Getting ready for a fantasy football draft this holiday weekend? No problem! All this week, we're looking ahead with our fantasy rankings for the 2012 season.
Previously, I ranked quarterbacks and running backs. Now, let's turn our attention outside to the receivers. There's a lot of money to be made at receiver, and this group is significantly deeper than running backs this year.
1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit
He's a freak of nature who plays in a division that lacks a shut-down cornerback (remember: Green Bay is moving Charles Woodson to safety this year). If Matthew Stafford plays a full schedule again, he'll blow away the NFL this year. Again.
2. AJ Green, Cincinnati
Maybe a stretch for a sophomore, but he's in the best spot among top-tier receivers to get consistent looks all over the field. There's a legitimate concern that he, or Andy Dalton, will suffer a sophomore slump, but Green has a ton of talent on a team that doesn't have another big play producer.
3. Roddy White, Atlanta
While I think the emergence of Julio Jones will keep his reception total under 100 (perhaps closer to 90) this year, his yard and touchdown totals could stay close to last year (1,296 yds, 8 TDs). He's on a good offense that plays indoors, all good things for a fantasy owner.
4. Greg Jennings, Green Bay
Not a good bet to have more than 75-80 catches, but 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns might be a lock. The Packers are stacked, and everything I noted about the lack of top-tier cover corners in the NFC North while talking about Megatron is true here as well.
5. Eric Decker, Denver
Go ahead and light your torches... I'm sure this will be the pick that jumps off the board. But let's remember what Decker was doing in Denver last year before Tim Tebow took over the "offense." Thru nine games, Decker had 34 catches for 462 yards and seven touchdowns. Projected over 16 games, we're looking at 60-65 catches for 800-850 yards and 10-12 touchdowns... without Peyton Manning. Decker's my uber-sleeper this year.
6. Julio Jones, Atlanta
Yes, I'm fully on the Falcons' bandwagon this year. Jones looks like he could put up over 1,000 yards and a big touchdown total while Roddy White continues to put up big numbers as well. That, friends, is why I can't stress the potential of Matt Ryan this year.
7. Wes Welker, New England
A little low for Welker, you say? Consider the enormous money the Patriots gave their tight ends this summer, and the addition of another legit outside threat in Brandon Lloyd. Working on a one-year deal, I'm not a huge fan of Welker this year. But, with that being said, he's still worthy of a WR1 slot in any format.
8. Brandon Marshall, Chicago
He is the best receiver the Bears have had in a half century, and the chemistry he's already shown with Jay Cutler is exciting. Add to his ability the dynamics of Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and rookie Alshon Jeffery, and Marshall should see plenty of single coverage... and yards.
9. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
I hate putting Fitzgerald this low, but I simply cannot put faith in the quarterbacks in the desert this year. The Cardinals have a terrible line, no running game to speak of, and quarterbacks that are either "scared" or inexperienced. Lots of owners love him, but I have serious questions about Fitzgerald this year.
10. Victor Cruz, NY Giants
He continues to get open, continues catching the ball, and will probably get plenty of chances to salsa dance in the end zone again this year. He was a feel-good story last year; now he's a legit fantasy option at receiver.
11. Hakeem Nicks, NY Giants
12. Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh
13. Andre Johnson, Houston
14. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay
15. Steve Smith, Carolina
16. Dez Bryant, Dallas
17. Marques Colston, New Orleans
18. Torrey Smith, Baltimore
19. Brandon Lloyd, New England
20. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia
21. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
22. Percy Harvin, Minnesota
23. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City
24. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay
25. Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville
From 11-25, the guy to watch is: Justin Blackmon.
In the preseason, he's shown flashes of being an elite athlete who has started developing chemistry with young quarterback Blaine Gabbert. If MJD misses any time, he's all they've got in Jacksonville.
From 11-25, the guy to avoid is: Vincent Jackson.
He's always been a guy that's been viewed as a mid-round steal, but Josh Freeman has a lot of questions to answer in Tampa this year. The quarterback play for the Bucs will either get them into the playoffs (and make Jackson a Pro Bowler), or make fantasy owners hate taking Jackson.
Off-the-board sleeper to consider late: Alshon Jeffery, BEARS
He's a big body who could get a good number of looks in the red zone as the season progresses. As I said with Marshall earlier, the talent and skill at receiver could make the Bears passing game a factor in fantasy football for the first time... ever?