Thursday, July 21, 2005

FANTASY FOOTBALL'S 4 STAR WIDEOUTS; A REDUX!

Fantasy Football's Wide Receivers


So, Fantasy Football owners... in the first 3 rounds of your fantasy draft, assuming you follow the time-tested pattern most "FGMs" (Fantasy General Managers) who are worth their salt... or keyboards or whatever do, you've pulled a pair of top Running Backs and your #1 signal caller off the draft board. Now, in the 4th round, it's high time you snagged yourself a top pass catcher!

As every experienced "FGM" is aware, fantasy wideouts don't have the same value fantasy Running Backs do. However, that's NOT to say that you should punt the position in favor of a backup QB or #3 'back. Actually, quite the opposite. A solid NFL receiver will consistently post fantasy points. This my friends, is crucial.

1. Eagles Terrell Owens: 4 STARS; 77 Rec., 1,200 Yards, 14 TDs: Assuming he re-joins the Eagle aerie by game 1 of the regular season... and seeing as how he'll be fined a hefty game check for each regular season tilt missed- my hard-earned dough is on T.O strapping 'em on, No NFL pass catcher is as dangerous. A tall, powerful, physical athlete with impeccable body control, T.O can overpower most D-Backs and assume control of a game in the same way Jerry Rice used to. Point-blank, a motivated T.O is fantasy’s most valuable wideout. McNabb and Terrell are as good a catch and throw combo as exists anywhere in the league, and are capable of matching, or even eclipsing, Indy's vaunted "Manning-to-Harrison" connection. Owens notched scores in 9 of the 14 regular-season games in which he played, and put on a post-season clinic; 13 grabs for 130 yards on a bum wheel. The Eag’s will receive solid run support from RB Brian Westbrook and possibly Westbrook’s rookie clone, newly inked Ryan Moats. As for complementary receivers… that’s a little dicey. TE L.J. Smith threatens to break out at long last, Todd Pinkston is an unremarkable pass catcher, and Greg Lewis could surprise.

2. Raiders Randy Moss: 4 Stars; 49 Rec., 767 Yards, 13 TDs: No wideout runs a better fade- No wideout is a deadlier red-zone weapon- and no top wideout is a bigger fantasy gamble. However, QB Kerry Collins throws the deep ball with confidence and accuracy, and Moss should be his greatest beneficiary. Young pass catchers Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry and Doug Gabriel will be all the more effective because of Moss' presence, and RB LaMont Jordan will punish the defenders who opt to key on the passing game. Porter, in particular, is a solid ’05 breakout fantasy candidate.. Eager to prove his detractors wrong, look for Moss... who's lookin' "My-T" sharp in his new silver and black threads, to have a big season... assuming Collins doesn't revert to his "deer caught in the headlights" style of play (please see "Collins, Kerry; Former Giant Quarterback). Moss was, however, nicked up for a good portion of last season. A "DNP" (did not play) for 3 games, he was also a virtual non-factor in 4 others. But what of the games that DID see Moss' rear in high gear? Week 3 against Chicago: 7 grabs, 117 yards, 2 TDs, and Week 4 at Houston: 5 receptions, 90 yards, 2 TDs. A healthy Moss was on an early season roll, racking up 8 TDs in his first 5 contests. Weeks 7-10 were an injury-marred washout for the former Viking, but he regained his form and was a steady fantasy (and real) performer weeks 12-17, with TDs in 6 of the 7 games. In addition, Moss had a standout performance in Minny's 31-17 Wildcard win over Green Bay (a week when many Roto leagues held their "Championship" games), adding another duo of TDs. Will Randy Moss rise to the challenge and make Minnesota rue the day they parted ways with the near certain Hall of Fame receiver? My well-handled Fantasy Magic-8 ball say's ... "Absolutely!" Look for 1,150 or more receiving yards and 10+ TDs. Randy Moss, Kerry Collins, and LaMont Jordan will be an impressive fantasy triad in 2005.

3. Colts Marvin Harrison: 4 STARS; 86 Rec., 1,113 Yards, 15 TDs: Does Marvelous Marvin really need ANY introduction? An absolute scoring machine on an O that revolves around the passing game in much the same way the sun revolves around the Earth... I joke, I joke- the way the Earth revolves around Mars, Harrison is Manning's top target. A small but durable pass catcher, Marv' is fearless and possesses an outstanding set of mitts. Although 86 grabs for 1,113 yards were his lowest receiving totals in 7 seasons, owners need to keep in mind that the 33 year old Harrison is also part of a receiving corps "par excellence." Fellow wideouts Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokely, and TEs Dallas Clark and Marcus Pollard also received ample looks last season. In fact, the Indy O sported a trio of 1,000 yard receivers last year; positively nutty! Harrison's diminished numbers were a reflection of the incredible talent around him and NOT a reflection of diminished skills. Season after season, game after game, Marvin Harrison is there. Like Yellowstone’s “Ol’ Faithful,” Marv’s there. Like the changing tides, Marv’s there. Like the Great Pyramid of Giza, Marv’s … ok, you get the point, which is; the omnipresent Colt receiver is one of THE most under-rated NF’ers. Last season, Harrison scored in 11 of 16 games. Looking towards this season- with TE Marcus Pollard now in Detroit, the Colts can no longer play their much-beloved 2 TE sets. Although young TE Dallas Clark has proven himself capable and will receive plenty of red zone and "safety-valve" looks, it's not unreasonable to think that Manning, who enjoys a downright spooky connection with his #1 receiver, will look to Harrison with even greater frequency than in years past. If Brandon Stokely can remain healthy… he too could enjoy a second consecutive 10 TD season. Point blank? Although QB Peyton Manning has a tough encore season on his hands, the guy can stack 6’s like Denny’s stacks flapjacks. With talents such as #2 WR Reggie Wayne, #3 WR Brandon Stokely, TE Dallas Clark, and All-World ‘back Edgerrin James… it’s not inconceivable that Manning tosses 50-53 TDs. Look for "The Marvelous One," whose savvy and soft hands will offset any loss of speed... at least for this season, to again be Peyton’s “safety blanket” and hang double diggy' TDs.

4. Rams Torry Holt: 4 STARS; 94 Rec., 1,372 Yards, 10 TDs: Here's an O going through some small, but significant changes. It's no secret that both WR Isaac Bruce and RB Marshall Faulk are aging, but Bruce remains a factor where Faulk is relegated to a near afterthought. In Faulk's (Faulk’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is now his most valuable asset) stead- youngster Steven Jackson is assuming the feature ‘back duties. A tough, quick runner, Jackson will keep opposing Ds honest. As for our man Holt… the ’99 draft pick has had the opportunity to learn his craft at the knee of a master. Although he’s certainly lost a step… ‘kay, mebbe’ a step and ¾, Bruce runs razor-sharp routes, still has good quickness which allows him to get good separation, possesses tremendous football knowledge, and most importantly- has been a willing teacher. Bruce has taught Holt the many nuances of the position, and accordingly, Holt is almost on par with Oakland’s Randy Moss. Holt may not have Moss’ raw talent, but Moss assuredly lacks Holt’s every-down effort. In St. Louis, the student has supplanted the master; Holt notched scores in 8 games en route to his NFL record 5th consecutive 1,300 yard season. With a running game that is going through changes and Bruce getting no younger- Holt could notch career numbers.

5. Bengals Chad Johnson: 4 STARS; 95 Rec., 1,274 Yards, 9 TDs: If points were awarded for smack... Johnson would have enjoyed a record breaking season. Still, you've gotta like both his intensity and the game he brings to the field week in and week out. Johnson’s receptions rose for a 4th consecutive season, and at age 27- this cat’s just entering his prime. With a year of action under his belt, QB Carson Palmer now has a handle on just how quickly the game moves, he looks off receivers, moves through his progressions with greater confidence, and has improved his recognition skills immeasurably. And, having recorded TDs in their last 7 games together, Johnson and Palmer seem to have discovered that elusive QB/WR chemistry. With a capable #2 WR in T.J Houshmandzadeh lining up opposite him, powerful RB Rudi Johnson carrying the mail, and a pair of potential difference making rookie receivers in Tab Perry and Chris Henry learning the game- dare I say it? I dare; the Bengal O has explosive po’! Another of the new breed of big, strong receivers, Johnson can fend off D-backs and make the circus catch. Johnson had 17 plays of 20+ yards, and 5 of 40+ yards. Here's another fantasy wideout with career season potential.

6. Saints Joe Horn: 4 STARS; 94 Rec., 1,399 Yards, 11 TDs: Damn! Quick question… who talks more smack, politicians or NFL’ers? Well… I have no answer for that one, actually, but Joe “Horn o’ Plenty” can talk junk like few others can. Shooting your mouth off can get you into big trouble on the grid iron… if you can’t back it up. Horn does, however, back his big mouth up with big game play. With an awesome 22 plays of 20+ yards, and an average of 14.9 yards per catch- Horn has some “oral wiggle room.” Despite playing on a bum wheel, Horn had a tremendous ’04 campaign. Horn made QB Aaron Brooks look better than he actually was by adjusting to some poorly thrown balls, and helped fill the offensive vacuum caused by RB Deuce McAllister’s injury-marred season. The mark of a good fantasy receiver is, as we discussed, consistent contribution, and Joe Horn was just that, a consistent contributor. Say what you want about his on-field theater, the guy plays through pain… crucial for we fantasy owners, and as for production? How’s about 9 games with 80+ receiving yards, TD’s in 10 games, and TDs in 6 of the Saints’ last 8 games. The bad news? At 33, Horn isn’t getting any younger and only his football knowledge and ability to separate keep him in “elite” company. The fact of the matter is, many owners will be downgrading Horn for ’05. I think, however, that Horn has at least one more 8-10 score season in him, and emerging young pass catcher Donte’ Stallworth will make it difficult for foes to double up on Horn. Bottom line? Horn won’t blow this year- He’s worth the 4th or 5th round pick!

Next up… 3 ½ STAR – 3 STAR Wide Receivers!

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