First thing first.  Sorry that this article is so late this week.  I was out of town away from a computer, so Thursday was the latest I could post it.  I’ll be back to the earlier schedule next week.

 

Second, we’re moving on to the top 20 wide receivers this week, but that leaves me in a bit of a quandary.  I’ve already said what I could say about wide receivers in the intro to my first article, so I really have very little that I can use in this intro.  So instead of fantasy advice, I’ll instead be giving a shameless plug.  So here it goes.  If you haven’t yet signed up for Spartan Nation’s FREE fantasy football league get on it, the spots are filling up fast.  To sign up email Hondo at SpartanNationMail@yahoo.com, and you’ll receive all the of the details regarding your league.  Who knows, you may even have the chance to show your stuff and try to beat me if you end up in one of the leagues I compete in.  Now that my shameless plug is over, lets get to the reason you actually opened this article:

 

1.  Andre Johnson, HOU: Many people seem to think that Johnson was a bust last season.  I fail to see how a player who had more than 1,200 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns is a bust, especially when you consider that he amassed these numbers in only 13 games.  If he had been healthy last season he would have been close to his 3rd straight 1,500 yard season.  Of course, injuries are always a concern with any player, but Johnson should be fully recovered from the ankle injuries that plagued him last season.  He’s clearly Matt Schaub’s favorite weapon, seeing on average more than 10 targets per week, and assuming he’s healthy that should translate into the best season by any receiver in fantasy football this season.

 

2.  Calvin Johnson, DET: I may be going out on a limb here, as most experts don’t seem to have the faith in Calvin Johnson that I do.  But I’m not concerned; I believe in the greatest physical specimen at WR in the NFL.  I’m banking this ranking on the health of two players:  Matt Stafford and Johnson himself.  Johnson didn’t actually miss any starts last season, but he did miss time within games because of lingering ankle issues.  If he can remain close to 100% all year, Megatron could actually eclipse Andre Johnson’s numbers.  As for Stafford’s health, that would be a bonus for Calvin.  He still produced like a beast last season with the less than stellar Lions backups throwing him the ball, but with Stafford he has the potential to be the best receiver in the game.  However, because I haven’t seen any indication that either will play every snap this season I have to rank him a step below the more consistent Andre Johnson.

 

3.  Greg Jennings, GB: This ranking is reflective of me banking on Jennings still remaining the big play threat for the Packers even after the return of Jermichael Finley.  Jennings had 8 games where he scored 14 points or more in standard scoring systems last season.  That kind of consistency is something any fantasy owner should strive for.  These stellar numbers were due in large part to his exceptional YAC (yards after the catch, for those fantasy newbies out there) numbers.  He averaged 5.7 yards after each catch last season, which means he’s going to get year nearly .6 extra points for you every time he catches the ball.  Over the course of a season that amounts to about 45 extra points each season for Jennings.  Not only that, but Jennings also finished as one of the top performers in yards at the point of the catch as well.  To put that into easier to understand terms it means this.  Jennings catches the ball a long way down the field, and then takes it a long way after that.  If you don’t want a player like that on your fantasy team, I genuinely can’t help you.

 

4.  Roddy White, ATL: Yes, I’m ranking him lower than most, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s an elite option at WR.  In truth, any of the first 4 players in this ranking have a legitimate claim to the number 1 fantasy ranking.  White’s main claim is that he is likely going to see more targets than any other receiver on this list.  White led the league in targets last season, and while some of his other numbers, like YAC, may not be at the level of other members of the top 4 receivers, his targets and sheer volume of receptions made up for that.  With Tony Gonzalez starting to slow down, and the Falcons’ next best receiving option being a rookie I fully expect White to become even more of a focus of the Atlanta offense this season.  One side note, if you are in a PPR league move White up to either number 1 or 2 in your rankings, his reception totals should dwarf most other players this season, giving him significant extra value in those leagues.

 

5.  Mike Wallace, PIT: Yup, I’m drinking the Wallace Kool-Aid.  He had great total numbers last season with 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.  The big item you should pay attention to is that Wallace had a great big play season with a 19.4 yards per catch average.  With enough receiving options to distract defenses away from Wallace I think his numbers will improve from their already stellar levels this season.  I expect him to be around 1,400 yards with around 12 touchdowns.  Now if he would just get rid of that ridiculous looking mohawk…

 

6.  Hakeem Nicks, NYG: Nicks had a great season last year while still flying under the radar of far too many fantasy owners.  In only 13 games he had 1,052 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.  If you extrapolate those numbers over a full season that would be about 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns.  I have a feeling that Nicks will stay healthy this season and should get to right around those numbers.  Of course, he did all of this while Eli Manning threw the ball away to the other team 25 times.  If Eli reduces his turnovers this season Nicks’s numbers could be even better.  He’s a guy you can probably snag in the second or 3rd round in most leagues and if everything falls into place could have 1st round level production.  He may be the best value number 1 receiver in fantasy football this season.

 

7.  Reggie Wayne, IND: I’ve seen several other fantasy experts ranking Wayne significantly lower than this, and I don’t get it.  Frankly, I’m afraid that I may be running the risk of underrating the guy.  He’s gone for over 1,000 yards each of the last 7 seasons.  So you know he’ll be a consistent producer of yardage for your fantasy team this season.  The downside is that who will be scoring touchdowns in the high power Colts’ offense is very difficult to predict.  In the last 4 years Wayne has followed up seasons with 10 touchdowns (2007 and 2009) with 6 touchdown seasons (2008 and 2010).  That’s the reason I have Wayne outside of the top five, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still expect big things from Reggie.  Look for him to be around 1,200 yards and anywhere between 8 and 14 touchdowns.  I know that’s a big range, but that’s what you deal with when you’re drafting a Colt receiver.

 

8.  Larry Fitzgerald, ARI: So will Kevin Kolb help Fitz’s production in 2011?  Ok, that’s a stupid question, because clearly there is no way Kolb could be worse than what the Cardinals were throwing out there last season.  So unless Kevin Kolb shows up to the game drunk, the Cardinals receivers will see quite a few more balls actually hit their hands this season.  That should mean big things for Fitz this year.  Look for him to get closer to the numbers he consistently had prior to Kurt Warner’s retirement, something along the lines of 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.  You may be able to get Fitzgerald as late as the 4th or 5th round depending on the value of receivers in your league, so he could be a great value for your team.

 

9.  Miles Austin, DAL: Austin is another guy you could get for great value this season.  Injury to Tony Romo derailed Austin’s season in 2010.   Not to say that more than 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns is a bad season, because it isn’t, but he could have been so much more.  Prior to Romo’s injury Austin was clearly the number 1 option in Dallas, but when Jon Kitna came in to replace the injured Romo, Austin’s value declined significantly.  Let’s look at it this way, prior to Romo’s injury in week 7 Austin had 3 games over 100 yards, with three of those games going for more than 140 yards.  After Romo went down Austin only managed 2 more 100 yard games, and had 5 games with fewer than 40 yards through the air.  With Romo healthy this season, expect a very big improvement from Austin in 2011.

 

10.  Dwayne Bowe, KC: Bowe finally appeared to put it all together last season after an extremely disappointing 2009.  I think that the Chiefs will continue to improve as a team this season and that will translate to another strong year for Bowe.  Of course, you do have to worry about whether or not he will stay mentally focused enough to repeat his outstanding performance, and of course you have to expect a slight step down from his outstanding 15 touchdowns last season.  Despite that Bowe is still worthy of being a number 1 receiver in fantasy, even if he’s not in the elite class just yet.

 

11.  Vincent Jackson, SD: V-Jax is a bit of a mystery.  He’s got all the talent in the world, but it’s very hard to figure out what such a long holdout from last season will do to his production this season.  Sure, he signed his franchise tender, so that may mean that all of his focus will finally be on punishing opposing defenses.  On the other hand, he spent so much time away from the field last season, and he doesn’t have a reputation for being the most mentally disciplined player in the league either on or off the field.  How these things will factor in to his numbers are anybody’s guess, but for my money I think he’ll be just fine.  I expect him to get around 1,200 yards and has the potential to get to double digit scores if he’s back to form.  Target him as one of the last number 1 receivers off the board on draft day.

 

12.  DeSean Jackson, PHI: Jackson is an outstanding big play receiver.  Case in point, he put up some very good fantasy numbers on a paltry 47 catches.  To put that in perspective, he averaged 22.5 yards per catch last season.  The problem with Jackson is that with his small frame he isn’t a particularly appealing red zone option.  He’s your typical “boom or bust” type of player, so he could easily follow a 21 point week with a 1 point week as he did in weeks 3 and 4 in 2010.  He’s not as great an option in PPR leagues, or for owners who don’t have other more reliable options at other positions.  He’s a good number 1 option though if you’ve already filled at least both RB positions and your QB.  However, he has some overinflated name value, so he probably will get drafted too soon.  Don’t reach on Jackson unless you feel very comfortable at your other positions.

 

13.  Mike Williams, TB: This is the type of guy I’d love to draft as my second WR.  Williams had a somewhat of a surprising season last year, and as he continues to grow more comfortable with Josh Freeman I expect him to only get better.  Williams has the potential to produce like a number 1 receiver, and can probably be had as one of the later number 2 receivers off the board.  If you can snag Williams as late as the 6th round jump on it, because I expect him to take a significant step forward next season.

 

14.  Jeremy Maclin, PHI: Maclin’s mystery illness almost scared me away from ranking him this high.  He supposedly has a clean bill of health, so I’d say you can cautiously draft him as your number 2 receiver.  He’s one heck of a red zone threat as he can use his 200 pound frame to muscle away defenders in the end zone.  However, he’s still probably the second option on his team between the 20s, so that hurts his fantasy value.  Expect Maclin to put up very respectable, but unspectacular, yardage numbers and score at least 10 times, like he did in 2010.

 

15.  Wes Welker, NE: Yup, I’m ranking him this high.  Tom Brady is clearly very comfortable throwing to Welker, and with Chad Ochocinco distracting defenses I expect Welker to have ridiculous reception numbers (making him a PPR beast) and improve upon both his yardage numbers.  With defenses paying attention to Ochocinco it should open up some space a little further down the field for Welker to exploit with his precise routes and great hands.  He’ll never be a big play guy, but if you’re looking for steady production at your number 2 receiver, Welker is your guy.

 

16.  Marques Colston, NO: The Saints spread the ball around, plain and simple.  And even though Colston is the best option the Saints have, it hurts his value significantly.  However, he still gets plenty of red zone targets so that should increase his fantasy value.  He’s a solid number 2 option for any team, but don’t expect to be blown away by his numbers unless at least 1 or 2 of the Saints other receivers go down with injury.  If that does happen, Colston once again becomes a number 1 fantasy option.  Clearly that’s not a likely proposition, so target him in the middle rounds in your fantasy draft.

 

17.  Santonio Holmes, NYJ: I really think he has the ability to be a fantasy number 1, but he also has Mark Sanchez as his quarterback.  Anybody who has read my previous articles understands my problems with Sanchez, and his desire to zone in on one receiver at all times.  Luckily for owners of Holmes, that guy is usually Santonio.  If Sanchez takes a step forward this year Holmes’s numbers should improve.  Problem is, I just don’t see there being that much improvement by Sanchez.  Expect Holmes to have similar numbers to last season (playing all 16 games this time around) for about 1,000 yards receiving and 8 or 9 scores.

 

18.  Brandon Marshall, MIA: I actually like Marshall a lot than most.  He’s a guy who has the ability to be a number 1, but he’s in an offense that doesn’t mesh with his skills, and is dealing with a pathetic quarterback situation.  What I like about Marshall is that he should come very cheap this season.  Most fantasy owners will look at his terrible 3 touchdowns last season and be freaked out.  I think that number is an aberration though.  I think his yardage numbers should stay about the same, just over 1,000 yards, and his touchdowns should improve to anywhere from 7 to 9 scores.  Nothing spectacular, but certainly worthy of a second slot on your fantasy team.

 

19.  Percy Harvin, MIN: Will Harvin’s migraines be back in full force?  If so, he’s going to be a headache for you all season.  Pun very much intended.  Harvin has a ton of potential as he has the ability to make people miss, and could be a great producer of yards after the catch.  However, his small frame makes him much less of a downfield target, and count me in the category of those who aren’t sold on Donovan McNabb being effective in Minnesota.  So with a lack of downfield ability and an again placeholder at quarterback you should temper your expectations of Harvin.  And make sure that if you draft him you know that you may be waiting until game time each week to see if he’s starting or not.  So to put it simply, if you aren’t a very active fantasy owner, he’s not your guy.

 

20.  Dez Bryant, DAL: You can count me in the group that isn’t buying the hype….yet.  I really want to see what he can do for a full season before I recommend him as a number 1 WR like many fantasy experts are doing.  He’s got all the physical tools, but with so many off-field and other mental concerns I don’t feel safe enough recommending drafting him anywhere before the middle rounds.  He has the potential to be a 1,200 yard double digit scores type of guy, but I have a feeling that until he gets his head screwed on straight he won’t be able to fulfill that potential.  Look for him to be around 1,000 yards and 7 scores.

 

DEEP SLEEPERS

Randy Moss, Nobody I guess….

I’m in the group that thinks he isn’t done yet.  If he’s available to be drafted in your league he may be worth a last round flyer.  Think of it this way, if you spend your 15th round pick on Moss and he really is retired, you can just cut him when you need another player.  But if he does come back and is back in his 2007 form as many of those close to Randy were claiming he could win you a championship.  It’s a low risk, high reward type of pick.  You can’t complain about that.

 

Jacoby Ford, OAK

He’s basically a DeSean Jackson clone.  Now, I don’t think he’s as good as Jackson, but if he can even come close to that kind of production he’s worth a late round flyer.  He runs a 4.28 40 yard dash, and that means if he can run away from just about anybody in the league.  He has the potential to be a major surprise this season, and at the very least should have 2 or 3 big games with that kind of speed.

 

 

That’s it for this week folks.  I’ll be back next week with the running back rankings.  And remember to follow me on twitter, my name is @lehmanna36.  Once the season starts I’ll be tweeting regularly with insight, advice, and sarcastic humor every Sunday.