A.J. Green – ADP 7 (Finish 4) – 2012 was a great year for Green, but a comparatively slow end to the season colored some fantasy players’ perception of his season. He went on a touchdown binge from weeks 2 to 10 grabbing 10 in those nine games which made it nearly impossible for him to live up to those numbers in the second half, much like Calvin Johnson in 2011. But all those who bought into him being a top 5 receiver were exactly correct and there’s no reason to think he won’t be top 5 once again coming into 2013.
Unlike Calvin Johnson, he doesn’t accumulate fantasy points based on a pass first offense, but he’s just that good and is a red zone machine. That shouldn’t change.
Wes Welker – ADP 8 (Finish 11) – Welker was coming off his best season ever in 2011, so comparing his 2012 isn’t quite fair, but his 2012 was still his second highest receiving yardage total for his career with 1,354 and his third best receptions total with 118. His touchdown totals are always what hurts him in non-PPR leagues and that didn’t change last season with 6 total touchdowns. But there’s nothing to show he had slowed down, and he came very close to his ADP.
His move to Denver is positive in the sense that he still has a top quarterback throwing to him, but it’s most likely a negative in targets. Last season he was fourth in the league in total targets with 175. The Broncos receivers, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker had 141 and 122 respectively. Welker will most likely cut into Decker’s targets the most, but if the Broncos go to a more up-tempo offense and Welker gets Brandon Stokley’s targets and some of Dreesen’s and Tamme’s as well, we could see all three Bronco wide receivers having high fantasy ceilings. In 2004 Manning put together one of the best wide receiver trios of all time with Reggie Wayne 77/1210/12, Marvin Harrison 86/1113/15, and Brandon Stokley 68/1077/10.
Brandon Marshall – ADP 9 (Finish 2) – Marshall finished the season even higher than most of his owners could have imagined. Reuniting with Jay Cutler was just what he needed to rise back to fantasy stardom, that, and getting 40% of all the Bears targets with a total of 192 on the year. The second most targeted receiver on the team was Earl Bennett with 49, just 143 less.
The good news for Marshall is that he’ll still be the main guy in a more up-tempo offense. If Bennett and Alshon Jeffery can stay healthy they’ll get a bigger percentage of the targets than last season, but Marshall should still see a high number.
Victor Cruz – ADP 10 (Finish 13) – Cruz didn’t quite live up to expectations last season, but also wasn’t a bust by any stretch of the imagination. His yards per reception took a big hit, going from 18.7 in 2011 to 12.7 in 2012, while his receptions and touchdowns were bumped up slightly. 18.7 yards per reception was an outlier and we can expect that number to stay closer to 12.7 for his career, with room for some growth. As long as he’s playing Week one, there’s no reason not to expect another good season for Cruz.
Those were the top 10 wide receivers in ADP, and now I’ll take a look at who went from outside the top 10 ADP to finish in the Reality Top 10.
Dez Bryant – ADP 14 (Finish 3) – Well, it seemed like it took Bryant forever to get his head on straight and play like the stud he should be, but in reality, his numbers are quite comparable to other stud-like receivers over their first three years. His 27 touchdowns in his first three seasons ranks sixth in the Super Bowl era for wide receivers. In the second half of last season he caught a whopping 10 touchdowns. If you don’t think the light has turned on for him, you need to open your eyes. His upside in 2013 is sky high.
Demaryius Thomas – ADP 18 (Finish 5) – There was no doubt that Thomas would have an easier path with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball, but his top 5 finish was a nice surprise. He had an extremely consistent season for a wide receiver with only two games where he had under 77 yards without a touchdown. Manning was able to feed both him and Eric Decker and now has a new dependent named Wes Welker. Thomas looks to be the least affected by the addition of Welker and could benefit from a more up-tempo and diversified offense.
Vincent Jackson – ADP 21 (Finish 6) – The move from Philip Rivers to Josh Freeman wasn’t as much of a step down as many predicted. And according to his fantasy finish it was a step up. Jackson was always a deep threat in San Diego averaging 17.5 yards per reception in his seven years there and that didn’t change in Tampa Bay where he averaged 19.2 yards per reception. It really is a testament to his ability to be able to make a big move and have a career year in his first season with a new team.
The Buccaneers’ offense should be even better in the second year of Doug Martin and Jackson and really the only thing that could slow down the offensive numbers for Jackson is a better defense allowing the offense to play with a lead.
Eric Decker – ADP 25 (Finish 7) – This article has more Denver receivers than an Orange Crush commercial. Well, if they let receivers in those. Decker benefitted greatly from Manning as well as the city of Denver and Papa Johns. His 13 touchdowns were the second most for a wide receiver last season and were the key to his high fantasy finish. But those touchdowns weren’t a fluke. Decker’s 6’3” 220 pound frame makes for a good red zone target and even with the addition of Wes Welker, another double digit touchdown season is likely.
As you can see, six wide receivers that were predicted to be top 10 fantasy players finished as such, while four fell out of the top 10. They are more consistent than running backs and slightly less consistent than quarterbacks. This follows with what we’ve known for a while now, but what you do with that information depends on your philosophy of drafting.