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Catching Fire: Targeting WRs

Historically speaking, running backs have been the “prime cut” delicacy ordered in the first and often early second rounds in most fantasy football drafts. Despite the increasing popularity of PPR leagues (points-per-reception), which place more value on receivers and also shared workloads among backs, running backs continue to dominate the majority of first round rankings. With that being said, wide receivers have proven to be a consistent force and often less of a gamble. Let’s take a look at several top wide receivers that may have a chance to break out or reach new heights of stardom in 2015.

Demaryius Thomas just got paid! Denver’s top receiver and top-five finisher at wide receiver over last three seasons, will be earning a guaranteed $22 million in 2015, he has dropped several pounds to become even faster, and will be turning 28 years old. Also, don’t take for granted that a reportedly “healthy” Peyton Manning will be throwing to him. Thomas should only be competing for receptions with Emmanuel Sanders, as both Wes Welker and Julius Thomas will no longer be lining up beside him. Despite solid 2012 and 2013 campaigns, Thomas was able to rack up almost 200 more yards and average over 100 yards per game in 2014. Another important but often over-looked statistic is YAC or “yards after catch.” Thomas finished second among all wideouts in YAC last season.  Don’t be surprised if he finishes in the top ten of all fantasy players for 2015.

If you mix elite skills with youth and then add a “dash” of swagger, your recipe would look a lot like Odell Beckham. With only 12 games under his belt in 2014, Beckham earned Offensive Rookie of the Year, landed on the 2015 Madden cover, and make one of the greatest catches of all time. Although he missed the first four games of 2014, Beckham accrued over 1,300 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, and solidified his place as a top wideout in the league. Some critics may argue against an encore performance especially with Victor Cruz returning healthy after missing the majority of 2014 with a patellar tendon tear. I don’t expect Beckham to finish as the top wideout, but definitely in the first tier.

Brandin Cooks was a highly touted sleeper for 2014 that appeared on the brink of a breakout, but then a thumb injury ended his season prematurely. Without Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, or Pierre Thomas bogarting targets from Drew Brees, 2015 will be a breakout season for the young wideout. Brees and Cooks spent time training together in San Diego in the offseason, which has already reflected itself this preseason. Cooks should top 1,000 yards this season with a very high ceiling as Brees’ top target.

Julian Edelman seems be frequently looked over. With Tom Brady’s suspension still looming, the Pats’ receiver will undoubtedly drop in the rankings chart, yet again. Despite missing two games in 2014, Edelman totaled nearly 1,000 yards and almost 100 catches. Whether Brady or backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are throwing to him, Edelman should repeat and potentially surpass his 2014 numbers and is being drafted in the mid-teens among wide receivers.

Randall Cobb has been electric since debuting with the Green Bay Packers and erupted for 1,287 receiving yards and 12 scores last season. Already ranked as a top wideout, Cobb’s value will now increase with the season-ending injury to Jordy Nelson. With Green Bay’s powerhouse offense led by a more spry Aaron Rodgers, Cobb will have a monster season ahead.

Tons of fantasy football drafts will be occurring over the next two weeks. Good luck drafting!

About Marc Griffis

Marc Griffis has competed in fantasy football, baseball, and basketball leagues since 2005. Marc has written "The Dive" for Fantasy Sharks since 2010. Additionally, his expertise is featured in David Gonos' E-books "101 Fantasy Baseball Tips" and "101 Fantasy Football Tips". Lastly, Marc competed in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association SiriusXM Fantasy Baseball experts' league from 2012-2014.

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