The 2012 Fantasy Football season is right around the corner and, although everyone keeps saying WRs are extremely deep this year, not many have taken the time to examine exactly how deep. Below you will find the top 50 WRs for the upcoming fantasy season, but don’t be shocked when you get to the bottom and discover that some household names are on the list. Sleepers are marked with an asterisk (*).
1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions – Unless you’re scared of black cats and ladders, there’s no reason Megatron shouldn’t be the first WR off the board.
2. Wes Welker, New England Patriots – Surprised? Don’t be. No player came close to matching Welker’s 122 catches in 2011. Expect more of the same this year.
3. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons – While many consider 2011 a “down year” for White, he still caught 100 passes. That alone keeps him in the top three.
4. Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers – If not for the injury bug, Jennings might have finished second among WRs in total fantasy points last season.
5. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals – Kevin Kolb‘s injury may actually improve Fitzgerald’s fantasy value. He would be No. 2 on this list if he had a decent passer under center.
6. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers – Unless Cam Newton has a major sophomore slump, expect a career season from Smith.
7. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans – It’s not recommended you take this glass receiver unless he falls on draft day. The talent is there, but the durability is not.
8. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals – Don’t expect a sophomore slump here; Green was a monster as a rookie in 2011. With a year under his and Andy Dalton‘s belts, 2012 should be even bigger.
9. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos – By far the most improved WR in 2012 will be Thomas. With Peyton Manning under center, the sky is the limit for this kid.
10. Julio Jones, Falcons – He’s a superstar in the making, but he’ll have to prove he can handle the full attention of opposing defenses before he joins the group of elite NFL WRs.
11. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants – As long as his foot heals properly, he’ll be a stud again in 2012.
12. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears – Notice Marshall is 12th on this list, not 5th. Yes, he will be better in 2012 with the Bears than he was in 2011 with the Miami Dolphins, but don’t expect him to lead the league in any category.
13. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys – Since his domestic violence arrest, Bryant has looked unstoppable in Cowboys training camp. If the reports that he’s in the best shape of his life are true, he’s in for a monster year.
14. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints – He’s the only sure receiver in New Orleans outside of TE Jimmy Graham.
15. Jordy Nelson, Packers – He came out of nowhere to finish as a top five fantasy WR in 2011, but that was with Jennings on the sideline. He’ll still be relevant in 2012, but he won’t be a top five option.
16. Victor Cruz, Giants – Tamper expectations here. Yes, he exploded in 2012 but the 9-7 Giants went on a hot streak and he’ll receive a lot more attention from opposing defenses this year.
17. Miles Austin, Cowboys – He’ll fly up draft boards if Bryant gets in trouble again, but he’s a high-end No. 2 option in the meantime.
18. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – He probably won’t set the woods on fire in Tampa Bay, but Jackson will be solid with the Buccaneers.
19. Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers – He can’t repeat his 2011 success if he’s on the sidelines and it doesn’t appear the Steelers are going to give him the contract he wants. Keep a close eye on that situation before you draft Wallace.
20. Eric Decker, Broncos – It’s possible he could become the next Welker with Manning under center. You are definitely safe drafting him as the 20th best WR.
21. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots – The sky is the limit for Lloyd in New England, but he has a lot of competition for Tom Brady‘s attention.
22. Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings – He’s unhappy, has a sophomore QB under center and Adrian Peterson is hurt. Definitely don’t expect a monster year from Harvin.
23. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs – He’s the No. 1 option in Kansas City, but that’s not saying much.
24. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick can’t stay on the field and, even then, the Eagles aren’t the passing team they once were.
25. Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Bills – He didn’t become the dominant receiver everyone expected in 2011, but Johnson is still the top WR in Buffalo.
26. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts – Forget the fact Andrew Luck is a rookie QB. He’s no Manning (yet), but he’ll keep Wayne fantasy relevant until he develops into an elite passer.
27. Antonio Brown, Steelers* – If Wallace misses time, Brown (with his hefty new contract) becomes a breakout candidate.
28. Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans – He was a top 15 option until he got in trouble yet again. Expect top 15 production after he misses a few games due to a suspension.
29. Robert Meachem, San Diego Chargers – He’s the No. 1 WR in San Diego, but he’s likely to be overshadowed by TE Antonio Gates.
30. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins – Don’t count on anything special here; QB Robert Griffin III will bust like a piñata in his rookie season.
31. DeSean Jackson, Eagles – My, how the mighty have fallen. Jackson was once the next big thing, but not anymore. He’s a low-end No. 2 option at this point.
32. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens – He’s the top option in Baltimore now, but that only merits him borderline No. 2 status.
33. Santonio Holmes, New York Jets – Until the Titans of New York find a quarterback that can actually throw the football, Holmes’ value is severely limited.
34. Anquan Boldin, Ravens – His time as a quality fantasy starter is over.
35. Emmanual Sanders, Steelers* – Huge sleeper alert here. Wallace is acting like a spoiled child, so that means more targets for Sanders, who showed flashes of brilliance in 2011.
36. Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders – He’s having one heck of an off-season, but no Raider other than RB Darren McFadden is worth more than a late-round flyer.
37. Titus Young, Lions* – He made huge strides in 2011 and, if he stays out of trouble, he’ll be the No. 2 option in Detroit’s high-flying attack.
38. Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks* – With Matt Flynn under center, Rice becomes a major sleeper. Don’t believe anything here until you see it, though.
39. Brandon LaFell, Panthers* – If Newton takes a step forward in 2012, LaFell could see a nice number of targets opposite Smith.
40. Randy Moss, San Francisco 49ers – He’s back and word on the street is he’s as good as he always was. If that’s true, he should put up respectable numbers in San Francisco’s weak passing attack.
41. Lance Moore, Saints – There’s sleeper potential here, but the Saints will have to prove they have weathered the Bountygate storm.
42. Mike Williams, Buccaneers – He had a stellar rookie season, but then took a major step back as a sophomore. Williams’ production stems directly from that of Jackson and QB Josh Freeman.
43. Laurent Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars – Now the No. 1 target, Robinson will be the man in Jacksonville, but that’s not saying much considering the Jaguars’ QB situation.
44. Greg Little, Cleveland Browns* – His potential will rise if Brandon Weeden starts at QB.
45. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders – He’s the No. 2 WR in Oakland. Enough said.
46. Nate Washington, Titans – His success depends entirely on the play of his QB, whoever that may be at any given point of the season.
47. Alshon Jeffery, Bears* – If Marshall sets the woods on fire, Jeffery could put up big numbers in 2012. However, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
48. Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams* – Like several others on this list, Quick’s potential depends on the play of his QB.
49. Danny Amendola, Rams – He was once a rising star in PPR leagues, but he needs a healthy Sam Bradford under center to even get close to that point again.
50. Michael Floyd, Cardinals – He’ll be open frequently opposite Fitzgerald, but he has to have the ball thrown in his vicinity in order to catch it.
No, guys like Michael Crabtree, Malcolm Floyd and Justin Blackmon do not belong on this list. Sure, you can call each of them a gamble and/or a sleeper, but you can say you heard it here first: these guys will be huge disappointments to those owners who draft them in 2012.
Obviously, guys like Wallace, Harvin and Britt would be higher if it weren’t for their off-the-field situations. However, household names like DeSean Jackson are low because their time as elite receivers are over. Don’t believe it? That’s fine, but don’t come crying when you miss the fantasy playoffs because you expected big years from these surefire busts.
Don’t like the list? Tough. Feel free to Rant below with how you think it should be revised, but you’ve been warned come draft day…