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2004 Huddle Sleepers & Busts - Wide Receivers
August 23, 2004

GO TO: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | IDP

Sleepers

Scott Boyter

Jerry Porter, OAK - The speed merchant finally gets his chance to shine with the departure of Tim Brown. Now we see if potential can finally meet reality. Throw out his and the rest of the Raiders’ numbers in 2003. They hated their coach and wanted him gone. With a healthy Rich Gannon throwing him the ball, Porter will be worth a shot as your No. 4 receiver.

Marcus Robinson, MIN - All eyes will be on No. 84 in Minnesota, giving the one-time star Robinson a chance to fly under the radar. He has the skills to be a big-time receiver and should flourish with the Vikings. He’s an excellent choice for a No. 5 wide out.

Reggie Williams, JAC - Rookie wide receivers may not have the best chance of the skill position players to make a significant impact their first season. However, I'm making Williams one of my picks for 2004. Williams won’t have huge numbers in Jacksonville because of Jimmy Smith, but he’ll warrant a spot as a No. 5 fantasy WR.

Brent Clement

Brandon Lloyd, SF - I'm not sure who is going to throw him the ball, but he is the clear number 1 WR on this team to start the year and could post 1000 yards very easily.  Rookie WR Rashaun Woods has disappointed thus far, as injures have kept him off the field in practice and in the preseason games. Lloyd will need the emergence of another WR to help take the constant double team off him this year.  Either way I believe SF has some decent options with Cedric Wilson, Rashaun Woods and even Curtis Conway to keep opposing defenses from doubling Lloyd every play.

Darius Watts, Den - This kid is going to be special.  He is already pushing Ashley Lelie for the #2 WR spot in Denver and has been more consistent than Lelie thus far in that competition.  Regardless, Watts will see the field a ton this year and will put up nice numbers for a rookie.

Mike Courter

Jerry Porter, OAK - Two seasons ago during the Raiders run to the Super Bowl, Porter emerged as a young, exciting part of a mostly mature group of Raider receivers by posting 51 catches and becoming Oakland’s top red zone threat with nine touchdowns. When the Raiders season bottomed out early last year, Porter’s numbers sank as he battled injuries throughout the 2003 campaign. A more aggressive vertical offense under new coach Norv Turner, a rebuilt offensive line led by number one pick Robert Gallery to protect quarterbacks Gannon and Collins and the release of Tim Brown all provide the foundation for Porter to make the jump into the upper echelon of catchers in the NFL.

Tyrone Calico, TEN - The 6’4” 222 pound Calico completed his rookie season with 18 catches for 297 yards and four touchdowns while missing several games due to injury and fighting for minutes amongst a crowded Titans receiving corps. With the departure of free agent Justin McCareins to the Jets, Calico can now call the number three slot receiver position his own. Titans staff praised his increased focus in the summer conditioning program and with an oft-injured Drew Bennett manning the number two spot and Tennessee likely to throw even more this year, Calico should see his touchdown and yardage numbers double this year.

Justin McCareins, NYJ - McCareins third year breakout performance of 45 catches for 799 yards and seven touchdowns couldn’t have come at a better time as the receiver headed into free agency this off season. The Jets, desperately seeking a tall play maker for Chad Pennington, pounced and landed the 6’2” 218 pound speedster in New York. Jets training camp observers have noted the instant chemistry McCareins seems to have formed with his new quarterback and being away from the crowded receiving corps in Tennessee coupled with having a big-time play maker on the other side in Santana Moss, McCareins is primed to surge past the 10 touchdown barrier and should easily topple 1000 yards receiving.

Bob Cunningham

Justin Gage, CHI - If he clicks with equally untested QB Rex Grossman, he could emerge as the No. 1 receiver now that Marty Booker has inexplicably been dealt to Miami.

Jerry Porter, OAK - Endured an injury-plagued, mostly fruitless 2003 season but this is a guy with all the physical tools to be dominant. He's probably better-suited to a Kerry Collins-led offense, but either way, he should be good for 1,200 yards and double-figure TDs.

David Dorey

Donte Stallworth, NO - Okay, so he has been a big disappointment so far to most but this year looks different with reason. Stallworth has been working out in the off-season not only to strengthen himself but to also learn stretching routines that will help him keep his hamstrings at bay and avoid the dings that plagued him last year. Don’t forget that Donte had eight touchdowns as a rookie and is more experienced now on a team that has a great rushing game and Joe Horn to help attract attention. Stallworth is the future and that starts this year.

Tyrone Calico, TEN - He started hot last year with touchdowns on both his first NFL catches and then faded away quickly during his rookie year. In the 2003 draft, Calico timed as fast as any other receiver that year and has opportunity this season as the #3 receiver for Steve McNair. Calico has been dedicated to the strength and conditioning program of the Titans in the off-season and with only Drew Bennett to beat, Calico could surprise and be the 2004 version of Justin McCareins – the receiver the Titans allowed to leave because of Calico.

Robert Ferguson, GB - While Javon Walker took the limelight last season with his nine touchdowns Ferguson impressed the coaches as well. He missed time because of sprained ankles and knees but enters the season healthy and as the #2 receiver he’s a lock to at least meet the sort of numbers his draft spot would suggest this year. And with Brett Favre as a quarterback, he’ll likely exceed that.

Todd Gray

Charles Rogers, DET - Rogers may be the poster child for players who are undervalued in 2004 due to an early-season injury in 2003. His 2003 stats alone – twenty-two catches, 243 yards and three TDs – didn’t provide much of a window into his NFL future, but he looked good in the process and did so while playing on a poor team. Rogers’ competition with rookie Roy Williams for top dog on the receiving corps should only make both players better and serve to create more opportunities to go around.

Marcus Robinson, MIN - This is a tough one, but the upside is simply too great not to consider. Showing that upside is something Robinson has made a habit of in his eight years in the league. Consistency – and avoiding injuries – is another matter altogether. Still, he’s only 29, his most recent flashes of brilliance came late last season with a team that fielded an offense far inferior to his current squad, and he’s the No. 2 receiver surrounded by such fantasy studs as Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Michael Bennett. Given a healthy, consistent performance, Robinson is a strong bet for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Javon Walker, GB - Walker made huge strides in his second NFL season and is making a case to become QB Bret Favre’s favorite target. Most likely won’t be a top 10 or 15 receiver fantasy-wise, but five catches and 75 yards a game, in addition to a score every other game or so are well within the realm of possibility. Totaled nine TDs in 2003 on only 41 catches.

Drew Bennett, TEN - The fourth-year pro has improved every season and will begin the 2004 campaign starting opposite Derrick Mason following the departure of former No. 2 man Justin McCareins. At 6-foot, 5-inches, Bennett makes a large target and may very well get enough quality grabs to be a mid- to low-tier No. 2 receiver in some leagues.

Justin McCareins, NYJ - McCareins hung out on the verge of becoming a full-time fantasy commodity last season, and it’s not too much of a stretch too foresee him equaling the work of his new counterpart, WR Santana Moss, in overall fantasy production. McCareins brings a physical, big-play presence to the table opposite Moss’ explosiveness, and will be looked at more as a possession and key downs receiver for the Jets.

Joe Levit

Charles Rogers, DET - Rogers was having a very fecund freshman campaign, without the help of another good receiver or a decent running game, and then got injured. This year, he has two awesome rookies to aid him in his sophomore season. The Lions are going to be much more effective on offense this year, particularly in the second half of the season when they get it all together. Look for Rogers to lead the way, and to be a great option on fantasy rosters, as he is a forgotten player, ranked after Isaac Bruce and Amani Toomer. Rogers has the youth, and upside, on his side.

Rod Smith, DEN - Here is a case where the veteran player is going to do better than people are predicting simply because he is the team’s top option. Quentin Griffin may do well at running back, and Ashley Lelie could come on as a receiver, but we all know that when healthy, Smith can excel. If his age doesn’t force him out of the action, Smith will have a rebound fantasy season.

Jerry Porter, OAK - Tim Brown is gone, and Jerry Porter will more than establish himself as the best receiver on this team. He has a great opportunity to score 10+ touchdowns, and should have his best yardage year ever. Gannon will be locking onto Porter’s athletic talent all year.

Fritz Schlottman

Andre Johnson, HOU - No, I’m not from Houston, I just like their offense. Johnson was the third pick in the 2003 draft and has already flashed enough talent to justify that pick. You don’t expect much from a rookie receiver, but Johnson delivered the goods right away. Had QB David Carr been healthy all season, Johnson would have been well over the 1,000 yards receiving mark. If he avoids a sophomore slump, 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns seems reasonable to me.

Steve Smith, CAR - I’m going to let someone else pick Javon Walker here and I’ll go with Smith. Because he plays for a run-oriented offense, Smith has flown under the radar. But Smith as a number two receiver had 88 catches, 7 touchdowns, and 1,100 receiving yards in 2003. This season, he’s going to be the go to guy and he’s got the speed to stretch the field. Size is a problem as he’s officially listed as 5'9" and that makes him a small target. But with the rule changes regarding contact down the field, Smith should get separation from defensive backs and once he catches the ball, this return man’s open field running is outstanding.

Paul Sandy

Deion Branch, NE - Branch is a small, speedy receiver. He’s in his third year. He plays for a team that upgraded its running game in the off-season Sound familiar? It should, because that’s the exact same situation that Carolina’s Steve Smith found himself in last year. Look for New England’s offense to improve greatly in 2004. Branch had eight games last season with five or more catches (including the postseason). However, he disappeared too often. I expect more consistency this season. That will result in around 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns.

Donald Driver, GB - After Driver landed on his head in last season’s opener against the Vikings, his confidence and his courage were shaken. He went into a shell and never really came out. But off-season reports out of Green Bay indicate that Driver is in great shape and has regained his no-fear mentality. He should bounce back from his disappointing 2003 season and rival Javon Walker for yardage and receptions. Grab Driver late in your draft and you won’t be disappointed when he finishes with close to 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns.

Bryant Johnson, ARI - Denny Green understands how to overcome a challenge. With last year’s rookie sensation Anquan Boldin out for the first half of the season, he’s going to need a receiver to step up in order for his 3-WR formation to work. Most fantasy football owners’ eyes are instantly drawn to Larry Fitzgerald, who was the third player taken overall in the 2004 NFL draft. Fitzgerald might see some success, but considering the history of rookie receivers, there’s a better chance he’ll disappoint. That leaves the door open for Bryant Johnson. Johnson was drafted before Anquan Boldin in the 2003 NFL draft … that’s right, before Boldin. Take a flier on Johnson in the last round or two of your draft. He could be a huge surprise in 2004.

Busts

Scott Boyter

Larry Fitzgerald, ARI - A lot of people will be tempted to draft Fitzgerald way too early. I say let them and then watch them pay for the mistake. The knee injury to Anquan Boldin (he probably won’t play until October at the earliest) puts the rookie squarely in the cross hairs. Add the fact that Arizona will thoroughly suck, and it’s clear to me that picking Fitzgerald could be a disastrous choice for any fantasy owner to make.

Brent Clement

Peter Warrick, CIN - I was going to say Keenan McCardell or Anquan Boldin, as I don't believe either could duplicate last years stats. But with the injury to Boldin and the holdout of McCardell, all but guarantee that to be the case.  So I'm going to say Peter Warrick who was a top 15 WR last year.  Warrick will lose opportunities with the emergence of Kelly Washington and the fact Palmer is the new QB in town. 

Mike Courter

Keenan McCardell, TB - Coming off a Pro Bowl year which saw him catch 84 balls for 1,179 yards and eight touchdowns, McCardell chose to draw a line in the sand with Bucs management and holdout for a new deal. Tampa brass responded to their 34 year old flanker’s posture by drafting LSU standout receiver Michael Clayton 15th overall in the first round and trading for speedster Joey Galloway from Dallas and recently picking up eventual Hall of Famer Tim Brown to add to emerging fifth year receiver Charles Lee and Joe Jurevicius returning from injury. Clayton has quickly become a Gruden favorite and has created a buzz this preseason that he will be a significant contributor in the Tampa Bay passing attack. The longer McCardell’s holdout goes, the further behind he will be making him highly unlikely to help your fantasy team.

Bob Cunningham

Terrell Owens, PHI - It's probably unfair to list TO as a "bust," because a more accurate description would be "statistically disappointing." I believe I know the thinking of coach Andy Reid, which is something like "everyone thinks we're going to throw to T.O. all day... well, I'm still sold on running the ball." Anyway, I'm expecting Bryan Westbrook to have a comparatively bigger season than Donovan McNabb-to-Owens.

David Dorey

Keenan McCardell, TB - Maybe this seems like an easy one, but McCardell continues to be drafted as if he was an WR2 or WR3 for a fantasy team. To date he continues to sit at home watching the Flintstones while his agent convinces him that he is still “the man”. McCardell comes off a banner year thanks to a deteriorating Buccaneer offense that had little more than him in the later part of the season. At the age of 34, he’s not just now coming into his own and evidently – he’s not even coming to work this season. If he returns to Tampa Bay, he’s a lock for the doghouse and if he goes to a new team, there will not be enough time to become a major part of the passing scheme.

Todd Gray

Steve Smith, CAR - It’s hard not to root for Smith, a gutsy, slightly undersized (5-9, 179) WR who epitomized as much as anyone the Panthers’ surprise success in 2003. This season, very few Panthers will be sneaking up on anyone, namely Smith and QB Jake Delhomme. With no established quality No. 2 option to relieve the pressure, Smith will face plenty of double coverage. The first-place schedule won’t help matters any, especially in this day and age of parity and revolving playoff teams. Smith will be good, no doubt, but a repeat of last season’s 88 catches and 1,100 yards may be asking a bit much.

Keenan McCardell, TB - Currently a holdout, not getting any younger (35) and on a team with a potentially tumultuous QB situation, it’s hard to foresee McCardell as anything better than a solid No. 3 fantasy option – pending his holdout situation. McCardell did put together a fine campaign in ’03 (84-1,174-8), but expect that to be his swan song. Newcomers including rookie Michael Clayton (LSU) and veterans Tim Brown, Joey Galloway and (even) Bill Schroeder will push to eat up many of the grabs that McCardell would get if he were playing, but there’s no guarantee that even that’s going to happen.

Paul Sandy

Joe Horn, NO - Last season Horn battled through injuries and he posted some of the most inconsistent stats of his career. If you throw out his four touchdown performance against the Giants in Week 10, Horn’s stats were actually quite pedestrian. I anticipate another disappointing season for Horn in 2004. He may have a big game here and there, but he’s never had the great speed and athleticism exhibited by many of the other top fantasy receivers. I fear he’s at the point in his career where what speed he once had will start to diminish and he’ll fade into mediocrity like Antonio Freeman did. Another knock against Horn is that he finishes the season facing stout defenses like Carolina, Tampa and Dallas.

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