Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Second Best Receiver?

I could assert that you should NOT make Calvin Johnson the first receiver off the board in your fantasy draft.

But that would make me an idiot.

In a multicenter, randomized, placebo controlled, double-blind, phase II fantasy football study, it has been determined that Megatron is the best wide receiver available in the 2014 fantasy football draft.

Okay, so it is not that technical.

Simply put, Johnson is in the most dangerous receiver in the league.  He is a fantasy football gold mine.  And he's still in the prime of his career.

Then again, if you're smart enough to be reading this, you already know that.

Johnson has the best of all worlds: he's huge, he's got great hands, he's got speed, he's got a quarterback with a doggone cannon for an arm and he's in an offensive system in which said quarterback makes more than 700 passing attempts per year.

In the last three seasons combined, Johnson's been targeted an astounding 519 times for 5,134 yards and 33 touchdowns.  In each of those seasons, he has been top three in receiving yards.

His consistency and reliability are simply unchallenged at this point.  There's no reason to believe that he will not continue to put up ridiculous numbers this season.

No one else in the league is even close.  Johnson is in a tier all by himself.

After the "big three" running backs are gone in the first round (Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy), Johnson could (and should) come off the board at any time.

Depending on your scoring system, he might even be selected in the top two.  It's not unrealistic.

The real question here is which receiver should be taken second overall... and when?

After Calvin Johnson, three receivers land on the second tier and it is time to consider selecting one after the "next three" running backs (Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy and Marshawn Lynch) are drafted.

We are now 8th overall in the first round, who's next?


You know what?  I'm not going to roll my eyes like a teenage girl and make gagging sounds if you were to argue that Dez Bryant should be the next wide receiver taken.  Entering his fifth year, Bryant seems to have found himself both as a professional and as a man.  He is a NFL success story.

But there is caution tape surrounding Bryant right now.

There are strategic times when a fantasy football owner must throw caution to the wind.  But the first round ain't the time.

So before Bryant goes this early, I need to see how Tony Romo's surgically repaired back responds under center.  It also bears mentioning that this is Romo's second back procedure in as many years.

Romo missed the preseason opener (it wasn't anticipated he would play, so no big deal), and he's been limited in practice.  On August 5th, quarterback coach Wade Wilson called Romo's deep ball "a little inconsistent."

Romo has targeted Bryant 297 times in the past two years; during that time, Romo has passed for 59 touchdowns and 25 of them have gone to Bryant.  They are BFF's.

If Romo has a set back and Brandon Weeden ends up taking snaps in the regular season, Bryant owners are going to get ulcers, accompanied by insomnia.  While Bryant would still catch plenty of balls, Weeden is no Tony Romo... don't try to fool yourself.

Now, there is no indication that Weeden is going to be the guy this season and I'm looking at the Cowboys beer mug half empty (actually, I'm looking at a worst case scenario), but Romo has to prove his back is back before I go over the moon on Bryant.


Preparation for the fantasy draft is a fluid situation and there is no better of example of this than the recent circumstances surrounding A.J. Green.  On August 9th, Marvin Jones -- the #2 receiver in Cincinnati last season -- had a screw inserted into his pinky toe to stabilize a fractured bone.

Coachspeak out of Cincinnati says Jones is expected to miss "a few weeks."  I'm taking that with a grain of salt; Jones will be out half of the season.

His speed, his route running, his ability to cut... basically everything will be affected by this injury.  Jones will not be able to even run until the bone is completely healed and, presumably, after the screw is removed.

I don't expect Jones to be 100% for a long time.

This means A.J. Green will see even more targets (last year's 178 targets were third-most in the league); and I'm not concerned about double teams, because Green is already double teamed... he's just impossible to cover.

So is Green the next receiver off the board?  I would say yes, but one player is standing in his way, thanks to a quarterback named Peyton Manning....

If any wide receiver can come close to challenging Calvin Johnson as king of the mountain, it is Demaryius Thomas.  In the last two seasons, Thomas has combined for 2,800+ receiving yards and 24 touchdowns, and he's just coming into his own; heck, he's yet to have 100 receptions in a season.

You could say his future's so bright, he's got to wear, um, a tinted visor (an obscure 80's song reference.  Sorry.)

Just as important, Thomas hasn't missed a game since 2011.  He's plug and play, wash and wear.

Now that Eric Decker has foolishly become a Jet (Money talks. Loudly.), Thomas is the definitive primary weapon in Denver.  He is the unquestioned go-to guy for the first time in his professional career.

This is his third season with Manning and his second season steeped in Adam Gase's offensive scheme.  With a supporting cast of Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas... oh, and the most prolific passer in the history of the game slinging the ball... Thomas could be poised to have the best season of his career.

One gets the feeling this is just the tip of the fantasy iceberg.

This isn't to say that you will spontaneously combust if you take A.J. Green or Dez Bryant before Thomas.  All three are fantasy blue chippers and are among the best in the business.  You can't really go wrong with any of them.

But for my money, Demaryius Thomas is as close to Megatron as a fantasy owner can get this season.