The Never-Too-Early 2013 WR Rankings

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By John Paulsen (Senior Editor) on February 10, 2013

John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 season, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in 2012 for an unprecedented three straight top 5 finishes. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-13 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate preseason rankings.  Follow John on Twitter: @4for4_John.

Rounding out our series of Never-Too-Early Rankings for the 2013 season are the wide receivers. Be sure to check out the QB, RB and TE rankings.
 

THE STUDS

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions
For the second straight season, Calvin Johnson finished as the top-ranked WR in both total points scored and per game average, so he's the favorite to finish #1 yet again in 2013. After the top tier RBs in the first round, fantasy owners can't really go wrong with Calvin.

2. A.J. Green, Bengals
As a rookie, Green was the #14 WR in standard formats. In his second season, he finished #4. His situation hasn't changed, so we're expecting another top 5 season in 2013.

3. Brandon Marshall, Bears
Marshall's reunion with Jay Cutler went quite well. After finishing as the #13 WR in 2011, Marshall was the #2 fantasy WR in both total points and per game average. His 118 catches for 1,508 yards and 11 TDs were all career highs, as Marshall finished #11 and #9 in his two previous seasons with Cutler in Denver. The only concern is that new HC Marc Trestman somehow screws up the duo's chemistry. Trestman has a reputation for having a sharp offensive mind, so it shouldn't be an issue.

4. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Thomas was good all year (92-1442-10) even though it was his first season playing with Peyton Manning. He caught six TDs in his final seven games and may see a few extra scores if things even out between him and Eric Decker (who caught 13 TDs on 85 catches).

5. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
There's no question that Bryant has the talent to finish in the top 5 again in 2013 -- the question is whether his off-the-field issues will crop up at all in the near future. He's nowhere near the level of, say, Kenny Britt, but he's not the most trustworthy player either. His production after the Cowboys' Week 5 bye (5.9-93-1.0) was better than Calvin Johnson's season averages.

6. Julio Jones, Falcons
Other than perhaps Tony Gonzalez (who may retire), all the pieces remain in place in Atlanta, so Jones should continue to progress in his third season. He was #19 in total targets in 2012, but his looks should increase if Gonzo hangs 'em up.

7. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
Jackson's first season with the Bucs was stellar. He caught 72 passes for 1384 yards and eight TDs and had the highest YPC (19.2) of any WR in the top 50. He's on the wrong side of 30 now, but should have a few more productive years left in him. He has a good shot at finishing in the top 10 for the fourth time in five years.

8. Roddy White, Falcons
White has finished in the top 10 in five straight seasons and with Tony Gonzalez's possible retirement, he may see a jump in targets in 2013. He'll turn 32 in November, but still has a few good years remaining.

 

THE STARS

9. Andre Johnson, Texans
Johnson went through a weird stretch from Week 2 to Week 5 where he averaged only 5.0 targets per game. In the other 12 games, he averaged 11.8 TPG. He only caught four TDs (and now has just six in the last two seasons), but otherwise his numbers (112-1598) were great.

10. Michael Crabtree, 49ers
In ten games with Colin Kaepernick, Crabtree has averaged 6.1-88-.80, which are #2 WR numbers. The 49ers are likely to attempt to re-establish Vernon Davis as a bigger part of the offense and that, coupled with the return of a healthy Mario Manningham, may eat into Crabtree's targets. Still, it's hard not to like Crabtree heading into the 2013 season.

11. Victor Cruz, Giants
Cruz finished with 86 catches for 1,092 yards and 10 TDs, but it felt like a disappointment after the 82-1536-9 he posted in 2011. He did struggle with injuries down the stretch, and it looks like it impacted his targets. After averaging 11.1 targets per game through the first nine weeks, Cruz averaged just 6.1 TPG in the final seven games. He and the Giants are haggling over a new contract, and Cruz didn't rule out holding out of camp to get a deal done. Stay tuned.

12. Percy Harvin, Seahawks
Harvin wanted out of Minnesota, and got his wish. He joins a WR corps of Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin and figures to lead the group in targets in 2013. This is great news for QB Russell Wilson, who is getting a big boost at WR. In standard formats, Harvin finished in the top 11 in the last two years in fantasy PPG, and will once again be a fringe WR1, especially if he can stay healthy. Harvin's usage may drop a bit in Seattle, but this should be offset by additional red zone opportunities. Seattle's OC, Darrell Bevell, was the Vikings OC in 2010. That year, Harvin averaged 7.7 targets per game. 

13. Eric Decker, Broncos
Decker finished as the #7 WR in 2012, catching 13 TDs, which were the 2nd-most in the league. His touchdowns are likely to regress a bit, so while he's unlikely to finish quite as high in the final rankings, he's a good bet for another top 20 or top 15 finish. He's a safe pick with Peyton Manning at QB.

14. Marques Colston, Saints
Colston sure seems older than 29, but he keeps chugging along as one of Drew Brees's main targets in the New Orleans offense. He seems to have more than his share of quiet weeks, but he's a big redzone threat and should once again be productive in 2013.

15. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Bowe was on pace for 73-981-3.7 (#28 WR numbers) before missing the final three games with broken ribs. Until Andy Reid was hired as head coach, it was assumed that Bowe would depart via free agency, but Reid was involved in DeSean Jackson's monster contract last season and probably encouraged the Chiefs to re-sign Bowe. With the upgrade at QB (to Alex Smith), Bowe should have a solid 2013 season. He has the 17th highest FP per game average over the last three seasons, so expect him to put up solid fantasy WR2 numbers.

16. Hakeem Nicks, Giants
There's no doubt that Nicks is a top 10 talent when healthy, but he just wasn't healthy in 2012. He struggled with swelling in his left knee and pain in his right foot. He's hoping to avoid surgery, and if he does, it would seemingly be a good indicator for a bounce-back season in 2013.

17. Jordy Nelson, Packers
Nelson finished #30 in total fantasy points, but he was #17 on a per game basis, and that included two one-target games in Week 9 and Week 13. With Greg Jennings likely departing via free agency, Nelson should see plenty of snaps in 2013. As long as he stays healthy, he should be a solid fantasy WR2 with upside.

18. Randall Cobb, Packers
Cobb turned into Green Bay's version of Percy Harvin, though he wasn't as consistently involved in the running game (which is curious, since he averaged 13.2 yards per carry). It's unlikely that there will be a clear WR1 in Green Bay next season, but Cobb figures to be a big part of the Packer offense.

 

THE STARTERS

19. Antonio Brown, Steelers
Brown actually saw more targets (7.9 per game) than Mike Wallace (7.4) did over the last two seasons and could push 10 targets per game if Wallace leaves via free agency, as expected. He has averaged just over 1.0 fantasy points per target in the last two seasons, so if he sees 160 targets in 2013, he'll finish somewhere in the teens. He only caught two touchdowns in 2011 and five in 2012, so there's a good chance his TDs will increase as well, giving him solid upside.

20. Steve Johnson, Bills
Johnson has finished as the #21 WR and the #20 WR in the last two seasons and figures to finish in the same range unless he sees a significant improvement (or drop off) in QB play. The Bills seem unsatisfied with Ryan Fitzpatrick, so change could be on the way.

21. Reggie Wayne, Colts
Wayne benefited from Andrew Luck's solid play, and was the 2nd-most targeted WR in 2012. He's getting up there in age (35 to start the season), so the decline is coming -- it's just a matter of when. Wayne should continue to be a strong PPR play, but we wouldn't expect him to improve upon his #15 finish in standard formats, especially with the emergence of T.Y. Hilton.

22. Pierre Garcon, Redskins
Garcon had the #27 PPG average among WRs even though he struggled with a foot injury throughout the year. Not counting his abbreviated return in Week 4 and Week 5 (4-44 combined) or his first game "back" in Week 11, Garcon posted 5.1-66-0.5 in eight other games (including the playoffs). That equates to #19 WR numbers. One word of caution -- if Robert Griffin III isn't ready to start the season, it's going to limit Garcon's upside.

23. James Jones, Packers
Jones's ADP is going to be interesting to watch heading into 2013 drafts. He turns 29 in March, so he's still in his prime. He has finished in the top 5 in FP/target in each of the last two seasons and his TD rate (% of catches resulting in a TD) actually increased from 18.4% (3rd in league) in 2011 to 21.9% (1st) in 2012. Drops are no longer an issue and he's clearly a red zone favorite of Aaron Rodgers. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson will hold more value on draft day, but we would not be at all surprised if Jones led the Packer WRs in fantasy points again in 2013.

24. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Fitzgerald had a season to forget (71-798-4) thanks to terrible QB play and regular double- or triple-coverage. Fitzy's stock will shoot up if the Cardinals can get even mediocre play out of the QB position. New HC Bruce Arians is a good offensive mind, so Fitzgerald should bounce back in 2013.

25. Mike Williams, Buccaneers
Williams bounced back from a somewhat disappointing sophomore season with 996 yards and nine TDs. He's the clear WR2 in Tampa, but seems to benefit from the attention that defenses pay to Vincent Jackson. Expect another 60+ catch, 900+ yard season in 2013.

26. Miles Austin, Cowboys
Austin dealt with a series of injuries in 2012, but played in all 16 games (posting two goose eggs along the way). His targets have stayed remarkably consistent throughout the years, but it's clear that Dez Bryant has emerged as the team's top WR. Austin may be asked to restructure his contract, which has more than $30 million remaining over four years.

27. Lance Moore, Saints
In 2011, Moore played 41% of the Saints' games in which he was healthy. In 2012, with Robert Meachem gone, that number jumped to 59%. His targets subsequently jumped from 5.1 per game to 6.9 per game. Still in his prime, he should continue to see this type of workload and will continue to be a nice middle round value.

 

RISKY, WITH UPSIDE

28. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
In the last two seasons, Maclin has averaged 4.7-61-.43, which equate to #21 WR numbers, so depending on what new HC Chip Kelly decides to do at QB, Maclin should be a low-end fantasy WR2 if he can stay healthy.

29. Danario Alexander, Chargers
The Chargers found something in Alexander, who simply had not been able to stay healthy in his three-year career. In his final nine games, Alexander averaged 4.1-73-.78 (#6 WR numbers), so if his knees hold up, he'll represent significant value in the middle rounds.

30. Steve L Smith, Panthers
Smith didn't catch a TD until Week 9, but finished with four TDs in his final nine games. He's turning 34 in May, but as long as he's seeing 8+ targets per game, he should be a solid fantasy contributor.

31. Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
Shorts finished as the #22 fantasy WR despite starting the season behind Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson on the depth chart and missing two games due to injury. He suffered a concussion late in the year, but has been cleared to resume football activities. After the Jaguars' Week 6 bye, Shorts averaged 5.2-86-0.56 which project to #6 WR numbers. If the Jaguars can get decent play out of the QB position, Shorts will be a nice mid-round pick this summer. It sounds like Jacksonville may stick with Blaine Gabbert, which is probably not good news for Shorts.

32. Torrey Smith, Ravens
It's tough to get a handle on the Baltimore passing game. Like Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin, Smith's targets fluctuated wildly from week to week. He had five games with 10+ targets, but also had six games with four or fewer targets. If all the pieces remain in place, he'll likely continue to be a boom-or-bust WR3. If Boldin is gone, Smith should emerge as a solid fantasy WR2.

33. T.Y. Hilton, Colts
In the final nine games of his rookie season, Hilton averaged 3.6-68-.67 (#11 WR numbers) and that included a weird one-target goose egg against the Jaguars in Week 10. He should take over for Donnie Avery as the Colts' WR2, though the loss of OC/HC Bruce Arians may hurt.

34. DeSean Jackson, Eagles
In 2012, Jackson had his worst season as a pro, catching just 45 passes for 700 yards and two TDs, and missed five games in the process. He is likely to be used in different ways in HC Chip Kelly's new offense, and that should enhance his value. Expect more rushes and more quick-hitting WR screens. QB play is a concern.

35. Anquan Boldin, Ravens
He's 32, slowing down and has trouble separating, but what Boldin did down the stretch and in the playoffs should not be overlooked. In the 10 games from Week 11 through the Super Bowl, Boldin averaged 4.7-75-.70 which project to #6 WR numbers, and that included a goose egg against the Broncos in Week 15. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in savvy and ball skills. He'll start opposite Michael Crabtree.

36. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots
Pending the status of Wes Welker, Lloyd could see a greater role in the Patriots' offense in 2013. He had a nice three-game stretch during the fantasy playoffs (23-341-1) and a solid playoffs (12-102-1 in two games) which might indicate that he and Tom Brady were starting to develop a rapport.

37. Justin Blackmon, Jaguars
Blackmon finished his rookie season with 64 catches for 865 yards and five TDs, but through the first six games, he had only amassed 14-126 and failed to find the endzone. In his final 10 games, he averaged 5.0-74-.50, which are #14 WR-type numbers. The Jaguars sound like they are sticking with Blaine Gabbert, and that doesn't bode well for Blackmon.

38. Josh Gordon, Browns
There was a nine-game stretch from Week 5 to Week 14 where Gordon played like a fantasy WR2. He averaged 3.9-71-.56, which projects to #14 WR numbers. His speed is a good match for QB Brandon Weeden's big arm, so if Weeden is QBing Norv Turner's offense, Gordon should progress in 2013.

39. Kenny Britt, Titans
Britt may be "fool's gold," a talented WR that for one reason (injury) or another (off-the field troubles) can't put together a good, 16-game fantasy season. In 13 games from 2010 to 2011, Britt averaged 4.5-82-.92 which equate to Calvin Johnson's 2012 fantasy production (#1 WR). So the talent is there, but injuries and knuckle-headed tendencies are major concerns.

40. Denarius Moore, Raiders
Moore finished as the #33 WR in 2012, but did most of his damage in the first 10 weeks (averaging 4.3-72-.63 (#11 WR numbers) before his production fell off a cliff (2.4-24-.29, #67 WR numbers) in the final seven weeks. He certainly has speed and talent, but is probably going to experience a change at QB.

 

FREE AGENTS TO WATCH

 

Mike Wallace
After two top 10 finishes in 2010 and 2011, Wallace finished as the #25 WR in 2012. He is not expected back in Pittsburgh, and at the age of 26 with two 1,100+ yard seasons under his belt, he should be a hot commodity in free agency. Depending on his new situation, he should settle in as a fantasy WR2 in 2013.

Greg Jennings
Jennings turns 30 in September and due to his age and their depth at WR, the Packers are unlikely to give him the kind of contract he wants. He has averaged 4.9-63-.62 over the past two seasons (#17 WR numbers), so he should be a fantasy WR2 if he lands in a good situation.

Wes Welker
Welker is one of the biggest names in free agency, and it's no sure thing that he'll return to New England. He'll turn 32 this offseason and the team is understandably reluctant to give a huge contract to a player on the decline. Another franchise tag is a possibility, or the Patriots may elect to go with a cheaper option like Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman in the slot.

Danny Amendola
Amendola averaged 5.7-61-.27 (#28 WR numbers) but struggled with injuries throughout the season. The Rams have a group of young WRs that they're trying to develop, including Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Titus Young. If the two sides can work out a deal, Amendola should once again be a PPR force in 2013.

 

Filed Under: 2013, Preseason