2014 Outlook: Tate may have been brought in to be a complementary receiver, but he's still one of the league's most dangerous deep threats. Last season he led all WRs in vertical air yards per target (26.2) and ranked second in vertical yards per reception (31). Since he'll play opposite Calvin Johnson, no defense is going to consistently load Tate's side of the field. So what's the bad news? No Lions WR other than Johnson has received more than 90 targets the last two seasons. And without consistent looks, Tate's upside is limited.
2014 Outlook: It seems as if Wright has carved out his niche as the Titans' go-to dink-and-dunk receiver. He was second leaguewide in short-pass receiving yards (718) and quietly amassed 94 receptions in his second season, seventh most in the NFL. Wright's problem is two-fold. First, he doesn't score enough touchdowns to be considered anything more than a WR3 in standard leagues. (Last season he became the only WR since 2005 to snag 90-plus receptions but score only 2 TDs.) And second, he doesn't have the best mojo with QB Jake Locker: Only 76 of Wright's 190 career fantasy points have come with Locker under center.
2014 Outlook: The premium that Buffalo paid to acquire Watkins (a trade of 2014 first-round picks plus a first- and fourth-round selection in 2015) seems very high until you note his phenomenal metrics at Clemson last year. Watkins averaged 28.3 yards per vertical pass attempt against BCS-conference competition and racked up a ridiculous 25 ypa when facing a cornerback or safety in coverage. Teams at that level found it next to impossible to stop Watkins' incredible combination of size (6-1, 211 pounds), speed (4.43 40) and route-running ability. NFL clubs might very well have similar struggles.
2014 Outlook: Twenty-seven million. That's the guaranteed dollar figure on Wallace's contract. The primary purpose of Miami's splashy signing last offseason was to give QB Ryan Tannehill a much-needed deep threat. To be sure, Wallace didn't lack for stretch vertical opportunities in 2013 (32 such targets, fourth in the NFL), but quantity didn't lead to productivity in this case. He ranked 30th among receivers with 30 fantasy points on stretch vertical passes. Don't hope for anything better than flex-level production from Wallace until he and Tannehill start converting those downfield chances into more points.
2014 Outlook: Despite Eric & Jessie, his reality series with his country-singer wife, Decker was the least celebrated of Denver's receivers last season. But he bested Demaryius Thomas in vertical yards (842 to 744) and outgained Wes Welker on short passes (446 to 431). Sure, the Jets have an unsettled QB situation and unproven talent opposite Decker, but he'll get a ton of targets. That alone gives him a pretty solid fantasy floor, even if his ceiling is uncertain.
2014 Outlook: Williams got off to a slow start as a rookie, catching only five balls for 60 yards in his first three games. But a few route-running mistakes aside, the Cowboys couldn't have asked for much more from their third-round pick. Williams flashed big-play potential, and his 16.7 yards per catch ranked fifth among receivers with at least 40 catches, behind only Josh Gordon, Riley Cooper, Calvin Johnson and Torrey Smith. In total, he finished third in fantasy points among rookie WRs (96) and second on the Cowboys in offensive snaps played by a receiver (648). Both of those numbers should increase now that the rookie jitters are out of the way.
2014 Outlook: In a season that was supposed to vault Shorts into the WR2 conversation, his numbers actually regressed even though he caught 11 more balls (66, up from 55). In 2012, he averaged 17.8 yards per catch, and nearly 20 percent of his receptions went for 25 yards or more. Last season his ypc plummeted to 11.8, and only 3 percent of his catches were for 25-plus. Subpar QB play and a nagging sports hernia injury doomed Shorts, so a clean bill of health should allow him to capitalize on more of his downfield opportunities -- if the QB can get him the ball.
2014 Outlook: Boldin had a late-career revival last season, putting up his highest number of targets (128) and yards (1,179) since 2006. And he did it with a nice variety, scoring 86 fantasy points on short passes (seventh in the NFL) and compiling 593 yards on vertical throws (21st). So why do we have him ranked so low? For starters, the 49ers aren't going to throw the ball a lot; they ranked last in the NFL last season with 417 pass attempts. And Boldin's opportunities will only shrink with Michael Crabtree back to 100 percent, the addition of Stevie Johnson and the presence of Vernon Davis, coming off a 13-TD season.
2014 Outlook: Like most rookie wide receivers, Hopkins had a predictably inconsistent inaugural NFL season. He scored three fantasy points or fewer in seven games and caught only 2 TDs. But Hopkins showed two things you look for in fantasy sleepers: durability -- his 969 offensive snaps were seventh most among wide receivers -- and big-play potential (his 15.4 yards per catch ranked third among qualifying rookies). It's also worth noting that Hopkins had only four fewer stretch vertical targets than Andre Johnson. Sure, his penchant for dud performances cannot be overlooked, but all it will take is a few more big plays for Hopkins to move into the WR3 conversation.
2014 Outlook: Cooper had his share of statistical highlights last season. Most notably, his 17.8 yards per catch ranked second among WRs with 40 or more receptions. He also tied for fifth with four stretch vertical scores and ranked 13th in offensive snaps by a wide receiver (937). He's the Eagles' leading returning wideout in terms of targets (85), receptions (47) and yards (835). Jeremy Maclin's return is a slight concern, but there will be plenty of targets to go around, making it likely that Cooper replicates his catch and yardage totals from 2013. His fantasy upside will be tied to his touchdown total.
2014 Outlook: To no one's surprise, injuries got in the way of Amendola's making a huge impact in his first year with the Pats. After sitting out four games last season with a recurring groin injury and a concussion, he's now missed more than 30 percent of his NFL contests. And when he did play, Amendola's fantasy production was merely OK. He ranked 37th in short-pass fantasy points per game (3.1) and scored only 2 TDs all season. If he can stay on the field and carve out a niche in New England's crowded WR corps, Amendola has the chops to be a decent fantasy player. But those are some big ifs.
2014 Outlook: You think Jennings misses Aaron Rodgers? In his inaugural season with the Vikings, Jennings had nine games with 50 yards or less. And he wasn't getting into the end zone much either. Outside of the three games in which he scored touchdowns, Jennings averaged 3.4 fantasy points per week. Jerome Simpson, who was re-signed by the Vikings in the offseason, had more vertical targets last year (52 to 36), and Cordarrelle Patterson will vie to move ahead of Jennings in that category in 2014. With Minnesota's QB situation in flux, Jennings is a late-round pick up at best.
2014 Outlook: Last season Baltimore had the worst vertical passing offense in the NFL, ranking dead last in vertical yards per attempt (8.68) and completion rate (35.8 percent) and 30th in vertical TDs (6). Let's hope the Ravens weren't counting on Smith to solve that problem. At this point in his career, Smith is no longer a legit deep threat; his 424 vertical receiving yards ranked 37th in the league. He'll certainly help the Ravens' offense, but it'd be a surprise if he exceeded his totals from last season.
2014 Outlook: Andy Reid's arrival in KC -- along with the signing of Alex Smith -- was supposed to make Bowe fantasy sleeper material. But outside of an eight-catch, 150-yard performance against the Colts in the playoffs, the new regime resulted in Bowe's numbers falling through the floor. He posted his second-lowest single-season totals in targets (103), receptions (57) and yards (673). More disturbing is the 34 vertical targets, a mark that ranked 49th among wide receivers. Don't count on anything much better this year.
2014 Outlook: Yes, we know Hunter had only 18 catches as a rookie, but we've put him in our top 50 for a reason. A 4.44 burner, Hunter showed off his big-play ability in Weeks 12 and 14, when he combined for 223 yards and 2 TDs. All told, he averaged an absurd 19.7 yards per catch and scored 4.64 fantasy points per game on vertical throws, 25th among wide receivers. All it'll take is 50 catches for Hunter to insert himself into the WR3 discussion.