2013 Outlook: After two straight injury-frustrated seasons, Johnson put together a complete 16-game campaign in 2012, finishing second in the NFL in receiving yards and fourth in receptions. But because the Texans are so run-oriented in the red zone -- Matt Schaub often looks like a game manager and there aren't proven weapons opposite Johnson -- the big WR only managed four touchdowns. Yes, TDs can be fickle, and it wouldn't be a shock if the huge, immensely talented Johnson launched himself up into the nine-score range again in '13. But with Arian Foster around to convert so many short-yardage TDs, there's a pretty good chance that doesn't happen. That and Johnson's checkered injury past are reasons not to reach.
2013 Outlook: Newton's numbers decreased in '12, but he made progress. He was a better intermediate thrower, and made fewer passing mistakes. But if you're drafting the big guy to be your fantasy starter, you care less about his passing and more about those juicy rushing yards and TDs. You won't be disappointed. Now, Newton was actually more effective in the season's second half, when the Panthers deemphasized read-option runs. Yet Cam still was solid with his legs from Week 9 forward, averaging 7.7 fantasy points per game from rushing alone. And the great thing about Newton is he comes with fewer health worries than your typical running QB, because of his size. Without fail, he should deliver 600-plus rush yards and eight-plus rush TDs.
2013 Outlook: In fantasy football, it's our job to be open-minded. When a talented guy in a valuable role doesn't exactly fit the mold, we watch film to decide whether the nontraditional player is legit. Randall Cobb is legit. In fact, with Greg Jennings in Minnesota, we believe Cobb will be Aaron Rodgers' favorite target in 2013. He played 84.4 percent of his snaps out of the slot last year and will start there this season, but he'll also run quite a bit out of the Green Bay backfield. Simply put, the Packers need the ball in Cobb's hands. His skills compare favorable to Percy Harvin's. As Jordy Nelson and James Jones share outside looks, the middle of the field should be Cobb's.
2013 Outlook: One of these years, Run-DMC will make it through a season unscathed. It just shouldn't be on your dime, at least not if you have to spend an early-round pick. McFadden has never played more than 13 games in a season and missed nine contests in '11 and '12 combined. In addition, his production was utterly dreadful last year, as he averaged 3.3 yards per carry and scored three TDs. New offensive coordinator Greg Olson will scrap the Raiders' zone-read system and change back to a power scheme that's served McFadden well in the past, so there's hope. But Oakland may have the NFL's least-talented roster, and Run-DMC has long since used up the benefit of the doubt. He's not worth a heavy draft-day investment.
2013 Outlook: Neither injury nor diminished skills explain Fitzgerald's disastrous '12 season, in which he finished 21st in receptions and 35th in receiving yards among WRs. It was all about the QB. Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer combined for a 55.4 percent completion rate, 11 TD passes and 21 INTs. Drafting Fitz this season is a vote that new Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians can solve Arizona's signal-calling mess. Maybe Carson Palmer is the answer; we're not convinced his elbow ever recovered to pre-injury strength, but at least you can be sure he and Arians will combine to take shots. Anyway, we're buying low in Fitz: He's way too physically gifted and mentally tough not to bounce back.
2013 Outlook: It was pretty easy when Welker was in New England. You just penciled him in for 110 catches and 1,200 yards every year. But now he's in Denver, sharing the receiving spotlight with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, and things feel less certain. For sure, Peyton Manning loves to throw it to the slot; heck, he gave fading Brandon Stokley 57 targets there last year. But the Broncos' outside weapons are so dangerous. Can we really assume Welker will approach the 160-plus targets per season he routinely saw from Tom Brady? We downgraded Welker a bit from his Patriots days, and we'd draft Thomas ahead of him. But he's still a fantasy starter, and should continue to be a PPR monster.
2013 Outlook: Lacy is 231 pounds of backfield menace, with an elusiveness in the hole that belies his size. He may not be a burner, and durability questions are fair, but the Packers have clearly grabbed themselves a potential goal-line star. Unfortunately, they also grabbed Johnathan Franklin in April's draft, which could lead to a frustrating platoon. Lacy is our favorite in '13 because inside an opponent's 5 last year, Green Bay threw it 15 times and gave it to an RB only eight times. With a power back like Lacy around, that's sure to change, and short TDs should ensue.
2013 Outlook: Cruz consolidated his breakout season in 2011 with a not-quite-as-good '12, but he established his bona fides as an every-season fantasy threat. With Mario Manningham gone from Gotham and Hakeem Nicks battling a knee injury all year, Cruz was New York's only consistent WR threat. He had to shoulder more possession routes and fewer seam routes, and as a result his big plays diminished; Cruz went from a league-high 17 plays of 25-plus yards two years ago to 10 such plays in '12. He was actually on pace for a phenomenal campaign through seven weeks but ran out of gas as Eli Manning slumped. If Nicks can get healthy, Cruz's workload might drop a bit, but that might help his big-play numbers return.
2013 Outlook: Murray has missed nine of 32 NFL games with leg injuries. It's too early in his career to call him soft -- after all, his rookie campaign was cut short by a broken leg -- but the fact is that Murray arrived in Dallas with a collegiate reputation for missing time. When he's out there, Murray fills out the uniform impressively: At 227 pounds he can play the banging role but he's also nimble in space with very good hands. Sixteen games of starting work for Murray would likely result in a superstar season. Maybe his third year will be the charm.
2013 Outlook: As the seasons have gone by, Colston has slowed down. But the effects of his many leg injuries and his 30 years on planet Earth are lessened by the fact that he annually runs more than half his routes from the slot. This often makes him a glorified tight end in the Saints' offense, while the younger Jimmy Graham plays farther down the field. It works. Every year in which he hasn't missed significant playing time, Colston has finished between eighth and 18th among fantasy WRs. There's no reason that can't continue as long as Drew Brees is slinging it. While Colston's ceiling is lower than many of the WRs ranked around him, his week-to-week safety is worth a lot.
2013 Outlook: Last year, we badly underestimated what Wayne had left in the tank. He wound up third in the NFL in targets, fifth in catches and seventh in receiving yards as Andrew Luck proved ready to rock. But Wayne also fell off in December (in that month, he tied for 23rd in WR receptions) and ceded some production to deep threat T.Y. Hilton. And now Bruce Arians has left Indy, so play-calling duties will fall to Pep Hamilton, a devotee of the West Coast offense. We won't repeat our 2012 mistake and proclaim Wayne cooked. But it's a mistake to call him bulletproof at age 34. Expect a lesser season in '13, but expect enough production to keep Wayne steadily in your lineup.
2013 Outlook: Wallace is one of the NFL's fastest players but he isn't only a burner; in 2012, 64 of his 119 targets traveled 20 yards or less in the air. Now that he's signed with the Dolphins, his limitations involve questions about Ryan Tannehill, who had 12 TD passes and 13 INTs in his rookie campaign. The truth is, though, that Tannehill has a strong arm and Joe Philbin will take deep shots, meaning Wallace can win you a fantasy game in any given week. But he can also disappear, as is always the case on a team with a very young signal-caller and questionable supplemental aerial weapons like Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. Wallace will be a weekly feast-or-famine wideout in South Beach.
2013 Outlook: You might think the key to Ryan's leap forward last year was aggressive play calling. Wrong. In '12, he basically threw the same number of passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air as he did in '11. Was he more efficient throwing it deep? Maybe a bit. But the reason Ryan's production skyrocketed was a better short game. Coordinator Dirk Koetter brought diverse screen plays to Atlanta; on passes behind the line of scrimmage, the team had 66 more completions and 559 more yards than in '11. Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers and Julio Jones will be the beneficiaries of this high-efficiency work, and they should help keep Ryan among the NFL's yardage elites again in '13.
2013 Outlook: Sproles is the most dangerous receiving RB in the NFL: During his time in New Orleans, he's caught 5.6 passes for 47.5 yards per game with 14 receiving TDs, all easily NFL highs among RBs. An utter beast in PPR leagues, Sproles deserves to be well regarded in standard leagues, too, because no matter whether Mark Ingram or Pierre Thomas gets handed the rock, there's always a place in the game plan for Sproles' catches. In 18 of 28 games with the Saints, he's finished with double-digit fantasy points. That kind of week-to-week safety is tough to find among RBs. With Sean Payton returning in '13, Sproles will continue to be devastating in the passing game.
2013 Outlook: Kaepernick's physical tools are an unholy amalgam of Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, and when the 49ers unleashed the full power of their read-option attack in the playoffs, he was well-nigh unstoppable. Big-armed, accurate, athletic freaks who break 50-yard TD runs don't grow on trees. A couple drawbacks: We're not positive Jim Harbaugh will unshackle Kap's downfield ability, given the team's lack of a proven speed receiver, plus when a QB runs the chances for an injury increase. But Kaepernick started seven regular-season games last year, and his prorated stats would've been 3,675 pass yards, 544 rush yards, 23 pass TDs and five rush TDs. That would've made him fantasy's No. 9 QB, and he was just getting started. We're buying.