Breakdown: Fantasy Football's Top 15 Wideouts in Points Per Reception Leagues

Jay Clemons@ATL_JayClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterJuly 3, 2012

Breakdown: Fantasy Football's Top 15 Wideouts in Points Per Reception Leagues

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    The following slideshow details my top 15 wide receivers in Points Per Reception leagues—a painfully subjective exercise that reflects the 2012 market for targets-driven and reception-happy playmakers.

    To repeat, there are some profound differences between this countdown and my listing of Top 25 Receivers in standard-scoring leagues, which will be updated sometime in the next three weeks. Please be cognizant of this while reading today's document.

    For a full list of my Top 50 PPR receivers, click here.

    Enjoy the show!

15: Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys

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    2011 Stats: 43 Catches, 579 Yards, 7 TDs, 73 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Miles Austin averaged 75 catches, 1,181 yards, nine touchdowns and 122 targets during the healthy seasons of 2009 and '10.

    2. Before his hamstring injuries kicked in last season, Austin pulled down 14 catches for 233 yards and four touchdowns for Weeks 1 and 2. He also tallied 12 targets per game during that stretch.

    3. 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 in 2011) plays quarterback for Dallas.

14: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

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    2011 Stats: 54 Catches, 959 Yards, 8 TDs, 94 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. While sharing the receiving duties with Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, among others, Julio Jones still drew seven or more targets seven times last year. He even reached double figures three times, including a 17-target explosion against Seattle (11 catches/127 yards).

    2. 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.

    3. Jones accomplished more as a 13-game rookie wideout than Jerry Rice (1985), Larry Fitzgerald (2004) and Calvin Johnson (2007).

13: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs

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    2011 Stats: 81 Catches, 1,159 Yards, 5 TDs, 142 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Bowe posted 10 games of nine-plus targets last year, even with the club's injury-related problems at quarterback. That figure trumps the targets production from Bowe's 15-TD campaign in 2010.

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

    3. 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.

12: Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers

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    2011 Stats: 79 Catches, 1,394 Yards, 7 TDs, 129 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Smith had seven or more targets in 14 games last season, tops among all NFL receivers.

    2. The Panthers' secondary wave of supporting playmakers (Brandon LaFell, David Gettis, pass-friendly running back Mike Tolbert) is proficient enough to ward off Smith double-teams during obvious passing downs.

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

11: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

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    2011 Stats: 68 Catches, 1,263 Yards, 15 TDs, 96 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. 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.

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

    3. If Nelson can rack up double-digit touchdowns for back-to-back campaigns, he'll have no problem achieving top-10 status by season's end.

10: Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers

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    2011 Stats: 67 Catches, 949 Yards, 9 TDs, 101 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

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

    2. Jennings had seven games of eight or more targets last season, including four outings of double-digit targets.

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

9: Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

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    2011 Stats: 81 Catches, 1,214 Yards, 6 TDs, 141 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Traded to the Bears during the offseason, 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.

    2. Despite having little help at receiver (or receiving coach), Marshall still collected eight or more targets 12 times last year with the Dolphins.

    3. I refuse to believe that, heading into his age-28 season, Marshall will 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.

8: Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings

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    2011 Stats: 87 Catches, 967 Yards, 6 TDs, 120 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. The receiving numbers don't tell the whole story. Harvin also rushed the ball 52 times for 345 yards and two touchdowns last season. All told, Percy accounted for 1,312 total yards and eight TDs.

    2. Harvin has enjoyed significant bumps in targets, catches and receiving yards the last two years, and yet, he still has much room for growth, from a PPR perspective. With Christian Ponder at quarterback, I'll buy more Harvin 'bumps' for 2012.

    3. In his last eight games, Harvin averaged seven catches, 79.1 yards, 0.75 TDs and 9.63 targets. That elite-level finish prompted this lofty ranking.

7: Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    2011 Stats: 72 Catches, 1,193 Yards, 8 TDs, 114 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Wallace crossed the magical PPR threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one TD nine times in his first 12 games last year. It's no coincidence that Walllace's production dipped after Ben Roethlisberger was greatly hindered by a Week 14 leg injury against Cleveland.

    2. With Pittsburgh's full complement of healthy playmakers, Wallace had per-game averages of five catches, 96.4 yards and 0.6 touchdowns from Weeks 1-9 last season. Of equal importance, he accomplished that on only 7.1 targets per start.

    3. I will be shocked if Wallace (18 TDs from 2010-11) doesn't register double-digit touchdowns this season.

6: Victor Cruz, New York Giants

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    2011 Stats: 82 Catches, 1,536 Yards, 9 TDs, 131 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. For this segment, I won't focus on how Cruz is a long shot to replicate his 2011 run of five touchdowns from 68 yards or more. Instead, I'll fawn over Cruz's 12 games of eight targets or more—including 10 straight from Weeks 8-17.

    2. If Giants teammate Hakeem Nicks should miss two, four or six games to start the season (via the PUP list), I will buy Cruz's capacity for 82 catches and 131 targets in 2012 —no strings attached.

    3. QB Eli Manning had per-game averages of 36.8 pass attempts last season, a figure that hovered above 40 after Week 4. So unless the Giants have big plans for running Ahmad Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson 40 times this season, Cruz will again be a major factor in the weekly game plan.

5: Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

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    2011 Stats: 33 Catches, 492 Yards, 2 TDs, 51 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Heading into his age-31 season, 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.

    2. Let's be blunt here: The Texans still haven't fielded any significant upgrades at receiver. Kevin Walter, Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey, Keshawn Martin and Jeff Maehl simply won't command the lion's share of targets over Johnson, via QB Matt Schaub.

    3. In his five healthiest games last year (Weeks 1-3/Houston's two playoff games), Johnson 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.

4: Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

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    2011 Stats: 100 Catches, 1,296 Yards, 8 TDs, 179 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. 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.

    2. 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).

    3. White crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one touchdown 11 times last season.

3: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

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    2011 Stats: 80 Catches, 1,411 Yards, 8 TDs, 154 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Barring injury, there is a zero-percent chance that Fitzgerald falls below the 90-catch line in 2012. Last season was an aberration, spurred on the chronic uncertainty (and inaccuracy) of quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. How do I know this? Fitz's 9.63 targets—including six double-digit efforts—scream another 95-reception campaign.

    2. In a so-so year (for him, at least), Fitzgerald crossed the magical threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one touchdown only nine times.

    3. Perhaps I'll do an official survey later this summer, but Fitzgerald, in my recollection, has been the NFL's greatest PPR receiver during the fantasy-playoff period of Weeks 13-16. At least in the last seven years. He's also one of the few bench-proof assets during the playoffs, regardless of weather or opponent. (Note: Fitz squares off against Darrelle Revis in mid-December.)

2: Wes Welker, New England Patriots

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    2011 Stats: 122 Catches, 1,573 Yards, 9 TDs, 173 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. I'm on record for saying that 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/1,573 yards? That's 7.6 catches and 98.3 yards per game—regardless of weather conditions, game flow or defensive matchups.

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

    3. Welker has a long-standing track record of success in one of the NFL's most progressive passing offenses. At the bare minimum, Welker is a healthy lock 111 catches, 1,280 yards, eight TDs and 160 targets. Most big-name wideouts would kill for that kind of 'off' season.

1: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

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    2011 Stats: 96 Catches, 1,681 Yards, 16 TDs, 158 Targets

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

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

    1. Calvin 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's seasonal record of 23 receiving TDs (2007).

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

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