NFL fantasy 2012 WR health report (cont.)
Miles Austin -- Austin's relationship with Tony Romo is the key. Like Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, they're amazing when they're both healthy. Problem is, that's not enough. Austin's hamstring issues are longstanding, and the emergence of Dez Bryant puts an added bit of risk on top of the balky legs.
Dez Bryant -- Bryant was relatively healthy last season, but word that he's going to be returning punts this season worries me. It adds workload to a guy that's already going to be expected to get 75 targets. Given his history of physical issues, adding fatigue to the mix makes me drop him slightly on my board.
Hakeem Nicks -- Nicks' foot injury this offseason isn't the kind that worries me. He has just enough time to rehab it and be back out there. Maybe it gets Victor Cruz and the other WRs some more looks in camp, which could cost him a couple targets, but Nicks makes those back with the bigger role after Mario Manningham exited. Nicks does get dinged up, but he stays productive.
Victor Cruz -- Healthy
DeSean Jackson -- Jackson is much more durable than most think. Even his devastating concussion didn't cost him much time. He's smallish and doesn't get red zone looks, but that's really the only hole in his game. The quickness he has helps him mesh with a scrambling Michael Vick as well.
Jeremy Maclin -- Maclin is just a level of reliable durability away from being a top-level WR. He started last season late due to illness and finished with leg problems. He's already having some hamstring issues this preseason, so it looks like its the same Maclin. He won't be pushed by Riley Cooper, who's a different kind of WR, who's out with a broken collarbone.
Pierre Garcon -- Garcon had it good for most of his career in Indy and even last year he had Curtis Painter's first look. He's steady enough that he should mesh well with Robert Griffin III, though it will be curious to see if the smallish Garcon can get loose when Griffin scrambles. He's better suited as a WR2 and won't be able to take the Steve Smith role that helped Cam Newton so much.
Santana Moss -- Moss was terrible last year before a broken hand took him off the field. Some of it was the QB mess, but some was Moss playing heavy. He's more a slot receiver than a true WR2, but there are lots of options in this new offense. If you're high on Griffin, Moss is the upside play.
Brandon Marshall -- Marshall has been good in his career, but it always seems like he could be better. He's been relatively healthy and has a nice size/speed combo, but only occasionally turns that into mismatches. One scout told me that part of it is that Marshall runs upright, but tucks when he catches the ball. With a history of hip issues and a minor knee issue last season, Marshall's likely to lose a step.
Devin Hester -- Hester is as pure a speed player as exists in the NFL. The problem has been finding ways to use that speed on offense. His legs have stayed intact, which is a huge positive for this kind of player and at nearly 30, that's more than luck.
Calvin Johnson -- For as big and as good as "Megatron" is, he's never had a healthy season. He takes a lot of hits, especially when he posts up. His lower back requires constant maintenance, but at this stage, it's not a huge concern.
Titus Young -- Young is behind Nate Burleson on the depth chart but is the more explosive fantasy player. He's got crazy speed, but Matthew Stafford didn't target him deep very much last season. That should change this year. His size makes him risky, but the Lions don't send him across the middle. He's better served as a complementary WR, which works out well with Calvin Johnson on the other side.
Greg Jennings -- Jennings' knee injury that ended his season last year isn't so significant that it should affect him this year, but he's small enough that these sorts of things are building up. Jennings plays well, taking a lot of targets in Aaron Rodgers' aerial circus. Like with used cars, it's not the year, it's the mileage.
Jordy Nelson -- Healthy
Percy Harvin -- Harvin's history of migraines is one that will hang over him his entire career. There were discussions several times that Harvin had figured something out, and while he did play in all 16 games last year, he's not a guy you can put in your lineup on Friday afternoon with confidence. He had a cleanup procedure on his shoulder, but again, that's small potatoes. I'm caught between thinking Harvin's risk is underrated because of one healthy season and overrated because of his upside. It's one of those look in the mirror moments, but I don't have enough Prilosec to draft him.
Jerome Simpson -- Simpson will start the season with a three-game suspension, but the athletic WR should fit in well with an edge speed game. Harvin's availability and versatility make the WR2 more important in this offense. The suspension will hold down his ADP, making him a later-round steal candidate.
Roddy White -- White didn't lose targets, just deep chances. He's durable and more work underneath didn't seem to bother him since Tony Gonzalez takes the power hits (and a couple TDs.) White could be helped more by the new, more open offense, than Julio Jones.
Julio Jones -- Jones has the size and speed to be a WR1 almost anywhere, but in Atlanta he's a perfect WR2. He'll break deep a couple times a game and while he doesn't get red zone looks, he gets long TDs. He did wear down at the end of the season, but that's common for rookies. He's been healthy since high school.
Steve Smith -- Healthy
Brandon LaFell -- LaFell gets the WR2 job with David Gettis coming off ACL surgery. He's not exciting, but could be helped by improved line play. Cam Newton seldom had the pocket time to sit back and air one out.
Marques Colston -- Colston is dependable if not durable. It's a fine distinction, but with his history of knee problems, the fact that you can lock him in for 14 games is pretty good. He's got Drew Brees throwing to him, but he's not overworked because Brees has enough targets to go around. The knock is that he loses some red zone work to Jimmy Graham, who's an even bigger target, but that's the difference between being really good and great. Colston is really good.
Devery Henderson -- Henderson is Colston if he shrunk in the wash. He's dependable, a bit more durable, a bit less efficient, and shorter. He's the perfect WR2 in this system. He's behind Colston and Graham, as well as Darren Sproles in the grand scheme, but he's a lock to repeat his '11 numbers in large part because of his durability.
Vincent Jackson -- Aside from his contract problems in '10, Jackson's pretty durable. He's big, efficient, and aside from a couple mild muscle strains, he doesn't have much of an injury history. He shifts from Philip Rivers to Josh Freeman, but that's where you should base your decision, not on injuries. I could have just put "healthy" here and moved on, but the perception of Jackson holds his value down for some reason. Don't miss out.
Mike Williams -- Was Williams' vanishing act the fault of Freeman and the rest of the team, or did Williams contribute to Freeman's bad season? The answer is probably both. The true talent level is somewhere in the middle of '10 and '11's stat lines, but as a WR2, Williams could excel. He's been healthy in his first two years, which is a skill.
Larry Fitzgerald -- In the argument for who's the best WR in the league, Calvin Johnson has a case, but Fitzgerald does all the same things and is much more durable. With a real QB, Fitzgerald wouldn't need to argue.
Michael Floyd -- While Andre Roberts is ahead of him on the depth chart for now, the Cards didn't use a first round pick to watch him sit. He had no injury issues in college and has the size and speed to adjust to the NFL game well.
Brandon Gibson -- Gibson was one of the few healthy WRs that the Rams had by the end of the season. It made him a starter, but it didn't make him good or durable. There are a lot of options and a lot more work before this offense is good.
Danny Amendola -- Amendola was durable ... until a one-game season last season put that notion to rest. Let's assume that the dislocated elbow and associated damage was both flukish and healed up over the last year, putting Amendola back at his point of being a Wes Welker starter kit again.
Michael Crabtree - The Niners knew what they were getting when they drafted Crabtree. He's very talented, but a bit fragile. The latter has kept the former from becoming a star, but he's progressing. His fragility is slightly overstated, having played in 16 and 15 games the last two seasons. There's still upside here.
Mario Manningham -- Manningham's disappointing season was erased by that spectacular Super Bowl catch. It didn't erase the knee injury that held him back most of last season. He's a solid WR2 in this offense as long as you're projecting him based on production and not the memory of That Catch.
Randy Moss -- Moss hasn't been good since '09. Did a year off and a plan to spot him in bring him back to fantasy relevance? A lot of people will toss his name out in the late rounds because they remember that amazing Moss of '07. This is 2012, folks, but if there's any upside, it's that there's never been a significant injury problem for Moss.
Sidney Rice -- Rice got over his hip issues, only to have a severe shoulder injury and a pair of concussions. I think we can take "durable" out of the discussion. He's still option one for whoever gets the QB1 job, especially with Mike Williams struggling to return. Rice is a bad pick as a WR1, but not the worst WR3 at the right spot in a draft.
Doug Baldwin -- There's some depth here and it's needed, since Rice and Baldwin aren't the most durable WRs around. The addition of Terrell Owens takes them six deep, in theory, but Baldwin finds ways to get open. His size and lack of gamebreaking speed will limit him, but he's one of those guys that just gets open. That said, he has no margin for error, so injuries will hurt him more than most.