Saturday, August 25, 2012

2012 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

Tier 1:
1. Calvin Johnson, DET - Megatron is in a tier all to himself. Far and away the best WR in the league last year, Megatron has 96 catches for 1681 yards and 16 TDs. Detroit's improving offense should make it more difficult for defenses to focus completely on him.

Tier 2:
2. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI - Despite the mess at QB for ARI last year, Fitz still finished as the #5 WR in fantasy leagues last season. As safe as they come, worth a pick late in Round 1.
3. Andre Johnson, HOU - I considered moving him down due to injury concerns, but remember, AJ was fantasy's consensus top WR pick just last year after posting consecutive 100+ catch, 1500+ yard, 8+ TD seasons. A healthy AJ has the best shot to challenge Megatron for the #1 fantasy WR spot.
4. Greg Jennings, GB - The top passing option for the NFL's best QB, Jennings was on pace for 1238 yards and 12 TD before he got injured in Week 13. Jennings is an elite route runner and his chemistry with Rodgers is impeccable. Jordy Nelson should have a lot of big weeks as well, but Jennings will catch more passes and be a more reliable every week starter.
5. Wes Welker, NE - Welker, the best slot WR in the NFL, caught 122 passes for 1569 yards with 9 TD last season. We all know about the Patriots weapons, the addition of Brandon Lloyd and how there won't be enough targets to go around, but I don't expect a big drop-off from Welker. Lloyd plays on the outside, and Welker will continue to get a ton of short receptions and be Brady's go-to guy in the clutch.
6. Roddy White, ATL - Roddy White led the league last season with a ridiculous 181 targets (11.3/game). Julio Jones had 96 (7.4/game). But Julio Jones missed 4 games last year as well as large chucks of two others. A healthy and improving Julio to cut into to White's targets. Roddy won't reach 100 receptions for the 3rd straight year, expect more like 85.

Tier 3:
7. Hakeem Nicks, NYG - Nicks is another amazing route runner, not the fastest guy, but super difficult to tackle and a uses his body very well. The problem has always been the injuries. He had multiple injuries last season and fractured his foot in May, but it shouldn't affect his play to start the year. If he can stay healthy, Nicks should dominate targets, a be a big red zone threat. With Eli throwing him the ball, Nicks has the best chance of anyone in this tier to finish as a top 5 WR.
8. AJ Green, CIN - Green was the first WR chosen in last year's draft and didn't disappoint with 65 receptions, 1057 yards and 7 TDs. After his first full training camp with Andy Dalton, I see Green taking another step forward. He will be seeing a lot of double coverage and Andy Dalton doesn't have the strongest arm, so the upside may be capped but his talent is undeniable.
9. Julio Jones, ATL - Julio Jones is easily one of the most talented players in the NFL. At 6"3, 220 lb, runs a 4.39 40 yard dash and with a 38.5" vertical, there are very few cornerbacks that can match up with him. Roddy is still the main target in that offense, but Julio's role will continue to grow.
10. Percy Harvin, MIN - Harvin was a maddening player to own for the first half of last season as the Vikings coaching staff refused to play him a full complement of snaps. Despite this, Harvin still finished 8th in fantasy points for WRs. After the Week 9 bye week, when he was finally given the snaps he deserved, he averaged a ridiculous 14.25 fantasy points per week, a pace that would have made him the 2nd best WR for the season behind Calvin Johnson.
11. Brandon Marshall, CHI - Marshall was traded to Chicago in the off-season and was reunited with his former Broncos QB Jay Cutler with whom he posted three straight 100+ reception seasons. However, the Bears are a run first team, Jay Cutler can be very inconsistent and Marshall has struggled with drops (51 drops in last 4 years).
12. Jordy Nelson, GB - Nelson caught only 68 receptions last year, but finished 2nd in WR fantasy points because of his 15 TDs and a 18.6 yards per catch average. With so many receiving options in GB, its hard to expect a huge jump in targets, and the TDs and yards per catch average should both come down.
13. Dez Bryant, DAL - While it seemed that Dez had a terrible year based on preseason expectations, he still finished as the 18th best WR in fantasy last year. Laurent Robinson is now in Jacksonville, and with Miles Austin already banged up, Dez could see an uptick in targets. The physical tools are off the charts, but needs to keep his head on straight.
14. Mike Wallace, PIT - Wallace has the talent to be a top 5 pick at WR. However, after missing almost all of camp, I expect a transition phase to become comfortable with the new offense and to get back in game shape. Approach with caution.
15. Steve Smith, CAR - Steve Smith seemed to come back from the dead last year, finishing with almost 1400 yards after two (by his standards) terrible years. At 33 years old, there is a concern that he will start slowing down, but he is great at creating separation using his body and is an elite route runner. With Cam Newton throwing his the ball he will remain a fantasy stud.
16. Victor Cruz, NYG - Sure Cruz finished 4th in WR fantasy points last year. But had 5 TDs of 68 yards or longer, several on tipped balls/fluky plays. Don't pay for last year's stats!
17. Marques Colston, NO - Three straight 70+ catches, 1000+ yards, 7+ TD season, Colston is the Steven Jackson of WRs. Not a whole lot of upside, but at the end of year, you can count on a top 20 WR season.

Tier 4: 
18. Demaryius Thomas - Now paired up with one of the most accurate QBs in the game, Thomas has a great chance to break out this year. While route-running is a concern, he has reportedly made big strides and will be featured in the Broncos offense. Has the size, speed and athleticism to be a star in the NFL.
19. Jeremy Maclin, PHI - Maclin had a rough 2011 season, battling preseason medical issues and injuries that limited him to only 13 games. Despite that, on a per game basis, Maclin actually improved his receptions and yardage from his breakout 2010. He has bulked up over the offseason and looks great in practice. Injuries are a concern, but if he can stay healthy, Maclin will dominate targets in Philly and have a huge year.
20. Brandon Lloyd, NE - Two years removed from being the #1 WR in fantasy, Lloyd gets to play with one of the best QBs in the league. But with so many weapons in NE, Lloyd can't possibly get anywhere near the targets he's become accustomed to. He'll have some huge weeks, but should be very inconsistent. 
21. Eric Decker, DEN - Anyone that watched Payton Manning play with Austin Collie in 2010 can see the upside of Eric Decker. Decker is a very good route runner and a more athletic version of Collie so his upside is monstrous, but injuries are a concern.
22. Dwayne Bowe, KC - Bowe is a great pick in keeper leagues as his potential change of scenery next offseason could make him a top 10 WR. He has just recently signed his tender, and although they are installing a new offense in KC, I don't have any worries about him learning it before Week 1. However, you can't expect much improvement over last year's 1158 yards and 5 TDs.
23. Steve Johnson, BUF - Stevie posted back to back 1000 yard season, but last year never had a game with more than 15 fantasy points all season. Limited upside, but you can count on consistent production all year.
24. Vincent Jackson, TB - V-Jax has three 1000+ yard seasons out of the last four years (the other year he held out most of the year and only played 5 games). But now with run-first TB, his targets should decline. Sure, he'll probably win you a couple weeks (more than half his fantasy points came in 3 weeks), but should continue to be one of the most maddening players to own in fantasy.
25. Miles Austin, DAL - Austin has struggled with hamstring injuries the past two seasons, and already aggravated it in training camp. When healthy, Austin is one of the best WR in the league, but can we really count on that? 
26. Robert Meachem, SD - Meachem has never really gotten the chance to shine, being stuck down the depth chart in NO. Now replacing V-Jax in SD, Meachem should lock up the #1 WR role. Based on talent and opportunity Meachem has the look of a breakout star, but he has disappointed before.
27. Antonio Brown, PIT - Pittsburgh is sure to pass a ton, and Brown actually saw more targets than Wallace last year. However, Brown only scored twice last year, and I don't expect a huge increase from that.
28. Desean Jackson, PHI - A great vertical threat, D-Jax has never been a great route runner and seems scared to go over the middle. The talent is clearly there and he's never had a season with fewer than 900 yards receiving but seems to be the clear 2nd option in Philly now.
29. Pierre Garcon, WSH - Garcon signed a big contract in the off-season to be the WR1 for the Redskins. He is very inconsistent, but is still only 26 and coming off a great year with Curtis Painter under center, RGIII has to be an upgrade.

Tier 5:
30. Reggie Wayne, IND - For the first time since 2003, Wayne failed to reach 1000 yards receiving. Now with Andrew Luck as QB, catching 80 passes for at least 1000 yards seems likely. At 33 years old, he has lost a step, but he makes up for it with great route running.
31. Torrey Smith, BAL - A great downfield threat, Smith finished 22nd in WR fantasy points last year, but had single digit fantasy points in all by 5 games (all games when he scored a TD). High upside, Flacco likes to throw deep, and it apears in the pre-season that Smith is becoming a more complete WR.
32. Nate Washington, TEN - In Kenny Britt's absence, Washington posted career highs in receptions (74) yards (1023) and TD (7). Britt will likely be suspended to start the year, so Washington should get the chance to be the go-to receiving option. However, with TE Jared Cook and rookie Kendall Wright emerging, Washington will take a step back from last year.
33. Titus Young, DET - A star in college at Boise State, Titus Young had a solid rookie season even though he was playing behind Nate Burleson. I expect Young will claim the WR2 job by midway through the season.
34. Darrius Heyward-Bay, OAK - DHB is a true burner, he recorded the fastest time at the combine in 2009 at 4.30 seconds. His route running has improved and he showed good chemistry with Carson Palmer. But even after last year's breakout, where he caught 64 passes for 975 yards and 4 TDs, it appears Denarius Moore is the front-runner to lead the Raiders in targets.
35. Denarius Moore, OAK - Carson Palmer has been gushing about Moore all off-season and it appears he will step in as the WR1. Moore is more than just a deep threat, and more explosive than fellow burner Darrius Heyward Bey. He missed a few games last year but really impressed when healthy. High upside, but he has been injured throughout training camp.
36. Kenny Britt, TEN - If healthy, Britt is hands down one of the best WRs in the NFL. But a torn ACL knocked out most of his 2011 season and he seems to always have some off the field issue. After the starters are picked in fantasy leagues, no one has more upside at WR, but miss the first game of the season due to suspension and will be on a snap count when he finally gets on the field due to his three knee surgeries.
37. Santonio Holmes, NYJ - Even with the off-field drama this year, Holmes is clearly the top receiving option in the Jets "passing game". Holmes has averaged 98 targets since he has joined the Jets (after 126 his last two seasons with PIT), but with Tebow on board, I anticipate that number declining even further.
38. Lance Moore, NO - Drew Brees loves to spread the ball around. But his chemistry with Moore is superb, and looks to him often in crucial spots and in the red zone (at least 8 TD in each of the past 4 years except injury plagued 2009). Now that Meachem is in SD, there may be less competition for touches. Expect another year with 60+ receptions and 8+ TDs.
39. Malcolm Floyd, SD - V-Jax is now in TB, opening up a huge opportunity for Floyd. However, injuries are always a concern and I expect Meachem to run away with the WR1 job. He had a great 6 week stretch at the end of 2011 (where he averaged 94 yards/game and scored 4 TD), but 4 of those games were against teams with below average passing defenses. 
40. Anquan Boldin, BAL - In such a run heavy offense, Boldin is no longer the fantasy star he was for the Cardinals opposite Larry Fitzgerald. In his two years in Baltimore, he has failed to reach 65 catches or 900 yards. Expect more of the same this year, as Flacco looks to Rice and the TEs for most of his short passes. 
41. Justin Blackmon, JAC - The top WR chosen in this year's draft, Blackmon should start, but frankly, he's not as talented as the top two WRs taken last year, A.J. Green and Julio Jones. With Blaine Gabbert throwing him the ball, I originally assumed that there would be significant struggled for Blackmon, but Gabbert surprisingly looks competent in pre-season action and Blackmon has been his favorite target.
42. Mike Williams, TB - Mike Williams is not a WR1, and the addition of V-Jax means he no longer has to be. While V-Jax commands a lot of defensive attention, I expect Williams to benefit. The yardage should rise from last year's disappointing 771, but I don't expect much of an uptick in the TDs.
43. Greg Little, CLE - Little had a fine rookie season (60 catches for 709 yards and 2 TDs) and is still very raw, but there is massive upside there. Only had a 54% catch rate, so if he can improve on that should take another step forward.  

Tier 6:
44. Michael Crabtree, SF - Crabtree had a pretty good last season, finishing with 874 yards and 4 TDs. But the conservative 49ers signed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, so it would be a shock to see an uptick in targets.
45. Sidney Rice, SEA - Rice broke out as Brett Favre's top WR in 2009 with 83 receptions for 1312 yards and 8 TDs. Ever since, Rice has barely been able to take the field due to shoulder injuries and concussions. With Seattle's run-first attack, his upside is much less than that, so even if healthy, may struggle to be an every week start.
46. Austin Collie, IND -  Collie was tremendously valuable in 2010 when he had 58 receptions for 649 yards and 8 TDs in only 9 games before concussions ended his season. With new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, the Colts figure to throw a ton and Collie is in line for an every down role. Currently going as the 70th WR in ESPN leagues (and largely undrafted), if his concussion issues are behind him, could be the steal of the draft. 
47. Brandon LaFell, CAR - Now that Legedu Naanee is no longer in CAR, LaFell should be the starter opposite Steve Smith. He was considered one of the best WRs in the 2010 draft so there is good upside there.
48. Mario Manningham, SF - In a rotation with Randy Moss for the second WR job on a conservative offense, there won't be many targets for Manningham. But if Moss flops in SF, Manningham could have value as the starter across from Crabtree. Talented, but there isn't much opportunity there.
49. Santana Moss, WSH - Moss is clearly not the same player he was when he starred for the Redskins from 2005-2010. However, he is slated to be the Redskins' slot receiver and after showing up out of shape in training camp last year, is reportedly in great shape. Expect RGIII to lean heavily on him as a reliable short receiving option. 
50. Reuben Randle, NYG - The Giants 2nd round pick in this year's NFL draft, Randle finds himself in a great situation. He has been compared favorable to teammate Nicks and should step in and contribute right away.
51. Jonathan Baldwin, KC - Baldwin at 6"5, 230 lbs with 4.49 speed, profiles as a WR1. He is still behind Breaston on the depth chart, but is a superior talent and should win out in the end. Great dynasty pick as Bowe should be elsewhere in 2013 and he could step in as the #1 WR, however, don't expect a big breakout year this year even as the #2 option due to the Chiefs run-heavy attack..
52. Kendall Wright, TENTitans coaches have been gushing over the 1st rounder in camp, and with Britt likely out to start the year, there is a big opportunity to make an impact.
53. Laurent Robinson, JAC -Robinson finally delivered on the promise that made him a fantasy sleeper for years finishing as the 15th best fantasy WR (858 yards/11 TD). Fantasy-wise he may have signed in the worst possible place, with Blaine Gabbert figuring to be the starting QB.   
54. Davone Bess, MIA - Has fallen into the #1 WR position after Brandon Marshall was traded to Chicago. He has received glowing praise so far in camp, and just two years ago he caught 79 receptions for 820 yards and 5 TD.
55. Brian Quick, STL - Quick has the best shot to win the #1 WR job in STL, but is currently playing behind much lesser talents Brandon Gibson, Steve Smith and Greg Salas. If he wins the job there is good sleeper potential here.
56. Randy Moss, SF - After a year out of football and playing for a conservative offense, it's hard to expect much from the former fantasy stud. But after seeing him dominate the NFL for years it's hard not to take a flier on Moss just to see what he can do. Just don't expect Moss to be getting the deep looks that he is used to from his NE days.
57. Doug Baldwin, SEA - What appeared to be a very crowded WR corps in SEA, has thinned with T.O. looking like he might not even make the team and Braylon Edwards far down the depth chart. Baldwin is a talented WR, and if Rice isn't back to full strength, he could easily lead the team in fantasy points.
58. Danny Amendola, STL - As the slot WR in STL, Amendola is a great pick in PPR leagues. However, in a standard league, he probably wont get enough yards or TDs to be a starting option.
59. Randall Cobb, GB - Cobb flashed his great potential as a rookie, but the Packers spread the ball around a lot and the best case scenario for Cobb is that he will be the 4th option.
60. Nate Burleson, DET - It is widely assumed that Titus Young will take over the starting WR job opposite Calvin Johnson, but Burleson will have a big role in the offense regardless. Detroit throws enough that Burleson can be a reliable start in deeper league or for bye weeks.

Just Missed (in no particular order)
David Nelson, BUF
Jacoby Ford, OAK
Alshton Jeffrey, CHI
Mohamed Sanu, CHI
Steve Breaston, ARI
Stephen Hill, NYJ
Jerome Simpson, MIN

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