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What Did We Learn - Preseason: Wide Receivers

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The wide receiver position is often difficult to predict. We can estimate a running back’s touches based on offensive philosophy. It’s fairly simple to turn around and hand a ball to a guy. Blocking for him is a completely different matter, but getting the ball to the running back is (or should be) simple. With a receiver, there are more variables: offensive system, quarterback accuracy, man-defenses, zone-defenses, other receivers and tight ends competing for touches. While there are stud performers, there is incredible depth to be found in the middle rounds.

Calvin Johnson is on his own island. FantasySharks.com 2012 Projections have Johnson with 100 catches for 1,650 yards and 14 touchdowns. Basically, if both Johnson and Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, he should repeat last year’s numbers, when he was pretty close to unstoppable.

Last year’s breakouts need to repeat. Guys who burst onto the scene last season will have a lot of pressure to perform once again. Jordy Nelson, Victor Cruz, A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown will all have increased roles with their teams. Nelson and Cruz each caught several deep touchdowns, and I give Nelson a slight edge because I feel like Cruz had a few fluke tip-drill catches last year. He’s still a Top 10 receiver, but I don’t know that he’s Top 5. Green and Jones were rookies, but both are clearly studs. I estimate that Green will have a bigger year since there’s less competition for targets. Brown is one of my top targets this season. I think Mike Wallace will eventually get to camp, and Brown is their possession guy. I also think he gets a few more touchdowns to help his overall numbers.

Wide receiver is the deepest position by far this year. If you have an early round decision between a running back and a receiver, my gut tells me to go with the running back. With the exception of a few quarterbacks and Calvin Johnson, I’m taking running backs in the first two rounds. Even after that, running backs are in short supply. My No. 30 wide receiver this season is Torrey Smith, whom several in the industry are predicting to breakout this season. Would you rather have Marques Colston and Donald Brown or Steven Jackson and Brandon Lloyd?

Eric Decker will be a Top 15 guy. Peyton Manning’s arrival in Denver will take Decker to a whole new level. Demaryius Thomas, Jacob Tamme, and even Willis McGahee will benefit as well, but it seems that Manning and Decker have already begun to click, and he is quickly becoming a trusted target for Manning. I’m projecting 70-80 catches, 1,000 yards, and at least 10 touchdowns for Decker, and I think he is going later than he should be.

Danny Amendola is worth consideration. I was an Amendola fan last year. He went down in Week 1 last season, and didn’t play again. He’s a fantastic slot receiver, and he and Sam Bradford have a level of trust that Bradford doesn’t have with anyone else on that team. He’s perhaps a better target in points-per-reception leagues, but the volume of catches he’ll have will provide plenty of opportunity. He can be had in the middle-late rounds and should be a really nice value for those willing to give him a look.

Drew Magyar is a FantasySharks.com staff writer and can be reached at drewmagyar@gmail.com. The “What Did We Learn?” column will be posted on Tuesday mornings throughout the regular season.