Ranking the Top 25 Wide Receivers in Fantasy Football
As the National Football League has evolved into the pass-wacky aerial free-for-all that it has become in recent years, fantasy football has followed suit with leagues that require three starting wide receivers and award a point for receptions growing in popularity.
This change has increased the importance of having a strong cadre of wide receivers on your fantasy squad. To assist you in building one, here's a look at the top 25 fantasy wideouts for the 2012 season in PPR leagues.
1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
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Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson led the National Football League with 1,681 receiving yards last year, and the sixth-year pro is easily the top fantasy option available at his position for the upcoming season.
2. Wes Welker, New England Patriots
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3. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
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4. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
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After missing nine games last season and posting the lowest statistical output of his nine-year career in 2011, there's considerable risk involved in drafting Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans in the second round.
However, as Johnson showed in topping 100 catches, 1,500 yards and leading all players at his position in fantasy points in both 2008 and 2009, there can be a great deal of reward to be reaped by choosing him as well.
For Johnson's part the 31-year-old appears to be eager to put last year's injury-marred campaign behind him, and Johnson recently told Albert Breer of NFL.com that he knows that the time is now if the Texans are going to build on last year's playoff appearance.
"This is our window of opportunity," Johnson said. "Opportunities don't last long in this league; those windows close real fast. We have a great opportunity right now. It's up to us to take advantage of it. It's not gonna happen just by talking about it, and we know that."
5. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
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6. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
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Roddy White has been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the National Football League over the past five seasons, and while many pundits (including White himself in a recent interview with The Augusta Chronicle) have predicted a reduced role for the eighth-year pro this year, I'll believe it when I see it.
7. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
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8. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
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The Atlanta Falcons appear set to open up the offense under new coordinator Dirk Koetter, and if his six-catch, 109-yard explosion in just over a quarter of preseason action is any indication, the primary beneficiary of that is going to be second-year pro Julio Jones.
9. Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers
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The fantasy bugaboo with Greg Jennings certainly isn't his talent, as the seventh-year pro has aptly demonstrated that with 1,000 yard seasons in three of the past four years.
However, there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Green Bay offense and quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn't afraid to spread the ball around, which caps Jennings' fantasy upside somewhat.
10. Victor Cruz, New York Giants
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No wide receiver in fantasy football was a bigger surprise last season than second-year pro Victor Cruz, who came from nowhere to post over 80 catches, top 1,500 receiving yards and finish as a top-three fantasy performer at his position.
Cruz certainly won't be flying under any fantasy radars in 2012, but not only does Cruz plan to back up last year's gaudy numbers but, according to The New York Daily News, Cruz thinks there's room to improve on his performance from 2011.
“I feel like I know defenses,” Cruz said. “When I’m running out there and I’m lining up I can read defenses a lot better than I did a year ago. And I think I’m definitely more cerebral when I’m out there running routes, and I can find openings a lot easier. So I think I’m smarter in that regard.”
11. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers
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The arrival of rookie quarterback Cam Newton resurrected Steve Smith's career with the Carolina Panthers, and after posting his highest yardage total since 2008, the 33-year-old should once again see a ton of targets in the passing game this year.
12. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
The ascension of Victor Cruz and the broken foot suffered this spring by New York Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks are both causes for concern about his fantasy prospects for 2012.
However, by all accounts Nicks will be ready for opening day, and even with Cruz going bananas last year, the fourth-year veteran still finished the 2011 season as a fantasy WR1 in PPR leagues.
13. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
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In only one of his six seasons in the National Football League has New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston failed to top 1,000 receiving yards, and with Robert Meachem now in San Diego, an uptick in targets should insure that that doesn't change this year.
14. Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings
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A combination of nearly 1,000 receiving yards and nearly 350 rushing yards propelled Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings to his first top-10 fantasy finish last season, and as the top target in the Vikings passing game, Harvin should have every opportunity to make it two years in a row in 2012.
15. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
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After catching only six touchdown passes in his first three NFL seasons, wide receiver Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers went absolutely ballistic last year, reeling in 15 scores and nearly 1,300 yards worth of receptions en route to finishing the season as fantasy's fourth-ranked wide receiver.
That gaudy touchdown total raises concerns about the sustainability of Nelson's production, which drops him into high-end Fantasy WR2 territory, although, as Bob McGinn of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recently reported, Nelson appears set to pick up where he left off last year.
Beginning his fifth season, Nelson's inexorable march into the upper reaches of his profession has been on display daily at Nitschke Field. "Wow!" wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said Tuesday. "This guy just continues to improve. He is an elite receiver."
16. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
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17. Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys
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I may well be in the minority on this, but if I'm going to be the first team in my fantasy football league to draft a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver then I'll take my chances with Miles Austin, who may not be as talented as his batterymate, but also isn't nearly as likely to do something incredibly stupid.
18. Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills
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It may be hard to get overly excited about the Buffalo Bills' aerial attack, but head coach Chan Gailey has pledged to open up the offense, and the primary beneficiary of that from a fantasy perspective should be wideout Steve Johnson, who has amassed consecutive top 20 fantasy seasons.
19. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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After seven tumultuous seasons in San Diego, Vincent Jackson joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent in the offseason, and if the Tampa Bay offense is going to rebound this year then a big year from Jackson will be a necessary part of that.
20. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
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There's no denying that Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is an immensely talented football player, and as Jim McCormick of ESPN recently pointed out, Bryant's potential to be a fantasy football force cannot be underestimated.
There are some indicators, however, that suggest Bryant is capable of reaching his vast potential. With nine scores in the red zone on just 21 career red zone targets, he's quite a scoring threat given his otherworldly ability to adjust in the air and leverage his size and athleticism when coverage is at its tightest.
However, there's also no denying that, to this point in his career, Bryant has has demonstrated that he's a world-class headcase with a number of off-the-field gaffes, which makes counting on the third-year pro a risky bet.
21. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
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Three missed games in 2011 led to something of a disappointing statistical season for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, but his role as the underneath/possession target in the Eagles' passing game makes him a more consistent fantasy option in PPR leagues.
22. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
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The ongoing contract impasse between the Pittsburgh Steelers and wide receiver Mike Wallace has thrust Antonio Brown to the top of the pecking order at his position, and the team apparently has enough faith in the third-year pro to hand him a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension.
23. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
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After a nightmarish 2011 season filled with poor performances and grousing about his contract, DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles is all smiles after getting his payday, and the fifth-year pro merits consideration as a low-end risk/reward fantasy WR2.
24. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins
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Pierre Garcon looked very good in hauling in three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown in his preseason debut with the Washington Redskins, and reports that the fifth-year pro is rapidly becoming rookie quarterback Robert Griffin's favorite target have only served to boost Garcon's fantasy stock.
25. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
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Third-year wide receiver Eric Decker showed some flashes last year with the Denver Broncos, making 44 catches for 612 yards and eight touchdowns. As the underneath receiver in the Peyton Manning-led Denver offense, Decker's production should continue to climb in 2012.