As the NFL has evolved into a league loaded with committee backfields, the wide receiver position is becoming increasingly valuable in fantasy football. There’s definitely a lot of depth at the position, but it is still a good idea to use an early round pick to snag one of the elite wideouts on this list.
1. Andre Johnson
While his overall receptions and yardage numbers were down last season because of missing three games with an ankle sprain, Johnson still led all wideouts in receiving yards per game with 93.5. Despite only playing in 13 games he still scored eight TDs and hauled in 86 receptions for over 1,200 yards. Johnson should be the first wideout off the board.
2. Calvin Johnson
Johnson rebounded from a disappointing 2009 season with 77 catches for over 1,100 yards and 12 TDs in 2010. Matthew Stafford will enter the season healthy and while we think Johnson’s ceiling is higher with Stafford under center, Megatron has proved that he can be productive regardless of who is throwing him the ball.
3. Roddy White
White took another big step into elite fantasy receiver status setting career highs in both receptions and yards last season. Don’t let the addition of rookie WR Julio Jones scare you off. White’s targets and catches might decrease, but his overall fantasy production won’t. He’s a safe bet for his 5th straight 1,000 yard season.
4. Hakeem Nicks
Nicks emerged as Eli’s favorite receiver last season with 128 targets despite missing three games with injuries. He does have a history of nagging injuries in his short time in the league, but his upside is worth the risk. If he can stay healthy we expect 90-plus receptions and double digit TDs.
5. Mike Wallace
Entering his third year in the league, Wallace has quickly emerged as one of the league’s elite deep threats. Averaging 21 yards per catch last season, he had 60 receptions for 1,257 yards and 10 TDs. While his lack of receptions can hurt his value in PPR formats, he is still a top-tier WR option as we expect similar yardage and TD totals.
6. Reggie Wayne
Wayne has been as consistent as they come among fantasy receivers after extending his streak to seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons while setting a career high with 111 receptions in 2010. At age 32, he’ll still put up solid numbers, but a healthy Dallas Clark and Austin Collie are keeping him out of our top five.
7. Greg Jennings
Jennings had a very slow start in 2010, but still ended the season with 76 receptions for 1,265 yards, and 12 TDs. Arguably one of the most consistent big-play fantasy wideouts, he is a safe bet to top 1,000 yards and double-digit TDs again in 2011.
8. Larry Fitzgerald
Despite the inconsistency at the quarterback position for the Cardinals last season, Fitzgerald still put together a solid season. He extended his streak with at least 90 catches and 1,000 yards to four consecutive seasons, however he also tied a career low with only six TDs. Fitzgerald’s is still an elite talent, but his upside in 2011 will be directly related to who will be throwing him the ball.
9. Miles Austin
Prior to Romo’s season-ending injury in Week 7, Austin had three 100-yard games and two touchdowns, which should be a good sign for this year with Romo back at 100 percent. Austin will have to share targets with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, but as long as Romo stays healthy, Austin will be an elite wideout this year.
10. Mike Williams
Williams immediately became Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman’s top target and as a result led the team in with 65 receptions and 964 receiving yards. He also became the first rookie in the NFL to record 10-plus touchdowns in a season since WR Randy Moss in 1998. Heading into his second NFL season, Williams is a wide receiver with elite upside.