Fantasy Football Rankings: Way-too-early 2014 WR Rankings

Exceeding even the expectations from his strongest advocates (including 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 led the NFL in receiving yards (a franchise-record 1,646) and more than doubled his rookie season total of 805 yards.

With 87 receptions for the league-best 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns, 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 (twice).

There are three main areas of concern about Gordon heading into 2014: (1) uncertainty at the quarterback position, (2) a change in coaching and (3) a possible full-year suspension with another mishap in the league's substance-abuse program.

Of those concerns, the possible suspension is a real concern. When rich and famous athletes have a lot of free time in the offseason, they don't always make the most responsible decisions.

Breakout season for Alshon

Like Gordon, Chicago's Alshon Jeffery was a second-year receiver that 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 the franchise's single-game record for most receiving yards.

With career highs across the board, Jeffery finished with 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns and he added 105 rushing yards. The only receiver with more yards from scrimmage than Jeffery (1,526) was Gordon (1,734).

Unlike Gordon, Jeffery currently has better pieces around him as the Bears know who will be their everyday starter at quarterback and opposing defenses will focus on slowing down the receiver opposite him, Brandon Marshall, as much as they will focus on Jeffery himself.

Going into the 2014 season, I have Marshall ranked just ahead of Jeffery, but both receivers are stud WR1's in terms of fantasy outlook.

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ABrown: A model of consistency

With 60 Minutes signing a free-agent deal with the Dolphins, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown had a breakout season even though he had a 1,100-yard season a few years ago.

Brown became the second receiver in franchise history to finish with triple-digit receptions (110) and was only two shy of the club record (112). Only Gordon had more receiving yards than Brown (1,499), who also scored a career-high eight touchdowns.

Along with Gordon and Jeffery, Brown was one of three receivers to finish with 1,500-plus yards from scrimmage in 2013.

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.

Going back to 2000, no other player has done that in all 16 games of a season. From 2000-2013, only one player had 15 such games and that happened in 2001. Washington's Pierre Garcon, who led the league in receptions (113), had the second-most games (13) with a minimum line of 5/50 last season.

Allen: Only third 1,000-yard rookie in past nine years

In the previous eight years before last season, only two other players had done what San Diego's Keenan Allen did in 2013.

With the exception of Cincinnati's A.J. Green, New Orleans' Marques Colston and now Allen, no other rookie receiver has reached 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.

As great as Allen's rookie season was, I expect bigger and better things from him in 2014.

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Edelman: 69/729/5 over his past 8G

In his first four seasons in the NFL, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman had a total of 69 catches for 714 yards and four touchdowns.

Not only did he exceed those numbers in 2013, but he was especially good down the stretch as Tom Brady's most trusted target.

Finishing 10th in the league in targets (151), Edelman's full-year numbers were 105 receptions, which was fourth-most in the NFL, for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns.

Among the top 25 leaders in receptions, the only player with a lower yards-per-reception average than Edelman (10.1) was Saints running back Pierre Thomas (6.7). With his modest YPR and low number of touchdowns, Edelman is more productive in point-per-reception (PPR) formats than standard-scoring leagues.

In Edelman's final eight games counting both playoff games, he had a minimum of six receptions and 64 yards in every game. During that span, he racked up a stat line of 69/729/5. Purely to illustrate how productive he's been over the past half-season, maintaining that pace for a full 16-game season would equate to a stat line of 138/1,458/10!

Going into the offseason, Edelman is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but I would expect the Patriots to make Edelman one of their priorities to re-sign after his breakout season.

Here are my initial fantasy football wide receiver rankings for 2014:

1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
2. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
4. Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
5. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
6. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
7. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
8. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
9. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
10. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
11. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins
12. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
13. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
14. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
15. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
16. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
17. Victor Cruz, New York Giants
18. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
19. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
20. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
21. Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks
22. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos
23. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
24. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
25. Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
26. Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
27. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
28. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
29. Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins
31. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
32. Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
33. Rueben Randle, New York Giants
34. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
35. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
36. Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
37. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
38. Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
39. Danny Amendola, New England Patriots
40. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
41. Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys
42. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
43. Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings
44. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams
45. Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots
46. Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills
47. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers
48. Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins
49. Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans
50. Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills
51. Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
52. Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers
53. Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks
54. Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers
55. Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles
56. Rod Streater, Oakland Raiders
57. James Jones, Green Bay Packers
58. Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers
59. Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders
60. Da'Rick Rogers, Indianapolis Colts
61. Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints

Over the past week or so, I have posted my early 2014 fantasy football quarterback rankings and my early 2014 fantasy football running back rankings as well.

Also, check out my early one-man 2014 fantasy football mock draft.

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