Fantasy football owners love it when their wide receivers put up 150 yards and two touchdowns in a single game. But the true test of a player's value exists not in one performance, but in his level of consistent production.
With that in mind, we've examined which players were the most consistent last season, and whose final numbers were more deceptive. The parameters of our examination revolved around the final numbers of the position's top players based on a 12-team league that utilized NFL.com's standard scoring system. All the wide receivers listed played in at least 10 contests, but time missed due to injuries or being benched counts against his final percentage.
The foundation for consistent production was based on the average fantasy points of the sixth-rated (or middle wideout of the top 12) on NFL.com. That player is Calvin Johnson, who averaged 11.8 points per game. Those receivers that recorded 11 or more points in a single game were rewarded, but a week with fewer than 11 points was rated as less than consistent. Also remember that a consistent level of production is relative to the position's overall output, so 40-50 percent (half of the time or less) can be labeled as being consistent in some cases.
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos: Lloyd, who wasn't even drafted in most leagues, shocked the world by finishing as the No. 1 wideout based on points. He was also far and away the most consistent player at his position, scoring 11 or more fantasy points 11 times. Lloyd also scored 19 or more points on five different occassions. Can he do it again in 2011? Probably not. But he did hit our 11-point mark three times in four after coach Josh McDaniels was fired.
Mike Wallace, Steelers: Did you know that Wallace, a second-year wideout out of Mississippi, scored more fantasy points than both Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson? He also scored 11 or more fantasy points nines times in his 16 starts and scored 15 or more points seven times, including a season-high 25.60 points against the Patriots in Week 10. Now the No. 1 wideout in the Steel City, Wallace will be ranked among the position's best options.
Calvin Johnson, Lions: Despite the fact that he had to play without his No. 1 quarterback, Matthew Stafford, for much of the season, Johnson still put up huge totals in fantasy land. Like Wallace, Megatron also scored 11-plus points nine times and finished sixth overall in fantasy points among receievers. If Stafford can avoid injuries, Johnson is a threat to be the top-scoring wideout in 2011. He'll be a second-round pick in most formats.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: Bowe was awful to start the season, scoring double-digit fantasy points once in his first four games. However, he rewarded patient owners with some monster numbers down the stretch. From Week 4 on, Bowe hit our 11-point mark seven times, including six where he scored 20-plus points. The one major issue with Bowe was that when he was bad, he was dreadful. In games where he didn't score 11 or more points, he averaged a meager 3.7 points.
Roddy White, Falcons: White, who is the only wide receiver to finish in the top seven in fantasy points at his position for three straight seasons, finished third behind Lloyd and Bowe in 2010. He also scored 11-plus points in eight of his 16 starts. What's more, White also missed that mark by fewer than a point in three other games. Greg Jennings, Andre Johnson, Miles Austin and Mike Williams (Buccaneers) also hit our mark for consistent production.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants: One of the most talented young players at his position, Nicks had seven games with 11-plus points. Had he not missed a total of three games due to injuries, he might have joined Lloyd, Wallace and Calvin Johnson as the most consistent wideouts in fantasy football. Nicks would have been the top-scoring receiver overall if you project the average points he scored in his 13 contests over a full season.
Reggie Wayne, Colts: Did you know that Wayne is the only wideout to finished in the top 12 in fantasy points in each of the last five seasons? He was ninth in 2010, posting 1,355 yards and six touchdowns. Wayne also scored 11 or more points in seven of his 16 starts, tying him with Nicks. While Wayne is getting a little long in the tooth, he will remain no worse than a third- or fourth-round selection in all 2011 fantasy football drafts.
Marques Colston, Saints: Are we overrating Colston because he has Drew Brees at quarterback and plays for the Saints? It's possible. The Hofstra product finished just 18th in fantasy points at his position in 2010, and hit our mark for consistent production just five times. Here's another stat that will make Colston owners cringe -- he scored single-digit points eight times and missed one game due to a bum knee. It's time to downgrade him in drafts.
Wes Welker, Patriots: You have to give it to Welker -- he made a miraculously quick recovery from reconstructive knee surgery and didn't miss a single game until Week 17. He wasn't a very reliable option for owners in standard leagues, though, scoring 11 or more fantasy points just five times. Welker should be better in 2011, but he's still no more than a No. 2 fantasy wideout. Johnny Knox and Kenny Britt also hit our 11-point mark just five times.
Brandon Marshall, Dolphins: Marshall was one of the biggest busts in fantasy football last season, finishing an awful 29th in points at his position on NFL.com. He posted his worst overall stats since his rookie campaign and hit our 11-point mark for consistency a mere four times in 14 games. His talent on the field is unmistakable, but whether or not Marshall can re-claim the elite status he once held while with the Broncos remains to be seen.
Chad Ochocinco, Bengals: Ochocinco might think otherwise, but his days as an elite wide receiver at the NFL level are over. He put up awful totals in fantasy land, scoring 11 or more points just three times all season. Wideouts such as Davone Bess, Mike Thomas and Lance Moore all scored more fantasy points. Now with the Patriots, Ochocinco is back on the fantasy radar as a potential No. 3 fantasy wideout in most drafts.