Exceeding the expectations from his strongest advocates (like me), Browns receiver Josh Gordon broke out in a huge way in 2013.
Despite a two-game suspension to begin the season, the second-year receiver set a franchise record with a league-leading 1,646 yards, which more than doubled his rookie season total of 805 yards. With an 87/1,646/9 line, Gordon led all wide receivers in fantasy points despite a less-than-ideal situation at quarterback and missing two games.
Not only did Gordon have 100-plus yards in exactly half of his 14 games last season, he had at least 67 yards in all but two games in 2013. In addition, he became the first player in NFL history to have back-to-back 200-yard receiving games as he broke the team's single-game receiving record (as Buggin' Out once said, "two times").
That's the good news.
The bad news, however, is that Gordon is facing a year-long suspension. Gordon met with league officials on August 1st in New York and via conference call after practice on August 4th and there is still no word whether the suspension will be upheld or reduced.
While a full-season ban appears most likely, I'd consider rolling the dice with Gordon as a WR5 in the hopes of a lighter suspension. If his suspension is reduced, he will automatically become a must-start WR1 when active. Stay tuned ...
Here are my updated fantasy football wide receiver rankings (standard scoring) for 2014:
1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
With tremendous size and athleticism, no receiver can take over a game like Megatron. Counting the only playoff appearance in his career, Johnson has a total of six 200-yard games, the most in NFL history. Over the past three seasons, Johnson has averaged a statistical line of 101/1,712/11.
2. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
In his second season with Peyton Manning, DT's numbers were nearly identical to his first season. After finishing with 94/1,434/10 in 2012, Thomas had 92 catches for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. Thomas should be a lock for 90/1,400/10 (or better) in 2014.
3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
Although he saw a year-over-year drop in yardage from 1,382 to 1,233 yards, Bryant set career highs (barely, by one in each case) in receptions (93) and touchdowns (13). Battling a back injury, Bryant still played in all 16 games last season.
One of the most physically-gifted players in the league, Bryant is one of only two wide receivers with at least 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns over the past three years. Another 1,200-yard season (or better) with double-digit touchdowns should be a slam dunk for Bryant in 2014.
4. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Through his first three seasons, Green has 260 receptions for 3,833 yards and 29 touchdowns. In a three-year span to start a career, no player has had more receptions than Green and only Randy Moss has more receiving yards (4,163) than he does.
In each of his three seasons, Green's numbers have improved — 65/1,057/7 (2011), 97/1,350/11 (2012) and 98/1,426/11 (2013). As the team transitions from a pass-first offense under Jay Gruden to a run-first scheme led by Hue Jackson, that trend may not continue but Green remains an elite and safe WR1.
5. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Before his foot injury sidelined him for the remainder of last season, Jones had at least six receptions and 76 yards in all of the games in which he appeared. During that five-game stretch, he hauled in 41 catches for 580 yards and two touchdowns. Compared to 2011 (73.8 yards per game) and 2012 (74.9 YPG), Jones had made huge strides, no pun intended, in 2013 (116.0 YPG).
6. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
Since his reunion with quarterback Jay Cutler, Marshall has a total of 218 receptions for 2,803 yards and 23 touchdowns over the past two seasons combined. In his past five seasons with Cutler going back to his days in Denver, Marshall has a minimum of 100 receptions and 1,120 yards each season.
7. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (Nelson's 2014 fantasy profile)
The loss of Aaron Rodgers for a huge chunk of the season had an adverse affect on Nelson's season, but he still managed to finish as the 11th-highest scoring fantasy receiver in 2013. Nelson had 85 receptions for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns, but he had a line of 49/810/7 in the nine games that Rodgers started and finished. In other words, his yardage and touchdown totals would have almost certainly been higher had Rodgers had never broken his collarbone.
Since his breakout season (2011), Nelson has averaged 73 receptions for 1,208 yards and 11 touchdowns per 16 games. Along with Megatron and Dez, Nelson is one of only three wide receivers with at least 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns over the past three seasons combined.
8. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
Jeffery broke out in a big way in 2013. Along with Gordon, Jeffery was one of only two players to record multiple 200-yard receiving games last year and he also set his franchise's single-game record for most receiving yards.
With career highs across the board, Jeffery finished with 89 receptions for a team-high 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns and added 105 rushing yards. The only receiver with more yards from scrimmage than Jeffery (1,526) was Gordon (1,734).
As one-half of the league's best wide receiver duo, Jeffery is protected by opposing defenses looking to slow down the receiver opposite him (Marshall) as much (or more) as they will focus on Jeffery himself. Even though Marshall is ranked just ahead of Jeffery, both receivers are stud WR1's in terms of fantasy outlook.
9. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
With Mike Wallace signing a free-agent deal with the Dolphins last offseason, Brown had a breakout season as the team's No. 1 receiver even though he previously had an 1,100-yard season a couple of years ago as well.
Brown became the second receiver in franchise history to finish with triple-digit receptions (110) and was only two shy of tying the club record. Only Gordon had more receiving yards than Brown (1,499), who also scored a career-high eight touchdowns.
Perhaps the most amazing part of Brown's huge success in 2013 was his consistency. Brown had a minimum of five receptions and 50 yards in all 16 games last season. No other player has ever done that in all 16 games of a season.
10. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
Not only did Rodgers miss several games due to injury, so did Cobb, who played only six games last season. The dynamic 23-year-old receiver averaged career highs in receiving yards (72.2 per game) and rushing yards (13.0 per game) when he was on the field.
With good health in 2014, Cobb should have a WR1 type of season. Based on last year's averages, Cobb would have finished with 1,363 YFS had he maintained that pace over a full 16-game season. Only eight wideouts had more than 1,363 YFS last year.
11. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
There have been two primary knocks on Johnson: durability and lack of touchdowns. While he has played in 16 games in back-to-back seasons, he has never caught double-digit touchdowns in his 11-year career.
When he has played 16 games in a season, however, he has been extremely productive. Playing a full 16-game slate in four of the past six seasons, Johnson has a minimum of 101 receptions (2009) and 1,407 yards (2013) in those four campaigns. Only Marvin Harrison (four) has as many 100/1,400 seasons in NFL history as Johnson.
12. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons (White's fantasy profile
While the injuries kept White from having one of his typical seasons, he finally hit full stride by season's end. In five games in December, White finished with 43 receptions for 502 yards and two touchdowns. (That's comparable to a pace of 137.6 receptions and 1,606.4 yards.) In the last five games of the season, there were only three receivers with at least 500 yards: Gordon (658), Jeffery (561) and White (502).
Even though Julio Jones has emerged as the team's No. 1 receiver now, White is only 32 years old and should have a couple more outstanding seasons in him assuming good health. Before last year, White had 1,153-plus yards in six consecutive seasons and I think 1,100-1,200 yards is a reasonable expectation in 2014. With Tony Gonzalez retired, there should be enough targets to go around to allow Jones and White to both produce WR1 numbers.
13. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
Along with Cincinnati's A.J. Green, New Orleans' Marques Colston, Allen became the third rookie receiver to reach the 1,000-yard milestone in the past nine seasons.
Allen led the Chargers in receiving across the board with 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. Once the calendar turned October, Allen was especially good. In the 14 games played in October through January including the playoffs, Allen had six 100-yard games and scored 10 touchdowns.
With limited snaps in the first couple of games as a rookie combined with working to improve his speed this offseason, Allen could put up bigger numbers in 2014.
14. Victor Cruz, New York Giants
As disappointing of a season as it was for the Giants, their offense and Cruz, Cruz still managed to finish with 73 receptions for 998 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games. In fact, he averaged more yards per game in 2013 (71.3 YPG) than he did in 2012 (68.3).
Of course, the big difference was touchdowns as Cruz had a total of 19 touchdowns in 2011 and 2012 combined and only four last year. Even worse, he had three of those touchdowns against the Cowboys in Week 1 and only one other touchdown (Week 4) in his final 13 games.
With the transition to the new offensive scheme under Ben McAdoo, Cruz should bounce back and see his receptions total increase. In fact, NJ.com's Jordan Raanan recently wrote that "100 receptions is a possibility" for Cruz.
15. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In his second season with the Bucs, Jackson set a career high with 78 receptions and once again exceeded 1,200 receiving yards with seven touchdowns. While he has more than his fair of inconsistency from week to week, a 70/1,200/7 season (or better) should be a lock for Jackson.
More WRs: Continue to WRs 16-30
More 2014 Fantasy Football rankings:
More of our 2014 fantasy football resources:
Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle