The wide receiver position has been shaken up in a big way with top-5 performer Julio Jones suffering a season-ending injury when a screw in his foot — installed during a past surgery — broke. Things didn’t get any easier for fantasy owners in Week 6 when Packers’ stud Randall Cobb suffered an broken leg. Cobb has already been placed on IR/designated to return, so he’s out until at least Week 15. He may be around to help the Packers in the playoffs, but the same cannot be said for fantasy owners. It is unlikely that Jones or Cobb owners are going to take the recent news lightly and though we’ve seen a number of receivers put together breakout performances already this season, the reliability and upside of both superstars will be essentially impossible to replace. Still, owners must march on and look to the waiver wire or trade market to help for help. With that, we are re-ranking the top-80 receivers in terms of their fantasy value for the rest of the 2013 season. But first, let’s get a couple quick thought on each tier.
Dez Bryant ascends to the top spot in our rankings for the first time. He’s been simply uncoverable this season and with Johnson banged up, Dez slides into the pole position… In all honesty, it’s 1a and 1b with Dez and Megatron. Calvin was able to play on a limited basis through his knee injury on Sunday and seems to have escaped no worse for the wear… Brandon Marshall had struggled a bit since his monster Week 1 up until his two-touchdown effort in Week 6. He’ll continue to lose a bit of his normally hefty workload to an emerging Alshon Jeffery on the other side, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as some soft coverages will roll their way to B-Marsh now that Jeffery warrants added attention… The injuries in Green Bay give Jordy Nelson a bump into the top tier. He hasn’t been a picture of perfect health himself, but Nelson represents the most proven option in that passing game.
Desean Jackson feels like a more risky option than he has become. The Eagles do a nice job of manufacturing space for the speedster, often getting him the ball at or near the line of scrimmage, forcing defensive backs to sneak up on him…. just before they take the top off… Antonio Brown has become the player many expected to see last season. Big Ben has been looking his way early and often and Brown is capable of making every play on the field. Brown has registered 11+ targets in each of his last three games and, most encouragingly, has seven red zone targets over that span… Justin Blackmon has seen a whopping 29 targets in the two games since his return and has done plenty with them. Cecil Shorts’ latest injury issues would perhaps free up defensive coordinators to shift significant coverage Blackmon’s way, but the volume of targets will be more than enough to sustain a weekly starter.
Tier three is a most interesting one, filled with veterans who have been elite in the past, but whether it is age catching up with them, or offensive systems shifting away from them, we have yet to see consistently solid production out of any of these guys… Aquan Boldin has been relatively quiet since his Week 1 breakout, and it’s more game plan then anything else. When the 49ers get back to throwing the rock, Boldin will see a hefty portion of the targets.
Jumping off of the note above, tier four is filled with the high upside plays and many may opt to pluck from this group over the Boldins and Waynes of the world. Your record and weekly expectations will play a role when sorting out group’s three and four… A boom or bust option, T.Y. Hilton certainly brought his BOOM in Week 5 only to show us the bust side in Week 6. We can’t guarantee that the Colts will move too far away from their run-first tendencies, but they will certainly continue to take their shots down the field… It is safe to say the Terrelle Pryor is playing better than anyone could have expected and Denarius Moore is the main benefactor on the offense. Since he was shut out in Week 3, Moore has racked up 80+ yards and a touchdown in three of four games. He’s currently on pace for 67 catches, 1,064 yards and 10 scores… We are making a gut-call on Brian Hartline. He looked very much a top-30 receiver after his 14-target Week 1, but since has been disappointing. The Dolphins seem to be working out their offensive identity and hopefully they used the bye week to figure things out… Josh Freeman is likely to step in as the Viking starter in Week 7, breathing at least a little bit of life into Greg Jennings‘ outlook. Freeman has been mediocre, tossing 45 touchdowns against 42 interceptions since the start of 2011, but he did collect 27 touchdown passes a year ago and it really doesn’t take much to be considered an improvement over the Christian Ponder/Matt Cassel debacle.
We love the talent, but it’s simply impossible to trust Danny Amendola at this point… Now is the time to grab Percy Harvin if he’s floating around on your waiver wire, but expecting a contribution to your fantasy team before Week 13 is a bit much… Harry Douglas sneaks into tier five and though the Falcons No. 3 has been unimpressive with his opportunities this season, the volume will continue to be there.
Tier Six and beyond
It’s time to start taking fliers at the position and upside reigns supreme… Terrence Williams could be a top-30 guy if Miles Austin would get out of the way…. Aaron Dobson continues to flash massive upside, but also continues to drop the football… Jarret Boykin makes an interesting pickup to see where things go with an increased role in the Packers offense.