It’s that time of year where the fantasy football 2012 season is right around the corner. Here’s a look at fantasy football rankings for the top 50 players heading into the 2012 season.
50. Vernon Davis
Last season during the playoffs, Vernon Davis was arguably unstoppable as the tight end recorded 10 catches for 292 yards and four touchdowns in two playoff games for the San Francisco 49ers. Davis has emerged as one of the league’s top pass-catching tight ends over the last three years and with an upgraded receiving core–he’ll be sure to have another big year in 2012.
49. Steve Johnson
It’s hard to believe a player like Steve Johnson only recorded 12 catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns over his first two seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills considering he’s emerged as one of the top wideouts heading into 2012 (158 catches for 2,077 yards and 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons).
48. Vincent Jackson
Vincent Jackson finally received the hefty contract (five-year, $55.55 million deal) he’s been fighting so long for after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason and now it’s time for the wideout to prove he’s worth the money. When healthy, Jackson has proven to be one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL and he may be just the type of weapon Josh Freeman needs for the Bucs’ offense.
47. Darren Sproles
The rushing statistics may not have been impressive (603 rushing yards and two touchdowns), but it was the fact that Darren Sproles was an all-around threat as a receiver (86 catches for 710 yards and seven touchdowns) and returner as well that made him so dangerous. Expectations are high once again for Sproles–arguably one of the biggest free agency steals from last year–during his second season with the New Orleans Saints.
46. Michael Vick
Ever since the end of the 2010 regular season, teams have seemed to figure out a better way to contain Michael Vick on offense. Expectations are high once again for the Philadelphia Eagles heading into 2012, but as long as he’s healthy, Vick will always be capable of displaying big fantasy numbers–especially since he’s capable of earning points for rushing statistics as well.
45. Percy Harvin
2011 was the best season of Percy Harvin‘s three-year career with the Minnesota Vikings as the former first-round pick recorded 1,312 yards from the line of scrimmage with eight total touchdowns. There was a four-week gap last year when Harvin was arguably one of the hottest receivers in football (393 receiving yards and five touchdowns) and the fact that he’s the Vikings’ top option in the passing game makes him an excellent fantasy choice.
44. Steve Smith
Cam Newton revived the career of Steve Smith in 2011 as the Carolina Panthers wideout looked like his old self after catching 79 passes for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns. Imagine what type of numbers Smith will produce in 2012 now that Newton has a year of experience under his belt.
43. Jeremy Maclin
DeSean Jackson is dangerous, but the argument can be made that Jeremy Maclin is the most valuable wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. After catching 189 passes for 2,569 yards and 19 touchdowns over the first three seasons of his career, there’s no reason why Maclin shouldn’t produce his first 1,000-yard season in 2012.
42. Demaryius Thomas
Demaryius Thomas may not have displayed standout numbers during his first two seasons with the Denver Broncos (32 catches for 551 yards and four touchdowns in 2011), but he’s progressively seemed to get better each season. Now that he officially has Peyton Manningthrowing him the ball, Thomas could be in for a breakout season in 2012.
41. Eli Manning
After calling himself a top-five quarterback, nobody is questioning Eli Manning after he led the New York Giants to their second Super Bowl in five years. Manning fell 67 yards shy of the 5,000-yard mark in 2011 and there’s no question he’ll be one of the league’s top quarterbacks once again in 2012.
40. Dez Bryant
There’s a popular trend in the NFL when it comes to wide receivers having a big year during their third season in the league. So basically–the Dallas Cowboys are hoping Dez Bryant reaches a whole new level in 2012 after catching 63 passes for 928 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
39. Marques Colston
In six seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Marques Colston has recorded less than 1,000 receiving yards only once–which came in 2008 when he only played in 11 games. Colston is coming off another strong season in 2011 where he caught 80 passes for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns and as long as the team agrees to terms with Drew Brees–the wideout should be in for another big year.
38. Ahmad Bradshaw
Now that Brandon Jacbos is no longer around, Ahmad Bradshaw should receive more carries in 2012–even if the New York Giants selected David Wilson in the first round of this year’s draft. Bradshaw’s rushing yards (659 yards in 12 games) may not be impressive, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that he found the end zone 11 times in 2011.
37. Brandon Marshall
The Chicago Bears finally have a reliable No. 1 wide receiver in Brandon Marshall for Jay Cutler to throw to on offense. Despite his character, it’s hard to ignore that Marshall has recorded at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his last five seasons. Not to mention he’s coming off a year in which he caught 81 passes for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns while playing with mediocre quarterbacks as a member of the Miami Dolphins.
36. Julio Jones
There was a reason why the Atlanta Falcons were willing to surrender so many draft picks to acquire Julio Jones in the 2011 NFL Draft and if his rookie season is any indication of what’s to come–there’s a bright future for the young wideout. 54 catches for 959 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games was impressive for Jones and he should benefit even more in 2012 playing alongside Roddy White now that he has a full year of NFL experience under his belt.
35. Frank Gore
Frank Gore is coming off another solid year with the San Francisco 49ers after rushing for 1,211 yards and eight touchdowns–making it five 1,000-yard seasons over the last six years. Despite the additions of Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to the passing game, it shouldn’t have an effect on Gore’s production in the backfield.
34. Jordy Nelson
Prior to 2011, Jordy Nelson had recorded just 100 catches for 1,268 for six touchdowns in his first three seasons with the Green Bay Packers. After catching 68 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns, it’s safe to say Nelson is the league’s best No. 2 wide receiver and he should be in for another big year in 2012.
33. Michael Turner
The only time Michael Turner has recorded less than 1,000 rushing yards as a member of the Atlanta Falcons was in 2011 when the running back was limited to playing in just 11 games. In fact, during the three seasons with the Falcons where Turner has managed to play all 16 games, he’s never recorded anything below 1,300 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns–so he’s clearly a reliable option at running back.
32. Trent Richardson
The Cleveland Browns knew they couldn’t pass on Trent Richardson at No. 4 in this year’s draft and the rookie should have an immediate impact on a rushing unit that ranked 28th overall in 2011. Richardson has proven to be a workhorse at running back after rushing for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns during his final year at Alabama and it should be fun to watch him make the transition to the NFL level.
31. Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace is quickly emerging into one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers are excited to see what he can do during his fourth season–assuming the two sides can reach an agreement on a contract. Wallace has caught 132 passes for 2,450 yards and 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons and could be targeted more this year now that Hines Ward is out of the picture.
30. Steven Jackson
Steven Jackson always seems to be one of those under the radar type players as the St. Louis Rams running back recorded his seventh-straight 1,000-yard season in 2011. Jackson may turn 29 in July, but he still appears to have one or two more effective years left in him–so he would be a wise choice for a fantasy squad if still available in the second or third round.
29. Fred Jackson
Fred Jackson got off to one of the hottest starts in 2011 after recording 1,376 yards and six touchdowns over the first 10 games of the season before missing the final six weeks. Even with C.J. Spiller in the backfield, Jackson should be in for a big 2012 season for the Buffalo Bills.
28. Victor Cruz
How many of the other 31 teams regret not giving Victor Cruz a chance after the type of numbers he displayed (82 catches for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns) in 2011. It’s safe to say the New York Giants may not have won the Super Bowl last year if it wasn’t for Cruz and it should be fun to see what he does for an encore in 2012.
27. Adrian Peterson
Normally, Adrian Peterson would be higher on this list, but a torn ACL from Week 16 last season is a reason to be concerned about the running back’s performance in 2012. However, the Minnesota Vikings have to be pleased with the fact that Peterson appears to be on pace to start in Week 1 as he looks to keep his streak of five seasons with 10+ touchdowns alive.
26. Wes Welker
The argument can be made that no player started the 2011 season on a hotter note than Wes Welker. Last year was Welker’s best season with the New England Patriots as he caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards to go along with 15 touchdowns and for a player looking for a long-term deal–it’s obvious he’ll be doing whatever it takes to put up similar numbers one again this year.
25. Hakeem Nicks
Hakeem Nicks has emerged as one of the most effective wide receivers in the NFL over the last two seasons after catching 155 passes for 2,244 yards and 18 touchdowns. Nicks gives the New York Giants one of the top duos at wide receiver in the NFL playing alongside Victor Cruz and assuming he stays healthy–there’s no reason why the former North Carolina star won’t display big numbers in 2012.
24. Jamaal Charles
One of the biggest disappointments for fantasy football owners last year was losing Jamaal Charles during the second week of the regular season. The Kansas City Chiefs will be excited to have their starting running back return and assuming he stays healthy–Charles should return to the dominant form that recorded 2,587 yards and 12 touchdowns from 2009-10.
23. Roddy White
Roddy White has yet to miss a game during his seven-year career with the Atlanta Falcons as the wideout is coming off his fifth-straight season with 1,100+ receiving yards and six touchdowns. On paper, the Falcons have one of the most talented offenses in all of football and how far this team goes in 2012 will rely heavily on White.
22. A.J. Green
Not only did A.J. Green emerge as the top weapon on offense for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011, but he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie along with teammate Andy Dalton–which is pretty impressive. With a full year of experience under his belt, expectations are high for Green for his second season with the Bengals and he’s certainly one of the biggest players to keep an eye on from a fantasy perspective.
21. DeMarco Murray
674 of DeMarco Murray‘s 897 rushing yards as a rookie came during a five-game span for the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones strongly believes Murray will end up being one of the biggest steals from the 2011 NFL Draft and assuming he returns to full strength–the second-year running back could be one of the biggest sleepers in fantasy drafts this year.
20. Greg Jennings
Greg Jennings would have recorded his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season if it wasn’t for an injury that prevented him to miss the final three games of the 2011 regular season. As long as Jennings is healthy, he’ll always be considered one of the top wideouts in fantasy drafts and the Green Bay Packers will always be strong contenders in the NFC.
19. Matt Forte
In his first four seasons in the NFL, Matt Forte has recorded 6,218 yards from the line of scrimmage and 29 touchdowns. The Chicago Bears realize how valuable Forte is for their offense and if they want to keep him around for the long run–they better figure out a way to satisfy him with a long-term deal that he deserves.
18. Cam Newton
It didn’t take long for Cam Newton to prove his doubters wrong last year as he set numerous records for a rookie quarterback–including the first player to throw for 400+ passing yards during their first two career games. Not only did Newton throw for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Carolina Panthers, but the former No. 1 pick rushed for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns as well–which was fantasy gold for any owners with him on their roster.
17. Marshawn Lynch
After struggling the previous three seasons, Marshawn Lynch finally looked like his old dominant self and had the best season of his six-year career by recording 1,204 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Lynch ended up being one of the best sleeper picks for fantasy owners in 2011 and if he can display a strong performance for an encore–the Seattle Seahawks may be a team to keep an eye on next season.
16. Matthew Stafford
The Detroit Lions finally ended their playoff drought last season and the main reason for it was because of Matthew Stafford. He became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards during his first full season at starting quarterback and there’s a good chance he’ll come close once again in 2012.
15. Andre Johnson
Injuries have been a problem for Andre Johnson and the Houston Texans over the years, but when healthy–there’s no question he’s one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the NFL. Even though he was limited to playing in just seven games last season, Johnson caught 302 passes for 4,360 yards and 25 touchdowns from 2008-10.
14. Jimmy Graham
Sean Payton was right when he said Jimmy Graham would be one of the biggest steals of the 2010 NFL Draft after the former Hurricane emerged as one of the league’s top tight ends last season for the New Orleans Saints–catching 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. There’s usually one or two tight ends that have a strong chance to be taken in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts and this year–Graham is one of those tight ends.
13. Darren McFadden
Despite only playing in seven games all of last season, Darren McFadden has proven to be a workhorse for the Oakland Raiders when healthy–just look at the 1,664 yards from the line of scrimmage and 10 touchdowns he recorded in 13 games during the 2010 season. As long as he can stay healthy, there’s no reason why McFadden shouldn’t put up big numbers for the Raiders in 2012 and he’ll most likely be selected in the second or third round for most fantasy leagues.
12. Chris Johnson
After rushing for 4,598 yards and 34 touchdowns over the first three years of his career with the Tennessee Titans, the 2011 season was a disappointing one for Chris Johnson as he only rushed for 1,047 yards and four touchdowns. Now that he won’t be holding out and should enter training camp in much better shape, there’s no reason why Johnson shouldn’t bounce back in 2012 and became an elite running back once again.
11. Rob Gronkowski
There was a reason why the New England Patriots locked up Rob Gronkowski to a new deal during the offseason as he emerged into one of the league’s best tight ends in 2011 after catching 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. Similar to Jimmy Graham, Gronkowski is one of the acceptions for selecting a tight end in the first round of fantasy drafts and assuming the ankle is no longer an issue–the tight end should be in for a big third season.
10. Ryan Matthews
There’s a good chance Ryan Matthews could end up being one of the top running backs of 2012 from a fantasy perspective if he manages to stay healthy after recording 1,546 yards from the line of scrimmage and six rushing touchdowns in 2011. The San Diego Chargers will rely more on Matthews this season on the ground and through the air–which means fantasy owners may be snagging the running back up late in the first round if available.
9. Tom Brady
There are certain exceptions in fantasy football when it comes to selecting quarterbacks in the first round of fantasy football drafts and Tom Brady is one of them. As long as Brady–who threw for 5,235 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2011–is healthy, the New England Patriots will always be one of the top contenders in the AFC and Brady should be in for another big 2012 season with plenty of targets to throw to in the passing game.
8. Drew Brees
Not only is Drew Brees a fantasy football monster, but the New Orleans Saints quarterback displayed one of the best regular seasons in NFL history last year after breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing record by throwing for 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns. Just like Brady, there’s no reason why Brees shouldn’t have another big 2012 season and he’ll most likely be off the board in the first round in most fantasy leagues.
7. Larry Fitzgerald
Whether Kevin Kolb or John Skelton is throwing him the ball, Larry Fitzgerald will always be considered one of the top wide receivers in the NFL and should have another big season for the Arizona Cardinals. Fitzgerald broke the 1,400-yard mark for the fourth time in his career during the 2011 season and he’ll most likely be the first or second wide receiver selected in most leagues.
6. Maurice Jones-Drew
Maurice Jones-Drew has been one of the top running backs in fantasy football over the last couple of seasons as he’s capable of being just as much of a threat through the air as he is on the ground. The Jacksonville Jaguars will go as far as Jones-Drew will carry them and after leading the league in rushing yards in 2011–expectations will be high for Jones-Drew once again this season.
5. Calvin Johnson
Will Calvin Johnson be able to top last season in 2012 after setting career highs with 96 receptions for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns and help the Detroit Lions reach the playoffs for a second-straight season? Johnson was always considered one of the top wide receivers in the NFL, but if he can manage to post similar numbers again this season–he may be considered the best player at his position over Fitzgerald.
4. Aaron Rodgers
With all due respect to Brees and Brady, Aaron Rodgers was the best quarterback from the 2011 season after the former Super Bowl MVP led the Green Bay Packers to a 15-1 record during the regular season while throwing for 45 touchdowns and just six interceptions. With a strong receiving core consisting of weapons like Jennings and Nelson, Rodgers has developed into the league’s top fantasy quarterback and will most likely fall in the top five picks in most leagues.
3. Ray Rice
The Baltimore Ravens know they have something special in Ray Rice and the running back seems like the type of player that just better and better each season–which means 2012 could be a big year from a fantasy football perspective. After recording 2,068 yards from the line of scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns in 2011, expect big things from Rice once again this season–especially if the Ravens provide him with the long-term deal he’s been fighting for.
2. LeSean McCoy
Just like Rice, LeSean McCoy has been the type of running back who gets better each season and found the end zone 20 times in 2011. Despite missing the playoffs, the Philadelphia Eagles were pleased with the type of season McCoy displayed last year and the bar is set even higher heading into 2012 as the former “Dream Team” could be one of the top teams to compete with in the NFC–especially if McCoy has another big season.
1. Arian Foster
Now that he’s proven not to be a one-year wonder, Arian Foster has turned into a fantasy football favorite and will be the top pick in plenty of leagues for the 2012 season. Even after missing three games, Foster helped the Houston Texans reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history after 1,841 yards from the line of scrimmage to go along with 19 touchdowns.
Dan Parzych is the Director of Content for RantSports.com
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