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Jersey Numbers: Wide Receivers

Over the next several weeks, we’re going to look at several different positions (I can’t yet promise all) to identify the best players wearing each jersey number at each position. If this goes as planned, we’ll then compile a list of the best player wearing each jersey number in the league.

If you have quibbles, or want to add someone I forgot, leave a comment and we’ll update this post. And please have patience – this is a big job.

We’ll start in this post with the best wide receivers at each jersey number. In general, wideouts are allowed to wear numbers between 10 and 19 as well as between 80 and 89.

10 – Santonio Holmes, Steelers – We’ll go with Holmes, the defending Super Bowl MVP, in this category, but it’s a close decision over DeSean Jackson of the Eagles. Both are significant starters for their teams and emerging stars in the league. Other notable 10: Jabar Gaffney, Broncos

11 – Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Fitzgerald is one of the very best receivers in the league, and so he gets the nod as the premier wideout wearing No. 11. He became a superstar in last year’s playoffs, doing what he had done in relative obscurity earlier in his career in Arizona. Fitzgerald is the real deal. Other notable 11s: Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars; Mohammed Massaquoi, Browns; Roy Williams, Cowboys; Laveranues Coles, Bengals; Julian Edelman, Patriots; Legedu Naanee, Chargers; Roscoe Parrish, Bills; Stefan Logan, Steelers

12 – Marques Colston, Saints – Colston is the premier receiver on the league’s most potent offense, and now that he’s healthy he’s showing incredible skills for his size. That gives him the nod over Steve Smith of the Giants as the best No. 12 wideout in the league. Both Colston and Smith may have to move over for Minnesota rookie Percy Harvin at some point in the future. Other notable 12s: Michael Jenkins, Falcons; Justin Gage, Titans; Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders; Quan Cosby, Bengals

13 – Johnny Knox, Bears – Knox is the only notable receiver wearing No. 13 this year. The rookie out of Abilene Christian has had a nice freshman season in the NFL with three receiving TDs and a return for a score. Maybe he’ll make 13 a trendier, if not luckier, number for wideouts.

14 – Brandon Stokley, Broncos – Like 13, 14 isn’t a popular number for receivers. Stokley, who had good seasons with the Colts and the most memorable touchdown of the season off a tip in the opener against the Bengals, is the best of the bunch over St. Louis prospect Keenan Burton. Other notable 14: Eric Weems, Falcons

15 – Brandon Marshall, Broncos – Marshall’s numbers aren’t quite as good this season as fellow 15 Steve Breaston of Arizona, but Marshall is the more dynamic and more important player than Arizona’s talented third receiver. Marshall has the talent to be one of the league’s top-5 overall receivers. Other notable 15s: Kelley Washington, Ravens; Chris Henry, Bengals; Davone Bess, Dolphins; Michael Crabtree, 49ers; Courtney Roby, Saints

16 – Josh Cribbs, Browns – Lance Moore of the Saints is the only notable pure wide receiver wearing No. 16 right now, but Cribbs, Cleveland’s do-everything guy, plays enough receiver and has a receiver number, so he counts here. Cribbs catches the ball, returns kicks, and plays under center in the wildcat. He may be the league’s best return man, and he’s growing as an offensive force. Moore had a strong season as New Orleans’ slot receiver last year, but injuries have hampered his production this year. Other notable 16: Danny Amendola, Rams

17 – Braylon Edwards, Jets – Edwards had fallen out of favor in Cleveland last year and this season, and his numbers reflected that diminished importance, but he’s now in New York and gaining steam. So we’ll list him as the top 17 over rookies Mike Wallace of Pittsburgh and Austin Collie of Indianapolis. Other notable 17s: Donnie Avery, Rams; Robert Meachem, Saints

18 – Sidney Rice, Vikings – Rice is emerging as the Vikings’ most reliable receiver, and he has become one of Brett Favre’s favorite targets. His good size and exceptional ball skills and leaping ability are finally starting to shine through now that he’s in his third season. He beats a crop of rookies to earn the honor as the best receiver wearing 18. Other notable 18s: Kenny Britt, Titans; Jeremy Maclin, Eagles; Louis Murphy, Raiders; Sammie Stroughter, Buccaneers

19 – Miles Austin, Cowboys – Austin has come out of nowhere over the past three games to establish himself as an explosive threat and the Cowboys’ best receiver. Even with the return heroics of Miami’s Ted Ginn Jr. and Denver’s Eddie Royal this year, Austin is the best 19. Other notable 19: Devery Henderson, Saints

23 – Devin Hester, Bears – Because Hester came into the NFL as a defensive back, he’s been allowed to keep his old DB number of 23 even though he’s now a wide receiver. The fact that he’s Chicago’s No. 1 outside target makes this a legitimate listing for a bit of a funky number for a receiver.

80 – Andre Johnson, Texans – If you made me pick one receiver as the best in the league, this is the guy. He has freakish size, incredible speed, and great production throughout his career. The only pockmark on his resume is the fact that he’s been dinged up from time to time. So he gets an easy decision here over Donald Driver of Green Bay as the best receiver wearing 80. Other notable 80s: Earl Bennett, Bears; Malcom Floyd, Chargers; Bryant Johnson, Lions; Bobby Wade, Chiefs; Marty Booker, Falcons; Mike Thomas, Jaguars

81 – Randy Moss, Patriots – Moss is already an all-time great, and he’s still performing at a premium level for the Pats. This is an easy call, even though  current great Anquan Boldin of Arizona, past greats Torry Holt of the Jaguars and Terrell Owens of the Bills, and future great Calvin Johnson of Detroit also wear 81. This number has great depth of talent. Other notable 81: Nate Burleson, Seahawks

82 – Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – As deep as 81 is in talent, 82 is thin. We’ll give the nod to Bowe over the Giants’ Mario Manningham because Bowe has had more good seasons, even though Manningham has been more impactful this year. Other notable 82s: Antwaan Randle El, Redskins; Brian Hartline, Dolphins

83 – Wes Welker, Patriots – Welker, who piles up gobs of catches as the jitterbug/security blanket of the Patriots offense, narrowly gets this nod over Vincent Jackson of San Diego, who has joined the list of the league’s 10 best receivers. Lee Evans of Buffalo doesn’t have equivalent numbers because his quarterbacks have stunk for years, but he’s no slouch either. Other notable 83s: Kevin Walter, Texans; Deion Branch, Seahawks; Sinorice Moss, Giants

84 – Roddy White, Falcons – White has emerged as one of the top receivers in the league over the past three years, and he looks like he’ll team with Matt Ryan for a long time as Atlanta’s dynamic duo. We’ll take the ascending White over the descending T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who has had a great career in Cincinnati but is starting to show signs of slippage in his first season in Seattle. Other notable 84s: Patrick Crayton, Cowboys; Josh Morgan, 49ers; Bobby Engram, Chiefs; Javon Walker, Raiders

85 – Chad Ochocinco, Bengals – We have to give this jersey-number to Ochocinco, since he changed his name to be his jersey number in Spanish (kind of). But Ochocinco deserves it given the renaissance year he is having with the Bengals. Derrick Mason of the Ravens contended for the honor based on his long career, while Greg Jennings of the Packers could claim this honor in the future. Other notable 85s: Pierre Garcon, Colts; Jerheme Urban, Cardinals

86 – Hines Ward, Steelers – There aren’t a lot of great receivers wearing 86, but there is one – Ward. The former Super Bowl MVP isn’t just great at catching the ball; he’s a vicious blocker downfield as well. He’s a borderline Hall of Famer who is still building his resume. Other notable 86s: Dennis Northcutt, Lions; Brian Finneran, Falcons

87 – Reggie Wayne, Colts – Wayne has seamlessly taken over for Marvin Harrison as Peyton Manning’s premier target in Indy, and now Wayne is building his own case for the Hall of Fame. There aren’t five receivers in the league who are better or more explosive than Wayne. Other notable 87s: Bernard Berrian, Vikings; Andre Caldwell, Bengals; Muhsin Muhammad, Panthers; Mike Furrey, Browns; David Clowney, Jets; Jordy Nelson, Packers; Domenik Hixon, Giants

88 – Isaac Bruce, 49ers – Bruce is no longer the dynamic force he was for years in St. Louis, but he’s good enough to claim this number as his lifetime achievement award. Rookie Hakeem Nicks of the Giants is the only other significant 88 as a receiver, but he looks as though he will be a good one. Other notable 88: Chansi Stuckey, Browns

89 – Steve Smith, Panthers – Smith hasn’t had the season this year that he’s had in the past, and he’s even felt at times that he wasn’t an asset to his team, but those problems have more to do with the struggles of Carolina QB Jake Delhomme than with Smith’s own shortcomings. Smith is just 5-foot-9, but he’s lightning quick, built like a brick house, tough to bring down, and shockingly good on jump balls. He’s still an elite receiver. Other notable 89s: Santana Moss, Redskins; Jerricho Cotchery, Jets; Mark Clayton, Ravens; Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers; James Jones, Packers

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Fantasy Football Applaud or a Fraud – Week 8

Each week, we dive into the stat sheets to see which weekly performers fantasy owners should applaud and which fantasy owners should write off as frauds. You can read past applaud or a fraud analyses in the category listing. And if we’re changing a past recommendation, we’ll include it here as well.

Quarterbacks

Marc Bulger, Rams – Bulger is back healthy again, and he led the Rams to their first win of the year. But he’s not going to lead your fantasy team anywhere throwing for 176 yards without a touchdown. He’s back – so what. Verdict: A fraud

Matthew Stafford, Lions – Stafford returned to the lineup against the Rams, but his first game back didn’t lead to big numbers or a win. With just 168 passing yards, Stafford was a fantasy disappointment. That’s probably going to remain the case over the rest of the season. Stafford’s a talent, but he’s not seasoned enough to help fantasy owners yet. Verdict: A fraud

Vince Young, Titans– Young made his triumphant return to the lineup actually triumphant, leading the Titans to their first win of the season. His fantasy numbers weren’t great – 125 passing yards, one passing touchdown, and 30 rushing yards. But his completion percentage (15-of-18) was good, and that’s a good sign. Young’s not ready to contribute to a starting lineup right now, but he has a little potential. It’s enough to make him a waiver claim in larger fantasy leagues of 12 teams or more. That will earn him very reserved applause. Verdict: Applaud

Running Backs

Matt Forte, Bears – Forte has been the most disappointing fantasy first-round pick this season, but he came back with a big game against the Browns this week. But don’t let that performance of two touchdowns and 121 yards from scrimmage serve as a panacea. Forte’s two best games of the season have happened against the Browns and Lions, which is not a good sign against real-live NFL teams. Forte is not worth dropping (as one person in a small league I play in did), but be careful about starting him on a weekly basis. And because he’s not a shoo-in starter, we have to give him a thumbs-down right now. Verdict: A fraud

Jamal Lewis, Browns – Lewis’ injury problems and terrible team left him on the waiver wire of many leagues. He’s not a great fantasy performer – 69 yards on 16 carries against Chicago is about as much as you can expect – but it is a reminder that he is worth owning in leagues with a normal-sized bench. This is just a smattering, but still… Verdict: Applaud

Ryan Moats, Texans – Steve Slaton’s persistent fumbling problems caused the Texans to bench their starter midway through the game against Buffalo, and Moats stepped in to have a ridiculous game with 126 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Who knows what the Texans will do with Moats going forward, but the amount of upside he showed in the Texans’ prolific offense is enough reason to sprint to the waiver wire to claim him. Moats isn’t just a cause celebre in cruel hospital cop episode anymore; he’s this week’s best fantasy pickup. Verdict: Applaud

Jonathan Stewart, Panthers – Stewart has had a good season from a yards-per-carry basis this year, but he has rarely found the end zone. That changed at Arizona this week as he had two touchdowns along with his 87 yards on 17 carries. While you can’t count on Stewart scoring twice every week, Sunday’s line is a reminder that Stewart is still a pretty good flex option most weeks. Verdict: Applaud

Leonard Weaver, Eagles – Just about every fantasy-relevant Eagle (save the concussed Brian Westbrook) scored against the Giants this week, but the first to score was Weaver, the team’s fullback. Not only did he have a 41-yard touchdown run; he actually piled up 75 rushing yards. Weaver is a fullback, which limits his fantasy value, but he always seemed to end up with three or four touchdowns a year in his previous home in Seattle. So you can’t think of Weaver as a pickup in most leagues, but in massive leagues (16 teams or more) he should be on your radar. We can’t clap for that limited a fantasy market, but we wanted to at least note Weaver’s meager value. Verdict: A fraud

Wide Receivers

Keenan Burton, Rams – Burton had five catches for 54 yards for the Rams this week. There are so few targets in St. Louis that we’ve seen guys like Burton and Danny Almendola pop up on the weekly stat leader sheets each week. The thing is that they pop right back off that list. So don’t waste a claim on Burton this week. Verdict: A fraud

Percy Harvin, Vikings – Harvin continues to be a reliable option for Brett Favre, and that is paying off for fantasy owners. He scored his fifth touchdown of the year as he had five catches for 84 yards and a score against Green Bay. Harvin is a top-30 receiver in leagues where his return touchdowns count, which is pretty high status indeed for a rookie receiver. Verdict: Applaud

Greg Jennings, Packers – Jennings has been a big-time fantasy disappointment this year, but he did bounce back against his former teammate Brett Favre’s Vikings Sunday with eight catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Jennings isn’t the top-8 fantasy wideout that he was drafted to be, but he is a top 20 wideout still, and that makes him a weekly starter. For that, we’ll clap. Verdict: Applaud

Terrell Owens, Bills – Owens scored just his second touchdown of the season Sunday on a 29-yard run. That’s a boon to anyone who is still starting Owens, but the bottom line is that no one should still be putting T.O. in their lineup on a weekly basis. If this blip on the scoring radar helps you get a little more in a deal for Owens, do it, because he’s not a starter moving forward. Verdict: A fraud

Mike Thomas, Jaguars – Thomas, one of the Jags’ many rookie receivers, had a nice game against Tennessee with four catches for 55 yards. That’s not enough for us to recommend that you claim Thomas, but it is enough for us to note him. He’s a guy to watch in the next couple of weeks to see if he starts to emerge with a bigger role in the offense. Verdict: A fraud

Tight Ends

Kevin Boss, Giants – Boss caught his first TD pass of the season against the Eagles Sunday, and it was the first TD pass from Eli Manning to a non-wideout this year. Boss is a decent receiver, but he’s not a good enough receiver to have big upside  over the rest of the season. He’s a top 16 tight end, but only barely. So unless you’re in a massive league, pass over Boss. Verdict: A fraud

Spencer Havner, Packers – When I first looked up Havner in the NFL.com database, he was listed as a linebacker. But this ‘backer has three touchdowns over the past two weeks for the Pack. That scoring spree matches up with Jermichael Finley’s injury. It’s hard to see Havner as a serious fantasy option given that he has just four catches over the past two weeks, but with three of those grabs going for touchdowns, Havner’s a guy to consider as a bye-week fill-in Week 9. Verdict: Applaud

Dustin Keller, Jets – Keller has had a bit of a disappointing season, but he broke out against the Dolphins with eight catches for 76 yards and a touchdown this Sunday. Keller is on bye this weekend, and he’s still going to be up and down, but this game gives hope that he has some more fantasy production left in his season. Verdict: Applaud

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