As the NFL has evolved into a passing league in recent years, wide receivers and tight ends have become prominent pieces in the success or failure of fantasy football owners. Multiple players at these positions come out of nowhere to become relevant, but the biggest names still stand out for better or worse.
With that, here is a look at seven wide receivers and one tight end that disappointed many fantasy football owners with their performance in 2011.
8. Chad Ochocinco, WR, New England Patriots-
A move to New England looked like a big step in a positive direction for Ochocinco, as the prospect of catching passes from Tom Brady would do for any wide receiver. But he reportedly struggled to grasp the Patriots' offense, not too surprising considering the shortened offseason, and that led to reduced playing time and a lack of production. Ochocinco never had more than two catches in any game all season, and did not catch a touchdown (his only of the season) until Week 15. Name recognition certainly played a role in increased optimism about his potential as a fantasy sleeper, but 15 receptions total for the season was definitely not what even the most pessimistic fantasy owner would have expected from Ochocinco this season.
7. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys-
Bryant's rookie season came to an early end with a broken leg in 2010, but optimism remained for 2011 as he flashed nice potential and a return to full health and some expected improvement in his second NFL season. A Week 1 quad pull limited his effectiveness early in the season, and he missed one game, but even once he returned to full health never had more than 90 yards in a game all season. Bryant did finish fairly strongly with three consecutive games with a touchdown from Week 13-Week 15, despite having just one catch in two of those games, followed by six catches in each of the final two games of the season. He did finish with nine touchdown catches, so the season was not a complete lost cause, but fantasy owners that expected him to join the elite among wide receivers were definitely disappointed.
6. Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens-
Boldin started the season with a strong game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, with four receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown, and he put up at least 74 receiving yards in five of the first eight games of the season and had a touchdown catch in one of the three in which he didn't reach that yardage total. But from Week 10-Week 15 Boldin never had more than five catches in a game and he missed the final two games of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. The injury may have been a factor in his decline in production, but 57 total receptions and just three touchdowns on the season was a let down for fantasy owners that thought he had the makings of a solid fantasy wide receiver at the beginning of the season.
5. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts-
The uncertainty of quarterback Peyton Manning's health made it easy to predict the potential of a down campaign for Wayne, but seven catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against the Houston Texans created some optimism. But he did not reach that yardage total again until Week 12 and failed to have that many (or more) catches in a game until Week 16. Wayne did appear to have greater chemistry with quarterback Dan Orlovsky after he replaced Curtis Painter under center for the Colts, with at least five receptions in three of Orlovsky's five starts. That yielded a strong finish for Wayne, with 16 receptions in Week 16 and Week 17 combined, but that may have been too little too late for many fantasy owners who took a chance on him on draft day.
4. Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers-
"Tampa Mike" enjoyed a breakout rookie season in 2010, with 65 receptions for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns, which created plenty of optimism coming into 2011. That potential did not come to fruition for Williams, as it did not for the Buccaneers' team as a whole, as he had just three touchdowns all season and just two after Week 1. He did have five or more catches in eight of his first 12 games, and ultimately matched his catch total from last season despite having just eight catches over the final four games of the season. Williams had 50 or less receiving yards in a game 10 times this season, which is not what fantasy owners expecting at least a repeat of 2010 had in mind.
3. Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers-
Finley played just five games in 2010, but averaged 14.3 yards per catch to flash his tantalizing potential and vault into the upper echelon of fantasy tight ends coming into 2011. He started the season well with at least 53 receiving yards in each of the season's first three games, which was capped by a three-touchdown performance against the Chicago Bears in Week 3. After that, he would have just two touchdowns over the next eight games with five or more catches just once in that span. Finley did finish the season fairly strongly with 13 receptions and two touchdowns over the final three weeks of the season, but a zero-catch game in Week 14 against the Oakland Raiders certainly hurt his fantasy owners. Finley finished as the fifth-highest scoring tight end in ESPN standard leagues, propelled by eight touchdown catches, but lack of consistency means he was capable of a lot more.
2. DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles-
Jackson came into the season looking for a contract extension as he watched the Eagles' front office assemble a "Dream Team", and stated his case immediately with seven receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams in Week 1. He had at least five catches and 86 yards in three of the first five games of the season, but then followed that up by reaching those totals just once from Week 6-Week 15 with just one touchdown in that span. Jackson did have a solid finish to the season, with nine receptions for 176 yards and a touchdown in Week 16 and Week 17 combined, but that was not enough to state his case for a lucrative new contract or most likely adhere him to his fantasy owners either.
1. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans-
Johnson was likely the first wide receiver off the board in many fantasy drafts last summer, and he proceeded to justify that with 21 receptions for 316 yards and two touchdowns over the first three games of the season. But a hamstring injury in Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers kept him out for the following six games, and he returned to action in Week 12 against the Jacksonville Jaguars with two catches for 22 yards. He had four receptions for 97 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13, but injured his other hamstring in that game and missed the next three games before returning on a limited snap count in Week 17 and had two catches for 21 yards. Fantasy owners who had to spend a first round pick on Johnson definitely expected to get more than seven games out of him, and 12 total receptions from Week 4-Week 17 puts him at the top of this list.
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