10 Wide Receivers, 10 Ways to Win a Championship

Danario Alexander

Before I let you in on the secret to capturing your league trophy – whether that be a plastic football glued to a slab of mahogany wood, a WWE-style belt, or just straight cash – you should probably go read about how I arrived at these ten names. Upside is a term often thrown around in the latter stages of a draft, but until now, there hasn’t been a great way to quantify a player’s potential ceiling. So seriously, go read about Upside Ratios, calculated using real math and stuff, and then come back here.

Brandon Marshall (Upside Rank: 1)
Calvin Johnson (3)
You don’t have to reach for BMarsh or Megatron, in fact I’ve been putting a priority on getting an elite running back in most of the mocks I’ve done. But this pair should be the first wide receivers off the board. Ideally, my goal is to come away from the first two rounds with Marshall or Johnson and then one of the following: Doug Martin, CJ Spiller, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Alfred Morris.

Johnson is going to be the first wide receiver taken in your draft and for good reason – he just posted a 122/1,964/5 triple slash line. Marshall, who you can get about a round cheaper, is coming off a similarly great season of 118/1,508/11. He and Johnson own the highest ceilings of any wide outs in the league and are in a tier all on their own based on their respective Upside Ratios of 81.5 and 80.7.

Marques Colston (6)
Vincent Jackson (9)
If you’ve been reading RotoViz for more than a couple days then you know there isn’t much more room on the Colston-VJax bandwagon around these parts. While the rest of the football world is still worried about Colston facing Revis twice a year and Jackson’s inconsistency, I implore you to face the facts. Neither I, nor anyone else on this planet, can tell you how either one of these players will fare this season, but from a risk analysis perspective Colston and Jackson are worth your consideration.

I’d love to get either of these wide outs in the 4th round and if I could somehow grab both in the 4th and 5th then I’m really rolling. Shawn Siegele wrote a fantastic piece about why you should wait at wide receiver because both Colston and Jackson have WR1 upside at a WR2 price. He advocates going RB-RB in the first two rounds and, while I would go RB-WR if that wide receiver is Marshall or Megatron, Shawn and I agree from a philosophical standpoint – Colston and Jackson are the real deal yet still represent awesome value.

Josh Gordon (7)
Danario Alexander (8)
Value and upside, that’s how you win at this game right? Gordon is becoming a very sexy sleeper pick, but his ADP has been relatively depressed thanks to his two-game suspension. Alexander, on the other hand, hasn’t garnered the same attention as Gordon, but owns similar red flags. DX has had roughly 432,395 knee surgeries in his career, so I am not exactly going out on a limb when I say there’s a chance he gets hurt this year. However fantasy football is a weekly game and if you plan on winning your league, you’ll have to win weeks 14-17. Both Gordon and Alexander can help you do that, which is not something you can say about every 7th or 8th rounder.

Brian Hartline (4)
The RotoViz boss wrote about Hartline in his 10 Re-Draft Targets in 10 Days series and even the most-respected Douche in the fantasy community admits Hartline “seems like a no-upside guy.” I think we would all agree with that anecdote on the surface, but dig a little deeper into the numbers, specifically his Upside Ratio, and selecting him in the 12th round is freaking highway robbery. Hartline’s doubters will tell you he recorded 23.4% of his yards, and 100 percent of his touchdowns in week 4 at Arizona. While he still put up 62/830/0 in 15 other games, I don’t think we can completely discount week 4. Doesn’t 12 catches for 253 yards tell us something about his talent level? I mean we are talking about the 12th round here. Emmanuel Sanders, Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd are all going ahead of Hartline. If any of them have recorded 253 yards in an NFL game then I am unaware of it.

What if I told you Hartline was among the unluckiest receivers in the league last year? According to Mike Clay’s opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (oTD) metric, he should have scored six more TDs last season with just average luck. Year-to-year yards are more predictive than touchdowns and Hartline had 1,083 of them. If his touchdowns normalize in 2013 then we’re talking about about a serious sleeper candidate. Throw in the fact that Hartline’s ADP is trending downward and he can be your WR5 with legitimate WR1 potential. That’s the definition of doing fantasy football right.

Andre Johnson (5)
Andre Johns… shit. I know what you’re thinking. He’s old, washed up, and about to fall off a cliff right? According to the National Football Post, some NFL “evaluators” suggest Andre Johnson has lost “perhaps a half-step” and “isn’t as explosive” as he once was entering this season. I wouldn’t advocate taking Dre at his current ADP, but in every draft there’s a guy who free-falls like Brady Quinn did in the 2007 Draft. If Johnson is that guy and you can get him at a 2-3 round discount, go for it. Plus, NFL “evaluators” get it wrong every now and then too.

Golden Tate (14)
Back before the Seahawks traded for Percy Harvin, Golden Tate was my favorite late round pick among wide receivers. Now that Harvin is in Seattle, Tate is literally going undrafted in 12 team leagues and that’s understandable. However here’s my case for selecting Tate with your last non-kicker/non-defense pick:

1) If Harvin or Rice go down with an injury, Tate will immediately exceed his draft-day value.
2) If you’re in a keeper or dynasty league, Tate is a great 2014 stash because he’s a free agent after this season and the Seahawks reportedly plan on letting him walk.
3) Russell Wilson to Golden Tate was the second-most explosive QB-to-WR combination in all of football.
4) Tate owns the fifth-best Win Probability Added (WPA), 2.24, of any receiver in the league in 2012.

Michael Crabtree (2)
I don’t normally recommend selecting a player with a torn Achilles tendon. I’m no doctor, but I don’t think the injury bodes well for a wide receiver that has to cut and sprint at the NFL level. To further damage my case for Crabtree, it’s unlikely the Niners play him if they have a playoff spot locked up over the final four games of the regular season – which just so happens to be the most important stretch in fantasy football. All that being said, Crabtree is a special talent who owns one of the best rapports with his signal caller of any wide out in the league. If your league has a deep bench or a designated IR spot, Crabtree is worth a stash if you can grab him with your last non-kicker/non-defense pick.

These are just ten names that could potentially swing the 2013 fantasy season in your favor. For the complete list of Upside Ratios click here because a low Upside Ratio can tell you just as much as a positive one.

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