While QBs may get the bulk of fantasy points as individuals, and the HB position may be the most vital in terms of sorting out who’s getting the most carries and the like, the position of Wide Receiver in fantasy football is like a buffet line in comparison. Taking one of the elite early is always a wise choice, but there will be plenty of time to build a corps of passcatchers throughout the early and middle rounds, with so many solid options available across the NFL. Here, I will attempt to project which 10 I think will have the most success. As always, a handful of sleepers will come afterwards.
1 – Calvin Johnson
Megatron was not only the league leader in completions and yardage at his position in 2012, he was also targeted more than any other WR. Little should change in Detroit, where Matt Stafford still knows who to go to when it counts. Johnson’s 5 TDs were more than a small letdown, but that 5 could have easily been a double-digit number: Megatron was tackled within the 5 yard line 6 times in 2012. Draft him as the best WR in Fantasy with the utmost confidence, a definite 1st round pick.
2 – Brandon Marshall
Brandon had himself a terrific first season in Chicago last year, with over 1,500 yards and 11 TDs. He was also the 2nd most targeted WR in football, and to date nobody has stepped up who looks primed to take targets away from him. Cutler and Marshall have great chemistry, and the long ball is going to be their bread and butter again in 2013. Marshall is a borderline 1st round pick, and a steal anytime afterwards.
3 – A.J. Green
While my confidence in Andy Dalton isn’t quite where I’d like it to be, my confidence in Green, and his ability to produce at a consistent level, is comfortably high. While Cincinnati spent some resources in giving Dalton alternate options in the passing game, I still like Green in this spot. The scariest part about him? He’s only entering his 3rd season, and could actually get better.
4 – Dez Bryant
The first half of 2012 was a struggle for the Cowboys wideout, but he produced more throughout the last 8 games than many WRs did all season. If he can bring that focus and consistency back in 2013, he should be a stud. Romo’s confidence in him, and Romo’s ability to make more decisions in the offensive gameplan, should also result in more opportunities for the Cowboys’ best WR. A 2nd-3rd round pick.
5 – Vincent Jackson
Much hinges on Josh Freeman’s consistency in Tampa Bay, but if last year was any indication, Vincent Jackson is just the threat Freeman needs to keep things rolling. 1,300+ yards and 8 TDs are not stats to sniff at, but where I see an increase in Jackson’s production is that opposing defenses are going to be increasingly weary of fast-rising RB Doug Martin. Doubling up on Jackson may not be the best course of action, and fantasy players should reap the rewards of Jackson’s increased opportunities to stretch the field.
6 – Julio Jones
The tide is turning in Atlanta. Roddy White is no spring chicken, and while he and Tony Gonzalez will see their fair share of targets, it is the young and incredibly talented Jones who will end up being the apple of Matt Ryan’s eye. Furthering his chances will be a revived running game featuring newcomer Steven Jackson. If all goes as planned, 1,400 yards and double-digit TDs should be in store for Mr. Jones.
7 – Demaryius Thomas
On a pure skill level, thomas should probably be ranked higher than this, but with Eric Decker opposite him (who was a top 10 performer at his position in 2012 as well as Thomas was) and newcomer Wes Welker, I don’t think the same amount of targets await Demaryius in 2013. Still, Manning knows how to get the most out of his receivers, and he also knows that Thomas is the best he’s got at stretching the field and coming up with the deep ball.
8 – Reggie Wayne
The ageless wonder is going to have a year in 2013 that will rival any he had with Peyton Manning, mark my words. A fine preseason (including a play that is already going to be talked about when 2013 is in the books) and another year working with Andrew Luck will result in big things for the Probowl wideout. T.Y. Hilton threatens to breakout further, but Luck knows that Wayne is the safest target on the field and will take advantage of him often.
9 – Larry Fitzgerald
From top-3 fantasy WR all the way to 9th, in one season? I’m playing it safe here, but if Carson Palmer can stabilize the QB position, Fitz might end up back up amongst the top 3 or 4 best numbers-wise in 2013. The daring fantasy owner will look at Fitz as an early pickup, perhaps while some of the aforementioned names are still on the board.
10 – Victor Cruz
A healthy Hakeem Nicks is going to mean a productive Cruz. As long as Nicks is flanking him, Cruz is much harder to focus on. Hell, even when he is zeroed in on, he still makes opposing defenses pay. While Cruz finished a few spots outside the top 10 last year, I think he cracks it in 2013, and unlike many concerned fans and fantasy owners, I don’t see him lapsing due to the lucrative contract he recently signed.
3 Sleepers Not To Sleep On:
There’s no telling what he’ll do in Miami, mainly because it’s hard to gauge where he’s at in terms of chemistry with Ryan Tannehill…or where Tannehill is in terms of his progression, at that. But the recent loss of Dustin Keller for the year may equal more targets for one of the league’s most dangerous long-ball men. While not all that much of a “sleeper”, there are many who might disregard him simply because of his new environment and the lack of an established QB throwing him the ball. Maybe you don’t want to be one of those people.
His profile has been rising steadily since the Ravens’ Superbowl run in 2012, and it seems fairly obvious that his targets are going to increase with Boldin in San Fransisco and top TE Dennis Pitta out for what looks like the entire season, but still, his middle-of-the-pack fantasy performance in 2012 might repel some owners. If he keeps progressing, especially in the hands department, and the Ravens feed him the ball as much as it appears they will be, I would not at all be surprised if Smith ended up as a top-10 WR in fantasy this year.
Alright, it’s only preseason, but Brandon Weeden has looked like a much improved QB for the Browns so far, and Gordon is going to benefit from it if it carries over into the preseason. Gordon is the type of guy most owners will look to grab and stash in a reserve role, but if my pontifications are correct, he’s going to be starting material in 2013.