The NFL and fantasy football are both much different than they were a few years ago. Focusing on the run has taken a back seat, while passing has become the cornerstone of NFL offenses. We’ve seen quarterbacks shatter passing records and tight ends re-define their own position, but behind every good passing attack is a good wide receiver. Wide receivers can make or break any fantasy team depending on who they match-up against. Here are the top five fantasy wide receivers for the 2012 fantasy season.
5b. Wes Welker, Patriots– Welker had the third most fantasy points for wide receivers in 2011 and he’s tied for fifth place in our rankings. Last year, Welker grabbed 122 receptions for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. This came out to an outstanding 206 fantasy points in ESPN standard leagues. Welker also had 172 targets last year, which came out to 50 more than fantasy beast Rob Gronkowski. Gronk and newly acquired Brandon Lloyd will take away targets from Welker, but he should still be one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets in 2012.
5a. Greg Jennings, Packers– Jennings was on track to finish in the top five in scoring for fantasy receivers in 2011, but he suffered a sprained knee that kept him out of the final three games of the season. This allowed Jordy Nelson to score 59 fantasy points in his absence. Nelson finished second in fantasy points for wide receivers, but Jennings will still be Aaron Rodgers’ top target. Jennings finished with five more targets than Nelson in 2011 and he should double that total this year. Jennings is a solid number one wide receiver for any fantasy team.
4. Roddy White, Falcons- In 2011, the Falcons drafted a dynamic young wide receiver named Julio Jones. Roddy White responded by pulling in 100 receptions for 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns. This came out to 172 fantasy points and proved he was still Atlanta’s number one receiver. White led the NFL in targets last year and he is still going to be Matt Ryan’s favorite weapon this year. The addition of Jones did result in a slightly worse statistical year for White, but it also took some of the defensive pressure off of the Falcons’ top wide-out. Jones will continue to take targets in 2012, but it shouldn’t stop fantasy owners from making White their top fantasy receiver in 2012. Take him if he’s available.
3. Andre Johnson, Texans– Johnson’s 2011 season was a disaster for both the Texans and fantasy owners. Johnson was plagued with injuries and played in just six regular season games. However, Johnson came back in time for the playoffs and showed he was still the same dynamic receiver fantasy owners thought they drafted. In two playoff games he had 13 receptions for 201 yards. This proved Johnson will still be a top fantasy receiver in 2012. Matt Schaub is back from his own injury and Johnson should become his top target once again. Fantasy owners may be more cautious in drafting Johnson, but he still won’t last further than the first three rounds in most drafts. Take him if you have the chance.
2. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals– Fitzgerald has continued to be a fantasy beast, despite the mediocre play of his quarterbacks. Kevin Kolb and John Skelton aren’t exactly All-Pro’s, but Fitzgerald still caught 80 passes for 1,411 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. This came out to 181 fantasy points, which was fifth most among receivers. The Cardinals also recently drafted Michael Floyd, which should help take defensive pressure off of Fitzgerald more often. The Cardinals’ quarterback situation is still a question mark, but Larry is still going to get his targets and fantasy points. Fitzgerald is a great receiving option for any team.
1. Calvin Johnson, Lions– Chances are, Megatron won’t be around after the first round in most fantasy leagues. Johnson caught 96 passes for 1,681 yards and 16 receiving touchdowns. Johnson rushed for another touchdown on the ground and had a grand total of 254 fantasy points. The difference between Johnson and Fitzgerald is the quarterback who throws them the ball. Matthew Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards last season and targeted Johnson 158 times. Arizona’s quarterbacks didn’t even throw for that many yards combined. At 6’5 and 236 pounds combined with his speed, Johnson is a nightmare for defenses to cover. Megatron also has only missed four games in his five year career, which makes any fantasy owner more confident in their lineup on Sunday’s. Don’t believe in Madden curses, Megatron is worth a top five pick this year.