Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      


Joseph Hutchins | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Top 10 Dropouts - Wide Receivers
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers

Welcome to the third annual Top 10 series, a two-part prognostication wherein we attempt to identify those players who will fall from the ranks of the elite this coming season and (in about two weeks) those who will fill the resultant vacuum at the top. I say “attempt” as if the first two years of predictions demanded some measure of humility. To the contrary, I’ve now correctly identified 25 of the 36 Top 10 dropouts/risers these past two seasons, a pretty spiffy 70% clip.

OK, so you should probably hold the applause. How hard can it be, after all, to predict a few Top 10 dropouts per position when more than half the RBs and WRs fail to repeat every year? The only thing more difficult than reaching the NFL stratosphere, it would seem, is actually staying there. Make that danged near impossible if your name isn’t Brees, Peterson, or Megatron.

You won’t find any of those fine fellows on the following list, but after two years of heavy turnover at the top, I’m dubious of almost everyone else. You should be too since they most likely top your cheatsheets as we head toward draft day.

Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s default standard scoring.

  Top 10 Wide Receivers - 2011
Rank Player
1 Calvin Johnson
2 Jordy Nelson
3 Wes Welker
4 Victor Cruz
5 Larry Fitzgerald
6 Steve Smith
7 Percy Harvin
8 Roddy White
9 Mike Wallace
10 Vincent Jackson
  Top 10 Wide Receivers - 2012
Rank Player
1 Calvin Johnson
2 Brandon Marshall
3 Dez Bryant
4 A.J. Green
5 Demaryius Thomas
6 Vincent Jackson
7 Eric Decker
8 Andre Johnson
9 Julio Jones
10 Roddy White

Missed the Cut in 2012 (7 of 10): Jordy Nelson, Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace

I use these introductory look-backs to search for clues as to why certain players failed to meet expectations the previous season, the hope being that we might be able to project out into the future and identify those guys at risk of doing the same this season (and for the same reasons). Did a receiver get hurt, for instance, or maybe suspended for questionable behavior? Did he get traded? Did his coach and/or offensive system change? Did he get a new battery mate or, even worse, a new battery mate who stunk to high heaven? The problem with the receiver position, in particular, is that the answers rarely cohere into identifiable trends. There are literally countless reasons why a guy may fall off the pace from one season to the next. The only constant, actually, seems to be the simple fact that most of them do. 2012 was the third consecutive year only three receivers maintained their Top 10 status from the year prior.

Maybe it would make more sense to turn this exercise on its head and focus on what the holdovers have in common instead of the exiles. In other words, what do recent Top 10 survivors have that other wideouts don’t? Here’s the list of Top 10 repeaters since 2010: Roddy White (3x), Calvin Johnson (2x), Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, Mike Wallace, and Vincent Jackson. That’s it, the exhaustive list of players who have strung together consecutive Top 10 seasons since 2010. From this list, it seems we can safely deduce the qualities a wide receiver must have to be a Top 10 repeater: tremendous size, tremendous speed, tremendous hands, some combination thereof, or all three. That was sure easy, wasn’t it? I guess it also doesn’t hurt if he’s named Roddy White or Calvin Johnson.

The Most Likely Candidates to Fall from the Top Ten This Year:

Eric Decker

Decker: The most likely to get squeezed by Welker.

Demaryius Thomas AND Eric Decker, DEN: You have to go back to 2008 (Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald) to find the last time a pair of teammates ended the season ranked in the Top 10 together at the receiver position. You have to go back even farther than that, to 2004 (Marvin Harrison/Reggie Wayne and Javon Walker/Donald Driver), to find the last time two sets of teammates pulled it off. Thomas and Decker had to share the spotlight with Julio Jones and Roddy White in 2012, but that was nothing compared to what they’re gonna have to share now that Wes Welker has severed ties with long-time companion Tom Brady and headed west to the Mile High City. I mean, talk about an embarrassment of riches in the passing game! On opening day, the Broncos will be fielding one of the most prolific quarterbacks of all time and three of the top 12 fantasy point accumulators at the receiver position last year. Could a trio of teammates actually end up holding down one-third of the Top 10 list by year’s end?

Don’t bet on it. Thomas is probably the most likely to retain his position as he possesses a couple of the qualities identified above (uncommon size and speed) in spades. On the down side, he’s only a year removed from hauling in just 45.7 percent of his targets (2011) and isn’t the most natural pass-grabber. Decker, on the other hand, is slightly smaller in stature, a step slower, and is most likely to get squeezed by the slot-receiving genius, Welker. Acting as the de facto possession guy in last year’s Bronco offense, Decker garnered 122 targets and turned them into 85 receptions. Now that he’s going to serve as the mid-range option, a more modest 95-100 targets and 70 receptions sounds realistic. That’s very good still, but probably not enough to warrant a Top 10 spot. In sum, the addition of Welker dilutes the Denver receiving corps just enough to make all three men slightly less valuable than they were a year ago.

Andre Johnson, HOU: If Denver has a “too much” problem at the receiver position, Houston has a “too little” problem. This has benefited Johnson and his owners greatly, of course, almost every season since the University of Miami standout entered the league back in 2003. In 2012, he caught a whopping 71 more passes than his next most productive teammate (Kevin Walter) and almost double the amount every other receiver (including Walter) for the Texans caught combined. I’m too lazy to see if that level of disparity led the league, but I’d be willing to bet a sixer it did. Moreover, I’d bet a half-rack it’s about the fifth or sixth time in Johnson’s career he’s outpaced his Texans teammates by a league-leading margin. Long story short? He is the Houston passing offense and has been for almost a decade.

Make that “was” if DeAndre Hopkins, the franchise's first-round draft selection, lives up to his potential out of the gate, as I think he might. Hopkins isn’t as big as Johnson or as fast, but he’s no shrimp (6’1”, 214 lbs.) and he’s certainly advanced in other ways. He’s got great body control, for instance, and runs very crisp routes. He also creates a lot of separation and has great hands. Considering he’s unlikely to face anything but single coverage in his rookie year, the Texans may have finally filled that enormous void at the No. 2 receiver position.

That’s good for them, naturally, but trouble if you’re counting on the reliable Johnson to continue posting Top 10 digits. Houston has notched more rushing attempts in the past two seasons than any other team, a fact that didn’t dent Johnson’s production since he was the only legit option. Now that he may not be, a slip in production seems almost a fait accompli.

Next: Quarterbacks