by Russ Bliss (6/7/12)

It's funny that the increased reliance on the passing game in the last several seasons hasn't translated much into a greater number of WR's going over 1,000 yards or having 10 or more TD's. Actually, in 2011, there were only 16 WR's with over 1,000 receiving yards (the third fewest in the last 10 years) and only 3 WR's with 10 or more TD catches (the fewest since the 1990 season). What this essentially means is that the group is becoming more top heavy than ever. Each of the names on this list is projected for over 1,000 yards with 7 of them projected to have 9.5 TD's or more. Only 1 WR projected for 10 TD's didn't make this list, and he was ranked #11 overall (Brandon Lloyd of the New England Patriots). Also just missing the top 10 were Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace, the Giants Victor Cruz, Minnesota's Percy Harvin, Atlanta's Roddy White, and Tampa Bay's big free agent acquisition, Vincent Jackson. An argument could be made easily for any of them, along with Carolina's Steve Smith or a potential breakout guy like DeMaryius Thomas of Denver. Debate is fun and encouraged by all our members in our fantasy football forums.

1) Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: Megatron finally realized his potential in 2011 putting together the most dominant fantasy season by a WR since Randy Moss in 2007. Johnson has always had the physical tools and athletic skills to have the type of season he enjoyed in 2011, and I fully expect that he will continue to have more for the next few years barring injury. Johnson stands alone atop the WR rankings regardless of scoring format.

2) Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: Johnson was on his way to possibly his best season ever before a serious hamstring injury sidelined him after 3 1/2 games. In those 3 1/2 games, Johnson had accumulated 25 receptions for 352 yards and 2 TD's. Prorated out for a full season, that would come to a stat line that reads 114-1609-9. He returned and played thru it for a few games later in the season but he wasn't the same. With a full off-season to recover, I won't be surprised if Johnson is ready to get back to being the second most dominant fantasy WR. If he can stay healthy that is. At age 31 when the season starts, Johnson is at the tail end of the prime of his career and may only have a couple of seasons left at this high a level.

3) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: The fact that in 2011 Fitzgerald was able to have his 4th season with over 1,400 yards in his career despite the inconsistent combo of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton throwing to him is a testament to how great he really is. That combo returns to throw him the ball again in 2012, but they certainly should have to be a little better than last year I would expect. If either Kolb or Skelton has an epiphany at the QB position, Fitzgerald could join Calvin Johnson as the cream of the WR crop.

4) Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: When healthy, Jones was everything advertised as a rookie in 2011. In 13 games he amassed 959 yards and 8 TD's. In the last 4 games of 2011 he really came on accumulating a stat line of 20-393-6. Jones is every bit a playmaking WR and with solid Roddy White playing more of a possession role opposite him, Jones looks to be ready to step into the top 5 fantasy WR's in 2012. Add in a Falcons offense that is expected to be more aggressive throwing the football in 2012 and you could hit a home run with Jones as a fantasy WR1.

5) Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants: Current reports say that Nicks will be ready for the start of the regular season after suffering a broken foot in late May. The timetable seems right and as long as there are no setbacks, he should be ready to take a step up in fantasy production in 2012. His 2011 regular season was good but not great. But in the 4 playoff games including the Super Bowl, Nicks was unstoppable grabbing 28 passes for 444 yards and 4 TD's. With Victor Cruz likely to keep defenses honest more often when covering Nicks in 2012, there's breakout potential for him.

6) Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys: Entering his 3rd season, Bryant appears poised to take a step up in 2012. If he can avoid maturity and injury issues, Bryant is in a prime position to gobble up a lot of what Laurent Robinson provided for Dallas as their 3rd WR last season. Early reports say Bryant is taking on more of a leadership role this off-season and working hard to gain Tony Romo's trust. If he can do that, the Starters Draft Analyzer early projection of 1,170 yards and 10 TD's is well within his grasp.

7) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers: While we had Nelson pegged for a potential breakout season in 2011, even we didn't see how big of a breakout it would be. Aaron Rodgers spreads the ball around a lot and therefore Nelson had highs and lows (5 games with over 100 yards receiving; 4 games with 40 yards or fewer). But he has emerged as a big time weapon for one of the best passing attacks in the NFL. That makes him a quality fantasy WR1. Nelson shows possession style skills but with the ability to make the big play on occasion.

8) Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers: It's not often 2 WR's from the same team rank back to back, let alone in the top 10 for the position, but Jennings benefits from the same things as teammate Jordy Nelson: one of the best passing attacks in the game and great playmaking ability. He also suffers the downside of having highs and lows (9 of 13 games with a TD catch; 3 games over 100 receiving yards; 4 games with less than 50) because of the many weapons Aaron Rodgers has to throw to. While he missed the last 3 games of 2011 with a knee injury, Jennings will be fine to start 2012. His stat line from 2011 projected out for a full 16 games would have been 82-1168-11. That would have made him place 7th overall for most fantasy points scored by a WR in 2011.

9) A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals: Rookie WR's seldom have great seasons out of the gate, but Green did posting over 1,000 yards and 7 TD's in 2011 despite missing one game because of injury. Green has great ability to become one of the elite WR's in the league and the only question I have about him is whether his QB, Andy Dalton, is really top flight starter quality in the NFL. A current projected stat line of 1,226 yards and 8-9 TD's is easily within reach and enough for him to finish top 10 in 2012.

10) Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints: 2011 wasn't Colston's best statistical season, but considering he only missed 2 games after suffering a broken collarbone the first game of the season, it has to be one of his most impressive. Despite it, the other hands to feed in New Orleans, he finished with 80 receptions for 1,143 yards and 8 TD's. If you look at his last 6 games (including his 2 post-season games) he was a machine catching a whopping 45 passes for 678 yards and 6 TD's. Signed in the off-season to a new 5 year deal, Colston is happy, healthy, and with Robert Meachem gone, likely to have an even better 2012 season than he did 2011.

check out the 2012 Top 10 TE's Rankings