The Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald is the consensus top ranked fantasy wide receiver, courtesy of his outstanding performance last year and other worldly run in the playoffs. The Cardinals offense returns its nucleus and there’s little reason to think Fitzgerald won’t duplicate his performance of 2008. In fact, there’s a good chance he will be even better in 2009.
There is also general consensus that the 2nd through 4th ranked fantasy wide receivers come from a group of Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss. The question is, who should be the 2nd ranked fantasy wide receiver on your draft board?
There are sound arguments for all three. Andre Johnson had a stellar year in 2008, finishing as fantasy’s 2nd ranked wideout. The Texans offense looks ready to bust out after having a very solid year both running and passing in 2008. If quarterback Matt Schaub can actually stay healthy for 16 games, Johnson could hit 1,600 yards and 10 plus TD.
Calvin Johnson was superb in his 2nd season with the Lions, posting 78 receptions for 1,331 yards and 12 TD despite questionable play at the quarterback position and a running game that stumbled early. Kevin Smith figures to solidify the running game in 2009 but there are questions at quarterback, where Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford, the 1st selection in the NFL Draft, are battling it out for the starting position. Johnson put up big numbers with marginal play at the position in 2008 so there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again in 2009, although there is some risk that the team will go with Stafford and risk the growing pains.
Moss gets quarterback Tom Brady back and has an opportunity to duplicate his 2007 season, perhaps the best performance by a wide receiver in the history of the game. Reports out of New England indicate Brady is fully healthy and Moss owners should reap the rewards of that. Brady validated those reports in his pre-season game appearance against the Eagles, throwing 2 TD in the first half. Expecting Moss to once again approach his 2007 production of 1,493 yards and 23 TD at the age of 32 is unrealistic. However, he put up 1,008 yards and 11 TD in 2008 and fans of the Patriots know that his numbers would have been much better had Matt Cassel been more accurate with the deep ball. Moss still has excellent speed and it is fair to say that he would have had close to 300 more yards and four or five additional TD had Brady been behind center in 2008. Based on that, Moss is the choice despite his age relative to Johnson and Johnson. ~ Dave
Trying to determine which of this talented trio will have the best 2009 is a little nitpicky. Before we get into the detail, keep in mind that this group represents a clear tier of players and if you are able to wait an extra round (i.e. from the 10th or 11th spot in a 12 team league) and still get one of these three, draft another position (RB) first. When it comes to projecting who to draft of these three, it’s less about predicting who will have the best year and more about assessing the risk. Based on his quarterback, lousy talent around him and shorter history in the league, Calvin Johnson clearly has the most risk of the three making this, for me, a question of Randy Moss vs. Andre Johnson.
Moss is the more intriguing option because of the incredible potential posed by a 2007-like season from Pats QB Tom Brady. Consequently a lot of owners will fall in love with Moss and expect huge numbers. Temper your enthusiasm. The Patriots’ 2007 was a once-in-a-generation occurrence and no matter how healthy Tom Terrific is, you’d be foolish to expect a repeat performance. In a great but not spectacular year, Moss will still produce great numbers in spite of the presence of Wes Welker.
Andre Johnson has emerged as a top wide receiver in football. As the feature player in a dangerous offence, you can expect him to be targeted as much or more than Moss. As Steve Slaton continues to improve, I expect the offence to open up a little offering Johnson even more opportunity to stretch out big gains and score touchdowns. With Owen Daniels likely to pick up more coverage underneath, Johnson should also profit from some play action and deep middle of the field routes.
You really can’t go wrong with Moss or either Johnson, but since I expect an improvement from the Texans overall, Andre Johnson is my pick by a hair. ~ Andy