Evan Silva

Goal Line Stand

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Fantasy Football Top Tens

Thursday, May 17, 2012



Wide Receivers

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions -- If Newton isn't the most dominant physical talent in football, Megatron is. More so than Foster, Johnson is head-and-shoulders above the rest at wide receiver.

2. Andre Johnson, Texans -- Houston's philosophical shift on offense safely keeps Andre below Calvin, but he's a dynamic playmaker who dominates targets on his team. Andre bounced back from his 2011 hamstring injury for lines of 5/90/1 and 8/111 in Houston's two playoff games.

3. Mike Wallace, Steelers -- Pittsburgh could quietly be headed for an offensive explosion. Their O-Line has received a major influx of marquee talent, and defenses won't be able to double down on Wallace any longer with Antonio Brown now on the radar screen. If Big Ben's visions of Todd Haley's offense are on point, Wallace will set a career high in targets this year.

4. A.J. Green, Bengals -- Cincinnati's running game no longer instills fear, nor will the No. 2 receiver battle of Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, and Armon Binns. Defenses will key up to stop Green, but second-year OC Jay Gruden will scheme to get him the rock. We saw what Green could do as a rookie. He might be the second most talented wideout in the whole league.

5. Hakeem Nicks, Giants -- Victor Cruz's 2011 emergence threw a temporary wrench into Nicks' WR1 reliability, but these things tend to come full circle. Nicks exploded for three 100-plus yard efforts in four playoff games, to go along with four TDs. It's likely a sign of things to come.

6. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- Fitzgerald would be the No. 2-ranked receiver if not for lingering QB concerns. He still finished as the No. 5 fantasy wideout in 2011, so he's shown an ability to overcome. 2012 drafters should hope John Skelton starts more games than Kevin Kolb.

7. Brandon Marshall, Bears -- Based on Jay Cutler's two full seasons as a starter in Denver, Marshall can confidently expect to rank among the NFL's target leaders. Marshall paced the league in both years, and old Broncos assistant Jeremy Bates is installing the same system in Chicago.

8. Julio Jones, Falcons -- Scratching the surface, Jones ranked 11th among wideouts in fantasy points per game as a 22-year-old rookie. You don't want to be late for his breakout dance.

9. Steve Smith, Panthers -- Smith isn't going to lead the NFL in receptions, but he could contend for league highs in yards and yards per catch. Sophomore QB Cam Newton's touchdown pass total is likely to rise in his second year, and his top receiver will be the primary beneficiary.

10. Greg Jennings, Packers -- Jennings missed three games last season, but ranked in the top eight in fantasy points per week for the third time in four years. Many of Jordy Nelson's stats are unsustainable, so don't think there's a changing of the top-receiver guard in Green Bay.

Just Missed: Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Kenny Britt, Antonio Brown, Miles Austin, Vincent Jackson, Roddy White, Dwayne Bowe, Victor Cruz, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin.

Tight Ends

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots -- A man amongst boys, Gronk will make a legitimate case for first-round fantasy consideration in 2012. He's that much better than the rest of the tight ends.

2. Jimmy Graham, Saints -- It's really Gronk, Graham, then everybody else. An athletic freak, Graham led the high-flying Saints in catches, yards, TDs, and targets as a first-year starter. Unguardable at age 25, Graham now enters just his third consecutive year of organized football.

3. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots -- If Gronk and Graham have tiers of their own, Hernandez heads up No. 3. Keep in mind Brandon Lloyd's addition may mean slightly fewer downfield targets.

4. Jermichael Finley, Packers -- Finley's 2011 season was a big disappointment, as he led all tight ends in drops by a significant margin and finished fifth in fantasy scoring at the position when Finley's natural tools say he should have easily been top three. It could add up to nice value.

5. Jason Witten, Cowboys -- Witten earns points for reliability and consistency. He hasn't missed a game in nearly a decade while ranking no worse than eighth in tight end fantasy scoring in seven of the past eight years. Still only 30 years old, Witten should have plenty left in the tank.

6. Vernon Davis, 49ers -- Davis openly admits he didn't grasp new coach Jim Harbaugh's offense until late last season. Then magic happened, as Davis averaged 107 yards with five TDs in the final five games, including two unstoppable playoff efforts. He'll be in a better spot this year.

7. Antonio Gates, Chargers -- Gates was a plodding power forward last season, using his big body to wall off defenders and secure Philip Rivers’ passes. There are signs of physical breakdown, and Gates doesn’t run anything like he used to. He’ll be drafted too early for my taste.

8. Jacob Tamme, Broncos -- Tamme will man the slot in Denver's new "Peyton offense," creating mismatches with his deceptive speed (4.60) and knack for finding soft spots in zones.

9. Fred Davis, Redskins -- Davis was the featured receiver in D.C. last year. While he may lose that role to some extent with Pierre Garcon and Leonard Hankerson out wide, Davis will also be tougher for defenses to key up to stop. He'll be a formidable back-end TE1 this season.

10. Dustin Keller, Jets -- Unless you believe in the rookie Coby Fleener, there's a drop off at tight end beyond the top nine. Keller is a good athlete with lots to play for in a contract year, but the Jets are going to run a smash-mouth, run-heavy attack in which targets may be tough to come by.

Keep an eye on: 11. Coby Fleener, Colts -- I'm excited to watch Fleener in preseason because he has a lot going for him. He can run for a big man, and is entering a Bruce Arians offense that could air it out more than expected. Reggie Wayne played like he was on the verge of retirement last year, and Indy lacks a quality No. 2. Andrew Luck may lock onto his college teammate for long stretches.

Just Missed: Greg Olsen, Tony Gonzalez, Jared Cook.



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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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