NFL 2012: Collie, Amendola Highlight Receivers on the Radar Next Season
The 2011 NFL season was an up-and-down year for many receivers throughout the league. Many were sidelined due to injury, while others suffered low production due to either injury or the poor performances of fellow teammates.
Some receivers had that glimmer of promise, but weren't quite there yet. Regardless, it is time to look forward to next season to what receivers will either rebound or finally break out in 2012.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay
Williams stormed on the scene in his rookie campaign in 2010.
Williams scored 11 touchdowns, which was tied for fourth in the league and was 36 yards shy of breaking 1,000 yards. These stats propelled Williams up the ranks in many fantasy football drafts, where he was taken as a WR1.
Williams fell short of expectations in 2011, most likely due to the combination of a sophomore slump and an under-performing quarterback. Williams had the same reception count as 2010 (65), but his total yards for the season fell by almost 200.
The Bucs have wasted no time in revamping their coaching staff in the offseason, with the spotlight on the firing of Raheem Morris. While the Bucs have yet to land a head coach, it can only be foreseen that one of the first things on the agenda will be to get this offense back on its feet—and Mike Williams will reap the benefits.
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia
Jeremy Maclin didn't necessarily have a bad season in 2011, catching 63 passes for 859 yards and five touchdowns.
What Maclin did experience was a laundry list of plaguing injuries, including his ribs, shoulder and hamstring. Given the circumstances, his stat line is pretty impressive. If Maclin comes back healthy in 2012 with an equally healthy QB, he might finally break 1,000 receiving yards in his fourth season.
It also won't hurt Maclin's numbers next season if DeSean Jackson is traded from the Eagles, or just falls back on his usual antics.
Greg Little, Cleveland
Greg Little was a pleasant surprise this season for those who took him in their fantasy draft. In his rookie campaign, the North Carolina alum caught 61 balls for 709 yards and two touchdowns.
With QB Colt McCoy starting to catch his groove as a NFL starter, Little's numbers can only go up from here. Look for Little's numbers to explode in 2012, with Little exceeding 1,000 receiving yards and at least tripling his touchdown total from 2011.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver
Both Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker show upside looking ahead to the 2012 season.
Tim Tebow seems to finally be figuring out his passing game in the NFL. What puts Thomas ahead of Decker is that he appears to have become Tebow's favorite target on the field.
Thomas became a deep threat in the latter weeks of the 2011 season, especially in the first week of the playoffs where he caught four balls for 204 yards.
Look for Thomas' four touchdowns from 2011 to be a little closer to double digits in 2012; he should also experience a spike in yardage as defenses smarten up to Tebow's rushing game.
Brian Hartline, Miami
Brian Hartline's breakout in 2012 is dependent on what direction the Miami Dolphins take with a starting quarterback.
Matt Moore seemed at best reliable, but nothing outstanding to guarantee the starting role in 2012. If Miami can land free agent Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning from the Colts, Hartline will see his numbers significantly jump as a WR2.
Hartline is also entering the last year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2013, so look for him to improve on his 549 yards and one TD from 2011.
Austin Collie, Indianapolis
If there were a player to feel sorry for in 2011, it was Austin Collie.
In 2010, Collie was experiencing a breakout year and appeared to be the new face of the Colts' receiving squad. His success came to a screeching halt when Collie suffered from three concussions in the same season.
In the nine games he played in (three of which were cut short per said concussions), Collie managed to catch 58 passes for 649 yards and eight touchdowns.
Despite the concussions, Collie entered the 2011 season ready to play, only to lose Peyton Manning for the entire 2011 season.
Collie was forced to play with previously retired Kerry Collins, and even worse backup Curtis Painter. It wasn't until Dan Orlovsky took the reins that Collie had a game with more than 50 yards or scored his first TD.
Regardless if it is Manning or Andrew Luck throwing the ball in 2012, a concussion-free Collie will break out in 2012.
Danny Amendola, St. Louis
Danny Amendola was positioned to have a great 2011 season, emerging as Sam Bradford's best passing threat.
He caught 85 passes for 689 yards and three TDs in 2010. His breakout 2011 season was cut short when Amendola injured his elbow in the opening game of the Rams' season, which would also be his last in 2011.
It seemed to be a chain reaction as the Rams offense seemed to fall apart, mainly due to injury, and the end result was a 2-14 season. The one obstacle that stands in Amendola's way in 2012 is the Rams' signing of Brandon Lloyd this season, who replaced Amendola as the WR1 on the team.
Amendola will need not only a healthy Sam Bradford, but also an OL who can protect Bradford so he can connect with Amendola. And who knows, maybe Josh McDaniels will take Lloyd with him to New England.
Or, maybe Amendola will be in a new uniform come the start of the 2012 season, as he is currently a restricted free agent.
Jacoby Ford, Oakland
Oh Jacoby Ford. 2011 did not work for you. But it wasn't all your fault.
Yes, you did experience your share of injuries, which only allowed you to play in eight games and start three. Your stat line obviously suffered, as you only caught 19 balls for 279 passing yards and one touchdown.
But let's be honest.
The carousel of quarterbacks on your team this year did not exactly provide consistent game play for when you were actually on the field. Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer all took the reins this season, with none of the three putting up rather stellar numbers.
But if you can become healthy for 2012, and Palmer returns to his form when he was a Bengal, your numbers should improve threefold.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee
Kenny Britt came into the spotlight in his sophomore season in 2010, catching 42 passes for 775 yards and nine TDs.
He entered the 2011 as one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dismal looking Titans offense. But in game three of the season, Britt tore both the ACL and MCL in his right knee, putting an obvious end to the third season of his professional career. Britt ended 2011 with 289 receiving yards and three TDs, which were strong stats for the three-game span.
Britt should be fully recovered by the start of the 2012 season, and look for him to explode back onto the scene as the only real WR1 on the team (no offense, Nate Washington).
Honorable Mentions: Chad Ochocinco and Plaxico Burress
The 2011 season could have gone well for either of these wide receivers.
Chad Ochocinco was joining one of the strongest offenses in the league with an elite QB in Tom Brady to throw to him. Ochocinco just couldn't seem to find himself in the Patriots offense in 2011, catching just 15 passes for 276 yards and one TD.
It also didn't help that Brady couldn't help himself from throwing to either Wes Welker or Rob Gronkowski any chance he could. It's hard to imagine those two both having repeat performances in 2012, and you can bet Ochocinco will spend the offseason learning the Patriots' offensive playbook so he can step out as a solid WR2 or WR3 next season.
Plaxico Burress also had a lot of attention entering the 2011 season.
Coming off time in prison and two full seasons away from football, it was hard to figure out how Burress would perform. Under the scrutiny of the New York media, Burress had a decent return, catching 45 balls for 612 yards and eight TDs.
Look for Burress to improve upon these numbers in 2012 as he continues his return to the game and learns the Jets' offense scheme. It also wouldn't hurt Burress' chances if the Jets were to cut ties with Santonio Holmes after his actions at the end of the 2011 season.