If you want to win your fantasy league, you have to stay ahead of the game. Winning fantasy football championships is a year-round process, really, and not just a seasonal hobby.
That said, over sixth months remain until the season kicks off. Maybe it's a bit too early to be looking at which players should be ranked where... Hogwash!!!
Just because the NFL draft is still 50 days away and we don't even know where most of the free agents will end up doesn't mean we should be deterred from learning as much as we can about the upcoming season.
For my first edition, I decided not to put any rookie running back potentials in the rankings as it would be too difficult to assess their value without having the slightest idea where they might be playing. However, I DO try to keep in mind all the possibilities when ranking the free agents.
Either way, there will be many more installments of player rankings in the coming months, so enjoy this first iteration and let me know what you think.
* - Denotes a player set to hit free agency this offseason.
80. Santana Moss (Was)
79. Nate Washington (Ten)
78. Nick Toon (NO)
77. Darrius Heyward-Bey (Oak)
76. Leonard Hankerson (Was)
75. Stephen Hill (NYJ)
74. Keshawn Martin (Hou)
73. Davone Bess (Mia)
72. Jacoby Ford (Oak)
71. Laurent Robinson (Jax)
70. Dwayne Harris (Dal)
69. Jeremy Kerley (NYJ)
68. Jonathan Baldwin (KC)
67. Marvin Jones (Cin)
66. LaVon Brazill (Ind)
65. Greg Little (Cle)
64. Golden Tate (Sea)
63. Michael Floyd (Ari)
62. Andre Roberts (Ari)
61. Joseph Morgan (NO)
60. Ryan Broyles (Det)
59. Rod Streater (Oak)
58. Emmanuel Sanders (Pit)
57. Malcom Floyd (SD)
56. Santonio Holmes (NYJ)
55. Mohamed Sanu (Cin)
54. Brandon LaFell (Car)
53. Brian Hartline (Mia)
52. Nate Burleson (Det)
51. Rueben Randle (NYG)
50. Danario Alexander (SD)
49. Brian Quick (StL)
48. Miles Austin (Dal)
47. Danny Amendola (StL) *
46. Anquan Boldin (SF)
45. Alshon Jeffery (Chi)
44. DeSean Jackson (Phi)
43. Chris Givens (StL)
42. Mike Williams (TB)
41. Lance Moore (NO)
40. Stevie Johnson (Buf)
39. Sidney Rice (Sea)
38. Denarius Moore (Oak)
37. Brandon Lloyd (NE)
36. Greg Jennings (GB) *
35. Kendall Wright (Ten)
34. Vincent Brown (SD)
33. Justin Blackmon (Jax)
32. Josh Gordon (Cle)
31. T.Y. Hilton (Ind)
30. Jeremy Maclin (Phi)
29. Kenny Britt (Ten)
28. James Jones (GB)
27. Torrey Smith (Bal)
26. Cecil Shorts (Jax)
25. Mike Wallace (Pit) *
24. Hakeem Nicks (NYG)
23. Dwayne Bowe (KC)
22. Antonio Brown (Pit)
21. Steve Smith (Car)
The Top 20 Wide Receivers for 2013
20. Reggie Wayne (Ind)
Even though Reggie Wayne was outstanding in his first season playing with Andrew Luck, I can't help but see a drop-off in 2013. It's not so much because of his age (though he will turn 35 during the season), but more because of two other factors.
First, the Colts lost their offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, when he accepted the head coaching job in Arizona. Arians was a pass-first guy, as evidenced by his rookie quarterback heaving up the fifth-most pass attempts in the NFL last year, so obviously that will hurt Wayne a bit.
The good news is that their new OC was the same guy who ran the Stanford offense while Luck was there, Pep Hamilton. The bad news is that Hamilton incorporates more of a power-running game in conjunction with a short passing game, so Wayne will lose out a little more there as well.
The second thing that could affect Wayne's fantasy value is that all the other young wide receivers and tight ends (T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen) will be better and demand more targets.
In the end, Wayne should be fine, but don't expect the same gaudy numbers from a year ago.
19. Larry Fitzgerald (Ari)
Larry Fitz is a really tough one to call right now for a couple of reasons.
First, the Cardinals have a new coach in Bruce Arians who plans on implementing a new offensive system, so even for the mighty Larry Fitzgerald, there might be a bit of a learning curve.
The good news is that Arians likes to throw the ball down the field, so once the playbook is learned by all, Fitz should actually benefit from the change.
The second problem to consider is the more obvious one as it's plagued the Cardinals for quite a few years now; the quarterback situation.
If Arizona doesn't pick up another QB in the offseason (and considering the free-agent market out there, they may not want to), Fitz will have one of either Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley or Brian Hoyer throwing to him. Yuck!
Even if the Cards end up drafting a QB, whoever they grab won't be seasoned enough to do much better, so Fitz will once again have his work cut out for him.
With all that said, looking at what Bruce Arians did for Reggie Wayne last year gives me confidence that Larry will be able to get the job done and come back into fantasy relevance this season. He'll probably be more of a WR2 instead of the WR1 he was in years past, but anything is possible for a guy with his uber-talent.
18. Pierre Garcon (Was)
For the first quarter of the first game, Pierre Garcon looked well on his way to having an outstanding season for both the Washington Redskins and his many fantasy owners.
However, torn ligaments in your foot can really put a damper on things, as Pierre would end up missing six full games and be thoroughly hampered in quite a few others.
Once he learned how to deal with the pain, Garcon returned to relative awesomeness putting up solid WR2 numbers from Week 12 on.
When healthy, the kid is a serious game-changer and with his speed and RGIII throwing him the ball, his fantasy potential ranges up to the high-end WR2 range.
Even if Griffin ends up missing the first six games on the PUP list, I don't think Garcon would take much of a hit (if any) with Kirk Cousins at the helm seeing how Cousins actually got Garcon his most targets of the season during his one start last year.
17. Marques Colston (NO)
Marques Colston is about as steady Eddie as it comes for a fantasy wide receiver, though every once in awhile, he can blow the cover off a week and go for 140 yards and multiple TDs.
I believe the return of Sean Payton to the bench helps Colston a bit, if only because Payton knows his value better than anyone and will make sure he’s used properly because of it.
If I didn’t believe that Jimmy Graham is about to have a monster year, I’d probably rank him higher, but with Colston about to turn 30, I think youth will prevail a bit here.
16. Jordy Nelson (GB)
Jordy Nelson’s big-play ability on one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league makes him a candidate to win any single week for your fantasy team.
However, his inconsistency and injury woes from a year ago keep him from climbing any higher in the rankings at this point.
It will be interesting to see how much of a difference it makes not having Greg Jennings out there anymore (assuming he leaves), as it could either slide more coverage Jordy's way and hurt his stock, or garner more targets from Rodgers and help it.
Until we see how things unfold during the summer, he’ll stay here in the mid-WR2 range for me.
15. Wes Welker (NE)
If Wes Welker ends up re-signing with the Patriots, there’s no reason why he can’t put up the same numbers he’s been putting up for years now.
On the other hand, if he decides to jump ship for a couple of extra (million) bucks, his fantasy value will take a hit.
How big of a hit depends on where he goes, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he slides all the way into the mid- to-lower WR3 range.
14. Victor Cruz (NYG)
Not only did Eli Manning miss the presence of a healthy Hakeem Nicks last season, but Victor Cruz seemed to miss him as well.
Defenses shifted more double-teams Victor’s way once they noticed that Nicks could be covered one-on-one, though even through the added attention, Cruz was still able to set career-highs in catches (86) and touchdowns (10).
Where he lacked from his breakout 2011 season was in the “big play” department, as his yards per catch dropped a full six yards from 18.7 to 12.7.
If Nicks comes back healthy this year, both Cruz and Eli Manning will benefit.
If all goes according to plan, the upside here definitely extends into the WR1 range, especially if RB David Wilson can draw extra defensive attention with a good start to his sophomore season.
13. Randall Cobb (GB)
When he got his chance to start after Greg Jennings went down to injury, Randall Cobb took full advantage of the opportunity and never looked back.
Showing to be a Jack of all trades within the Packers high-powered offense, Cobb quickly gained the respect of Aaron Rodgers and actually became his go-to guy after just a few games as a starter.
Because he can play in the slot, on the outside or even out of the backfield, he’ll be an invaluable tool once again in 2013, especially with Jennings likely to leave via free agency.
The problem is, Cobb is not Rodgers' favorite target in the red zone, nor is he the best deep threat on the team, so it’s tough to figure out just how high the bar is for him in fantasy this season.
His versatility and playmaking abilities still make him the most intriguing receiver on the Packers, though, and he should be a very solid, if not outstanding WR2 this season because of it.
12. Vincent Jackson (TB)
I have to say that I really didn’t expect Vincent Jackson’s numbers to go up with Josh Freeman under center instead of Philip Rivers, but up they definitely went.
In fact, V-Jax set career highs in catches (72), yards (1,384), yards per catch (19.2) and fantasy points per game (11.7). The only category he failed to increase was his TDs, but eight isn’t too shabby of a number there, either.
With running back Doug Martin coming on as a force to be reckoned with, defenses were unable to play the deep ball last season; a little bonus Mr. Jackson will likely take advantage of again in 2013.
I’m not sure he repeats those lofty numbers from a year ago, but he definitely has the upside of a WR1 in 2013.
11. Roddy White (Atl)
“Old Man” Roddy White (32 in November) keeps on plugging along as he once again found himself in the top-10 fantasy receivers at the end of 2012.
He did so by posting the third-most catches (92), third-most yards (1,351) and fourth-most TDs (7) in his career while averaging over 11 fantasy points a game for the fifth straight season.
The ascension of Julio Jones should take a little wind out of his sails this upcoming season, but Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense are pretty well locked in at this point and should be even better entering their second year playing in OC Dirk Koetter’s offense.
10. Andre Johnson (Hou)
I have to say that Andre Johnson surprised me a bit this past year.
At 31 years old, I simply didn’t see him being able to perform at that high of a level anymore, but quite obviously, I was wrong.
In fact, if it weren’t for a continuation of his career-long bout with touchdownitis, Johnson would have easily been a top-five fantasy wideout in 2012.
The big question for Johnson heading into 2013 will be if his 32-year-old body will be able to withstand a full 16-game season again, as he really wasn’t expected to at all last year.
If he can, he should end up right around the top-10 fantasy receivers once again as I really can’t see a hell of a lot changing in that Houston Texans offense.
9. Eric Decker (Den)
Where Eric Decker fell short in yardage last year (1,064), he more than made up for in touchdowns (13). The kid certainly has a knack for the end zone, which was only amplified by the addition of Peyton Manning last March.
Now that he’s been playing with Manning for an entire year, who knows how high his stock will rise, but it will be tough for him to outscore the guys I have ranked above at this point…even though he did end up eighth on the fantasy list last season.
8. Michael Crabtree (SF)
Crabtree was having a relatively mediocre 2012 season until the San Francisco brass unleashed Colin Kaepernick on the football world.
From that moment on, Crabtree was one of the best wide receivers in the game, both in real life and in fantasy.
Nobody ever doubted the talent within this kid, but his skills were barely tapped into through his first three-and-a-half years in the league. However, with Kaepernick at the helm, Crabby had the second-most fantasy points over the final five weeks of the regular season.
If the last half of 2012 and his 20 catches for 285 yards and three touchdowns during the ‘Niners three playoff games are any indication, it looks like a new fantasy star has been born.
*** I do not believe the acquisition of Anquan Boldin hurts Crabtree's fantasy status entering 2013. In fact, if Boldin can draw a bit of coverage away from Crabby, it may help. ***
7. Percy Harvin (Sea)
The migraine issue may not be plaguing Mr. Harvin anymore, but that doesn’t mean the guy isn’t still a headache.
That being said, for all the complaining about the way he’s used in the offense and his contract disputes and whatever else, Percy Harvin really is a special player.
Before his 2012 season was cut short due to injury, Harvin was well on his way to the first 100-catch, 1,000-yard season of his career.
Granted, those numbers may not be as special as they once were, but as is the case with the running quarterbacks of today’s game, Harvin’s fantasy potential skyrockets when you consider what his abilities in both the running game and special teams play bring to the table.
Marshawn Lynch may not draw the same defensive attention that Adrian Peterson would have this season, but when you throw what QB Russell Wilson can do as a runner into the mix, you'd have to think that Harvin should have even more space to do his thing than he did for the Vikings last season.
Assuming there are no snags in the deal and the trade goes through, Harvin will still be primed for a top-10 fantasy campaign as a Seattle Seahawk.
6. A.J. Green (Cin)
After 11 weeks of the 2012 season, A.J. Green was well on his way to a fantasy scoring crown with a nine-game TD streak, 911 yards and 10 total touchdowns under his belt.
However, the final stretch wasn’t as kind to Mr. Green’s fantasy owners as he caught just one TD over the last six weeks of the season.
This year, Green should have no problem returning to a dominant fantasy level again if Andy Dalton continues to target him over 10 times a game like did in 2012.
The progression of Jermaine Gresham and health of both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones should take some heat (and double-teams) off Green this year as well.
5. Demaryius Thomas (Den)
What’s not to like about Demaryius Thomas in 2013?
He can still run like the wind at 6’3”, 230 pounds; he still has one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game throwing him the ball; he still has Eric Decker on the other side to protect him from being double-teamed; and as it turns out, the Broncos have one of the easiest schedules in the league this season.
His consistency is phenomenal as well, as Thomas either caught a touchdown or went for 100 yards in 13 of of the Broncos' 17 games (playoff game included).
After grabbing 94 balls for 1,434 yards and 10 TDs in his first season with Peyton Manning, I can’t imagine Thomas getting any worse now that they’ve built some chemistry.
4. Brandon Marshall (Chi)
The Beast had the best season of his career in 2012, putting up career highs in receptions (118), yards 1,508) and touchdowns (11).
It wasn’t much of a shock, either, after the Chicago Bears reunited Marshall with his favorite QB, Jay Cutler, in a trade with the Dolphins last offseason.
Some may predict a bit of a drop-off for Brandon in 2013, especially with the expected step forward by second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery sure to come, but I don’t see it.
If Marshall can put up those monster numbers without a secondary receiver to take the heat off of him, then who’s to say he won’t do even better with a player like Jeffery lining up opposite him?
Either way, the signing of pass-oriented head coach Marc Trestman will make up for the targets that Alshon will undoubtedly steal from Marshall, so I’m expecting another huge year for The Beast.
3. Julio Jones (Atl)
I was fully expecting 2012 to be the year Julio Jones took the fantasy world by storm, but as it turned out, Jones needed just a little more seasoning and self-confidence for it to happen.
Now that he has it, though, there’s not much that can stop him from jumping up into the top tier of fantasy wide receivers.
If Julio can turn up his play at home and stay clear of the minor injuries that held him to a 79-1,198-10 stat line last year, he’ll join the short list of contenders to Megatron’s fantasy crown this season.
2. Dez Bryant (Dal)
Dez Bryant came on like a madman during the last half of 2012, grabbing 10 touchdowns during one seven-week stretch (Weeks 10-16) and putting up the most fantasy points of any receiver in the league over the final five weeks.
Is this the Dez Bryant we’ve all been waiting to see?
I believe so, and it looks like the guy is here to stay.
Last year, Bryant caught 92 balls for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. Believe it or not, I expect each of those categories to rise in 2013 and if so, Bryant will be another legitimate contender to Megatron’s crown as the top fantasy wide receiver.
1. Calvin Johnson (Det)
Would you believe that even though Calvin Johnson set the single-season NFL record for receiving yards (1,964), had the fourth-most receptions ever in a season and topped the world in fantasy points for the second year in a row, there’s still room for improvement?
His five touchdown catches was the worst 16-game output of his career and extremely unlikely to happen again. Somewhere in the low teens is a far more reasonable forecast.
And 2,000 yards is certainly within reach as well, especially if Stafford gets him double-digit targets every game like he did last year (13 of 16 games, actually).
The wide receiver position will be stacked again this season, but Calvin is in a different stratosphere than the rest and could be worth a first-round selection.
The rankings above will undoubtedly turned inside out and on its head over the next 5-6 months, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't bitch and moan or simply express your opinion over who should be ranked where and why.
In fact, I encourage the input (no matter the type), so leave your comments below
Listen and subscribe to our Pyro® Weekly Podcasts: http://pyromaniac.buzzsprout.com.
Follow Pyro® on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pyroman1ac.
Like us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/pyromaniac.