Eighteen receivers made NFL Network's "The Top 100: Players of 2011" list, which comes to about half the teams in the league being represented at the position.
As when I ranked the best quarterbacks and running backs over the last few weeks, the wideouts will be grouped into categories of five and put in alphabetical order. For example, Group A is my top five receivers in alphabetical order, meaning I don't necessarily believe the fifth player named is the fifth best receiver.
Each of the 50 receivers listed either has an (^) for guys on the rise, (>) for players maintaining their status and (v) for those on the decline.
I considered the last two seasons for the majority of the stats below to get a better picture of consistent production.
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- Brandon Lloyd, Broncos (v): Was 2010 a sign of things to come, or is he the guy who caught two touchdowns in the previous four years combined?
- Mike Williams, Bucs (^): He found the end zone 11 times as a rookie. Another year like that, and he would have more receiving touchdowns over two years than any receiver on this list.
- Terrell Owens, Bengals (v): Say what you want about T.O. and how he has bounced around the league, but he still produces if you can put up with his antics. Between stops in Buffalo and Cincinnati, he has 127 receptions and 14 touchdowns. He can still help a team.
- Hines Ward, Steelers (v): He's like Donald Driver: A tough, reliable vet who gets the job done whenever asked. In the last two seasons, he has 154 receptions and 11 touchdowns. When will Father Time catch up with him? After watching "Dancing with the Stars" ... not yet!
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- Chad Ochocinco, Bengals (v): He is not the receiver he once was and comes with more issues than almost any player in the league. His three-year average of 64 receptions and 5.6 touchdowns might not be worth the grief to most teams.
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- Lee Evans, Bills (v): Still the vertical threat for the Bills. He has seen more quarterbacks come and go than almost any other receiver but now has stability with Ryan Fitzpatrick. If Evans stays healthy, he could be back for a solid season and average close to 16 yards a catch. If not, he falls right off this list next year.
- Danny Amendola, Rams (>): Some would say he doesn't belong this high. However, when you consider he had 85 receptions with a rookie quarterback and no featured wide receiver or tight end last year, it says something about him. Put him in a situation like New England, and he could have 100 receptions in the slot. In fact, St. Louis might plan to get him in the slot.
- Derrick Mason, Ravens (v): A solid veteran with 134 receptions and 14 touchdowns since 2009. He has 14 seasons under his belt.
- Mike Williams, Seahawks (>): Reinvented himself when he realized his career was over. He dropped weight and developed a work ethic. He only caught 44 passes from 2005-2007, was out of football for two seasons, and then returned to grab 65 balls last season. He will easily repeat that performance in 2011.
- Johnny Knox, Bears (^): He will be moving up and out of this group by the end of 2011 in Mike Martz's offense. He has 96 receptions at 15.5 yards per catch and 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons.