NFL Fantasy Forecast: Why to always take a WR1 over a WR3

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One of the benefits of being a longtime fantasy writer is that I've heard just about every cliché there is when it comes to drafting:

• "Never draft a kicker or defense before you have to"

• "That guy is good in real life but stinks as a fantasy QB"

• "Always know the rules of the league before sitting down to draft"

• "Running Back by Committee = Fantasy Death"

• "Never drink the beer that has stuff floating in it"

One maxim that I've been thinking about recently is the old, "It's better to draft the WR1 of a bad team than the WR3 of a good team; at least he's the clear starter."

And when I start thinking about fantasy football maxims, two things happen: (1) I start to think of ways to test the validity of said maxim and (2) so much smoke comes out of my ears that family members think a new Pope has been elected.

I asked the Sports Grumblings supercomputer, Mighty Max, to rank wide receivers by 2008 WCOFF score and by team.

To keep things manageable, I instituted a 32-catch minimum (two receptions per game over a full season). As always, Max responded quickly and efficiently:

2008 Wide Receiver Fantasy Production by Team

What's interesting to note is that only nine teams managed to field three receivers who met the search criteria: the Cardinals, Broncos, Packers, Dolphins, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Jets, Eagles and Steelers. It's also interesting to note that four teams couldn't even supply two receivers who met the search criteria: the Browns, Jags, Chiefs and Seahawks.

The performance of Steve Breaston clearly stands out here -- not only is he a good receiver, but he clearly benefitted from the injury to Anquan Boldin combined with a pass-happy offense. His performance as a WR3 on his own team was better than that of the top receiver of 12 other teams!

Pretty impressive, right? I suppose that means we should all run out and grab that WR3 on pass-happy offenses, right? Well... maybe not. I broke out the WR3/WR4 from the nine teams, to better isolate their performance numbers:

The point to note here is that the average WR3-type produced 110.6 points -- which bested the performance of just one WR1 in the NFL: Bobby Engram.

I don't know about you, but I'm inclined to play the odds and draft a starting WR on a bad team before I'd try to predict who this year's Steve Breaston or Devery Henderson will be.

So the bottom line here is that this is one fantasy football maxim that deserves its hallowed status: Draft the WR1 on a bad team ahead of the WR3 on a high-powered offense.