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Fantasy Football Keeper Watch: Wide Receivers to Consider for 2013 and Beyond

Roddy White

Who should you keep at the receiver position? Do you aim for up-and-comers? Try to predict the 2007 Randy Mosses and 2012 Calvin Johnsons? Dig for a 2011 Laurent Robinson and Victor Cruz? Or stick it out with low-risk, low-reward soldiers like Marques Colston and the old Hines Ward, who yield roughly 80 catches, 1000 yards, and 8 TDs, year-in and year-out? It seems there are as many strategies towards the keeper receiver as there are receivers in the NFL.

33 different WRs have reached the top 10 since 2007. Of the past 6 seasons, only eleven have spent at least 4 years in the top 20.

Calvin Johnson has mirrored Adrian Peterson‘s 2000 yard effort with a record year of his own. He’s already topped Jerry Rice‘s record 1995 season of 1848 yards, and remains on pace to become the first to catch for 2000 yards. So Megatron could be the gold standard for keeper receivers. He’s No. 1 in standard scoring, but has just 5 TDs on the season. Consistency-wise? Johnson may have the best nickname, but has only logged 4 of the last 6 seasons among the top 20 fantasy receivers. He makes our “elite eleven,” but not the outright best.

If you keep a player, you’d better be right.

Only one receiver has appeared among the top 20 fantasy wideouts in all of the past six seasons. There’s also no other WR to complete 5 of his last 6 seasons in the top 10 in standard scoring (2012 just made it five-in-a-row, in fact). Roddy White‘s ranks going backward to 2007 have been 8, 8, 3, 6, 5, and 14. There is no fantasy receiver more consistently atop the position, and Roddy’s never missed a start in his NFL career. So would his owner really let him go? If so, it’ll be a buy-high situation. He’s real, and he’s spectacular. And yes, he’s definitely worth it.

While Roddy might be the “All Day” of receivers, it’s hard to argue against AJ Green being the future at the position. A google search for “best receiver in NFL” will tell you “Green is the very best,” the “NFL’s best wide receiver,” “already the best receiver in the NFL,” and “soaring above all NFL receivers.” Statistically, Green finished at 4 and 15 among WRs in his only two seasons. He’s fifth in yards this year, while his 10 trips to pay dirt over 9 games rank him second in TDs.

The future is also comprised of Julio Jones, Victor Cruz, and Dez Bryant. Jones has found the end zone 18 times in two seasons. He’s also eclipsed 200 catches, 2000 yards, and 130 catches in his short career. There will definitely come weeks where Roddy eats into his production and vice versa, but no receiver has 16 great weeks in a season. Julio’s finished 7th and 20th among WRs in his two years, demonstrating there’s enough to go around in this Falcons offense.

Cruz has been No. 12 and 4 in his first two years, forcing many doubters to change their tune. But as a big play receiver, the Campbell’s Soup man isn’t living up to 2011, when he was third in catches of 20+ yards. 2012 saw a modest 11 catches beyond 20 yards, which was 14 less than 2011, and only enough for 26th place. His YPC also dropped from 18.7 to 12.7, and YAC from 595 to 327. The numbers show a transformation into a possession receiver. “But, Mom!”

The Jerry Jones experiment with Dez is finally paying off. Bryant currently has career highs of 88 catches, 130 targets, 1311 yards, and 12 scores. He’s tenth among wideouts in YAC, and leads all Cowboys receivers in yards and YPC. Only Tony Romo‘s former roommate, Jason Witten, has more targets and catches this year.

Many declared Andre Johnson old by mid-season, but he’s righted the ship for one of his best years to date. He has over 100 catches, and will likely surpass 1500 yards for the third time in his career. Johnson reminds us that, while receivers begin to blow up in their third seasons, the greats tend to peak in their early 30s. The next-closest Texans WR has 38 catches for 467 yards. Brandon Marshall was reunited with Jay Cutler, and that marriage has never been better. Marshall set career highs with 113 catches, 1466 yards, and 11 TDs, with one game to go.

Looking for a model of consistency? Wes Welker played 2012 on a franchise tag, and broke 80 catches for the sixth straight year. It was also his 5th season over 100 catches and 1,100 yards. Welker has been a top 20 WR in 5 of the last 6 seasons. The year he wasn’t? He finished 22nd while starting all 16 games in 2010, just 36 weeks after tearing his MCL and ACL in the 2009 season finale. Looking back towards 2007, he’s finished 13, 3, 22, 13, 20, and 12.

Colston is as Colston does. 2008 was the only year he finished below 70 catches or 1000 yards. And 2007 was the only year he finished above 84 catches or 1150 yards. And the question surrounding Fitzgerald is obvious — who will be under center in 2013? The best options for Arizona might be Alex Smith, Matt Flynn, Mark Sanchez, and Kirk Cousins, if they’re even available.

Will Mike Wallace still be singing “black and yellow, black and yellow, black and yellow?” Can Hakeem Nicks and Greg Jennings stay healthy? How long can 12th year pros, Reggie Wayne and Steve Smith continue to produce 1000 yard seasons? Can we finally go back to just saying Steve Smith, without having to specify? And is Vincent Jackson really the elite receiver he thinks he is?

All these questions, and more, will be answered in your 2013 NFL season.

Contract data courtesy of rotoworld.com.

Stats and player data courtesy of espn.com

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