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Fantasy Football: Preliminary Wide Receiver Rankings

I’ll close the preliminary rankings for fantasy football with the wide receiver position. Fo previous rankings, you can see my Running Backs (part I and part II), Tight Ends and Quarterbacks.

My goal with this is to do a preliminary set of rankings based on my own projections, without reviewing others. Once the lockout ends and free agency concludes, I’ll look to tweak the rankings based on the additional clarity.

When it comes to receivers, this year’s rankings are as notable for who did not make my top 48. Randy Moss, Hines Ward, Donald Driver, and Terrell Owens did not even make the list, and Chad Ochocinco is holding down the final spot. Ward and Driver both fell off last year and are into the mid-30’s, an age when we rarely see a bounce back once the decline begins.

  1. Andre Johnson, Houston. He played with a bad ankle and missed 3 games in 2010, but still averaged the highest points per game among receivers.
  2. Roddy White, Atlanta. Don’t worry about the addition of Jones. Still one of the safest bets to get a high number of targets.
  3. Calvin Johnson, Detroit. He’s played with an unstable quarterback situation, and has still been among the best. Poised for a monster year.
  4. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants. Like Johnson, Nicks missed 3 games last year, but was 2nd highest in points per game. I was targeting him heavily last year, but he won’t come cheap in 2011.
  5. Greg Jennings, Green Bay. After a slow start in 2010, Jennings came on strong after the Finley injury. I expect him to continue that even with Finley back, with James Jones likely gone and Driver not getting younger. 
  6. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona. The horrible quarterback situation in Arizona sapped his value in 2010, and this is a placeholder spot that assumes they address the position in free agency or trade to give Fitz a competent arm in 2011.
  7. Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh. Sure, some of his value is wrapped up in big plays. He also emerged down the stretch as a star, and I see his usage continuing to develop.
  8. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis. Getting too old for me to put higher, but too good to put lower.
  9. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City. His monster year last year was partly due to huge games against bad teams. Competent defenses shut him down because of the lack of a #2 receiver, something the Chiefs hope Jonathan Baldwin can address. 
  10. Brandon Lloyd, Denver. Yes, his big year (#1 in fantasy points) came at age 29. The QB situation is still unsettled, but I don’t expect Lloyd to completely disappear.
  11. Vincent Jackson, San Diego. Jackson lost part of last year with the contract squabble, and had to work his way back in. I expect him to approach #1 WR numbers in 2011.
  12. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia. Maclin gets more catches (and played more games) DeSean gets more yards. Flip them in these rankings depending on how you value those.
  13. Santonio Holmes, New York Jets. I think Santonio is a better receiver than his numbers have shown so far, and with Edwards likely gone, I could see him emerging even more with a full season in NY.
  14. Miles Austin, Dallas. I had nothing to add here, so I looked up the miles from Austin to Dallas. It’s 195, in case you were wondering.
  15. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia. Bump him up if you get bonus points for special teams TD’s against the Giants.
  16. Mike Williams, Tampa Bay. Williams was a breakout as a rookie, but don’t assume that rookie receivers automatically build on it. I expect him to have a solid year, slightly fewer touchdowns and uptick in yards. 
  17. Percy Harvin, Minnesota. Rice is probably gone, and he could be targeted heavily by whoever starts at quarterback.
  18. Brandon Marshall, Miami. We are entering the crazy portion of the rankings.
  19. Marques Colston, New Orleans. Colston consistently churns out about 70 yards a game when healthy.
  20. Dez Bryant, Dallas. A bit of wildcard, I’m just not sure how the lack of Deion as a mentor will affect him.
  21. Wes Welker, New England. Welkah is crazy good at getting lots of short receptions.
  22. Steve Johnson, Buffalo. Another dude that’s just a little off. If he would have made that catch in overtime against Pittsburgh, the Steelers are not hosting the Championship game.
  23. Steve Smith, New York Giants. With Smith out, Manningham was a top 20 receiver. I expect Smith to get that production if he is healthy, something to monitor in the preseason, as he needs to be running at full speed in his recovery from last year’s knee cartilage issue soon after camp opens or he will plummet down the board.
  24. Sidney Rice, Minnesota*. Rice could be gone, so this is a placeholder spot pending where he lands.
  25. Austin Collie, Indianapolis. One of the most productive receivers when healthy, but the concussions were very worrisome.
  26. Anquan Boldin, Baltimore. Boldin was a little underwhelming in his first season in Baltimore, but his sensible choice of a wedding gift for Joe Flacco will likely lead to more production. Moss had a rebound year in 2010, but the QB situation is a concern.
  27. Santana Moss, Washington.
  28. A.J. Green, Cincinnati. Green likely moves into the #1 role with Owens and Ochocinco gone.
  29. Johnny Knox, Chicago. As of right now, the best option in Chicago for fantasy production, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see an addition.
  30. Kenny Britt, Tennessee. Plenty of risk here with potential legal problems and a rookie quarterback, but he’s talented.
  31. Steve Smith, Carolina*. I expect Smith to be somewhere else. He turned 32, and I don’t expect the #1 WR numbers from a few years ago, but could be a dangerous 2nd option with the right team.
  32. Mike Williams, Seattle. The other Mike Williams had a miraculous comeback year out of nowhere with his old college coach, and should still be the Seahawks leading receiver.
  33. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco. Crabtree has upside greater than this entering his 3rd year. He also can disappear at times and has been frustrating.
  34. Deion Branch, New England. Branch regained his old form after returning to the Patriots. They spread it around too much to be a better option, but he should be a solid flex start.
  35. Mike Thomas, Jacksonville. Sims-Walker is on the outs, and Thomas stands to be the beneficiary.
  36. Jacoby Ford, Oakland. Ford came on as a big play threat late last year as a rookie, and has speed to burn. With the Raiders’ running game, could be a good boom/bust play out of a flex option.
  37. Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis. Garcon’s value is entirely based on his quarterback and Collie’s health. He’s fairly mediocre.
  38. Malcolm Floyd, San Diego. Floyd may not be a sexy play, but plays in a good enough passing offense to warrant a roster spot.
  39. Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay. Benn was a non-factor as a rookie last year until late, but I think he emerges as a 2nd option for Josh Freeman this year.
  40. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay. I expect Jones to be gone and Nelson to be the 2nd most productive receiver on the team, and if that actually pans out, this may be a little low for Nelson.
  41. Mark Clayton, Saint Louis. Somebody from the Rams will emerge, and for now, I’ve got Clayton over Avery and Amendola.
  42. Braylon Edwards, New York Jets.* Edwards may not be back in New York.
  43. Lance Moore, New Orleans. Moore always seems to fly under the radar with the Saints, and whoever is starting for that team is an option.
  44. Robert Meachem, New Orleans. The Saints offense merits having 3 receivers in the top 48, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Meachem continued to improve on his numbers.
  45. Julio Jones, Atlanta. The rookie will start instead of Michael Jenkins, but this team will have to throw it a lot more to make Jones more than a flex option or reserve.
  46. Greg Little, Cleveland. The opportunity is there for Little to be this year’s Mike Williams.
  47. Derrick Mason, Baltimore. Normally, a receiver of Mason’s age would have trouble keeping up. But he can run 5 yard routes for Flacco.
  48. Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati. He’s played soccer and been thrown from a bull. He also probably done as a fantasy factor unless he goes to an elite passing team.

[photo via Getty]

 

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