Skip to main content

There should be plenty of quality fantasy WR options in 2012

I think I'm really onto something with these movie titles. Maybe it's that Oscar season is here (and honestly -- "The Descendants" was just okay -- it's a pretty weak year), but I think "Touches In Preview" worked pretty well both as a potential film and fantasy column. So I'm at it again today with "Targets In Preview." This flick sounds like a renegade soldier who has the super ability to always see who he's going to shoot before they see him. Dolph Lundgren could be the star. Scratch that. In 1992, Lundgren could have been the star. Now it would be Ryan Reynolds. Or Channing Tatum.

But until then, the real "Targets In Preview" stems from the weekly column I wrote during the season in which I broke down who were the top targeted wide receivers each week and if they merited starting or if they were free agents, picking them up. At the end of 2011 I wrote about the year in review, so now, we'll take a look at the targets list and see how they project for 2012. Just like earlier this week, we'll go by the numbers.

16.1:Antonio Brown's yards per catch in 2011. An incredible number for someone who came out of nowhere. He emerged as the true No. 1 in Pittsburgh, as Ben Roethlisberger targeted him 123 times -- more than Mike Wallace (114). And plenty of owners are going to reach to grab both of them early in 2012. Not so fast. This is more about the shift in philosophy for Pittsburgh in 2012 than a continued upswing for both Brown and Wallace. With OC Bruce Arians gone, Steelers management has said they feel the need to get back to the true identity of the team -- running the football 96 times a game and passing twice. They're going to have to go out and get another running back because Rashard Mendenhall is hurt and largely ineffective. But they will. And they will run first. So don't go crazy with either of these players as your No. 1 WR. Even though they were fantasy stars this season, I don't see them as more than a No. 2 for you next year.

22: How many RZT (Red Zone Targets) Jabar Gaffney had in Washington, the fifth-most in the league. He set career highs in receptions (68) and yards (947) at the age of 31. He seems forever to be defined as one of those guys you don't want to play, you don't want to pick up, but whoever does always seems to get something out of him. Part of it had to do with Santana Moss missing time, but even after Moss returned, Gaffney went on to produce his best numbers of the season. So, am I telling you to draft Gaffney next season? Yes. Their WR corps is set at the top two spots with Moss and Gaffney. Fred Davis is a dangerous TE. And you know a QB upgrade is coming. Even if you think his numbers will be flat, you should take Gaffney in the 10th round or later. No one will want to take him because he's not a sexy name, but he'll be a terrific bye week replacement or someone to start in a pinch. I have a feeling you'll be playing him at least half the time next year.

51: The number of passes Brandon Lloyd caught as a Ram. He was targeted 150 times overall, the fifth-most in the league in 2011. This despite changing teams in Week 5 and Sam Bradford being hurt for much of the time Lloyd was in St. Louis. Lloyd is one of those players who we needed to see do it again after a breakthrough 2010, and he did. 2012 will be huge for him, and you'll be able to get him late in fantasy drafts. Owners will stay away from him because 1) it's the Rams and 2) they could wind up with Justin Blackmon in the draft. It doesn't matter to me either way, because he's going to be a huge value pick for you in the fifth round or later. If you get him as a No. 2 WR, you're doing great. If you wind up with him as your No. 3 WR, you'll have a great chance to win your league. It took him awhile, but he's legit.

75: The percentage of passes caught by Marques Colston in relation to the number of times he was targeted in 2011. 80 catches on 107 targets, meaning he caught nearly four out of every five balls thrown to him. (Percy Harvin was next best.) It's the best percentage for a player who had more than 35 targets for the season. Now, as an unrestricted free agent, he's going to get a lot of money from someone. You're going to be hesitant because as good as he was in New Orleans, he wasn't a star because Drew Brees sprayed it around. Or, you're thinking Brees helped make Colston as good as he was. Either way someone will bring Colston in as a game-breaker and true top dog. I think the Saints will let him go because of his injury history and their belief that Brees can make anyone a star. I'm nervous about taking someone like Colston because he's going to get paid, and we all know what happens then. Just because he's a No. 1 WR in the NFL doesn't mean he's a No. 1 for you. If he's you're No. 2, then you've done pretty well, but someone is going to reach for him early. Call it what you will, there's just something that tells me I shouldn't go all in for him.

95 and 130:Torrey Smith's targets in 2011, and what I think they'll be in 2012. He's a superstar in the making. He blows by opposing DBs and has big-play ability (more than 18 yards per catch in his rookie season). He became a bigger part of the offense with every passing week. Having Anquan Boldin on the other side of him is only going to help him. This coming year, you'll see a reversal of roles, where Smith becomes No. 1 and Boldin the complementary WR. Boldin only saw 11 more targets than Smith, so the load was distributed pretty equally. Smith is a No. 2 fantasy WR, but you'll be able to get him in the sixth round or later, because owners will shy away -- not sold on his ability and scared of sharing the ball with Boldin. He'll be huge for you.

2012 Fantasy RB preview

It's never too early to predict next season's fantasy outlook. Jason Smith looks back at the 2011 season and offers his forecast for how some running backs will produce in 2012. **More ...**

120:Greg Little's targets in 2011. I know, you don't believe me, but it's true. Think about this: As a rookie, to come in and become the top option at WR (though to be real, who else was it going to be?) is incredibly hard to do. We watched A.J. Green do it and Julio Jones become a co-No. 1 in Atlanta, but you know all about those guys. Little was so under the radar because he played in Cleveland, who normally put up three to six points a week on offense. But big changes are coming to the Browns (Robert Griffin III?) and Little will be the guy for whoever they want to pair their QB of the future with. Their WR is already in place. And he will be a steal for you next season in the seventh or eighth round. I think you'll wind up playing him in your flex every week and could even elevate him to a decent No. 2 at some point.

142 and 1,159:Dwayne Bowe's targets and overall yardage this season. Despite catching passes from Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Kyle Orton, Bowe was still the sixth-most targeted WR in the game. And how he came up with more than 1,100 yards is a testament to just how good he really is. I know his TDs dropped from 15 to five, but again, see the QBs he was catching the ball from, and don't forget the Chiefs' lack of a running game was a big contributor to that. Next season, whether it's Orton or someone else throwing, Bowe will once again reign supreme like he did a year ago. The only bad thing is if Bowe signs somewhere else in free agency, because then he'll be a hot player who will go very early in your draft. So here's how it goes: If he stays, no one will grab him as their No. 1 WR, but you should step up and take him there if you're sitting in the third or fourth round and he's available. If he moves on to another team? Then take him in the third round as your number one WR, because as we've seen, it doesn't matter who's throwing him the ball.

455: The number of receiving yards Malcom Floyd had the final five weeks of the season, to go along with three TDs. Who knew Floyd was the missing ingredient in the Chargers offense? When he returned from injury, San Diego took off offensively. Just 70 targets on the year, that number will get into triple digits as long as he's healthy in 2012. Remember, Vincent Jackson is heading into free agency and has never been shy in showing his unhappiness with GM A.J. Smith. If somehow Jackson stays, Floyd is a terrific sleeper pick for you, because with Antonio Gates getting older and Jackson falling out of favor due to some drops, Philip Rivers was spreading the ball around more than ever and trusting Floyd the most. If Jackson leaves, and San Diego brings in a new No. 1 WR? Floyd's still a great sleeper pick because he will still be the No. 2.

Jason Smith writes fantasy and other NFL pith on daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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.

Related Content