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Top Ten Fantasy Wide Receiver Performances Of 2012

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Can Andre Johnson top the single-game performances again in 2013? Photographer: Bob Levey/Stringer
Can Andre Johnson top the single-game performances again in 2013? Photographer: Bob Levey/Stringer

With so many teams moving to a pass-heavy approach in their offenses, the 2012 NFL season brought us so some very impressive wide receiver performances. When it comes to fantasy football, the position of wide receiver might be one of the most exciting, but it can also be one of the most disappointing. Described by many as the most mercurial position in the NFL, a single wide receiver can make or break your fantasy football matchup for the week. With that being said let’s take a look at last season’s top 10 single game fantasy performances from some familiar and some surprising players from 2012.

10. Roddy White (Week 8 vs. Carolina Panthers): In the early weeks of the 2012 season the Falcons receivers had an interesting trend where Julio Jones would have his best performances during away games, and Roddy White would have his best performances during home games. Call it a fluky stat or conspiracy theory, but this trend held true in Week 8 at home in an exciting game against a Panthers team that had a less than impressive run defense but a fairly impressive pass defense. The Falcons offense exploded for over 400 yards of total offense with White contributing in a huge way. He ended the game with eight receptions on 11 targets for 169 yards and two touchdowns (37 points).  White has always been the model of consistency and a receiver I value over Julio Jones in terms of reliability.

9. Michael Crabtree (Week 17 vs. Arizona Cardinals): With Alex Smith taking a back seat to Colin Kaepernick in what was one of the most controversial coaching decisions of the year, Crabtree saw his production sky rocket. Week 17 against the Arizona Cardinals was no exception as Crabtree was able to haul in eight receptions on 13 targets for 172 yards and two touchdowns (37 points).  This was a performance they may have single handedly won many fantasy football championships.

8. Calvin Johnson (Week 10 vs. Minnesota Vikings): Not surprising that everyone’s favorite wide receiver is on this list. Johnson was the top wide receiver taken in fantasty football last year, but there were concerns about the dreaded “Madden curse” as he appeared on the cover of the latest video game version. Those concerns turned to panic, as he struggled in the beginning of the year from what was disclosed as nerve damage in his hand. He quickly turned that around and on his way to breaking Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record of 1,848 yards. Calvin Johnson, or “Megatron,” completely dominated the Vikings secondary by racking up 12 receptions on 14 targets for 207 yards and one touchdown (38 points). He is arguably the best receiver in the game.

7. Jordy Nelson (Week 6 vs. Houston Texans): Many had high expectations for the dangerous Green Bay Packers passing game in 2012. Those expectations proved to be too high as the Packers dealt with multiple injuries from Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson. Although they didn’t wow fans for the majority of the season, there were some bright spots from those who were able to fill in (Randal Cobb and James Jones) and we also had a show on Sunday night in Week 6. The Packers and Jordy Nelson, who was dealing with a lingering hamstring issue, faced the Texans on Sunday night football who had just lost Middle Linebacker Brian Cushing. The Packers proceeded to score six touchdowns through the air with Nelson being the main contributor catching nine passes on 12 targets for 121 yards and three touchdowns (39 points). Nelson continues to be an overlooked asset in all fantasy football formats and should be a target for 2013 as well.

6. Brandon Marshall (Week 9 vs. Tennessee Titans): Fantasy football enthusiast rejoiced with Bears fans when it was announced that Brandon Marshall would be joining the team in 2012 to reunite with his former quarterback from Denver, Jay Cutler. Cutler was known to force his throws to Marshall, his favorite target in Denver, and that continued in Chicago. One of the greatest examples of this was Week 9 where the Bears were able to put up 51 points on terrible Titans defense. Cutler and Marshall hooked up for nine receptions on 10 targets for 122 yards and three touchdowns (39 Points). This dominating performance is why Brandon Marshall, in Chicago, is now one of the top wide receivers to own in fantasy football.

5. Reggie Wayne (Week 5 vs. Green Bay Packers): Thought to have been over the hill and just a few steps away from retirement, Reggie Wayne was overlooked in 2012 fantasy football drafts. Those who took a chance on him were rewarded handsomely. With rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Wayne was rejuvenated and was showing flashes of greatness that we all associated with his glory days with Peyton Manning. One of the best representations was an emotional game that was dedicated to Coach Chuck Pagano, who was battling cancer, in Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers. This game was an all-out passing assault where Andrew Luck was allowed to throw 55 passes, and of those, Wayne caught 13 on 20 targets for 212 yards and one touchdown (39 Points). I’m not sure if this is a performance we will see regularly from the veteran, but it should remind us never to overlook his skill as a number one wide receiver in fantasy football.

4. Marcus Colston (Week 5 vs. San Diego Chargers): With Sean Payton suspended for the 2012 season and the implementation of replacement referees, the Saints high powered vertical offense was slowed to say the least and we weren’t getting the fantasy football production we expected. In week 5, with the replacement referees removed and the “bounty gate” distractions behind them the Saints started to pick things up and looked like the dangerous offense we have come to know. In Week 5 against the Chargers, his former team, Drew Brees was looking to break the NFL record of 48 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, a record that had stood since 1960 by Johnny Unitas. Brees not only broke the record but threw for 370 yards and four touchdowns with Marcus Colston being the main target. Colston assisted to the tune of nine receptions on 18 targets for 131 yards and three touchdowns (40 Points). Colston continues to be an excellent asset to fantasy football teams and should increase his overall production from 2012 with the return of Coach Payton next year.

3. Brian Hartline (Week 4 vs Arizona Cardinals): With the Dolphins lacking a true No. 1 wide receiver, Brian Hartline was considered the only viable asset to own in terms of fantasy value. Even so, we were dealing with a rookie quarterback in a struggling offense, so he wasn’t exactly starter material in most leagues. Hartline was a bit unknown until this game in Week 4 where he exploded on a Cardinals defense that, at the time, was considered one of the best in the NFL. Rookie Quarterback Ryan Tannehill connected with Hartline for 12 receptions on 19 targets for 253 yards and one touchdown (43 Points). After this game people were scrambling to the waiver wire to add him only to be let down by less than average production for the remainder of 2012. Hartline could be considered as fantasy relevant in 2013 with the signing of wide receiver Mike Wallace and tight end Dustin Keller, but due to his inconsistency performances, games like the one he had in Week 4 will be few and far between.

2. Dez Bryant (Week 16 vs New Orleans Saints): Dez Bryant started the year off slow and was criticized heavily for continued off-field issues and lack of effort during games. Towards the middle of the season, the Cowboys struggles mightily in the running game with an injury to DeMarco Murray and the ineffectivness of Felix Jones. With that, the Cowboys transformed into on of the better passing teams in the NFL. In Week 16, they faced the Saints, and there was some concern about a finger injury with Bryant. Uncharateristically, Dez made sure he was out there and performed in a huge way against a struggling Saints secondary, where he hauled in nine receptions on 12 targets for 224 yards and two touhdowns (43 Points). As Dez Bryant continues to mature and transform into the elite receiver he was destined to be, I will do all I can to make sure that he is on all my fantasy football teams.

1. Andre Johnson (Week 11 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars) Johnson was another wide receiver that was said to be washed up, an injury concern, and in an offense that was unable to effectively pass the ball downfield. Many fantasy football owners gave up just around Week 11, as they were frustrated by the lack of production. Andre Johnson completely exploded against a poor Jaguars defense that appeared to have given up in one of the most exciting shootouts of the 2012 season. Matt Schaub, who is considered to be an inefficent downfield passer, connected with Johnson often, as he finished with 14 receptions on 19 targets with 273 yards and two touchdowns (47 Points). This was hands down the most impressive performance of any wide receiver in 2012 and is a reminder to never give up on the star players you draft.

There are two major things to learn from these top wide receiver performances. First, there wasn't a single slot-type receiver that made this list, showing that your number one downfield possesion receiver is the most valuable in regards to fantasy football. Second, targets are the most important factor in having a sucessful wide receiver on your roster, 11 targets to Roddy White (the No. 10 performance) was the lowest, and 19 targets to Andre Johnson topped the list.