Skip to main content

2012 fantasy football profiles and projections (WRs 15-28)

[WR RANKINGS 29-42internal-link-placeholder-0]

Statistical projections are provided by EA Sports

  • Player
  • Analysis

To call 2011 a breakout season for Nelson does a disservice to breakout seasons. A player who had never topped the 600-yard plateau or scored more than two touchdowns during his first three seasons logged more than 1,200 receiving yards with 15 touchdowns last season. The obvious question is this: Can he do it again? The answer: Probably not. That's not to suggest Nelson will be a complete and utter bust in 2012, because Nelson still has arguably the league's best quarterback in Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football. So rather than expect Nelson to repeat his 2011 totals, which will be very difficult, temper your statistical expectations to that of around 1,000 yards and seven to nine touchdowns.

Because Harvin isn't a prototypical receiver, it might be a little more difficult to measure his true fantasy value. His 967 receiving yards isn't going to blow anyone away, but when you tack on his 345 rushing yards, you start to see how the former Florida Gator can be quite the fantasy commodity. After a slow start in 2011, he took off in the second half of the season, scoring all eight of his touchdowns after Week 8. With two solid runners in the backfield - Adrian Peterson (when healthy) and Toby Gerhart - Harvin won't be a major option in the running game, but you can count on the Vikings to find ways to put the ball in his hands. He's a quality mid-round selection.

This could be a make-or-break season for Bryant. The young wide receiver has underwhelmed during his first two NFL seasons, suffering from a major lack of consistency. The skills are there for Bryant to be a game-breaker and fantasy star, but how much longer are the Cowboys (or fantasy owners) willing to wait? The former Oklahoma State star will have to battle with Miles Austin and Jason Witten for targets this season, but he does play in an offense that spreads the ball around to its pass-catchers. Bryant once derived added value from returning punts and kicks, but that role has diminished as Dallas looks for him to grow as a wideout. There's some upside here, but don't target Bryant until the middle rounds.

Despite playing in an offense where wide receivers are considered interchangeable, Colston has established himself as New Orleans' go-to guy. Even though he missed two games with injury in 2011, the veteran from Hofstra still posted some of the best numbers of his career. Colston has never been known for blazing speed, but he certainly has good burst. And as a big receiver, he has the ability to go up and get the football when Drew Brees throws it in his direction. Though he does come with some risk due to multiple surgeries on his knees, Colston's prominent spot in a high-octane New Orleans offense makes him a terrific No. 2 fantasy wideout. He'll come off the board in the middle rounds.

After Lloyd's huge 2010 campaign, countless fantasy owners expected a repeat last season. It didn't happen, although it's hard to completely fault the receiver. The Broncos shipped him out as part of maneuvers that allowed them to feature Tim Tebow. Once settled in St. Louis, he started to again resemble the playmaker he'd been the year before. Now reunited with Josh McDaniels, who led the Broncos offense that made him a fantasy star, Lloyd is a good bet to post solid totals - especially with a stud quarterback like Tom Brady throwing him the ball. While he could be inconsistent at times because of the number of weapons in the Patriots offense, Lloyd should still turn back into a very attractive fantasy option in 2012.

Bowe's numbers weren't equal to his perceived status as a top flight fantasy receiver in 2011. But when you consider he spent a significant portion of the year trying to catch passes from Tyler Palko - and still nearly set a career-high for receiving yards - maybe that should reinforce his standing. If there's any true knock on Bowe's 2011 season, it's that he only found the end zone five times. But that seems to be a minor complaint. Few people believed he'd repeat his 15-touchdown season from 2010. With a quality starting quarterback in Matt Cassel targeting him for a full 16 games, however, he should emerge as a more reliable option for fantasy owners this season.

While not quite the same explosive playmaker as his teammate, Mike Wallace, Brown was a pleasant surprise for any fantasy owners who took a chance on the second-year receiver in 2011. If there was one complaint, it's that he didn't find pay dirt often enough. He posted just three combined touchdowns - one of which came on a punt return. With Hines Ward now out of the mix, Brown should find a much bigger role in the pass attack and a smaller role as a punt and kick returner. As long as he doesn't take a major step back in 2012, Brown should be a quality middle- to late-round pick as a No. 3 or 4 fantasy receiver with definite upside.

Looking for a fantasy sleeper at the wide receiver position? Look no further than Decker, who showed flashes of potential last season before a knee injury caused his stats to decline down the stretch. Entering his third NFL campaign, Decker is in a great position to find consistent statistical success with a superstar like Peyton Manning under center. In an offense that will throw the football far more than it did with Tim Tebow last season, Decker should see more than his share of opportunities to produce for the Broncos and fantasy owners alike. In fact, a season with 70-plus receptions and 1,000 yards is well within reach for the Minnesota product. Consider him in the middle rounds.

The 2011 campaign was a frustrating one for both Maclin and his fantasy owners. A mysterious illness clouded his value to start the season, and he never seemed to put things together once he was on the gridiron. At the moment, it's hard to imagine Maclin as anything more than a No. 2 receiver on an NFL roster (as well as most fantasy rosters), but there is still some upside in the pass-laden offense of coach Andy Reid. Keep in mind that Maclin does have good speed and decent hands, so an increase in last season's totals is in the cards. Just be sure not to reach for him until the middle rounds as a borderline No. 2 or 3 fantasy wideout on draft day.

Since a breakout season in 2009, Austin has had two straight years of decline. Injuries were the biggest culprit in his disappointing 2011 season, but that does little to soothe the frustrations of fantasy owners that counted on him, especially now that he is not expected to play the rest of the 2012 preseason due to a hamstring injury. On a positive note, Austin has a quality quarterback in Tony Romo and should see more targets with Laurent Robinson out of the mix. Clearly the skills are there for Austin to be a solid fantasy option, but there are certainly warning flags around him.

If you were to look at Jackson's overall numbers, things looked good for the Chargers wideout in 2011. But a further examination shows that his production was uneven - that's a microcosm of the big receiver's seven seasons in the NFL. Now in Tampa Bay and with Josh Freeman, not Philip Rivers, under center, Jackson is a candidate to be a fantasy bust for owners with high expectations. Coach Greg Schiano wants to run the football in an offense that won't be as wide open as the one Jackson left behind in San Diego, meaning his opportunities to produce points won't be as plentiful. In fact, it's a good idea to draft him as a No. 2 or 3 option who won't post elite numbers.

At the start of last season, Johnson was hotter than an Arizona sidewalk in the summer. In his first three games, the fourth-year wideout caught 20 passes for 256 yards and score three times. But as the year wore on, Johnson couldn't maintain that consistency - although he was partially hurt by the uneven play of quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald. Johnson has decent speed, but has struggled in the past with drops in key situations. He's also coming off groin surgery, but that shouldn't alter his value. Overall, the jury is still out on whether he can be a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL and likewise, his fantasy status slots him as a No. 2 or 3 wideout at best.

Frustration, thy name is DeSean Jackson. Entering a contract year in 2011 with an offense expected to do big things, fantasy enthusiasts set the bar high for Jackson's production - and ended up supremely disappointed. There's no denying his big-play ability, but in four seasons he's yet to show that he's capable of being a go-to receiver. Add in the attitude issues that have plagued him during his career and he's the definition of risk-reward. Nonetheless, Jackson's talent still makes him an attractive option as a low-end No. 3 fantasy wideout. Chances are he'll come off the board in the middle rounds of most drafts, but if he doesn't meet expectations in 2012, his stock will fall in future seasons.

Smith made quite the first impression, as his first three NFL receptions went for touchdowns. Although he only caught four more touchdown passes the rest of the season, Smith made a strong bid to become Joe Flacco's favorite target in the pass attack. Heading into his second season, a little more consistency would help elevate Smith's value in fantasy land. But as long as Baltimore heavily features Ray Rice and the running game, it's hard to see Smith posting elite-level fantasy numbers. Nonetheless, the young receiver certainly has a ton of upside and is a nice sleeper in the middle rounds. He could turn into a viable No. 2 option in a best-case scenario.

[WR RANKINGS 29-42internal-link-placeholder-0]

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.