Michael Floyd, ARI – With how severe the injury was for Floyd, I’m surprised so many people either forgot about it or didn’t realize the impact it had. Floyd’s fingers broke skin in his hand folks! Even after a slow start as Floyd returned from that gruesome injury, he managed to finish as WR32. How is that possible? Simple. Floyd had 36 receptions, 636 yards and four touchdowns in the second half (eight games). To look at it a different way, with less targets and receptions, Floyd still had more yards and touchdowns than Larry Fitzgerald during Weeks 6-17. In fact, the last four games saw Floyd lead the Cardinals in targets and yards with second place belonging to David Johnson. Floyd is ready to become the Cardinals’ top receiver in 2016 and is in my Top 20 receivers.
Travis Benjamin, SD – I understand Philip Rivers isn’t a great deep ball passer, but that didn’t stop Malcom Floyd from finishing in the Top 50 all time in yards per catch (17.3). Even if you want to argue against Rivers’ deep-ball ability, people realize that Benjamin finished as WR30 in Cleveland last year… right? Who would like to argue that the Browns’ quarterback situation was a better option for Benjamin’s potential? Someone? Anyone? I thought as much. Benjamin had 68 catches, 966 yards and five touchdowns last year. Battling injuries, missed time and inconsistency (plus 34-year-old legs), Floyd has 69 targets, 30 receptions, 561 yards and three touchdowns, while Dontrelle Inman had 65/35/486/3. That gives Benjamin plenty of chances. If you think, “Well, you can’t just shuffle it all to Benjamin,” I didn’t even include Stevie Johnson‘s 65/45/497/3. Too much math for you? Let’s just put it this way. If you don’t think Benjamin can repeat as a Top 36 receiver with a significantly better quarterback, you might be a bit crazy.
Kevin White, CHI – From my offseason rookie piece last year:
“White has and is everything you want in a receiver. White has the rare combination of size, speed and quickness. White easily gets separation whether it’s using his quickness to beat press coverage or his speed to get over top downfield. White makes the contested catches, corners struggle to stay with him out of his breaks and safeties just can’t keep up. He’ll high point a ball, work back to the quarterback and finds open space.”
He’s the real deal. The Bears need a No. 2 alongside Alshon Jeffery, as a team’s second receiver shouldn’t top out with 28 catches, 464 yards and one touchdown. As for concerns about opportunity, there shouldn’t be any. Matt Forte is gone, meaning more targets for the receivers, and both Brandon Marshall and Jeffery finished as Top 10 receivers in Jeffery’s sophomore campaign. Jay Cutler is going to keep passing – he doesn’t give a dang – and White has everything needed to be a great complement to Jeffery and Top 36 receiver.
Steve Smith, BAL – I’m going to keep it simple here. If there is one receiver I’m not going to count out, it’s Steve Smith. He’s the Adrian Peterson of receivers. Yes, Smith is coming off a major injury, but he was WR11 through Week 8 after being WR5 through Week 7 in 2014. Smith is certainly a concern, but do you really think anyone else on the Ravens will be Joe Flacco‘s favorite target? Flacco has Kamar Aiken, who did well without Flacco and doesn’t have chemistry yet, Mike Wallace trying to salvage his career and Breshad Perriman, who can’t stop getting hurt. I’ll happily roll the dice on Smith… and then sell him if he starts off hot again.
Michael Thomas, NO – Unless Anquan Boldin makes a late appearance, Thomas is a great bet to score 6-8 touchdowns as a rookie. Thomas fits the void and role of Marques Colston, as he has the route running and red zone ability to succeed as a slot-flanker. Thomas will use his skills to separate and find space for Drew Brees to find him, and that’s going to be a big advantage with a quarterback throwing the ball 650 times. Even if Thomas only manages 600 or so yards, 6-8 touchdowns will place him firmly in the Top 50 and likely in the Top 40 conversation.
Sammie Coates, PIT – If anyone is going to fill the Martavis Bryant role, it’s Coates, not Markus Wheaton. We only saw Wheaton come on late last year after Bryant had established himself as a serious threat. It’s a bit easier to make noise when the defense has their lesser defenders on you. Remember how much Wheaton disappointed in the first half? He just doesn’t have the skill to be a No. 2 receiver. A really good No. 3 receiver with Ben Roethlisberger? Sure. And Wheaton can do quite well in that role, but Coates has the speed, strength and size to dominate as Bryant did; all he needed was better hands. Reports are he’s worked on that a ton, including dropping significant weight to improve his quickness even more. I’m buying Coates as the Steelers’ No. 2 receiver and one you want in Fantasy Football, not Wheaton. (Update: I still believe in Coates, but he’s a stash and hope option versus being worthy of a draft pick now).
Ladarius Green, PIT – (if healthy) Sticking with the Steelers, Green’s upside was stunted in San Diego with Antonio Gates pulling the Frank Gore card and simply not going away. Green steps in for the retired Heath Miller, who posted a few TE1 seasons in his time with 18 touchdowns in his first three seasons and two years with 115 or more Fantasy points (standard). As mentioned with Coates and Wheaton, there is a hole left by Bryant’s suspension, and Green can be the touchdown replacement. It’s quite possible that both Coates and Wheaton rack up plenty of yards but low touchdown totals (although, I think Coates can notch six or more) with Green being a big red zone option for Roethlisberger. Think of Green as Thomas in New Orleans… or, just think of Green as the Heath Miller that had four seasons with six-plus touchdowns. For reference, 600 yards and five touchdowns would have ranked as a TE1 last year. (Update: Unless Green can get health and on the field, this entire breakdown is moot.)
Jason Witten, DAL – Hey, Tony Romo is back… for now. This is really all about Romo… and maybe a bit more value in PPR leagues. Over the last four seasons (Witten’s age 30s seasons to get a good idea of who he is now), Witten averaged nearly two more points per game with the big difference in touchdowns – 0.36 per game versus 0.07, or about six and one over a full season. Even as disappointing as last season was and without Romo for 12 games, Witten still finished as TE12. Why is everyone writing him off already?
Vance McDonald, SF – If you’ve read any of my offseason work, McDonald’s inclusion should come as no surprise. No, there is no guarantee how the offense will work, if Chip Kelly will favor McDonald or who even starts at quarterback. The upside is definitely there in Kelly’s offense though. Once the 49ers started using McDonald as a true No. 1 tight end, he posted a 21/262/3 line over the final six games. That works out to a 56/696/8 line over a full season. That easily trumps the 46/455/5 line for Julius Thomas, Fantasy Football’s 15th best tight end. Even if that’s all McDonald musters, he’s well worth a gamble at the end of drafts, as that’s fringe starter worthy in many leagues.