What a fabulous time of year! The calendar's about to roll over to August, which means basements, living rooms, sports bars and chat rooms are starting to host fantasy football drafts.
This is a crazy group to look at after a 2012 season that made many fantasy owners mad, some happy, and plenty confused. Looking back, some of the usual suspects had big seasons, highlighted by Calvin Johnson's dominance in Detroit.
But others, specifically Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, left fantasy owners hating quarterbacks and NFL general managers for leaving great receivers without a quarterback... and themselves for not paying attention to who would be throwing the ball to their favorite player(s).
As we head into 2013, there are a few players that have changed jerseys, some that are already injured, and a few others that might take a big step forward. First, let's remember who you shouldn't draft this year.
- Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia - tore his ACL on Saturday.
- Michael Crabtree, San Francisco - torn Achilles.
- Percy Harvin, Seattle - hip issues continue to bother him.
- Sidney Rice, Seattle - getting work done on his knee... in Switzerland.
- Brandon Lloyd, free agent - no team, no fantasy value
- Randy Moss, free agent - see Lloyd.
One player that isn't officially hurt (yet), but who isn't happy with his contract and missed practice reps with groin tightness already is Hakeem Nicks with the NY Giants. Lingering injuries and no contract can hurt a player's fantasy value. Ask Greg Jennings.
Speaking of Jennings, let's look at a few legit fantasy receivers that will be wearing new jerseys this year.
- Wes Welker - Denver
- Mike Wallace - Miami
- Greg Jennings - Minnesota
- Anquan Boldin - San Francisco
- Danny Amendola - New England
- Percy Harvin - Seattle (see injury concerns above)
The move of Welker to Denver is especially intriguing for fantasy owners on a few levels.
Last season, only 20 players in the entire NHL had 1,000 yards (19 receivers, 1 tight end). With Welker, the Broncos now have three of the 19 receivers to hit that mark; Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker also reached 1,000 yards in 2012 with Peyton Manning under center. How will Welker's presence impact the production of Thomas and Decker?
The other significant question Welker's new address raises is with his former teammates. Who will catch the ball for the Patriots this year? Is Amendola the answer? Can he stay healthy? If he doesn't, what then? We've been pretty frank about our concerns with the Patriots 2013 outlook when talking about tight ends and quarterbacks already, but it's worth repeating: Stevan Ridley is your best bet on that roster this season.
Also, there are a few rookie receivers to keep an eye on this year. Here are our top five rookies to consider:
- DeAndre Hopkins, Houston
- Tavon Austin, St. Louis
- Aaron Dobson, New England
- Keenan Allen, San Diego
- Da'Rick Rogers, Buffalo*
Most people have Hopkins and Austin 1-2 on their list of rookie receivers this year, but I'm higher on Hopkins playing opposite Andre Johnson in Houston than Austin with Chris Givens in St. Louis. I think Givens could be set up for a break-out season because of Austin's game-breaking ability, but see the Johnson-Hopkins duo having similar potential to Roddy White and Julio Jones in Atlanta.
Dobson will be interesting for the reasons we just mentioned; he might be Tom Brady's favorite target by Week 4. Allen steps into an offense in San Diego desperate for someone to make a play. And Rogers, who was undrafted in spite of incredible athletic ability, might run past former USC receiver Robert Woods up the Bills' depth chart by the time the season starts.
Now that we've looked at the injuries, free agent moves and rookies, let's put it all together. Here are our top 40 fantasy wide receivers for the 2013 season:
- Calvin Johnson, Detroit
- AJ Green, Cincinnati
- Brandon Marshall, Chicago
- Dez Bryant, Dallas
- Julio Jones, Atlanta
- Marques Colston, New Orleans
- Roddy White, Atlanta
- Demaryius Thomas, Denver
- Andre Johnson, Houston
- Eric Decker, Denver
- Victor Cruz, New York Giants
- Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay
- Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
- Randall Cobb, Green Bay
- Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City
- Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
- Wes Welker, Denver
- Mike Williams, Tampa Bay
- Anquan Boldin, San Francisco
- Mike Wallace, Miami
- DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia
- Chris Givens, St. Louis
- Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
- Danny Amendola, New England
- Steve Johnson, Buffalo
- Greg Jennings, Minnesota
- Steve Smith, Carolina
- DeAndre Hopkins, Houston
- Tavon Austin, St. Louis
- TY Hilton, Indianapolis
- Miles Austin, Dallas
- Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville
- Lance Moore, New Orleans
- Torrey Smith, Baltimore
- Jordy Nelson, Green Bay
- Alshon Jeffery, Chicago
- Pierre Garcon, Washington
- Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville
- James Jones, Green Bay
- Sidney Rice, Seattle
Worth A Reach: Chris Givens, St. Louis
As we mentioned earlier, Givens could benefit from the presence of rookie Austin and the improved line in front of Sam Bradford. But looking back at last year, Givens started to show signs of emerging as a legit fantasy receiver late in the season. He had two enormous games in a row - five catches for 115 yards at Arizona and 11 receptions for 92 yards vs. San Francisco - in weeks 12 and 13, respectively . He had nearly 700 yards and three touchdowns without Austin or Jared Cook in the offense. Givens could be the break-out star of 2013.
Avoid Like A Kardashian: Torrey Smith, Baltimore
Smith was a postseason hero, but reality is about to snap fans back to reality with Smith. The loss of Dennis Pitta to a season-ending hip injury puts additional pressure on a group of receivers that is already missing Boldin. A 17.4 yard-per-catch average is impressive, and eight touchdowns in 49 receptions is an equally noteworthy ratio, but a burner like Smith benefits from players like Pitta and Boldin working underneath. They're both gone, which means Smith should fall on your draft board.
Roll The Dice: Alshon Jeffery, Chicago
He showed a few flashes of having big play ability last year, but injuries cost him playing time and penalties hurt his confidence. A new offensive scheme, a full offseason to learn, and the presence of Martellus Bennett at tight end should help Jeffery take some pressure off Brandon Marshall in Chicago. Jeffery isn't likely to be a 1,000 yard player, but he could have a season similar to what James Jones did in Green Bay last year (64 rec, 784 yards, 14 TD).
Filed under: Fantasy Football
Tags: 2013, AJ Green, Andre Johnson, anquan boldin, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, danny amendola, DeAndre Hopkins, demaryius thomas, DeSean Jackson, Dez Bryant, dwayne bowe, Eric Decker, fantasy football, Greg Jennings, jeremy maclin, Julio Jones, Justin Blackmon, Larry Fitzgerald, michael crabtree, Mike Wallace, NFL, percy harvin, Roddy White, Victor Cruz, Wes Welker, wide receiver