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2003 Sleepers & Busts From The Huddle Staff - Wide Receivers
August 14, 2003
 
Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends IDP

SLEEPERS

Bob Cunningham

Johnnie Morton, Kansas City -- He had a hugely disappointing season in 2002 but Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil is wise enough to recognize Morton's potential value, and make it a point with QB Trent Green to get him the ball more. I'm predicting 70 catches, near 1,000 yards, and about eight scores.

Josh Reed, Buffalo -- He's still very young, but he could realistically take in the same number of catches as his predecessor, Peerless Price, and reach the house even more frequently. He's in an ideal situation with an established No. 1 wideout (Eric Moulds) opposite him and a top-passing QB (Drew Bledsoe) throwing it his way.

Santana Moss, New York Jets -- Electriyfing speed, and he should be an every-down guy this season. With a talented QB in Chad Pennington adept at getting him the rock, Moss could easily go well over 1,000 yards and double-figure scores, including some lengthy treks to paydirt.

David Dorey

Josh Reed, Buffalo -- While no one expects Reed to jump in to the #2 receiver spot and immediately duplicate Peerless Price’s great 2002 season, the reality is that he may provide no less significance to the offense. While Price was the speedster with the long catches, Reed is slightly slower but a better possession player with the ability to turn a catch into more yards. He has been very impressive in camp and will gain the same benefit that Price had last season of catching passes from Drew Bledsoe while the safeties worry about Eric Moulds. It will only be his second season, but thrust into a starting role, Reed is looking like he is ready.

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis -- Marvin Harrison will always be the first read for Peyton Manning, but don’t discount what this former first round draft pick might do in his third season. Wayne has decent size and speed, great hands that have impressed the coaches in training camp and perhaps just as importantly, he has one of the best pure passers in the game for a quarterback. With the defense still not a top tier unit, the Indianapolis Colts will be needing to post some points this season to stay in games and with Harrison there to terrify the secondary, Wayne is ready to take the second read by Manning and turn it into some nice fantasy points. In 2002, Wayne had 716 yards and four scores but did have three 100 yard efforts. More should be in the making this season.

Ashley Lelie, Denver -- Rounding out the trifecta of young sleeper receivers, Lelie will be sharing time with Ed "Old Man” McCaffrey this season and if training camp is an indication – he’ll get the most time and make the most of it. Lelie has been consistently impressing the coaching staff this summer and last year’s first rounder is poised for good year. With a new quarterback in Jake Plummer, Lelie can start the Broncos attempt to refresh the receivers that have Rod Smith and McCaffrey already as two of the oldest starters in the league.

Dave Foral

Travis Taylor, Baltimore -- Taylor possesses outstanding talent, has an excellent run game to soften up the defensive backfields, and should have more consistency at QB this year. While Taylor has struggled and looked lost at times in the past, head coach Brian Billick expects and is depending on him to thrive in his 3rd season. With veteran Frank Sanders commanding attention on the other side of the field with his clean route running, Taylor should see plenty of down-field action this season.

Dane Looker, St. Louis -- Keep a close eye on who ends up at the 3 spot in St. Louis this year. Right now, it appears Dane Looker has the position all but sewn up. Looker was NFL-Europe’s top receiver last year and was MVP of the World Bowl championship game after catching 11 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns. He spent part of the two previous seasons with the Rams, so he understands the offense, and Looker has reportedly been tearing it up in training camp. While Troy Edwards and rookies Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald will challenge for the position and likely see playing time, Looker deserves a late round flyer if his pre-season continues the way it’s started.

Todd Kleinheinz

Josh Reed, Buffalo -- Reed is being highly undervalued early on. Reed has slid into the #2 receiver position in Buffalo opposite Eric Moulds. Peerless Price, last year’s #2 WR in Buffalo, parlayed his success with QB Drew Bledsoe and the high powered Bills offense into a mega-contract from the Atlanta Falcons. Reed is set to break out, with Moulds requiring constant double teams, he will find himself in plenty of one-on-one situations. Situations that a veteran QB like Bledsoe can exploit.

Joe Levit

Chad Johnson, Cleveland -- Johnson is shooting for 1800 yards this season. While I don’t think he will get there, I do like his goal-setting mentality, and his ability to beat bump and run coverage. A cocky Bengal, Johnson is being overlooked in drafts. You should never ignore an undisputed number one wideout who has talent, a good offensive line, and a quarterback he is familiar with.

Darrell Jackson, Seattle -- There is little doubt that Koren Robinson will be a terrific fantasy player this season. But everyone seems to have forgotten about Jackson, who has been a rising star for the Seahawks himself. Last year he fought nagging injuries all year. I forsee a number 1 and number 1-A wideout situation in Seattle this season, much like Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress for Pittsburgh last season. That would make Jackson a good second receiver and excellent third fantasy wideout.

Paul Sandy

Corey Bradford, Houston -- Last season, Bradford quickly developed a rapport with rookie QB David Carr. For a stretch, the former Green Bay Packer receiver even may have nudged his way into a few fantasy starting lineups. However, NFL defenses quickly figured out that Bradford was the only real offensive threat and keyed in on him. This season, the Texans drafted promising rookie Andre Johnson and signed free agent running back Stacey Mack. Both will draw coverage. As a result, Bradford’s numbers should see a boost as he and the strong-armed Carr burn defenses deep all season. If your league rewards for long touchdowns, pay particular attention to Bradford as he always has one of the NFL’s best yards-per-catch average.

Johnnie Morton, Kansas City -- The Chiefs offense is like a two liter bottle of Pepsi that has been drop-kicked of the upper level in Arrowhead Stadium. It has the potential to explode the second it hits the field. The problem is it’s tough to figure out which receiver is going to lead the team. While most gurus are predicting a big year for Mark Boerigter, I see Johnnie Morton returning to form in 2003. The word out of Kansas City is offensive coordinator Al Saunders decided to move Morton from the “Z” slot to the “X” slot – a position that is more familiar to him. Morton is showing flashes of his old self and should breach the 1,000-yard barrier this year.

Fritz Schottman

Chad Johnson, Cincinnati -- Okay, it’s hard to pick a Cincinnati Bengal as a sleeper; I’ll give you that. But you can’t deny what the Bengals top receiver did in the second half of 2002.

Once QB Jon Kitna became a solid starter, Chad Johnson’s career took off. Over the final eight games of the season Johnson had five 100-yard games and three touchdowns. Johnson finished 2003 with more receiving yards than Donald Driver, Isaac Bruce, and Jimmy Smith despite having a merry-go-round at quarterback on the league’s worst football team. If the Bengals can get some confidence on offense right out of the gate, Johnson can be very productive for your fantasy team.

Jerry Porter, Oakland -- Dude’s already the best wide receiver on this football team. The only reason he isn’t starting the games is that there are two Hall-of-fame receivers in front of him-and that demands some respect. Regardless of who get introduced prior to the game, Porter is the number one and is only waiting for team management to arrange a graceful passing of the baton from Tim Brown to the Raiders next feature wide receiver. Playing in a conference with glaring weaknesses in the secondary, Porter will get his shot at fantasy stardom this season.

Whitney Walters

Brian Finneran, Atlanta -- In all the Vick / Price hype, let's not forget the Falcons leading receiver from last season. Finneran pulled in 56 passes last season, six for touchdowns. But he will fall under many an owner's radar as the focus on this team will be Vick and the newly acquired Price. He will bring your team great value as he is currently falling into the 11th, 12th and even 13th rounds in many drafts. That's way to low for a receiver that could bring you 800 yards and eight TDs with more upside if the Atlanta passing game clicks this season. Finneran is a tall receiver (6-5) that will get plenty of looks in the red zone, and his superior blocking skills means he'll be on the field in almost every situation.

Reche Caldwell, San Diego -- The second year receiver out of Florida should get his chance to shine this season. With Caldwell's good speed and even better route running, look for him to be the Chargers' No. 2 wide receiver. And with newly acquired David Boston receiving all the attention on the other side of the field, quarterback Drew Brees will be looking Caldwell's way often.

Ashley Lelie, Denver -- After a so-so rookie campaign (35-525, 2 TD) Lelie has returned to Bronco camp with an extra 15 pounds of muscle and a new focus. His big catch ability has him the star of training camp so far and the odds of him running at the No. 2 WR slot next to Rod Smith increase daily. It won't be easy unseating Ed McCaffrey, but it will happen. "Easy" Ed just hasn't been the same player since the devastating broken leg in 2001. This is only Lelie's second season and he's still a work in progress, but if he can continue to develop a solid chemistry with Jake Plummer, he could be a force sooner than later.

BUSTS

Bob Cunningham

Kevin Johnson, Cleveland -- It's becoming a numbers game in Cleveland, which sports a more dominant receiver in Quincy Morgan, a faster one in Andre Davis, and a more dynamic one in Dennis Northcutt. Johnson is yesterday's news until he hooks on with another club.

David Dorey

David Boston, San Diego -- Not that Boston will do nothing, but in light of his high draft pick most teams are squandering on him this season, Boston should be a disappointment. Consider that Boston is in the first season with a new team, new quarterback and offensive scheme. First year players invariably take a season to adjust and meet their potential and in this case, Boston goes to a team that is not exactly pass-happy as it is. Boston has only played a full 16 game season once in his career and in 2001 when he gained 1598 yards and had eight touchdowns, he still missed a game. He has already been banged up in training camp which is less alarming about his health than it is the missed opportunity to practice with Drew Brees. Boston will be a possession receiver in the offense and should get a good number to throws this year, but expecting him to repeat his big 2001 season in his first season with a non-passing team while he is fat and happy with a big contract is a recipe for disappointment.

Dave Foral

Ed McCaffrey, Denver -- It almost seems unfathomable to call this, but my bust at WR this season has got to be Easy Ed McCaffrey. There is no doubt that he is one of the hardest-working, underappreciated (outside of Denver) receivers of our generation, and I’ve targeted McCaffrey as a #2-#3 WR in year’s past. This year, however, he will be facing two up-hill battles. First, his physical state. McCaffrey is almost 35 years old and has been plagued recently by nagging injuries that have hampered his production. Second, is a young horse named Ashley Lelie. Lelie is already listed as the #2 WR in the Broncos offense, and is poised to use his speed and strength to have a breakout season with newly-appointed Jake Plummer at the helm. While he will see plenty of PT if healthy, gone are the days of solid #2-caliber WR numbers. Still, grab Easy Ed if he falls to the late-middle rounds.

Todd Kleinheinz

Ed McCaffrey, Denver -- With new QB Jake Plummer on board now, and young WR Ashley Lelie ready to step up to the plate, it may be McCaffrey’s numbers that take the biggest hit. Lelie may not take over immediately, but he will for sure start as the #3 WR in camp and may move up before camp ends. McCaffrey is on the decline, has been hit by the injury bug and has seen his numbers fall of recently. So in Bronco camp, it may be a three-way dance for catches early on, but in the end, Lelie should be standing tall in the Mile High City.

Joe Levit

Hines Ward, Pittsburgh -- Ward just had his career year. He is a true trooper, and a great blocking wide receiver. However, Plaxico Burress is still getting better, and Ward’s twelve touchdowns are an anomaly. He is going to be a good fantasy player this year, just not a good fantasy pick. Owners will have to select him too high this season.

Paul Sandy

Rod Smith, Denver -- The Broncos seem to have too many passing options. Shannon Sharpe, Ed McCaffrey and Ashley Lelie will share the receptions with Smith. And don’t forget the Broncos acquired a new quarterback in the offseason. There’s no telling how quickly the unpredictable Jake Plummer will learn Mike Shanahan’s offensive scheme. Plus, when new QBs come to town, they tend to gravitate toward one receiver. While that receiver may end up being Smith, I would avoid the situation altogether.

Fritz Schottman

Tim Brown, Oakland -- Not so much as a knock on Brown, but age and Jerry Porter finally catch up to him this year. Rice is a Hall-of-Fame possession receiver and is unlikely to get bumped, leaving Brown short on playing time. ‘Not often that a number one WR on the number one offense isn’t worth at least a mid-round pick.

Whitney Walters

Curtis Conway, New York Jets -- Conway could be solid for the Jets, but he is a downgrade from Coles. He has topped 1000 yard receiving only once in the last six seasons with a max of only six touchdowns in that same time frame. This is also his 11th season and the explosiveness is gone. He's played all 16 games only once in the past six seasons and durability is a legitimate concern. Throw in the adjustment to a new offensive system and you have a bucket-full of downside for Conway.

Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends IDP