2011 Top 10 Receiving Units in the NFL by Lloyd Vance

Receiver James Jones and the rest of the Packers’ multitude of talented pass catchers lead Taking It to the House’s list of the 2011 NFL Top 10 Receiving Units

While watching some of Week 1’s games with my colleague, Matt Lombardo, we got into a debate over which receiving corps should be the most feared by NFL defenses.  To that end, I have put together my Top 10 Receiving Units for the 2011 season. 

I know that I have listed running backs along with team’s receivers and tight ends.  But in today’s West Coast offense happy NFL — filled with screens – most backs have the chance to easily catch 50+ passes a season. 

As always, please bring-on your feedback in the Comments Section and via my Twitter, @lloydvance_nfl

1. Green Bay Packers – [Gregg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver, TE Jermichael Finley, RB James Starks, RB Ryan Grant and rookie Randall Cobb].  The 2010 NFL Champs have an over abundance of weapons for Super Bowl MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers (threw 31 TDs in 2010 which ranked 4th in NFL).  As crazy as it sounds, there really may not be enough balls for this unit, especially with explosive rookie Randall Cobb coming along.  THis unit is so extensive, that deep-threat James Jones only had one catch in the Packers’ pinball machine  Week 1 win over the Saints.

2. Philadelphia Eagles – [DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith (knee), Jason Avant, TE Brent Celek, RB LeSean McCoy, RB Ronnie Brown, and Riley Cooper].  In Michael Vick’s first season as a full-time starter in Philadelphia, this group put up a team record, 439 points (3rd in NFL) on their to anothter trip to the playoffs.  Though there are questions about the Birds O-line, their playmakers are plentiful and should only get better as former Giants Pro Bowl WR Steve Smith get more healthy and acclimated to Andy Reid’s high-octane offense.  It all starts with D-Jax, who is one of the fastest players in the NFL and looking for a new contract.  The Eagles also are probably the NFL’s best screen team, so watch for McCoy to put-up more Westbrook-type numbers.

3. Houston Texans – [Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, RB Arian Foster (hamstring), RB Derrick Ward (ankle), RB Ben Tate, RB Steve Slation, TE Owen Daniels, and TE Joel Dressen]. Everyone’s chic pick to win the AFC South has an embarassment of riches for 2010 NFL passing yardage champion, QB Matt Schaub.  It all starts with big physical receiver Andre Johnson (1,100 yards, 100 catches, and 8 TDs just waiting to happen), then you throw-in a talented backfield filled with good-hands backs.

4. Indianapolis Colts – [Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie (foot), Pierre Garcon, Blair White, Anthony Gonzalez, TE Dallas Clark, RB Joseph Addai and TE Jacob Tamme].  I know that ancient quarterback Kerry Collins is replacing future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning (neck) for the majority of the season.  But if Collins can show any of the throwing ability that has made him the NFL’s 10th all-time yardage passer, Indy will have a chance to put up some Fantasy Football numbers.  HC Jim Caldwell needs to find inventive ways for Wayne, Clark, Garcon, and others to help carry this unit without their leader.

5. New Orleans Saints – [Marques Colston (shoulder), Robert Meachem, Devrey Henderson, Lance Moore (groin), RB Darren Sproles, RB Pierre Thomas, and TE Jimmy Graham].  You can easily see in Week 1, how this explosive team took home the 2009 Super Bowl title.  In any shootout game, quarterback Drew Brees and offensive mastermind HC Sean Peyton have several speedy options on offense.  Peyton had no second thoughts of jettisoning high-priced malcontent Reggie Bush, as Brees will have more passes to through to other players, like emerging TE Jimmy Graham and former San Diego Chargers scatback Sproles.  The only concern with this unit is health as Colston and Moore have already missed time.

6. Dallas Cowboys – [Dez Bryant (thigh), Miles Austin, TE Jason Witten, TE Martellus Bennett, Kevin Ogletree, RB Felix Jones, and RB Tashard Choice].  Much like their quarterback, Tony Romo, Dallas’ group has a ton of talent, but has been plagued by inconsistency and injuries at times.  Romo should have huge numbers again this season throwing to his buddies, Austin and Witten, first – sometimes forces throws to these two.  The X-factor of this bunch has to be Bryant. If healthy, the former Oklahoma State Bad Boy could become an Andre Johnson-type player.  But first he will need to stay healthy and assume a bigger role in Dallas’ offense to truly deserve to wear Michael Irvin’s No. 88 jersey.

7. Atlanta Falcons – [Roddy White, rookie Julio Jones, Harry Douglass, TE Tony Gonzalez, and RB Michael Turner].  There is no doubt that GM Thomas Dimitroff was trying to build the modern version of the 1990’s Dallas Cowboys’ triplets in assembling this young group.  Young quarterback Matt Ryan has the leadership abiliities of Troy Aikman, Turner runs hard between the tackles like Emmitt Smith, and White is the do-it-all receiver like Michael Irvin.  You throw-in all-time tight end receptions leader Tony Gonzalez and high draft choice Julio Jones.  And this group has the potential for a 1,000-yard rusher, a 4,000-yard passer, and two 1,000 yard receivers.

8. New England Patriots – [Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Danny Woodhead, RB BenJarvis Green-Ellis and TE Aaron Hernandez].  A lot of people always ask me, “Is it Brady or the System?”  I can unequovically say that it is the quarterback.  The 2010 NFL MVP is a 3-time Super Bowl winner for a reason and it just makes his many targets even better.  A prime example is receiver Deion Branch, who went from a Super Bowl MVP to a high-priced washout with the Seahawks back to a productive player in his second stint with the Pats.  I am not sure that Woodhead would be more than a special teams player on any other team, but Brady and HC Bill Belichick find ways to make him very productive.  Also as shown by their dominance over the Dolphins on Monday Night, no one features their tight ends better than the Patriots and they have two potential Pro Bowlers in 2nd-year phenoms Gronkowski and Hernandez.

9. New York Jets – [Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Derrick Mason, Mardy Gilyard, RB Shonn Greene, RB LaDanian Tomlinson and TE Dustin Keller].  I am going to call this group, “The Over the Hill” Gang as three members are on the downside of their careers (Mason, Burress, and LT).  But even at their advanced NFL age (over 31), these veterans plus youngsters (Holmes, Keller, and others) make an impressive set of targets for 3rd-year rising quarterback Mark Sanchez.  This unit will be particularly hard to contain in the redzone as they may not be a great “fade” pattern target in last 20 years then Plaxico Burress.  HC Rex Ryan and young OC Brian Schottenheimer must love the luxury of having one of the best pass-catching backs in NFL history, venerable pro Tomlinson, on 3rd downs.

10. San Diego Chargers – [Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Patrick Crayton, Richard Goodman, Bryan Walters, TE Antonio Gates, RB Ryan Matthews, RB Mike Tolbert, and TE Randy McMichael].  Quarterback Philip Rviers has been a consistent 4,000-yard, 25+ touchdown guy throughout his NFL career and a lot has to due with the multitude of weapons he has it his disposal.  Though this group is not “Air Coryell” worthy, they are big and are very tough to match-up with over-the-middle and in the redzone.  Some have said that the Chargers pass catchers resemble a basketball team, which is ironic given that star tight end Antonio Gates started out as a power forward in college.  Now the V-Jax has finally put away his contract squabbles with San Diego, I expect a nice 1,000-yard, 10-TD performance from him this season.  Also you can not forget the huge value of two sure-handed running backs in Matthews and Tolbert to HC Norv Turner.

Honorable Mention:

Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Jericho Cottrey, Emanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, RB Rashard Mendenhall and TE Heath Miller

Tennessee Titans – Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Lavelle Hawkins, TE Jared Cook, and RB Chris Johnson

Kansas City Chiefs – Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Jerahamie Urban, Jon Baldwin, WR/RB Dexter McClusters and RB Jamaal Charles

Detroit Lions – Calvin Johnson, Nate Burelson, rookie Titus Young, TE Brandon Pettigrew, TE Tony Scheffler and RB Jahvid Best
 

Lloyd Vance is the Editor for Taking It to the House and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).  Lloyd can be reached on Twitter @lloydvance_nfl

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