Due to the rise of younger receivers in the league like Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, and Julio Jones, the “old men” like Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald get overshadowed. Johnson quietly put together a great 2012 in which he finished with the second most receiving yards (behind Calvin Johnson). The 32-year old is definitely past the improvement stage of his career, but he is still young enough to maintain his impressive numbers. The savvy veteran is very aware of his situation, and most likely realizes that Houston’s window to win a Super Bowl is closing as he and Matt Schaub grow older. The organization has done a great job bringing in young talent to supplement the veterans, and fans have to feel that anything less than a Super Bowl appearance for Houston next year would be a disappointment. If Johnson can stay healthy, I expect him to contribute everything he has this season. He has been around far too many losing teams in Houston to allow the most talented one to underperform.
Projected 2013 statistics: 1,500 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns
Reggie Wayne’s numbers last season were eerily similar to those of his 2010 season. The 2010 statistics came from Peyton Manning throwing him the ball, but last season’s accomplishments were with a rookie, Andrew Luck, running the offense. Although Wayne will turn 35 this season, he is playing with very young teammates who are poised for improvement. Andrew Luck will probably throw for more passing yards in 2013, and Wayne remains his favorite target. In 2012, the veteran finished with the seventh most receiving yards in the league. Even more impressive, Wayne finished with the second most targets in the league, displaying how much Andrew Luck relied on him throughout each game. Regardless of age, anytime you can grab the top receiver for a team with a proven quarterback, it’s a great draft selection. Wayne could easily be a top-five fantasy receiver in 2013 if Andrew Luck continues improving and the chemistry between the two players remains intact.
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Projected 2013 statistics: 1,350 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
Cecil Shorts was perhaps the most surprising receiver in 2012. Entering the year as a sophomore out of Division III Mount Union with just two career catches, the young receiver emerged seemingly out of nowhere to take the fantasy world by storm. Shorts overcame inconsistent quarterback play to amass 979 yards and 7 touchdowns for a team that desperately needed an offensive player to step up. I’m still not entirely sold on the idea of a Jacksonville receiver producing quality numbers in consecutive years, but I certainly can’t rule it out. Shorts is 25 years old, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert is just 23. With both players entering their third season, it is logical to believe they will show improvement in most (if not all) statistical categories. It is also logical to believe that any bright spot on the Jaguars won’t last long-term, because the organization has had trouble getting year-to-year production out of anyone not named Maurice Jones-Drew. Shorts absolutely looks to be a good fantasy option on paper, I just can’t shake the feeling that he’s another Mike Sims-Walker.
Projected 2013 statistics: 1,050 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
Britt’s career has been derailed by injuries and off-field issues. Despite all of the missed playing time through suspension and health concerns, Britt has been Tennessee’s most explosive playmaker outside of Chris Johnson in recent years. The receiver is just 24 years old, leading many to believe he could still break out if he participates in a full season. The 2011 season provides a perfect example of his productivity in limited time: 289 receiving yards with 3 touchdowns in just 3 games. Britt is entering the final year of his contract, and has more motivation than ever to prove that he can make a bigger name for himself on the field than off it. Assuming Jake Locker and the Tennessee offense improve in 2013, Britt has a legitimate chance to emerge as a top receiver, but this may be his final chance.
Projected 2013 statistics: 950 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Owen Daniels is your standard, reliable tight end. He’s 30 years old, so his numbers should be about the same as they have been the past few years. Expect about 45-50 yards per game out of him, along with a touchdown every three games or so. As I mentioned with Andre Johnson, I think the Houston veterans will all step up in 2013, recognizing that this is the best chance they will get in their careers to win a Super Bowl. Consistency is a hard thing to get out of tight ends in fantasy football, and although Daniels doesn’t offer a lot of upside, he won’t have the terrible zero or one fantasy-point games that other tight ends tend to accumulate. I wouldn’t recommend Daniels as a starter for fantasy, but there are certainly worse options, and he’s an extremely reliable backup.
Projected 2013 statistics: 750 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
This position is really for the top Colts tight end. Indianapolis selected both Allen (3rd round) and Coby Fleener (2nd round) in the 2012 draft to replace longtime Colts tight end Dallas Clark. Although many expected Fleener to be the primary tight end in the offense due to his established chemistry with Andrew Luck at Stanford, Allen seemed to outperform Fleener as the season progressed. Since Luck is a much better quarterback than both Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker, I expect the Colts primary tight end to finish ahead of any tight end from the Jaguars or Titans. The backup (probably Fleener) may even have a small chance to outperform one of the starters from either of the previously mentioned teams. Drafters should select Allen (primarily as a second option) and pass on Fleener, but closely monitor the statistics from both tight ends as the season progresses. Fleener could become an attractive free agent pickup if anything goes wrong for Allen.
Projected 2013 statistics: 600 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns
Marcedes Lewis is inconsistent. He may be even more frustrating to own than Vernon Davis. This is a guy who has now been in the league for seven full years and shows zero pattern from a year-to-year basis. In 2010, the tight end caught a league-high ten touchdowns. The other six years of his career? A combined eleven. Strangely, there is not much injury history to report with Lewis, just an ability to disappear in games, or even seasons. Jacksonville has spent their draft picks in recent years on their other holes in the offense, providing Lewis ultimate job stability. Now that the organization has addressed most of its other needs, Lewis is finally under pressure to perform. It would surprise nobody if the Jaguars acquired another tight end for 2014 if Lewis underperforms, so hopefully he can use this motivation to put together another year like 2010. If he plays like he did in any of his other seasons, he is a waste of time in fantasy, and will probably be replaced in real life.
Projected 2013 statistics: 550 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns
Coby Fleener of the Indianapolis Colts has a legitimate shot to finish with a better fantasy season than Delanie Walker. As I mentioned earlier, Fleener could wind up outperforming Dwayne Allen. Assuming Andrew Luck shows a preference between the two tight ends at some point in the season, Walker should be the fourth best tight end in the division. Walker was drafted as a sixth-round pick in 2006 by the San Francisco 49ers. This was also the year that the 49ers selected Vernon Davis sixth overall, forcing Walker into a bench role at best. In his seven years in the league, he has proven to be an extremely reliable second tight end option, and has shown signs of possessing the potential to start elsewhere. We’re still unsure of how Walker will handle the starting role, but he has proven enough in his time in San Francisco to instill confidence in the Titans to make him their primary tight end. That has to mean something, right?
Projected 2013 statistics: 550 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns