While it’s not exactly moving at the speed of light, the gap in fantasy scoring totals between elite players at the running back position and elite players at the wide receiver position continues to shrink.
In 2008, the top 10 fantasy running backs combined to outscore the top 10 wide receivers by an average of 37.9 points per player for the season (standard scoring rules). In 2012, that number shrank to 34.3.
Workhorse running backs are a dying breed and therefore remain the most precious commodity for fantasy owners. But that hasn’t stopped the rise in the top-10 WR selections over the last few years.
We’ll have more on the comparisons between running backs and wide receivers in the near future, but for now, let’s take a look at the NFP’s early summer 2013 fantasy wide receiver rankings.
Top Wide Receivers
No. 11 thru No. 20
11. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: Think about the career numbers this poor soul could have already posted had he not spent the post-Kurt Warner era fighting for whatever errant pass was lucky enough to come his way?
Fitzgerald’s streak of five consecutive 1,050+ receiving yard seasons came to an end in 2012, but we’re betting he gets back on track this year with the arrivals of quarterback Carson Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians.
12. Victor Cruz, New York Giants: Amassed a respectable stat line (86-1,092-10) in 2012 despite playing three games without the benefit of having Hakeem Nicks on the opposite side of the field. Add one Super Bowl hangover to the mix and you can see why Cruz fell just short of the lofty expectations set by many entering last season. The contract situation is worth monitoring this summer, but the Giants are a first class organization. They’ll have it all figured out well before Week 1.
13. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos: Traded one future Hall of Fame quarterback for another this offseason, meaning he shouldn’t have an issue hitting 100+ receptions for the sixth time in seven years. Since 2007, no player in the NFL has caught more passes than Welker (672), with Chicago’s Brandon Marshall eating dust in second place (592). Don’t expect double-digit touchdown totals. Do expect high productivity on a very consistent basis.
14. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers: With Greg Jennings out of the picture, Cobb is free to complete his ascent to the highly coveted position of Aaron Rodgers’ top target. Look for the third-year veteran to drastically improve on last season’s 18th place fantasy finish (80-954-8) now that he is expected to be a full 16-game starter (8 starts in 2012).
15. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints: Has recorded 1,000+ receiving yards in six of seven professional campaigns, 80+ receptions in each of the last three years and eight or more touchdown grabs in three of the last four seasons. Between that level of consistent production and the fact that Drew Brees is still under center, it’s hard to envision ranking Colston any lower than this.
16. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs: Forget about the “game manager” label that quarterback Alex Smith picked up in San Francisco because there’s no way a pass-happy head coach like Andy Reid is going to give up a high second round pick for a guy who excels and handoffs and check downs.
If Bowe could amass 72 receptions for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns with Matt Cassel as his quarterback in 2010, we have to believe that he can attain similar numbers with a more consistent passer like Smith.
Dwayne Bowe has plenty of reasons to smile now that Alex Smith and Andy Reid have entered the mix.
17. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos: Ranked seventh in fantasy scoring at the wide receiver position in 2012, but between Demaryius Thomas and the addition of Wes Welker, we feel that Decker will experience a slight regression in 2013.
There are only so many passes in John Fox’s conservative game plan to go around.
18. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers: Experienced a significant (and predicted) drop in production from 2011 to 2012, but still managed to average a healthy 15.2 yards per reception with seven scores despite appearing in only 12 games.
We definitely like Randall Cobb as a top-20 receiver, but the big question is whether or not it will be Nelson or James Jones to emerge as Green Bay’s second-most productive wideout.
19. Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Too high for your liking? Then consider the fact that after adding playmaker Vincent Jackson to the lineup, Williams reemerged as a legitimate fantasy starter in 2012 who finished the year as the position’s 17th ranked scorer.
The 26-year-old out of Syracuse has recorded nine or more touchdown receptions in two of three NFL seasons.
20. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers: Has rolled up 152 receptions for 2,568 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons playing with quarterback Cam Newton. Enters the season at 34 years of age, but still has enough gas left in the tank to warrant a spot in our top 20.
Joe Fortenbaugh, worked as an NFL Agent from 2003-2006 at JB Sports, Inc. Follow Joe on Twitter @joefortenbaugh, and check out his website at NationalFootballPost.com. You can reach him at [email protected].