Wide Receivers have always been considered the safer picks when choosing between them and running backs in fantasy drafts. Of course they don’t usually score as many points as the top backs, so there is a tradeoff. If you can bring yourself to keep reading I’m going to take a look at the Average Draft Position, actual finish and then the extrapolated finish of the top 30 receivers in each of those categories.
Check out my QB ADP/Reality ranks and RB ADP/Reality ranks.
Andre Johnson: A.J. has been the No. 1 wide receiver pick two years in a row and could not live up to that billing either year due to injuries. He missed 3 games last season and 9 this season and now has the dreaded injury risk label. He will be an old man of 31 next season with Wes Welker, Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin and Santana Moss the only productive wide receivers older than him. It will be interesting to see how far he drops in ADP for next season. It is impossible to predict injuries (see Maurice Jones-Drew) so I’m not throwing A.J. out into the dump heap just yet, but I will be wary.
Jordy Nelson: Jordy’s 47 ADP doesn’t show up on the chart because, well, it’s 47. So I think his No. 2 finish this season was probably a bit of a surprise to some. He was second only to Calvin Johnson with 15 touchdown receptions. Five of those touchdowns came in the last 2 games while Greg Jennings was sidelined. He also led all receivers with a touchdown every 4.5 receptions. That’s a pretty amazing number and one that most likely won’t be repeated. You can see the leaders in TDs per reception for the last two years just below here and only two of the top 10 from last season made the top 10 this season. Touchdowns are worth the most in fantasy and are the most volatile. Be wary of him next season.
Julio Jones: If Jones could have played all 16 games and kept the same average fantasy points per game he would have been the 4th best receiver. Instead he finished 19th still topping his ADP of 26. Like Nelson his TD rate was high but he missed 5 games to injury and if he can stay healthy next season, even with a worse TD rate, he will be a top 10 receiver.
Victor Cruz: Victor was a preseason wonder in 2010 before getting hurt so when he looked good again in 2011 there was still reason to be skeptical, especially with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham seemingly ahead of him for targets. But that all changed when Cruz made big play after big play and Manningham fell to the injury bug. I think he may have outplayed his ADP of undrafted by just a smidge. He isn’t going away anytime soon.
Larry Fitzgerald: You just can’t keep this man down. The men throwing him the ball the last couple years have done all they can to kill his fantasy value but somehow he remains relevant. He was drafted as the 4th receiver off the board in the hopes that Kevin Kolb couldn’t be worse than that motley crew the season before. Kolb may have been slightly better but the differences were minimal. John Skelton actually helped Fitzgerald’s numbers a little more but all in all he finished as the 5th overall wide receiver through pure ability off his own doing. It’s a huge long shot but seeing Peyton Manning throw to Fitz would be a delight.
Marques Colston: If you had told me Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles were going to catch 185 balls for 2,020 yards and 18 touchdowns and both were going to have more receptions than Colston, I would have put money down that Marques would be injured for half of the season or more. But I would have lost that bet. Yes he was hurt for a couple games but it wasn’t his knees like many expected and he went on to have a great season finishing 12th after an ADP of 20 and if he hadn’t have missed those games he would have finished 8th overall.
Percy Harvin: In the first half of the season Harvin was ranked 42nd in fantasy points for wide receivers with 43 targets/31 receptions for 334 yards and no receiving touchdowns. In the second half of the season he was ranked 4th for receivers with 77 targets/56 receptions for 663 yards and 6 receiving touchdowns. The moral of this story? Throw the ball to Percy.
Dwayne Bowe: Here is an interesting case. Mr. Bowe had a huge 2010 season and led the league in TD to reception rate. That led many to expect a regression in touchdowns which did happen but it also didn’t help his cause that Tyler Palko was his quarterback for 5 games. In the first 8 games with Matt Cassel, Bowe was the 8th best fantasy receiver during that stretch. Don’t sleep on Bowe next season.
Steve Smith: In his 11th season Mr. Smith met Mr. Newton and an apple fell from the tree and Newton picked it up and chucked it to Smith for a long touchdown. Who would have thought that all Steve Smith needed was a quarterback who could actually throw the ball to him? Yeah, everybody. How long can he keep this up? I can’t say for sure but at 5’9” 185 pounds he’s been proving people wrong for years, especially all those people who drafted Mike-Sims Walker and Chad Ochocinco before him this season.