2013 Fantasy Football: Pre-Draft Rankings on the Top 80 Wide Receivers
If you want to take home the trophy, you have to stay ahead of the game, folks. Winning fantasy football championships ain't easy, but it can be a heck of a lot simpler if you make it a year-round process instead of just a seasonal hobby.
The 2013 NFL draft is coming up on Thursday, April 25, and it should obviously be followed in some form or manner. Now, even though some of the rookies being selected may affect future rankings, we still know where most of this year's free agents have signed. We should always try to learn as much as we can.
I did not list any rookies in the rankings below, as it would be too difficult to assess their value without yet knowing their team situations.
In any case, I will continue to update my player rankings here throughout the offseason, so enjoy this pre-2013 NFL draft rendition and let me know what you think.
Wide Receivers Ranked 80-51 (Analysis Included for Each of the Top-50 Receivers)
Above is a video I would suggest watching on using the tiers method when preparing for your upcoming fantasy draft.
Below is a quick overview of the wide receivers I have ranked 80-51.
Each player ranked from 1-50 includes specific analysis within this slideshow. Write-ups for the players ranked 80-51 will be included in the next rendition of my player rankings, which can be seen here shortly after the 2013 NFL draft.
Wide Receivers 80-51
80. Donnie Avery (KC)
79. Lestar Jean (Hou)
78. A.J. Jenkins (SF)
77. Nick Toon (NO)
76. Leonard Hankerson (Was)
75. Dwayne Harris (Dal)
74. Stephen Hill (NYJ)
73. Keshawn Martin (Hou)
72. Davone Bess (Mia)
71. Darrius Heyward-Bey (Ind)
70. Marvin Jones (Cin)
69. Santana Moss (Was)
68. Donald Jones (NE)
67. LaVon Brazill (Ind)
66. Jacoby Jones (Bal)
65. Golden Tate (Sea)
64. Santonio Holmes (NYJ)
63. Ryan Broyles (Det)
62. Joseph Morgan (NO)
61. Michael Floyd (Ari)
60. Rod Streater (Oak)
59. Malcom Floyd (SD)
58. Brian Hartline (Mia)
57. Greg Little (Cle)
56. Brandon Lloyd (Free Agent)
55. Emmanuel Sanders (Pit)
54. Andre Roberts (Ari)
53. Rueben Randle (NYG)
52. Brandon LaFell (Car)
51. Vincent Brown (SD)
50. Mohamed Sanu: Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals really want Mohamed Sanu starting for this team, and I can’t say that I blame them in the slightest.
He’s big at 6’2”, 210 pounds, has really strong hands and, as he showed during the minimal time he was healthy last year, has a nice nose for the end zone as well.
If he can hold off Marvin Jones and maybe even Andrew Hawkins (if the Bengals want Sanu in the slot), then he’ll be a nice sleeper in 2013, with defenses keying in on A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham most of the time.
49. Nate Burleson: Detroit Lions
The soon-to-be 32-year-old Nate Burleson was having a so-so 2012 season before he was lost for the year with a broken leg in Week 7.
If the Lions had anyone else to turn to right now (Ryan Broyles [ACL] may not be back for Week 1), Burleson would likely have been sent packing. But as it is, he’ll be lining up opposite Calvin Johnson once again.
Because of this, he deserves to be drafted for the occasional spot start if needed.
48. Miles Austin: Dallas Cowboys
While 66 catches for 943 yards and six touchdowns isn’t bad, it’s still far less than what you’d expect from a guy who was on the verge of superstardom just a few years back.
I probably have him a tad bit low here and will likely slot him up the ranks a bit throughout the summer. But seeing his fantasy points per game fall off the way they have over the last four seasons won’t get him up very far.
47. Anquan Boldin: San Francisco 49ers
I’m interested to see how Boldin fits into this 49ers offense with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis already the go-to possession guys on the team.
There’s certainly potential, especially with Colin Kaepernick getting an up-close look at what Boldin can do in the Super Bowl, but the ceiling is starting to shrink pretty low.
46. Sidney Rice: Seattle Seahawks
With his talent, Sidney Rice should have easily run away with the WR1 position for the Seahawks last season, but didn’t.
In fact, he and Golden Tate had nearly identical numbers on the year, despite Tate playing one fewer game than Rice.
Either way, all that’s over now with Percy Harvin coming to town.
Rice will likely be the opposite-side starter, but I wouldn’t expect much more than WR4 numbers at best.
45. Denarius Moore: Oakland Raiders
Moore makes some of the craziest catches you’ll see throughout a season, but he still hasn’t caught more than five passes in a game in 28 career games.
He’s a terrific downfield playmaker for sure, but his inconsistency is maddening and probably won’t get any better with either Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor under center.
44. Brian Quick: St. Louis Rams
There was a lot of hype about this kid during last year’s NFL combine, hype that ended up catapulting Quick into becoming the first pick of the second round.
Now, after a relative bomb of a rookie campaign, the Rams are hyping him up once again, with GM Les Snead comparing him to another super-tall NFL wide receiver who came from a small school: Vincent Jackson.
Because Quick will start from day one and because the Rams will do everything they can to legitimize drafting him where they did, he actually has a pretty good shot at being fantasy relevant this season.
43. Alshon Jeffery: Chicago Bears
At times, Jeffery flashed some big-time potential during his 2012 rookie season, but injuries sapped most of the wind from his sails in the end.
However, there’s plenty to be excited about with Alshon this season, as he’ll not only begin 2013 as a clear-cut starter, but the addition of high-flying, offensive-minded coach Marc Trestman should get him enough targets to be a serious fantasy consideration.
42. Mike Williams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Williams came into the league with a nice-sized chip on his shoulder due to his fourth-round draft selection back in 2010 despite him having first-round potential.
It seems a little motivation goes a long way for the kid.
After a very disappointing 2011 sophomore campaign, Williams turned it around last season, putting up nearly identical numbers to his rookie year despite the presence of Vincent Jackson on the other side of the field.
The question is, what will be his motivation this season?
Well, if a long-term extension isn’t finalized by the end of the summer (which it probably should be), then 2013 will be a contract year for Williams, so there you go.
41. Jeremy Maclin: Philadelphia Eagles
I’ve heard a lot of talk about how DeSean Jackson works perfectly in Chip Kelly’s offense and how LeSean McCoy is going to get a ton of touches, but I haven’t heard much of anything about Jeremy Maclin (other than the all-too-common offseason trade rumblings).
Maclin may not have hit 1,000 yards in any one season just yet, and he definitely has trouble staying healthy, but the kid is talented and just so happens to be in a contract year.
I’m still waiting to see how the Eagles plan to use him in their new offense this season, so I'll keep him in this middling range for now until we find out more over the summer.
40. DeSean Jackson: Philadelphia Eagles
So all the hoopla around D-Jax this offseason is that his skill set lines up as a perfect fit within new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense and, because of this, DeSean Jackson's stats will return to prominence this upcoming season.
While it all sounds interesting, especially within the space-driven style of Kelly’s offense, I’m going to need to see it in action over the summer a bit before trusting in Jackson again.
I’ll keep you posted.
39. Lance Moore: New Orleans Saints
Lance Moore may not have the earmarks of a special player, especially with his being an undersized receiver who has never been a WR1.
However, he happens to be one of only eight wide receivers (and two tight ends) to have at least six touchdown catches in four of the last five seasons (he was injured for nine games in the one he didn’t). And yes, Marques Colston is one of the other eight receivers, which is kind of my point.
Lance Moore, though he may be a bit ordinary, plays in a very special offense down in New Orleans that makes him worth considering as a WR3 on your team.
Most fantasy owners will let him slide pretty darn far in the draft, so go ahead and grab him as a steal later on.
Believe me, he’s worth it.
38. Stevie Johnson: Buffalo Bills
I’m not the biggest Stevie Johnson fan from a fantasy perspective, but he’s one of the more consistent players around and can be used as a steady WR3 on teams with explosive players elsewhere.
However, the Bills moving to a more run-based offense this year and the rumor that Stevie might slide into the slot position takes away some potential.
Either Kevin Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson as his quarterback certainly doesn't help much either.
37. Josh Gordon: Cleveland Browns
It took a little while for Gordon to get up to snuff with both the Browns offense and the speed of the NFL, but once he did, he looked like a real gamer out there.
Standing almost 6’4” and weighing 225 pounds with wheels, Gordon has a chance to be one of the better wide receivers in the game, though I’m not so sure it happens this season with Trent Richardson set to be the focal point of the offense.
There’s certainly WR2 fantasy potential, though.
36. Justin Blackmon: Jacksonville Jaguars
Blackmon spent the first half of his rookie season trying to find his way into the offense and the second showing why he needs to be a focal point going forward.
He’s a beast with the ball in his hands and a future force to be reckoned with, but with Maurice Jones-Drew back, I’m not sure he’ll get enough offensive attention to be a fantasy star just yet.
His prospects will improve if Chad Henne wins the job over Gabbert, however, strange as that is to say.
35. Kendall Wright: Tennessee Titans
Kendall Wright was not only underutilized as a rookie last season, but he was completely miscast as an underneath, slot-type of receiver as well.
His speed, big-play ability and athleticism are unique and should be on display in 2013, especially with Nate Washington falling out of favor late last season.
Wright has every chance in the world to become the breakout player of the year, so make sure to keep track of his progress over the summer.
34. Cecil Shorts III: Jacksonville Jaguars
The fantasy stat I can’t get enough of with this guy is that Cecil Shorts had either a touchdown or 100 yards in every road game he played in 2012 (seven games).
Not an easy feat for any NFL player, much less a receiver on the Jaguars.
If he can stay healthy (i.e. no more concussions) and the Jags somehow come up with a bit of improved quarterback play this season, Shorts has a chance to be a legit WR2.
33. Danario Alexander: San Diego Chargers
The reason why Danario went undrafted back in 2010 is the same reason the Chargers tendered him at his original-round level this offseason and why he has only played in 28 of a possible 48 career games; injuries.
However, the kid is 6’5” and can really play, as evidenced by his 658 yards and seven touchdowns in the Chargers final nine games last season.
Alexander hasn’t been able to make it further than 10 games in a season yet, but when/if he does, you’ll want to be the guy who took a chance on him.
32. Chris Givens: St. Louis Rams
Chris Givens proved to be more than just a speedster last season and seems capable of handling a significant role within this 2013 Rams offense.
With Danny Amendola selling his soul to the Patriots, Givens will get the chance and could end up a real steal if you can get him as your fourth wide receiver..or maybe even your third.
31. Kenny Britt: Tennessee Titans
Randy Moss (played with Britt in Tennessee) and Ray Rice (college teammate) both believe Kenny Britt has the necessary tools to be a top-five wide receiver in the league, and I believe they are correct.
However, I also agree in Moss’ assessment that Britt needs to get his mind right to do it.
Now, I can’t say that I know Kenny on a personal level, but I think it’s pretty fair to say that because this is a contract year for him, this is the best chance we’ll have of seeing him put it all together.
I’ll be keeping my eye on him throughout the offseason for sure, as should you.
30. T.Y. Hilton: Indianapolis Colts
Who knew that the Colts' selection of wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in the third round of last season’s draft would end up having almost as much of an impact as the selection of QB Andrew Luck?
Hilton proved to be the biggest playmaker on the Colts in 2012, flashing enough speed and agility to break out a long TD on any given play.
His role in the 2013 offense should be even larger this season, though some may be worried about the Darrius Heyward-Bey signing during the offseason.
Considering the fact that Hilton outscored Reggie Wayne during the second half of the season (in fantasy points), I highly doubt DHB will take away any of his playing time.
The kid is electric and could very well end up 10 spots higher than this in my rankings over the summer.
29. James Jones: Green Bay Packers
With Jordy Nelson in and out of the lineup and Greg Jennings hurt for half the season, Jones took it upon himself to step up his game and ended up leading the entire NFL in touchdown catches with 14.
His main bugaboo from years past was his hands, but after working hard in the offseason, he rarely dropped a pass in 2012 and became a guy Aaron Rodgers could really trust.
Now that Jennings has left for Minnesota, Jones will see full-time action once again. Though I doubt he pulls off another 14-TD season, he still has the upside of a mid-range WR2.
28. Mike Wallace: Pittsburgh Steelers
One thing Wallace has been able to do consistently during his first four years in the league is catch touchdowns, which he did again in 2012, grabbing eight of them.
However, his “me-first” type of mentality presented itself even more than normal in 2012, as his offseason contract situation really shook his ability to stay focused throughout the year.
All that aside, Wallace could very well rise up this chart if he and Ryan Tannehill show to have a nice rapport at some point during the offseason. But my guess is that the in-game harmony will take a little time to develop, regardless.
27. Wes Welker: New England Patriots
So Welker decided not to re-sign with the Patriots this offseason, instead opting for the slot receiver role in Peyton Manning’s offense over in Denver.
It’s a different style of offense to be sure, so I believe Welker will take a bit of a hit in the statistical column, but I can still see him grabbing around 80 catches or so for somewhere around 1,000 yards.
I wouldn’t expect many touchdowns, however, as Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker pretty much have that category covered.
My guess is he'll move from this spot after seeing how the Broncos plan on using him during the offseason, but for now, I'm calling him a WR3.
26. Greg Jennings: Minnesota Vikings
Jennings missed half the 2012 season with what was thought to be a normal groin injury at first, but it turned out to be an abdominal tear that required surgery.
He should be just fine, physically, going into the 2013 season. Now, however, he’ll be acting as the Minnesota Vikings' WR1 with Christian Ponder throwing him the ball as opposed to being with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
How much the switch will affect his fantasy status is somewhat unknown right now, though it’s been implied that Jennings will fill the role played by Percy Harvin in the past, so he might be just fine.
We’ll see how things play out over the summer in OTAs.
25. Antonio Brown: Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown: ended his up-and-down 2012 season on a high note, catching a touchdown in each of the Steelers' last four games.
Still, it was concerning to see his yards-per-catch slide from 16.1 in 2011 down to just 11.9 last year. But his fantasy value should be on the rise, regardless.
With Mike Wallace gone from the lineup, Brown becomes Ben Roethlisberger’s top receiving option, and he should see a nice uptick in targets, receptions, yards and maybe TDs because of it.
24. Dwayne Bowe: Kansas City Chiefs
2012 was another disappointing season for the immensely talented Dwayne Bowe. The 28-year-old missed the Chiefs' final three games while putting up career lows in both touchdowns (3) and fantasy points per game.
That being said, it was probably the worst team and worst quarterback situation he’s ever played for, so there is certainly reason for optimism in 2013.
While the Chiefs’ new quarterback, Alex Smith, may not be Hall of Fame-bound, he’s still a ton better than the crap they threw out there last year and could be the best QB Bowe has played with in his career.
I’m expecting a nice bounce-back season here.
23. Torrey Smith: Baltimore Ravens
I was expecting Torrey to take a big step forward during his second season in the league last year, but 2012 turned out to be a near carbon copy of his rookie 2011 campaign.
At this moment, his ranking here is a bit on the cautious side because of the lack of improvement, but I expect him to rise up the charts as the offseason wears on.
With Anquan Boldin traded to the 49ers, Smith will be asked to (more like forced to) take on a bigger role in the Ravens offense, which he certainly has the skills to do.
Look for a wider range of routes to be run by the youngster in 2013—a task that should bring a higher volume of catches, yards and possibly even touchdowns.
22. Hakeem Nicks: New York Giants
Hakeem Nicks’ talent is undeniable, but so are his injury-prone ways.
2012 turned out to be a major disappointment because of them, as he missed three full games during the year and was never completely healthy for the other 13.
In fact, because Nicks has burned so many with his injuries, I would venture to say that nearly half of all fantasy owners will ignore him in their drafts this season.
Though I can’t say I blame them, Nicks can be a legitimate high-end WR2 (and maybe even better) if he can come back and stay healthy, so make sure to grab him when he starts to slip down the draft board.
21. Steve Smith: Carolina Panthers
Smitty may not be getting any younger, or taller, but he doesn’t seem to be getting any worse either.
While 2012 wasn’t his best season to date, especially with only four notches in the TD column, you can’t complain too much about 73 catches for 1,174 yards.
Since Carolina doesn’t look like it will be changing much in its offense this upcoming season, including the use of Smith as the team's WR1, you have to think he’ll be able to at least match last year’s statistics—and possibly out-do them.
One more thing to consider: Smitty has a streak of scoring seven or more touchdowns in every odd-numbered season since 2003.
Obviously, 2013 is an odd-numbered year.
20. Reggie Wayne: Indianapolis Colts
Even though 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 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 all 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. Eric Decker: Denver Broncos
Where Eric Decker fell short in yardage last year (1,064), he more than made up for it 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.
18. Danny Amendola: New England Patriots
So once again, the mighty and powerful Oz-elichick thinks he can play musical chairs with his offense and still dominate the NFL world. This time, however, he decided to venture into new territory by booting Brady’s security blanket (Welker) and bringing in substitute Danny Amendola.
Now, it’s true that Amendola is four-and-a-half years younger and very much the type of receiver Brady needs. But how quickly can he learn the Patriots' complex offense and how well can he run it once he does?
My guess is that Danny Boy will pick it up just fine, but that the game-day rapport between him and Brady will take a bit of time to develop.
Amendola’s final statistics should slot him as a fantasy WR2, but watch out for a handful of duds along the way.
17. Pierre Garcon: Washington Redskins
For about one quarter, 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 and, as it turned out, Pierre would miss 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. With his speed and RGIII throwing him the ball, his fantasy potential rises up to the high-end WR2 range.
Even if Griffin ends up missing the first six games, 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 in his one start last year.
16. Marques Colston: New Orleans Saints
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 Colston higher. But with Colston about to turn 30 and Graham just 27, I think youth prevails a bit here.
15. Jordy Nelson: Green Bay Packers
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 for Nelson not having Greg Jennings out there anymore, as it could either slide more coverage his way and hurt his stock or garner more targets from Rodgers and help it.
Until we see how things unfold during the preseason, he’ll stay here in the mid-WR2 range for me.
14. Victor Cruz: New York Giants
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 guarded 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. Larry Fitzgerald: Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald is a really tough one to call at this point 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 more obvious one, as it's plagued the Cardinals for quite a few years now: the quarterback. Even with the Cardinals picking up Carson Palmer from the Raiders this offseason, I still don't trust the situation. Palmer is getting to be on his last legs and is not guarantee to last the season behind that awful offensive line.
At the same time, 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.
12. Roddy White: Atlanta Falcons
“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.
11. Randall Cobb: Green Bay Packers
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 now on the Vikings.
However, Cobb’s 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.
10. Vincent Jackson: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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) in 2012. The only category he failed to increase was his TDs, but eight isn’t too shabby of a number there.
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 his gaudy numbers from 2012, but he definitely has the upside of a WR1 this year.
9. Andre Johnson: Houston Texans
I have to say, 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 touchdown-itis, Johnson would have easily been a top-five fantasy wideout in 2012.
The big question for Andre 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 can’t see a whole hell of a lot changing in that Houston Texans offense.
8. Michael Crabtree: San Francisco 49ers
Michael 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 49ers' three playoff games are any indication, it looks like a new fantasy star has been born.
Note: 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: Seattle Seahawks
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 was used in the Vikings offense and his contract disputes before he was traded, 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 significant 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.
Though he's moving into a whole new offensive system this year, Harvin will still be primed for a top-10 fantasy campaign as a Seattle Seahawk.
6. Demaryius Thomas: Denver Broncos
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, as will the addition of Wes Welker; 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 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.
5. Brandon Marshall: Chicago Bears
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 him 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.
4. Dez Bryant: Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant came on like a madman during the last half of the season, 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.
In 2012, Bryant caught 92 balls for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Believe it or not, I expect each of those numbers to rise in 2013. And, if so, Bryant will be a legitimate contender to Calvin Johnson’s crown as the top fantasy wide receiver.
3. A.J. Green: Cincinnati Bengals
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.
2. Julio Jones: Atlanta Falcons
I was fully expecting 2012 to be the year Julio Jones took the fantasy world by storm. But it turned out that he needed just a little more seasoning and confidence for it to happen.
Now that he has it, there’s not much that can stop him from jumping up into the top tier of fantasy wide receivers.
If Jones 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 for Calvin Johnson’s fantasy crown in 2013.
1. Calvin Johnson: Detroit Lions
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?
He finished with five touchdown catches, the worst 16-game output of his career. But that is extremely unlikely to happen again. Somewhere in the double digits is a far more reasonable forecast.
2,000 yards is certainly within reach as well, especially if Stafford gets him double-digit targets every game like he almost did last year (13 of 16 games, actually).
The wide receiver position will be stacked again this season, but Megatron is in a different stratosphere than the rest and would be well worth a first-round selection.