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Fantasy Football 2011: A look at receivers

08.02.11 at 6:27 am ET
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In this article, we look at the elite receivers for fantasy football. With more and more teams running three and four-receiver sets, the true studs are getting harder to come by. You can find tons of flex-level receivers, but guys that you really want in your lineup are getting much more difficult to find. This is just one of the reasons you will see more receivers taken in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts than you did a few years back.

The days of most fantasy teams starting their draft by taking two running backs in the first two rounds have gone the way of pay phones and calm political discourse.

Here are Rotobahn’s 12 No. 1′s — the guys who currently receive WR1 grades (in a standard 12-team league) in our rankings. Things could change. For example, Brandon Marshall could make a big move up if Miami lands a better quarterback. But for now, these are the 12 best bets.

1. Andre Johnson, Texans

We all know what a monster Andre2000 is, and he makes a great choice near the end of round one in most fantasy leagues. He’s got a solid QB in Matt Schaub and he is healthy as we enter camp. He’s the best bet to end the year at the top of the fantasy heap.

2. Calvin Johnson, Lions

Calvin is just a step behind Andre, and the main reason is his quarterback situation. It’s not that it’s bad, but we still have concerns about Matt Stafford’s ability to stay healthy. And while Calvin put up some nice weeks with Shaun Hill at the helm, it’s Stafford’s big arm that could really unleash Johnson. In fact, if you could guarantee a healthy season for Stafford, we’d bump Calvin up to the top spot. He’s that talented.

3. Roddy White, Falcons

Roddy busted out in 2009 with his first big season, and continued to shine in 2010. We expect the trend to continue in 2011, and we like him as a high-end WR1 for fantasy purposes. You can make an argument for him to be at the top of the list, but we expect the presence of Julio Jones to cost him a few targets. His yardage could easily slip back to 2009 levels. Not to worry, that still makes him an elite talent.

4. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

Not much dropoff here. Fitz might not jump off the page when you look at last year’s numbers, but with the addition of Kevin Kolb, he is poised to have a major bounce-back in 2011. Draft Fitz with confidence.

5. Hakeem Nicks, Giants

He is among the hardest receivers to cover in the NFL and we expect great things from Nicks this season. His health is an issue, and for the risk-averse, you might consider players like Greg Jennings or Dwayne Bowe … but we love Nicks’ game. He has a good rapport with Eli Manning, and he is a true No. 1 receiver.

6. Greg Jennings, Packers

You can make a strong argument for Jennings in the top five, but we are a little concerned with the target distribution in Green Bay with Jermichael Finley’s return. Jennings will be very good, but he might have a tough time repeating last season. He’s still a great player to draft as your first receiver. He’s a nice guy to target starting in the middle of Round 2.

7. Mike Wallace, Steelers

Wallace was so impressive as a rookie that the Steelers were willing to move Santonio Holmes to the Jets. Wallace rewarded that confidence in 2010 and took another big step in his second season. He is already among the league’s best as he enters his third year. He’ll help your fantasy team too, and we like him as your WR1. Take him as early as the late Round 2 in large leagues.

8. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs

Big Dwayne had a monster year, and the only concern we have is that he compressed a lot of it into the middle of the season. The guy played like an immortal from Week 6 through Week 12, scoring 13 times during that span. The rest of the season was just respectable, and Matt Cassel’s inconsistencies are more to blame than Bowe’s, but Cassel is still the QB, so that may not change much. What should change is the coverage that Bowe will see in 2011. Obviously, when you score thirteen times in less than two months, you will be seeing some doubling and bracketing and whatever else the defensive coordinators can think up. The Chiefs have added significant talent by bringing in Steve Breaston via free agency, and by drafting Jonathan Baldwin out of Pitt. Both are outstanding talents and both should help Bowe’s situation immediately. It will cost him some targets, but it will open things up for him too.  We see 1,100  yards and 12 scores for Mr. Bowe in 2011, which is only a slight regression. We also see him being more consistent week-to-week.

9. Vincent Jackson, Chargers

This guy is a stud and so is his quarterback, so it is really hard to bet against Jackson in 2011. We expect him to have a career year as Rivers’ No. 1 option in San Diego’s high-octane passing attack. Jackson is a unique combination of size and speed. He’s extremely physical and goes up to get the ball with the best of them. Only injury can stop this guy, so you keeper leaguers can knock on wood now. I just did.

10. Miles Austin, Cowboys

The return of Tony Romo helps Austin as much or more than it does any other Cowboy. The departure of Roy Williams also assures that there will be enough targets to go around among the firm of Austin, Bryant and Witten. Austin is a WR1 we have been getting in Round 4, though we expect he rises throughout the preseason. We like him late in the third.

11. DeSean Jackson, Eagles

He could be downgraded if his holdout lasts long enough, but as long as he shows up in time to prove he’s in shape, we won’t move him. His skill jumps off the page and he’s in a great offense. Teams cannot double him consistently with Jeremy Maclin on the other side and Michael Vick under center. He’s going to get loose for big plays on most weeks and we think he makes more plays overall as he and Vick get more in sync.

12. Reggie Wayne, Colts

He used to be near the top of this list, and we doubt we’ll be putting him here next year, but we like Reggie to post another solid campaign. He’s a better bet in PPR scoring as Manning has a lot of red zone weapons, but he’ll still be good for about seven scores to go with 1,200-plus yards.

Honorable mentions: Dez Bryant, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Williams, Marques Colston, Brandon Marshall

For our complete rankings, join us at Rotobahn.com.

Read More: 2011 Fantasy Football, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Roddy White Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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