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1. Randy Moss,
New England Patriots
It's simple: If Tom Brady is back to the old Tom Brady, Moss is by far the best receiver in fantasy football. With Brady injured last season, back-up Matt Cassel often struggled to throw accurate passes downfield, yet Moss still had 1,008 yards and 11 TDs.
2. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Anyone who watched last year's playoffs knows that Fitzgerald is a beast. The only question is whether a healthy Anquan Boldin will steal away a lot of passes that would have gone to Fitz.
3. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
Johnson could be the most talented pass-catcher in football. He a whopping 115 catches last season for 1,575 yards, the second time in three years he's topped 100 catches. He just needs to do a better job of getting open in the red zone, as Johnson has never topped eight TDs in a season. If quarterback Matt Schaub finally stays healthy, this should be the year Johnson does it.
4. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers
Last year, Smith was the only player in football to average more than 100 receiving yards per game. No one makes the big play like he does, though his fantasy value gets hurt because he's too small to dominate in the red zone.
5. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Wayne's best season (104 catches, 1,510 yards, 10 TDs) came in 2007 when Marvin Harrison was injured. Now that Harrison is no longer on the Colts, Wayne could blow up again.
6. Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals
Boldin might be the toughest receiver in the NFL, capable of making catches underneath and then running over tacklers for big yards. He's usually Kurt Warner's favorite target in the middle of the field, but Larry Fitzgerald usually gets more passes near the end zone.
7. Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers
Jennings has developed some great chemistry with young Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He had a career year last season (80 catches and 1,292 yards) and should continue to grow as his young QB improves.
8. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
White is a dynamite deep threat and should get even better as young quarterback Matt Ryan improves. But the question is whether future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, traded to Atlanta, will start getting a lot of the passes that used to go to White.
9. Terrell Owens, Buffalo Bills
Say what you want about T.O., his best seasons are usually his first year with a new team. Of course, he has his work cut out for him with young quarterback Trent Edwards.
10. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
This is the year that Johnson becomes a true superstar. Sure the Lions have a shaky quarterback situation with rookie Matthew Stafford and so-so veteran Daunte Culpepper. But Johnson is so good that he can make poorly throw passes into big plays. A lot of wide receivers break out in their third season, and I expect Johnson to be no different.
11. Wes Welker, New England Patriots
Welker has an amazing 223 catches in two seasons with the Patriots. He's not a major threat in the end zone (just three TDs last season), but he could at least double that total with a healthy Tom Brady leading the Pats.
12. Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos
There's no denying his talent, but Marshall might be in for a long season. He has run into some trouble off the field, and now will have to produce without rising young QB Jay Cutler throwing him the ball. Plus, the Broncos face a schedule full of top-notch pass defenses.
13. Roy Williams,
With Terrell Owens out of town, Roy Williams becomes the best wide receiver in Big D. Tony Romo might throw more passes to tight end Jason Witten, but Williams has the ability to make more plays in the red zone, where T.O. used to thrive.
14. Laveranues Coles,
The Bengals have a heavenly offense for wide receivers now that Carson Palmer is back. Coles will replace now-Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the Cincy lineup. Housh had 112 catches, 1,143 yards, and 12 TDs in 2007, the last time Palmer was healthy for a season. A big reason for his success was Palmer's accurate arm and defenses double-teaming Chad Johnson. Coles is just as talented as Housh, so expect big things.
15. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
Bowe is supremely talented, catching 86 passes for 1,022 yards despite K.C.'s shaky quarterback play last season. There's good news for this season: The Chiefs added QB Matt Cassel, who was great for the Patriots last season. And Bowe is in his third season, the year many receivers break through as superstars. But there's bad news too: Bowe often loses focus and drops a lot of easy catches. He is also reportedly not doing well under new head coach Todd Haley during training camp. Bowe has plenty of promise, but is also one of the biggest risks out there.
16. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
Colston's 2008 season was an injury-plagued mess, but he has the potential to be a top 5 wide receiver if healthy. He had 1,202 receiving yards and 11 TDs in 2007, and could blow up again in the Saints' pass-happy offense.
17. Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis Colts
With Marvin Harrison gone, Gonzalez is set to step into Indy's starting lineup. He's a great possession receiver who could do big things with Peyton Manning getting him the ball.
18. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seattle Seahawks
Houshmandzadeh is a decent possession receiver who will get a lot of looks in Seattle's West Coast offense. He'll rack up a ton of catches, though yardage will be questionable since he doesn't run routes very far downfield or make tacklers miss after the catch.
19. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
Jackson has emerged as Philly's top wide receiver. He had 912 receiving yards last season, very impressive for a rookie, and showed some major big-play ability. His second season should be even better.
20. Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals
Well, Chad Eight Five definitely has the dumbest name in football. But, fortunately for him, he also will have a healthy Carson Palmer throwing him the ball again. Ochocinco's lack of focus might hold him back a bit, but he's certainly capable of 1,200-plus yards and 10 TDs if everything goes right.
21. Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers
Jackson has overtaken Chris Chambers as San Diego's Number 1 receiver. He's big, fast, and makes a lot of great plays deep. However, I'm a little worried about all the great pass defenses on the Chargers' 2009 schedule.
22. Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bryant emerged as a star last season, racking up 1,248 yards and seven TDs. But beware, Bryant recently needed knee surgery and could miss the entire preseason, and the Bucs are very unsettled at quarterback.
23. Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh Steelers
After his fantastic Super Bowl performance, Holmes is set to become Ben Roethlisberger's favorite receiver. Unfortunately, the Steelers don't rely on the pass as much as many teams, and they often prefer to throw to Hines Ward and Heath Miller when they're near the end zone.
24. Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints
Moore is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but if he's healthy, he could rack up numbers like Wes Welker. Moore will lose some catches if teammate Marques Colston is healthy, but quarterback Drew Brees does look for Moore often in the red zone.
25. Braylon Edwards,
Last season, there wasn't a more disappointing receiver in football than Edwards. He was considered a top three receiver after posting 1,289 yards and a whopping 16 TDs in 2007. But he came back last year and had just 873 yards and three TDs. Part of it was Cleveland's terrible quarterback play, and part of it was Edwards's drops and lack of concentration. He may be able to improve his focus, but I'm not a fan of Brady Quinn, who has been too inaccurate with his throws.
26. Devin Hester,
The Bears now have a star quarterback in Jay Cutler, but no go-to receiver for him to throw to. Hester could become that receiver. He has a ton of speed, but it still learning how to play wide receiver. If he takes a big step forward this season, watch out. As Hester told SIKIDS.com during an interview last month (CLICK HERE to read it!), he has some big numbers in mind.
27. Santana Moss, Washington Redskins
The Redskins should be more comfortable in their second season under head coach Jim Zorn. Moss is still an explosive big-play threat, but I'm not sure he's a great fit in Washington's new West Coast offense.
28. Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos
Royal was great as a rookie, but between the departure of quarterback Jay Cutler and the upcoming schedule full of tough pass defenses, I smell a sophomore slump.
29. Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ward is getting up there in age (33), and Ben Roethlisberger might start going to Santonio Holmes more often after Holmes's Super Bowl heroics. Still, don't count out Ward when they get near the end zone.
30. Bernard Berrian, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have a fierce running game thanks to Adrian Peterson, and that should free up Berrian for some big plays. The question is whether Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson can consistently throw accurate passes for Berrian downfield.
31. Jerricho Cotchery, New York Jets
Cotchery is the clear-cut Number 1 receiver for the Jets, but their lack of a proven quarterback means he'll have a tough time putting up big numbers.
32. Lee Evans, Buffalo Bills
The arrival of Terrell Owens might help the Bills, but it definitely hurts Evans's fantasy value. He's now a Number 2 receiver, and between T.O. demanding the ball and quarterback Trent Edwards's inconsistent play, Evans could disappear in some games.
33. Torry Holt, Jacksonville Jaguars
I'm not sure the 33-year-old Holt has anything left in the tank after years of nagging knee injuries. But the good news is that he'll have a chance to prove himself as Jacksonville's new Number 1 wide receiver.
34. Steve Smith, New York Giants
I expect Smith to emerge as Eli Manning's favorite target. He's not a big-play threat, but he has reliable hands and can make the catches underneath, kind of like T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
35. Donnie Avery, St. Louis Rams
Avery is a super-fast burner who's set to become the Rams' top receiver. But there are two problems. First, St. Louis is switching to a West Coast offense, a change that could limit the offense all season. And second, Avery is dealing with a stress fracture that could keep him out of the first couple games of the regular season.
36. Ted Ginn, Miami Dolphins
Ginn has shown flashes of stardom over his first two seasons, but the problem is that he's a deep threat, and Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington doesn't have the arm strength to find him on the big play often enough.
37. Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers
Greg Jennings has surpassed him as the Packers' top receiver, but Driver can still be solid as a reliable second receiver in a good Packers passing game.
38. Kevin Walter,
Walter isn't a star, but he gets a big boost because opposing defenses are always focusing all their attention on superstar teammate Andre Johnson. Walter had a career-high 899 receiving yards and eight TDs last season, and could top those stats if quarterback Matt Schaub can stay healthy.
39. Percy Harvin,
Harvin is generating a lot of buzz during training camp. He could be the fastest player in the NFL, and he has the kind of quick feet to make defenders look silly with his jukes. I'm not sure the Vikings' run-based offense is creative enough to get Harvin the ball, but it seems like they're going to try. The rookie could have a handful of huge games in 2009.
40. Josh Morgan, San Francisco 49ers
The Niners created a lot of buzz when they drafted Michael Crabtree last April, but don't forget about Morgan. He's a lock to start as long as Crabtree is holding out, and he has the kind of explosiveness and athleticism to make some big plays downfield. I'm not expecting huge things from and Niners receivers, but Morgan is the one I'd most like to own.
41. Derrick Mason, Baltimore Ravens
He retired, then changed his mind and came back. I'm not worried about that as much as I am worried about the mounting injuries for the 35-year-old Mason. The good news is that he's tough enough to play through the pain, and he should be Joe Flacco's favorite target again. Mason has topped 1,000 receiving yards in seven of the past eight seasons!
42. Earl Bennett, Chicago Bears
The Bears are looking for a go-to receiver. If it's not Devin Hester, why not Bennett? He played with new Chicago QB Jay Cutler at Vanderbilt, so the two already have chemistry. The second-year receiver is a good route runner with reliable hands, and playing with Cutler could lead to a breakout season.
43. Steve Breaston, Arizona Cardinals
There aren't many third receivers worth taking in fantasy leagues, but Breaston is one of them. He had 1,006 receiving yards in his second season, and Arizona plays three wide receiver sets often. Of course, Breaston's numbers did get a boost when Anquan Boldin was out with an injury last season.
44. Deion Branch, Seattle Seahawks
I'm not sure Branch will ever be the same because of his chronic knee problems. He could emerge as the second receiver in Seattle, but he'll have lost some explosiveness.
45. Justin Gage, Tennessee Titans
The Titans are one of the most conservative offenses in football, choosing to run it rather than throw. Gage did show some flashes in the red zone last year though, catching six TDs in just 12 games.
46. Chris Chambers, San Diego Chargers
Chambers is now playing second fiddle to Vincent Jackson in San Diego (and third or fourth fiddle if you factor in tight end Antonio Gates and running back LaDainian Tomlinson). Chambers could have the occasional big game, but he's going to be too inconsistent for fantasy owners.
47. Kevin Curtis, Philadelphia Eagles
After a couple of disappointing seasons, including a crucial drop in last year's playoffs, Curtis seems to be slipping. He'll likely fall behind DeSean Jackson and Philly's top wide receiver, and Curtis might have a long way to go before he re-earns quarterback Donovan McNabb's trust.
48. Brian Robiskie, Cleveland Browns
Robiskie is the safest pick among the rookie receivers. He played in a pro style offense at Ohio State, runs great routes, has outstanding hands, and is set to start opposite Braylon Edwards. He'd be higher on this list if not for Brady Quinn's shaky play so far in the NFL.
49. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
Crabtree continues to hold out for a monster contract (and his advisers continue to make dumb comments, CLICK HERE to see). Wide receiver is one of the most difficult positions for a rookie to adjust to. By missing training camp, Crabtree is missing out on a chance to develop chemistry with his quarterbacks and to learn the proper reads and adjustments in the offense. At this rate, the best scenario is that Crabtree doesn't step in as a starter until midseason. He's very talented, but also a very risky pick in fantasy leagues.
50. Bryant Johnson, Detroit Lions
Johnson showed some flashes of talent last season in San Francisco. Considering how opposing defenses will be focusing on fellow Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, Bryant could find himself open quite a bit in 2009. What he does in those situations will determine whether he's a solid fantasy player or not.
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