Any average Joe on the street knows that wide receivers like Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald should be taken early in fantasy football drafts. Any casual fan of football knows that breakout stars like A.J. Green, Mike Wallace, Jordy Nelson and Victor Cruz should be on your radar as well.
But which wide receivers should you be targeting in the middle rounds who could potentially give you similar numbers? Where are the diamonds in the rough at the position this year?
I have three words for you: bounce-back players. This year, it will be all about those proven players who took a step back last year and, because of it, will represent excellent value in drafts this summer.
Let's go through a few of the names you should be targeting once the top names are off the board.
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
This one is simple—the man got paid. He's happy now. It may be lame, but his contract dispute last season affected his play.
We've seen a bit of a decline from Jackson over the past three seasons. In 2009, he snared 62 passes for 1,156 yards and scored 13 total touchdowns. In 2010, it was 47 catches for 1,056 yards and eight total touchdowns (though he did lose two games to injury).
Last year, he was a huge bust, with 58 catches for 961 yards and just four touchdowns. That lack of production won't happen again.
The Eagles have a lot to prove this year, and Jackson is a huge part of that equation. He comes with a lot of risk—injuries to himself or quarterback Michael Vick and inconsistent numbers since most of his value comes from big plays rather than steady production—but he'll be a nice value on draft day.
And if he returns to his 2009 or 2010 form, he's a top-15 receiver.
Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys
You're not likely to get the 2009 version of Austin who caught 81 passes for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns—not with Dez Bryant opposite of him.
But the 69 catches for 1,041 yards and eight total touchdowns from 2010?
That's realistic, and that was good enough to make him fantasy's 11th-best receiver in 2010, which isn't too shabby of a haul for a player you'll likely be able to get in the fifth or sixth round.
I would guess he'll drop off the radar of your league mates a bit after missing six games last season and only catching 43 passes for 579 yards. Keep in mind that he did have seven touchdowns in those games, however, so he did produce in terms of scoring while he was on the field.
If you can snag Austin as a WR2, you've done a nice job. Especially when he puts up WR1 numbers.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
Dwayne Bowe is the man who caught 72 passes for 1,162 yards and 15—yes, 15!—touchdowns in 2009.
That's probably not going to happen again.
The catches and yardage should stay the same. After all, Bowe caught 81 passes for 1,159 yards last season. But once Matt Cassel went down to injury last year, Bowe's fantasy numbers took a huge hit, and he only managed five touchdowns on the season.
That shouldn't happen this year, though.
With Cassel healthy again, Bowe's realistic upside is somewhere in the vicinity of 75 catches for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns. That sounds a lot better when you realize you could be getting that type of production from your sixth-round pick.
Don't be afraid of Bowe in the middle rounds.
He's the type of player who could go undervalued by your draft mates and help you win your league this year. It's not unfeasible to think he'll be a top-10 receiver this season if he snags more touchdowns.
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