Aug 23,2010

2010 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 20 Wide Receivers

Well… here we go. Having talked about running backs for the past few entries, it’s time to give the boys on the outside some attention. Assuming the top 10 WRs are fairly obvious, I’ve gone ahead and given you my top 20. Feel free to comment, disagree, and discuss!

#1) Andre Johnson

As much as I don’t like to agree with everyone else, this one’s a no-brainer. As if posting back-to-back 100-reception, 1,500-yard seasons wasn’t proof enough, Johnson scored a 44 yard TD in the first 8 minutes of the Texans vs. Cardinals pre-season opener. Additionally, he’s a nice guy who gives back to the community and prefers to address his critics on the field rather than his Twitter stream. So what’s not to love? Absolutely nothing.

#2) Reggie Wayne

Wayne makes the top of my list because he’s drama free. He’s caught for 1,000 yards every year since 2004 (scoring TDs in the double digits for three of those years), maintains a fantastic rapport with an uber stud QB, and has managed to stay relatively injury free. For Heaven’s sake, he’s more consistent than my ex’s drunk texts on New Year’s Eve… and that’s saying a LOT.

#3) Larry Fitzgerald

Warner or no Warner, Fitzgerald’s athleticism can’t be denied. While his stats opposite Leinart aren’t great, he’s still got baby soft hands and a leaping ability that rivals even Baryshnikov. Without Boldin in AZ to draw coverage and a QB whose accuracy is less than stellar, the Pro Bowl MVP has his work cut out for him. Luckily, he’s up for the challenge.

Update: With Team Leinart vs Team Anderson throwing down, I’d move LFitz down a few notches. He’s definitely among the Top 10 WRs, but be sure not to overpay. A few weeks ago I saw him going late in the first round/beginning of the second, I now think he’s more of an early third round pick.

#4) Randy Moss

Many things can be said of Randy Moss… that he’s humble and broke aren’t two of them. This year the former bad boy is entering a contract year. While critics will raise an eyebrow at his age (a whopping 33 years old), his ego in tandem with his love of gold chains and designer shoes leads me to believe he’ll be kicking ass at 43 if it means taking home a giant pay check. Last season he silenced doubters by amping up his production and scoring 13 TDs. While I don’t think he’ll have the fantasy windfall that was the 2007 season, I still think he’s an elite WR1.

#5) Calvin Johnson

In 2008 Calvin Johnson earned the nickname Megatron. In 2009 he played like a GoBot. Arguably the Lions only offensive weapon, Johnson got a beating from opposing defenses and suffered a host of injuries as a result. With Nate Burleson to draw coverage and Jahvid Best backing up Kevin Smith, the defense should be a bit more spread out. As long as the former Ramblin’ Wreck can stay healthy and Matt Stafford‘s arm stays huge, there’s no reason Johnson can’t resume Decepticon status.

#6) Roddy White

Year after year, White continues to shine as the Falcons premier guy on the outside. Even with Matt Ryan‘s sophomore slump, he had 85 receptions 1,153 yards and scored a career high 11 TDs last season. There’s no reason to believe that White won’t be able to improve on those numbers even more this year. With The Burner in the backfield, veteran TE Tony Gonzalez in the middle, and a more assured Ryan in the pocket, White will be drawing single coverage and catching more consistent lobs from his QB. He may not have the freakish skills of Johnson or Fitzgerald, but he’s solid WR1 option.

#7) Brandon Marshall

Back in April I ranked Marshall at No. 7… and I’m sticking to my guns. Less like a Beast and more like an effing roller coaster, the former Bronco’s formidable talent in combination with his lack of common sense has often resulted in a season full of awesome highs and head-shaking lows. Hopefully some micro-managing and guidance on the part of Sparano and Parcells will help #19 beef up his stats and not his rap sheet. That being said, don’t hold your breath. It’s Marshall’s lack of consistency that keeps him out of to my Top 5. This one, however, I wouldn’t mind being wrong about.

#8) Miles Austin

Undoubtedly last season’s breakout fantasy star, Austin got more love from Romo than both Carrie Underwood and Jessica Simpson combined. He finished out the season with 81 receptions for 1,320 yards and 11TDs. After a showing like that most everyone is expecting big things from this equally big kid. The only issue seems to be Dez Bryant. While one could argue that the rookie WR will add to Austin’s appeal by pulling coverage, I’m a bit more skeptical. Jerry Jones‘ love for newbie has me concerned. Whether or not he’s ready for the big show, Mr. Jones doesn’t like playing the fool, which might mean Bryant is pushed up the ranks without being properly vetted (I’ll spare you any Sarah Palin jokes here). However if Austin can stay focused, continue to muscle his way into big plays, and hang on to the affection of an otherwise fickle QB then his placement as a Top 10 receiver should stick.

#9) DeSean Jackson

What #10 lacks in size he makes up for in speed. A true deep ball threat, Jackson found the end zone 11 times (9 receiving TDs, 1 rushing TD, and 2 punt returns) and ended his sophomore season with 1,156 yards receiving. That’s great and all, but he only had 62 receptions for the whole year. Of course that makes his YPR average huge, but it also makes his week to week consistency a total guessing game. Additionally without McNabb around to play the part of the wise and grizzled veteran, I’m a bit worried that Jackson might revert back to his less than focused/premature ball spiking ways. If you’re able to draft a consistent RB or QB then this third year WR is a fine starting option. If you’re in a PPR league, however, consider waiting a bit to jump on this small but mighty bandwagon.

#10) Greg Jennings

I’ll admit it was a struggle to rank Jennings in my Top 10. After a fairly impressive 2008 season (80 receptions, 1,292 yards, 9 TDs), I expected big things from #85 in ’09. In fact, I drafted him in one of my leagues last year… and was consequently very disappointed. While he racked up 1,113 receiving yards, he struggled for the bulk of the season and ultimately only scored 4 TDs. However as the season progressed and the playoffs began, Jennings seemed to turn it around and get his mojo back. Hopefully, he’ll begin this season where he left off last year. If you’ve got a solid running core then Jennings is a safe bet. If you’re hoping for him to be your lead guy, on the other hand, you’d better dig deeper.

#11) Marques Colston

Drew Brees‘s arm + Marques Colston’s hands = a fantasy owner’s wet dream… and a real life offense with potential
Drew Brees’s arms + Marques Coslton’s hands + Robert Meachem‘s size + Devery Henderson‘s speed + Reggie Bush‘s versatility + Lance Moore‘s mere existence = an offense’s wet dream… and a fantasy owner’s real life nightmare.

Bottom line: Colston is great, but so is the rest of his team. Brees’s egalitarian approach to ball management prevents this starting WR from achieving elite status.

#12) Steve Smith

Since his monster 2005 season, the Original Steve Smith has averaged 6-8 TDs per year. In 2009, he managed 7 TDs but fell short of 1,000 receiving yards (he finished with 982). Some analysts are concerned that those numbers might drop even more now that vet Jake Delhomme is out of the picture. I don’t know how those people can call themselves analysts. Moore and Clausen may be wet behind the ears, but almost anything is better than The Interception Artist, Mr. Jay Cutler Jake Delhomme. Furthermore, Smith and Moore showed great chemistry at the end of last season. I expect now that Smith is top dawg he’ll step up and shine. That being said, don’t expect the elite WR of years gone by. Think of him as a solid WR2 option.

#13) Steve Smith (NYG)

Eli Manning‘s most targeted receiver, Smith caught an impressive 107 passes for a less impressive 1,220 yards and scored a respectable 7 TDs last season. In PPR leagues “the other” Steve Smith is a dynamite option. In traditional non-PPR leagues, however, he’s a bit more middle of the road. While he definitely gets a lot of looks, he has yet to become a real deep ball threat. At only 25 years old, though, he’s got great upside. Look for SS2 to make good on – and possibly surpass – last year’s numbers.

#14) Anquan Boldin

Boldin is, without a doubt, one of the hardest working and toughest receivers in the league. Unfortunately, his bad ass status has come at the expense of his durability. If you draft Boldin, know that he’ll probably get injured and begrudgingly ride the bench for at least 2 or 3 games. Now in Baltimore, he’ll step out of Larry Fitzgerald’s shadow and take the lead WR position. He’ll also be moving from a pass happy offense to a more run focused scheme. Ultimately, his presence will do more for the Ravens then it will for your fantasy team. Consider #81 a good WR2 option who’s fun to both watch and cheer for.

#15) Chad OchoCino

Ochocinco is a player whose fame has eclipsed his skill, which means he’ll probably be drafted higher than he should. As I said in my video blog, I’m thrilled to watch the dynamic duo pairing of T.O. and Ochocino, but I’d prefer not to place money on either of their fantasy statuses. While it’s true that #85 has never been much of a deep ball threat (presumably that’s OchoUNO’s job now), he did score nine TDs last season. If you simply must have him on your team, understand that fantasy-wise he’s much more of an Alfred Pennyworth than a Bruce Wayne.

#16) Sidney Rice

Between Rice’s hip, Harvin‘s headaches, and Berrian‘s showing in ’09, Papa Favre‘s options are limited. Rice was certainly the veteran QB’s favorite go-to target last season, but a lingering hip injury could prevent him from playing up to his full potential this year. At age 24, youth is certainly on his side, but I still don’t think he’ll match last year’s stats. Be sure to monitor his health and your expectations before drafting this former breakout.

Update: Numerous media outlets are reporting that Sidney Rice has decided to undergo hip surgery after all. He’s expected to be out until the middle of the season. While I think he’ll recover quickly, look for Harvin and Berrian to go up in value.

#17) Wes Welker

He’s baaaacccck! Welker may have torn his ACL seven months ago, but in Thursday’s preseason game against the Falcons he brought new meaning to the phrase speedy recovery. While he might go easy the first few weeks of the season, I expect he’ll start racking up receptions in no time at all. Last season, this cutie from OK caught the ball a whopping 123 times for 1,348 yards and scored four times. What he lacked in TDs, he more than made up for in number of receptions. In PPR leagues, Welker’s value is obviously higher. In standard formats, look for him to produce anywhere from 8 – 20+points on a weekly basis.

#18) Michael Crabtree

Possibly last year’s most obnoxious hold out, Crabtree put his money where his mouth was and showed up for the last 11 games of the season. He was certainly unsteady and lacking in confidence at times, but that’s to be expected when a rookie attempts to learn the playbook in roughly 48 hours. I’ve ranked him in my Top 20 because of his huge upside. Sure he’s got Alex Smith for a QB and a coach who prefers the ground attack, but that doesn’t mean he can’t produce… it just means he probably won’t produce monster numbers. Calculate accordingly and be thankful you paid way less than the York Family.

#19) Hines Ward

He may not be a flashy pick, but he’s certainly a reliable one. Since 2006, Ward has averaged close to 1,000 yards and 6 or 7 TDs per season. With Santonio Holmes playing for the Jets, the 34 year old WR will step up and take the lead ahead of newbie Mike Wallace. While that’s a definite plus, his age remains an obvious minus. All in all, expect this 2 time Super Bowl Champ to do close to what he did last year… and the year before that… and the year before that…

#20) Hakeem Nicks

Smith may get most of the looks, but Nicks is going to get the deep balls. After sitting out the first few weeks of his rookie season with a foot sprain, the North Carolina native returned in week four with one reception that resulted in a 54 yard touchdown. What a way to make a splash. He was sporadic throughout the year, but illustrated definite play making potential, catching 47 passes for 790 yards and scoring six times. With Eli Manning so pass happy (4,021 yards on 509 attempts in ’09), there’s no reason to assume Nicks can’t develop into the down field threat that the Giants have been desperate to find.