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
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.
Josh Reed, Buffalo -- While no one expects Reed to
jump in to the #2 receiver spot and immediately duplicate
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
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.
Travis Taylor, Baltimore -- Taylor possesses
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
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
Josh Reed, Buffalo -- Reed is being highly undervalued
early on. Reed has slid into the #2 receiver position in
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
in the red zone, and his superior blocking skills means
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Hines Ward, Pittsburgh --
Ward just had his career year. He is a true trooper, and
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.
Rod Smith, Denver -- The Broncos seem to have too
many passing options. Shannon Sharpe, Ed McCaffrey and
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.
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.
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.