NFL Draft Primer: Ranking the Wide Receiver and Tight End Destinations

Tim Stafford

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We’re closing in on the  2013 NFL Draft and the free agency period is finally starting to wind down – this allows us to stop and take a clear view of the player landscape yet again. While many teams addressed their perceived needs at wide receiver or tight end through free agency, there are still many more who will likely turn to the draft to fill theirs. For complete scouting information, make sure you use our Draft Tool and scour through the Premium Content archive for complete breakdowns of the class.

With hours of tape watched, combine and pro-day performances documented, it’s finally time for the last step in the process – the draft itself.  While it’s generally best not to overreact to the situations that players find themselves in, it’s certainly a factor in how your rookie draft will fall.  Situation and your team’s individual needs are good tie-breakers when you are torn between two players of similar talent.  Today we look at every team for wide receivers and conclude with a quick overview of top landing spots for tight ends.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at all 32 teams and see where they rank as far as landing spots for wide receivers. Each of the teams is put into a tier based on good (four stars) to terrible (one or no stars).

Four Stars

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have gone from NFL powerhouse to near rebuild in close to record time.  Wide receiver is a particular area of need even though they matched the Patriots tender offer on Emmanuel Sanders.  They may have retained Sanders, but they lost their star playmaker in Mike Wallace.  This leaves only Plaxico Burress and Jerricho Cotchery as options behind Antonio Brown and Sanders. The Steelers simply need to burn an early draft pick on a wideout. Given the combination of the depth chart and Big Ben at the helm, Pittsburgh is one of the top landing spots for a rookie receiver.

Houston Texans

With the departure of Kevin Walter, the Texans also find the cupboard somewhat bare at WR2.  Andre Johnson, while still effective, is on the downward slope of his career.  The Texans have been a perennial dynasty hot spot for rookie receivers, but have yet to develop a reliable weekly option for fantasy. With the obvious need, a competent (if uninspiring) quarterback and the depth of the wide receiver class; maybe this is the year the Texans give fantasy owners a Texas sized winner.

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton needs more weapons. The signing of Domenik Hixon was only an insurance move so that in the event the draft doesn’t fall favorably, the Panthers aren’t forced to take a wide receiver they don’t like. Expect there to be an attractive option at pick #44 and Carolina will snap up a pass catcher.  While Carolina’s offense can’t be called high-octane, the opportunity would be terrific for the rookie. This would also boost expectations for Cam Newton’s passing production.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens don’t have quite the acute need of the other teams, but the depth chart is thin nonetheless.  They view themselves to be in a championship window and have their franchise quarterback signed to a lucrative long-term deal. It’s a good move to invest in a wide receiver to give Joe Flacco an option to the vertical threat, Torrey Smith.  Expect a lot of the elite prospects to be gone before the Ravens pick in round two, but there will still be nice alternatives.  You could do worse in your rookie draft than to end up with a decent prospect on a current Super Bowl caliber team.

Washington Redskins

An emerging quarterback and a depth chart that doesn’t have a proven stud makes Washington one of the premier wide receiver destinations.  Pierre Garcon would benefit from a complimentary player and so far Leonard Hankerson hasn’t demonstrated much of anything.  Washington is a team on the rise that apparently has the running back situation well in hand.  This is a solid destination for a wide receiver.

Three Stars

St. Louis Rams

On need alone, the Rams should be at the top of any list of best locations for rookie wideouts, but Sam Bradford hasn’t produced up to his draft day valuation.  It shouldn’t surprise us if the Rams are one of the first teams to take a wide receiver and, if they do, he’ll be a stud level prospect.  There’s a good chance that St. Louis will produce the first wide receiver off the board in rookie drafts.  Let’s just hope Bradford can step up his game and make that player a valuable dynasty asset.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are a playoff team that lost their prime playmaker in Percy HarvinGreg Jennings is a nice player, but he can’t carry the torch alone. Minnesota, thanks to the Harvin trade, has two first round selections – one should be a wide receiver. Like the Rams above, that will pair a stud prospect with a questionable quarterback, but opportunity and talent could win out.  There isn’t anyone on the team right now who deserves the WR2 role without a camp battle. De’Andre Hopkins or a healthy Keenan Allen could be a formidable competitor for the role.

Tennnesse Titans

Looking at the depth chart, one wouldn’t think the Titans are a great location for a wide receiver to land. Scratch below the surface and things get a bit murkier. Kenny Britt may be getting on the last nerve of the front office, Nate Washington is overpaid and aging, and Kendall Wright isn’t ideally suited to be a WR1.  The Titans will be opportunistic in this draft because they don’t have glaring needs at any position. If the right wide receiver falls to them in the second round, he could make for a nice rookie draft selection. Under any circumstances, don’t expect 2013 production from a Titans rookie, but you may be rewarded in the long run.

New England Patriots

Key losses in Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd make wide receiver an area of interest for another team that has the luxury to pick based largely on talent rather than need.  One concern is the long history of Bill Belichick missing on wide receivers.  It appears to be the one weak spot in his otherwise stellar coaching resume.  However, how could you pass on a player like Robert Woods who is polished and nearly NFL ready joining up with a first ballot hall of fame quarterback still his prime?

Dallas Cowboys

While you’d have to wait a year or two, a top end rookie in Dallas could be interesting.  Miles Austin appears to be declining quickly and has had nagging health issues.  A complement to Dez Bryant could put up nice numbers once Austin steps aside and Jason Witten’s production begins to diminish.

Two Stars

New Orleans Saints

The depth chart is packed, but somewhat spotty.  The Saints spread the ball around so well that it’s difficult to get consistent wide receiver fantasy production after Marques Colston.  Still if a talented prospect goes to New Orleans, it will be tough to ignore what could be.

Tampa Bay Bucs

Picking in a range where Tavon Austin could be an interesting selection.  Could Tampa try to use him as a Swiss-Army knife type with both Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson on the field as well?  ESPN/Scout’s Inc’s Todd McShay thinks so.  This could be good for Doug Martin owners as  Austin would steal fewer carries than a traditional RB2.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers are in rebuild mode and need to focus on the lines. Philip Rivers’ talent has declined rather rapidly, but the depth chart shows opportunity for a young player – DX can’t stay healthy and Vincent Brown is unproven at the NFL level.

Buffalo Bills

Clearly a need, but quarterback play is very much a question mark.  This is simply another team with many holes. It would be hard to get too excited about a wide receiver going to Buffalo, sort of like when Michael Floyd was picked by Arizona last year.

Chicago Bears

It will be interesting to see what the Bears do at wide receiver in this draft.  It will come down to how confident they are in Alshon Jeffery.  Not an area of major need in my opinion, but let’s see.

Indianapolis Colts

Not withstanding all the additions at wide receiver, the Colts still don’t have a good replacement for Reggie Wayne when he finally hangs it up.  TY Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey will compete for targets in the vertical game, but there is room for a possession type receiver to emerge as a fantasy option over the next two years.

Detroit Lions

Can Ryan Broyles stay healthy?  If so, this is a weak destination for a rookie wide receiver.  If not, it’s prime cut.  Are you a gambler?

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers can do anything they want in this draft.  Michael Crabtree is emerging, Anquan Boldin is a proven commodity and they have AJ Jenkins in the wings.  Not an area of need, but they can burn a pick if they want to.  Worth keeping an eye on for the long term.

One (or zero) Stars:

Arizona Cardinals

Many, many other needs before another wide receiver.

Atlanta Falcons

At some point, the NFL will pass a rule saying they have enough weapons on offense.

Cincinnati Bengals

They should give Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones a shot before going back to the well.

Cleveland Browns

Even if they drafted a wide receiver, it is hard to imagine how he could become fantasy relevant.  It will be tough enough for Brandon Weeden to make both Josh Gordon and Greg Little viable starters.

Denver Broncos

By the time a rookie wide receiver is ready to go in Denver, Peyton Manning will be gone.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers are loaded at wide receiver. There are plenty of teams who would love to have James Jones as their WR2, let alone WR3.  No need here.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The combination of Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts is about the best group at any position on this team. They need to go elsewhere in this draft.

Kansas City Chiefs

Like the Jags, they go elsewhere with Dwayne Bowe re-signed.

Miami Dolphins

They might add depth, but that’s all.

New York Giants

Hinges on what happens with Victor Cruz, set for now.

New York Jets

I’m avoiding all Jets for fantasy.

Oakland Raiders

They have more wide receivers than several teams combined. They’ll make do with what they have.  Plus, owning Raiders wide receivers hasn’t been a route to fantasy success in recent years anyway.

Philadelphia Eagles

They have what the need for now to run Chip Kelly’s offense.

Seattle Seahawks

They will be subject to the Atlanta limitation as well.

Top Spots for TEs

Rather than go through an exhaustive review of every team in the NFL regarding TE, here are some key places to watch:

Atlanta Falcons

Their TE need was pushed back a year by Tony Gonzalez agreeing to return.  Once he’s gone, this will be a great situation for a prospect.  If Tyler Eifert falls to Atlanta in the first, they’ll consider it Christmas in April.  In a TE-premium league, you can take an Atlanta bound Eifert whenever you want.

Cleveland Browns

Chud and Turner both love the TE and I’m not sure they trust Jordan CameronTravis Kelce in Cleveland would make for an interesting mid-second round dynasty rookie pick.

Houston Texans

Solid offense with a TE who can’t seem to stay healthy.  Spells rookie draft opportunity.

San Diego Chargers

Not sure Lardarius Green is the answer.  If not, a rookie could produce quickly given Antonio Gates’ failing health.

Oakland Raiders

There’s a good chance you can’t name anyone on their roster at TE.  However this is a team in disarray.  Not sure TE will be a high draft priority, but keep an eye on it.

Editor’s Note:  Tim Stafford can be found @dynastytim on twitter and in the forums as dlf_tims.