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Fantasy Football: Wide Receiver Rankings & Projections With Analysis

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There is a lot depth this year at wide receiver. While the top tier players are immensely talented, fantasy owners will be able to find a lot of value in the middle rounds.

According to ESPN's average draft position (ADP) data, most owners are holding off on drafting a wide receiver until they have at least one running back or elite quarterback. This is a smart strategy give the aforementioned glut of talent in the 30-70 pick range.

The list below is projections based on standard scoring* fantasy leagues and risk and upside.

*Standard scoring:

  • 10 receiving yards = 1pt.
  • TD reception = 1 pt.
  • 10 rushing yards = 1pt.
  • TD rush = 6 pts.
 

1) Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

He's the best wide receiver in football and he's the only getting better. Johnson solidify his spot a top the receiver list with a monster season in 2011. He finished with 96 catches for 1681 yards and 16 touchdowns. With a healthy Matthew Stafford throwing to him, Johnson is a threat to score on any play. Projected fantasy points: 235  

 

2) Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Once Jones fully healed from a lingering hamstring injury last season, he showed flashes of dominance. Jones missed four games, but still managed to catch 54 passes for 959 yards and eight touchdowns. Six of those touchdowns came in the final four weeks of the season. A full offseason with Matt Ryan will only improve Jones' value. Lookout! Projected fantasy points: 193

 

3) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

Despite another year of inconsistency at quarterback, Fitzgerald was the fifth highest scoring fantasy wide receiver in 2011. A full offseason with Kevin Kolb will hopefully improve his numbers next season. If not, John Skelton will hopefully be able to get Fitzgerald the ball. Projected fantasy points: 191

 

4t) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

Nelson made people stand-up and take notice during last year's Super Bowl. Now, after an extremely successful 2011 season, he's a fantasy darling. Nelson doesn't get nearly as many targets as the other top 10 wide receivers, but he makes the most of his opportunities. Packers head coach vowed to get Nelson more targets in 2012. Projected fantasy points: 189

 

4t) Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers

Jennings doesn't rack up big fantasy numbers, but he always seems to score 10-plus points per week. Consistency! Projected fantasy points: 189

 

6t) Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

Once a first round pick, Johnson has slipped due to durability concerns and offensive strategy. The Texans run the ball more than any other team and Johnson hasn't played a full season since 2009. However, when he's healthy he's a matchup nightmare. Projected fantasy points: 185

 

6t) Victor Cruz, New York Giants

Cruz was dynamic for the Giants last season and he should be in for another big season this year. He's a playmaker who will get a ton of targets, especially with Mario Manningham now in San Francisco. Another reason to like Cruz this year, he’s in the final year of his contract. Projected fantasy points: 185

 

8) Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

Marshall is immensely talented and has a fresh start in Chicago. While he did post solid numbers with Matt Moore at quarterback for the Dolphins, Marshall's value improves now that he's paired with Jay Cutler. Projected fantasy points: 182

 

9) Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants

Nicks is a big play receiver who will get plenty of opportunities in the Giants high-flying offense. Durability is his only issue. Projected fantasy points: 178

 

10) Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

Now is the time to start worrying about Julio Jones stealing too many of his targets. White led the Falcons with 181 targets in 2011 and finished with nearly 1,300 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. And when Jones had his big games, White was equally as good. There will be plenty of passes to go around in Atlanta. Projected fantasy points: 175

 

11) A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Imagine what he'll be able to do after a full offseason with Andy Dalton. Green is a superstar in the making and made it look easy as a rookie. He'll be a 7-12 touchdown performer every year for the next 6-8 seasons. He's that good. Projected fantasy points: 174

 

12) Wes Welker, New England Patriots

Welker is coming off his best season as a pro in 2011. He shouldn't miss a beat in 2012 with the return of McDaniels as offensive coordinator. Welker turns 31 in May and appears to be improving with age. Projected fantasy points: 173

 

13) Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers

Smith returned to Pro Bowl form in 2011 thanks to the arrival of Cam Newton. Smith finished with 79 catches for 1,397 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011, his best season since 2008. Smith turns 33 this offseason, but don't expect him to slow down. He looks reborn in Carolina with Newton at quarterback. Projected fantasy points: 172

 

14) Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers

The longer Wallace holdouts, the more it’ll hurt his fantasy value. The Steelers are installing a new offense and Wallace is missing out on important training camp reps. While Wallace's 2011 season didn't live up to the hype after his breakout 2010 season, he's still a playmaker. Wallace has the ability to score a touchdown on every play. That type of receiver is always a valuable fantasy commodity. The emergence of Antonio Brown will lead to fewer targets for Wallace, but not enough to have major impact on his numbers this season. Projected fantasy points: 170

 

15) Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs

Bowe hasn’t reported to training camp and is demanding a new contract. Bowe wants an extension after he caught 81 passes for 1,159 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. Bowe is still a top tier receiver and will benefit from having Matt Cassel back at QB this season. Projected fantasy points: 161

 

16) Brandon Lloyd, New England Patriots

After a monster 2010 season, Lloyd came back to earth in 2011. He was traded to the Rams early in the season and put together a handful of good games, but was never great. This year he'll reunite with Josh McDaniels in New England, which will improve his fantasy stock considerably. Not to mention he'll be catching passes from Tom Brady. Projected fantasy points: 158

 

17) Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings made Harvin the centerpiece of their offense late in the season. Seven of his eight touchdowns came after Week 10 and 2011 was his best statistical season. Even once Adrian Peterson is healthy, Harvin will play a big role in Minnesota's offense. Projected fantasy points: 155

 

18) Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

If Bryant can stay focused on football, he could be on the verge of exploding in his third season. He finished 2011 with nine touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards. If he plays 16 games, he should be able to produce double-digit touchdowns. Projected fantasy points: 153

 

19t) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

After a slow start in 2011, Brown finished the season as the Steelers most consistent receiver. In Weeks 1 through 6, Brown had 18 receptions for 262 yards and zero touchdowns. The following 10 games he caught 51 passes for 846 yards and two touchdowns. That momentum, along with the departure of Hines Ward, should lead to more opportunities for Brown next season, and hopefully more touchdowns. Projected fantasy points: 152

 

19t) Eric Decker, Denver Broncos

Decker started catching passes from his new quarterback, Peyton Manning, in March. If he and Manning can establish a connection, Decker will be solid this season. Decker, who's entering his third season, has the ability to be Manning's top playmaker, which would make him a steal at this draft position. Projected fantasy points: 152

 

21) Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys

Austin had a down year in 2011, but still managed seven touchdowns. When he's healthy, he's the Cowboys' most consistent receiver. Don't be scared away by his injury-plagued season last year. His three touchdowns in the final four weeks of the season should be enough to convince you he'll bounce back this season. Projected fantasy points: 151

 

22t) Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jackson cashed in this offseason, signing a monster deal with the Buccaneers. His 1,106 receiving yards in 2011 were the second most of his career and his nine touchdowns matched a career-high. Despite his solid 2011 season, Josh Freeman is not Philip Rivers, and that will hurt Jackson's fantasy numbers this year. Projected fantasy points: 148

 

22t) Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills

The enigmatic receiver followed up his breakout season in 2010 with a solid year in 2011. His numbers came down slightly last season, but were still good enough to keep him in your fantasy line-up. Johnson signed a lucrative deal in the offseason and it'll be interesting to see how he comes out and plays in 2012 with all that money now in the bank. Projected fantasy points: 148

 

22t) DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

Last season was bad for the Eagles, and Jackson was one of the reasons why. His pouting about his contract became a distraction and his play on the field suffered. Jackson turned in his worst season in three years. He failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards and managed just four touchdowns. Worst, he was accused of quitting on his teammates. The Eagles rewarded Jackson with a lucrative deal this offseason. He's another high risk, high reward player. Projected fantasy points: 148

 

25) Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints

Colston re-signed with the Saints this offseason and with Drew Brees as his quarterback, his fantasy value remains high. Colston is a perfect fit for New Orleans' offense and his numbers should remain steady in 2012. Projected fantasy points: 147

 

26) Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles

Maclin's production dropped in 2011 due lingering shoulder and hamstring injuries that forced him to miss three games. Maclin was on pace to have his best statistical season of his career, at least with receptions and receiving yards. Maclin has been steady throughout his career, and at just 23 years old he still has plenty of upside. Projected fantasy points: 136

 

27t) Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

Thomas has a ton of talent, but he has trouble staying on the field. In two seasons, he's missed 11 games, including five last year. While he and Tim Tebow worked well together, he'll benefit greatly from the arrival of Peyton Manning. Projected fantasy points: 129

 

27t) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

With Peyton Manning sidelined with an neck injury, Wayne suffered through his worst season in eight years in 2011. Despite his tough season, Wayne resigned with the Colts and will catch passes from a rookie quarterback next year. Wayne is crafty enough to still be effective, however gone are the days of 110 catches for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns. Projected fantasy points: 129

 

29) Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens

Towards the end of last season, Smith was one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets. Smith averaged nearly 17 yards per catch as a rookie and has the downfield speed to make big plays on a consistent basis. If he can improve his intermediate route running this offseason, his fantasy value will only go higher. Projected fantasy points: 133

 

30) Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins

The former division III stand-out had his best season in 2011, which is surprising considering Peyton Manning wasn't throwing him the ball. Garcon will be asked to do more in Washington after signing a rich contract this offseason. However, fantasy owners beware, 63% of his fantasy points (77 of 122) came in just three games. With Garcon, you have to prepare yourself for games where he has little to no fantasy impact. Projected fantasy points: 128

 

31) Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers

Floyd's role in the Chargers offense should increase now that Vincent Jackson is gone. During his eight seasons with the Chargers, Floyd's career-high in receptions was 45 in 2009. He'll be asked to do more this year and that should drive up his stats. However, one issue that has plagued Floyd throughout his career is his durability. He has missed nine games the past two seasons and has only played a full season once. Projected fantasy points: 127

 

32t) Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints

Moore has been one of Drew Brees' most consistent targets over the past two years. During that span, Moore has averaged 59 receptions, 695 yards and eight touchdowns. With Robert Meachem now in San Diego, Moore could be in line for more targets. Projected fantasy points: 125

 

33) Robert Meachem, San Diego Chargers

The Chargers brought Meachem in to replace Vincent Jackson, who signed with Tampa Bay. Meachem has a great opportunity in San Diego, and has the potential to be a fantasy WR2 this year. During his four seasons with New Orleans, Meachem best year came in 2009 when he caught 45 passes for 722 yards and nine touchdowns. He'll be called on to do more with the Chargers, which will improve his numbers this year. Projected fantasy points: 123

 

34) Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans

Britt’s offseason couldn’t have gone any worse. Not only is he still rehabbing a knee injury, but he was also arrested for DUI. Britt will likely face a suspension and miss some games for the Titans. He’s the quintessential high risk, high reward player. Projected fantasy points: 120

 

35) Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers

After a sluggish start in 2011, Crabtree turned in a solid second half of the season. Crabtree hauled in 72 passes last year, 41 of those catches coming in Weeks 11 through 17. He also had his four best games of the year during that span. Projected fantasy points: 119

 

36) Santonio Holmes, New York Jets

Holmes is coming off his worst season as a pro and was benched in Jets season finale against Miami. Holmes needs this offseason to get himself back to the player he once was. A focused Holmes is capable of 1,000 receiving and 8-10 touchdowns. However, if the 2011 version of Holmes carries over into 2012, prepare for another disappointing season ahead. Projected fantasy points: 117

 

37) Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland Raiders

After two miserable seasons to start his career, Heyward-Bey finally emerged as legitimate fantasy option in 2011. Heyward-Bey finished last year with nearly 1,000 receiving yards and four touchdowns. If you're looking for a reason to be excited about Heyward-Bey in 2012, look no further than his final three games of 2011. During that span, he and Carson Palmer connected on 21 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns. Projected fantasy points: 116

 

38t) Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After a breakout rookie season, Williams came crashing back to earth in 2011. Williams' numbers took a significant hit last year as the Bucs and Josh Freeman regressed after a stellar 2010 season. Williams, who turns 25 in May, should benefit from a full offseason of work. Plus, the arrival of free agent Vincent Jackson should help take some of the defensive pressure of Williams. Projected fantasy points: 113

 

38t) Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens

Boldin is coming off his worst statistical season in eight years in 2011. He finished the year with 57 receptions for 887 yards and three touchdowns, he also missed two games with a knee injury. Boldin will turn 32 this season and his role in the Ravens offense may begin to shrink. During Weeks 10-15, before Boldin's knee injury, Boldin had 33 targets. During that same span, rookie receiver Torrey Smith had 38 targets. Projected fantasy points: 113

 

40) Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars Projected fantasy points: 110

 

41) Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans

Washington may have had the quietest 1,000-yard receiving season in history in 2011. Washington filled in nicely for the injured Kenny Britt and should play a big role in the Titans offense this year. While Britt, if/when healthy, will get more targets, Washington should see plenty of single coverage from defenses. Projected fantasy points: 109

42) Titus Young, Detroit Lions

A strong finish in 2011 should get fantasy owners excited about Young's potential in 2012. The second-year receiver scored 94 fantasy points in his rookie season, with 79% of those point (75) coming in the final nine games of the season. With so much focus on Calvin Johnson, Young should be able to find plenty of holes in opposing defenses. Projected fantasy points: 108 

 

43) Greg Little, Cleveland Browns Projected fantasy points: 107

 

44) Laurent Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Robinson picked the perfect time to have a breakout season. He finished 2010 with 54 receptions for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns, which was tops among Cowboys receivers. Robinson, who's entering his sixth NFL season, should be the Jaguars top target this season. Projected fantasy points: 106

 

45t) Mario Manningham, San Francisco 49ers

With Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz taking over as the starters in New York, Manningham signed with the Niners in hopes of a more prominent offensive role. His numbers should improve this year, but not dramatically with Alex Smith as his quarterback. Projected fantasy points: 104

 

45t) Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders

Moore burst onto the fantasy scene in Week 2 last season when he caught 5 passes for 146 and a touchdown. Unfortunately for the fantasy owners who picked him up, he disappeared for the next six weeks. He also missed time with an ankle injury before coming back and having solid games in Weeks 16 and 17. Moore is a speedster with a lot of potential. A full offseason with Carson Palmer will benefit him tremendously. He's a great value pick here, if he can stay healthy. Projected fantasy points: 104

 

47) Randy Moss, San Francisco 49ers Projected fantasy points: 102

 

48) Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks

We've seen his potential, but he's only played a full season once in his five-year career. Rice has missed 17 games the past two seasons, including seven last year due to a shoulder injury that has required two surgeries in the offseason. Buyer beware, but he's a steal here if he can stay healthy. Projected fantasy points: 101

 

49t) James Jones, Green Bay Packers Projected fantasy points: 100

 

49t) Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks Projected fantasy points: 100

 

51) Jon Baldwin, Kansas City Chiefs Projected fantasy points: 97

 

52) Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings Projected fantasy points: 92

 

53) David Nelson, Buffalo Bills Projected fantasy points: 91

 

54) Santana Moss, Washington Redskins

Despite his age (32), Moss still has fantasy value. Moss missed time last season with a broken hand and struggled to find any continuity with both Rex Grossman and John Beck. The addition of Robert Griffin III improves Moss' outlook in 2012. I'm not saying RG3 will do the same for Moss as Cam Newton did for Steve Smith, but RG3 is a significant upgrade at quarterback for the Skins. Projected fantasy points: 89

 

55) Steve Breaston, Kansas City Chiefs Projected fantasy points: 88

 

56) Nate Burleson, Detroit Lions Projected fantasy points: 88

 

57) Devery Henderson, New Orleans Saints Projected fantasy points: 96

 

58) Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams Projected fantasy points: 86

 

59t) Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams Projected fantasy points: 84

 

59t) Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers Projected fantasy points: 84

 

61t) Austin Collie, Indianapolis Colts Projected fantasy points: 84

 

62) Jacoby Ford, Oakland Raiders Projected fantasy points: 83

 

63) Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals Projected fantasy points: 80

 

64) Davone Bess, Miami Dolphins Projected fantasy points: 79

 

65t) Earl Bennett, Chicago Bears Projected fantasy points: 78

 

65t) Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers Projected fantasy points: 78

 

67) Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals Projected fantasy points: 77

 

68) Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans Projected fantasy points: 76

 

69) Stephen Hill, New York Jets Projected fantasy points: 69

 

70) Leonard Hankerson, Washington Redskins Projected fantasy points: 68

 

71t) Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers Projected fantasy points: 60

 

71t) Devin Hester, Chicago Bears Projected fantasy points: 60

 

73) Damian Williams, Tennessee Titans Projected fantasy points: 58

 

74) Vincent Brown, San Diego Chargers Projected fantasy points: 57

 

75) Rueben Randle, New York Giants Projected fantasy points: 54

 

76t) Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons Projected fantasy points: 52

 

76t) Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears Projected fantasy points: 52

 

78t) Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins Projected fantasy points: 52

 

79) Jason Avant, Philadelphia Eagles Projected fantasy points: 51

 

80) Early Doucet, Arizona Cardinals Projected fantasy points: 45

 

81) Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals Projected fantasy points: 42

 

82) Preston Parker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Projected fantasy points: 26

Matt Lechner

Matt Lechner Bio

Football has always been a passion of mine. I played in high school and was a four-year letter winner at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. I also spent four years as a Minnesota Vikings ball boy and my grandfather spent a season with the New York Giants.

For 10 years, I worked as a television news reporter, covering several significant stories including presidential campaigns, September 11 attacks, opening day at Target Field and Vikings playoff games. I currently work for a Minneapolis-based health care provider managing the company’s digital content, including social media.

When I’m away from work, I’m searching for trends, stats and storylines to better help people understand the NFL and fantasy football.

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