Top fantasy keeper WRs for 2014

Brandon Marshall leads the list of wide receivers to retain for next season

Updated: December 17, 2013, 12:35 PM ET
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider

Brandon MarshallMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesExpect production from Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to continue after 2013.

Wide receivers might present the most difficult keeper quandary in fantasy football. Top producers here are quite plentiful (according to ESPN Stats & Information, 17 wide receivers have averaged 10 or more fantasy points per game) so the position doesn't offer much in the way of scarcity value, but it also doesn't offer the type of upside value elite quarterbacks can bring to the fantasy point table.

The dilemma doesn't preclude wide receivers from being kept under the right circumstances, so this week's edition of Fantasy Foresight endeavors to assist by taking a detailed look at 15 potential keeper wide receivers and ranking them according to expected keeper value.

This value is based on an analysis of five areas: target volume (on a per-game basis), vertical targets (aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield, also on a per-game basis), vertical receiving yards per game (YPG), quarterback quality and 2014 schedule strength.

For the target, vertical target and vertical receiving yards categories, the qualifiers were broken down in three sections: upper-tier (ranking in the top one-third of the qualifiers), mid-tier (ranking in the middle one-third) and bottom-tier (ranking in the bottom one-third). Those tiers were then given point values, with the upper tier receiving three points, the middle tier two points and the bottom tier one point.

Quarterback quality was a subjective measure of how impactful each wideout's quarterback is from a fantasy football perspective. The idea here is that a receiver getting 100 targets from Aaron Rodgers has a much better chance of posting quality fantasy numbers than a receiver getting 100 targets from Carson Palmer or Ryan Tannehill. Each quarterback was given a color grade rating, with a blue rating being the best (four points), followed by a green rating (three points), a yellow rating (two points) and a red rating (one point).

The 2014 schedule strength is a general barometer of the difficulty of each wideout's 2014 schedule. This barometer is certainly subject to change given the high volume of cornerbacks on the free agent market and the incredibly strong cornerback class in the 2014 NFL draft, but is a solid baseline on which to frame this section at this time. Point values here range from highly favorable (four points) to highly unfavorable (one point).

The points for each category are then added together and listed under the heading of total points.

Now that the methodology has been covered, let's take a look at the top 2014 keeper wide receivers. (Note: in the event of a tie, the players are listed in alphabetical order)


Marshall
1. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

Target volume: 10.21 per game (three points)
Vertical targets: 5.64 per game (three points)
Vertical YPG: 61.36 per game (three points)
QB quality: Green (three points)
2014 schedule strength: Favorable (three points)
Total points: 15

Marshall was the only wide receiver in this analysis to tally three points in every category. Lining up across from Alshon Jeffery (more on him below) could arguably make his already favorable schedule strength even more favorable given that teams will have to leave him in single coverage at least some of the time. The big question mark here is who will be the Bears' quarterback in 2014, but Marshall has already proved he can produce even when Jay Cutler isn't under center.