You already know that Calvin Johnson is the best Fantasy receiver out there after scoring 16 touchdowns in 2011 and setting an NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards in 2012. But just how good is he? Johnson has posted back-to-back seasons with at least 200 Fantasy points. When compared against running backs he would have finished as the sixth-best in 2012 and the third-best in 2011. He's posted at least 10 Fantasy points in 23 of his last 32 regular-season games. He's overcome injuries that have looked bad to play like a super-human. And the icing on the cake is that nothing about his game, his quarterback, his offense, his playcaller or his workload will change in 2013. That's why Johnson is the only non-running back who qualifies as a first-round pick this summer. We'd look to nab him late in Round 1 with the idea of pairing him with a running back in Round 2.
Bengals sensation A.J. Green finished last season tied for the second-most Fantasy points among wide receivers in standard-scoring leagues. He was one of seven wide receivers to accrue over 150 targets (he caught 58.3 pct. of them, an improvement). He was one of four receivers to have 10 or more games with at least 10 Fantasy points. Through two years he has 19 games with double-digit Fantasy points out of 32 and 23 games with at least eight Fantasy points. It's clear he's not only the lead receiver on the Bengals but among the best receivers in Fantasy Football. As one of the safest choices out there, expect Green to get snared with a pick between 20th and 30th overall in pretty much every single draft.
For the first time since the days of Marcus Robinson, the Bears had a receiver Fantasy owners could trust. Brandon Marshall's reunion with Jay Cutler in The Windy City resulted in career-highs in catches (118, on 193 targets!), yards (1,508) and touchdowns (11). He was one of four receivers to land at least 10 Fantasy points in 10 or more games. And he kept a personal streak of six straight seasons with at least 1,000 yards alive. Minor hip surgery this season won't slow him down – he said in April he was 100 percent healthy. You pretty much know what you're getting with Marshall, making him one of the safest picks you can make in Round 3 on Draft Day as a No. 1 wideout.
Dez Bryant was a breakout star in his third season in the NFL in 2012, and he's looking to keep that momentum going this season. We think he can. Bryant closed 2012 with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in seven of his final eight games, including playing the last four with a broken finger. His final stats were 92 catches, 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, as he definitely became a star player. Bryant has 27 career touchdowns, and he's set his sights on 2,000 receiving yards this year. Although that's highly unlikely, he should continue to post dominant stats, and we consider him an upper echelon Fantasy receiver. Bryant should be among the Top 5 receivers drafted this season, and he could come off the board as early as Round 2. He had just 138 targets last year, and we hope that number will rise. The one concern with Bryant is injuries since he also hurt his back last season along with his finger, but as long as he's on the field you can expect tremendous production from this dynamic receiver.
Like teammate Roddy White, Julio Jones finished as a top-12 receiver in 2012, and he'll aim to do it again in 2013. Jones turned out to be slightly more consistent than his teammate, registering at least 10 Fantasy points (standard scoring) in nine games. While White tended to put up his big numbers indoors, Jones played great outdoors, posting at least 10 points in each of six outdoor matchups. Playing indoors didn't necessarily hurt Jones, but White's production inside domes did as the two only had three games all year where they were both satisfactory. While that's something to think about, the reality is that Jones is the more scintillating receiver in Atlanta and the one Fantasy owners should target first. Like White, Jones is a No. 1 Fantasy wideout worth a pick between 15th and 30th overall.
Demaryius Thomas, as expected, had a breakout campaign in 2012. It was his third year in the NFL, and he was paired with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning. He led the Broncos with 94 catches for 1,434 yards, and he finished second to fellow third-year breakout Eric Decker (13) with 10 touchdowns. Thomas, who had 141 targets in 2012, has the potential to be a No. 5 Fantasy receiver this year, and he finished just 23 Fantasy points behind Calvin Johnson in 2012. The problem for Thomas in reaching the No. 1 spot is the addition of Wes Welker along with the presence of Decker. Still, we consider Thomas a No. 1 receiver in all leagues, and he's worth drafting in Round 3. You should consider drafting Thomas among the other second-tier receivers (Johnson is in a tier by himself) like A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Julio Jones. Once any of those names come off the board, plan on grabbing Thomas in that group.
Despite sharing the field with teammate Julio Jones, Roddy White finished as a top-12 Fantasy receiver for the fifth year in a row in 2012 and aims to do it again in 2013. White saw a dip in targets thanks to Jones and teammate Tony Gonzalez but still finished the regular season with 143, catching 92 of them for 1,351 yards. He stumbled in the touchdown department, catching seven scores -- a four-year low. And when White did shine as a Fantasy performer it was primarily indoors: He had 10-plus Fantasy points seven times in 10 games indoors vs. one game with that total in six games outdoors. That's been consistent with his career and something to remember when looking at White in 2013 drafts since the Falcons are slated for another 10 indoor games this season. Ultimately, White has proven to be a reliable receiver Fantasy owners should have no problem starting on a weekly basis. That makes him a top-12 option on Draft Day worth a pick between 20th and 30th overall, likely within 10 picks of when someone selects Jones.
Concerns about missing time because of injuries pushed Andre Johnson down draft boards last season, but those were put to rest after he had a career-high 1,598 yards during the regular season. The 31-year-old also racked up 112 receptions for his first season with 100-plus catches since 2009 -- and fourth overall -- but finished with just four touchdowns. Johnson will be 32 when the season kicks off and is pretty much the only receiving threat on the Texans and still has a small injury stigma floating over him. But because he's such a fantastic talent owners probably shouldn't resist him as a low-end No. 1 Fantasy receiver worth a pick in Round 3.
Larry Fitzgerald had an amazing offseason, and we're not talking about any exotic vacations he might have had. Fitzgerald got a new coach in Bruce Arians, who favors downfield passing, and a significant upgrade at quarterback in Carson Palmer. Fitzgerald needed a change because 2012 was the worst season of his career, and it was predominately because of poor quarterback play. Fitzgerald was limited to 71 catches for 798 yards and four touchdowns, and he finished as the No. 41 receiver despite being the seventh-most targeted receiver (156) in the NFL. So it was clear the Cardinals were trying to get Fitzgerald the ball, but they weren't having much success. That should change this season. Fitzgerald should be considered a low-end No. 1 Fantasy receiver on Draft Day, and we recommend drafting him with a pick in Round 3 or 4. If he bounces back as expected then he should be a steal this season in all leagues.
A mid-March trade sent Percy Harvin from Minnesota to Seattle, giving him the contract extension he wanted with a new team and an old offensive coordinator. Harvin reunites with Darrell Bevell, who coached him in his first two years in the NFL. Bevell's familiarity with Harvin will only help his cause, but the upgrade at quarterback to Russell Wilson won't be a bad thing, either. As the top receiver in Seattle and handsomely paid, you can expect him to get plenty of work as a receiver but maybe not quite as much as a rusher. The best stat we can share is that Harvin has averaged at least 80 total yards per game each of the last two seasons (that's with shaky quarterback play, by the way) and had six games with at least 10 Fantasy points in nine games last season. Harvin should be considered a low-end No. 1 receiver for your Fantasy team well worth a pick between 30th and 40th overall.
Most would say Vincent Jackson made the impact the Bucs had hoped he would when they signed him to a large contract last offseason, but a look into the stats tell a slightly different story. All told, Jackson had a career-best 72 catches for 1,384 yards (also a career-best) and eight touchdowns. Not bad, right? Well, the 72 catches he had came on a whopping 147 targets, meaning he somehow caught just below 50 percent of the passes Josh Freeman threw his way. He also exceeded 10 Fantasy points in just half of his games, the same as teammate Mike Williams, who happened to score nine touchdowns. And when he didn't score 10 Fantasy points, he really didn't do much, posting five Fantasy points or less in six games. Jackson continues to serve as a boom-or-bust receiver but given the right price on Draft Day is someone worth picking up. Let's call him a No. 1 Fantasy option worth a pick starting in late Round 3.
Randall Cobb blossomed into a solid Fantasy receiver last season and the hope is he continues his progress in 2013. It took a few weeks but once the Packers were in a pinch with their run game they utilized Cobb more and his numbers took off. Starting in Week 5, when Cedric Benson got hurt, Cobb posted 10-plus Fantasy points in five of his next six games (with a TD or 100 total yards in each game). Cobb slowed down toward end the season, scoring once and posting two games with 100 yards in his final seven games including the playoffs. He finished by leading the Packers in catches (80), targets (104 for an incredible 77 pct. conversion rate), receiving yards (954) and total yards (1,086), throwing in eight touchdowns along the way. Already, the Packers have said they're going to take Cobb off of special teams and focus on using him more on offense, so chances are he will be in a position to put up better stats in 2013. There is a concern that if the Packers drastically improve their run game that Cobb will lose touches but that's something to worry about later. For now, Cobb sizes up as the Packers' most explosive receiver worth a pick starting around 35th overall in standard leagues and 30th overall in PPR formats. He's a great No. 2 Fantasy option.
Victor Cruz continues to prove that he's among the best receivers in the NFL. After a breakout season in 2011 when he had 82 catches for a franchise-record 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, he had 86 catches for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He helped Fantasy owners with eight double-digit scoring games, and he picked up the slack for the Giants with Hakeem Nicks battling multiple leg injuries. Cruz should again be a dominant force, and we consider him a top-15 Fantasy receiver in all leagues. He is worth drafting as early as Round 4 in all formats.
Wes Welker made a shocking move this offseason when he left the Patriots and Tom Brady to go to arguably Brady’s biggest rival in his career in Peyton Manning with the Broncos. We’ll now find out if Welker can thrive in a different system besides the Patriots, but playing with Manning might be the next best thing. Welker was a star in New England since he has five years with at least 100 catches in his past six seasons. He now goes to a Broncos team that has a loaded receiving corps with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but Welker will still get plenty of targets since Manning loves throwing to the slot. Still, this move hurts Welker slightly. He remains a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in all leagues, but he’s not the No. 1 option anymore in this passing attack. Welker should be drafted in Round 4 in standard leagues and Round 3 in PPR formats. He will likely fall short of 100 catches this season, but not by much. Figure on him grabbing 80-85 receptions for 1,300 yards and about five touchdowns. If there was any place we would have liked to see him leave New England for, Denver is it.
When it comes to year-to-year stats, Marques Colston exemplifies consistency. Last year, he posted his sixth season in seven years with at least 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns, ultimately scoring 10 times. But a closer look at his 2012 numbers might sway Fantasy owners from leaning on Colston as a No. 1 option. The Saints' leading receiver had 10-plus Fantasy points just six times in 2012 including in Weeks 16 and 17. He also collected four touchdowns and 284 of his yards in Weeks 4 and 5. There were eight weeks where he had under 80 yards with no touchdowns. Despite this uncharacteristic inconsistency, Colston remains the most highly targeted wide receiver on the pass-happy Saints. Getting him to serve as a No. 2 receiver, particularly one you'll "settle" for in Round 4 or maybe even Round 5, shouldn't be disappointing.