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2009 Player Rankings: Wide Receivers
Updated: September 10, 2009
Top 10's:        
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Tier 1
Randy Moss - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 1
Keeper: 4
Auction 10: 30%
Auction 12: 25%
2006 OAK 13 42 553 13.2 3      
2007 NEP 16 98 1493 15.2 23      
2008 NEP 16 69 1008 14.6 11 2    
Avg   15 70 1018 14.3 12 1 0 0
Proj FA   95 1370   16      

Even without Tom Brady, Moss ended 2008 ranked as #2 with 11 touchdowns though that was well short of his record 23 scores the previous year. He ended with 1008 yards for the 9th time in his career over 1000 yards. The more important stats were the 98 catches for 1493 yards and 23 touchdowns that Moss accumulated the last time Brady was healthy. By all accounts, Brady returns at 100% strength and Moss actually now has two years in the system instead of being brand new as in 2007.

Moss did cool down some in 2007 towards the later part of the season but as was discussed last summer prior to Brady’s injury – even if Moss drops is he still the #1 wide receiver? He was the consensus best wideout to draft in 2008 so what is different this year other than he knows the system better? There is a slight risk that if Brady is injured, Moss will suffer more since Matt Cassel is gone and Kevin O’Connell has almost zero track record but the same was said of Cassel last year.

Moss is an elite talent in his prime in perhaps the optimal offense. The only real question is if you can actually like any other wideout more than Moss.

Andre Johnson - HOU YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 2
Keeper: 2
Auction 10: 26%
Auction 12: 22%
2006 HOU 16 103 1147 11.1 5 3 14  
2007 HOU 9 60 851 14.2 8      
2008 HOU 16 115 1575 13.7 8      
Avg   14 93 1191 13.0 7 1 5 0
Proj HOU   110 1600   10      

No doubt Johnson will be an early name called in your league draft and rightfully so – he could be argued to be #1 among all wideouts. Last season his 1575 yards and 115 catches both ranked best in the position and his only “downside” is that he doesn’t score as many touchdowns (Ala Owen Daniels). Johnson has never scored more than eight touchdowns during his six years in the league but has topped 100 reception in his last two healthy seasons.

Johnson has been top notch regardless if it was Sage Rosenfels or Matt Schaub as the quarterback but this year Rosenfels has been replaced by Dan Orlovsky. However, the coaching staff is very confident that there will be no drop in productivity should Schaub miss games again this year. In a point per reception league, it is hard to argue that Johnson is NOT the top wideout to draft. He a rare talent that can make any quarterback look better.

Larry Fitzgerald - ARI YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 3
Keeper: 1
Auction 10: 25%
Auction 12: 20%
2006 ARI 13 68 941 13.8 6 1 5  
2007 ARI 15 100 1409 14.1 10      
2008 ARI 16 96 1431 14.9 12      
Avg   15 88 1260 14.3 9 0 2 0
Proj ARI   105 1420   12      

The main weapon in this offense is not only Larry Fitzgerald, but even when he is the only weapon he is pretty much unstoppable with Kurt Warner throwing the ball. Fitzgerald was tied for the NFL lead with 12 receiving touchdowns last season and ranked #2 with 1,431 yards. It was a career best year for a player that already has three seasons with 10+ touchdowns and 1400+ yards. With Warner re-signed and a schedule that is one of the easiest in the NFL, there is no reason why Fitzgerald shouldn’t have yet another stellar season.

The Boldin situation impacts the Cardinals but not so much for Fitzgerald who will get his catches regardless who lines up on the other side. And Fitzgerald gets to play @SF, @DET and STL in weeks 14 to 16 so he’s a premiere wideout with what should be great weather and matchups when you need him most. Last season often hits the productivity of most wideouts – not so with Fitzgerald. His only downside is that he will be appearing on the cover of the Madden NFL 10 video game.

Tier 2
Calvin Johnson - DET YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 4
Keeper: 3
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 18%
2006                  
2007 DET 15 48 756 15.8 4 4 52 1
2008 DET 16 78 1331 17.1 12 3 -1  
Avg   16 63 1044 16.5 8 4 26 1
Proj DET   96 1340   11      

That Johnson tied for the league lead in TD grabs last season with Dan Orlovsky and others throwing the ball to him and virtually nothing else on the Detroit offense to draw any defensive attention is one of the great mysteries of our time. Defense coordinators had to be going into games thinking if they stopped Johnson they’d stop the Lions, and yet he scored in eight of 11 games even after Roy Williams was traded. Clearly, he’s something special.

Detroit’s quarterback position seems a bit more settled heading into 2009: Johnson will either be catching balls from Daunte Culpepper, who has more than a passing familiarity with the concept of throwing deep to a dominant, athletic receiver from his days with Randy Moss; or first overall pick Matthew Stafford, whom the Lions expect to be feeding Johnson for the next decade. Calvin also has upgraded wingmen in Bryant Johnson and Ronald Curry; both are good enough to draw at least some defensive attention but not so good they’ll threaten Johnson’s targets. It also doesn’t hurt that Johnson’s new OC, Scott Linehan, spent time in Minnesota when the Vikings implemented the “Randy Ratio” in an effort to throw 40% of their passes to their star wideout. Moss increased the number of routes he ran in order to give him a broader set of options, and one can assume the Lions have similar plans in store for Johnson.

Bottom line: dude scored a dozen touchdowns last year with no quarterback and no supporting cast. Is there any reason to expect his numbers to decline if the team around him is improving, even if it’s ever so slightly?

Greg Jennings - MIN YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 5
Keeper: 5
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 18%
2006 GBP 14 45 632 14.0 3      
2007 GBP 13 53 920 17.4 12      
2008 GBP 16 80 1292 16.2 9      
Avg   14 59 948 15.9 8 0 0 0
Proj MIN   82 1300   11      

Jennings roared out of the gate last year as the Packers’ leading fantasy receiver in each of the first six games. His pace slowed after that as he and Donald Driver split that honor equally the rest of the way, but the end result was an uptick across the board for Jennings—except in touchdowns, where he backslid slightly from the dozen he recorded as a sophomore.

There’s no question Jennings has usurped Driver as the Packers’ No. 1 receiver; he was the most-targeted wideout 12 times last season and accounted for almost 38% of Aaron Rodgers’ wide receiver targets last year. And with Rodgers moving quickly into the upper echelon of fantasy quarterbacks, his favorite wideout is on pace to join him in the rarified fantasy air. If you need further selling points, consider that Jennings not only led the NFL with eight catches of 40 or more yards, he also moved the chains with 55 of his 80 catches resulting in first downs. Improved protection would only serve to provide more downfield opportunities for a wideout who averages 16 yards per catch for his career.

Steve Smith - BAL YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 6
Keeper: 6
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 18%
2006 CAR 14 83 1166 14.0 8 8 61 1
2007 CAR 15 87 1002 11.5 7 9 66  
2008 CAR 14 78 1421 18.2 6 5 40  
Avg   14 83 1196 14.6 7 7 56 0
Proj BAL   86 1360   9      

Hidden somewhere behind the incredible rushing exhibition put on by the Panthers last year was the fact that Smith turned in his second best season with 78 catches going for 1421 yards and six scores. Granted the touchdowns were not that high (something to do with 28 rushing touchdowns) but that great rushing attack allowed Smith to get a bit farther down the field and he had a career best 18.2 yards per catch. He had eight efforts top 100 yards.

There is nothing changed here. Smith had a somewhat quiet year and yet still ranked #3 in the NFL with 1421 receiving yards and the Panthers have one of the better passing schedules for wideouts this year, coupled with a horrible schedule for running backs. Bottom line – it will be harder to move the ball via the run and yet easier via the pass. That only serves to make Smith even more attractive.

08-11-09 Update: Smith fell heavily on his shoulder and while x-rays did not show any breaks, he'll be laid up most of the preseason at least and it could bleed into the regular season.

08-30-09 Update: Smith has already recovered from his shoulder injury and played in the third preseason game. He's safe to draft again.

Reggie Wayne - IND YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 7
Keeper: 7
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 16%
2006 IND 16 86 1310 15.2 9      
2007 IND 16 104 1510 14.5 10 1 4  
2008 IND 16 82 1145 14.0 6      
Avg   16 91 1322 14.6 8 0 1 0
Proj IND   93 1290   9      

Wayne had a down year in 2008 when he only managed 82 catches for 1145 yards and six scores. Those were his lowest totals in three years and a dramatic drop from 2007 (1510/10 TDs). But he still has exceeded 1000 yards in each of the last five seasons while averaging over eight scores per year. Wayne, like Manning, is a very safe pick because he will always play at least well enough to be top ten and he so far has never had a down year or missed a game due to injury. Marvin Harrison is finally gone for good and leaves Wayne as the clear-cut best wideout but that is not lost on opposing defenses as well. Wayne saw more coverage last year thanks to Harrison no longer commanding respect. That played into Wayne’s lower performance.

The Colts should have a better rushing game this year which could actually benefit Wayne by presenting a more balanced offense for opponents to defend against. If you can get Wayne as your WR1 you can be sure he’ll be no less than very good. And he comes cheaper this year – possibly a bargain considering his lack of risk.

Roddy White - ATL YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 8
Keeper: 8
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 16%
2006 ATL 15 30 506 16.9        
2007 ATL 16 83 1202 14.5 6 1 -2  
2008 ATL 16 88 1382 15.7 7 2 4  
Avg   16 67 1030 15.7 4 1 1 0
Proj ATL   88 1330   8      

Playing with only Chris Redman and Joey Harrington in 2007, his second season saw him deliver 83 catches for 1202 yards and six touchdowns. No matter that the Falcons had opted to hand the reins of the team to a rookie quarterback last year. Roddy White was one of the better undervalued sleepers of 2008. Instead of suffering a lapse as Matt Ryan went through his own growing pains, White ended up with 1382 yards to rank #4 in the NFL last season. He went from five games over 100 yards to seven efforts over the century mark. His seven touchdowns were only average but reflected how well Michael Turner was doing near the goal line and the reality that White was the only Falcons receiver that defenses needed to worry about for the second year in a row. Michael Jenkins turned in just 777 yards on 50 catches for second best on the team.

Now the question will be – how does Tony Gonzalez change the dynamics here? No doubt that he will command plenty of attention from Matt Ryan but will it come at the expense of White or will he actually be a benefit for White who no longer automatically is the only player the safety worries about? The Falcons will have a slightly tougher rushing schedule so Turner may not be quite the machine this year but it is still the best bet to consider White as likely no better in touchdowns – Gonzalez is a far better goal line target. But White should maintain his yardage and catches with the rest of the passing game allowing Gonzo to become a factor. Remember too that Matt Ryan is a one-year veteran this time and not just a rookie learning the game this season. White remains a safe play with perhaps less upside than last year.

Marques Colston - NOS YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 9
Keeper: 12
Auction 10: 12%
Auction 12: 10%
2006 NOS 13 70 1038 14.8 8      
2007 NOS 16 98 1202 12.3 11      
2008 NOS 11 47 760 16.2 5      
Avg   13 72 1000 14.4 8 0 0 0
Proj NOS   88 1140   10      

(-Risk) (+Upside) Colston missed five games last year and played gimpy in others until week 10. Then, finally, he gained 678 yards on 42 catches for five touchdowns over the final eight games. That was much more like the pace he had in 2007 when he turned 98 catches into 1202 yards and 11 touchdowns. Colston had a procedure in January to his knee that was later disclosed to be a microfracture surgery on a small hole in his kneecap. He was running in May and is expected to be ready for June minicamps and training camp but any surgery is an obvious risk and Colston nor the Saints let on that it happened in January.

Colston could have a monster year if he is truly healthy and early word is that the Saints are not concerned with his health as they acquired no free agent wide receivers and drafted none as well. He’ll be a definite watch in training camp but until he still is limited in training camp, consider him good to go for this year.

Chad Johnson - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 10
Keeper: 10
Auction 10: 12%
Auction 12: 10%
2006 CIN 16 87 1370 15.7 7 6 24  
2007 CIN 16 93 1440 15.5 8 6 47  
2008 CIN 13 53 540 10.2 4      
Avg   15 78 1117 13.8 6 4 24 0
Proj FA   82 1280   7      

(-Risk) (+Upside) If Chad Johnson could ever get out of the way of Chad Johnson, he might actually get that ticket out of Cincinnati that he’s been begging to get for two years. The situation has been tenuous enough that if he was suddenly traded at any time before the season, it would shock no one. It does appear that yet again Ochocinco will remain in Cincy but this annual drama has never been concluded. It probably will not since the Bengals need him and thanks to his signing a nice contract a short few years ago, he’s tied to the team until his contract expires or he actually makes himself look like he would be worth taking a gamble on by another team.

The reality with him is that until last year, he had six straight seasons with 1150+ yards and averaged eight touchdowns per season. He led the NFL in receiving yards for two consecutive years. By his numbers, he looked like an elite wideout so long as he was playing with Carson Palmer. It’s easy to forget that he had a career best 1440 yards in 2007. But even in those good years the issue with him was that he was so wildly inconsistent and spiked his stats with two or three monster games per season along with some pitiful efforts. He was a fantasy team killer when he would go many weeks with minimal games.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is gone and Laveranues Coles was acquired to replace him. Houshmandzadeh had become the favored receiver in this offense in part because of the attention that Chad demanded and also because he offered a great possession ability over the middle and in the endzone. This is a chance for Chad to reclaim his place as the true #1 wideout in Cincy but that remains to be seen. The bottom line is that he has everything to play for if he wants out and a great opportunity with Palmer back and Houshmandzadeh gone. Chances are good that he will far further in drafts than he should, but he’s a risk to replicate his inconsistent ways.

   
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