A glimpse at the top 20 fantasy football wide receivers to target in upcoming drafts.
20. T.Y. Hilton
After Reggie Wayne tore his ACL in Week 7 against the Broncos, T.Y. Hilton stepped up in his absence — 82 catches for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns. Wayne, 35, was off to a solid start last season, and it looks like he’ll be ready to play come the start of the season, which could cut into Hilton’s production. But with the age and injury factor, Hilton seems like the better bet in the high-powered Colts’ offense.
19. DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson is coming off his best season after posting career-highs in receptions (82), yards (1,332) and touchdowns (nine). In the move from Philadelphia to Washington, Jackson brings with him speed and big-play ability. Six of Jackson’s touchdowns came on passes thrown 31 yards or more, which gives the Redskins the vertical playmaker they lacked. It might take some time for Jackson and Robert Griffin III to get into a rhythm, but with time Jackson is a top-tier WR2.
18. Keenan Allen
San Diego Chargers
Keenan Allen didn’t do much in the first three weeks of his rookie year (eight receptions, 110 yards), but he became a hot add from then on. He finished with 1,046 yards, including five 100-yard games, and eight touchdowns to lead the Chargers in both categories. With Antonio Gates getting older, Allen could be featured even more in the Chargers’ offense.
17. Roddy White
Roddy White, 32, showed some signs of regression after six consecutive seasons with at least 1,100 yards. After eight straight seasons without missing a game, White missed three in 2013. While battling injuries, White struggled through the first few months of the season, with game highs of just four catches and 45 yards. In December, he was the White of old, totaling 43 catches, 502 yards and two TDs in the last five games of the year. If he’s back at full health, White and Julio Jones should be back to being one of the best wideout tandems in the league.
16. Wes Welker
For the first time since 2010, Wes Welker didn’t put up a 100-reception, 1,000-yard season. But he did have a career-high 10 touchdowns, thanks to Peyton Manning. Welker’s down year, if you can even call it that (73 catches, 778 yards), was partly due to missing three games with a concussion, but largely because of overcrowding in Denver. In his last two seasons in New England, Welker was targeted more than 170 times. In 2013, he had just 110 targets. With Eric Decker (137 targets) gone, Welker’s targets should increase, as should his production.
15. Victor Cruz
In a down offensive year for the Giants, Victor Cruz was the saving grace. He didn’t have quite the year he did in his first two seasons, but he did miss the final two games after undergoing an arthroscopic debridement of his left knee. Cruz led the Giants with 73 catches for 998 yards, but did most of his damage in the first four weeks (425 yards, four TDs). He was held out of the end zone the rest of the season, but that had a lot to do with Eli Manning’s league-high 27 interceptions.
14. Vincent Jackson
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vincent Jackson has posted fairly similar numbers in his two years in Tampa (72 catches, 1,384 yards, eight TDs in 2012 to 78 catches, 1,224 yards and seven TDs in 2013). He also has shown inconsistency each season. In 2013, he had a six-game stretch with 39 catches, 535 yards (three 100-yard games) and five TDs. The rest of the season he had just one other 100-yard game, in Week 1 against the Jets.
13. Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2011. Last season, though, what he lacked in yardage, he made up for in touchdowns. Fitzgerald reached the end zone 10 times in 2013, his highest since 2009 when he had 13. Though he’ll turn 31 before the beginning of this season, Fitzgerald is a dependable WR1/WR2 – he’s missed just four games in 10 seasons and has at least 80 catches in each of the past seven seasons.
12. Andre Johnson
At 33, Andre Johnson still is going strong. In his 11th NFL season, Johnson had 109 catches for 1,407 yards and five touchdowns for his fifth 100-catch, 1,000-yard season, even with lousy quarterback play out of Matt Schaub, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates. Ryan Fizpatrick, who threw for 2,454 yards and 14 TDs in 11 games with the Titans last season, takes over for the Texans under center.
11. Pierre Garcon
Pierre Garcon put up career-bests of 113 catches and 1,346 yards in his second year with the Redskins. Garcon was targeted a league-high 184 times in 2013, and while DeSean Jackson may cut into his production slightly, he still has 1,000-yard potential.
10. Randall Cobb
Green Bay Packers
After a breakout 2012 season — 80 catches, 954 yards, 8 touchdowns — Randall Cobb is now bouncing back from a broken leg in Week 6 against the Ravens. In six games last season, Cobb had 31 catches for 433 yards and four TDs. It’s hard to predict what Cobb will be able to do coming off the injury, but with his ability to break off a big run (13.4 yards per carry in three seasons) and his impact in the return game ( 2,525 combined punt/kickoff return yards and three return TDs)Cobb has a ton of upside.
9. Antonio Brown
After Mike Wallace’s move to Miami, Antonio Brown took over Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiver role flawlessly. He finished second in the league in receptions (110) and yards (1,499) in his best season. With Emmanuel Sanders now in Denver and an inexperienced Markus Wheaton as the Steelers’ No. 2 receiver, Brown could see his team-leading 165 targets increase again.
8. Julio Jones
Rebounding from a second surgery on his right foot, Julio Jones appears to be healthy ahead for 2014. Before suffering the injury in Week 5 against the Jets, Jones had 41 catches for 580 yards and two touchdowns, including three 100-yard games. Jones was on pace for about 131 catches and 1,856 yards, both of which would have led the league by a wide margin. Jones’ health is a concern after missing 14 games the past three seasons, but if he’s able to stay on the field, he’ll have opportunities with the Matt Ryan-led offense.
7. Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery might be the second half of the Bears’ 1-2 punch, but he’s still a top receiver. Jeffery had a breakout season in 2013 after limited playing time in his rookie 2012 season. While Brandon Marshall proved to be the bigger scoring threat, Jeffery showed he has big-play potential with four of his seven touchdowns coming on passes of 21 yards or more.
6. Jordy Nelson
Green Bay Packers
Jordy Nelson’s productivity is completely reliant on Aaron Rodgers. He scored seven of his eight touchdowns and had four out of his five 100-yard games with Rodgers under center. As long as Rodgers is healthy, Nelson has the skill set to be among the top 10 receivers in the league.
5. Brandon Marshall
As the No. 1 receiver in arguably the league’s best 1-2 punch, Brandon Marshall was one of just five receivers with at least 100 catches. He and Alshon Jeffrey each were targeted more than 150 times, and while Jeffery beat him out in yards (1,421 to 1,295), Marshall won the red zone. Nine of his 12 TDs came inside his opponent’s 20-yard line.
4. A.J. Green
Only Pierre Garcon and Andre Johnson were targeted more than A.J. Green last season (180 targets). Green’s speed gives him big-play potential. He tied for first with Josh Gordon for the most 40-plus yard plays with nine. Green continues to improve, posting career-highs of 98 catches and 1,426 yards and tying a career-high of 11 touchdowns last season. The one downside? The unreliable factor of having Andy Dalton at quarterback.
3. Dez Bryant
The Cowboys’ star has at least 90 catches, 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. Tony Romo and the Cowboys have continuously increased Bryant’s targets. He was thrown to a career-high 160 times in 2013. Dallas had a 64-36 pass-to-run ratio last season, and with RB DeMarco Murray’s injury troubles, that ratio likely will continue.
2. Demaryius Thomas
DeMaryius Thomas led all wide receivers with 14 touchdowns in 2013 in Peyton Manning’s career year. The only player with more receiving TDs was Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. It’s unlikely Manning will throw 55 TDs again, but Thomas, who led the Broncos with 143 targets, is no doubt Manning’s No. 1 receiver. Thomas’ play-making ability is his biggest strength. He led the NFL with 704 yards after catch.
1. Calvin Johnson
There’s no stopping “Megatron.” For the fourth consecutive season, Calvin Johnson posted at least 1,100 receiving yards, but unlike in 2012 when he reached the end zone just five times, Johnson scored 12 touchdowns in 2013. Now that he’s at full health again, just imagine what Johnson will do in the high-powered Lions’ offense.