3439 21 2
2012 22% 59 661 6 23 78% 214 2891 18 10
2013 23% 62 634 4 30 77% 205 2871 13 11

(Rookie Watch) After years of steadiness the Giants opted to shake things up in the offseason, bringing in new OC Ben McAdoo and a new rhythm-based passing game that doesn’t necessarily play to Eli Manning’s strengths. They also let Hakeem Nicks and tight end Brandon Myers walk after unproductive seasons. Nicks’ role will be filled by third-year man Rueben Randle and rookie Odell Beckham Jr., but it’s Victor Cruz who will be taking on the Randall Cobb role in McAdoo’s Packer-esque attack. At tight end the Giants are looking to another third-year player in Adrien Robinson, but as of now there’s no reason to think he’s Jermichael Finley or even Martellus Bennett. The fate of this passing game hinges on how Eli picks up the new offense, so keep an eye on the Giants this preseason to see if he’s found rhythm.

Worth Watching: Victor Cruz

New York Jets

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 34% 75 935 6 14 66% 146 1791 18 24
2012 31% 70 784 5 20 69% 156 2032 9 29
2013 30% 63 856 6 15 70% 149 2023 7 30

(Rookie Watch) Passing-game numbers remained stagnate in Gotham, so in the offseason the Jets actually did something about it. The wafer-thin receiving corps added top free agent Eric Decker, who bumps from secondary to primary target but downgrades significantly at quarterback, then added tight end Jace Amaro in the second round and a pair of receivers in the fourth round in Shaquelle Evans and Jalen Saunders. The addition of Michael Vick as insurance for Geno Smith doesn’t hurt, especially since he’s intimately familiar with OC Marty Mornhinweg’s offense. It can’t get much worse, and the pieces are there for the Jets’ passing game to actually get better.

Worth Watching: Eric Decker, Jace Amaro

Oakland Raiders

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 21% 47 535 3 26 79% 176 2644 13 14
2012 35% 88 907 5 14 65% 167 2341 16 18
2013 22% 45 504 5 32 78% 156 2248 10 27

The Raiders’ passing game began last year with so much promise… and ended with yet another season of disappointment. This time around the Band-Aids include Matt Schaub at quarterback, James Jones at WR1 and a crossing of the fingers that David Ausberry steps up at tight end. Schaub operating behind a gutted offensive line doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, though if you squint you can see a little upside in young receivers like Rod Streater and Andre Holmes. Maybe next year when Derek Carr takes over…

Worth Watching: James Jones, Andre Holmes

Philadelphia Eagles

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 27% 75 974 6 12 73% 203 2958 13 8
2012 28% 82 870 3 22 72% 209 2709 12 16
2013 29% 71 1002 10 7 71% 175 2720 20 7

(Improving) (Rookie Watch)Overall numbers changed only slightly from Andy Reid’s high quantity short game to Chip Kelly’s speed attack, but the expectation is that with Nick Foles in his second season in the system the numbers will continue to go up. You’d think DeSean Jackson would be difficult to replace, but Kelly believes his system can plug in a healthy Jeremy Maclin, or second round pick Jordan Matthews, or third-round selection Josh Huff, and achieve similar results. Zach Ertz is expected to usurp Brent Celek as the lead tight end, and while technically a running back Darren Sproles will take a bite out of these numbers as well. More snaps mean more production, so even sans Jackson this is a passing game bound to feed plenty of fantasy mouths.

Worth Watching: Jeremy Maclin, Zach Ertz

Pittsburgh Steelers

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 23% 67 751 4 21 77% 225 3207 16 6
2012 29% 81 876 10 6 71% 194 2496 15 17
2013 23% 70 784 2 29 77% 231 2925 25 2

Heath Miller's slow return to form from last year's injury hurt more than the loss of Mike Wallace to free agency, as the Steelers used Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders and even Jerricho Cotchery to help Ben Roethlisberger put up his usual solid numbers. While Big Ben hopes to get a healthy Heath back, he’ll now have to adjust to life without both Sanders and Cotchery. Lance Moore joins the fray, as does fourth-round pick Martavis Bryant, but the most intriguing cog in this passing game is second-year speedster Markus Wheaton, who could give Roethlisberger the deep threat he used to have in Wallace.

Worth Watching: Heath Miller, Markus Wheaton

San Diego Chargers

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 39% 95 1081 7 8 61% 148 2566 17 10
2012 32% 68 684 10 12 68% 142 2037 15 26
2013 37% 98 1278 7 5 63% 168 2362 18 15

Philip Rivers was back in business under OC Ken Whisenhunt, but with Wiz now in Tennessee it’s Frank Reich calling the plays. With essentially the same cast of receivers returning don’t expect much to change, and that’s a good thing. Keenan Allen sparkled as a rookie and props up a receiving crew that lacks a true wingman but still runs four deep. Antonio Gates found a second wind last year and should hold off Ladarius Green for another season, but both should compile stats that put them on the cusp of fantasy relevancy.

Worth Watching: Keenan Allen

San Francisco 49ers

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 38% 87 1009 9 5 62% 143 1751 8 30
2012 28% 66 943 8 7 72% 171 2201 14 22
2013 32% 62 1007 13 3 68% 133 1746 8 31

Michael Crabtree’s absence last season tilted the passing game back towards Vernon Davis---not that there’s anything wrong with that. Assuming Davis gets a new contract, or gets happy with his current one, the Niners will return essentially the same receiving corps as last season; only Stevie Johnson, acquired on the cheap from Buffalo, looks to bring anything additional to the table. The problem with the Niners isn’t lack of talent, it’s lack of attempts; with Colin Kaepernick throwing less frequently than any other club there’s only so much Crabtree, Davis, and Anquan Boldin can do.

Worth Watching: Vernon Davis

Seattle Seahawks

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 19% 44 453 0 31 81% 184 2512 13 15
2012 29% 57 693 6 21 71% 140 1976 18 21
2013 26% 56 691 7 20 74% 157 2352 17 18

The hope is for a full season out of Percy Harvin, especially with Golden Tate now in Detroit and Sidney Rice hanging up his cleats. Not that the ceiling is particularly high, as like NFC West archrival San Francisco the Seahawks throw the ball as little as any other club in the league. Expect Harvin to claim the largest share of what little passing game production Seattle has, with Doug Baldwin and rookie Paul Richardson darkhorses to contribute as well. At tight end Zach Miller tops the depth chart but Anthony McCoy might have the most fantasy upside.

Worth Watching: Percy Harvin

St. Louis Rams

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 20% 46 508 0 30 80% 187 2283 8 25
2012 20% 54 634 5 26 80% 211 2603 17 12
2013 40% 97 1047 11 4 60% 147 1914 10 29

The optimism that surrounded St. Louis’ passing game heading into 2013 lasted right up until Sam Bradford went down with a season-ending injury two months in. Bradford is back, and the hope is that Tavon Austin can make more of an impact than he did as a rookie. Reclamation project Kenny Britt gets tossed into the mix of young receivers who haven’t done much yet, but if last season was any indication the whole lot of them will be battling for just 60 percent of the passing game; tight end Jared Cook and his mates claimed the other 40 percent. It’s an intriguing mix with plenty of potential… but all potential means is “haven’t actually done anything yet”.

Worth Watching: Tavon Austin, Jared Cook

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 34% 91 895 2 20 66% 174 2205 15 18
2012 28% 66 618 6 25 72% 168 2845 19 9
2013 29% 61 630 6 27 71% 147 2076 14 25

(Rookie Watch) The bottom fell out for Josh Freeman last season, and while Mike Glennon salvaged the season for Vincent Jackson he couldn’t keep the other mouths fed. New coach, new scheme, and new quarterback in Josh McCown, who’ll recognize the model Tampa Bay went for with its receiving corps. In addition to the 6-5 Jackson the Bucs spent their first two draft picks on 6-5 Mike Evans and 6-5 tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Jackson and Evans project to give McCown a Brandon Marshall/Alshon Jeffery set of twin towers, while Seferian-Jenkins plays the role of Martellus Bennett. Tim Wright, who stepped up at tight end last season, is the odd man out with Tampa’s new Big Three taking over.

Worth Watching: Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Tennessee Titans

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 24% 60 950 5 15 76% 191 2443 17 13
2012 27% 73 844 5 17 73% 200 2441 12 20
2013 25% 67 591 7 26 75% 201 2663 11 20

(Rookie Watch) Once again the Tennessee passing game—particularly the wideouts—had a modicum of success. And once again it wasn’t necessarily due to Jake Locker, who again missed chunks of the season due to injury. Locker returns in a contact year, with Charlie Whitehurst and rookie Zach Mettenberger as insurance, and despite the departure of Kenny Britt the Titans have plenty of targets for him to work with. Delanie Walker was a pleasant surprise at tight end, while Kendall Wright has the makings of an elite receiver and Justin Hunter flashed big-play ability as well. New coach Ken Whisenhunt isn’t shy about throwing, which means even tertiary targets like Nate Washington and Dexter McCluster might carve out fantasy value in Tennessee’s new offense.

Worth Watching: Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter

Washington Redskins

  Tight Ends Wide Receivers
Year % Catch Yards TDs Rank % Catch Yards TDs Rank
2011 32% 78 999 3 16 68% 165 2211 14 20
2012 23% 58 793 2 27 77% 192 2533 20 11
2013 27% 84 887 7 12 73% 226 2767 12 13

(Improving) (Camp Watch)Jay Gruden takes over in Washington after turning Andy Dalton loose last season; that prospect has Robert Griffin III giddy with anticipation. Moreover, the Redskins added DeSean Jackson to an already solid receiving corps, giving RG3 the kind of deep target he loved during his college heyday. Pierre Garçon gives DJax a formidable wingman, Andre Roberts proved he could be an effective WR3 in Arizona, and young tight end Jordan Reed rounds out RG3’s array of weapons. If all the parts come together smoothly in camp Washington could sport one of the more dynamic passing games in the league.

Worth Watching: DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed

OTHER POSITIONS:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Receivers

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