2013 Fantasy Wide Receiver Review
January 27, 2014 | Jeff
Before our 2014 fantasy football rankings are unleashed to the public, we are taking a quick look back at the final statistical finishes of each fantasy position. We have already trekked through the land of quarterbacks and running backs, so now is the time to lace up our boots and wade into the waters of wide receivers. NFL offenses were moving at breakneck speeds in 2013, and fantasy wide receivers were largely the beneficiaries. 23 receivers racked up over 1,000 receiving yards and 17 receivers caught 8 or more touchdowns over the course of the regular season, further strengthening the draft approach of locking down a top tier running back (or two) early, but we have plenty of time to hash that out over the offseason. Let’s take a look at some of the fantasy wide receivers that turned in notable performances during the 2013 season and give a little glimpse into how they will stack up for 2014 (1 pt/10 yards, six pt TDs and .5 ppr were the settings used for the rankings below).
Let’s begin by taking a minute to check out how the great Peyton Manning impacted the fantasy wide receiver position this season. A whopping three Denver receivers finished up the 2013 season in the Top 20, and if not for a wallop to the noggin of Wes Welker, it may have been three in the Top 15. Manning’s wide receivers simply exploded this season as the Denver offense sped up and down the field, leading to some remarkable numbers as his top three targets (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker) all hauled in 10 or more touchdowns. Pour yourself some brandy, light a stogie, and ponder the fact that Manning’s top three wide outs finished 2013 with a three player AVERAGE of 84 catches, 1,165.3 yards, and 11.7 touchdowns. That average would have been good for ninth among fantasy wide receivers last season, which is quite absurd. Thomas will roll into 2014 as a Top Five option at worst, and Welker will do his Welker-esque weasel into the Top 25ish most likely, on the back of his PPR appeal. The real wildcard of this trio is Eric Decker, who hits free agency this offseason. With the right landing spot, we could be staring at Decker’s handsome mug among the Top 12 fantasy wide receivers next season.
Now for the darling of the 2013 fantasy football season, Mr. Josh Gordon. Remember what you were doing at age 22? Ya, it was probably heavily soaked in Pabst Blue Ribbon and not particularly noteworthy. Josh Gordon decided to spend his 22nd year on Earth leading the NFL in receiving yardage, despite missing the first two games of the season due to suspension. Gordon was a one man wrecking crew in 2013, as his suspension and subsequent depressed average draft position (ADP) made his production that much more valuable to fantasy owners. If you didn’t heed our warning here at The Fake Football last summer, your opportunity to grab Gordon at a bargain basement price is now ancient history. After a season in which Gordon was first among fantasy wide receivers in fantasy points per game, he will likely be a late first round pick come draft season. This newly minted stud can do it all, as he stacked up nine touchdowns and 1,646 receiving yards in just 14 games. If big plays get your fantasy mojo in full swing on Sundays, Gordon proved he can haul in the deep ball with the best as he averaged 18.9 yards per reception, leaving other speedsters like Torrey Smith (17.4 avg) and DeSean Jackson (16.2 avg) in the dust. All of this while catching footballs thrown by Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer. Yikes.
Josh Gordon wasn’t the only youngster to bust into the top levels of fantasy wide receiver production, as Alshon Jeffery put together a huge season that landed him at WR10 for the 2013 campaign. Jeffery showed a knack for making spectacular catches last season, and displayed an even greater talent for carrying fantasy teams to victory all by himself. This 23 year old tallied five games of 100+ receiving yards and topped the 200 mark twice. Those are the type of stat lines lead to weekly fantasy high scores and you can certainly bet we will be seeing more of those performances in the future. Jeffery creates quite an issue for opposing defenses as he lines up opposite Brandon Marshall, and he is quickly closing in on Marshall’s production. In 2013, Jeffery was target only 15 times less than Marshall (164 to 149) and actually averaged 7.9 more receiving yards per game than his fellow wide out on the season. It is worth noting that quarterback Jay Cutler has always shown a favoritism toward his pal Brandon Marshall and in the ten games that Cutler played in 2013, Marshall was targeted more (10.1 to 9.1), caught more passes (6.3 to 5.2) and recorded more receiving yards (80.9 to 79.8) per game than his young partner in crime. Jeffery’s stock is soaring but he may not be ready to join the Megatrons of the world until Marshall sells his condo in Chicago.
Rookies aren’t supposed to crash onto the fantasy football scene but Chargers rook Keenan Allen did his best Matt Foley and treated the NFL like a flimsy living room coffee table. Allen broke out in late September and never looked back, as he continued to gain the trust of quarterback Philip Rivers and racked up huge numbers for such a young talent. Allen finished the 2013 season as fantasy’s 18th highest scoring wide receiver despite a sluggish start to the season in which he didn’t play a single snap in Week 1. Let’s play a quick game (make it a drinking game by doing a keg stand every time I use the word “extrapolate”). Pretend that Keenan Allen didn’t play until Week 4 (he only caught three passes for 30 yards in Weeks 1-3 anyhow). Now, let’s take his final 2013 stat line and divide it up by the remaining 13 games to get his new ‘per game’ averages and extrapolate (drink) those over a full 16 game season. What do we have? We have a 232.2 point season in our 1/2 pt PPR table below, which would be good for WR9. That excercise was a bit of a stretch, but it does help us gain a better grasp of just how good this impressive rookie was in 2013. Just imagine when he turns 22!
A couple of other surprising wide receivers caught my eye in the list below, most notably Julian Edelman and Kendall Wright. Edelman was fantastic in New England, finishing as our WR17. Julian was a PPR machine for the ages, as his microscopic 10.1 yards per catch was the lowest among the Top 60 scoring fantasy receivers in 2013. Edelman averaged 92.7 yards per game over the last six games of the season and will be a very interesting free agent to watch as the market heats up this offseason. Wright is a personal favorite of mine and had an incredibly underrated 2013 season, finishing as fantasy’s WR22. This offseason, I will personally be pumping The Fake Football full of more Kendall Wright propaganda than you would want to read in 1,000 life times, so brace yourself! For now, just keep this fact in mind: Kendall Wright was seventh in the NFL in receptions (94) right between A.J. Green (98) and Dez Bryant (93). Green caught 11 touchdowns, Dez snagged 13, and Kendall Wright caught two. TWO! Of course, A.J. and Dez have red zone skills that Wright does not posses, but if Antonio Brown can caught eight touchdowns in 2013, Kendall Wright certainly can do the same in 2014 and we savvy fake footballers know that regression often rules in fantasy sports.
Stay tuned for the final installment of our 2013 fantasy positional review as we check out big Jimbo Graham and the tight end position. In the mean time, check out the final 2013 fantasy wide receiver rankings below.