See Also: QB Primer
Imagine you're on a revamped version of the hit game show "Pyramid." For the past 25 minutes you've selected wittily titled categories, dominated the board and stacked cash. Now onto the final round with your celebrity partner, 80s favorite TV alien Alf, you confidently strut over to the Winner's Circle, plop down in the chair and focus on the task at hand. Uncover the answers quickly, and those calf implants you've always wanted could finally become a reality.
As the clock ticks down, you quickly climb toward the $100,000 prize, correctly nailing subjects from mountain ranges to artists on Death Row Records. Finally, you reach the top. From his cat-breathed mouth Alf spews the final clues: "The Grand Canyon. Warren Buffet's pockets. Mark Trumbo home runs. Usain Bolt's resume of Olympic conquests. …"
The clock inches closer to zero.
With seconds to spare, your furry friend utters one last nugget: "Fantasy football wide receivers in 2012."
Synapses fire. A sense of unparalleled confidence overtakes. You respond: "Things that are deep."
Winner, winner, chicken dinner. …
Wide receiver really is a bottomless pit of value this season. Calvin Johnson, coming off an unreal 96-1681-16 explosion, is the unrivaled top taco entering 2012. His16.6 per game average in standard formats was 3.1 points better than No. 2 Jordy Nelson. More astonishing, he outpaced WR36, Anquan Boldin, by 8.9 points, the identical per game production Jeremy Maclin, Andre Johnson and Stevie Johnson yielded. His superhuman skill set, still young age, friendly offensive system and All-World quarterback, Matthew Stafford, arrow to another marquee campaign. Without a doubt Megatron is worth every penny in Round 1, particularly in PPR formats.
However the position as a whole is brimming with reliable producers, many available at discounted rates. Spread formations, aggressive play-calling by offensive coordinators and phenomenal talent at quarterback have thrust wide receivers into an era of unprecedented depth. Targets are up. Production is constant. And week-to-week dependability is virtually endless. Days of needing to stockpile WRs early are long gone. Examine the chart below:
Removing outlier efforts from Randy Moss (2007) and Calvin last year, it's clear the tier-to-tier gap has tightened considerably in recent years. For example, the difference between Nelson and Laurent Robinson, the 13th ranked WR in '11, was a mere 2.7 points per game. The minimal separation is exactly why waiting on the position is a savvy move. It's unlikely bypassing a Greg Jennings (23.4 ADP, WR3) for a Percy Harvin (51.2, WR18) would be deemed "shortsighted" come year's end. The disparity simply isn't that wide.
This year at WR, it pays to play the patience game.
So, what's the best way to approach WR this year? Who could venture into Shocker Special territory? What commodities are doomed to fail? Here are eight pressing questions at the forefront of our minds:
Due to the pass-first, pass-often nature of today's NFL, depth at wide receiver in 2012 is endless. With that in mind, is it silly for a gamer in a non-PPR setting to snag Calvin Johnson with their first pick?
Scott — While I wouldn't take Megatron quite that early, he's in a tier of his own, a monstrous combo of floor and upside. Take him as high as you want. I will not flag you.
Dalton — Not at all. There's a better argument he should be the No. 1 overall pick than he shouldn't be a first round pick. Johnson is in a tier of his own at his position, and no other player can claim the same.
Brandon— The depth of unstoppable wideouts is not endless. He's the most talented WR in the league with a QB that is a match made in heaven. I'd be just fine with him in Round 1
Julio Jones and A.J. Green defied conventional wisdom in their inaugural campaigns leaving an indelible mark on the fantasy landscape. This year, what rookie is capable of making an impact?
Dalton — I'd be shocked if any rookie made even close to a similar impact as Jones or Green did last year. If any were to make any type of impact at all, I guess I'd go with Justin Blackmon, the obvious choice, but I'd bet none are fantasy relevant in 2012.
Brad — Blackmon's boozing shenanigans and suspect QB play are major turnoffs despite his terrific natural talents. Kendall Wright is in the best position to make a cannonball splash. Because Kenny Britt is an imbecile, Wright will get every opportunity to showcase his wares in Chris Palmer's Run 'n Shoot. Josh Gordon is also a dark-horse.
Brandon — I like Justin Blackmon, but I hate his situation. I think the rookie with the highest upside based upon talent, opportunity and situation is Alshon Jeffery.
Megatron is the unquestioned king of the position, but what WR could wrest away his crown come year's end?
Brandon — If Cincy lets Andy Dalton open things up even more in his second year, AJ Green can put up huge numbers as he's, like MegaTron, the sun, moon and stars of his team's passing game.
Brad — The odds are slim, but, looking through my orange colored glasses, Marshall could challenge the top spot. He and Jay Cutler are inseparable on the field. A 100-1500-14 season isn't out of the question.
Andy — I'm supposed to say something crazy and bold here, right? Like Julio or Harvin or Maclin or Cruz or whoever? Well, I'm not doin' it, kids. If Megatron stays healthy, he's the No. 1. He has no rivals.
The middle rounds are loaded with intriguing receiver sleepers this year? Who are your favorites?
Brad — Eric Decker and Nate Washington are high on my list, but Antonio Brown takes the cake. Even if Mike Wallace emerges from his self-imposed hiatus, AB is primed to explode, coming off a very respectable 69-1108-2 campaign. Remember, TDs are very fickle. He's the most complete WR Big Ben has. This year, he evolves into a 75-1300-10 beast.
Andy — So far, I've acquired either Robert Meachem or Pierre Garcon (or both) in basically every league and every mock. The talent is there in both cases, as are the targets. Gimme Titus Young, too. He has a chance to shine opposite 'Tron.
Scott — My rank doesn't reflect it yet but I fully expect Eric Decker to be Peyton Manning's go-to guy (Demaryius Thomas's sloppy route-running could be an issue). I love the value on Reggie Wayne this year; Indy's going to play from behind all season, and pro-ready Andrew Luck could sneak up on people (given the non-stop RG3 party). Nate Washington has no buzz or pedigree (in contrast to his famous teammates), but that just makes it easier to collect a profit on him.
List three unheralded PPR picks.
Scott — Someone on the Rams will push for 80-plus catches, probably Danny Amendola or Steve Smith. Both of them can be had for a song right now. I don't care how many name receivers the Seahawks collect, Doug Baldwin is the guy I want. Davone Bess is the most reliable wideout the Dolphins have.
Dalton — Danny Amendola, Greg Little and Davone Bess
Brandon — Darrius Heyward-Bey, Greg Little, Danny Amendola
Pick a Pat: Wes Welker or Brandon Lloyd.
Andy — We've already had this chat. I thought I won this battle decisively, no? In every season that Welker has been tied to Brady — and both players remained helathy — Wes has finished as a top-12 fantasy wideout.
Brad — In a PPR setting, Welker wins hands down, but in standard formats Lloyd is the Pat you want. He could be a mini-Moss of sorts this year, though not the extraordinary 2007 record-setting version. Tom Brady's numerous downfield shots to him in NE's first preseason game is a harbinger of spectacular performances to come.
Brandon — They're not far apart in my mind, but I'll take Welker given his familiarity advantage and the fact that he's playing for a new contract.
What wideout are you avoiding like the plague?
Scott — We had some good times, Andre Johnson, but you're hurt so often and you've never scored 10 touchdowns in a year. I'm down chasing after you. Go ruin someone else's season.
Dalton — No wideout jumps out as an obvious bust to me, so let me say this. I think Julio Jones, Brandon Lloyd and Jordy Nelson will each have better years than their respective teammates (Roddy White, Wes Welker and Greg Jennings), so I'm targeting the former trio and avoiding the latter.
Brad — Andre Johnson and Wes Welker are definite must-avoids in standard settings, but Mike Wallace is another worth giving the stiff arm. The Howard Hughes of WRs remains in hiding and hasn't shown any sign of submitting anytime soon. This may not end well.
What late-round lottery ticket are you scratching off this year?
Dalton — I'll go with Austin Collie, who has an ADP around 150. He's one year removed from scoring eight touchdowns over nine games, will see more looks with Pierre Garcon gone, and Reggie Wayne will soon turn 34. With a bad defense and Andrew Luck coming to town, it could be a sneaky good situation.
Scott — Betting against Santonio Holmes (HOF lunkhead) is so easy to do, which means I'm tempted to try Stephen Hill in the late rounds (or off the wire in thin pools).
Andy — The longer Dwayne Bowe stays away from Chiefs' camp, the more interesting Jon Baldwin becomes. That kid has superhero-level athleticism, plus he's been among the buzziest names throughout OTAs and camp.
Can't get enough Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston, Scott Pianowski, Dalton Del Don and "The Noise?" Listen to The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio