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Wide Receiver Watch - Week 1
Todd Gray
September 6, 2005

Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own


1 OAK Randy Moss Who or what is going to slow Moss down? He’s now in his spiritual NFL home and surrounded by approximately the same amount of talent on offense as he was in Minnesota. If he plays in all 16 games – which is a pretty good bet – a return to his 111-catch, 1,632-yard, 17-TD output of 2003 is entirely possible.
2 STL Torry Holt The stability factor gives Holt the edge over Terrell Owens. Holt has been money since he arrived in 1999. From 2000 to the present, he’s averaged 93 catches, 1,473 yards and 7.8 touchdowns, including double-digit TDs the past two years – and he hasn’t missed a game while doing so. The Rams could be as loaded as ever on offense, and Holt owners should be among the prime beneficiaries.
3 PHI Terrell Owens Two scenarios: Owens and the Eagles put together a monster season (60%); Owens and the Eagles have a good season, but nothing out of this world (20%); or Owens is a fantasy disaster waiting to happen (20%). Keep in mind he was positively dominant in the first 13 weeks of the season last year before two quiet performances (Eagles locked up home field early) and two games missed (ankle injury) ended his regular season on a down note.
4 CIN Chad Johnson Johnson is quite possibly in the best position of all Top-10 wideouts to have a career year, as if his averages of 92.5 catches, 1,315 yards and 9.5 TDs the past two seasons aren’t good enough. His stock – which was high to begin with – stagnated during the preseason thanks to a lackluster performance by the Bengals offense, but there’s no cause for alarm. This group started slow last year, too, finished the season with a bang and should be that much better in 2005.
5 IND Marvin Harrison Harrison’s numbers have slid rather dramatically since his 143-catch, 1,722-yard performance in 2002, but that should hardly be a surprise. He did match a career-high with 15 TDs last season and has scored double-digit TDs for six straight years. Even so, Peyton Manning probably won’t throw 49 more TDs, and Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley will continue to get their share of looks, making it unfair to expect anything greater than a repeat of last year’s production (86-1,113-15) from the 10 th-year wideout, albeit possibly with more yards and fewer TDs.
6 GB Javon Walker Here’s hoping that QB Bret Favre can resist the effects of aging for yet another season. Walker has proven to be durable in his three seasons in the league and is a good bet, if healthy and with solid offensive line play, to match last year’s totals of 89 catches, 1,382 yards and 12 TDs.
7 NO Joe Horn Horn may be getting a bit long in the tooth, but it hasn’t shown in the stats. In fact, 2004 saw him match or eclipse career highs in catches (94), yards (1,399) and TDs (11) at the ripe old age of 32. QB Aaron Brooks will probably continue to be inconsistent while putting up biggish numbers, RB Deuce McAllister will continue to keep defenses honest and Horn should remain a Top-10 wideout for at least one more year.
8 HOU Andre Johnson Johnson is perhaps No. 2 behind Chad Johnson on the list of wideouts who could be in for career seasons in 2005. He enters that ever-so-crucial third season for young receivers and is surrounded by a talented offense minus a threatening No. 2 wideout (a significant minus, no doubt). Nonetheless, he should better last season’s numbers (79-1,142-6) even if the Texans struggle somewhat.
9 IND Reggie Wayne To say that Wayne – the Colts’ No. 2 wideout – is as good as the No. 1 receiver on many other NFL teams may be a gross understatement. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a shock to see the 26-year-old Wayne overtake Harrison as the top fantasy producer among Indy wideouts. The Colts are unlikely to plow through opponents at the same staggering rate as they did a year ago, but Wayne is a pretty good bet to match his 2004 totals of 77 catches, 1,210 yards and 12 TDs.
10 MIN Nate Burleson Being the No. 1 wideout on this offense virtually guarantees a top-15 ranking, and Burleson climbs higher than that thanks to his performance in Moss’ absence/limited duty last season. There are enough quality skill types in the Vikings’ stable to keep defenses honest, too, meaning that a full season as QB Daunte Culpepper’s No. 1 target should ensure a hefty surge in Burleson’s totals from a year ago (68-1,006-9).

(Note – this listing considers the rankings of WR’s if a draft was held today)

Climbing The Ladder

Tyrone Calico (TEN) – I generally avoid injury risks such as Calico like the plague – think Charles Rogers minus the first-round pedigree. Still, every year a few players exist whose potential creates an exception to this rule, and Calico has made it out of the preseason in one piece, which is a start. Those who drool over his potential do so for good reason – his combination of size, speed and athleticism is tough to beat. The Titans should throw a lot this season, and there isn’t much depth beyond Calico and No. 1 wideout Drew Bennett despite the encouraging preseason play of rookies Brandon Jones, Courtney Rob and Roydell Williams. If he can stay healthy – and that’s a rather large ‘if’ – 80+ catches, 1,000+ yards and 8-10 TDs are within reach.

Charles Rogers (DET) It’s easy to forget that Rogers was the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft two years ago, being selected one pick before Andre Johnson flew off the board to the Houston Texans. Beyond making a splash in the first five games of his rookie year, Rogers hasn’t recorded a single catch over the past 27 games thanks to collarbone injuries that he suffered in 2003 and at the outset of the 2004 season. This should have been the season that the formidable wideout (6-3, 220) was blossoming into one of the league’s top receivers, and it may not be too late. The stage is set for him to do so given the bevy of young talent that surrounds him on the Lions offense. Provided that he stays healthy, 1,000+ yards and double-digit TDs are far from out of the question.

Kevin Curtis (STL) – Curtis showed during the Rams’ final three games last season that he could step into a starting role and produce Isaac Bruce-type numbers. Head coach Mike Martz is like a kid in a candy store with fast and physical specimens such as Curtis, whose blazing speed and big-play ability will prove to be to tempting for Martz not to try and exploit. Now, with soon-to-be 33-year-old Bruce entering his 12 th season in the league (and still producing), Curtis is a near-lock to play an even greater role in 2005. Even if Bruce and Holt stay healthy, he should be a fantasy asset on some type of bi-weekly basis – maybe to the tune of 800-900 yards and 6-8 TDs throughout the course of the season. If Holt or Bruce miss any action, Curtis’ value would skyrocket.

Sliding Back

Derrick Mason (BAL) – Mason’s past two seasons have been arguably his best – his 191 catches during that time are second only to Torry Holt (211). He’ll have to overcome a few new hurdles this season to continue on that pace. Unproven QB Kyle Boller is hardly Steve McNair at this stage of his career – or Billy Volek, for that matter – and Baltimore is not the ideal place for an eighth-year receiver to enjoy a spike in his production (think defense, running game). To put things in perspective, last year’s leading receivers, Travis Taylor and Kevin Johnson, finished with 69 catches, 794 yards and one TD combined). Mason is sure to do better than that, and like the next two guys on this list he’ll play a key role in whatever success his team may have, but it won’t show up in the stats so much as in the win-loss columns.

Muhsin Muhammad (CHI) – Muhammad has been in Chicago only seven months and he’s already on his umpteenth starting QB. He was an absolute fantasy beast in the second half of 2004 and easily finished the campaign with career-highs in TD catches (16) and yards (1,405) in his ninth season in the league. He did it under some challenging circumstances in Carolina, as well, but the inflated numbers inflated expectations. Muhammad has been a relative picture of consistency throughout his career minus a respectable nine games missed over the past seven seasons, but even with a healthy Rex Grossman as QB he merited consideration as a potential bust. Now with a fourth round draft pick (Kyle Orton) starting at QB, that bust consideration becomes a near-lock.

Hines Ward (PIT) – Ward will continue to make clutch plays for the Steelers and provide his steady production (including top-notch blocking skills and intangibles), but his days as a top-10 or -15 fantasy wideout may be a thing of the past. Though the 29-year-old wideout has averaged 95 catches the past four seasons, his 80 catches last year was his lowest total since 2000. Ward and rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger hit it off swimmingly last year in Big Ben’s first two starts (Weeks 2 & 3), but thereafter Ward mustered only two TDs total and 80 or more receiving yards only once. Ward did rebound with two huge playoff games – a great sign – but a return to the days of 90-plus catches, 1,200 or so yards and double-digit TDs is a long shot, at best – especially in an offense that’s not fertile breeding ground for fantasy-worthy passing and receiving numbers.