The Player Profile series breaks down the 2012 performances of key players at each position in order to project where they should be drafted in 2013. Dig in, read up, and look ahead.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Megatron’s 2012 campaign was nothing short of unbelievable. He led all fantasy receivers with 212 standard fantasy points, breaking the single-season receiving record with nearly 2,000 yards. His 122 receptions ranked first among pass catchers, and he was the only receiver with over 200 targets. He had at least 90-yards receiving in 12 of his 16 games, scored 20 or more fantasy points five times and had only two games with fewer than five receptions.
The crazy part? He scored just five touchdowns.
His five scores were fewer than Scott Chandler (6), Santana Moss (8) and Darren Sproles (7) in 2012. And of the top-5 fantasy receivers last season, Johnson was the only one to not score double-digit touchdowns. One thing that is often overlooked, however, is the fact that Calvin was tackled within the opposing two-yard line six times, resulting in a low end zone tally.
There’s little reason to take any other receiver over Calvin Johnson in 2013. Not only is he the most complete pass catcher in fantasy, but Matthew Stafford threw a league-high 727 times in 2012. Stafford’s actually thrown nearly 1,400 passes over the last two seasons, which is the highest in the league. Even if the Lions were to decrease Stafford’s passing quantity by 10%, Johnson would still be the number one receiver on one of the pass-happiest teams in the NFL. When you factor in his talent, he’s a force to be reckoned with.
I’d consider Megatron a top-5 pick in a PPR league, and an easy top-10 guy in a non-PPR one. Because of his overall consistency at the position, you have to consider him more like a running back than receiver; you know you won’t get a goose egg in a given week from Number 81.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
After scoring in each game from Week 2 to Week 11, A.J. Green fell back to Earth towards the end of 2012, scoring just one touchdown in his final six games. While we should be aware of this obvious dip in touchdown production, we also should remember that his red zone ability and production is tops in the league. But with a quarterback like Andy Dalton, should there be hesitation with AJ in 2013?
Dalton can’t throw the deep ball. He ranked 27th in the NFL this past season with a 32.8% completion percentage on passes thrown more than 20 yards, including four touchdowns to five interceptions on such passes. Andy Dalton also can’t throw under pressure, either. His 39.4% completion percentage under pressure was fourth worst in the NFL in 2012. Those aren’t the best ingredients from a quarterback to help produce a top fantasy wideout.
So is it time for AJ Green owners to worry? Not yet.
The fact is, in 2012, AJ Green still put up favorable numbers while Andy Dalton, at times, struggled. The offense – especially at receiver – is young, and the offensive line is a piece of the Bengals’ off-season puzzle that needs attention. Dalton should improve with the offense, which is only a good thing for a stud like AJ Green.
I’d still choose Green second at wide receiver in redraft leagues, just behind Calvin Johnson. I’d have a hard time taking him in the first round given the talented running backs that should be available, but a second round pick is a definite value for Green.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
There’s no doubt that Demaryius Thomas’ talent came through while playing with Peyton Manning in 2012. Entering the season, Thomas had six touchdowns to go along with his 834 receiving yards in two seasons of play. And while injuries and mediocre quarterbacks slowed down his early maturation, Peyton Manning certainly helped Thomas live up to his 2010 first round draft selection.
Moving into 2013, there’s little reason to think Thomas can’t repeat his 2012 campaign. He was just six receptions shy of the 100 mark in his first year with Manning, and I’d expect him to get close to the century mark again in 2013. He was Peyton’s go-to target, snagging 19 more targets than teammate Eric Decker and securing the fourth best yards per target rate in the NFL.
Another positive with Demaryius Thomas is the fact that he was targeted 30 times on passes 20 or more yards downfield in this past season. That was good for 10th in the NFL, ahead of player like Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald and teammate Eric Decker. He scored five touchdowns on these types of passes, which was tied for the second most in the NFL. Big play ability from a fantasy receiver is always an attractive attribute.
Whether a bubble screen or a deep ball, Demaryius Thomas is one of the most talented receivers in the game. When you factor in one of the best quarterbacks of all time throwing him the ball, you’re bound for fantasy success. Eric Decker’s presence surely helps Thomas, and as long as Manning is healthy, Thomas is a fantasy stud.
Feel confident drafting the Broncos’ receiver as early as the second round next season. Elite receivers are difficult to find, and in the fantasy landscape, Demaryius Thomas is one of them.