FANTASY FOOTBALL: WIDE RECEIVER RANKINGS PART I, 21-40

SpartanNation

Will Steve Johnson blame God for being left out of the Spartan Nation WR top 20 rankings?  His track record points to yes.
Will Steve Johnson blame God for being left out of the Spartan Nation WR top 20 rankings? His track record points to yes.

Wide receiver. It’s unquestionably the toughest position to predict in fantasy football. It’s filled with flash-in-the-pans like Drew Bennett or Kevin Curtis (and yes, I drafted both of these guys the year after their big years….thanks for reminding me), and devastating injuries like the one suffered by Dez Bryant just in time for the fantasy football playoffs last season. With that in mind, the best advice I can give you is to draft depth at this position. Having at least 4 and preferably 5 or 6 receivers, if you have the bench space, is your best bet to avoid the pitfalls that are inherent in this position.

Also, just like last year I’ll be splitting up my receiver rankings into two parts so that you can fully digest the information. So this week we’ll be detailing 21 through 40, with 1 through 20 coming next week. And to be perfectly frank, it’s just easier for me to type out 20 different player write-ups than 40. I’m not lazy, I’m just economical with my time. Now, on to the rankings:

21. Brandon Lloyd, DEN: A lot of people are buying into Lloyd as a number 1, but you can count me out of that group. The guy was incredible last season, going off for 1448 yards, 11 scores, and an outstanding 18.8 yard per catch average. But what you need to understand is Lloyd’s season literally came out of nowhere. Lloyd had never topped 750 yards on a season before 2010, nor had he ever caught more than 6 touchdowns in a year prior to last season. When a player more than doubles his average output from the previous 7 seasons, you have to think that it may be more of a statistical aberration than a growing trend. Lloyd is the number 1 in Denver, so he’s still worth starting, but don’t expect him to set the world on fire again.

22. Steve Johnson, BUF: Yet another player who came out of nowhere last season. I don’t see Johnson as a number 1 receiver either, but not because I think he doesn’t have the talent. The quarterback situation in Buffalo is still nothing special, and that will hurt his value. He runs precise routes, and has enough speed and quickness to make a few defenders miss, so he still has a good amount of value. But until his quarterback situation is better, he can’t be more than a mid level number 2 fantasy receiver.

23. Kenny Britt, TEN: He’s talented, but he clearly has some off-field issues. I have no idea if he’ll be suspended for his legal troubles, so even though he has an incredible skill set, I can’t recommend him higher than this. He has the ability to get great separation from receivers, and with his height he can go up and get a lot of balls most receivers wouldn’t be able to snag. He’s also had some significant hamstring problems last season, and if those crop up again his value will be next to nothing. He’s one of the toughest receivers to figure out in 2011, so draft him with caution.

24. Anquan Boldin, BAL: Here are the facts about Boldin. He’s significantly better when teams have to pay attention to other receivers beside him. Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh didn’t do that job last season, and I don’t see much help for him coming this year either. He still managed to score 7 times last season and had a respectable yardage number, despite the claims that the sky was falling from his 2010 fantasy owners. I expect a slight up-tick in his numbers this year, with probably around 950 yards and 7 or 8 touchdowns. He’s a low end number 2 right now, with the possibility of producing like a number 1 if the Ravens find a way to force defenses to concentrate on other targets.

25. Austin Collie, IND: Collie may be the forgotten man this season by fantasy owners. He started the season off like a beast, but then suffered serious setbacks due to concussions and barely played the rest of the season. I have a feeling that he’ll be back to 100% this year, and his luck will shift allowing him to play all 16 games. If he does, look for him to go slightly over 1,000 yards and score 8 or 9 touchdowns. So why is he ranked so low? You never know what a player will be like mentally after such a rash of serious head injuries. Be cautious when drafting him, because how he recovers from his injuries could determine if you win you a championship or dwell in the cellar of your league.

26. Mario Manningham, NYG: Manningham isn’t the most talented receiver on his team, but he’s still a very worthy fantasy commodity. The Giants have shown that they like to spread the ball around, so there should be plenty of love to go around in the New Meadowlands. When Eli isn’t throwing the ball to the wrong team, he was able to find Manningham for 9 scores last season. What’s maybe the most telling is that Manningham came on the strongest at the end of last season. Whether that streak at the end of 2010 points to a growing chemistry between Mario and the younger Manning, or was merely a result of random chance remains to be seen. Either way, you should consider him a lower end number 2 receiver, with the potential for several huge weeks in 2011.

27. Pierre Garcon, IND: I guess this speaks to Peyton Manning that three of his receivers are generally considered fantasy starters (You’ll see one more next week. I’m pretty sure you can guess who) coming into every single season. But a word of caution about Garcon: He runs poor routes and drops way too many balls. Even with those things in mind, he’s worth a shot as one of your starters, because number 18 is still his quarterback. Heck, last year he disappointed and still managed to score 6 touchdowns. Expect similar numbers this year.

28. Steve Smith, CAR: To call Smith’s season last year a disappointment would be like calling Michigan winters a tad chilly. Smith had been one of the best receivers in the game for years, and then a horrendous quarterback situation sapped his production to nearly useless levels in fantasy terms. I just find it hard to believe he’ll be THAT bad again. He may never be a true number 1 again, but I would say he’s still worth taking a risk on as a potentially high reward number 3 wide receiver. Cam “$250,000 to play in college” Newton may cause Smith blow up in your face, but he’s worth the risk.

29. Santana Moss, WAS: He’s lost a few steps, and let’s face the facts, he was never THAT great. But he still managed to go over 1,000 yards last season, and score 6 times. He’s also got a very questionable quarterback situation. That said, he’s still really the only viable option on his team, and for that reason should be drafted as a 3rd WR in most fantasy leagues. I expect his number to take a slight dip, but not enough to warrant his not being drafted. Target him in the mid to late rounds as one of the best 3rd receivers in fantasy football.

30. Chad Ochocinco, NE: I seriously considered ranking him higher, much higher. But the unknown surrounding how he’ll fit in to the New England offense has me slightly spooked. In truth I think that the Tom Brady magic could bring Ochocinco back to his dominant form of several years ago. But if he doesn’t behave, the Pats won’t think twice about cutting him. If you can get Ochocinco in the late rounds he may win you a championship. And even if he doesn’t, the explosion should be fun to watch…

31. Sidney Rice, SEA: He’s not worth the money he’s being paid, I’m getting that out of the way right away. The real question is a “chicken or the egg” type of thing. Did he make Brett Favre in 2009, or did Brett Favre make him? As you can tell by my ranking, I’m betting on the latter.  Even if it was him, I still wouldn’t be confident in Rice. The Seahawks have a poor quarterback situation, and not much of a running game (don’t let the poor tackling of the Saints in the playoffs fool you). Both of those will hurt his value, and I can’t recommend him as more than a number 3 option in your fantasy league.

32. Roy Williams, CHI: Yes, I’m ranking him this high, and I may look like a fool for doing it. But the fact of the matter is, that in fantasy football, if you want win in fantasy football, you’ll have to take some hefty risks. If the guy holds on to the ball, and his tongue, he has the ability to be a difference maker for the Bears. He’s the most talented wide-out in Chicago, and reuniting with Mike Martz might be just what he needs to get his career back on track.

33. Jordy Nelson, GB: I really like Nelson this season. He and Aaron Rodgers seemed to develop quite a bit of chemistry last season. Nelson had some problems with drops last season, especially in the Super Bowl, but Rodgers showed confidence and continually went back to him in the playoffs. He only had 2 touchdowns and a little under 600 yards last year, but I expect significantly higher numbers this season. But because his ranking is based mostly on potential, and he will be competing for catches with talented receivers like Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and James Jones I can’t recommend taking him anywhere before the later rounds.

34. Malcolm Floyd, SD: When Floyd played last season, he was incredible. In only 10 games last season Floyd amassed 717 yards and 6 touchdowns. If you extrapolate those numbers through an entire season it equates to 1147 yards and around 9 or 10 scores. Now, I clearly don’t think he’ll get those number, because of a big problem called Vincent Jackson. Yes, he’s back in San Diego for a full season, and that should hurt Floyd’s production. That said, he should be a solid option in most fantasy formats, and will be a good #3 option for most fantasy teams.

35. Johnny Knox, CHI: Mike Martz offenses usually spread the ball around enough to accommodate 2 fantasy options. Knox has a ton of speed, but really doesn’t do much else. That means he’ll be good for several deep balls this year, but his reception totals should be fairly low, and he won’t see a ton of red-zone targets. He may not be the most consistent option, but he is worth of a draft pick and is borderline between being a 3rd starter at WR or being a nice bye week fill-in. Either way, don’t let him go undrafted.

36. Lance Moore, NO: He was pretty solid last season, and that’s a feat considering all the hands waiting to catch passes from Drew Brees in New Orleans. Moore racked up 763 yards last season while scoring an impressive 8 touchdowns. Touchdowns can often be a bit of a crap-shoot, so I wouldn’t necessarily count on Moore to replicate those totals this season. Despite that, he should be good for similar yardage numbers and probably closer to 6 touchdowns this season. Those are solid number, and he should be drafted in the later rounds.

37. A.J. Green, CIN: I’m not usually a big proponent of drafting rookie wide receivers, but I think Green has the ability to make at least some fantasy impact this year. He made plenty of circus catches in college, but the main question will be whether or not he can get the separation necessary at the NFL level. He’ll be the number 1 WR on his team, and even though his quarterback situation is awful I think he could have some significant impact. He’s worth a look in the late rounds, and may be a good bye week fill-in for you.

38. Braylon Edwards, SF: Edwards was actually very good last season, amassing 904 yards and 7 touchdowns as a Jet. What’s more, he also managed to drop fewer passes than in years past. But I can’t help but think that the combination of off-field distractions and a terrible quarterback situation with the Niners will sap his numbers this season. Edwards is no more than a very low-tier 3rd WR option, and more likely a solid backup.

39. James Jones, GB: Jones is a big play threat with a case of the dropsies. His analysis is actually really simple. If he hangs on to the ball he’s a fantasy starter. If he doesn’t, he’s a decent backup. See, I told you it was simple. That’s a nice change of pace isn’t it?

40. Mike Thomas, JAC: The guy is 5’8”, and that’s a problem, because with Mike Sims-Walker gone there are whispers that the Jags plan to use him as their number 1 receiver. He’s perfectly built to play the slot, and I don’t think he’ll be productive enough outside of that role to warrant a starting slot. He’d be a nice bye week or injury fill-in though, so he should be drafted in all formats.

FOOLS GOLD PLAYERS

-Michael Crabtree, SF

Honestly, I just don’t trust this guy as a fantasy commodity. I know he’s still young, and could blow up at any moment. But I just don’t see much drive or desire in him on the field, and his quarterback situation is horrendous. Another down year and he will find himself firmly in the “bust” category. I may be jumping the gun, I’ve been known to do that, but I wouldn’t draft him, and I don’t suggest you do it either.

-Hines Ward, PIT

I think time has caught up with Ward. Mike Wallace is now the main man in Pittsburgh, and that means that Ward will see fewer balls coming his way. That doesn’t mean he has no value, but I’m putting him here because his name value may cause some fantasy owners to overdraft him. I don’t want that to happen to you. Avoid that temptation and save picking him until the much later rounds.

Thanks for reading everyone! Check in next week for the top 20 receivers as well as my deep sleepers to watch for.

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