With the first wave of free agency and the draft complete, here are my updated 2012 fantasy football wide receiver rankings:
1. Calvin Johnson, Lions – If anybody else were here, you would quit reading.
2. Roddy White, Falcons – These days, everybody likes the shiny, new gadget. In Atlanta, I like the old gadget and look no further than his performance from Week 11 to 17 last season (733 yards and five touchdowns).
3. Greg Jennings, Packers – Jordy Nelson put up better numbers but Jennings remains the Big Dog in the Packers receiving corps.
4. Wes Welker, Patriots – Sorry, Patriots fans, but the presence of Brandon Lloyd means more shots down the field and fewer opportunities for Welker.
5. Marques Colston, Saints – Over his last 11 games, Colston put up 985 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, making him the 3rd ranked wide receiver over that period. Then he put up 256 receiving yards and a score in two playoff games. Also doesn’t hurt that Robert Meachem left town.
6. Mike Wallace, Steelers – With Rashard Mendenhall out, Wallace figures to be featured even more in 2012.
7. Hakeem Nicks, Giants – See Greg Jennings, remove Jordy Nelson, insert Victor Cruz. A broken foot ruined his offseason but Nicks is expected to be good to go by Week 1.
8. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – With perhaps the second worst quarterback play in the league last season, Fitzgerald still managed 80 receptions for 1,411 yards and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, recent reports that John Skelton was being given every chance to unseat Kevin Kolb lead us to believe the quarterback play might not be much better in 2012.
9. Percy Harvin, Vikings – Harvin was unstoppable over the Vikings final nine games, putting up 691 receiving yards, 176 rushing yard and eight touchdowns. With Adrian Peterson coming off a torn ACL, Harvin should be solid once again in 2012.
10. A.J. Green, Bengals – If there was one reason to watch the Bengals last year, A.J. Green was it. If Andy Dalton keeps improving, Green is destined to be a top 5 fantasy wide receiver by 2013 at the latest.
11. Andre Johnson, Texans – The last two seasons have proven that Johnson isn’t getting any younger and he recently had arthroscopic surgery on his knee, further validating that he is an injury risk at this point of his career.
12. Jordy Nelson, Packers – This guy will prove that his 2011 production (1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 68 receptions) was no fluke. Expect an increase on the 96 targets he had last season.
13. Brandon Marshall, Bears – Will being reunited with Jay Cutler make Marshall a top 10 fantasy wide receiver once again? Not quite.
14. Victor Cruz, Giants – I keep reading his stat line (1,536 yards and nine touchdowns) and I keep pinching myself.
15. Miles Austin, Cowboys – Just 27 years old, Austin is entering his 7th season in the league. He remains wonderfully talented but he couldn’t stay healthy last season.
16. Julio Jones, Falcons – This kid is dynamite but his hammies cause me some concern.
17. Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Let’s face it. This guy has top five potential but he’s not going to get there with the 6.9 targets per game he had last year.
18. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – Quarterback Matt Cassel was lost in Week 10. Prior to that, Bowe was the 7th ranked fantasy wide receiver. Yes, Tyler Palko killed his fantasy value.
19. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers – The Chargers offense is better than the Bucs and Josh Freeman is no match for Philip Rivers.
20. Steve Smith, Panthers – Smith had a renaissance season in 2011, catching 79 passes for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns. However, he will be 33 years old on opening day and the Panthers passing attack won’t surprise anybody in 2012.
21. Steve Johnson, Bills – It doesn’t feel right putting him this low but he has benefited from a lot of targets and the production opposite him can’t be as bad as it was last year. Or can it?
22. Antonio Brown, Steelers – Breakout season in 2011 but lack of touchdowns hurts his fantasy value. Doesn’t help that Emmanuel Sanders figures to be healthy for 2012.
23. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles – I’m making the call that the ten touchdowns he scored as part of the Eagles high-flying 2010 offense were an aberration.
24. Robert Meachem, Chargers – Meachem has plenty of talent but injuries and inconsistency plagued him in New Orleans. He gets the first crack at replacing Vincent Jackson in San Diego.
25. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders – Recent legal troubles notwithstanding, DHB’s career trajectory is clearly on the upswing (124 yards to 366 to 974 last season).
26. DeSean Jackson, Eagles – He’s risky and wildly inconsistent but there’s no way he can be as bad he was last year.
27. Torrey Smith, Ravens – Meet Baltimore’s new number one receiver.
28. Eric Decker, Broncos – Don’t you get the impression that Decker is going to be the chain mover in the Broncos offense?
29. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – I read that Thomas is the most physically gifted wide receiver that Peyton Manning has ever played with. Unfortunately, he’s not the best receiver that Manning ever played with. And the injury history cannot be ignored.
30. Reggie Wayne, Colts – Repeat after me. Top wide receiver on a doormat that will have to throw plenty. Garbage time production, folks.