- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc., in conjuntion with ESPN.com's Matt Williamson, has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2012 season. Here's how the top wide receivers stacked up.
Note: No rookies were included in this exercise. Age refers to player's age at start of the 2012 season on Sept. 5.
Anyone that is preparing for their fantasy football draft surely knows that there is an extreme wealth of wide receivers in the NFL right now.
That holds true for elite wideouts such as Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. But it also holds true for sheer numbers of high-end players at this position. Rule changes, superb quarterback play and quickly advancing offensive playbooks all have helped this gluttony of great wide receivers take shape, but the fact is that top wide receivers come in all shapes and sizes.
Some of the shorter compact receivers such as Steve Smith, Wes Welker, Percy Harvin and Antonio Brown are incredibly quick in tight quarters and display remarkable lateral agility and burst. On the opposite end of the spectrum are taller, leaner wideouts such as A.J. Green, Mike Wallace and Brandon Lloyd who use long strides to run past their opponents. Then there are the guys who can play the game with a great combination of size and strength such as Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Bowe.
It all adds up to a lot of tough decisions in our receiver rankings. Here's how they shake out.
Johnson is an outstanding combination of size, strength and athleticism for the position. His length and strength create mismatches in most NFL secondaries.
Opposing coordinators have to game plan for him, and his impact on the game is evident. He is physical with the ball after the catch and as a perimeter blocker. He wins most jump-ball opportunities and shows courage and concentration in traffic.
Fitzgerald is an elite receiver who brings a rare combination of size, receiving skills and top-end speed. He is a good route-runner who can drop his hips in and out of breaks, has burst to separate and is one of the best in the league in terms of reacting, adjusting and competing on downfield passes.
He routinely makes tough, acrobatic catches and is a serious threat to score after the catch. He does a good job reading coverages and adjusting on the move to find seams in zone coverage.
Johnson's combination of size, speed, athleticism and hard work makes him one of the most dynamic players in the game. He did miss nine games in 2011 with hamstring issues but has been pretty durable for most of his career.
He is a strong route runner who can drop his hips to get in and out of his breaks with a good burst to separate. He does a good job of reading coverage on the move as he works his way into the open passing lanes against zone coverage. Johnson is strong to the ball when in a crowd and is a good open-field runner once he gets the ball in his hands. He has a very wide receiving radius that allows him to reach up to pluck the high ball or extend down to catch the low one without breaking stride.
4dEric D. Williams
4dMel Kiper Jr.