Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – Top 10 WRs Based on Historical Trends

Predicting the Top 10 Wide Receivers Based on Historical Trends

We decided to look at past seasons to try and predict which players will finish in the top ten and where the top ten in pre-season rankings will end up at the end of season. As mentioned in the first article on quarterbacks and the second article on running backs, this is more of a fun article that will likely make us look foolish at the end of the season and we do not recommend drafting based on this but it offers a different perspective and hopefully will make everyone understand that there are no sure things in the NFL. Once again, these are not our actual rankings. In the final article of this series of three we will look at the wide receiver position.

Where does the pre-season top 10 end up?

Pre-season ranking (ADP) End of season ranking
1 to 5 6 to 10 11 to 15 16 to 20 21 to 30 31 and up
1 to 5 2.0 1.4 0.2 0.4 0.4 0.6
6 to 10 1.0 0.4 1.0 0.4 0.8 1.4

2008 top 5 pre-season wide receivers:
Randy Moss
Terrell Owens
Reggie Wayne
Braylon Edwards
Larry Fitzgerald

Will remain in the top five:
Our Prediction: Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne

In each of the last five seasons, exactly two wide receivers ranked in the top five in average draft position remain and in the top five at the end of the season. Randy Moss is the easy choice considering he was so dominating last season. His stats are very likely to drop but similar wide receivers who were also dominant average about 300 points in the season following their dominating year which would still make Moss a top five receiver. The harder decision to make is between Reggie Wayne and Terrell Owens since both have been top five receivers for two consecutive seasons. However, choosing between a wide receiver who is 30 years old and had 10 touchdowns versus one who is 35 years old and had 16 touchdowns is not that hard. As we have said many times, a player’s touchdown numbers are much more likely to decrease than a player’s receptions and yards numbers. For those reasons, we believe Reggie Wayne will also remain amongst the top five receivers.

Will finish in the 6 to 10 range:
Our Prediction: Larry Fitzgerald

In the last four seasons there have been six wide receivers who dropped into the six to ten range. In the last eight seasons, it has only happened once (in 2001) that the top three wide receivers from the previous year managed to remain in the top ten. Owens is very talented and is on a very good team but he has had his share of injuries in the past. It is also very hard to go against that statistic so we will say that Owens will fall outside the top ten. That leaves Braylon Edwards and Larry Fitzgerald. As you may have seen in our wide receiver rankings, we are not very high on Edwards because the Browns added Stallworth and also because his touchdown numbers were very high. That leaves Larry Fitzgerald who missed time due to injuries in 2006 but in two of his last three seasons was a top five receiver and seems to be a pretty safe choice for this year.

Will finish outside the top 15:
Our Prediction: Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens

Many wide receivers disappoint year after year and this season we believe Edwards and Owens are the most likely to fall. Both had very high touchdown numbers last season and if they had a very respectable 10 touchdowns last season, they would have barely made the top ten wide receivers. The 22 wide receivers who had between 14 and 17 touchdowns in a season averaged only 9 in the following season; that is why we believe these two players are the most likely to drop.

2008 pre-season 6 to 10 wide receivers:
T.J Houshmandzadeh
Andre Johnson
Marques Colston
Steve Smith
Chad Johnson

Will move into the top 5:
Our Prediction: Marques Colston
Every year there is one from this group that moves into the top five and we believe that this will be Marques Colston’s year. The only wide receiver who had more fantasy points than Colston in his first two NFL seasons is Randy Moss. The only other two who come close to him are Jerry Rice and Larry Fitzgerald but Colston did it in 30 games as opposed to 32. Furthermore, Colston’s numbers in the last 10 games of last season would have made him second to only Randy Moss over a 16 games season. That is why we believe this is the year that he will become a top five wide receiver.

Will remain in the 6 to 10 range:
Our Prediction: T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Until last season there had not be any wide receivers in the previous four seasons that stayed in the six to ten range but there were two last season so we will assume that there will be one this year. It is a difficult decision between Andre Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Steve Smith. Andre Johnson was excellent last season and would have been a top five wide receiver had he not missed eight games. However, he has never been a top ten wide receiver in his five NFL seasons and this could be his year but there are better choices. Steve Smith was a top ten receiver in both 2005 and 2006 but he is always an injury concern and there are question marks with the offensive line and with Delhomme. T.J. Houshmandzadeh on the other hand has been a top ten receiver for two straight years; he is entering his contract year and could be the number one receiver depending on what happens with Chad Johnson.

Will finish in the 11 to 15 range:
Our Prediction: Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson was so good last season that it is hard to believe he could finish outside the top fifteen. He has only done it once in his career but last season was the first time that he played on a decent offense with Matt Schaub as his quarterback.

Will finish outside the top 15:
Our Prediction: Steve Smith and Chad Johnson
As consistent as Chad Johnson has been (top ten wide receiver in each of the last five seasons), he is unhappy in Cincinnati and we’re not sure what will happen to him this year. Steve Smith is very talented but he has had injury problems and there are question marks in Carolina as mentioned above. Moreover, the Panthers added Hackett and Muhammad so Smith might be targeted less often (especially in the red zone).


Where was the top 10 drafted?

End of season ranking Pre-season ranking (ADP)
1 to 5 6 to 10 11 to 15 16 to 20 21 to 30 31 and up
1 to 5 2.0 1.0 0.6 0.8 0.2 0.4
6 to 10 1.4 0.4 0.2 0.4 0.8 1.8

Will finish in the top five:
Three of them as we mentioned previously should come from the pre-season top ten and we believe those will be Moss, Wayne and Colston. That leaves one who could come from the 11 to 15 range (like last year) and one from the 16 to 20 range (like three of the last four years). In the 11 to 15 range the choices are Holt, Welker, Burress, Boldin and Jennings. This is actually pretty easy and the obvious choice has to be Torry Holt who was a top five receiver from 2003 to 2006 until the Rams offense collapsed last season. Their offensive line should however be much better this year and unlike Bulger and Jackson, Holt still managed to have decent statistics last season despite the offense’s troubles so we believe he can bounce back this year. In the 16 to 20 range the choices are Brandon Marshall, Roy Williams, Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward and Calvin Johnson. We have to rule out Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes since we think the Pittsburgh offense will disappoint this year and also Brandon Marshall who could be suspended for a few games. Roy Williams is a question mark year after year, has been injured often and if he does miss time it makes Calvin Johnson the number one receiver in Detroit. We are not huge fans of Johnson but many wide receivers such as Larry Fitzgerald, Torry Holt and Jerry Rice surprised in their second NFL season so we believe he is the most likely top five candidate amongst this group.
Our Prediction: R. Moss, R. Wayne, M. Colston, T. Holt, Calvin Johnson

Will finish in the 6 to 10 range:
Two of them as we mentioned previously could come from the pre-season top ten and we believe those would be Fitzgerald and Houshmandzadeh. Many receivers do surprise year after year and in the past five seasons 13 wide receivers have come from outside the top 20 to finish in the six to ten range. Our favorite from the 21 to 30 range to finish in the top ten is Dwayne Bowe. Many rookies like him really broke out in their second NFL season and the Chiefs have an improved offensive line in pass protection so could surprise. Other potential candidates are Marvin Harrison, Lee Evans and Donald Driver but we would choose Bowe ahead of those. There are two that could come from outside the top 30 and at this point it is extremely hard to predict but our first choice would be Jerricho Cotchery. He had over 80 receptions for the second consecutive season and 1,100 yards in only 15 games but he was never much of a target in the red zone. If the Jets offense can get on track like we believe it could with the improved offensive line, Cotchery has the skills to be a top ten wide receiver. Amongst the potential candidates for our second choice are Anthony Gonzalez, Reggie Brown, Javon Walker, Santana Moss, Patrick Crayton, Jerry Porter and Darrell Jackson. It is a long shot but if one of these guys is going to be a top ten receiver, it could very well be Darrell Jackson. Take out the 2007 season where he was on a dreadful offense in San Francisco and he had 388 receptions for 5,700 yards and 41 touchdowns in 80 games from 2001 to 2006. Those numbers give him an average of 241 fantasy points per 16 games in a point per reception league which makes him a top 15 receiver in most years and top 10 in some seasons. If Marshall is suspended for a few games, Jackson could become the number one receiver on a good offensive team and he could surprise.
Our Prediction: L. Fitzgerald, T. Houshmandzadeh, D. Bowe, J. Cotchery, D. Jackson