Call them dozers. Call them semi-sleepers. Call them targets. However you choose to refer to them, these receivers typically come off the board in rounds three to eight and represent an overlooked value. Keep an eye on these guys. Don’t necessarily jump the gun, but don’t be afraid to take them a round earlier than their average draft position.
Targeting these value receivers can also affect your early round strategy. With all of these potential targets at wideout, this might be the rare year where picking running backs first and second makes sense. Receivers listed by suggested round. UPDATED: 7/30 To reflect surgery/arrest involving Kenny Britt, the Tennessee receiver has been replaced with Malcom Floyd.
Brandon Marshall – Chicago Bears – Round 3
The guy racked up over 1,200 yards last year with a hodgepodge of quarterbacks throwing to him and no one to draw attention away from him on the other side of the field. Now he’s going to connecting with Jay Cutler, a qb that he formed a bind with in Denver early in his career. Wait, Chicago has long lacked exactly the type of receiver that Marshall represents. The problem in Chicago has been that the line couldn’t hold long enough for their speedy receivers to get deep. Marshall will get open quickly as he can get up and over any db on the field. I’d consider him in round two if he wasn’t being commonly drafted in round four.
Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys – Round 3
The third year jump for wide receivers is almost cliché at this point. It doesn’t always happen, but if there ever was a candidate for it, it’s Bryant this year. He improved from 561 to 928 yards in his sophomore outing. If he even makes half of that improvement in 2012, he will hit over 1,100 yards and 11 scores. There is no reason to doubt Bryant: he’s on a good offense and he’s got a good qb throwing to him. He’s got all the talent in the world, and while some will claim he hasn’t fulfilled it, his second year looks an awful lot like Calvin Johnson’s third.
Stevie Johnson – Buffalo Bills – Round 4
Sometimes I want to explode. Often that is when I see Julio Jones ranked way ahead of Stevie Johnson. The two young receivers both missed about a quarter of the 2011 season due to injury. Johnson finished 17th among receivers in fantasy points while Jones was 28th. Naturally, the majority of analysts have reacted by ranking Jones as an early third rounder and placing Johnson in the late fifth. Explosion. It’s almost as if Jones isn’t the second option on his own, declining offense. It’s almost as if the Bills didn’t have the easiest second half schedule in the league. I’d not only rather have Stevie J than Julio Jones, I’d rather have him by a large margin. In this case, the consensus 2012 fantasy rankings are way off base.
Vincent Jackson – Tampa Bay Bucs – Round 4
Yeah, Jackson’s value slips upon signing with Tampa. Let’s not get carried away here. Have we forgotten what Mike Williams did in this same offense two years ago? Jackson is much more talented than Williams ever was. This is a guy who finished a top ten fantasy season in 2011, while Phil Rivers played like a shadow of himself. Josh Freeman’s reputation has turned to mud since 2010 but he is not untalented. He will be better this year than last and likely will not play much worse than what we saw from Rivers last year. VJAX will likely not repeat his top ten finish but I have more faith in his established record than I do in Victor Cruz, who is being drafted two and a half rounds ahead of him.
Pierre Garcon – Washington Redskins – Round 7
Garcon finished 20th among fantasy wideouts in 2011. More importantly, he was much more sure-handed than he has ever been before, marking a turning point in his career. There may be some that doubt he will produce as much as Robert Griffin III. The rookie quarterback may be an unknown commodity, but I think he will be at least as good as Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. Garcon is coming into his own as a receiver and on his new team he should get better service from his new qb. It’s true that Washington has a growing core of receivers, but Garcon is more talented than Josh Morgan and an aging Santana Moss. Garcon should be the number one, and if he is, he will improve on his 2011.
Reggie Wayne – Indianapolis Colts – Round 8
Like Garcon, Wayne is coming off a season in which he suffered from poor service and is beginning 2012 with a rookie under center. Unlike Garcon, Wayne is on the downside of his career. Wayne is 33 and just played out his worst season since 2002. But while 33 may be over the hill for a running back, many receivers have been productive in their mid-thirties and Andrew Luck may revive Wayne’s fantasy value, if only for one or two more seasons. Remember, even if Wayne didn’t find the endzone often in 2011, he still garnered 960 yards. With Garcon out of Indy, Wayne will once again be the goto target for a young quarterback. If Luck gives him more to work with than Orlovsky and Painter did, Wayne could easily get to 1,100 yards and seven or eight scores. If that happens, he more than justifies an eight round pick.
Malcom Floyd – San Diego Chargers – Round 8
The Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants have two receivers ranked in the top eleven. The Cowboys, Steelers and Eagles have two in the top twenty-two. With the exception of Eli Manning, none of the quarterbacks for those teams threw for more yards than Phil Rivers did. With the exception of Tony Romo, none of them were more than two touchdowns ahead of Rivers in what is widely considered to be the worst year of his career. No Charger receiver is ranked in the top thirty currently. Someone will have to catch passes in San Diego. The logical choice is Floyd, who has put numbers with Rivers in the past. Floyd has started nine games each of the previous seasons, each time totaling over 700 yards. With Vincent Jackson out of town, Floyd likely starts on a regular basis. If he does, he should top the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career.