The AFC North receivers might be the most difficult group to rate. While the overall talent is there, the production of late has not been, so any fantasy projections are speculative at best.
1. Braylon Edwards
This pick is sure to be scrutinized. While there’s no denying Edwards’ talent—in 2007 he caught 16 TDs for nearly 1,300 yards—last year a severe case of butterfingers saw his production decrease immensely, to less than 900 yards and three TDs.
A lot of that can also be attributed to the horrific year offensively in Cleveland. This year, which also happens to be a contract year, usually great incentive for the player, look for Braylon to rebound and reach the 1,200 yard mark with at least 10 TDs.
2. Chad Ocho Cinco
It appears that enough is enough, even for Chad. Ocho Cinco’s antics in an attempt to get out of Cincinnati have proved futile and his overall production has taken a huge hit to the dismay of fantasy owners. The one time top five NFL receiver produced only 540 yards and four TDs in 2008.
And this has a lot of media questioning his desire for the game. A recent showing at a non mandatory mini camp however, leads us to believe that Ocho Cinco is ready to put the past behind him and once again post solid numbers; look for No. 85 to reach the 1,000 yard mark with 10TDs.
3. Santonio Holmes
The Super Bowl MVP had the game of his life in Tampa, catching nine balls for 131 yards and the game winning TD. That type of ending to a season usually propels a player to great things the following.
Now firmly entrenched as Big Ben’s go-to-guy, look for Holmes to step up and hit the thousand yard mark with between eight to 10 TDs.
4. Hines Ward
Ward had the better season of the two (Holmes), finishing with over a thousand yards and seven TDs, but age and injuries are beginning to catch up and his numbers are on the decline.
Still, in Pittsburgh’s finesse offense—three wideout formations, etc.—he’ll have his opportunities and look for Ward to match his seven TD total from last season as the short to medium range target.
5. Derrick Mason
Even at age 35, Mason still ranks among the better receivers in the game. And he’s still proving he can impact a fantasy roster with over a thousand yards and five TDs in 2008. Look for him to post solid numbers once again as the Ravens offense should take another step forward in year two of Joe Flacco’s development.
Sleeper - Limas Sweed
While he only caught six balls in the 2008 regular season, he’ll now be called upon to replace Nate Washington as Pittsburgh’s deep threat as the number three wideout. At 6′4″, 220 pounds and with good speed, look for between 40-50 catches and at least five TDs.
None of the AFC North Receivers should go in the top two rounds of your fantasy draft. Edwads and Ocho Cinco should come off the board in round three, while Holmes will be a fourth round pick. Ward should last past round six and Mason will be a good number two receiver from seven on. Sweed, our projected fantasy sleeper from this division, will provide great value late in the draft.