2012 Fantasy Football: Overvalued and Undervalued Wide Receivers

Contributed by: Jared Dang
Last Updated: Jul 26, 2012 6:48 PM

Not all wide receivers burst onto the scene like Miles Austin did in 2009 when he carved up the Kansas City Chiefs for 10 receptions, 250 yards and two touchdowns including the game winner in overtime. Other receivers like Antonio Brown do it quietly, over the course of a season garnering little attention from the national spotlight. Here's a few receivers whose situations have changed and are either in line for a dramatic increase in stats or a dramatic decline.

Opportunity Knocks

Chad Ochocinco Johnson, Miami Dolphins, Current ESPN ADP: 159
You know what great people do? They share. If you haven't heard Chad (now back to) Johnsonfrequently buys dinner for hordes of his Twitter Followers. You know what Chad is not going to share? Targets. Johnson will be the de facto No. 1 receiver in Joe Philbin's west-coast offense and is an excellent bet to outperform his 16th round draft status. Don't be scared off by his 15 catches last season, 85 can still ball, when utilized properly and David Garrard/Matt Moore/Ryan Tannehill will be looking his way often.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, ADP: 62.9
The last elite quarterback to say the phrase,  “I’ve never had a receiver like him before”, was Tom Brady after the Patriots acquired Randy Moss. So a part of me gets excited when I read that Peyton Manning recently said the same exact thing when describing Demaryius Thomas. Assuming Manning’s neck does not shatter, Thomas could easily end up a top-5 receiver.  

Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars, ADP: 114.9
It’s tough to look at a guy like Blaine Gabbert who has been bashed repeatedly by the likes of Merril Hoge’s talking face and imagine how Gabbert could recover from that humiliation. I kid, but seriously he had Mike Thomas as his No. 1 last year, can't blame him too much. Recent history is on Blackmon’s side as young QB-WR duos like See A.J. Green-Andy Dalton as well as Mike Williams-Josh Freeman circa 2010 have produced top 20 receivers in years past. Wanna know how I know Gabbert isn't afraid to take on the world? Here's a clip of Gabbert channeling his inner raging bull.
Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders, ADP 97.7
2011 stats: 33 rec, 618 yards, 76 Targets, 5 TDs
If that sexy picture doesn’t do it for you maybe you should take it from the Carson himself, or Kevin Boss or any of the other media meatheads who expect Moore to be a star. If you don’t believe any of them, just see if this highlight reel (warning: rap music) doesn’t do it for you. Maybe I’ve watched that youtube clip a couple times too many, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect Moore to double his yardage this year.
Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens, ADP:  90.1
Midway through the 2011 season, Smith became Joe Flacco’s bunk-buddy favorite target. He has a year under his belt as well as a playoff touchdown and if Ron Jaworski's over-caffeinated persona is right about Flacco having the strongest arm in the NFL (Flacco threw the 3rd most 20+ yard passes), then it’s only a matter of time before his 23.6 deep pass completion percentage picks up.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, ADP: 35.9
2011 stats: 54 rec, 959 yards, 8 touchdowns, 94 targets
2011 stats extrapolated for 16 full games: 70.5 rec, 1252.6 yards, 10.4 touchdowns, 122.2 targets

Roddy White has already acknowledged that he will see a lighter load in order to get Jones more involved. Out of Falcons 594 pass attempts in 2011, White saw 32% of them while Jones saw only 16%, granted in 3 less games. If we account for the missed games then the % of targets Jones saw is really 20%. So there's still some middle ground to catch up on... Dude is on the verge of being a superstar in case you haven't read the bajillion other fantasy sleeper columns on him. 

Buyer Beware

 Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings ADP: 59.3
I’m of the blasphemous opinion that Harvin’s 2nd half resurgence won’t translate over to 2012 which is to say I believe the statistical increase Harvin experienced was largely a byproduct of Adrian Peterson not being around to touch the ball 25-30 times a game. Others say Christian Ponder finally began to trust Harvin more. Interesting perspective, but if Ponder was the positive influence on Harvin, then why did Harvin’s numbers increase only after Peterson was injured? Why didn't they jump in the 3 1/2 games that Ponder played in? Statistics below: Week's 1-5 are Harvin's per game averages with Donovan McNabb at the helm, weeks 7,8,10 are with Ponder and 11-17 are Harvin's averages with Ponder and without Peterson.

Week 1-5:   3.4 rec,   36.6 yards,   5.4 targets,               2.6 carries,   30.2 yards
Week 7,8,10: 4 rec, 41.67 yards,   5 targets,                  2.67 carries, 14 yards,  .33 TD
Week 11-17:  8 rec,  83 yards,  10 targets, .  83 TDs, 4.14 carries,  20.28, yards  .17 TD

It appears that the week 7 switch to Ponder did little to affect Harvin's statistical output and it wasn't until Peterson's injury in week 11 did Harvin’s receptions and yards increase. And by increase, Harvin's receptions and targets nearly doubled, while his touchdowns dramatically increased as well. It should also be noted that week 6 isn’t included as McNabb and Ponder split snaps and that only two of Ponder’s nine completions that game were to Harvin. Also, Joe Webb was mostly responsible for Harvin’s week 17 line of 10 rec, 115 yards on 17 targets.

Keep An Eye On

Lestar Jean, Houston Texans, ADP: Undrafted
Stop me when you've heard this story before: Undrafted rookie out of a small school, tears it up during training camp only to be sent to the I.R. for his rookie season. Jean has yet to dominate in a preseason game, but you wouldn't be able to tell by the way his position coach talks about him. From the link: “I remember Terrell Owens watching and following Jerry Rice. After a while, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two guys on the field. That’s a special situation, but hopefully this will be something like the same scenario.” It may be awhile before Jean catches up to Victor Cruz, let alone Andre Johnson, but from the sound of it, Jean will be the great knight to finally spare us of Kevin Walter's statistical existence.

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