Evan Silva

Goal Line Stand

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Silva's Post-Season Top 150

Monday, January 28, 2013

Third Round

25. Drew Brees -- We'll delve deeper into the strategy of waiting on quarterbacks in fantasy drafts as the season approaches, but it's a concept in which I firmly believe. Especially with the 2012 emergences of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III, and Peyton Manning's successful return, signal callers are devalued in standard, start-one-QB leagues. Brees is still the cream of the crop with all of his weapons and Sean Payton back for 2013. He led all signal callers in 2012 fantasy scoring and has finished top two in four of the past five seasons.

26. Aaron Rodgers -- Despite lacking feature back-quality rushers, Packers coach Mike McCarthy made every attempt to commit to the running game in 2012. It likely foreshadows the offseason acquisition of a big-time back. Rodgers is still a strong candidate to lead all quarterbacks in 2013 fantasy points, but his pass attempts figure to drop and Greg Jennings will leave in free agency.

27. Tom Brady -- A top-three fantasy quarterback each of the past three seasons, the lone 2012 nitpick with Brady is that his downfield passing accuracy isn't what it once was. Otherwise, his age (36 in August) has had no noticeable effect on Brady's performance. Brady may lose Wes Welker to free agency, but healthy seasons from Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski would go a long way toward buoying Tom Terrific's scoring potential. He'll just be drafted too early for my tastes.

28. Cam Newton -- Newton shook off a slow first half to finish as the No. 4 fantasy quarterback after ranking fifth as a rookie. He turns 24 in May. Cam improved his TD-to-INT ratio (19:12), yards-per-attempt average (8.0), and yards-per-carry clip (5.8) in 2012, while leading the league in yards per completion (13.8). Although OC Rob Chudzinski's departure for Cleveland stings, the Panthers are smartly keeping the same offensive system, promoting QBs coach Mike Shula to coordinator. Newton is physically capable of becoming the No. 1 overall player in all of fantasy football. It's scary to think he has yet to put together a full season of elite production.

29. Randall Cobb -- An all-purpose playmaker, Cobb flirted with WR1 value from Week 4 on in his first opportunity to play full time on offense. He finished the season 18th among fantasy receivers. Cobb is a cat-quick slot machine also capable of defeating coverage when lined up outside. With Greg Jennings likely to leave in free agency, Cobb projects as Aaron Rodgers' top receiver in '13.

30. Vincent Jackson -- Josh Freeman's late-season collapse is cause for 2013 concern, but Jackson made the Buccaneers' quarterback look better than he really is this past season, often putting Tampa's offense on his back. If V-Jax has lost a step at age 30, it's yet to affect his on-field play. The returning No. 6 overall fantasy receiver, Jackson still gets separation and regularly wins on contested pass targets. You'll be in really good shape if you get Jackson as your WR2.

31. DeMarco Murray -- Murray fell well short of expectations for drafters who selected him in the first or second round, but he posted respectable production when active, finishing 17th in per-game running back scoring. While Murray has been exposed as an injury-prone back lacking elusiveness, he's a versatile bellcow in a high-scoring offense who'll play behind an offensive line that can't possibly be worse than it was last season. There is some bounce-back appeal here.

32. Maurice Jones-Drew -- A training-camp holdout, Jones-Drew fell off a cliff after leading the NFL in rushing attempts in 2011. Although his per-play effectiveness was fine (4.81 YPC), MJD reached 100 total yards in just 1-of-6 appearances before succumbing to a year-ending Lisfranc fracture. Jones-Drew is likely to return as Jacksonville's feature back, but the injury and offense loom as 2013 fantasy concerns. MJD is still only 28 and figures to have at least one big year left.

33. Victor Cruz -- Although Cruz's fantasy receiver ranking dipped from No. 4 overall to No. 13 in 2012, his receptions and touchdowns both improved. He simply didn't break off nearly as many big plays. Bounce-back years from Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks would go a long way toward reestablishing Cruz as WR1 material. Nicks' multitude of injuries led to increased double coverage for his slot receiver teammate. After what then seemed like a breakthrough 2011 campaign, Manning's old inconsistencies returned in 2012 while allegedly battling a midseason tired arm.

34. Chris Johnson -- The ultimate boom-or-bust runner, Johnson maintains plenty of long speed but is a tackle for loss or "stuff" waiting to happen if the offensive line doesn't clear running room. There is little to no physicality left in his game. Volume and big-play ability still work in Johnson's favor, even if he's likely to continue to be a week-to-week fantasy headache. Johnson's ranking could move up if Tennessee gave reason to believe this offseason that its line play will improve.

35. Eric Decker -- Setting career highs in receptions (85), yards (1,064), and touchdowns (13), Decker ranked eighth among all fantasy receivers in a true breakout season. Regression may affect his 2013 scoring and he isn't quite the talent teammate Demaryius Thomas is, but Decker should settle in as a long-term WR2, assuming Peyton Manning has multiple quality years left.

36. Colin Kaepernick -- The 49ers were measured and methodical in their 2012 bringing along of Kaepernick. The passing game didn't open up until Week 15 at New England, and the full read-option package was secret-bottled until the playoffs. The five games leading up to Super Bowl XLVII provide the best -- if still conservative -- snapshot of Kaepernick's fantasy ceiling, which is through the roof. He compiled a 10:3 TD-to-INT ratio with two additional rushing scores, a 7.6 YPC average and at least 220 pass yards in all five games. Extrapolated across 16, they're top-three fantasy quarterback numbers at the exact same per-game scoring clip as Aaron Rodgers.

Fourth Round

37. Steven Jackson -- Jeff Fisher didn't utilize Jackson as the workhorse he's long been, spelling him regularly with rookie Daryl Richardson in the season's first half. A below-average offense hurt S-Jax's touchdown potential, and countless offensive line injuries too often rendered the Rams' run blocking ineffective despite powerful, explosive running from their lead back. This ranking assumes Jackson will return to St. Louis, which is no guarantee. He holds a $7 million player option for 2013 and can test free agency by declining it. Jackson has also hinted at retirement.

38. Mikel Leshoure -- Leshoure never cleared 85 rushing yards again after ripping off 100 in his 2012 debut. There were still promising signs. Keep in mind Leshoure was in his first season back from a torn Achilles' tendon, costing him burst. He still scored nine touchdowns and is locked in as Detroit's goal-line pounder. Leshoure also had an active role in the Lions' passing game, catching 34 balls. Still only 23 and further removed from the Achilles' tear, Leshoure will be a breakout candidate in 2013. He'll also have downside, however, if his per-play production doesn't improve.

39. Matt Ryan -- Ryan's upward climb continued in 2012 as he ranked seventh in quarterback scoring and his touchdown total improved for the fifth season in a row. He also led the NFL in completion rate. Although Ryan lacks dominant physical tools, his pass-catching corps is perhaps the finest in football and pass-happy OC Dirk Koetter has aptly identified Ryan's strengths. He's here to stay as an annual top-eight fantasy signal caller worth drafting in the early- to mid-rounds.

40. Matthew Stafford -- Stafford's fantasy position ranking tumbled from No. 4 overall in 2011 to 11th in 2012. Beyond Michael Vick, he was the single biggest quarterback bust. Equipped with the NFL's best receiver in the league's pass-heaviest offense, Stafford is also among the top bounce-back candidates for 2013. One concerning early-offseason development is Stafford and coach Jim Schwartz's agreement that the 24-year-old signal caller's mechanics are a non-issue. They certainly were last season, resulting in mind-numbing accuracy woes and colossal inefficiency. Stafford's completion percentage, yards per attempt, and TD rate all plummeted off his 2011 clips.

41. Aaron Hernandez -- A balky ankle cost Hernandez six weeks and affected him in multiple others, but he still finished as a top-five tight end in fantasy points per game for the second straight year. If Hernandez could ever put together a truly healthy season -- he's yet to through three years -- he'd be capable of challenging for the NFL lead in receptions and yards among tight ends. Hernandez deserves to be pushed up draft boards as one of just 3-5 weekly difference makers at his position.

42. Michael Crabtree -- The 49ers became considerably more explosive when Jim Harbaugh benched Alex Smith for Colin Kaepernick late in the 2012 season. Crabtree was the primary beneficiary. Emerging as one of the NFL's slickest route runners and after-catch tackle breakers, Crabtree ripped off 50 catches, 714 yards, and six touchdowns across the 49ers' seven games leading up to Super Bowl XLVII. Over a 16-game slate, those stats extrapolate to 115/1,632/14.

43. Roddy White -- White will turn 32 during the 2013 season, but five consecutive top-ten fantasy receiver finishes suggest he's at least a year away from late-career breakdown. Although White isn't quite the vertical threat he once was, he's smoothly morphed into one of the league's premier short-to-intermediate playmakers. Atlanta won't stop passing at voluminous clips, and White won't stop getting open opposite Julio Jones. He should be targeted in 2013 drafts as a top-end WR2.

44. Reggie Wayne -- Wayne deserved All-Pro consideration for a fantastic 2012 season. He's a candidate to be slightly overvalued in 2013 drafts, however. Wayne will turn 35 during the season, and Indy's pass attempts are likely to diminish moving from pass-happy playcaller Bruce Arians to new OC Pep Hamilton, who's more of a smashmouth offensive mind. While improvement is likely from T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, and Coby Fleener, regression should be expected out of Wayne.

45. Jordy Nelson -- After ranking second to only Calvin Johnson in 2011 fantasy receiver scoring, hamstring, ankle, and knee injuries cost Nelson four 2012 games and parts of several others as his position ranking plummeted to No. 29. Is Nelson suddenly "injury prone?" Suppose time will tell. His outlook is on the rise with Greg Jennings likely to depart in free agency, which would leave Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones as Aaron Rodgers' top-three wide receivers for 2013.

46. Marques Colston -- Jimmy Graham is likely to reassert himself as Drew Brees' No. 1 passing option in 2013, but being the No. 1 wide receiver in one of the league's most consistently efficient and voluminous passing games gives Colston an exceptionally high floor. He's finished outside the top-20 fantasy wideouts just once in seven years. Turning 30 in June, Colston ranked No. 11 in 2011 and No. 12 this past season. He's likely got at least two seasons of elite production left.

47. Steve Smith -- Smith turns 34 this May, but he's showing little to no signs of breakdown with back-to-back top-20 fantasy receiver finishes. In 2012, "Bottom Line 89" cleared 80 yards and/or scored a touchdown in 10-of-16 games. The Panthers need to start contemplating a No. 1 receiver of the future, but Smith will comfortably return as Cam Newton's go-to option in 2013.

48. Mike Wallace -- Furthering the narrative that he's a limited, straight-line, and ultimately inconsistent deep threat receiver, Wallace cleared 75 yards in just four 2012 games while finishing 25th in fantasy wideout points after back-to-back top-ten seasons. The Steelers are expected to move on from Wallace in 2013 free agency, and the makeup of his next team will give Wallace's fantasy ranking more clarity. He currently looks like a candidate to be undervalued.

Fifth Round

49. Larry Fitzgerald -- This is a glass-half-full ranking based on blind faith that new coach Bruce Arians will acquire a competent quarterback and substantially improve Arizona's offensive line. Fitzgerald, 29, has plenty left in the tank for a big-time rebound year. Despite the worst QB play in football in 2012, Fitz was still good enough to come away with 90-plus yards and/or a touchdown in six games. Arians runs a vertical passing attack, and Fitz is the Cards' best vertical receiver.

50. Peyton Manning -- The 2012 Comeback Player of the Year finished sixth in quarterback points while leading the NFL in completion rate and throwing 37 touchdown passes -- the second most of Manning's career. Game watchers will have noticed severe slippage in Manning's late-season arm strength, however, particularly in Denver's playoff loss to Baltimore. As Manning enters his age-37 season, it's fair to wonder if he'll hold up physically enough to remain a year-long fantasy asset.

51. Russell Wilson -- The Seahawks eased Wilson in as a rookie with an extremely conservative early-season approach. When he earned the coaching staff's trust, Wilson's production took off. His TD-to-INT ratio over Seattle's final 13 games was 23:5, including the playoffs, in addition to all five of Wilson's rushing touchdowns. Over the final five regular season weeks, Wilson led all quarterbacks in fantasy scoring. With offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell returning after post-season head-coaching inquiries, Wilson will be an exciting, high-ceiling fantasy starter in 2013.

52. Dwayne Bowe -- Bowe's fantasy ranking could go up or down a bit depending on landing spot. Along with Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings, Bowe is a premier free agent in the 2013 receiver class. Here is the list of quarterbacks from whom Bowe has caught passes in his career: Damon Huard, Matt Cassel, Tyler Thigpen, Brodie Croyle, Brady Quinn, Tyler Palko. Still a top-25 fantasy receiver in each of his four healthy seasons, Bowe could blow up with a competent signal caller.

53. Pierre Garcon -- Garcon tore the plantar plate in his right toe in Week 1 against New Orleans, costing him six games and limiting his effectiveness in several others. Once Garcon learned to play through the pain, however, he became a stretch-run difference maker with 33 catches for 475 yards and three touchdowns over Washington's final six regular-season games. Those numbers would translate to 88/1,267/8 on a 16-game slate. Garcon's foot will be worth monitoring into 2013 training camp, but there's every reason to believe he has explosive WR2 potential if health allows.

54. Wes Welker -- The biggest question mark surrounding Welker for 2013 is whether he'll be back in New England. An impending free agent, Welker's fantasy worth would be significantly less elsewhere. If the Patriots do re-sign their five-time Pro Bowl receiver, Welker's ranking will move up a round. Despite advancing age -- 32 this May -- Welker remains uncoverable in the slot.

55. Hakeem Nicks -- Right foot and left knee injuries rendered Nicks a fantasy megabust in 2012, as he finished a career-worst 54th in wide receiver scoring and struggled mightily to separate from defensive backs. Although Nicks is a top-ten receiver talent when healthy, lower-leg injuries have dogged him throughout his career. He looks like a boom-or-bust fantasy pick for the 2013 season.

56. Antonio Brown -- A Week 9 high ankle sprain threw a wrench into Brown's 2012 season, before he returned to find pay dirt in each of Pittsburgh's final four games. A prime bounce-back candidate, Brown will become Ben Roethlisberger's No. 1 receiver if free agent Mike Wallace moves on. (He's expected to.) Somewhat quietly, Brown has a lot of breakout potential for 2013.

57. Jonathan Stewart -- Dual ankle injuries cost Stewart seven games and sapped his burst and explosion en route to a career-low 3.61 yards per carry in 2012. His previous career YPC was 4.83. Some potentially promising fallout from offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's exit may be increased commitment to a traditional NFL run game. A healthy Stewart would be new playcaller Mike Shula's best option to pull that off, and his stock will rise quickly if DeAngelo Williams is cut.

58. David Wilson -- Although he did it mostly on special teams, Wilson showed his game-breaking talent by setting the Giants' rookie record for all-purpose yards (1,925). His 1,533 kickoff-return yards led the NFL by nearly 300. After the season, GM Jerry Reese suggested Wilson could emerge as the "lead dog" in New York's 2013 backfield, assuming he learns to pass protect and improves his ball security. Expect Wilson to be among the hottest fantasy names next summer.

59. Ryan Mathews -- Perhaps the single biggest disappointment of the 2012 season, Mathews dropped from seventh in fantasy running back scoring in 2011 to 30th overall. Is he a post-hype all-star candidate? Time will tell. The talent is still inside Mathews somewhere, and there isn't a threatening running back elsewhere on the Chargers' current roster. If new coach Mike McCoy and OC Ken Whisenhunt acquire a timeshare back, Mathews' ranking will plummet quickly.

60. Darren Sproles -- Utilized slightly differently by 2012 interim bosses Pete Carmichael and Joe Vitt, Sproles should welcome Sean Payton's return from suspension. In 2011 -- Sproles' debut season with the Saints -- he finished as a top-10 standard-league fantasy back on a career-high 11 touches per game. He fell to 9.5 touches in 2012 and 22nd in fantasy running back scoring.

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