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Old Faces in New Places: The WR Story
by Todd Kleinheinz
July 7, 2003
 

Peerless Price is now a Falcon, Josh Reed jumps into the #2 slot in Buffalo, Curtis Conway is the top wide out for the New York Jets and Charles Rogers was the big play maker at WR that the Lions took in the first round of the NFL Draft. And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to WR movement. The constant movement of WRs is one of the biggest variables in the production of a WR.

Let’s take Price and Reed for a moment. Peerless Price was the #2 WR in a high scoring offense with a veteran, pocket passer, and he put up big numbers. Now he moves to Atlanta, with a young QB, known more for his running ability then his passing prowess, and he will be asked to assume the #1 WR position, a position that requires breaking free from double teams and finding a way to put up similar numbers in a completely different situation. Not an easy thing to do, and a reason to do a double-take when your fantasy draft position comes up and Price is still on the board.

Josh Reed on the other hand wouldn’t get a second look in the first half of fantasy drafts going by last years numbers alone, but it isn’t his numbers that have people talking, it is his newly found position as the #2 WR in Buffalo. Reed now assumes Price’s position opposite Eric Moulds, who will no doubt get the majority of defensive attention, and should be able to put up similar numbers. Reed has the skills to be a productive WR and is one of those players that didn’t change teams, but did receive a promotion.

Curtis Conway has demonstrated the ability to be a top notch WR, but circumstances have left him short of his potential. Those circumstances including playing for run dominated teams in both Chicago and San Diego, and he will get a chance to showcase his field stretching ability this coming year with Chad Pennington and the NY Jets. Conway has averaged only 5 TDs a season since 1999, and just under 900 yards. But in an offense that will stress getting him the ball, he may emerge as an above average fantasy WR. As the Jets showed in the second half of last season, they can be a high scoring, pass-first offense, and that can only mean good things for Conway.

These are only 3 of the major examples that can be pointed to when discussing WRs. Some players are in totally new environments, (Price, Conway) while some have kept their address, but are in new situations (Reed). These aren’t the only WRs to be effected, the list is long and distinguished.

JJ Stokes, a former first round draft pick of the 49ers, never lived up to expectations in the city by the Bay and was cut loose, but quickly picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Will he be able to succeed in the Sunshine State? So far there is nothing to suggest this, in fact, if you can’t be a successful WR in the West Coast Offense with QBs such as Steve Young and Jeff Garcia getting you the ball, where can you be a success? Stokes will have every opportunity in Jacksonville to become a starter and attempt to jump-start his production.

Back in San Francisco, Tai Streets, who took Stokes starting position last year, looks to continue his rise and put up even better statistics now that he will be the starter from day one. Another beneficiary of the Stokes departure is Cedrick Wilson, the #3 WR for the 49ers. Wilson is entering his third season, and poised to demonstrate his ability now that he will receive regular playing time. Both of these players should see their productivity increase by virtue of a step up the depth chart.

One person who welcomed the departure of Jon Gruden from the Oakland Raiders was Jerry Porter. Porter who had spent more time in Gruden’s doghouse then anyone else, was finally able to demonstrate his ability on the field under new Head Coach, Bill Callahan. Porter led the Raiders in TD receptions and gained the confidence of QB Rich Gannon. With the additional age of Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, Porter should become an even more intricate part of the Raider offense this year.

Other WRs to keep your eyes on:

Ashley Lelie, Denver - Lelie should be able to work his way into the starting lineup this coming year. With the age and injury factor effecting both Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, Lelie could find himself Jake Plummer’s favorite target.

David Boston, San Diego - Boston goes from the doldrums of the NFL in Arizona, to an up-and-coming team in San Diego. With one major change, he won’t be asked to carry the team. That job belongs to LaDainian Tomlinson. Boston will be asked to be the #1 WR, but not the make-or-break player. With less stress on the WR position, and defenses looking to stack the box to stop Tomlinson, Boston could have a breakout year, especially considering QB Drew Brees is entering his 3rd season and has a firm grasp on the offense.

Darrell Jackson & Koren Robinson, Seattle – No QB was hotter at the end of the 2002 season then Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck finally was able to demonstrate the ability that Head Coach Mike Holmgren saw in him when he traded away a first round draft pick for him. Seattle also has one of the top RBs in the league in Shaun Alexander, and a new defensive coordinator that should be able to strengthen a defense that was full of holes last year. All of this adds up to Jackson and Robinson having strong seasons, from opening day through December.

The movement of WRs, either to new teams or a step up the depth chart, is an important factor to consider when drafting your WRs, and these are only a few of the many cases that need to be examined and studied before draft day. WRs are as unpredictable as any position, but the smart owners have already prepared themselves for the decisions of which WR to take and when. Make sure you are one of those owners, it can be the difference between playing meaningful games around Christmas time, and simply playing out the season.


Todd Kleinheinz is the founder /commissioner of the auction-based SGFL (Sports Geeks Fantasy League). The SGFL is an intricate league with a salary cap, auction style draft, keepers and restricted free agents. If you have any questions, comments or ideas, he can be reached at Fbxpert@aol.com. Previously, Todd worked as a sports reporter for an NBC affiliate in Texas covering Texas A&M and Baylor University Sports, and in Sports Radio for KNBR and The Ticket 1050 in San Francisco.