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Joseph Hutchins | Archive | Email
Staff Writer

Top 10 Dropouts - Wide Receivers
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers

Let’s examine the Top 10 wide receivers from 2011—along with those who dropped out from 2010—and see if we can identify some potential underachievers for the upcoming 2012 season.

Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s default standard scoring.

 Top 10 Wide Receivers - 2010
Rank Player
1 Brandon Lloyd
2 Dwayne Bowe
3 Roddy White
4 Greg Jennings
5 Mike Wallace
6 Calvin Johnson
7 Reggie Wayne
8 Hakeem Nicks
9 Andre Johnson
10 Steve Johnson
  Top 10 Wide Receivers - 2011
Rank Player
1 Calvin Johnson
2 Jordy Nelson
3 Wes Welker
4 Victor Cruz
5 Larry Fitzgerald
6 Steve Smith
7 Percy Harvin
8 Roddy White
9 Mike Wallace
10 Vincent Jackson

Missed the Cut in 2011 (7 of 10): B. Lloyd, D. Bowe, G. Jennings, R. Wayne, H. Nicks, A. Johnson, S. Johnson

Here’s a wide receiver I absolutely would draft to fill a running back slot if I could: Megatron. Nope, wouldn’t even hesitate. He’s the total package a la Randy Moss circa 2003. After Johnson, things get a bit muddy. Seven of the ten top wideouts from 2010 failed to make the grade in 2011. This after seven failed to duplicate the feat in 2010, and six the year before that, and…. I think you get my drift. It’s tough staying on top when you’re a wide receiver, and the reasons are myriad.

First up, per the ushe, is the dreaded injury bug. Andre Johnson, the Texans’ phenomenal pass-snatcher, was the most celebrated name to get chopped down last season, succumbing to a balky hamstring just four games in. On top of that, he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in May—a procedure necessitated by a late season hyperextension incident. Anyone else starting to think this guy’s maybe a bit too fragile? Greg Jennings, the Packers’ star wideout, missed several games, as well, due to a bum knee. He probably could have cracked the Top 10 had he continued playing, which is pretty remarkable since he competed for looks with the No. 2 guy on the 2011 list. Hakeem Nicks only missed a single game last year but also just missed breaking into the Top 10 by about eight or so fantasy points. Think that DNP mattered? Also, he proceeded to wreck his foot during an offseason OTA practice. Not sure what that has to do with anything, but maybe it’s karma for that ridiculous Hail Mary he used to bury my Packers in January. Nope, still not bitter.

Brandon Lloyd, Dwayne Bowe, Reggie Wayne, and Steve Johnson were all relatively healthy in 2011. They failed to match their 2010 output because, frankly, they didn’t get much help. Lloyd was marooned in Denver where they decided to turn back the clock to 1920 and run the single wing. Only a midseason trade to St. Louis improved his stock (albeit not by a lot). Bowe lost his signal-caller, Matt Cassel, in Week 10 and scored just once after that. Mr. Wayne had to make a go of it without longtime battery mate, Peyton Manning, and the results were predictably ghoulish. Finally, Stevie Johnson surprised many by not completely sucking after a breakout (some would say anomalous) 2010 season. His quarterback, however, did completely suck. Good thing they didn’t reward the former Ivy Leaguer with a huge…OK, never mind.

The Most Likely Candidates to Fall from the Top Ten This Year:

Jordy Nelson, GB: Unless you dozed off for a minute there, you already know I’m a Packers homer. No apologies forthcoming, and I have the conch so you’re just gonna hafta deal. On the bright side, I’m not the kind of homer that can’t maintain some measure of authorial objectivity and basic journalistic integrity. So, yes, I do love Jordy Nelson. However, there are warning signs galore if you’re thinking of drafting him any earlier than, say, the fourth or fifth round.

First, he was targeted fewer than 100 times in 2011, by far the fewest number of anyone in the Top 10. Of those 96, he caught a mere 68 balls, low by contemporary standards and the second fewest receptions of any Top 10 member. Clearly, the unsung farm boy from K State maximized his opportunities and hit some home runs. In fact, his 18.7 yards-per-catch figure was good for fifth in the league. Is that a sustainable number year over year? Maybe if you’re Vincent Jackson. Nelson’s career average prior to last season was 12.7 per grab. Hmmm.

Second, he scored a whole bunch of touchdowns. Yay! We love touchdowns! It bears noting, however, that five of those scores came in the final two games of the regular season—games that were conveniently missed by the guy usually responsible for Green Bay’s receiving scores, Greg Jennings. It isn’t hard for this Packer Backer to conceive of Jennings and Nelson flip-flopping in the pecking order for 2012.

Finally, let’s talk some more about one of those last two games, the last one. It was ridiculous. I’m talking arena ball ridiculous (45-41, Pack). Matt Flynn got the start for Aaron Rodgers and Coach McCarthy let him audition for a starting job against a completely uninterested Lions defense. Nelson was the chief beneficiary of the resultant travesty. Minus that game, Nelson probably ends up being the fourth- or even fifth-ranked receiver for 2011. Just sayin’.

Mike Wallace

Wallace's holdout is causing him to miss valuable time learning Todd Haley's system.

Mike Wallace, PIT: Wallace’s 2011 roughly mirrored Jordy Nelson’s, minus the part where he scores 15 touchdowns. As a part of the Pittsburgh offense, Wallace was targeted about 20 more times, caught four more passes, and averaged 16.6 yards per reception, good for a Top 15 finish in that category. Only thing is, that figure actually brought Wallace’s career yards-per-catch average down. See, unlike Nelson, the former Reb actually is a bona fide home run hitter, and a dangerous one at that. He’s widely regarded as one of the two or three fastest receivers in the league and is a threat to score from pretty much anywhere on the field, which he did to the tune of eight receiving touchdowns in 2011.

For this type of production, he feels like he should be paid Larry Fitzgerald money. Wait, what? Never mind for a sec that Wallace’s best year (2010) wouldn’t even qualify as one of Mr. Fitzgerald’s best five years. How about the fact that Fitzgerald was able to post commensurate numbers while teaming up with (ahem) John Skelton as opposed to Ben Roethlisberger? OK, stop laughing. Wallace is the only restricted free agent in the NFL currently holding out for more cake. Protracted contract disputes, as we discussed in the running backs section, rarely end well for fantasy owners.

There’s also this to consider: Todd Haley is the new offensive shot caller in Pittsburgh after Bruce Arians was effectively fired in January. One thing Haley is likely to bring to the Steel City is a more balanced attack. At the very least, it will be markedly different, and Wallace is already missing valuable time learning this new system that probably won’t benefit him as much, anyway. Sounds like trouble, no?

Vincent Jackson, TB: V-Jax finally landed the payday he has long sought, but, from a fantasy perspective at least, it has to be considered a Pyrrhic victory. This is assuming he actually cares about his fantasy value, of course. Jackson transitions from Norv Turner’s high-flying and fantasy-friendly San Diego offense to what many feel will be a conservative, run-oriented attack in Tampa under new coach, Greg Schiano. And by “many,” I of course mean “Greg Schiano.” Yikes! When the head man is all but advertising a run-first attack, I’m thinking we shouldn’t be too optimistic about his new wideout’s chances of remaining in the Top 10.

To be fair, Coach Schiano won’t exactly be installing the wishbone. Rather, he wants to play solid defense, pound the football between the tackles, and then take some shots down the field. And very few receivers do “down the field” as well as Vincent Jackson. The only problem is, Josh Freeman isn’t exactly Philip Rivers. Nor are Tampa’s other receivers likely to draw attention away from Jackson as Antonio Gates did in San Diego. He’s unquestionably “the man” now and a purported “leader” for a young team. Good for him. Nevertheless, those appellations won’t do much to secure his spot in the Top 10 for 2012.

Next: Quarterbacks