Fantasy Football 2011 Positional Rankings: Wide Receivers

Nick Sero@@thesportscannonCorrespondent IIIMay 23, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 14:  Hakeem Nicks #88 of the New York Giants reacts against the Dallas Cowboys on November 14, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Cowboys defeated the Giants 33-20.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

*We have since updated our rankings, they can be found here.

The fantasy football season is quickly approaching, and it is time to get your fantasy football cheat sheets together. Although there is still a lot of time before the NFL season kicks off (IF it kicks off), it is never too early to do your homework. These are just the first round of fantasy football rankings, and there will undoubtedly be some developments during the offseason that will shake up the rankings.

How the rankings work: Every year when we get together to make our fantasy football positional rankings, projections and cheat sheet, we have to take a few variables in to mind. We calculate fantasy football strength of schedules for certain players and teams, decide a realistic amount of games for injury-prone players and take in to account the supporting cast for each player.

As the season progresses, you will be able to see the change in rankings as we continue to tweak the projections.

Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Wide Receivers 1.0

The value for fantasy wide receivers is growing as PPR leagues are picking up steam and the NFL seems to be in favor of the back-by-committee approach. Finding a quality receiver early is a key to fantasy football success.

Some receivers are consistent but won’t give you 20-point games; others will give you 30-point games in between strings of four-point games. When looking at a receiver you should really take in to account the schedule ahead of him.

Some receivers won’t be able to handle adversity as well as others, consider Chad Ochocinco’s decline in 2010 as an example. You want a receiver with big-play ability and a decent matchup week to week. The list below may be a little premature, but there is a little truth in the rankings. Strength of schedule played a big role in these rankings, even though they will surely change as the offseason progresses.

1. Hakeem Nicks, NYG

Surprised to see Nicks this high? Consider the fact that Eli has improved his touchdown count now five years in a row and Nicks was on the receiving end of 11 of those last season. The Giants are hoping for Steve Smith to recover over the offseason, but Nicks will be the No. 1 no matter when Smith returns.  Bye: Week 7

2. Mike Wallace, PIT

For the first time in three years, Hines Ward didn’t lead the Steelers’ receiving corps in touchdown catches, proving just how invested in the young receiver the Steelers are. The Steelers will have to find other ways than deep bombs if Wallace wants to continue his run, however. Teams wont be surprised by him streaking deep anymore, although Wallace almost got stronger as the year ended. Bye: Week 11

3. Andre Johnson, HOU

Johnson is a consistent top-10 fantasy receiver throughout his career. True, he may have fallen just outside of the top 10 last season, but you can’t expect that to be the case again this year. The Texans were able to rely on the running game more than ever this past season; usually that role belonged solely to Johnson. The Texans will face a tough schedule for both receivers and running backs this season, but I like Johnson’s chances. Bye: Week 11

4. Roddy White, ATL

White was fantasy gold last season in PPR leagues. He was one of the most targeted receivers in 2010 and was good for at least seven catches per game. Julio Jones may affect the long-term value of White in dynasty leagues, but this year he will finally give the Falcons a No. 2 receiver that will take heat off of White. Bye: Week 8

5. Greg Jennings, GB

Is it strange to think that a receiver coming off of a Super Bowl victory could have a chip on his shoulder? Jennings isn’t considered one of the better receivers in the league, not even by his peers. Jennings recently took offense to his poor ranking in the NFL Network’s Top 100 in 2010. Sure that may be us speculating a little bit, but Jennings is an elite receiver with an elite quarterback. Bye: Week 8

6. Calvin Johnson, DET

There was a lot of debate over Megatron’s value in 2011. Sure he is one of the best athletes in football, but in fantasy he can be hit or miss. Johnson has been in the league for four years, and has alternated five-touchdown seasons with 12 touchdown seasons. He will never be a stud in PPR leagues, as he has yet to crack 80 catches. If the trend continues, Johnson is due for a below average year but his own standards. It will all depend on Matt Stafford’s health. Bye: Week 9

7. Larry Fitzgerald, ARZ

Fitzgerald is in limbo in these rankings. Last season during the John Skelton/Derek Anderson experiment, Fitzgerald had very low points per game average so expectations should be low going in to 2011. That is until the Cardinals go out and sign a veteran quarterback, which they will. Until we know for sure, Fitzgerald’s rank will benefit from his ability and his fourth easiest schedule for fantasy receivers. Bye: Week 6

8. DeSean Jackson, PHI

To me, Jackson is reaching Ochocinco status in fantasy football. At year’s end you will be blown away by his total points scored, but when you look a little closer you may be surprised. He can single handedly win you games (210 yards and a score versus Dallas) and he can disappear at times (like Weeks 4-7 when he accumulated only 77 yards and a score). The Eagles do have an easier schedule this year however, so Jackson is still a great pickup. Bye: Week 7

9. Dwayne Bowe, KC

He is no longer the only receiving threat for the Chiefs since Jon Baldwin was drafted, but he is still by far their best option. Baldwin’s appearance could cut in to Bowe’s PPR value, as he was the primary pass catcher for years. Bowe is still a top receiver on a run first team, so were a little skeptical of Bowe’s 2011 value. Bye: Week 6

10. Vincent Jackson, SD

Jackson could have been the best receiver in fantasy had he played the entire season. Jackson ended the season with the seventh-best points per game average, so just imagine his value over a full season with Philip Rivers. Rivers had the best year of his career in 2010, so he could tailor off a bit this year…or he could get even better. Bye: Week 6

11.   Miles Austin, DAL: Austin’s value plummeted when Tony Romo went down last year, as would any receivers. In three of the four games Romo was the quarterback last year, Austin recorded at least 140 yards receiving and scored twice. With Romo back Austin’s value will be high again, although it will be interesting to see how Dez Bryant will affect Austin’s production. Bryant could be the flashy big play threat ala DeSean Jackson, and Austin could be the PPR valued Jeremy Maclin type for the Boys. Considering both of those Philadelphia receivers are in the top 12 is a pretty good sign. Bye: Week 5

12.   Jeremy Maclin, PHL: So Maclin may not kill in PPR leagues, but if you don’t get the chance to draft Jackson, Maclin is a great choice. I still think Eagles offensive players are bound to be even more valuable in fantasy as they will have a full offseason to game plan with Vick as their starter. Look for Maclin to improve his catches and yards for the third year in a row. Bye: Week 7

13.   Reggie Wayne, IND: Wayne’s reception and yards went up last year, but his touchdown count dropped to his lowest since 2005. Wayne is the best option at receiver in Indy, which is why he commands more coverage in the end zone. Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie have emerged as viable fantasy receivers also, so the 32 year old Wayne could be due for a drop in production. Bye: Week 11

14.   Mike Williams, TB: The Buccaneer rookie was quietly one of the best receivers in fantasy last year. Josh Freeman is a real breakout candidate, and no one will be the beneficiary of that more than Mike Williams. Thinking Williams will post 11 or more touchdowns may be asking too much, but you can definitely expect his targets, receptions and yards to increase in 2011. Freeman will be given more responsibility and Williams is his best option. Bye: Week 8

15.   Kenny Britt, TEN: Expect Britt’s ranking to drop significantly if he picks up a suspension from the league offices. Britt has multiple arrests on his record now so you can almost guarantee Goodell will come down with a suspension similar to Roethlisberger’s six game suspension with good behavior clauses. All the Titan receivers will be forced to take passes from a new quarterback, whether it is rookie Jake Locker or an aged veteran like Kerry Collins. Although Britt did have some of his best games at the end of the year when Collins was the quarterback. Bye: Week 6

16.   Brandon Lloyd, DEN: Last year’s best fantasy option will undoubtedly take a hit in production for multiple reasons. Lloyd benefited from playing in Josh McDaniel’s pass heavy offense. This year he will play for a defensive minded coach with a good history with the running game. Lloyd was most impressive as a deep ball receiver last year, which was surprising since it was Kyle Orton throwing the ball. Tim Tebow should be the starter though, and his arm is stronger than Orton’s. Bye: Week 6

17.   Wes Welker, NE: For the first time as a Patriot Welker could not break 1,000 yards receiving, but did have the second most touchdowns in his career. Welker is incredibly valuable in PPR leagues as he grabbed 123 passes in 14 games in 2009. He still has a big role in the Patriots’ offense so expecting Welker to be somewhere in between his 2009 and 2010 numbers is about right. Bye: Week 7

18.   Dez Bryant, DAL: Bryant got incredibly hot when Jon Kitna took over as the starter in Dallas. There was a run of four games where Bryant was the entirety of the Cowboys’ offense, recording five touchdowns in the span. Bryant tapered off at the end before missing the last three games with a broken ankle. Bryant had more targets and catches than Miles Austin in that span and that could be the case again in 2011. Bye: Week 5

19.   Terrell Owens, CIN: The chances of TO retuning to Cincy aren’t great, but speculating he would play for anyone else would be just that: speculation. The Bengals will undoubtedly part ways with chad Ochocinco, and that could leave some money for a one year signing of a veteran free agent. Yea I know it is incredibly unlikely, but TO had a very good season last year and the Bengals have the easiest schedule for receivers in 2011. Bye: Week 7

20.   Steve Johnson, BUF: He was a Twitter sensation last year, but he was also pretty darn good on the field too. What doesn’t translate to fantasy football were Johnson’s dropped passes; Johnson had the seventh most in 2010. He is still a better choice over Lee Evans, but the Bills’ have a tougher schedule this year so were skeptical about Johnson. Bye: Week 7

21.   Jerome Simpson, CIN: Simpson came on strong at the end of the season when Ochocinco and TO were both hurt. In fact, Simpson ended the season with the highest points per game average of any wide receiver. This year he will start out even with A.J. Green however, as both will be forced to learn a new system with a new quarterback. Simpson’s experience in the Pros should help his case, though. Bye: Week 7

22.   Santonio Holmes, NYJ: Santonio proved that his clutch heroics in Super Bowl 43 weren’t a fluke as he was on the receiving end of a few game winners in 2010. Mark Sanchez continues to progress as a passer, but the Jets penchant for the running game with cap his upside to about the same as his best years in Pittsburgh.  Bye: Week 8

23.   Marques Colston, NO: He is Drew Brees’ favorite target but Colston will have to prove his knee troubles are all gone. This will be the second year in a row that Colston has had that same surgery in the offseason, but he only missed one game last season. 1,000 yards and close to 10 touchdowns is reasonable, but we want to see how rehab works out first.  Bye: Week 11

24.   Mario Manningham, NYG: Manningham has emerged in to a quality #2 receiver and has improved his catches, yards and touchdowns three years in a row. Steve Smith should be healthy in 2011 though, and will certainly cut in to Manningham’s targets. Expecting Manningham cracks 1,000 receiving yards is asking too much. Bye: Week 7

25.   Santana Moss, WAS: Moss will be back for at least one more year, although it may not be an easy cap to his long career. The Skins’ receiver will have an easier schedule in 2011, but that won’t mean much if Rex Grossman or John Beck is the quarterback. Bye: Week 5

26.   Percy Harvin, MIN: He is young, talented and has added value on special teams, the Viking will be a run heavy team if Christian Ponder is the starter though. Bye: Week 9

27.   Anquan Boldin, BAL: The Ravens have a tough fantasy schedule for their receivers in 2011 and they had trouble finding ways to really take advantage of Boldin’s ability in 2010. Bye: Week 5

28.   Michael Crabtree, SF: Quarterback uncertainty and Crabtree is essentially the second option behind Vernon Davis. Bye: Week 7

29.   Brandon Marshall, MIA: Marshall had a rough homecoming, almost leading the league in drops. The Dolphins need to find a fix to their passing game. Bye: Week 5

30.   A.J. Green, CIN: Who will be his quarterback in 2011 and what will his value be? Will he be like TO or Ochocinco was last season? Lots of question marks but Cincy has the easiest schedule for receivers. Bye: Week 7

31.   Braylon Edwards, NYJ: He says he wants to be a Jet, but how badly do they want him? Bye: Week 8

32.   Lance Moore, NO: Moore is a quality pick that could be more valuable in the case that Colston isn’t healthy. Bye: Week 11

33.   Austin Collie, IND: The concussion issue genuinely concerns us, both because of fantasy and his own safety. Another concussion could end his season and even his career. Bye: Week 11

34.   Deion Branch, NE: Branch performed admirably considering he came in half way through the season. The rumors of the Pats going after a bigger named free agent are hurting his stock a bit. Bye: Week 7

35.   Mike Thomas, JAX: Marcedes Lewis stole all the receiving touchdowns last year, something that used to belong to Thomas. Bye: Week 9

36.   Pierre Garcon, IND: Potential for Garcon to step in ahead of Collie is there. Bye: Week 11

37.   Johnny Knox, CHI: He is the best option in a subpar group of receivers. Bye: Week 8

38.   Sidney Rice, MIN: Injuries ruined his 2010, shoddy quarterback play could be his undoing in 2011. Bye: Week 9

39.   Chad Ochocinco, CIN: Where Ochocinco ends up is still unclear, what isn’t is that at least his productive years as a Bengals have drawn to a close. Bye: Week 7

40.   Derrick Mason, BAL: Mason continues to defy the rules of age in football and is still Flacco’s favorite receiver. Bye: Week 5

41.   Jacoby Ford, OAK: Ford flashed signs of brilliance, but this is the Raiders and they do rotate receivers more than any other team. Bye: Week 8

42.   Greg Little, CLE: He may be the best receiving option in Cleveland, but I have a feeling we will see too many similarities to Braylon Edward’s days in Cleveland. Bye: Week 5

43.   Mike Sims-Walker, JAX: Sims-Walker could end up being a Dolphin, in which case his stock drops further. Bye: Week 9

44.   Hines Ward, PIT: Lynn Swann used to take ballet and look what it did for him, maybe Dancing with the Stars will prolong Hines’ career. Bye: Week 11

45.   James Jones, GB: You were expecting Jordy Nelson? Nelson may have taken advantage of whole in the Steelers’ secondary, but Jones was on the field in the regular season for more often than Nelson. Bye: Week 8

46.   Malcom Floyd, SD: Floyd benefits from playing with Phillip Rivers but Vincent Jackson is back and there just may not be enough passes to go around for Floyd to be fantasy relevant. Bye: Week 6

47.   Steve Smith, NYG: Smith’s rank is dependent on his rehab, the Giants passing attack is getting stronger though. Bye: Week 7

48.   Anthony Armstrong, WAS: Armstrong was a great waiver wire pickup if you were in a pinch last year, I expect the same in 2011. Bye: Week 5

49.   Davone Bess, MIA: Bess was closer to 1,00 receiving yards than many know, but he could slip on the depth chart should the Fins find a viable free agent. Bye: Week 5

50.   Mike Williams, SEA: Williams was a great story in 2010, the ending wasn’t all that great with Matt Hasselbeck so what will the outcome be with Charlie Whitehurst? Bye: Week 6

51.   Jordy Nelson, GB: Bye: Week 8

52.   Steve Smith, CAR: Bye: Week 9

53.   Julio Jones, ATL: Bye: Week 8

54.   Nate Washington, TEN: Bye: Week 6

55.   Steve Breaston, ARZ: Bye: Week 6

56.   Nate Burleson, DET: Bye: Week 9

57.   Brandon Tate, NE: Bye: Week 7

58.   Randy Moss, MIN: Bye: Week 9

59.   Danny Amendola, STL: Bye: Week 5

60.   Robert Meachem, NO: Bye: Week 11

61.   Leonard Hankerson, WAS: Bye: Week 5

62.   Kevin Walter, HOU: Bye: Week 11

63.   Mark Clayton, STL: Bye: Week 5

64.   Dezmon Briscoe, TB: Bye: Week 8

65.   Jordan Shipley, CIN: Bye: Week 7

66.   Lee Evans, BUF: Bye: Week 7

67.   Roy Williams, DAL: Bye: Week 5

68.   Louis Murphy, OAK: Bye: Week 8

69.   Emmanuel Sanders, PIT: Bye: Week 11

70.   Arrelious Benn, TB: Bye: Week 8

Noteworthy Rookies, Backups and Free Agents

Josh Morgan, SF

Donnie Avery, STL

Donald Driver, GB

Jacoby Jones, HOU

Jonathan Baldwin, KC

Devin Hester, CHI

Jabar Gaffney, DEN

Danario Alexander, STL

David Gettis, CAR

Eddie Royal, DEN

Earl Bennett, CHI

Brian Hartline, MIA


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