Tuesday, July 17, 2012

2012 WR Rankings - Top 50 Wide Receivers

I've always felt WRs are easy to stock on a team. Compared to the RB or QB positions, for instance, there are more starters. Plus, there is so much volatility at the position that it's easy to grab new success stories each season. For instance, I picked up the likes of Victor Cruz, Eric Decker, and Torrey Smith last year off the waiver wire in addition to my drafted WRs.

So use this list well at your fantasy football draft, but realize that you're more than likely going to have opportunities to "pick up" good WRs during the season too.

Here are the Top 50 WR Rankings heading into the 2012 Draft:

  1. Calvin Johnson, Det. This is a no-brainer. After scoring 16 TDs and gaining 1,600+ yards, Megatron's the only WR I would consider taking before a workhorse RB.
  2. Larry Fitzgerald, Ari. Even without good QBs, Fitz gets the job done. If you want safe and productive, Larry is the guy to grab after Megatron.
  3. Andre Johnson, Hou. Because he's a home run threat, I'll put Andre number three. But this is a risk-reward pick. If he stays healthy, you'll most likely be happy. If he doesn't, it'll be like 3 of the past 5 seasons in which he does good while he's healthy and occupies your bench when he's not.
  4. Steve Smith, Car. Smith had a huge comeback year, and I think it's mostly due to having a competent QB. Since Cam should only improve as a passer in his second season and Steve hasn't lost any speed, I expect Smith will have another great year.
  5. Julio Jones, Atl. Jerry Rice projects Jones to have THE breakout season of 2012, and I'm a believer. Just look at his final four games last season. Go ahead, look.
  6. Greg Jennings, GB. Jordy Nelson exploded last season. After Jennings went down with injury. Nelson was fine before the injury, but don't let those Jennings-less games fool you into who the best Packer wideout continues to be.
  7. Victor Cruz, NYG. Hakeem Nicks is the popular pick of the Giants WRs. Even though Cruz scored more last season. Even though Nicks is coming back from injury that might put the beginning of the season in jeopardy. Go with Nicks if you must, but I don't think Cruz will be a bust.
  8. A.J. Green, Cin. This guy was a difference maker in college and immediately became a Pro Bowler on the professional level. He'll continue to develop in 2012.
  9. Wes Welker, NE. Welker is very good, but he only scored TDs in 6 games last season. Something to keep in mind as he'll continue to fight for looks with the double TEs and Brandon Lloyd.
  10. Vincent Jackson, TB. Personally, I think Josh Freeman is going to love having Doug Martin to block for him and Vincent Jackson to catch TDs from him.
  11. Marques Colston, NO. Colston missed the early part of 2011, which means he put up WR1 numbers on a shortened season.
  12. Percy Harvin, Min. I'm not a huge Harvin fan, especially after his little off-season trade demand [(then okay) then kinda okay if things work out next offseason] thing. But he is productive--if hard to understand.
  13. Roddy White, Atl. See Julio Jones.
  14. Hakeem Nicks, NYG. See Victor Cruz.
  15. Jordy Nelson, GB. See Greg Jennings.
  16. Mike Wallace, Pit. The case could be (and has been) made by some that Antonio Brown will emerge as Pittsburgh's number one WR this year. But I'll believe it when I see it.
  17. Steve Johnson, Buf. He was a little hobbled at times last year, but he worked through it and has the potential to take his game to the next level this year.
  18. Brandon Marshall, Chi. If Marshall finishes the season as a Top 5 WR, I won't be surprised. He's been putting up respectable numbers with lower caliber QBs. Reuniting with Cutler should give his stats a boost.
  19. Dez Bryant, Dal. I think Bryant will likely go earlier than 19th, and there's a good chance he'll perform at a level that justifies a top 10 pick. But for me, I need just a little more supporting evidence before I jump on his bandwagon.
  20. Dwayne Bowe, KC. Bowe is talented, but his numbers are inconsistent--and so are his potential QBs. Plus, there's the whole possibility of sitting out training camp which would hurt his value more.
  21. Brandon Lloyd, NE. If Lloyd goes outside the top 20, he could very well be the steal of the draft. He's got a well-documented chemistry with New England's O-coordinator that could lead to him becoming the number one receiving target.
  22. Kenny Britt, Ten. If it weren't for his injury, Britt might be in the Top 5. During the first two games of 2011, Britt compiled 271 yards and 3 TDs. That's a huge upside if he can play 16 games.
  23. Robert Meachem, SD. Meachem was brought in to be the new Vincent Jackson. Who knows? He might end up playing the part, but it's always tricky figuring out how a new WR will click (or not click) with a new QB.
  24. Torrey Smith, Bal. Torrey got lost in the rookie WR shuffle last year with the huge success of A.J. Green and Julio Jones. But he's the type of homerun hitter who Flacco will gladly hit over top after Ray Rice pounds it all game.
  25. Demaryius Thomas, Den. This is everyone's favorite Peyton Manning "sleeper," but I could see Eric Decker outperforming this talented WR. 
  26. Jeremy Maclin, Phi. I have a whole post in which I pit Jeremy Maclin against Desean Jackson. You can read the post, but I basically conclude that they're both going to give you the same thing. 
  27. Pierre Garcon, Was. Washington invested in WRs this past off-season, but Garcon is the main guy. If Griffin can perform at QB, I think Garcon will hold up his end of the deal.
  28. Miles Austin, Dal. Austin may play like a number 2 WR this year (behind Dez Bryant), or he might be a steal later in the draft.
  29. Desean Jackson, Phi. See Jeremy Maclin and flip a coin.
  30. Randy Moss, SF. Randy is really interesting to me. I'm one of those people who thinks he can probably play another season at a high level. But here's the problem: I'm also one of those people who's not convinced Alex Smith can sling it downfield to him.
  31. Laurent Robinson, Jax. Blaine Gabbert and the Jacksonville Jaguars have been killing the fantasy values of any receiver that crosses their path. Unfortunately for Laurent, he crossed their path after having a breakout season.
  32. Lance Moore, NO. Moore consistently scores TDs and is a major factor in the New Orleans passing game. Plus, Robert Meachem left town, which should equal more looks.
  33. Reggie Wayne, Ind. Wayne did OK last season with non-Peyton Manning types throwing to him. This year, he'll have a rookie QB throwing to him named Luck. Maybe his luck will improve as a result.
  34. Antonio Brown, Pit. See Mike Wallace.
  35. Santonio Holmes, NYJ. Holmes is the top WR for the Jets, which really doesn't mean much, does it?
  36. Eric Decker, Den. Decker is the WR who was working out with Peyton the most. Decker is just as big and fast as Demaryius Thomas. Decker is a more polished route runner. Who's the sleeper in Denver again?
  37. Justin Blackmon, Jax. See Laurent Robinson.
  38. Nate Washington, Ten. If Britt's health doesn't hold out (again), then Washington has proven he can do a passable job as the guy.
  39. Michael Crabtree, SF. This could be the year he lives up to his potential.
  40. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oak. Darrius or...
  41. Denarius Moore, Oak. ...Denarius? Hmm... Flip a coin, or avoid entirely.
  42. Titus Young, Det. Many expect Young to take advantage of Megatron double teams. He's definitely got the talent to make it happen.
  43. Jon Baldwin, KC. Speaking of talent, Baldwin got behind the 8-ball during his rookie season but showed flashes. He's been performing well this off season and could be poised for a breakout season.
  44. Malcolm Floyd, SD. If Meachem has trouble building chemistry with Rivers, Floyd could benefit.
  45. Brian Quick, StL. St. Louis is hoping a rookie WR (Quick) will save the day. I think wise gamblers will stay away from Sam Bradford this season.
  46. Austin Collie, Ind. In the final game of last season, Collie showed what he's capable of doing. The real question is whether Andrew Luck will be able to hit the ground throwing.
  47. Chad Ochocinco/Johnson, Mia. The Chad has had to answer a lot of questions about his football smarts this offseason. His main problem in New England was learning the playbook. And there have been rumblings that he had the same issues in Cincy.
  48. Greg Little, Cle. In case you haven't noticed, I'm pretty much just touching on each team's number one receiver at this point. Little is Cleveland's guy.
  49. Sidney Rice, Sea. Rice is Seattle's guy.
  50. Randall Cobb, GB. Cobb is the number three guy in Green Bay, which gives him more upside than a lot of number one receivers.
Like I mentioned above, there will be WRs who emerge (or re-emerge) out of nowhere. Players like Jerome Simpson, Anquan Boldin, Santana Moss, Mario Manningham, Nick Toon, and Michael Floyd come to mind. But don't waste a pick on them. That's why the fantasy football "powers that be" invented the waiver wire.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Desean Jackson vs. Jeremy Maclin: Which WR Will Fly Higher for the Eagles in 2012?

Recently, I was talking fantasy football with a friend, and he seemed to really be into Desean Jackson. This caught me off guard, because I'm more a fan of Jeremy Maclin. In fact, I didn't even think it was a competition. Apparently, my friend felt the same way, and here I am trying to dig deeper to see which of us is right (or if there's even a difference).

Desean Jackson

While I've often thought of Jackson as more inconsistent, he's actually picked up more than 900 yards receiving all four seasons he's been in the league. At 25, Jackson is still young, and 2011 was actually the first year that he hasn't picked up a rushing TD in addition to his receiving scores.

Of course, his consistency has a downside too. He's never started all 16 games of a season, and the most receptions he's ever had is 62. He picks up his yards in big chunks, but he's not a great point-per-reception guy.

He had some personal issues last year that got him benched, but that's all apparently water under the bridge with a new big contract. Or is it? It's always hard to tell if a player who's complained in the past is actually done complaining or not.

Jeremy Maclin

While Maclin is nearly as fast and definitely bigger than Jackson (by two inches and 20+ pounds), he's only eclipsed 900 yards once. That said, Maclin caught more balls two out of his three seasons--so he might be the better WR for points per reception leagues

Like Jackson, Maclin has trouble playing a full season. Unlike Jackson, Maclin's yards per reception average has stayed at a very level 13.6-13.8 range each season. Actually, it's incredible how consistent (and maybe not in a spectacular way) that is.

Jackson vs. Maclin head-to-head comparisons

During the past three seasons, both receivers have caught 19 TDs (with Jackson adding two rushing scores). So Jackson gets the slight edge there.

The two receivers played in 12 games together in 2011, and here's how they performed:
  • Maclin: 61 receptions, 853 yards, 5 TDs
  • Jackson: 44 receptions, 766 yards, 4 TDs
So in 2011, at least, Maclin had the very slight edge.

Who's Better--Jeremy Maclin or Desean Jackson?

After comparing and contrasting the numbers (instead of feelings), I think it's easy to see that both Maclin and Jackson are pretty much the same. Jackson has more big play ability, but Maclin seems to be the "go to" guy. If anything, I think this shows that Michael Vick has a great situation (especially when you throw LeSean McCoy into the equation).

I wouldn't reach on either of these WRs. If you really want one, wait for one to go and then grab the other to get a better value pick.

Jhavid Best, Mikel Leshoure, Kevin Smith: Which Detroit RB Do I Grab?

My pick for most interesting backfield situation in the NFL heading into the 2012 season is easy: Detroit Lions. This backfield, of course, consists of Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, and Kevin Smith.

What makes this situation so interesting to me is that Detroit has one of the most powerful offenses, a punishing defense, and they've got a track record of trying to include the RB position in spreading the fantasy wealth. The only problem is that nobody seems to be capable of taking the job and running with it.

Let's take a look at this backfield one RB at a time.

Jahvid Best

At only 23, Best has his whole career in front of him. But the knock on him coming out of college was his concussion history, and that came into play big time last season--as he only played in the first six games. So concussions are a concern. But that's not the only problem I have with Best from a fantasy perspective.

As a rookie, Best only managed 3.2 yards per rushing attempt in 2010. In 2011, his stats indicate he improved by more than a yard per carry (4.6), BUT those numbers are skewed by an 88-yard-TD run against Chicago. Take that one rushing attempt out, and Best averaged 3.6 yards per carry. Ouch!

Here's an interesting fact: Best averaged 3.6 yards per carry or worse in 4 of 6 games last season.

Here's another interesting fact: Best had more than 12 carries in only 2 of 6 games. And this was in a Mikel Leshoure-less situation (and before Kevin Smith was brought on board).

Still, he's a threat out of the backfield a la Darren Sproles. I just don't think he's EVER going to be a workhorse RB.

Mikel Leshoure

At 22, Leshoure also has his whole career in front of him. But he's returning from an achilles injury (which is not easy for a RB--some even claim it's impossible). Plus, there's the little matter of a 2-game suspension for drug-related problems to kick off the 2012 season. This guy may have lost his explosion on the field and be a ticking time bomb (for a season long suspension) off the field.

Anything else? Oh yeah, Leshoure still hasn't had one regular season NFL carry. That's kinda scary.

However, Leshoure does have the size and speed to make it work IF he ever gets to the field. Of course, the emphasis should be on the big IF.

Kevin Smith

Old man Smith is actually only 25 years old. That's still pretty young for a RB. But like the rest of the Detroit backfield, he has an injury history. During the offseason, Smith has reportedly put on some extra muscle weight to get him up 217 pounds, which is usually big enough to pound (and MAY help keep him healthy).

I'd say that Smith is definitely the third RB in this group, but with this group, he could quickly find himself as the only RB available. Last year, Smith scored 7 TDs (4 rushing, 3 receiving) in the final 7 games of the season. Not too shabby.

Which Detroit RB Is Best?

Without being obvious with my puns, I'm going to say that none of these RBs should be viewed as the best. I don't think Jahvid Best is ever going to be a true workhorse, though he may be able to carve out a Darren Sproles-like role. Mikel Leshoure probably has the most potential to be THE GUY, but he's got injury and drug concerns. Meanwhile, Kevin Smith is stuck behind these two guys and has an injury history himself.

Honestly, Joique Bell or Keiland Williams could end up as deep sleepers in this backfield. The Arian Fosters of the world have to start somewhere, right?

That said, Jahvid Best is the "safe bet" if he slips deep in your draft; Mikel Leshoure is the home run swing (especially in keeper leagues); and Kevin Smith might be the sneaky flier pick that helps you win your league at the end of the season--but shouldn't take up too much space on your bench if he doesn't see the field.

I wouldn't blame anyone if they avoided this backfield completely, but there is upside if you can get these guys on the cheap.