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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Wide Receiver Watch - Week 2
Todd Gray
September 13, 2005

Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own

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1 OAK Randy Moss He’s a keeper after all. Moss was targeted on 16 of 40 (40%) of QB Kerry Collins’ passes – about the same amount of attention that he received in Minnesota. Collins unabashedly threw into double coverage a few times while trying to get the ball to Moss, but then, Collins has never been shy about doing that. The Raiders host Kansas City on Sunday, and if Moss can produce five catches, 130 yards and a touchdown on the turf of the defending NFL champs, it’s a solid bet he can match that output against the Chiefs.
2 STL Torry Holt Ten catches and 125 yards go a long way toward ignoring Holt’s failure to reach the end zone. He’s sure to produce well above the curve in the crowded Rams offense, and he should have a nice day this week against Arizona’s “newly-improved” defense.
3 PHI Terrell Owens In a tough game at Atlanta, Owens and QB Donovan McNabb didn’t miss a beat (seven catches, 112 yards). Unfortunately, they did miss the end zone, something that happened in only five of Owens’ starts in 2004. Owens should hit pay dirt on Sunday when the Eagles host San Francisco.
4 CIN Chad Johnson Johnson provided nine catches, 91 yards and one unnerving trip to the locker room that turned out to be nothing more than bad leg cramps. The Bengals look as good as advertised on offense, and Sunday’s home game versus Minnesota offers one of the most promising fantasy matchups of the season.
5 IND Marvin Harrison Given the circumstances (@ Baltimore), six catches, 69 yards and one TD look pretty good. Things may get a bit easier at home on Sunday versus Jacksonville, then the schedule gets real fantasy-friendly for more than a month (vs. Cleveland, @ Tennessee, @ San Francisco, vs. St. Louis, @Houston).
6 CAR Steve Smith Smith leapfrogged numerous wideouts with his performance against the Saints (eight catches, 138 yards, one TD). It would’ve been even better if he hadn’t been ruled out-of-bounds on three catches in the end zone. The Panthers should put visiting New England to the test on Sunday, and Smith should be able to contribute respectable catch and yardage totals and maybe a TD.
7 NO Joe Horn It was a huge win for New Orleans with small rewards for Horn owners (5 catches, 66 yards, 0 TDs). The Saints’ Week 2 game against the Giants has been moved to New York and to Monday night, which complicates things a bit. Horn did score four TDs the last time these teams met in December of 2003.
8 ARI Larry Fitzgerald It may be early, but it’s never too early to tell that the Cardinals aren’t that good. It appears Fitzgerald stands to gain most on an offense that will rely heavily on the pass, an observation that is supported by his performance on Sunday (12 catches, 136 yards, 1 TD). Things will inevitably get better for Arizona’s running game, if only because they can’t get worse. Either way, Fitzgerald appears poised for a breakout season.
9 IND Reggie Wayne Wayne was third on the totem pole for the Colts on Sunday, but he won’t lose his spot in the Top-10 for a four-catch, 50-yard performance in a road win at Baltimore. The Colts face another stiff defense on Sunday (Jacksonville), but then the schedule eases up for more than a month.
10 MIN Nate Burleson To be sure, the Vikings looked dreadful on offense, and Burleson’s measly three catches and 45 yards contributed to the problem. If things don’t improve when the team plays at Cincinnati on Sunday, greater doubt will be cast on Burleson’s ability to live up to his expectations as a low-tier No. 1 fantasy receiver.

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

Climbing The Ladder

Plaxico Burress (NYG) – It’s easy to forget that Burress came to life as rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target in Weeks 4 through 9 of the 2004 season before injuries derailed him late. He’s in a similar situation this year, being the favorite target of second-year QB Eli Manning on a team that fields no solid No. 2 wideout. On Sunday, Burress caught 50 percent (5/10) of Manning’s total completions and five of six of Manning’s completions to wideouts in the Giants’ 42-19 drubbing of the Cardinals. The next three weeks offer a home game against New Orleans (originally scheduled to be played in New Orleans), a trip to San Diego and a homer against St. Louis, making now as good a time as any to insert Burress into your starting lineup.

Donald Driver (GB) – Driver had all the makings of a great value pick even before fellow wideout Javon Walker (Knee) was lost for the season. Given Walker’s great overall numbers in 2004, it was easy to overlook the fact that over the last eight games of the season, Driver out-produced him in catches (46-42), yards (715-552) and touchdowns (5-4). A home date on Sunday against the Browns provides a break in the storm, but then two tough weeks follow (vs. TB, @ CAR) before the Packers play a string of games against teams that can be had through the air. In addition, WR Robert Ferguson’s stock goes up a notch should he become QB Bret Favre’s new second-favorite target, as expected, but fantasy owners may want to wait a week or two before jumping on Ferguson’s bandwagon.

Patrick Crayton (DAL) – Crayton created some fantasy rumblings as a deep sleeper during the preseason by making the Cowboys coaching staff comfortable enough to release veteran wideout Quincy Morgan. On Sunday, Crayton produced like a quality No. 2 wideout with six catches, 89 yards and one TD. Better yet, he was overshadowed just enough by Keyshawn Johnson (five catches, 65 yards, two TDs) to remain on the outskirts of the fantasy radar in most leagues. Recently signed WR Peerless Price could jump Crayton on the depth chart, but that now appears unlikely. This week’s matchup at home against a tough Washington defense provides a brutal test, and if Crayton produces in this one then he may be worth a start in Weeks 3 and 4 against San Francisco and Oakland, respectively, for those owners who are looking for a serviceable No. 3 wideout in deeper leagues.

Sliding Back

Andre Johnson (HOU) – Following his three-catch, 18-yard, double team-fighting performance on Sunday, Johnson has now amassed 14 catches, 142 yards and one TD in Houston’s last five regular season games. Heck, Larry Fitzgerald nearly pulled that trick in one game last week. Johnson’s ridiculous talent will rise to the surface during a few games this season and will keep his overall fantasy numbers respectable, but as long as QB David Carr continues to regress, the OL continues to under-perform, the Texans fail to establish a quality No. 2 wideout – you get the point. This week’s home date against Pittsburgh offers little promise, and in the foreseeable future you may want to consider Johnson as being no better than a No. 2 fantasy wideout.

Isaac Bruce (STL) – Holding off one spry youngster is one thing, but it appears that neither Kevin Curtis nor Shaun McDonald are going anywhere anytime soon. Curtis and McDonald split 14 catches and totaled 136 yards against the 49ers on Sunday, while Bruce posted a respectable three catches, 61 yards and one TD. He’ll get his share of passes this season, but 80 catches, 1,000 yards and four TDs should be considered a best-case scenario at this point given the Rams’ multitude of weapons on offense.

Anquan Boldin (ARI) – It’s a good bet that Boldin will produce as a solid No. 3 fantasy wideout this season, but for all of those people who are hoping for a return to his rookie heydey, that’s unlikely to happen. WR Larry Fitzgerald has emerged as the clear No. 1 receiver on the team, which leaves Boldin the No. 2 man on a squad that should score a lot of points, but which will most likely field an inconsistent offense.