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Trends for Fantasy Football Keeper Wide Receivers

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson

May 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (10) carries the ball during organized team activities at the NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost August, and it’s long past time to talk wide receivers. There are some interesting NFL free agents who could re-enter the league for a desperate team. And there are already some unfortunate key injuries that hopefully haven’t hurt your team.

Out for the season already are Jeremy Maclin of the Eagles and San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree. This could stand to improve the seasons for some of their teammates. Take a look at these teams first.

A lot is happening in Philadelphia this summer. Donovan McNabb officially announced his retirement, choosing not to end his Eagles career in a tie (he went with an unbuttoned shirt). It’s head coach Chip Kelly’s first season, and he has three quarterbacks squared off in an interesting battle. In 2012, no Eagle reached 70 catches or 1,000 yards. DeSean Jackson had 45 catches for 700 yards, while Maclin led the team with 69 for 857, and running back LeSean McCoy caught 54 balls for 373 yards. Brent Celek and Jason Avant also each caught over 50 balls. Michael Vick started ten games to Nick Foles‘ six, and it’s clear that the two spread the targets very evenly. The pass distribution of the starting quarterback should have a lot more impact on the receivers’ futures than the loss of Maclin.

After the Super Bowl, the brothers Harbaugh executed an uncommon trade that sent Anquan Boldin to the 49ers. With Crabtree on the couch until 2014, Boldin becomes the obvious top target for phenom quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Crabtree led the team with 85 catches for 1,105 yards and 9 scores last year. Boldin led his former squad with 65 receptions, 921 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Will Kaepernick grow into more of a drop-back passer this year? He threw for 1,615 yards in his seven regular-season starts, which would project to 3,691 yards over sixteen games. With Randy Moss also gone, he and Crabtree have essentially left a combined 177 targets to be claimed. Keep an eye on the wide receivers’ depth chart for who will step up.

Philadelphia, San Francisco, New England and Baltimore could each stand to add a receiver. In order of 2012 receptions, free agents still on the market include Brandon Lloyd (74 catches in 2012), Brandon Stokley (45), Titus Young (33), Randy Moss (28), Laurent Robinson (24), Steve Breaston (7), Lee Evans (4), Austin Collie (1), Chad Johnson (0), and Terrell Owens (0). A resurrection from this pack could produce respectable numbers in 2013, depending on the destination.

It’s important to take a moment for one of the hottest ongoing wide receiver debates in recent memory, Roddy White versus Julio Jones. It’s somewhat of an insult to White to question his value, much less compare him to a third-year veteran whose best season (of two) would have been White’s seventh best. Over the past six seasons, White has averaged 94 catches on 159 targets, for 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns. Jones’ sample size is not quite fair for comparison, but he had 79 catches for 1,198 yards last year. Also, hamstring issues caused Jones to miss three games in 2011 (and catch zero balls in a fourth game), while White has never missed a start in his career. It’s the ultimate matchup of a boom-or-bust player versus a model of consistency. But in keeper football, don’t you prefer to know what you’re getting?

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