2010 positional fantasy football strategy and sleepers discussion: Wide Receivers

Receivers are like spoiled pitbulls. Everything is fine as long as you give them tons of attention, but neglect them even a little, and someone is bound to get hurt.

Likely your fantasy team if you don’t take the receiver position seriously in 2010.

Here is how I’m personally addressing the receiver position in drafts this summer, much like my positional drafting strategy posts at quarterback | running back | tight endkicker | team defense.

First-round considerations

Unlike elite quarterbacks, I am all for targeting a few top-notch receivers in the first round of fantasy drafts. This is because I personally see a clear dropoff in receiver scoring upside between first-round pass catchers and those you can find in the fourth and fifth rounds, when there are plenty of upside quarterbacks worth a draft selection.

Receivers have become a more consistent commodity, in general scoring formats, than their running back counterparts. Thanks to the rise of running-back-by-committees across the league, there are less workhorse backs than ever, and more part-time rushers than ever will carve their way into fantasy production this season.

Receivers such as Andre Johnson and Randy Moss are prone to be elite options all year, short of some unforeseen injury. Wonder how I rank the receivers? Be sure to check out my redraft receiver rankings.

In fact, in most scoring formats, I’m all for drafting Andre Johnson fifth overall this season, after Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. For more on the running backs, check out my redraft RB rankings and RB strategy post.

Why? Because Johnson is more a sure thing, in my opinion, than any of the remaining running back options.

Randy Moss isn’t far behind Johnson for 2010 redraft leagues. He always seems to produce his best seasons when something is on the line. This year, he’s playing for his 2011 contract and possibly auditioning for a new team. He’s trying to show that alleged injuries that hampered him last season at times are now well behind him. Moss has a lot riding on this season, and his fantasy production will likely reflect that.

Second- and third-round options

After Moss, I don’t plan on snagging receivers until the early- to mid-second round. There are a smattering of quality receiving options available here, and all of them offer enough upside and stability to be chosen over the question marks remaining at RB.

Roddy White is one such option who has quietly produced impressive statistical seasons the past couple years and should take yet another step forward as young QB Matt Ryan matures under center.

Regardless of whoever is quarterbacking the Cardinals this season, Larry Fitzgerald should be a solid commodity and someone I’d be happy to take in the early- or mid-second round. If Calvin Johnson can produce impressive numbers with Dan Orlovsky delivering the pigskin, Fitzgerald will do just fine with Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson or whoever else assumes control of the offense.

Speaking of Johnson, Matthew Stafford is a much better QB, even at his young age, than Orlovsky or really any other Detroit QB has been in quite some time. You’d be silly not to expect a return to form in 2010, and a mid- or late-second round draft selection is worthy.

Anytime I find Greg Jennings slipping into the third round of a typical 12-team fantasy draft, I start to salivate. He’s a great selection in the early, and especially mid-third round.

DeSean Jackson in the third round is something I’m more than happy to comply with.

I’d be OK with drafting Brandon Marshall in the third round of a fantasy draft. Unfortunately, people are taking him much earlier than that.

Mid-round receivers

As I worked on my redraft receiver rankings, I realized how quickly the receiver talent dropped off. Going from the Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnsons and Reggie Waynes of the fantasy world to Mike Sims-Walkers and Michael Crabtrees is a scary dropoff when you’re depending on a starter. In most cases, I strive to have both starting WRs on my teams to be from the top 15 receivers on my redraft rankings.

However, in cases where I need a receiver in these rounds, I find myself taking Sims-Walker and Crabtree.

Both are, at least at the moment, the best options on their respective teams. Both on teams that will need to play catchup at times during the season.

However, I’m much more excited about the next class of receivers while drafting …

Late-mid-round, early-late-round selections

It is here that I find myself snagging numerous upside guys, knowing they have just as much of a chance to break out as the “mid-round receivers.”

Mike Wallace, of the Steelers, has shown some flashes this preseason of being a No. 1 receiving option in the Steel City. He is a lot closer to Sims-Walker and Crabtree in terms of potential and overall production as many would like to admit, and available several round later.

Johnny Knox is becoming such a player, too. Someone had to emerge as the top pass catcher in the newly anointed Mike Martz Chicago offense, and Knox continues to move past Devin Aromashodu and Devin Hester as the primary option. In that offense, with Jay Cutler’s arm delivering the pill, Knox should be a nice breakout option.

Malcolm Floyd stands to see the biggest increase in value as Vincent Jackson continues to throw his career in the waste can. Philip Rivers is a solid QB who can elevate Floyd into fantasy relevance.

Late-round receivers to snag

Just like the last class of options, the late-round sleeper candidates are so much fun to draft, and then to watch blossom on your fantasy bench en route to being an eventual starter or trade bait for you.

Jabar Gaffney continues to be passed over in the grand scheme of things … by people who insist that Eddie Royal or rookie Damaryius Thomas will shoulder much of Brandon Marshall’s shadow. However, Gaffney was the one who digested all of Josh McDaniels’ system and has the coach’s trust. He could be a No. 1 receiver you can snag in the waning rounds of a fantasy draft.

Robert Meachem has been sliding in drafts this preseason as lingering injury concerns have turned prospective fantasy owners off. However, he looked just fine in his first preseason game since being activated off the PUP and if he can build on his emergence late last season, could eventually overthrow Marques Colston as the top receiver for the Saints.

Mike Williams, of the Tampa Bay variety, has been wowing Buccaneers’ brass all preseason and has gone from rookie project to probable season-opening starter. In fact, some have him projected as the team’s top pass catching option over the long haul. Not a bad piece to grab late in hopes that those expectations come true.

A really late receiver to watch would include Greg Camarillo after a series of unfortunate events in the Vikings receiving corps has left openings for possible sleeper breakout, and Camarillo, like new teammate Javon Walker, could become a nice sleeper option.

For more draft advice and strategy, along with sleeper discussions and other topics, be sure to check out our 2010 fantasy football archives.

Which receivers are you targeting this year and where do you expect them to be drafted?

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