by Professor Wagstaff

While many Fantasy Football owners focus on the running backs position as the starting point for their roster, it’s a Horsefeathers4Wagstaff tenet to, instead, stockpile Wide Receivers at the top of the Fantasy Football draft.  The idea is to take advantage of the fact that many owners severely undervalue the position and by grabbing two WR as soon as possible, you create a huge talent gap between your squad and the first of your opponents to realize that the pool just got very thin.  Now, I wouldn’t recommend that you burn one of the top five picks on a wideout but, if you do find yourself in that position, take an elite back and use the next two picks at WR.  You’ll not only end up with two elite players but you’ll likely start a position run that nets you a RB that slips through the cracks. 

Fantasy Football Rankings for Wide Receiver:

Studs

Andre Johnson is the man here, as the Texans’ superstar carried Waggy’s Holy Shirts and Pants to a semifinal appearance all by himself last season.  220 catches over the last two seasons and an emerging QB in Matt Schaub make him the top guy on our list.   He’ll grab another 100 REC this year and set a career high in TD…  Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald may be the most talented WR in the league but he’s got one drawback for Fantasy Owners that doesn’t exist for the others on this list: A star on the other side.  Fitzgerald’s career year was aided immensely by the prolonged absence of Anquan Boldin, who traditionally scores more TD.  Fitz will still be worth your first pick but his AVG and TD will likely drop…  Imagine what  Calvin Johnson could do if he wasn’t the focus of every team facing the Lions.  In a winless season, he managed 100 YDS in 11 games and scored 12 TD… With Tom Brady returning, Randy Moss should once again be the league’s best home run hitter.  Even though Mat Cassel did an incredible job guiding the Pats to the brink of the playoffs last year, he led a scaled down offense designed to limit mistakes, which hurt Moss owners.  In ’09′ however, chicks dig the long ball.

Stars

The arrivals of Matt Ryan and Michael Turner made a new man of Roddy White as he became Atlanta’s go-to receiver in their unexpected playoff season.  The only thing holding him back was a meager TD total of 7.  As Ryan improves, look for White to top the 88 REC and 1,382 YDS he delivered in ’08… Despite missing 4 games, Anquan Boldin still managed 89 REC and 11 TD.  He’s, once again, looking for a new contract and could find himself taking a back seat to Fitzgerald as the Cards’ shift the focus of their offense to the guy who’s staying.  He’s worth a 2nd or 3rd rounder, just don’t reach… With Marvin Harrison finally out of the picture, Reggie Wayne will get Peyton Manning’s undivided attention.  Considering how well he’s done while sharing it, Wayne is looking at a career year…  Steve Smith was suspended by the Panthers for the first two games of last season then made geniuses of all the Fantasy owners willing to wait for him.  He had over 1,400 YDS on 78 REC.  The only concern here is that his TD total (6) declined for the 4th straight season.

Sleepers

Michael Crabtree was such a great college receiver that Matt Millen would have drafted him were he still the man in Detroit.  As it is, Crabtree brings his incredible skills to San Fran, where he’ll probably team with Josh Morgan to form a terrific young tandem… Good news, bad news for Jericho Cotchery of the Jets. The departure of Laveraneus Coles means that he becomes the big gun but the absence of an established QB could hinder the process.  Bet on Mark Sanchez and take a flier on Cotchery as your third receiver…  Houston’s Kevin Walter is entering his contract year, (we love that), is playing with a QB on the verge of stardom and has defenses focusing on teammate Andre Johnson.  A repeat of last year’s stellar 60 REC, 900 YDS and 8 TD at the cost of a late round pick will make any Fantasy player smile.

Slippers

Has Terrell Owens finally run out of teams willing to put up with his nonsense?  Buffalo is this year’s desperate suitor, acquiring TO in the offseason.  The Bills will likely struggle in the AFC  East, he won’t like sharing the ball with Lee Evans and QB Trent Edwards is nowhere near established enough to command Owens’ respect.  Look for a Thanksgiving meltdown…  Braylon Edwards didn’t make it to the third round of most drafts last year and cost his owners dearly.  A season long case of the drops led to off season trade rumors that never became reality.  Now, he’s back in Cleveland with the same uncertain QB situation and a new coach.  Be careful.

Stiffs

At the end of most drafts, an owner looking to fill his roster inevitably sees a recognizable name and figures there’s no harm in taking the guy.  That’s how Seattle’s Nate Burleson ends up on most fantasy teams.  Don’t let it be yours… Michael Crabtree spells the end of the line for Frisco’s  Isaac Bruce who will be a third down option at best…  Chris Chambers was supposed to find the fountain of youth in San Diego last year.  Instead, he found just 33 REC and 5 TD’s.  Cross Chris off your list.

Professor Wagstaff’s Top 25 Fantasy Football Picks for WR:

  1. Andre Johnson
  2. Larry Fitzgerald
  3. Calvin Johnson
  4. Randy Moss
  5. Roddy White
  6. Anquan Boldin
  7. Reggie Wayne
  8. Greg Jennings
  9. Steve Smith
  10. Marques Colston
  11. Roy Williams
  12. Wes Welker
  13. Dwayne Bowe
  14. Brandon Marshall
  15. Vince Jackson
  16. Braylon Edwards
  17. Michael Crabtree
  18. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
  19. Antonio Bryant
  20. Santonio Holmes
  21. Jericho Cotchery
  22. Terrell Owens
  23. Laveraneus Coles
  24. Hines Ward
  25. Kevin Walter

If you were in an AL only league, it is highly unlikely that you enjoyed a successful season without a few of these sleepers falling into your lap.  Even in deep leagues, it is likely that most, if not all, of the list was either drafted very late or acquired as free agents.  However they were acquired, they provided a much needed boost to owners who went on to win their leagues.

In a season that saw perennial Fantasy studs like Jorge Posada, Carlos Guillen, Hideki Matsui, Erik Bedard, Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Chien Ming Wang all miss huge chunks of the season to injury, the skill of Roto players was tested throughout the season as free agent pickups became critical to each team.  Missing from the list below were players like Texas Rangers’ CI/OF Chris Davis who were called up in midseason.  Although their performance was terrific, it fell just short of our sleepers’ year long excellence.

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Catcher- Owners of Indians’ C Victor Martinez suffered through a miserable two months before his injuries became too much for him to deal with.  Taking a little sting out of the high pick that was likely used to acquire the Tribe’s backstop, however, was Kelly Shoppach, whose performance as VMart’s replacement may have permanently moved Martinez to 1B.  Shoppach belted 21 HR for Cleveland to lead all AL catchers and vaulted himself into the upper echelon at the position for 2009.

First Base-Even though he had produced a few 100 RBI seasons in Tampa Bay, it had been quite awhile since Aubrey Huff of the Orioles’ had drawn much fantasy draft day interest.  That won’t be the case next spring as Huff was one of the AL’s most productive hitters.  His .304 BA 32 HR 108 RBI were better than many that were picked in the first few rounds.

Second Base-Even though his post season performance brought him a lot of attention last season, there were not many who predicted the MVP caliber season turned in by Red Sox second sacker, Dustin Pedroia.  His .326 BA was a mild surprise but his 17HR and 83 RBI vaulted him into the first three rounds of 2009.

Third Base-Melvin Mora of the Orioles managed to turn the clock back a few years in his most productive season since 2004. Melvin poked 23 HR and had 104 RBI despite going undrafted in many leagues.

Shortstop-In a weak crop, Royals SS Mike Aviles gave owners a mid season boost by posting a .324 BA, 10 HR and 51 RBI after being called up to the big club in June.

Outfield-Jack Cust had 33 HR and posted a .374 OBP in Oakland.  In the Windy City, Carlos Quentin managed to win the AL HR crown despite missing the last month with a broken wrist.  His 36 HR and 100 RBI were leading the MVP race when he went down.  Milton Bradley rebounded from a knee injury and emotional meltdown in San Diego by making the AL All Star squad.  Hitting behind Josh Hamilton in the Rangers’ powerful lineup, Bradley flourished.

Starting Pitcher- Cliff Lee came off of most free agent lists and onto the top of everyone’s Cy Young list.  His 23-2 season was even more impressive considering the Indians’ season long struggles.

Reliever-With all of their sleepers, it’s no wonder the Orioles had their best season in a few years.  RP George Sherrill rounds out the list.  His 31 S in his first season as a closer boosted many owners into the top half of the standings.

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