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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Top fantasy football keepers: Wide receivers

Ever watch an NFL game and think to yourself, “I wish that player was on my team”?

If you’re reading this blog, the answer is undoubtedly yes.

Well, Larry Fitzgerald has been that guy for me during the postseason. The size, the speed, the ability to outleap any defensive back — there’s a lot to like.

So much so that Fitzgerald and fellow beast/wide receiver Andre Johnson are going to leave fantasy owners with some very difficult decisions in the middle of the first round this year.

In point-per-reception leagues, Johnson and Fitzgerald outscored every running back but DeAngelo Williams (who, depending on the scoring system, likely finished third overall — ahead of Fitzgerald but behind Drew Brees and Johnson).

When it’s your turn in Round 1, assuming Adrian Peterson is off the board, do you select Michael Turner, Steve Slaton or Matt Forte and hope their 2008 season was a sign of much more to come? Or do you take the sure thing — the 100-catch, 1,400-yard wideouts who should score at least 10 touchdowns?

Decisions, decisions.

Not so tough: The top two receivers in our list of the best keepers.

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (age 25): His averages the last two seasons: 98 catches, 1,420 yards, 11 TDs. Fitzgerald has had 96 or more receptions for 1,400 or more yards and at least 10 TDs in three of the last four seasons.

2. Andre Johnson, Texans (27): His 2008 numbers (115 catches for 1,575 yards and eight TDs) were better than Fitzgerald’s, but the latter has been more consistent and less injury-prone.

3. Calvin Johnson, Lions (23): How good is he going to be? Here’s a hint: Johnson had 78 receptions for 1,331 yards and 12 TDs for an 0-16 team with Dan Orlovsky, Daunte Culpepper, Jon Kitna and Drew Stanton at quarterback.

4. Brandon Marshall, Broncos (24): Turns out that one-game suspension to start the season didn’t mean much. Marshall, who had 104 catches for 1,265 yards, just needs to improve upon his six touchdowns.

5. Roddy White, Falcons (27): White has a combined 171 receptions for 2,584 yards the last two seasons, the 26-year-old Turner ran for 1,741 yards and 18 TDs in his first season in Atlanta, and Matt Ryan was an MVP candidate as a rookie quarterback. It's no longer a bad thing to have multiple Falcons on your team.

6. Greg Jennings, Packers (25): His TD total dropped from 12 to nine in his third season, but he more than made up for it by catching 80 passes for 1,292 yards.

7. Steve Smith, Panthers (29): He throws a mean punch, and he’s also capable of racking up 1,421 yards despite being suspended for the first two games of the season.

8. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals (28): He only needed 12 games to accumulate 89 receptions, 1,038 yards and 11 TDs. If he continues to ask for a new contract, it should be an interesting offseason, especially with 1,000-yard, 25-year-old receiver Steve Breaston waiting in the wings.

9. Reggie Wayne, Colts (30): If he produces as he did in 2007 (104 receptions, 1,510 yards and 10 TDs), this ranking is a little low. Even in a “down” year, Wayne had 82 receptions for 1,145 yards.

10. Wes Welker, Patriots (27): In PPR leagues, it never hurts to have a player who has caught 112 and 111 passes for 1,175 and 1,165 yards the last two seasons.

11. Randy Moss, Patriots (31): If you’re playing for 2009, he’s among the best. If you’re one of those keeper-league owners who’s looking two years ahead (and if so, why?), this ranking is too high.

12. Eddie Royal, Broncos (22): A repeat of his 91-catch season seems about right, but he should do much better than 980 yards and five TDs.

13. Marques Colston, Saints (25): Before holding his 10-game numbers from 2008 against him, remember he had 98 catches for 1,202 yards and 11 TDs in 2007 and caught 70 passes and scored eight times as a rookie in ’06.

14. DeSean Jackson, Eagles (22): He scored only two TDs as a rookie, but Jackson, who had 62 receptions for 912 yards, should be Donovan McNabb’s best receiver since his good buddy Terrell Owens.

15. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (24): His receptions increased from 70 to 86 in his second year. We can only hope he’ll still have Tyler Thigpen throwing to him next season.

16. Lance Moore, Saints (25): This ranking is a gamble for a Toledo product who had all of 33 career receptions before being one of fantasy’s biggest surprises in his third year.

17. Terrell Owens, Cowboys (35): Whether or not he stays in Dallas is up for debate. What can’t be questioned: His ability to divide a locker room, all while catching 80 passes for 1,200 yards and double-digit TDs.

18. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals (31): His yardage (from 1,143 to 904) and TD totals (from 12 to four) dropped in 2008, but he is likely to leave as a free agent, which should help his fantasy value — especially if he goes to, say, Indianapolis.

19. Anthony Gonzalez, Colts (24): Assuming Marvin Harrison is released and Houshmandzadeh isn’t added, this former Buckeye should post big numbers opposite Wayne.

20. Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers (27): If Moore is a gamble, Bryant is Charles Barkley in Vegas for a three-day weekend. Regardless, I’m willing to take a chance on a player who was among fantasy’s best seven or eight receivers last season.

Deserves better: Santana Moss is only 29 and has the numbers to crack the top 20, but I can’t get past his disappointing 2007 and 2006 seasons.

Names to remember: The aforementioned Breaston had 77 receptions for 1,006 yards as the Cardinals’ third receiver. If he starts, he’s a top-15 receiver. ... Vincent Jackson outproduced Chris Chambers and Antonio Gates in his fourth season with the Chargers. He should catch at least 70 passes in 2009.

Brownie bits: The 2007 Braylon Edwards would’ve cracked the top 10 on this list. The 2008 Edwards, whose on-field drops were exceeded only by his practice-field flop (an injury suffered while racing a teammate barefooted? Donte Stallworth’s biggest contribution to the Browns in 2008 was partially curtailing Edwards’ season before it started), isn't in the top 30. I wouldn’t be surprised if Edwards was very good next season. I also wouldn’t be shocked if he was on your bench by Week 3.

Next: Tight ends


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