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Fantasy Football: Top 30 Wide Receivers in Standard-Scoring Leagues

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterDecember 12, 2016

Fantasy Football: Top 30 Wide Receivers in Standard-Scoring Leagues

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    The following slideshow details my top 30 wide receivers in standard-scoring leagues—a painfully subjective exercise that reflects the 2012 market for target-driven and touchdown-happy playmakers.

    (For a full listing of the top 75 wideouts, click here.)

    To repeat, there are some profound differences between these rankings and my recent listing of top 75 receivers in points-per-reception leagues.

    This fluid countdown may undergo one more change before next week's opener (Cowboys-Giants). But right now, it's a reasonably accurate profile of my preseason rationale.

    Enjoy the show!

Nos. 31-60: Best of the Rest

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    The Next 30

    31. Pierre Garcon, Redskins
    32. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
    33. Malcom Floyd, Chargers
    34. Santonio Holmes, Jets
    35. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots
    36. Michael Crabtree, 49ers
    37. Justin Blackmon, Jaguars
    38. Titus Young, Lions
    39. Mike Williams, Buccaneers
    40. Laurent Robinson, Jaguars
    41. Greg Little, Browns
    42. Sidney Rice, Seahawks
    43. Denarius Moore, Raiders
    44. Anquan Boldin, Ravens
    45. Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs
    46. Mario Manningham, 49ers
    47. Kendall Wright, Titans
    48. Donald Jones, Bills
    49. Jerome Simpson, Vikings
    50. Lance Moore, Saints
    51. Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
    52. Santana Moss, Redskins
    53. James Jones, Packers
    54. Robert Meachem, Chargers
    55. Brandon LaFell, Panthers
    56. Davone Bess, Dolphins
    57. Michael Floyd, Cardinals
    58. Steve Breaston, Chiefs
    59. Josh Gordon, Browns
    60. Brian Quick, Rams

30: Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans

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    2011 Stats: 17 catches, 289 yards, 3 TDs, 26 targets

    Skinny: Let's start the countdown with the wildest of wild cards.

    Kenny Britt is just weeks removed from a drunk-driving arrest at a military camp in Kentucky and a knee scope to clear out loose particles from last September's major knee surgery.

    To complicate matters, no one can promise with total certainty that Britt will be or won't be dressed in Titans garb for the club's Week 1 home clash with the Patriots, due to injury or suspension.

    So, let's handle what we know: In his first two games last season, Britt totaled 14 catches, 23 targets, 271 yards receiving and three touchdowns. At the time, he was the No. 2-ranked receiver in fantasy (behind Calvin Johnson).

    And for Weeks 3-7 of the 2010 campaign, Britt had a five-game scoring streak that resulted in 18 catches, 30 targets, 393 yards receiving and seven touchdowns!

    In other words, it's a shame that we're talking about whether Britt might suit up on Sept. 9 instead of wondering why he isn't a top-10 receiver.

    Draft Target: Early Round 9

29: Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans

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    2011 Stats: 74 catches, 1,023 yards, 7 TDs, 121 targets

    Skinny: There's a lot of competition for the top 30 spots here, but Nate Washington gets the late-August nod, thanks to nine games of eight or more targets last year—and a bold finishing kick in the final seven games (35 catches, 522 yards, six TDs).

    And with Kenny Britt back in the fold and lightning-fast rookie Kendall Wright vertically stretching the field on every passing play, I love Washington's chances of seldom getting double-teamed on standard down-and-distance situations.

    In other words, last year was no fluke.

    Draft Target: Early Round 9

28: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    2011 Stats: 69 catches, 1,108 yards, 2 TDs, 124 targets

    Skinny: If Antonio Brown could just churn out another three touchdowns per season, he'd instantly garner top-20 recognition amongst receivers.

    Instead, that two-spot from last year has an ugly look to it, especially when prepping for standard-scoring drafts.

    In his final 16 games last year (including the Steelers' playoff loss to the Broncos), Brown averaged 4.5 catches, 72.3 yards and 7.63 targets—numbers befitting of a formidable fantasy prospect.

    But there's no way around one inescapable truth: To be taken more seriously in fantasy circles, Brown must find the end zone with more regularity in 2012.

    And preseason games don't count!

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 8

27: Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens

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    2011 Stats: 50 catches, 841 yards, 7 TDs, 95 targets

    Skinny: In the 92-year history of the NFL, it's quite possible that Torrey Smith enjoyed the greatest starting debut of any receiver in league history, rolling over the Rams for five catches, 152 yards and three touchdowns in Week 3 last season.

    In that three-hour time window, Smith significantly raised his seasonal stock. But his prominent standing for 2012 was cemented against the Steelers (Week 9) and Bengals (Week 11), respectively, when the Ravens speedster combined for 11 catches, 236 yards and two touchdowns.

    Now, if we could only see more week-to-week consistency from Smith this fall.

    To grab the No. 1 mantle from teammate Anquan Boldin, he'll need at least five outings of seven or more receptions.

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 8

26: Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

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    2011 Stats: 32 catches, 551 yards, 4 TDs, 70 targets

    2011 Playoffs (Two Games): 10 catches, 297 yards, 1 TD, 17 targets

    Skinny: This time next year, we could be discussing the merits of Demaryius Thomas as a top-15 fantasy receiver.

    But in the interim, conservative owners have no choice but to let things play out.

    As in...let's see if Peyton Manning's surgically repaired neck can be preserved for an entire season. Let's see if rookie Ronnie Hillman can quickly evolve into Denver's future feature back (say that three times fast).

    And let's see if Thomas can trump Eric Decker and Co. for the coveted title of "Peyton's Go-To Target"—essentially building off his stellar playoff numbers from January.

    Draft Target: Early Round 6

25: DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

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    2011 Stats: 58 catches, 961 yards, 4 TDs, 104 targets

    Skinny: DeSean Jackson may have a new contract, but can he recapture the old production of 2008-09 (125 catches, 2,079 yards, 11 TD)?

    After all, QB Michael Vick averaged 34.8 passes last year and should have no trouble finding 8.5 targets in the weekly budget for D-Jax. Right?

    As a healthy and seemingly happy contributor with Philly, Jackson needs to have a bounce-back season in the vicinity of 66 catches, 1,104 yards and eight touchdowns.

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 7

24: Eric Decker, Denver Broncos

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    2011 Stats: 44 catches, 612 yards, 8 TDs, 94 targets

    Skinny: You don't see too many high-end receivers with catch-to-target dividends of 47 percent from the previous season.

    And yet, that's where we're at with Eric Decker, Tim Tebow's favorite target in 2011...and Peyton Manning's primary weapon during the 2012 preseason—whatever that's worth.

    Despite the Broncos' shaky passing game last year, Decker still collected seven-plus targets five times. And from a PPR-elite perspective, he crossed the threshold of six catches, 90 yards and/or one touchdown seven times.

    Not bad...all things considered.

    Bottom line, I expect Decker to take a giant leap with Manning at quarterback. Something in the neighborhood of 82 catches, 118 targets, 1,078 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 6

23: Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

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    2011 Stats: 75 catches, 960 yards, 4 TDs, 132 targets

    Skinny: Reggie Wayne may have struggled last year with Indy QBs Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky, but talented wideouts with excellent route-running capabilities don't just vanish off the fantasy radar.

    Especially those averaging 8.25 targets from a season that didn't include one Peyton Manning pass.

    At age 33, Wayne has the goods for two or three highly productive seasons with Andrew Luck.

    In his last six games, when Orlovsky brought some stability at quarterback, Wayne caught 33 balls for 430 yards and three touchdowns...for per-game averages of 5.5 catches, 71.7 yards and 0.5 touchdowns.

    For good measure, he collected 25 targets in the Colts' final two games.

    Draft Target: Early in Round 8

22: Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills

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    2011 Stats: 76 catches, 1,004 yards, 7 TDs, 134 targets

    Skinny: Steve Johnson had an across-the-board dip in production last season compared to his 2010 breakout (82 catches, 1,073 yards, 10 TDs).

    And yet there's still plenty to love about his 2012 prospects:

    1. Johnson collected at least five targets in all 16 games. More importantly, he tallied seven or more targets 11 times.

    2. The 25-year-old Kentucky product had eight games of at least 66 yards receiving.

    3. Johnson registered touchdowns in consecutive games three times last year.

    Bottom line, Johnson is a healthy lock for 80 catches, 135 targets, 1,090 yards and eight TDs in his prime—with the understanding that he's a solid WR2 in fantasy circles.

    Draft Target: Early Round 7

21: Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys

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    2011 Stats: 43 catches, 579 yards, 7 TDs, 73 targets

    Skinny: Before his hamstring injuries kicked in last season (and this August), Miles Austin pulled down 14 catches for 233 yards and four touchdowns for Weeks 1 and 2. He also averaged 12 targets per game during that stretch.

    For the healthy seasons of 2009 and 2010, Austin also averaged 75 catches, 1,181 yards, nine touchdowns and 122 targets.

    Bottom line, heading into his age-28 season, it's reasonable to believe Austin's injuries from 2011 were more incidental than anything age-related.

    It also helps that Tony Romo (4,184 passing yards, 31 TDs last season) boasts averages of 536 pass attempts and 29.5 passing TDs in his last two healthy campaigns (2009, 2011).

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 6

20: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

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    2011 Stats: 63 catches, 928 yards, 9 TDs, 103 targets

    Skinny: The fantasy optimist in me has chosen to ignore that Dez Bryant boasts only one 100-yard receiving game in his career or that he posted six games of three catches or less in 2011.

    Instead, I'll focus on his good hands, short-field dominance (eight TDs from within 34 yards last year) and prominent place in one of the NFL's most progressive offenses.

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 5

19: Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    2011 Stats: 60 catches, 1,106 yards, 9 TDs, 115 targets

    Skinny: Let's start with the bad news regarding Vincent Jackson's final season in San Diego:

    1. He had one of the worst catch-per-target ratios of any elite receiver.

    2. V-Jax had three games of four targets or less.

    3. He crossed the elite-PPR threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one TD only six times.

    Now, let's focus on the positives that drive Jackson's sturdy ranking for 2012:

    1. Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman will finish the season as a top-12 quarterback.

    2. Teammate Mike Williams and running back Doug Martin will garner plenty of attention from opposing defenses.

    3. V-Jax is a lock for 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in any healthy season. He also has the capacity to carry fantasy teams to victory at least five times a year.

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 6

18: Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles

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    2011 Stats: 63 catches, 859 yards, 5 TDs, 96 targets

    Skinny: Jeremy Maclin is not a classic No. 1 receiver in standard-scoring or PPR circles.

    He rarely collects nine targets or seven catches per game, and yet there are enough tangibles to believe a Year 4 breakout will occur.

    Here's a big caveat, though—this pre-draft ranking will have little significance if Maclin doesn't tally at least eight touchdowns.

    Extrapolating last year's stats, Maclin's 13-game numbers translated to 78 catches, 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    Tell me you wouldn't take that figure for this season, no questions asked.

    Draft Target: Late in Round 5

17: Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings

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    2011 Stats: 87 catches, 967 yards, 6 TDs, 120 targets

    Skinny: The receiving numbers don't tell the whole story here.

    Percy Harvin also rushed the ball 52 times for 345 yards and two touchdowns last season, accounting for 1,312 total yards and eight TDs.

    Progressing one step further, Harvin averaged seven catches, 79.1 yards, 0.75 TDs and 9.63 targets in his last eight games. That elite-level finish prompted this lofty ranking.

    Bottom line, Harvin has enjoyed significant bumps in targets, catches and receiving yards the last two years, and yet he still has much room for growth.

    Draft Target: Late in Round 4

16: Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints

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    2011 Stats: 80 catches, 1,143 yards, 8 TDs, 107 targets

    Skinny: It's hard to quantify how the Bountygate scandal—and subsequent suspension of head coach Sean Payton—will ultimately affect the Drew Brees/Marques Colston dynamic.

    In his last three seasons, Colston has averaged 78 catches, 1,080 yards, eight TDs and 148 targets—all thanks to Brees.

    And at age 29, this isn't the time to predict that Colston is headed for a seasonal slump or career breakthrough.

    He's simply one of the most bankable No. 2 receivers in the marketplace.

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 5

15: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

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    2011 Stats: 65 catches, 1,057 yards, 7 TDs, 115 targets

    Skinny: I have three viable reasons for attaching a modest preseason ranking to A.J. Green, one obvious and two that may become abundantly clear to fantasy gurus by October.

    For starters, the overall depth at receiver has blossomed to previously unforeseen levels. There isn't a fantasy dog on this list.

    In previous seasons, a stud athlete coming off a rookie campaign of four 100-yard games and seven touchdowns would be a top-10 consideration, but in Green's case, it's merely the foundation that guarantees him a spot in the top 16.

    Now for the second part: With Jerome Simpson running routes for the Vikings, the Bengals are in dire need of a consistently productive No. 2 receiver, a vacancy that Brandon Tate, Armon Binns and rookie Mohamed Sanu will attempt to fill. In the meantime, Green is bound to see plenty of double-teams.

    One more thing: The Bengals' 2012 schedule, from the perspective of opposing pass defenses, might be the toughest in the entire NFL. Two dates with the Steelers, Ravens and Browns, followed by clashes with the Redskins, Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Broncos, Dolphins and Chiefs.

    Bottom line, for 2013 and beyond, I love Green's prospects for becoming a top-10 fantasy asset. But for the upcoming season, I simply prefer 14 other wideouts ahead of him.

    Draft Target: Late in Round 3

14: Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

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    2011 Stats: 81 catches, 1,214 yards, 6 TDs, 141 targets

    Skinny: Traded to the Bears during the offseason, Brandon Marshall has been reunited with QB Jay Cutler and offensive guru Jeremy Bates.

    In 2008 with Denver, Marshall caught 104 balls—and attracted a career-best 182 targets—with Cutler and Bates orchestrating the Broncos offense.

    It's a stark contrast from last season. With little help at receiver, Marshall collected eight or more targets 12 times with the Dolphins, but finished with only 81 catches.

    Bottom line, I refuse to believe that heading into his age-28 season Marshall could never sniff 100 receptions again. And with the Bears' array of talented playmakers (Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Alshon Jeffery), Marshall likely won't encounter a double-team on first down all season.

    Draft Target: Late Round 3/early Round 4

13: Dwyane Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs

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    2011 Stats: 81 catches, 1,159 yards, 5 TDs, 142 targets

    Skinny: Citing mock drafts and the numerous publications devoted to this fantasy season, I'm sensing a general lack of respect for Dwayne Bowe's potential.

    To counter that, I have no dissenting opinions of this supreme talent in his athletic prime. In fact, I may be Bowe's biggest fan among the guru circuit.

    Last season, Bowe posted 10 games of nine-plus targets despite the club's injury-related problems at quarterback. That figure trumps the targets production of his 15-TD campaign in 2010.

    In a four-week span with Matt Cassel at quarterback (Weeks 2-5 last year), Bowe also tallied 21 catches, 403 yards, four touchdowns and 34 targets.

    Bottom line, Bowe has been remarkably consistent in targets, catches and receiving yards the last two seasons. The only wild momentum swing lies with touchdowns...and Bowe is a better bet for 15 TDs than five in 2012.

    Draft Target: Early Round 7 (an unspeakable crime)

12: Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants

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    2011 Stats: 76 Catches, 1,192 Yards, 7 TD, 133 Targets

    Skinny: My targets bias shines through with Hakeem Nicks, my No. 4 receiver during the spring before a broken foot (and subsequent surgery) dropped him seven spots in the countdown.

    During the 2011 regular season, Nicks attracted seven-plus targets in 12 games, including six straight from Weeks 11-16. He also crossed the magical threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one touchdown 11 times, a golden figure for those in points-per-reception leagues.

    That's when the fun really began.

    In four playoff games last year, Nicks tallied 28 catches, 43 targets, 444 yards and four TDs—numbers befitting of a fantasy anchor in standard-scoring and PPR leagues, when healthy.

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 5

11: Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers

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    2011 Stats: 79 catches, 1,394 yards, 7 TDs, 129 targets

    Skinny: Steve Smith collected seven or more targets in 14 games last season, tops among all NFL receivers.

    He also crossed the magical threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one touchdown in 10 games—something he hadn't accomplished in three years prior.

    Unlike seasons' past, the Panthers secondary wave of supporting playmakers (Brandon LaFell, Louis Murphy, pass-friendly running back Mike Tolbert) is formidable enough to provide tailbacks Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams with wider rushing lanes.

    Their presence also should help eliminate Smith double-teams during obvious passing downs. The way I see it, that feather in Smith's cap trumps any age-related concerns (he's 33).

    Draft Target: Early in Round 6

    (NOTE: At the time of this writing, I am not downgrading Smith's status just because he's been confined to crutches this week. Of course, that feeling is always subject to change.)

10: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

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    2011 Stats: 68 catches, 1,263 yards, 15 TDs, 96 targets

    Skinny: Jordy Nelson crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one touchdown 10 times last season. He also recorded 10 games of six or more receiving targets.

    And with four multiple-touchdown games last year, Nelson has a proven track record of carrying fantasy teams to victory in head-to-head matchups.

    Bottom line, if Nelson can rack up double-digit touchdowns for back-to-back campaigns, he'll have no problem achieving top-seven status by season's end.

    But here's the rub: On the heels of 15 out-of-nowhere TDs, Nelson might have to pay a Victor Cruz-like tax of mild disrespect heading into this season. It's the prudent response for a player who posted five touchdowns of 50-plus yards last year—and yet had only one 10-target game and zero days of 10 or more receptions.

    Draft Target: Mid-to-late Round 4

9: Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    2011 Stats: 72 catches, 1,193 yards, 8 TDs, 114 targets

    Skinny: It's hard to separate reality from speculation when assessing Mike Wallace's prospects.

    Last season, Wallace had per-game averages of five catches, 96.4 yards and 0.6 touchdowns from Weeks 1-9—on only 7.1 targets per start. And in the first 12 games, he crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one TD nine times.

    But his numbers dipped considerably after Ben Roethlisberger sustained a Week 14 leg injury against Cleveland.

    Fast forward to the present, when fantasy owners are left to wonder if Wallace will be adversely affected by his contract holdout (at least in the first two weeks), or if he's primed for a monster season heading into free agency next March.

    Fingers crossed on Wallace (18 TDs from 2010-11) tallying double-digit touchdowns this year, essentially mocking this ranking.

    Draft Target: Round 4

8: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

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    2011 Stats: 54 catches, 989 yards, 8 TDs, 94 targets

    Skinny: I cannot fully explain Julio Jones' six-slot ascension to the No. 8 receiver in just 30 days' time. And yet, there are no regrets about it.

    Last year, while sharing the receiving duties with Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez (among others), Jones still drew seven-plus targets seven times.

    He even reached double figures three times, including a 17-target explosion against Seattle (11 catches, 127 yards).

    And in his final six games, Jones racked up 31 catches, 525 yards, six TDs and 51 targets—for per-outing averages of five catches, 87 yards, one TD and 8.5 targets.

    Put it all together, and Jones is a prime candidate to take another leap forward in his second season.

    It's the natural progression of a skillful athlete who, as a 13-game rookie wideout in 2011, accomplished more than Jerry Rice (1985), Larry Fitzgerald (2004) and Calvin Johnson (2007) in their inaugural NFL seasons.

    Draft Target: Early-to-mid Round 3

7: Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers

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    2011 Stats: 67 catches, 949 yards, 9 TDs, 101 targets

    Skinny: If Greg Jennings (13 games played) had been healthy for all 16 games last year, he likely would have matched or eclipsed personal bests in targets (125) and receptions (80).

    But in some respects, it didn't matter anyway.

    Jennings crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one TD in 12 of 13 games, the best ratio of his stellar career.

    He also proffered seven games of eight-plus targets last season, including four outings of double-digit targets.

    Bottom line, I would be surprised if Jennings didn't eclipse 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012. He's the perfect handcuff to Aaron Rodgers in Round 3.

6: Victor Cruz, New York Giants

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    2011 Stats: 82 catches, 1,536 yards, 9 TDs, 131 targets

    Skinny: Victor Cruz may be a long shot to replicate his 2011 run of five touchdowns from 68 yards or longer.

    But there are a handful of positives to derive from, supporting this lofty ranking in the countdown:

    1. Cruz posted 12 games of eight targets or more last year—including 10 straight from Weeks 8-17.

    2. QB Eli Manning had per-game averages of 36.8 pass attempts last season, a figure that hovered above 40 after Week 4. Unless the Giants have big plans for running back Ahmad Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson (in the neighborhood of 40 combined carries), Cruz will again be a major factor in the weekly game plan.

    3. If teammate Hakeem Nicks (broken foot) should miss two, four or six games to start the season (via the PUP list), I will buy Cruz's capacity for 82 catches, eight TDs and 131 targets—no strings attached.

    Draft Target: Mid-to-late Round 3

5: Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

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    2011 Stats: 33 catches, 492 yards, 2 TDs, 51 targets

    Skinny: Heading into his age-31 season, Andre Johnson is not on the brink of a steep decline.

    Extrapolating his per-game averages over the last two seasons (20 games total), Johnson is in line for 96 catches, 1,366 yards and eight TDs in 2012. That's hardly an out-to-pasture projection for a borderline Hall of Famer.

    In his five healthiest games last year (Weeks 1-3 and Houston's two playoff games), Johnson also drew 56 targets and caught 34 balls for 517 yards and three touchdowns—with per-game averages of 11.1 targets, 6.9 receptions, 103.4 yards and 0.6 TDs.

    So far, so good, huh?

    It's not all roses and lollipops when discussing Johnson's situation, though.

    The Texans still haven't fielded any significant upgrades at receiver. Youngsters Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin simply won't command the lion's share of targets over Johnson, via QB Matt Schaub.

    At least not yet.

    For once, it would be nice if Johnson had a receiving distraction on the other side of the field.

    Draft Target: Late in Round 2

4: Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

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    2011 Stats: 100 catches, 1,296 yards, 8 TDs, 179 targets

    Skinny: Roddy White's per-season averages from 2010-11 are the stuff of PPR legend—108 catches, 1,343 yards, nine touchdowns and an absurdly high, but remarkably consistent 179 targets.

    But how does that translate to standard-scoring leagues this season, especially with Julio Jones vaulting up the ranks of NFL receivers?

    Including the Falcons' playoff loss to the Giants, White collected nine or more targets 14 times last season—and double-digit targets for six straight games (Weeks 11-16). He also crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one touchdown 11 times.

    On the flip side, White had a 17-game streak of nine or less catches from 2010-11, the type of quirky, face-cringing run that gives one temporary pause when conceiving top-five rankings.

    Fingers crossed on White keeping up with the fantasy elite for another campaign.

    Draft Target: Mid-to-late Round 2

3: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

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    2011 Stats: 80 catches, 1,411 yards, 8 TDs, 154 targets

    Skinny: Larry Fitzgerald may be my favorite NFL receiver, but that's still not enough to warrant a No. 2 ranking at his position.

    Here's the bottom line: If you were Fitzgerald or Wes Welker—a pair of reasonable locks for 90 catches, 1,300 yards and 8-9 touchdowns—and had to pin your fantasy hopes to either Tom Brady, Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, which one would you choose?

    Which one would you choose?

    On the positive side, Fitzgerald's 154 targets from last season—including six double-digit efforts—scream something in the realm of 90-93 receptions.

    Projections: 91 catches, 1,315 yards and 10 TDs

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 2

2: Wes Welker, New England Patriots

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    2011 Stats: 122 catches, 1,573 yards, 9 TDs, 173 targets

    Skinny: I'm on record for saying Welker won't replicate last year's output in receptions (122) and receiving yards (1,573).

    But that isn't a slight toward the Patriots star in any way.

    Do you know what it takes to average 122 catches and 1,573 yards? That's 7.6 catches and 98.3 yards per game—regardless of weather conditions, game flow or defensive matchups.

    Amazingly, Welker caught 122 balls last season despite only three double-digit efforts with receptions. He also collected eight or more targets 14 times, and during the playoffs Welker had per-game averages of 7.66.

    Bottom line, Welker has a long-standing track record of success in one of the NFL's most explosive offenses. At the bare minimum, he's a healthy lock for 109 catches, 1,263 yards, seven TDs and 148 targets.

    Most big-name wideouts would kill for that kind of "off" season.

    Draft Target: Late in Round 2/early in Round 3

1: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

32 of 32

    2011 Stats: 96 catches, 1,681 yards, 16 TDs, 158 targets

    Skinny: Do we really need to list reasons why Calvin is the No. 1 target among receivers, regardless of scoring format?

    Okay, here goes:

    1. Johnson passed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one touchdown 14 times last season—tops among all NFL receivers. And yes, it helped Johnson's cause that he recorded 11 touchdowns in the first eight games, momentarily getting ahead of the pace for Randy Moss' seasonal record of 23 receiving TDs (2007).

    2. Johnson led the NFL with eight games of 100-plus receiving yards last season. In fact, for three of the Lions' final four games—including the playoff loss to New Orleans—Johnson ridiculously amassed 200 yards.

    3. For what it's worth, Johnson is perhaps the biggest, fastest and strongest receiver in the game today. And heading into his age-27 season, it's scary to think he could dominate in a similar fashion for the next six or seven years.

    Draft Target: Middle of Round 1

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