Fantasy Football: The NFL's 12 Best Wide Receivers

Ed GrayContributor INovember 7, 2011

Fantasy Football: The NFL's 12 Best Wide Receivers

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    Through Week 9 of NFL Football, these Wide Receivers have had the best starts in Fantasy Football: Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Larry Fitzgerald, Wes Welker, Steve Smith, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson, A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz.

    Let's take a look at why.

Calvin Johnson

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    No surprises here.  With Matthew Stafford at quarterback, Calvin Johnson is one of the NFL's most difficult to cover receivers.  

    With 11 touchdowns and 804 yards through eight games, Johnson could help lead the way for the first Lions' playoff appearance since 1999.

Greg Jennings

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    There's the crowded but dangerous Green Bay receiver corps...and then there's Greg Jennings.  

    Jennings remains the favorite target of Aaron Rodgers, who—if you haven't heard—is on pace to set several new passing records. Jennings could have another 12-touchdown season and may even catch a career-high 1,446 yards.

Mike Wallace

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    Despite the early season struggles for the Steelers, Mike Wallace may be having the best year of his still-early career.  

    Ben Roethlisberger has already targeted Wallace 64 times, and he's caught 47 of them for 868 yards in just eight games.  

    That puts him on pace to finish the season with an impressive 1,736 yards.

Larry Fitzgerald

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    Although Kevin Kolb has shattered the hopes of many Larry Fitzgerald fans, Fitzgerald continues to put up decent numbers most games.  Through eight, he's caught 38 passes for 646 yards and three touchdowns. That puts him on pace to finish with roughly the same fantasy value as 2010.  

    Since he's already been targeted 70 times, there's little reason to hope Kolb can connect with Fitzgerald more consistently to do any better.

Wes Welker

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    Tom Brady looks to have cooled off from his smoldering start to 2011, but Wes Welker remains one of the best wide receivers.  Welker caught nine passes for 136 yards against the Giants in Week 9.  

    Through eight games, he has six touchdowns and will continue to be the Patriots' most dangerous long-ball threat.  

Steve Smith

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    With Cam Newton on pace to shatter most passer records for a rookie Quarterback, Steve Smith has seen his season's outlook turn from washed-up to stellar.  

    Although Smith has scored only four touchdowns through eight games, his ridiculous average of 20 yards per catch for a total of 918 yards puts him among the NFL's elite.

Dwayne Bowe

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    The Chiefs have done an excellent job of turning around a season that possibly looked lost to injuries.  

    Although Dwayne Bowe hasn't scored in his last three games, you know he'll make up for it as one of the NFL's most dangerous red zone threats.

Brandon Marshall

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    Brandon Marshall is coming off a 106-yard game in which he scored against one of the best cornerbacks in the game.  

    Although he's been a disappointment for fantasy owners, who were hoping he would improve on last year's less-than-stellar 3 touchdown total, Marshall continues to average over 80 yards per game and is third in the NFL with 78 targets.  

    If he can stop dropping so many passes, especially in the red zone, he could finish the among the NFL's best.

Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz

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    Depending on who is on and off the merry-go-round receiver corps of the Giants, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are top fantasy starts.  

    They're both the kind of players one might think will miss at least a few games each season, but when they're playing, they see plenty of targets from Eli Manning in and out of the red zone.

Vincent Jackson

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    Even though Philip Rivers threw two pick-sixes against Green Bay in Week 9, he also connected with Vincent Jackson three times for touchdowns and a total of 141 yards. 

    Obviously you can't expect that kind of production every week, but with the often depleted Chargers' offense, Jackson can put up some big stats.

    Fantasy owners will be quick to forgive both Rivers and Jackson for their less than stellar starts to the season if they can produce anything like their game with Green Bay for the rest of the season.

A.J. Green

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    A.J. Green is one of those players who make it exciting to watch football, even when tied to the less than stellar offense of fellow rookie Andy Dalton.  If Green can find himself on a better offense, he could become the next Calvin Johnson, or else he may end up just the next Larry Fitzgerald.

    With just under 600 yards and five touchdowns through eight games, Green is already a great start in most fantasy formats.

Julio Jones

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    Julio Jones is the unwelcome upstart receiver for fans of Roddy White. The Falcons seem to have recovered from their unprepared start to the season, so if Jones can stay healthy, he could potentially contend with A.J. Green as the best receiving rookie of 2011.  

    With White's talent drawing opponents' best coverage, Jones is open to catch the clutch passes from Matt Ryan, who in Week 9 was able to connect with Jones for two touchdowns and 131 yards.