Fantasy Football 2011: Ranking the Best Wide Receivers Available

Zach MentzContributor IIIAugust 11, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011: Ranking the Best Wide Receivers Available

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    It's that time of year again.

    The month of August is in full swing, the NFL Lockout has been over for a few weeks now, and when you can start to smell that Autumn weather outside, you know that one thing is for certain—football season is right around the corner.

    The start of football season also brings with it something else that is greatfantasy football. If you're a football fan/nerd, the odds are that you're one of the millions of Americans that play fantasy football.

    Just like actual football, the goal of fantasy football is simple: to win. If you're reading this right now, the odds are that you're preparing for an upcoming fantasy football draft and don't want to be the laughingstock of your league this year.

    Therefore, in order to help you better prepare for your draft, here is my list of the top 10 available wide receivers for you to select in your draft this year.

Wide Receiver No. 10: Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    2010 Stats: 60 catches/1,257 yards/10 touchdowns

    Wallace really exploded on to the scene last year and proved himself to be quite the playmaker for the Steelers last season.

    Wallace only caught 60 passes last year and was only targeted 100 times, but it's safe to say that when he had the ball in his possession, he made the most of it as he averaged 21 yards per catch.

    As you may have expected, he also led the league in receptions of 20-plus yards, proving that the third-year man from Mississippi is certainly a difference maker.

Wide Receiver No. 9: Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants

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    2010 Stats: 79 catches/1,052 yards/11 touchdowns

    There's no denying it, Hakeem Nicks as an absolute physical freak. Even better for Giants fans, he translates that athleticism into production on the field, leaving him in the talk for one of the best receivers in the NFL.

    With a solid quarterback in Eli Manning to get the ball to him, there's no reason that Nicks shouldn't have another stellar season for the Big Blue. Nick proved last season that he can be the No. 1 guy not only on the Giants, but on a fantasy football team as well as his consistency is perhaps the most impressive part about him.

    Week in and week out, Nicks is almost a guarantee to haul in big catches and provide big points for your fantasy football team.

Wide Receiver No. 8: DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

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    2010 Stats: 47 catches/1,056 yards/six touchdowns

    Jackson is arguably the most explosive wide receiver in the NFL, if not the most explosive player of any position. Jackson's combination of speed and quickness is what makes him such a threat to opposing defenses.

    Jackson didn't put up jaw dropping statistics last season, but there's one thing about Jackson that makes him as dangerous as any receiver—he can score on any given play.

    He only played in 14 games last season, but with a healthy season in 2011, Jackson should be able to put together quite the impressive season for his highly touted Eagles.

Wide Receiver No. 7: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

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    2010 Stats: 77 catches/1,120 yards/12 touchdowns

    It's common knowledge that Calvin Johnson is one of the most physically-gifted athletes to ever play in the NFL, as he has an uncommon combination of size, speed, strength and agility. Johnson can beat you on a quick slant with his quickness, or he can beat you over the top on a jump ball with his size and strength.

    Bottom line: Johnson is a problem for any cornerback to defend.

    Since being drafted by Detroit, Johnson has never had a truly dependable quarterback to consistently feed him the ball. Fortunately for Johnson and Lions fans everywhere, Matthew Stafford has shown signs that he might just be "the guy" in Detroit. The only question, however, is whether or not Stafford can stay healthy for a full season—something he's had trouble doing.

    If Stafford can stay healthy and the Lions can make a playoff push like many experts are predicting, then you can bet Calvin Johnson will have more than a successful 2011 season.

Wide Receiver No. 6: Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers

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    2010 Stats: 76 catches/1,265 yards/12 touchdowns

    Greg Jennings is a stud, and he's in a great situation in Green Bay to keep producing big numbers at the wide receiver position for a long time. With Aaron Rodgers behind center, fantasy owners can rest assure that Rodgers won't ever forget to throw the ball Jennings' way.

    Both Rodgers and Jennings are beneficiaries of each other, and without one another, it's likely that they would not be quite as successful. Even despite having other solid receivers on offense (Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley), Rodgers knows that Jennings is his go-to guy, and Jennings's numbers for this upcoming season should reflect that.

Wide Receiver No. 5: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs

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    2010 Stats: 72 catches/1,162 yards/15 touchdowns

    Prior to last season, the former LSU receiver had always been looked at as a player with real talent but just couldn't seem to put it all together to translate to success.

    Luckily, last season was Bowe's real breakout season as he led the league in touchdown receptions (15) and gave Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell a true No. 1 wideout. Bowe's name won't be the first mentioned when discussing the NFL's best receivers, but he's slowly making his mark on the league.

    Chiefs coach Todd Haley is a big reason that Bowe had as much success as he did last season, as Haley is known across the league as an offensive specialist—particularly in the passing game.

    Bowe should have another great 2011 season and should leave his fantasy owners smiling each Sunday.

Wide Receiver No. 4: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

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    2010 Stats: 90 catches/1,137 yards/six touchdowns

    You want to know how good Larry Fitzgerald is? Look above at his stats last season.

    Now consider this: last season was considered a down year for Fitz. Yeah, he's that good. Despite having a carousel at the quarterback position last year with less than solid NFL quarterbacks (Derek Anderson, John Skelton), Fitz still had an above-average year by the leagues standards.

    With the newly-acquired Kevin Kolb set to be the Cardinals starting QB this year, Fitzgerald's numbers should do nothing but improve.

    Kolb isn't exactly Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but he's a passer equipped with a big arm who will be more than ready to throw the ball Fitzgerald's way (174 passed thrown his way last year— tied for second most in NFL). Things should be on the upswing not only for the Cardinals as a whole, but for Larry Fitzgerald's stats too.

Wide Receiver No. 3: Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

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    2010 Stats: 111 catches/1,355 yards/six touchdowns

    Reggie Wayne is one of the best receivers in the NFL. To go along with it, he has Peyton Manning as his quarterback. Not too shabby, if you ask me.

    Wayne is without a doubt Manning's go-to-guy, and his 111 catches last season are evidence of that. The only question mark about having Wayne this high on my list was similar to the problem that Calvin Johnson has—a banged up quarterback.

    Manning is recovering from offseason neck surgery, but all signs point to him being ready for the Colts regular season opener. No matter who his quarterback is, Wayne is going to put up impressive numbers.

    Having Peyton Manning throwing to him is only icing on the cake, so look out for Wayne to (again) be among the leading receivers in the NFL.

Wide Receiver No. 2: Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

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    2010 Stats: 115 catches/1,389 yards/10 touchdowns

    Roddy White led the NFL in two different statistical categories last season: receptions (115) and passes thrown at him (174). What does that mean?

    It means that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan loves throwing to Roddy White just as much as White loves being thrown to. Then again, what wide receiver doesn't like being thrown to? White has proven in recent seasons that he's a force to be reckoned with on the outside, and he's a big reason that the Falcons and their fans have such high expectations for this upcoming season.

    Personally, I think Matt Ryan will have a breakout season this year as a passer, and he can only do that with the help of his top receiver, so be sure to draft Roddy White if you get the chanceyou won't regret it.

Wide Receiver No. 1: Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

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    2010 Stats: 86 catches/1,216 yards/eight touchdowns

    Does anything even really need to be said here about Andre Johnson? Despite having what would be a career year for most players last season, Johnson and his peers both know that he is capable of putting of bigger statistics.

    Johnson led receivers with 93.5 yards per game last year, proving that not only will he put up big numbers for your fantasy football teamhe'll also do it on a consistent basis. With Matt Schaub (quite the fantasy player in his own right) at quarterback, Johnson should be primed for another big year.

Sleeper Pick: Percy Harvin

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    Harvin has struggled to make that leap to the next level of great receivers due to being sidelined in the past with migraines, but I believe this is the year he finally makes that leap.

    With veteran Donovan McNabb at quarterback, Harvin has a solid passer to get him the ball, and from there, he should be able to exploit defenses with his quickness and speed that often makes defenders have migraines of their own after defending him.

    If McNabb and Harvin can get a consistent rhythm, the two of them will do nothing but benefit from each other.

Don't Forget About...

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    Wes Welker and Chad Ochocinco: Welker always seems to get lost in the mix during fantasy drafts, but he's proven year in and year out that he not only gets a ton of catches each year (86 in 2010), but he also does his fair share of scoring as well (seven touchdowns in 2010).

    Ochocinco, the newly-acquired Patriot, could do exactly what Randy Moss did in his first season with Tom Brady—dominate. Ochocinco has always been a talented receiver, and now, he has the best quarterback in the league throwing his way—look out.

    Brandon Marshall: Despite a disappointing 2010 season in Miami (only three TDs), Marshall is still one of the most physically-gifted receivers in the league. Reports around the league indicate that Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne has shown signs that he's ready to take this team over, and if Marshall can find consistency in his quarterback play, he should be back to posting monster numbers again.