Here are my top 10 Wide Receivers for the 2011 season.
1)Andre Johnson- The guy missed 3 games and played the majority of the season on a bum ankle and still racked up 86 receptions, 1216 yards and 8 tds. Arian Foster helps take some heat off the passing game giving Matt Schaub more time to look downfield at AJ. He averaged over 10 targets per game this season. Expect a healthy Johnson to post huge numbers once again, double digit touchdowns and a 1,500 yard+ season.
2) Calvin Johnson- In 3 games with Matthew Stafford he had 14 receptions, 169 yards and 3 tds. Extrapolate that over a season and you are looking at 77 receptions, 901 yards and 18 tds and I fully believe that to be on the very low end of the spectrum in terms of yards and receptions. Johnson is a freak of nature and given a little time to build a rapport with Stafford, I wouldn’t be surprised if they become the most feared duo in the NFL. I expect 12+ tds and at least 1,200 receiving yards this year.
3) Hakeem Nicks- I admit that I am a Giants fan and this might seem biased but I have seen the rapport he has with Eli Manning and this guy gets targets…. a lot of them. He had 128 targets on the year in the 13 games that he played. In those 13 games he had 79 receptions for 1052 yards and 11 tds. I’ve spent plenty of time watching Nicks and he is the red zone target in a pretty proficient offense. Manning likes to take chances downfield and Nicks is often the beneficiary, expect big things this season.
4) Roddy White- He had a bit of a dry spell near the end of the season but the targets were still coming. White led the league in targets with 179. With that many targets, the yards and receptions are bound to come. White has really morphed into a possession receiver with big play potential. He was a PPR monster this year with 115 receptions, 1389 yards and 10 tds. The Falcons offense isn’t changing so expect similar numbers for White this season.
5) Greg Jennings- Jennings had a slow first five games of the season (14 receptions, 183 yards, 3 tds). The rest of the season he caught on fire (62 receptions, 1082 yards, 9 tds). He was one of the hottest receivers through that span and he is developing truly elite chemistry with QB Aaron Rodgers. He is a huge downfield threat but has also become a threat in the short game. The Packers may have found a legitimate rushing threat in James Starks which will only help the passing game. I see big numbers for Jennings this season.
6) Brandon Lloyd- I know he was the number one receiver this year but a lot of people are expecting a big drop off for Lloyd with Tebow at the helm and a restructured Broncos team. I like Tebow as a quarterback. The threat of Tebow tucking the ball and running makes defenses dedicated more defenders to the line of scrimmage to keep an eye on him. This opens up the secondary and creates more downfield passing opportunities which happens to be Lloyd’s specialty. In the 3 games that Tebow started, Lloyd had 14 receptions for 263 yards and 2 tds. Stretch that over a season and it turns into 75 receptions for 1403 yards and 11 tds. Those are nearly identical to his total numbers from this year (77 receptions, 1448 yards, 11 tds). This shows that there is no drop off in Lloyd’s production when Tebow is quarterback versus Orton. I hope that Tebow stays the starter. There was a fire in the Broncos when Tebow was starting, a fire that was just never there with Orton. Regardless of the starting QB, Lloyd should be a very good wide receiver again.
7) Dwayne Bowe- He had a historic stretch in the middle of season. In a 6 game stretch Bowe had 43 receptions, 625 yards and 13 tds. Keeping that up for a season would have been impossible and don’t expect that kind of production next season. Then again, don’t expect the 3 games stretch with 3 receptions and 56 yards to be the norm either. Matt Cassel has proven his ability to shred porous defenses and as he becomes more comfortable with the Chiefs he should be able to grow as a quarterback and get rid of the horrific outings that marred his season. Expect Bowe and Cassel to grow as a duo and Bowe is still a fantastic leaper so the touchdowns will come.
8 ) Reggie Wayne- I keep expecting Wayne to show his age but in his 10th season, he still struck fear into opposing defenses and had a very good season (111 receptions, 1355 yards and 6 tds). He was second in the league in targets with 176. He has one of the top quarterbacks in history throwing to him so the targets will come. I’m expecting Wayne to lose a step at some point but until that happens he is a PPR monster who will put up lots of yards and a smattering of touchdowns. Dallas Clark’s return should take some heat away from Wayne and barring a dramatic injury or drop in his production, I expect Wayne to post very similar numbers to this season. Look for about 100 receptions, 1200 yards and 6-8 tds.
9) Larry Fitzgerald- The Cardinals were plagued by awful quarterbacks. Whether it was Derek Anderson, John Skelton or Max Hall, the Cardinals very rarely had any hint of solid quarterback play. Despite all of this, Fitzgerald still had 90 receptions, for 1137 yards and 6 touchdowns. His 173 targets were third in the league and his 26 red zone targets led the league. Fitzgerald is a special talent and is very nearly the only offensive weapon on the Cardinals. The offense flows through him so expect the ball to go to him often even if it is forced. I expect the numbers seen this year to be the worst you will see from Fitzgerald and even the worst was still pretty good.
10) Kenny Britt- Once again this is higher than most people will rank Britt. I really liked what I saw from Britt in the games where he was fully healthy. At 6’ 3” and 215 pounds, Britt is a matchup nightmare for corners and safeties. He has the size to win a vertical battle but is also physical enough to break tackles and turn a short reception into a long gain. Opposing defenses still have to focus on stopping Chris Johnson which is bound to leave plenty of passing opportunities. Regardless of the quarterbacking situation in Tennessee, I still see plenty of passes for Britt. He will score, the questionable part is whether or not he can rack up the yards or receptions (in PPR leagues) to be a true fantasy stud.
Just missed the cut: Mike Wallace, Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Miles Austin, Mike Williams (TB), Vincent Jackson, Deion Branch (yup I really wrote that, I almost put him in the top 10)