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With QB picture cloudy, can Rice be counted on in 2011?

Can Sidney Rice be a No. 1 fantasy wideout without Brett Favre?

Was Sidney Rice already on the verge of becoming a star fantasy wideout before catching passes from Brett Favre in 2009? Or did Rice become a star because Favre was throwing the ball to him?

That's one of those chicken-egg dilemmas that has no real answer. (Would Jerry Rice have become the greatest receiver in NFL history if Dieter Brock or David Archer was throwing to him as a rookie in 1985 instead of Joe Montana? We'll never know.)

What we do know is that there are so many things to like about Sidney Rice's chances to be an elite fantasy receiver going forward: his blend of size and speed, his leaping ability, his hands, and his work ethic. There's an obvious desire to play, too. Last year, with the Vikings' season heading south in a hurry, Rice could have packed it in and saved himself for a potentially lucrative payday in 2011. Instead, he came back from hip surgery to play in six games down the stretch.

In his third week back, Rice caught a pair of touchdown passes -- and they weren't from Brett Favre, either. They were from Tarvaris Jackson. But Jackson isn't back this year, either.

At this point, we don't know who the Vikings' quarterback will be. It could be rookie Christian Ponder. It could be former wide receiver Joe Webb. It could be a veteran quarterback brought in after labor peace is reached. In the meantime, you can ask Michael Crabtree what happens to a wide receiver's fantasy value with a muddled quarterback situation.

All of this, of course, is assuming that Rice is even back with the Vikings in the first place. He might be a free agent when a new labor deal is in place. If he is, there are sure to be suitors -- including, of course, the Vikings.

Bottom Line: Yes, Rice can be a No. 1 fantasy wideout without Brett Favre ... but for the moment, there are too many question marks to call him one for this year.

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