We’ve gone through QBs and RBs in our Positional Plan series, so now it’s time to dissect the receivers. Rather than spend a lot of time breaking down the first two tiers, let’s just say Tier 1 is made up entirely of Calvin Johnson, who’s so far ahead of the pack that Tier 2 deserves to be completely empty. I’m certainly not champing at the bit to take Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson in the middle of the second round. Let’s get into why right now.
Tier 3: Pair Two WRs with an Elite RB
Fitzgerald deserves an award for managing a top-five fantasy season while trying to catch passes from Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, but his 80 receptions were the worst he’s done in that category since 2006. He also failed to crack 10 TDs for the second straight year. His amazing talent could trump the mediocrity around him, and the confidence drafters are showing in Fitzgerald represents a presumed high floor, but he doesn’t stand much of a chance at returning value. Meanwhile, the next time the brittle Johnson catches 10 TDs in a year will be the first time (seriously, go look it up if you don’t believe me).
There really isn’t any difference between the two guys above and the talent available at the position in the late-third and early-fourth, so non-Megatron owners picking in the middle and end of the draft should just ignore the position till at least the third round.
At the end of the second round though, most of the quality running backs are gone, the top three QBs are gone, and the two stud TEs are off the board. So what else are you going to do? There aren’t a lot of running backs I’d invest in after Jamaal Charles and Darren Sproles come off the board, but if you have an RB you like, or one of the better names happen to fall, by all means, grab them and wait to fill the deeper WR position. However, I find myself with two WRs at the 2/3 turn most of the time in mocks, grabbing two from the group that includes A.J. Green, Wes Welker (especially in PPRs), Julio Jones, Mike Wallace, etc.
The story’s the same at the 3/4 turn, which is why I’m happy letting Fitzgerald and Johnson go in the second. I’d much rather have a top RB combo, or an RB/TE pair, or a top-three QB, and go after two of the aforementioned guys in the mid-to-late third round and early-to-mid fourth round. In fact, I think this third tier extends all the way from Fitzgerald to Marques Colston, spanning about 13 receivers (Fitzgerald, Johnson, Green, Welker, Jones, Wallace, Colston, Roddy White, Greg Jennings, Victor Cruz, Brandon Marshall, Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, in some order). Try and land two of them, especially if you’re in a PPR, by taking two at the 2/3 or the 3/4 turns.
Tier 4: There’s Plenty More Where That Came From
The tier break between the guys above and the players you can find in Tier 4 isn’t all that large, and if you want to put names like Brandon Lloyd, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin (three guys I like), Jordy Nelson and others in Tier 3, I’m not going to stop you.
Even with the small dip in tiers, I’d put another 16 guys in this group, all the way down to Antonio Brown, Eric Decker, Torrey Smith, Reggie Wayne and Robert Meachem. The first three guys have sixth round ADPs, while the last two are gone by the mid-seventh on average.
In leagues that start three receivers, you should be aiming to have all three starters by the time Tier 4 dries up. In PPR leagues that employ a flex, you should try and grab a fourth if at all possible, especially if you weren’t able to land one of the top two TEs in the second round (and therefore have room for four WRs, three RBs and a QB by the eighth round). After this group, things start to get dicey, and you want to have as many every-week starters as you need every week.
Tier 5: Finding Value for the Bench
After I have three receivers, I’m generally looking to fortify my RB stable, find a QB if I don’t have one yet, and try to find a good TE if I’m lacking at the position. While that’s going on, it’s time to look for a valuable bench WR.
Several guys I like in that WR4 range include Denarius Moore, Lance Moore, Nate Washington and Santana Moss, as well as Doug Baldwin a little bit later. If I can add two of those guys to my starting three, I’m very happy with what I’ve done at the position.
Tier 6: So You’re Saying There’s a Chance
Even if you can’t get the backups you want in the later part of the draft, don’t worry. Receivers emerge from seemingly nowhere every year. Today’s afterthought could be tomorrow’s Victor Cruz.
Don’t be afraid to enter the season with just one bench WR or even no bench WRs at all. It’s perfectly fine to grab extra lottery-ticket RBs while the preseason plays out, then to drop the RBs that didn’t hit for undrafted receivers that have something going for them. At any rate, monitor jobs that are up for grabs in August as well as situations that involve passing games that feature new personnel.
Austin Collie could gel with Andrew Luck, David Garrard could win the starting job in Miami and pick any receiver (including Chad Johnson nee Ochocinco) to be his favorite, Leonard Hankerson or Josh Morgan could click with Robert Griffin, and the list goes on and on.
Whatever you do, don’t panic. Build a quality starting unit at the WR position, then take your shots late, even after the draft if necessary.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse and Razzball. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!