Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We're barely a week into training camps and have yet to play a single exhibition game, but fantasy owners are likely already looking at a diminished group of pass catchers.
Over the offseason we all saw 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (85-1,105-9) injure his Achilles which will likely keep him out for the entire fantasy regular season and most, if not all, of the fantasy playoffs. He would have been a top-10 receiver in 2013-14.
Then Saturday, Philadelphia Eagles wideout Jeremy Maclin (69-857-7) blew out a knee and he'll be gone for the year. Not a stud fantasy receiver, Maclin was still a consistent contributor with upside after averaging 863 yards and 6.5 touchdowns over his first four seasons.
We've also learned that Seattle's newly-acquired receiver Percy Harvin has a hip problem. First reports were that he would need hip surgery and might miss the entire season, but the latest news is much more promising and SI's Peter King is even tweeting that he could be ready for Week 1. Harvin is expected to be in New York Tuesday to get a second opinion.
Despite injuries and disagreements with the coaching staff, Harvin still averaged 149.6 all-purpose yards last season and was being selected as the No. 9 receiver off the board through mid-July. This week, mock draft owners are selecting him in the seventh round, the 25th receiver off the board. Of course, good news from the doctor could have him right back in the top-10, so pay attention to news updates.
The Jets' Santonio Holmes, a stud fantasy receiver when he last played in Pittsburgh, is dealing with foot problems and may or may not play this season. Of course, even if he gets on the field, catching balls from Mark Sanchez or a rookie, doesn't help one's fantasy value.
Next is a group of talented receivers who have been sidelined by the commissioner after violating league rules.
Jacksonville's Justin Blackmon will miss four games due to suspension. He's also recovering from offseason groin surgery. He posted 64 receptions for 865 yards and five touchdowns last season and was much better in the final two months of the season when he averaged almost 75 yards-per-game. Unfortunately, the first four games represents a big portion of the fantasy season.
Other suspended receivers with fantasy value include; Cleveland's Josh Gordon (50-805-5) for two games and LaVon Brazill of Indianapolis for four games.
Gordon is particularly worrisome for fantasy owners as Browns CEO Joe Banner has already put him on notice. "He gets the rope that's left isn't long," Banner told The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.
Brazill is the No. 4 receiver in a pass-heavy offense behind Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and oft-injured Darrius Heyward-Bey. Which means he could see a significant number of targets if he can keep himself healthy and out of trouble.
And finally there is the entire debacle in New England where few, if any, know how the Patriots offense is going to play out. Will Rob Gronkowski be healthy for Week 1? Who will get the 175 targets that went to Wes Welker. Or the 83 targets that Brady threw at Aaron Hernandez?
In fact, if Gronkowski isn't ready for the season opener, Brady will be missing his top-five receiving producers from last season (Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Danny Woodhead).
At the moment, fantasy owners are betting on Danny Amendola (ADP 47.7), rookie Aaron Dobson (118.6), Julian Edelman (137) and that Gronkowski (45) won't miss much action. But those are huge questions that need to be answered before you head into the draft room.
And we still have a month of training camp and exhibition games which will surely add to this list. It's looking like fantasy receivers will be highly valued properties in 2013-14.
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