Ranking the 2012 Free Agents: Wide Receivers

| February 16, 2012

The real gem of this year’s Free Agency class is the Wide Receivers. Featuring our highest-graded WR’s from 2009 and 2010 to go along with a player who has been in the Top 5 two of the last three years, it’s easy to see why this group will generate some excitement as we approach the FA period.

Not all of these players will be allowed to hit the open market with the franchise tag likely for some and a restricted free agent tender for another. This doesn’t mean that other teams won’t take a long look at them to judge if they are worth the compensation.

From big play threats, to slot superstars, to solid veterans, this free agent class has it all. So, with that in mind, here are our Top 10 Free Agent Wide Receivers:

 

 

1) Wes Welker, New England Patriots

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 31

2011 Grade: +21.3

Key Stat: His 1,203 yards receiving from the slot trailed only Victor Cruz (by 5 yards) among 2011 WRs.

Behind the numbers: After the knee injury suffered at the end of the 2009 season, it was impressive just to see Welker back on the field in time for the start of 2010. It wasn’t his best year and despite catching 73.2% of his passes, he had just 905 receiving yards. Fast forward a year and you can’t help but marvel at what he accomplished. Welker finished the 2011 season with 1,737 yards including the playoffs and it’s not difficult to see why he’s our top free agent WR.

 

2) Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 26

2011 Grade: +8.2

Key Stat: 478 of his receiving yards came on passes of 20 yards or more.

Behind the numbers: Despite being a restricted free agent, Wallace deserves to draw interest from other teams after an impressive initial three years in the league. In 2009 and 2010, he proved himself to be one of the best deep threats around. In 2011, though, he showed himself to be more than just that and has emerged as a true No. 1. On 113 targets this season, Wallace dropped just four passes.

 

3) Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 29

2011 Grade: +5.0

Key Stat: Averaged 18.4 yards per catch, fifth in the league for WRs who played at least 50% of their teams snaps.

Behind the numbers: After playing in just five games in the 2010 season after a holdout, Jackson showed his top-flight ability once again in 2011. It’s worth noting that he was our highest-rated WR in 2009 and you can expect him to draw a lot of attention from a team looking for a big-play threat.

 

4) Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 27

2011 Grade: +10.5

Key Stat: Caught 62.3% of the passes thrown his way this season, his highest total since PFF began.

Behind the numbers: Despite his touchdown receptions dropping from 15 to five, Bowe had an impressive 2011. Catching a pass of 20 yards or more in 12 of 16 games this year, he showed that he can stretch the field and, in the right situation, could put up big numbers again in 2012.

 

5) Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 29

2011 Grade: +21.2

Key Stat: Ranked second among all WRs in our Drop Rate Signature Stat with a drop rate of 2.44.

Behind the numbers: Colston finished the 2011 season strong, registering at least 81 receiving yards per game from Week 14 through the Divisional Round playoff loss to San Francisco. Averaging 3.2 yards after the catch, he’s unlikely to catch a pass and race 50 yards down field. However, his success from the slot and his safe hands in 2011 will keep teams interested.

 

6) Brandon Lloyd, St Louis Rams

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 31

2011 Grade: +5.8

Key Stat: With a grade of +24.1, he was our top WR in 2010.

Behind the numbers: While his 2011 was nowhere near as prolific as 2010, Lloyd still managed 966 yards receiving despite a mid-season trade from Denver to St Louis. He had two of the best catches we saw all year and in a crowded free agent class, could prove to be a real bargain for somebody.

 

7) Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Bills

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 26

2011 Grade: +6.0

Key Stat: Lowered his dropped passes from 13 in 2010 to just 5 in 2011.

Behind the numbers: After just 10 yards receiving in 2009, Johnson made a name for himself with over 1,000 yards in both 2010 and 2011. For all the plays he did make, however, his season will likely be remembered for both a costly drop and penalty in the season finale against the New England Patriots.

 

8) DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 25

2011 Grade: -2.1

Key Stat: Had nine drops on just 95 targets in 2011.

Behind the numbers: Consistency is the biggest concern with Jackson, with 35 drops over the last four seasons. That will scare some teams away, however, his big play ability coupled with his success in the past as a punt returner will ensure he gets plenty of attention this offseason.

 

9) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 33

2011 Grade: +7.1

Key Stat: Tallied fewer than 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since 2003.

Behind the numbers: Wayne admitted that he found the 2011 season frustrating and it’s not hard to see why. He saw his targets drop from 172 and 173 in 2009 and 2010 respectively, to just 121 this season. While he saw his stats diminish, he dropped just two passes all season. Doesn’t have age on his side like Wallace, and didn’t have Welker’s productivity, but Wayne’s career body of work will make sure he garners interest this FA period.

 

10) Robert Meachem, New Orleans Saints

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 27

2011 Grade: +4.2

Key Stat: Averaged a touchdown every 10 receptions in the regular season.

Behind the numbers: You know exactly what you’re getting with Meachem, he had 47 catches in both 2010 and 2011 and 49 in 2009. He’s not likely to be a No. 1 receiver, but his consistency–he has just 11 drops over the last four seasons–mean he’s a perfect fit as a No. 3 on most teams in the league.

 

2012 Free Agent Tracker | PFF’s Top 50 Free Agents

 

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  • ivanross

    Glad to see Laurent Robinson is not on that list. Would like to see him stay in Dallas – he seems to click with Romo and you can’t count on Bryant and Austin to be around the whole season.

  • Tony Amendola

    I have yet to see Danny Amendola on anyones list. Though he has had an
    accident history, he’s hard working and I’m sure his aches and pains are history.