2012 fantasy football profiles and projections (WRs 1-14)

WR RANKINGS 15-28![](http://www.nfl.com/goto?id=09000d5d8297b79e)

Statistical projections are provided by EA Sports

  • Player
  • Analysis

Megatron transformed into the best wide receiver in the fantasy football last season. His 6-foot-5 frame makes him a complete matchup nightmare for the opposition, which was evident in his 96 catches, 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. Johnson benefitted greatly from having a healthy Matthew Stafford all season, and it's encouraging that Lions management wants to keep that duo together into the foreseeable future. While he might not be able to reach the same statistical levels again this season, fantasy owners would have some explaining to do if the big wideout isn't the first one off the board. He's the lone player at his position worth a first-round pick in standard and PPR formats, unless you fear the Madden curse, of course.

In every respect, it felt like 2011 was a down year for Fitzgerald. However, an inspection of his numbers tells a totally different story. While his receptions were down, Fitzgerald posted better yardage and touchdown numbers than he did in 2010. There's no doubt he's still an elite wide receiver, and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to post solid totals in 2012. While the team failed to upgrade its quarterback position during the offseason, Fitzgerald has proven he can be productive with either Kevin Kolb or John Skelton under center. Look for him to put up another season with better than 1,200 yards and seven to nine touchdowns - those kind of totals will make Fitzgerald worth a second-round pick.

A.J. Green might have been the NFL's best rookie receiver in 2011, but Jones wasn't too far behind. In fact, the first-year Falcon likely would have earned the crown had he not missed three games due to injury. Nonetheless, Jones added another dangerous piece to what is an increasingly dynamic Atlanta offense. With Roddy White holding down the team's top spot on the depth chart, Jones is in a good position to grow as an NFL receiver all while contributing to a yearly playoff contender. He's also gained a nice rapport with Matt Ryan and could become a tremendous bargain in fantasy drafts. If he avoids the trainer's room, Jones is a virtual lock to post 1,000-plus yards and eight-plus scores in 2012.

The 2011 campaign turned out to be a forgettable season for Johnson thanks to injuries that kept him out of nine games. A lesser receiver might see his fantasy value fall this season, but Johnson's body of work means he'll still be a top five fantasy wideout in 2012. Besides, the last time he missed a significant portion of the season with injuries (2007), Johnson roared back the following year to post career highs in receptions and receiving yards. Strangely, the veteran has never scored double-digit touchdowns in a season, but he has the talent - and the help around him - to eventually hit that plateau. Despite his recent proneness to injuries, Johnson is still worth a second-round selection.

With his second consecutive 100-catch season, White has established himself in the upper echelon of NFL wideouts. For the past five seasons, the veteran pass-catcher has registered 1,100-plus receiving yards each year. Even with Julio Jones' remarkable rookie season, White remained a favorite target for Matt Ryan last season with an NFL-best 179 targets among wide receivers, 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns. As Jones continues to mature, he will no doubt start to cut into White's production at least slightly, but with a slate of games versus teams that struggled against the pass in 2011, the veteran remains a top five fantasy option. He'll likely go off the board in the second round in many formats with a higher rating in PPR leagues.

Green was the best rookie receiver in the NFL last season, although the qualifier diminishes his accomplishments in 2011. Green snagged 65 passes for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns, all while drawing favorable comparisons to Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson and Marvin Harrison. At 6-foot-4, Green has the height and athleticism to go up and make plays over smaller defenders. The Bengals and fantasy owners alike hope the connection between the talented wideout and Andy Dalton is one that's just beginning to blossom. Of course, there's the requisite concern about whether Green will suffer a sophomore slump, but for now, there's little to suggest that he shouldn't be an even better fantasy option in 2012.

Jennings failed to meet expectations last season, finishing just 17th overall in fantasy points at his position. Do keep in mind, though, that he was on pace to outscore Roddy White before missing the final three games with a knee injury. With that said, there's really no reason to doubt Jennings as a No. 1 fantasy wideout as long as superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers is under center. The Packers offense is also one of the most pass-laden in the entire league, throwing the football more than 58 percent of the time in 2011 - that's good news for Jennings, who will continue to see plenty of opportunities to score fantasy points. He's worth a third-round pick.

Surpassing 100 catches and 1,100 receiving yards for the fourth time in five seasons, Welker has solidified his status as one of the league's top fantasy targets. Even more impressive was his ability to accomplish the feat in a season that saw the emergence of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Despite not being blessed with great size or being known for blazing speed, Welker has made a career of finding ways to get open and pick up big yardage after the catch. It also hasn't hurt that he's been able to play with one of the league's pre-eminent quarterbacks in Tom Brady for the past five seasons. Look for Welker to come off the fantasy draft board in Round 2.

For a short time last season, it appeared Nicks had ceded the top spot in the Giants pass attack to Victor Cruz. However the former Tar Heel earned his keep late in the regular season and all throughout the playoffs. With Cruz likely to draw more attention from opposing defenses in 2012, Nicks will no doubt continue to be quite the security blanket for Eli Manning. His skills will likely land him somewhere in the top 10 based on fantasy points as far as fantasy receivers go, and his resume makes him a better bet than Cruz to duplicate or surpass his 2011 totals. Barring setbacks in his return from a broken foot, consider Nicks a low-end No. 1 option.

Marshall might be the NFL's most overlooked No. 1 wide receiver. Some of it has to do with an underwhelming 2010 season, but his second campaign in Miami was quite a bit more productive - even while dealing with a quarterback rotation that featured the duo of Chad Henne and Matt Moore. Now in Chicago, Marshall is reunited with his former Broncos teammate Jay Cutler and is a good bet to at least duplicate his 2011 totals. Remember, Marshall had some of his best fantasy seasons with Cutler throwing him the football. It's that nice rapport (not to mention his status as the best option in the Bears pass attack) that will make Marshall a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy wideout this season.

Welcome back to fantasy relevance, Steve Smith! After it looked like his best days were long behind him, in walks Cam Newton to help revive Smith's career. Even if the veteran's numbers slowed down in the second half of the season, no fantasy owner was going to complain about Smith's 1,394 receiving yards and six scores. Of course, much of his fantasy value in 2012 is tied to if Newton can repeat his amazing rookie season. Expect his numbers to drop off somewhat, so accordingly, Smith's numbers could take a bit of a dip. However, he's worked his way back into the second-tier of NFL receivers and should be in the top 15 of wideouts drafted.

Cruz was one of the biggest surprises of the fantasy season in 2011. After starting the year as the third receiver on the Giants' depth chart, Cruz worked his way up to being Eli Manning's top target with 82 catches, 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. If only you could get points for his now-ubiquitous salsa dance. Any concern about Cruz in 2012 should stem from the fact that he began to face more double-teams late last year and was less productive as a result. On paper, Hakeem Nicks remains Big Blue's top receiver, but Cruz has proven he's a reliable big-play guy. Just temper statistical expectations when grabbing him as a high-end No. 2 fantasy wideout.

With back-to-back quality seasons and a growing reputation as a playmaker, Wallace is quickly closing in on the top tier of fantasy receivers. Arguably the fastest wideout in the league today, Wallace has been a tough cover for most defensive backs. That speed, combined with a reliable pair of hands, helped the Ole Miss product take over Pittsburgh's top receiver slot from the now retired Hines Ward. With the tremendous rapport he's gained with Ben Roethlisberger, Wallace has put up top-10 fantasy point totals at his position in each of the last two seasons. He's a good bet to post 1,100-plus yards and eight to 10 touchdowns. However, the longer he continues his holdout from camp, the more concerned fantasy owners should be. With no true gauge on his conditioning or preparedness for the season, it might be wise to inch him slowly down draft boards and play it conservative until he reports.

At one point during the Broncos' 2011 midseason run from nowhere, Thomas emerged into the prime target for Tim Tebow. In fact, he was one of the most productive wide receivers (based on fantasy points) down the stretch. Now that he'll have Peyton Manning slinging him the old pigskin, the sky's the limit for this third-year wideout from Georgia Tech. In fact, Thomas might be the best breakout candidate at his position from a fantasy perspective. If he can avoid the trainer's room, there's no reason to think he can't catch 80 balls, post over 1,100 yards and score eight-plus touchdowns. Consider Thomas in the third or fourth round as a low-end No. 1 fantasy wideout with huge potential.

WR RANKINGS 15-28![](http://www.nfl.com/goto?id=09000d5d8297b79e)

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.