Calvin Johnson is almost unanimously projected as the top fantasy wideout for 2012. He crushed the wide receiver competition in 2011 by a margin of 44 points in standard scoring and simply looked unstoppable most of the season.
A huge reason for Johnson’s most successful season yet was that Matthew Stafford was able to complete his first full season without serious injury. If Stafford and Johnson are healthy again, Megatron will be tough to dethrone as the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver, but here are four receivers who will have a shot.
Andre Johnson battled a hamstring injury and missed nine regular season games in 2011. However, he did return for Houston’s final three games and had a good showing in the playoffs (13 catches, 201 yards and a touchdown in two games).
Still one of the most talented receivers in the game, Johnson is in a good situation with Houston where Matt Schaub likes to air it out while Arian Foster and Ben Tate keep defenses honest with their running and receiving out of the backfield. Schaub will be returning from a foot injury in 2012 and will be a key to Johnson’s success.
The one concern with Johnson is that he has played nine seasons and has yet to record a double-digit touchdown campaign, while Calvin Johnson has three such seasons in his five-year career.
Hakeem Nicks simply took over in the postseason and ended any speculation that he might not be the top wideout in New York.
Nicks was No. 1 among all playoff receivers and tight ends in receptions, yards and targets. He was tied for first in touchdowns with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Nicks also caught the most postseason passes that resulted in first downs (19).
Nicks has two consecutive years in the top 12 for wide receiver scoring, and if the postseason is any indication, he is set for a breakout. Eli Manning and Nicks really solidified their place as a top quarterback-receiver combo in 2011, and with each seemingly still improving, 2012 could be a huge year for Nicks.
The Arizona Cardinals did Fitzgerald a solid by using their first-round selection on wide receiver Michael Floyd of Notre Dame. Now defenses must account for two quality receivers with size.
In addition, Fitzgerald’s fantasy production actually picked up from a down 2010 despite inconsistency at quarterback from both Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. He posted a career-high 17.6 yards per catch.
Fitzgerald was the fourth-most targeted receiver of 2011 and is his team’s clear No. 1 offensive threat. A return to double-digit touchdowns is likely with the addition of Floyd and a bit of steady quarterback play from Kolb. Fitzgerald had double-digit touchdown receptions in 2005 and from 2007 to 2009.
Julio Jones was the No. 19 fantasy scoring wide receiver in 2011, his first season in the NFL.
Roddy White was still the Falcons’ clear No. 1 in 2011, but at 30 years old, he’s nearing the end of his prime years. White’s superior production was a result of nearly twice as many targets, a statistic in which he led the league.
Jones was superior to White in a few key areas, though, such as YPC, YAC and AYAC (Average Yards After Catch). He had an AYAC of 7.44 while White tacked on an AYAC of only 3.64.
Jones is probably the longest-shot of the group to overtake Johnson, but if he gets 120 to 130 targets instead of the 96 he had last season (a real possibility), Jones has the goods to make a run at top five for wide receivers and at Calvin Johnson for the No. 1 spot.