2011 NFL Playoffs: Ranking the Top 35 Fantasy Wide Receivers
Playing fantasy football during the NFL playoffs might be a new concept to some, but speaking as a person who plays in a separate league for the playoffs, let me tell you—it’s a blast. In fact, it can often times be more dramatic and exciting than playing in the regular season as you find yourself truly cheering for teams along with your individual players.
Playoff fantasy football can be an thrilling way to shorten the already prolonged offseason if you’re one of the millions who is addicted to fantasy football.
In the league I play in, we will draft a team that must consist of each of the following:
- 1 Quarterback
- 2 Running Backs
- 3 Wide Receivers
- 1 Tight End
- 1 Kicker
- 1 Defense / Special Teams Unit
If you have filled up your roster with each of these, you are free to draft six more players at any position. This often means that some teams have two quarterbacks, two or more kickers or defenses, etc.
The scoring system is simple: total points on your fantasy roster throughout the entirety of the playoffs.
This means that you do not set a “starting lineup” each week. Every player on your roster is automatically in your lineup until his team is eliminated from the playoffs.
(Note: Because kickers and defenses are almost guaranteed to accrue at least some points in every game, they are often selected earlier in the playoff system than they would be in your standard preseason fantasy draft.)
With a limited talent pool in the playoffs, this means that selecting players who you believe will be on a team that will make it the furthest in the playoffs is of the utmost importance.
It also can mean slightly downgrading players on teams that have a first round bye as they will have one less opportunity to gain points than the players on teams that do play in the Wild Card round.
With the basics out of the way, let’s move on to ranking the wide receivers for this season’s playoffs!
35. Ruvell Martin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Former Packers wide receiver Ruvell Martin caught three passes for a team-high 85 yards in the Seahawks’ division-sealing win over the St. Louis Rams. It was only the second game in which Martin has caught a pass this season.
While Martin’s stat line is weak on the year, his work with backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst may be noteworthy for the playoffs. The two of them worked extensively in practice and Whitehurst has shown that he is very comfortable throwing to him when the two of them are in the game together.
Whitehurst isn’t expected to be the team’s starter for the playoffs, but he may be if Hasselbeck isn’t healthy enough to go.
34. Jerricho Cotchery, WR, New York Jets
The preseason assumptions that Santonio Holmes would replace Jerricho Cotchery in the Jets offense this season were right. Cotchery had over 800 yards receiving in four straight seasons going into 2010, but that number fell to just 433 yards this season.
While the drop off is certainly disappointing, it wasn’t overly surprising. However, he can still be of some value in the playoffs. He remains the team’s best possession receiver, and that could be needed in the playoffs, as Mark Sanchez may need to check the ball down more often against better defenses.
33. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh has to be considered one of the more disappointing acquisitions any team made this past offseason. Considered one of the best possession receivers in the league just two seasons ago, Houshmandzadeh caught only 30 passes in 2010 with only three touchdowns.
Houshmandzadeh is mostly an option for those who believe that the Ravens are going to make a Super Bowl run, thus giving him numerous opportunities to get into the end zone or at least rack up a few points in each game.
32. Ben Obomanu, WR, Seattle Seahawks
It’s hard to get too excited about a guy who hasn’t had more than four fantasy points since Week 12 on a team that is expected to be bounced from the playoffs in their first game, but Ben Obomanu is the second-best fantasy receiver on the team.
If the Seahawks do somehow make it past the Saints, Obomanu could do some damage against the Bears or Falcons.
31. Brad Smith, WR, New York Jets
He has only four receptions on the year, but Brad Smith is listed as a wide receiver and has been taking enough wildcat snaps to make him a potentially sneaky fantasy play.
If you’re in a league that awards points for returns, Smith gets bonus points as he has returned two this season and is among the league’s best return men.
30. Brandon Tate, WR, New England Patriots
Rookie wide receiver Brandon Tate has shown the kind of explosiveness this season that made him a third round pick in the NFL draft. Tate caught three touchdown passes this season, including two 40-plus yarders. He also added two return touchdowns.
While he remains primarily a deep threat receiver now that Deion Branch is on the roster, Tate has the potential to break loose for a long touchdown at any time, especially in this high-powered Patriots offense.
29. Jason Avant, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Jason Avant quietly finished second on the Eagles in receptions behind only Jeremy Maclin. His 51 receptions marked a career high for the receiver and his value only increases if DeSean Jackson has to continue nursing this foot injury.
Avant only went without a reception one time this season, so he is close to a lock to at least put up some points in every game the Eagles play.
28. Devin Hester, WR, Chicago Bears
Once considered simply a returner, Devin Hester has been getting better as a receiver and ended up finishing second among the Bears receivers in fantasy points this season.
While he isn’t a good enough receiver alone to make him a great fantasy option, his amazing return ability is actually worth consideration for fantasy purposes.
27. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
With only four receptions in the first half of the season, few expected that Emmanuel Sanders would play an important role in the playoff chase for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it happened.
Sanders caught 24 passes from Week 10 on and established himself as the third receiver on the team. Pittsburgh is not the best passing attack, but Sanders seems to be gaining the confidence of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
26. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
The fourth receiver in a very potent passing attack, Jordy Nelson is still a relevant fantasy option going into the playoffs. His 43 receptions for 543 yards and two touchdowns are an impressive number for a player in his position.
Nelson is only two weeks past his 124-yard, one touchdown performance against the Giants, and while he has caught two or less passes in five of the other six games to end the year, he is still an active part of what might be the league’s best passing game.
25. Mike Williams, WR, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks came right out and said it in Week 17—we’re going to try to pass to Mike Williams every time he’s in single coverage. Unfortunately the Rams defense knew it as well and were able to hold him to just three catches for 16 yards.
While one of those catches went for a touchdown, it was only Williams’ second of the year and he faces a very tough New Orleans Saints defense in the Wild Card week that ranks best in the league at shutting down opposing wide receivers.
Defenses know that Williams is the Seahawks’ favorite weapon and when they slide coverage his way, he becomes practically non-existent.
The best bet he has for fantasy points is for the Seahawks to pull an upset over the Saints and make it to round two, where they will face the Bears or Falcons, who are both much more susceptible to the pass than the Saints have been.
24. Blair White, WR, Indianapolis Colts
He’s fourth on the team’s pecking order for receivers, even behind tight end Jacob Tamme, but rookie wide receiver Blaire White has made a name for himself this season by catching 32 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns.
White has stepped in nicely for Austin Collie, who is now on IR, and has turned in five or more fantasy points in five of his last seven games, including four touchdowns during that span.
He’s not a star, but Manning does look his way enough to warrant some fantasy consideration.
23. Earl Bennett, WR, Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears receiver Earl Bennett finished second on the team with 46 receptions for 561 yards and three touchdowns.
Bennett hasn’t had many big point totals this season, but his low points have recently become much fewer and further between than they were in the first half of the season.
22. Michael Jenkins, WR, Atlanta Falcons
After missing the first five games of the season, Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins appears to be at least establishing himself as a respectable number two option to Pro Bowler Roddy White.
Jenkins has caught three or more passes in nine of his 11 games this season and finished second among the Falcons receivers in receptions, yardage and targets.
21. Donald Driver, WR, Green Bay Packers
Donald Driver seems to have been surpassed by James Jones as the Packers’ second receiver, but he still plays a vital role in this offense—enough that he should be able to do some damage against the Eagles and maybe further into the playoffs than that.
Driver scored one of his four touchdowns on the year against Philadelphia in the first matchup these teams had.
20. Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans Saints
Given the suddenly questionable status of Marques Colston’s knee, Robert Meachem has to be considered the odds-on favorite to step in and replace him if he is unable to go this in the Wild Card round and even into the later rounds.
Meachem torched the Seahawks for two touchdowns in the previous meeting between these teams and could be a huge fantasy asset if Colston is unable to play.
19. Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Hines Ward has been held with five or less fantasy points in seven of the last 10 games of the season.
He did also put up two of his four 100-yard games of the season during that span, but the major concern is that the Steelers are beginning to work him out of the offense while working in Emmanuel Sanders.
Even still, Ward’s 54 receptions on 88 targets were second on the team only to Mike Wallace who had a breakout season.
18. James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers
With defenses focused on stopping the big play from Greg Jennings, wide receiver James Jones quietly sneaked into the first 50-reception season of his career.
He has been inconsistent throughout the year, but the Packers will need to keep passing the ball in the playoffs if they hope to keep up with the Eagles in the first round and make it out of the first round.
17. Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Things started off very strong this season for new Ravens acquisition Anquan Boldin, who was coming to the team after a strong start to his career in Arizona. Boldin caught 40 passes over the first nine games of the season, including five touchdowns.
Things have since collapsed since then, though, as Boldin caught only 24 passes over the remaining seven games, with only two touchdowns.
The final quarter of the season was by far the worst for Boldin, as he had a total of only five fantasy points over the final four games of the season combined.
16. Johnny Knox, WR, Chicago Bears
Bears leading receiver Johnny Knox came within 40 yards of reaching the 1,000-yard receiving plateau for the first time in his young career.
With nothing to play for in the final game of the year and facing one of the league’s best cornerbacks in Charles Woodson, Knox was held without a catch in the season finale, but he should still be the team’s top receiver in the playoffs.
15. Braylon Edwards, WR, New York Jets
One of the league’s most physically gifted receivers, Braylon Edwards’ worst enemy has always been himself. Whether it has been dropped passes or attitude problems, Edwards remains a very streaky player who is capable of having a huge game or dropping a goose egg at any time.
He did lead the Jets in every receiving category on the year, but Santonio Holmes was very close in all of them despite playing in four fewer games.
14. Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints
After a disappointing 2009 season, Lance Moore returned to fantasy relevance in 2010. Moore caught 66 passes for 763 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. Moore caught multiple passes in 14 of the 16 games this season and is a trusted possession receiver for quarterback Drew Brees.
Moore only broke 80 yards once on the year, but his PPR value is high especially if Marques Colston is unavailable for the playoffs. If that happens, expect Moore to take over as the Saints’ leading receiver and potentially move into the top 10.
13. Deion Branch, WR, New England Patriots
It didn’t take long for New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch to reacquaint himself with quarterback Tom Brady.
While he only had four double-digit fantasy games this season, Branch was an active member of the Patriots wide receiver group all year and will be targeted by Tom Brady regularly.
12. Derrick Mason, WR, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens brought in two high-profile wide receivers in T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Anquan Boldin this offseason, but it was veteran Derrick Mason who they trusted the most down the stretch.
After a slow start to the season, Mason finished with six double-digit fantasy games in his last 11 games, including two of them against the AFC and NFC’s top seeded teams, the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.
While Mason isn’t the sexy pick for big fantasy points, he is certainly capable of doing it.
11. Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
Santonio Holmes missed the first four games of the 2010 season with a suspension but impressed his new team by catching 52 passes for 746 yards and six touchdowns on the year.
All six of the touchdowns were caught in the final eight games of the season, including one in each of the final two weeks.
Mark Sanchez targeted Holmes nearly as many times as he did Edwards on the year, despite Holmes playing in four fewer games.
10. Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
While Wes Welker failed to reach 100 receptions for a fourth straight season, his 86 receptions were still good enough to lead the Patriots and put him in the top 10 in the league yet again.
Welker has not caught a touchdown pass since Week 13, but he remains Tom Brady’s most trusted receiver, even down in the red zone where his quick, accurate route-running makes him a defense’s nightmare.
He only had one 100-yard game this season so his upside is somewhat limited, but he may be only behind Roddy White in terms of consistency.
9. Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints
There really aren’t any receivers in New Orleans that could be considered consistent, but certainly Marques Colston fits that description more than any of the others.
Colston was the Saints’ leading receiver for the fourth time in his five-year NFL career. He looked good in the playoffs in 2009, as the Saints went on to win the Super Bowl.
The big question at the moment is the status of the knee that kept Colston inactive in Week 17. He had arthroscopic surgery early last week, and there is no word yet on when he will be back.
With an excellent matchup against the Seahawks in the Wild Card round, Colston could be a valuable fantasy asset if he is able to play.
8. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
What a season it was for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Bowe made everyone around him better, including quarterback Matt Cassel, who was drawing a lot of criticism from fans after a lackluster 2009 season.
Bowe led the entire league in fantasy points for wide receivers while catching an impressive 15 touchdowns and going over the 1,000-yard plateau for the second time in his four-year NFL career.
7. Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts
It took a late-season breakout, but Pierre Garcon is really making a push to be one of the top fantasy players for the playoffs this season and perhaps the regular season next year.
Garcon has five touchdowns over the past five weeks, and even though he hasn’t cracked the 100-yard plateau since Week 6, he is one of the better fantasy options for the playoffs.
6. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
While it’s DeSean Jackson who gets the attention of the media and most defenses, it has been Jeremy Maclin who has been the most consistent receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Surprising to most casual fans, Maclin finished with only three fewer fantasy points than Jackson on the year and actually had four more receiving touchdowns.
While Maclin doesn’t carry the same name value that Jackson does, he can put up nearly identical fantasy points and is actually probably a better option in PPR leagues.
5. Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have turned from being a run-first offense to having a more balanced attack.
Wallace had six 100-plus yard receiving games, scoring six touchdowns in those contents, within the last nine weeks of the NFL season. He finished with 10 touchdowns on the year and has clearly established himself as not only Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target, but perhaps the best deep ball receiver in the entire league.
4. DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Jackson has really emerged as Mike Vick’s leading target, and that’s a great place to be.
While he has been nursing an ankle injury, he could have been available in Week 17 if the Eagles needed him.
Fortunately, there was no reason to risk furthering his foot injury, so Jackson will get an additional week to get healthy before he and the Eagles host the Packers in the Wild Card round.
Jackson has struggled lately with the exception of a huge game in Week 14, but he is always one catch away from a big game.
3. Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers
A disappointing 2009 season was followed up by a huge 2010 season from Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings.
Jennings finished in the top three among wide receivers and has finished with eight or more fantasy points in 10 of the final 11 games of the season.
If the Packers can win their first game over the Eagles, Jennings could very well finish as the top scoring receiver in the playoffs.
2. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Second only to Roddy White, Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne was targeted 163 times during the regular season—an average of over 10 times per game.
Wayne is certainly the receiver that Peyton Manning trusts the most, and why shouldn’t he? Wayne has now caught over 100 passes in three of the past four seasons.
While he only caught five touchdown passes on the year, he finished in the top 10 at his position in the regular season, even in non-PPR leagues.
1. Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons
The league’s most consistent fantasy receiver in the regular season, Roddy White is now on a streak of three straight games with a touchdown as he heads into the playoffs.
White was targeted 171 times during the regular season, more than any other receiver in the league, and Matt Ryan will continue to feed him the ball in the playoffs.