Many offensive coordinators had their head in the clouds again this season, evident in the pass-first mentality most teams portrayed. As a result, pass catchers, unsurprisingly identical to quarterbacks, experienced unprecedented fantasy success. In total, 19 wide receivers averaged at least 10.0 points per game in standard formats, up one from last year and four more than five years ago. The usual suspects dotted the landscape, but several newcomers (e.g. Randall Cobb and Eric Decker) made their mark as well. Below is our recap of this season's WR flames and lames with a quick look at what notable names could bring rags or riches in 2013. Ring out the old, ring in the new.
Who is most deserving of MVP honors?
Andy – DEZ BRYANT. Megatron may have the record, but no one dominated like Dez when it mattered most. He delivered 34.4 fantasy points in Championship Week, which is just silly. Bryant has made 10 house calls over the past seven weeks.
Brad – MEGATRON. The Madden Curse is officially dead. Johnson delivered a legendary season despite playing for an underachieving Lions squad, breaking Jerry Rice's single season yardage record. From Week 9 on, he was the king of consistency kings averaging 9.5 receptions and 114.8 yards per game.
Brandon – BRANDON MARSHALL. We could go a few different directions with this, but my money's on B-Marsh given his week-to-week consistency – no worse than 8 fantasy points in each of his past 12 games. There's a good chance that Megatron sunk a few teams in his first eight games when he notched just one TD.
Dalton – Dez Bryant is a legitimate choice, as he's been the WR4 this year in most formats while totaling 431 receiving yards and six touchdowns over the past four games, which were obviously the most crucial for fantasy owners (with a broken finger no less). But CALVIN JOHNSON is the MVP - he's already set the NFL record for receiving yards, and this discussion becomes a no-brainer if you play in PPR leagues.
Scott –Obviously it's the year of CALVIN JOHNSON, taking full advantage of garbage time. But it's interesting to see Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas at the top of the MVP chart for receivers in Yahoo! leagues, and Dez Bryant's mad run at the end of the year obviously swung playoff matches.
Who is the biggest bust of 2012?
Andy — JORDY NELSON. No one should have been expecting a repeat of his ridiculous 2011 season (68 catches, 15 TDs), but a useful campaign wasn't too much to hope for. Injuries have clearly limited Nelson this year, and new receiving stars have emerged on the tundra.
Brad – LARRY FITZGERALD. His pure talent couldn't overcome the rotation of punchlines Arizona deployed at quarterback. His 6.1 per game average in standard formats ranked outside the top-50 among WRs, a vomit-inducing outcome for a commodity picked in Round 2 of most 12-team drafts. Please Michael Vick come to Arizona.
Brandon – LARRY FITZGERALD. We all know that on almost any other team, Fitz would have taken his usual lofty place among the top fantasy wideouts. Obviously, he gets this award through no fault of his own. But, the bottom line is that there's nobody else you can justifiably give this award to.
Dalton – LARRY FITZGERALD. I thought he was a safe pick this year (if lacking upside) because he produced 1,400+ receiving yards and eight touchdowns last season with arguably the league's worst QB play. It's possible Fitz's own performance fell some, but Arizona's QB situation somehow dropped even further, resulting in anemic production from Fitzgerald. Teammate Andre Roberts has produced more fantasy points.
Scott – I thought LARRY FITZGERALD was capable of playing through any mess at quarterback, but the Cardinals took it down a few notches in 2012 (a horrendous offensive line didn't help matters). Keep in mind, his ADP in Yahoo! leagues was No. 2 at the position back in August.
What widely drafted player was the biggest steal of the season?
Andy – DEZ BRYANT. No, he didn't exactly come cheap at the draft table, but he's made a serious leap this season in terms of every-week reliability. If you held onto Dez all year, you've turned a profit. Bryant has been a terror ever since Week 10, averaging better than a touchdown per game.
Brad – RANDALL COBB. Highlighted on most owner cheat sheets back in August, the ultra-versatile receiver wasn't completely under the radar, but his final line was nothing less than exceptional. He only cost most a double-digit round pick (138.6 Y! ADP), but exuded the profile of a WR1.
Brandon – DEMARYIUS THOMAS. He went, on average, outside the top 4 rounds in Yahoo! drafts, and he finished on my MVP short list at the WR position. Like B-Marsh, he provided a rare level of consistency at WR, only twice delivering less than 7.7 fantasy points – Week 15 being unfortunate timing for one of his two sub-7.7 efforts.
Dalton – DEMARYIUS THOMAS. He was hardly a secret, as the upside was obvious with his physical gifts now getting Peyton Manning throwing him the ball, but Thomas will likely enter 2013 as a top-five fantasy WR on the majority of draft boards, and he cost much less than that this year.
Scott –I'm going to split the football in half and give it to a pair of Packers, RANDALL COBB and JAMES JONES. They were both moderately regarded before the year because of Green Bay's gridlock issues, but injuries to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson opened things up for the next guys in line. Cobb might be the most dangerous skill player on the offense right now, while Jones led the league in receiving touchdowns.
What waiver wire acquisition rescued auto-drafters from looking more moronic than they already were?
Andy – CECIL SHORTS. Entering the season, I didn't think it was a lock that Jacksonville's offense could deliver even one useful, ownable fantasy receiver. And if they did provide one, I would have assumed it was going to be either Justin Blackmon or Laurent Robinson — or anyone other than Cecil. But here we are. The fourth-rounder from Mount Union has been a gem from the free agent pool, emerging as a reliable second-half fantasy asset.
Brad – DANARIO ALEXANDER. Yes, bitter owners will never forget his batch of bagels against the Panthers Week 15, but what he accomplished up to that came was completely unexpected. Over a six-game stretch he grabbed 33 receptions for 555 yards and five touchdowns. Because of health concerns he'll likely slip in 2013 drafts, but he could prove spectacular if San Diego's regime change favors the offense.
Brandon – RANDALL COBB. Sure, Cobb was drafted in a lot of competitive leagues, but he was undrafted in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues, which means he was the best kind of waiver pickup in those leagues – the kind you pickup in the first couple weeks of the season and enjoy elite production from the rest of the way.
Dalton – There's certainly no Brandon Lloyd in 2010 option here. Even though he put up a goose egg in Week 15, I guess it's DANARIO ALEXANDER. Over the last seven games (including the aforementioned Week 15), he's averaged 80.4 yards with six touchdowns.
Scott –Basically it's down to CECIL SHORTS or DANARIO ALEXANDER; I'll side with Shorts because he was a little more consistent. Here's hoping the two concussions from December don't linger into 2013. Jacksonville has holes almost everywhere, but there's decent receiver talent here.
In the Year of the Rookie, what first-year player should take home the ROY hardware?
Andy – T.Y. HILTON. Can't say I saw this comin', but the third-rounder has been a terrific find. He's delivered multiple 100-yard weeks, with plenty of end zone spikes. Hilton is a big-play receiver tied to a talented, high-volume QB, so the future is bright.
Brad – JOSH GORDON. From the supplemental draft to the starting lineup. That was the trail Gordon blazed in 2012. Hilton bested him in per game average, but the Brown certainly packed plenty of bite from Weeks 5-7. If Brandon Weeden can advance next year, the wideout has the baseline skills to churn out a 1,000-yard campaign.
Brandon – T.Y. HILTON. Pretty close race between Hilton, Josh Gordon and even Justin Blackmon (after Chad Henne took over). I'll give the nod to Hilton because he led in double-digit fantasy point efforts (6) and his "TY" TD celebration (done in YMCA-style) is fantastic.
Dalton – T.Y. HILTON. His 750 receiving yards finished third among rookies, while his six touchdowns (seven if you count a punt return) rank first. He's the only WR in the NFL with at least 750 receiving yards and fewer than 85 targets, thanks to a 16.3 yards-per-catch mark that's even better than Calvin Johnson's.
Scott –JOSH GORDON and T.Y. HILTON posted almost identical numbers, but I'm giving Gordon the nod because he was tied to the Brandon Weeden Experience (while Hilton had the Luck of the Draw).
Because there’s never an offseason in fantasy football, what sleeper (Post-Round 5) are you eying for 2013 drafts?
Andy – JOSH GORDON. It didn't take him long to emerge as the most dangerous weapon in Cleveland's passing attack. (No, we're not talking about the league's most exciting aerial show. But still, the kid is legit). He has the size and the big-play ability to develop into an every-week fantasy starter. Definitely a player of interest in 2013 drafts.
Brad – JUSTIN BLACKMON. Unless for some ridiculous reason Tim Tebow enters the regular season next year as the starter, Blackmon should be a reliable WR2 in 12-team and deeper leagues. Chad Henne was more than serviceable in his late-season audition, helping the much-hyped target unlock his potential. He'll be a bargain in the middle rounds.
Brandon – LARRY FITZGERALD. As bad as he's been, he may fall this far. No matter where he goes, it'll probably be a nice discount. Just remember that Fitzgerald was a top 20 WR over the first six weeks of the season with Kevin Kolb at QB.
Dalton – DANNY AMENDOLA. Or Hakeem Nicks. Or Jordy Nelson. And if for some crazy reason Pierre Garcon is still available at that stage, then him for sure. Basically, I like WRs who impressed when on the field this year but have suppressed stats thanks to spending too much time off it.
Scott –MOHAMED SANU quietly collected four touchdowns in three games before a foot injury washed out his final month. He'll never be the primary target in Cincinnati, obviously, but he has the size, hands and in-air skills to be a red-zone dominator. He'll score 10-plus touchdowns some year. I'm also curious to see what Joe Morgan can do in New Orleans, if the Saints actually commit to him as an every-week rotation player.
Conversely, what player are you avoiding like joyrides with Kenny Britt?
Andy – KENNY BRITT. I'm not getting in the passenger seat with him, and I'm not going to fantasy war with him. So many red flags. So many drops. So many arrests. And injuries. No thanks. Someone will always be willing to reach for Kenny three rounds before I'm ready to consider him.
Brad – MILES AUSTIN. Immensely talented, but he never stays healthy and is clearly playing second fiddle to Dez Bryant. Because of the brand name, some will snap tendons for him in Round 4, which will be some 2-3 rounds too early.
Brandon – GREG JENNINGS. Whether he remains in Green Bay or moves on in free agency, I'm betting that his best fantasy days are behind him.
Dalton – ANDRE JOHNSON. The 1,500+ yards sure are nice, and it's possible Houston has to throw more if the defense regresses and the run-blocking continues to decline while facing a tougher schedule, but his price tag should be high, and I don't consider his low TD production a fluke at all, as there were 56 receivers who saw more than his seven red-zone targets this season.
Scott – ANDRE JOHNSON has played ten NFL seasons and he's never had 10 spikes in any of them. The last two years he's scored a paltry six times combined. He's missed significant time in four different seasons. I know he looks unstoppable when he's on his game, but someone always wants him more than I do. He'll be useful, sure, but that doesn't mean he'll justify his draft slot. He rarely does.
Though this year’s NFL draft class may pale in comparison to 2012’s, what expected draftee are you most excited to see in action next year?
Andy – KEENAN ALLEN. He's got the size (6-foot-3), and he's got the tape. Let's just hope he finds the right landing spot.
Brad – TERRANCE WILLIAMS. No RGIII. No problem. The Baylor standout was spectacular in his senior campaign setting the national pace with 1,764 receiving yards. An ideal blend of size and speed (6-foot-2, 205), he projects as a back-end first-rounder in April's draft. Get to know him in the Holiday Bowl.
Brandon – JUSTIN HUNTER. This Vol has it all – size, speed, athleticism … Should develop quickly into a dangerous red zone weapon, and it doesn't hurt that he comes from the most talented conference in college football (SEC).
Dalton – This seems to be the worst year (at least in recent memory) for skill position players in the draft. But I'll go with CORDARRELLE PATTERSON. He's raw with little experience, so he might ultimately be a better dynasty league pick than one purely for 2013.
Scott –You can have every rookie wideout next year, it's a class that doesn't impress me. All I ask is that you let me have MARQISE LEE in 2014 or 2015. Even if you're not a big college football fan, Lee is must-see TV on a weekly basis. I wish I could draft him right now. I'll wait.
List your top-13 for ’13.
Andy – 1) Megatron, 2) Dez Bryant, 3) AJ Green, 4) Brandon Marshall, 5) Julio Jones, 6) Demaryius Thomas, 7) Victor Cruz), 8) Roddy White, 9) Percy Harvin, 10) Andre Johnson, 11) Reggie Wayne, 12) Vincent Jackson, 13) Randall Cobb
Brad – 1) Calvin Johnson, 2) A.J. Green, 3) Dez Bryant, 4) Brandon Marshall, 5) Demaryius Thomas, 6) Roddy White, 7) Julio Jones, 8) Andre Johnson, 9) Randall Cobb, 10) Percy Harvin, 11) Victor Cruz, 12) Reggie Wayne, 13) Pierre Garcon
Brandon – 1) Calvin Johnson 2) A.J. Green 3) Demaryius Thomas 4) Brandon Marshall 5) Dez Bryant 6) Julio Jones 7) Percy Harvin 8) Randall Cobb 9) Victor Cruz 10) Roddy White 11) Andre Johnson 12) Pierre Garcon 13) Vincent Jackson
Dalton – 1) Calvin Johnson, 2) Dez Bryant, 3) Brandon Marshall, 4) A.J. Green, 5) Demaryius Thomas, 6) Julio Jones, 7) Percy Harvin, 8) Vincent Jackson, 9) Pierre Garcon, 10) Victor Cruz, 11) Roddy White, 12) Andre Johnson, 13) Reggie Wayne
Scott – 1) Calvin Johnson, 2) Demaryius Thomas, 3) Dez Bryant, 4) A.J. Green, 5) Brandon Marshall, 6) Julio Jones, 7) Roddy White, 8) Victor Cruz, 9) Vincent Jackson, 10) Percy Harvin, 11) Andre Johnson, 12) Pierre Garcon, 13) Reggie Wayne
Finally, if you hopped into a time machine and could pluck one player from the past, any era, to field on your squad, who would that be?
Andy – RANDY MOSS, the 1998 version. His rookie season was as exciting as any I can recall, loaded with highlights. Just look at this nonsense. If you rode either Randall Cunningham or Randy (or both) to a title that year, then you're no doubt a Moss apologist for life.
Brad – HERMAN MOORE. Before Megatron had even reached puberty, Moore was hauling in everything in sight. His 333 receptions from 1995-1997 were the most among any WR in the league, outpacing next best, Cris Carter, by 26. In an age where PPR has gained popularity, he would be monstrous, especially opposite Johnson.
Brandon – STEVE LARGENT. Before Jerry Rice came along, Largent owned just about every significant receiving record, despite playing on a lot of lousy Seahawks teams. His revenge hit on Denver's Mike Harden, who knocked him out earlier in the season, is an all-time favorite highlights among Seattle fans, and speaks to the competitive drive that led him to the Hall of Fame.
Dalton – RANDY MOSS. Maybe this is cheating since he's actually still playing, but having Moss when he was a rookie had to be one of the better fantasy experiences an owner could have.
Scott – It's a shame the 1982 strike ruined what could have been a legendary year for WES CHANDLER. Have a look at these silly game logs. I'm also something of a CLIFFORD BRANCH apologist; he was fantasy's best wideout in 1974 and 1976, so the history books say.
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