Some say too much of a good thing is a bad thing, or than it can do you harm. Shakespeare was one of the first people to put this in print, but who ever listend to that guy anyway? In the case of fantasy football in 2014, the fact that there are so many outstanding wide receivers shouldn't make you sick -- it should make you jump for joy. Seriously, wide receivers are going to go bananas this year in fantasy football. Most teams are switching to an up-tempo offensive attack in a passing-dominated league, and the cushy rules benefitting wide receivers are making wideouts look like they're lounging in Love Seats as they run routes during the preseason. And while I wholeheartedly believe the NFL will ease back on the illegal contact and holding calls once the regular season kicks off, you can bet that many corners and safeties will be hesitant to be physical early on. Wide receivers are scoring more points than ever. For instance, from 2009-2011, 16 wideouts had at least 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. In the two years since then, 14 guys have crossed that plateau. And would it surprise anyone if 14 more did that in 2014? Didn't think so.
So what does this mean as your fantasy draft approaches? Yesterday, Marcas said you need to get a stud running back before the end of Round 2, and if you're drafting in the first five picks that is easily accomplished. But are we ready to anoint the likes of DeMarco Murray, Le'Veon Bell or Montee Ball as true studs worthy of a first-round pick? I'm not. That's why if you're sitting at the tail end of the first round, I think it's perfectly fine to target pass-catchers early and often. The trendy phrase for this strategy is "Zero RB," which means not targeting a running back until at least after the third round. Whether you wait that long or not is up to you, but let's dive into which wide receivers are worthy of your first two picks.
Calvin Johnson is the one name to take in the first round of fantasy drafts. He's proven it year after year, and now he finally has a suitable No. 2 wide receiver in Golden Tate. He's the most consistent wide receiver in fantasy, with the potential to lead his position in scoring every year. He's the only no-brainer first-round pick.
Sifting through the rest of the crop becomes difficult, but only because there are so many players worth drafting in the next two rounds. In the recent NFL Fantasy Live Round 2 mock draft, five wide receivers were selected, and it very easily could have been more. Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall are all names to be said confidently in Round 2.
OK, so you knew all of these guys were great. You've watched the NFL before and might have even made the fantasy playoffs last season. But what should your mentality be regarding wide receivers come draft day? Here's a handy guide:
1) Draft a stud
2) Draft another stud
3) Take high-upside shots later
Don't be afraid to draft deep at wide receiver. The notion that it's better to use a running back at the flex isn't without merit, but it also isn't the only way to go about business. Last year, 18 running backs scored north of 150 fantasy points, while 16 pass-catchers managed to reach that same plateau. If your options in the middle rounds are a number of backs trapped in a committee, or someone in the vein of Cordarrelle Patterson or T.Y. Hilton, for the love of the fantasy gods take the wide receiver! If these guys will fill your WR2 spot, that's a pretty good spot as well.
Now, the real question. Who are the guys to take late in drafts? I recently finished part 1 of my deep-dive into second-year wide receiver breakout candidates, and will be completing part 2 later this week. Several of those guys are listed below, along with other names to look for as a WR4 or WR5 with loads of upside (all currently have an NFL.com ADP of Round 13 or later):
To reiterate for those of you who skimmed over the copy to get this point, when it comes to drafting wide receivers, try your darndest to get two studs. Then fill out your roster with guys who could make a splash in 2014. Don't waste roster space on big name, aging veterans like Steve Smith or Greg Jennings. Put stock in the fantasy players who have a chance to soar to new heights, not cruise at a consistent level.
Most importantly, good luck and have fun. That's what fantasy is all about after all.