1. Calvin Johnson, Lions – No-brainer. Megatron is the most unstoppable skill-position player in the NFL, and he has a quarterback whose strengths are perfectly suited to his own game.
2. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Fitz would be vying for the No. 1 spot if he had a Stafford of his own. He boasts four top-five fantasy seasons in the last five years, including three seasons with 1,400+ yards. Fitzgerald is a fantasy rock.
3. Andre Johnson, Texans – Johnson started the season with a three-game average of 105.3 yards and closed it out with 100.5 yards per in two playoff games. Although twin hamstring injuries essentially washed out the rest of his season, Johnson remains a stud when he’s in the lineup.
4. Steve Smith, Panthers – One of the few receivers who can produce WR1 numbers in the face of consistent double teams, Smith has a legit shot at the No. 1 spot if Cam Newton can increase his touchdown passes by 6-10 in his second season.
5. Percy Harvin, Vikings – Harvin managed to finish seventh in fantasy points despite not being featured as an offensive focal point until the second half of the season. From Week 10 on, Harvin averaged 103.3 yards and a touchdown on 11.3 touches per game. Extrapolated over a full season, those numbers would have had him on Calvin Johnson’s production level.
6. Julio Jones, Falcons – As fantasy’s top receiver from Weeks 14-17, Jones put quite a few trophies on the mantle in his rookie season. Already a top-10 fantasy receiver on a points-per-week basis, Jones would have ranked fifth among all wide receivers and tight ends if his 11 full games were extrapolated to 16. He’s the most explosive run-after-catch receiver in the league.
7. Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Bryant finished 15th in fantasy points despite raw route running, a nagging quadriceps injury, and an inconsistent rapport with Tony Romo. Predicting a true breakout, RotoPat points out that Bryant, “unbelievably physically dominant,” seemed to take over at least one half of every game last year. He’s ready to put it all together in his third season.
8. Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Nicks removed all doubt about the identity of the Giants’ true No. 1 receiver when he threw up a monster 28/444/4 line in the playoffs to overshadow Victor Cruz’s 21/269/1 showing. Cruz may prove to be a better value if you can get him a few rounds later, but Nicks is the better player.
9. Mike Wallace, Steelers – Don’t let the second half of last season fool you. Wallace, not Antonio Brown, is the No. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh. Todd Haley’s Cardinals finished second in the NFL in pass attempts in his only two seasons as offensive coordinator. This will remain a pass-heavy offense.
10. Roddy White, Falcons – Roddy is so reliable that he reached the century mark in receptions while leading the NFL in drops last season.
Just Missed: A.J. Green, Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, Jeremy Maclin, Victor Cruz
1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – Gronk has 28 touchdowns the past two seasons. No other tight end has more than 17 over that span.
2. Jimmy Graham, Saints – Drew Brees’ new go-to receiver, Graham had 23 more targets than any other NFL tight end – and 42 more than Marques Colston.
3. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots – If not for the early season knee sprain, Hernandez would have joined Gronk and Graham in the 1,000-yard club. As it was, he and Antonio Gates were the only other tight ends to reach nine fantasy points per week.
4. Vernon Davis, 49ers – Davis acknowledged after the season that he was overwhelmed by Jim Harbaugh’s offense early on. His last five games, including a dominant playoff run, project to 90 catches, 1,715 yards, and 16 touchdowns over a full 16-game schedule.
5. Antonio Gates, Chargers – With Vincent Jackson out of the picture, there’s certainly a valid argument that Gates should be as high as No. 3 on this list. Coach Norv Turner is confident that Gates is finally over his troublesome foot injuries, but at age 32 he may be past his prime.
6. Jermichael Finley, Packers – Finley finished fifth in fantasy points in a disappointing season, thanks in large part to a career-high eight scores. I’m expecting more consistency in 2012.
7. Fred Davis, Redskins – A first-time starter, Davis edged out bigger names Jermichael Finley and Jason Witten in points per game. In fact, Gronkowski and Graham were the only tight ends to top Davis’ 66 yards per game.
8. Jason Witten, Cowboys – Witten may be a picture of season-to-season consistency, but his week-to-week production was all over the map last year. After Dallas’ Week 5 bye, Witten topped 50 yards just four times the rest of the way.
9. Jared Cook, Titans – Cook closed out the season as a top-eight tight end over the final five weeks despite getting shut out completely in two of those games. There may too many mouths to feed in Nashville, but Cook has the highest upside outside of the top-eight.
10. Owen Daniels, Texans – Nagging injuries and presence of rare tight-end vulture Joel Dreessen sapped Daniels’ production in the second half of the season. With Dreessen out of the picture, Daniels should see an uptick in red-zone targets.
Just Missed: Brent Celek, Coby Fleener, Jermaine Gresham, Tony Gonzalez, Jacob Tamme