Fantasy Football: Top 10 Wide Receivers for 2013
Calvin Johnson and Everyone Else
Some might view 2012 as a down year for Calvin Johnson as he went from having 16 touchdowns in 2011 to just five in 2012.
He did, however, finish the year with a career-high 1,964 receiving yards, crushing hall-of-fame WR Jerry Rice's NFL record for 1,848 receiving yards in a single season. Johnson also managed to finish as fantasy football's No. 1 receiver with a total of 220.40 fantasy points to cap off the year. So what is this Madden Curse everyone’s talking about, because I sure didn’t see it. Megatron is the real deal.
Beyond the usual stud performances, 2012 also saw returning faces to the top 10 such as Brandon Marshall, who swapped teams in the off-season to reunite with his best bud Jay Cutler in the Windy City.
The last time Cutler was throwing passes to Marshall (2009), the pair connected for 101 catches, 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns, earning Marshall All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. So news of a Cutler/Marshall reunion definitely had fantasy circles excited but 118 catches for 1,508 and 11 touchdowns was something else entirely.
The 2012 off-season also elevated the talent of some lesser-known wideouts such as Demaryius Thomas who finished the season as fantasy’s No. 5 receiver, making the transition from fan-favorite Tim Tebow to all-time great Peyton Manning look easy, not that it needed much effort from Thomas’ part.
Also, the Packer duo James Jones and Randall Cobb proved that all they needed was an opportunity to get on the field to show the NFL universe that they belong in the top 20 group of receivers heading into 2013.
10. Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings
Outside of RB Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin is clearly the next best option in the Vikings offense.
Though, after some heated exchanges with coach Leslie Frazier prior to being placed on injured reserve, Harvin's relationship with the Vikings couldn't come into question at a worse time as Harvin enters the final year on his rookie contract in 2013.
Anything can happen in this business that is the NFL, but if you have the confidence to overlook this mishap, Harvin is easily a top 10 receiver based on the way he's heavily used in the Vikings offense.
Despite the erratic play of QB Christan Ponder for most of the season, the Vikings made it their mission to get Harvin the ball, and he was on a statistical tear (particularly in PPR formats) through nine games before going down with an ankle injury in Week 9 and ultimately being shelved for the remainder of the season.
An all-around football player that can lineup outside, inside, in the backfield and on special teams, Harvin will have plenty of opportunities to succeed. Only question to ask yourself is, will the Vikings plan life without Harvin or find ways to get the ball into their best receiver's hands?
9. Victor Cruz, New York Giants
Victor Cruz did plenty of salsa dancing through the first seven games of the season, accounting for seven touchdowns during that span.
But things began turning in the wrong direction for the New York Giants and, as a result, Cruz' numbers experienced a decline, catching only three touchdowns over the final nine games and racking up over 100 yards just twice during that span.
Despite the slow finish, Cruz seemed to be QB Eli Manning's only reliable target in the passing game, with WR Hakeem Nicks and TE Martellus Bennett in and out of the lineup with injuries.
A Healthier Nicks lined up opposite Cruz should only improve Cruz' fantasy outlook for next season, taking away some of the coverage. But even if Nicks isn't able to go a full 16 games, which is likely considering his injury history, that too will improve Cruz' value.
Cruz will be a low-end WR1 with upside.
8. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vincent Jackson felt right at home with his new team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, besting his career numbers across the board with 69 receptions for 1,334 yards (88.9 YPG) and eight touchdowns.
Featured heavily in the most balanced offense he's been in since joining the NFL back in 2005 that features rookie sensation RB Doug Martin, who has proven to be a threat in the ground game, and WR Mike Williams, who will demand some attention from opposing defenses after a strong season in first-year coach Greg Schiano's offensive system, Jackson has finally found a team that can maximize his potential on a consistent basis.
Jackson finishes the season as fantasy's No. 6 wideout in total points and should remain in the top 10 in 2013.
7. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones had an exceptional year in 2012 but will need to improve his consistency a bit if he wants to be considered in the same category as Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green.
Jones was absolutely dominant on the road, averaging 15.4 fantasy points on the road as opposed to 7.6 points at home.
But his presence alone makes him an intriguing top 10 option. Blessed with that rare combination of size and speed, Jones is a home-run threat on any given play and has proven that he can blow right past defenders to make plays over the top of opposing defenses.
With the return of first year OC Dirk Koetter, Jones and the rest of the Atlanta Falcons offense will get a bump up in a fantasy value heading into 2013.
6. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker were definitely on fantasy football radars heading into 2012 based on the presence of new addition QB Peyton Manning.
With Thomas and Decker finishing the season as fantasy's No. 5 and 7 wideouts in 2012, that speculation was rightfully justified.
It was no secret that the addition of Manning would elevate the entire Denver Broncos offense after a lucky season with fan-favorite Tim Tebow in the previous year, but seeing Thomas make the jump from 32/70/4 with Tebow to 94/1,434/10 with Manning is like trading in a nice Honda for a Lamborghini.
The combination of exceptional athletic ability and a top 5 NFL quarterback will be enough to consider Thomas as a first-round, second-round fantasy draft selection in 2013.
5. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
After a slow start to the season in which Andre Johnson averaged 3.4 catches, 56.6 yards and just 0.4 touchdowns through the first five games, outsiders wondered if Johnson had lost a step in his age 31 campaign.
What most people failed to realize was that Johnson was having a difficult time getting used to playing on his twice surgically repaired knee that he had done in the off-season.
Johnson would, however, finish the season on a strong note, amassing 112 catches for 1,598 yards and four touchdowns, placing him eighth among fantasy wideouts.
The highlight of Johnson's season came in Week 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars when Johnson single-handedly won the game with his 14/273/1 on the day.
Johnson will return to a Texans' run-heavy offense, but remains one of the most dangerous wideouts heading into 2013 and will continue to serve as QB Matt Schaub's go-to-receiver.
4. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
The long awaited emergence of Dez Bryant finally came in 2012.
Despite sustaining a fractured left index finger in Week 14 at Cincinnati, Bryant finished the season as one of fantasy's hottest receivers, averaging 19.75 fantasy points over the last seven games, and connecting on 10 touchdowns over that span.
After a strong finish, where Bryant earned career-highs in catches (92), yards (1,382) and touchdowns (12), fantasy's No. 3-ranked receiver should return in 2013 at a high level.
3. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
A.J. Green had a monster start to the season, pulling in 10 touchdowns through the first 11 weeks.
He was fantasy's No. 1 wideout for most of the season until opposing defenses started to get crafty and rolled extra coverage Green's way. After going 10 straight weeks with a touchdown, Green finished his final six games with just one score. He would finish the season as fantasy's No. 4 receiver.
With QB Andy Dalton showing progress in his second-year and the ground game running sharp behind a strong offensive line led by T Andre Smith, look for Green to remain one of fantasy's elite receiving options with one of the NFL's youngest, most promising teams in 2013.
2. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
Making the move from Miami to Chicago was definitely in Brandon Marshall's best interest, besting his career totals in catches (118), yards (1,508) and touchdowns (11).
The reunion between Marshall and QB Jay Cutler certainly panned out the way most people expected, after the success they had together during their Denver days.
Despite a workable ground game that consisted of RB Matt Forte and Michael Bush, Marshall still managed to garner 194 targets on the season, looking like Cutler's only trusted receiver in the passing game.
The great-working chemistry between the two will continue in 2013.
1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson's No. 1 ranking is certainly justified after a record-breaking performance in 2012.
If Johnson wasn't going to see the end-zone 16 times, he was definitely going to make up for it by piling on the yardage. Johnson rode an eight-game streak of 100+ yards on his way to 1,964 yards to break Hall-of-Fame Jerry Rice's NFL record for most receiving yards in a single season.
After the Lions fell out of contention for a playoff berth, the team re-shifted their focus to getting Johnson that NFL record, which is quite evident when you look at Johnson's unreal 204 targets on the year.
If 2012 is any indication, Johnson will continue to be the NFL's most dominant receiver.