Last week, I examined
the Top 10 wide receivers from 2011 in hopes of identifying who
among them might be primed to disappoint and fall from the ranks
this upcoming season. This week, I’ll take an educated wag
at who, conversely, might be ready to emerge (or perhaps reemerge)
in 2012 to snag the vacated spots. Some of the names won’t
surprise you, I’m sure, but some certainly might. After all,
did anyone peg Victor Cruz for a Top 10 run before the start of
last season? Here goes nothing…
All rankings are based on FFToday’s default standard scoring.
A quick reminder of the Top 10 fantasy WRs from last season...
It’s probably not fair to call a guy an underachiever when he ranks
18th among all receivers despite an injury-abbreviated season. Nonetheless,
I suspect most of Jennings’ owners were at least slightly grumpy
about the usually reliable vet’s fall from his rank of fourth in
2010. To make matters worse, Jennings’ loss became his stable mate’s
gain, as Jordy
Nelson, the unsung farm boy from K State, came out of nowhere
to finish second in the final rankings. When you draft the No. 1
receiver from arguably the most prolific passing offense in the
league, you expect a Top 10 performance at the bare minimum. You
don’t even consider the possibility of his missing the Top 10 and
being outperformed by a previously unheralded sidekick, to boot.
Of course, we may be looking at this all wrong. What if Jennings’
established success is precisely what created more opportunities
for the surprising Nelson in the first place? Simply, what if defenses
geared up to take away the man they most feared and, as a result,
left the very capable Nelson to wreak havoc against single coverage?
Doesn’t it stand to reason that, now a well-known commodity,
Nelson could reciprocate the favor for Jennings this coming year?
As if Aaron Rodgers needed more talented hook-ups, and NFL secondaries
more potential headaches.
There are certainly more mouths to feed in Titletown than there
are in most NFL cities (Jennings, Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Donald
“Twinkle Toes” Driver, James Jones) and this is even
before factoring in one of my super-sleepers for 2012, Randall Cobb.
Nevertheless, there will always be plenty of grub in NE Wisconsin
so long as Mr. Rodgers is the guy dishing it up. Moreover, I still
think the favorite target of the league’s best quarterback
is a Top 10 lock and, for this year at least, that guy is still
named Greg Jennings.
Marshall, CHI: Marshall, the once-favored target of Rodgers’
NFC North nemesis, Jay
Cutler, is being reunited with his former battery mate in the
Windy City this season. I can’t speak for Lions and Vikings fans,
but that prospect actually scares me. His tenure with the Dolphins
may have been marked by plenty of drama (he is Brandon Marshall,
after all), but the guy still produced at a fairly elite level despite
teaming up with Chad
Henne and then Matt
Moore, two guys you won’t remember in about five years. He became
expendable when the Fish decided to go with the West Coast offense,
a system ill-suited for someone so demanding of a quarterback’s
Brandon Marshall will get plenty of love
in Chicago and from fantasy owners this season.
Marshall will get plenty of love in Chicago, where he gets to play
catch with his favorite pitcher again, the equally enigmatic and
occasionally misanthropic Mr. Cutler. Somehow, the double dose of
surly seems to work well for these two. In fact, Marshall’s
three best seasons, 2007-2009, occurred when they last teamed up
in Denver. During that span, he tallied a whopping 506 targets,
easily besting all comers (only Larry Fitzgerald was close). He
also, not coincidentally, ranked 9th, 11th, and 9th in fantasy points
over that stretch. Feed Marshall the pigskin and you absolutely
will be rewarded.
No analysis of the Bears’ main diva would be complete, however,
without warning you of the obvious risks associated with drafting
him. Simply put, he’s a knucklehead. For that reason, he’s
always at risk of antagonizing teammates, coaches, upper management,
media members, girlfriends, Roger Goodell…. Did I cover everyone?
The league is now considerably less tolerant of its more “colorful”
players, so be forewarned: If you draft Marshall and catch even
a whiff of trouble heading his way, find your most gullible league
mate and offer him up. League discipline won’t be far behind.
Jones, ATL: Here’s my first big boy prediction for 2012: Either
Julio Jones or A.J.
Green, both second-year stallions, will end up in the Top 10
ranks when it’s all said and done. The hard part, of course, is
actually figuring out which one has the better chance of achieving
that status. You already know which horse I’m backing, but…it sure
wasn’t easy. They both possess prototypical size for the position.
They’re both phenomenal, fluid athletes. They both have great hands
and a fifth gear that allows them to stretch opposing defenses.
Green is probably a more technically sound wideout at this point,
with slightly better hands; Jones is bulkier and, not surprisingly,
considerably stronger. So, how to break the deadlock?
Green was the primary target in Cincy from the get-go last season
and, appropriately, notched a bunch of targets (115). Though he
only tallied 65 receptions (56% of the balls thrown his way), there
were expected to be some growing pains since his quarterback, Andy
Dalton, was also a rookie. This year, it’s safe to say Green
is going to command even more targets (a good thing) but also more
attention from opposing defenses (not so good) because his cohort,
Jerome Simpson, “puffed” his way out of a job. Accordingly,
I think he posts very similar—and maybe only slightly better—numbers
in his sophomore season.
Jones, on the other hand, has to share targets with one of the NFL’s
best, Roddy White. As we’ve seen in the case of the Packers,
however, that’s not necessarily an impediment to success.
On the contrary, dueling threats can, and usually do, cause major-league
headaches for opposing defenses, especially when the guy throwing
passes is as good as Matt Ryan. Whereas Cincy’s opponents
can safely blanket the dangerous Green and dare Dalton to throw
elsewhere, the Falcons’ foes will only double Jones (or White)
at their peril. Since White is still the more accomplished and productive
of the two, my guess is that the precocious Jones will be facing
more than his fair share of single-coverage in 2012. Giddy-up!