June 27, 2012

Doublemint twins. Twix candy bars. The Godfather and The Godfather II.

Good things come in pairs! (The Godfather III does not exist.)

The same goes for seven sets of fantasy wide receivers this draft season. While much has been made about NFL teams employing dual-running back systems, the rise of the passing game has given 14 wide receivers a big boost, despite the presence of a great wide receiver across from them. In Atlanta, Dallas, Green Bay, New England, New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, there's room enough for two good wide receivers. By looking at current Average Draft Positions, these 14 wide receivers are being drafted among a fantasy draft's first six rounds.

This trend is relatively new and should be considered as you prepare for your fantasy drafts.

Back in my day, we only had one good wide receiver!

When you go back to the 2002 ADP stats, there were only three pairs of receivers being drafted in the first six rounds (Torry Holt/Isaac Bruce, Tim Brown/Jerry Rice and Rod Smith/Ed McCaffrey). Of the top five players, only Holt had a decent receiving counterpart. The others (Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison and David Boston) were all lone gunmen.

When you talk about running backs sharing the load, it's easy to understand why fewer touches usually mean fewer fantasy points. There's usually only one of those running backs on the field at once, and they're usually not getting the ball in passing downs.

Wide receivers, on the other hand, are usually on the field at the same time, and they can touch the ball on almost any down. And the presence of a good wide receiver on one side means less defensive attention for the wide receiver on the other side. Two good wide receivers help each other's fantasy value, unlike two good running backs.

Interestingly, only one wide receiver from the seven teams mentioned (ATL, DAL, GB, NE, NYG, PHI and PIT) was drafted in the first two rounds of a recent mock draft I took part in.

Who's down with ADP? Yeah, you know me!

Note: Players have their ADP ranking at the wide receiver position next to their names.

N.Y. Giants: Hakeem Nicks (4) -- Victor Cruz (10)

Both of these guys have had problems with injuries in recent years, but it's tough to take that into account when you consider their ability to get into the end zone. The Giants had a top-five passing offense in the NFL last season, which is partially due to the fact that they had the worst rushing offense. They drafted help for Ahmad Bradshaw, but the offense shouldn't be much different than last season.

Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones (7) -- Roddy White (9)

The younger one gets the nod in most mock drafts, but let's not forget Tampa Bay's Mike Williams and his second season in the league. Funny things happen to successful rookies a year later. Well, funny to everyone that doesn't own him, at least. White, on other hand, has never missed a game in seven seasons, and he has 300 catches in his past three seasons. I'm going with the devil I know over the devil I don't. There's a better chance of White repeating his numbers than of Jones improving on his. Jones was targeted 10 or more times in just three games last year, with White seeing 10 or more targets in 11 games.

Green Bay Packers: Greg Jennings (8) -- Jordy Nelson (14)

Nelson is one of those strange wide receivers that does a lot with a little and still goes under the radar. He was fourth in scoring in non-PPR leagues last season, yet he was thrown to just 96 times (tied for 40th among WRs). He blew by Donald Driver and James Jones, and his reliable hands are a perfect complement to Jennings' downfield ability. Nelson is someone that might drop into Round 4 or 5 because he's not a flashy name.

Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant (12) -- Miles Austin (18)

Along with the other wide receivers mentioned, the fortunes of these two are definitely reliant upon their quarterback's ability. Austin and Tony Romo haven't had a full season together, with both of them healthy, since 2009. If they can stay upright, keeping their collarbones and hamstrings out of harm's way, Austin can finish as a top-10 wide receiver. Bryant has been healthy, but he hasn't been overwhelmingly good. I would rather wait one round and take Austin than grab Bryant, who did not have one 100-yard receiving game in '11.

New England Patriots: Wes Welker (6) -- Brandon Lloyd (27)

Welker and QB Tom Brady haven't had Randy Moss in the huddle for a while -- but it hasn't hurt their stats any. Two tight ends named Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have taken his place in the passing game, and now, Lloyd's arrival gives the Patriots another aerial threat. I see Lloyd's presence cutting into Gronk's numbers more than Welker's. Welker is a top-20 pick and Lloyd should produce like a good No. 2 WR in fantasy play. In Lloyd's last full season with Josh McDaniels (New England's new OC) calling the plays, he caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. And that was not from the arm of Mr. Brady.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Wallace (13) -- Antonio Brown (25)

Wallace is the Steelers' unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver, even though Brown outperformed him down the stretch last season -- even getting more targets in the final six games. But Wallace is hunting for a new contract, which should keep him motivated to play well and stay healthy. Brown is entering his third year, which is usually indicative of a possible breakout season, but he's a better pickup in PPR leagues than he is regular formats because he just doesn't score enough (two TDs in 25 career NFL games).

Philadelphia Eagles: Jeremy Maclin (20) -- DeSean Jackson (26)

Speaking of contract hunters, Jackson finally got his, so it'll be interesting to see if he rebounds after a subpar season or if he comes back strong and rewards the Eagles for their investment. I was able to pick him up in the sixth round of the mock draft I mentioned earlier, and he'll be my WR3 in a PPR league that starts three wide receivers. That's great value for a guy that could score every time he touches the ball. Maclin has yet to record a 1,000-yard receiving season, and injuries stole part of his 2011 season. When healthy (and with a healthy Michael Vick throwing to him), he scores about once every other game. I like the value of Jackson later, but Maclin still makes for a solid No. 2 WR.

David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy football leagues. He has drafted both Curt and Kurt Warner in his lifetime, and he owns a Trent Dilfer Bucs jersey (jealous, much?) He also dispenses fantasy advice on his own site, DavidGonos.com, along with various stories about life's lessons learned through fantasy sports. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter.

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