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updated: 8/26/2011 6:57 PM

Ranking fantasy football wide receivers tougher than ever

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  • Patriots wide receivers Wes Welker, left, and Chad Ochocinco should both finish in the top 25 in fantasy points this season.

      Patriots wide receivers Wes Welker, left, and Chad Ochocinco should both finish in the top 25 in fantasy points this season.
    Associated Press

  • Roddy White, here celebrating a TD after beating the Bears' Zack Bowman, has been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the league the last four seasons.

      Roddy White, here celebrating a TD after beating the Bears' Zack Bowman, has been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the league the last four seasons.
    Associated Press

  • Since being demoted behind Roy Williams, the Bears' Johnny Knox has stepped it up in training camp and is threatening to win his job back.

      Since being demoted behind Roy Williams, the Bears' Johnny Knox has stepped it up in training camp and is threatening to win his job back.
    Associated Press

  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comWide receiver Johnny Knox runs after a catch during the Bears' loss in the NFC championship game to the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.

      Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comWide receiver Johnny Knox runs after a catch during the Bears' loss in the NFC championship game to the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.

 
 

Clueless.

That's how I felt while taking an Accounting Entrance Exam in Cole Hall at Northern Illinois as a sophomore in 1991.

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Question 1: Clueless.

Question 2: Completely clueless

Question 3: Utterly clueless

And on and on.

At the crossroads of my college career, one thing became abundantly clear -- it was time to forget the accounting degree and listen to my freshman English teacher who said, "You know, you really should be a writer."

My response: Yeah, but there's no money in journalism.

Well, I obviously heeded that professor's advice, which has ultimately led me to giving you advice on fantasy football for the past 12 years.

I tell the accounting-exam story because as I was putting the wide receiver rankings together, I flashed back to that 90 minutes or so in Cole Hall.

Of course, I'm not sitting here saying that I'm completely and/or utterly clueless about this list. I feel pretty good about the top 16, but after that ... wow.

This much is for sure: It's going to be a crazy year in which more players than usual who aren't even ranked will be waiver-wire pickups as the season progresses.

(A big hint to those new to fantasy football: Your work does not end on draft day. The most successful fantasy teams are built during the season by identifying up-and-comers before your opponents and using those players to take you toward a title. Look just at last year when Eagles QB Michael Vick, Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount and Bills WR Steve Johnson all came out of nowhere to pile up big numbers).

OK, back to the wideouts.

First off, make sure you acquire a top-notch guy. There's nothing worse than going through an entire season and not having at least one receiver you can count on week in and week out.

After the top nine guys, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Bowe, Dez Bryant, Mike Williams, Kenny Britt and Chad Ochocinco are all solid players, but they will have some quiet weeks, and moreso than the group in front of them.

After that, welcome to the fantasy football version of the craps table. Some of these guys might get on a roll and pile your team up big victories, while others may make you bust.

It's at this point you want consistency out of the WRs if at all possible, so let's identify four who should deliver.

• Denver's Brandon Lloyd. Nobody expects Lloyd to repeat his insane 1,448-yard season of a year ago, but let's not forget that he posted 70-plus yards 11 times, including 7 of the final 9 weeks.

• New England's Wes Welker. By Welker's standards his 86-catch season was a down year. Still, he had 6-plus grabs eight times, which is huge if you are in a league that gives 1 point per reception. Watch for about 90-95 catches and just over 1,000 yards in 2011.

• Baltimore's Anquan Boldin (64-837-7) and Miami's Brandon Marshall (86-1,014-3). Here are two veterans in their second years with their respective clubs. In both cases, they should be able to bump up most of those numbers.

Late-round advice

Once the top 30-35 wideouts are gone, start building depth. Get a backup QB and handcuff that stud running back or steal somebody else's. Then take a flier on a receiver you think might break out.

Some good candidates include Atlanta rookie Julio Jones, Oakland's Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, and Pittsburgh's Emmanuel Sanders.

Fort Knox

The Bears' situation at wide receiver is a mess right now, but one has to believe Johnny Knox is going to lead the team in receiving yards. But it's always tough to figure Lovie Smith, Mike Martz and Co. Just take last year as an example with Devin Aromashodu. I ranked him 26th and look where it got me.

Still, Knox is not Aromashodu. He's worth taking as your fourth receiver (and third if you're really thin). Don't waste a pick on any other Bears unless you get points for return yards, which obviously makes Devin Hester a must-have.

Tight ends

Antonio Gates is like Bill Gates -- in the fantasy world, the Chargers' TE is money in the bank as long as he's healthy. Last season, he had 782 yards and 10 TDs in just 10 games! We were talking fantasy MVP at that point as those are better numbers than any of the best wideouts post.

After the first round, it's never too early to take this guy as long as you are OK with the injury risk.

After Gates, the position is still fairly well stacked, but if you don't have somebody by the time Green Bay's Jermichael Finley goes off the board, sit back and wait unless New Orleans' Jimmy Graham falls too far. He's the hot guy right now based on his 4-TD finish in the last three games of 2011.

Good luck

Draft day is approaching for many of you. Enjoy it.

In one of my leagues most of the guys take half-days, we golf in the afternoon, order pizzas at one guy's house and then get down to business.

If at all possible, try to make some sort of tradition like that part of your draft day.

Golf. Play cards. Go to a casino. Go to Vegas when a league reaches a milestone (20th year, 25th, etc.). Bottom line: Make a day, or night, of it.

Finally, please feel free to email me with questions about drafts or keepers ... and then trades or pick-ups as the season progresses.

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