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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Wide Receiver Watch - Week 3
Todd Gray
September 20, 2005

Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own

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1 OAK Randy Moss Moss nearly matched his Week 1 output with five catches for 127 yards and one TD against the Chiefs in Week 2. Up next may be Oakland’s biggest test of the year – on paper at least: a game at Philadelphia against an Eagles defense that has allowed an average of 101.5 passing yards to its first two opponents and zero passing TDs.
2 PHI Terrell Owens Owens had “only” five catches against the 49ers, but they went a long way (143 three yards, two TDs). He may very well have something to prove when Moss and the Raiders visit on Sunday. Owens may be the only wideout who can wrest the top spot away from Moss outside of Moss himself.
3 CIN Chad Johnson It may be a bit fashionable to move Johnson up in the rankings, but it’s hard to argue with the results thus far. On Sunday, it took Johnson only two plays to make his fantasy owners happy when he posted a 70-yard TD reception early in the Bengals’ 37-8 shellacking of the Vikings. The rest was gravy as he finished with 139 yards and the aforementioned score. Cincinnati will spend Week 3 in Chicago against a stubborn Bears squad that looks like it could give teams problems all season long
4 STL Torry Holt Two weeks of solid fantasy production to Holt’s credit, but no big bang to date. His two-game totals are nice, though: 14 catches, 195 yards and one TD. Expect another solid-if-not-spectacular showing at home against Tennessee on Sunday.
5 IND Marvin Harrison Harrison’s nine catches, 105 yards and one TD in two games sure don’t merit a top-10 ranking, let alone a spot in the top 20, but who knows how the other upper echelon wideouts would have fared if they had opened the season against Baltimore and Jacksonville. Fantasy owners will soon be reminded of Harrison’s fantasy relevance as the average rank of the next five pass defenses the Colts face is 23 rd in the league (Cleveland, Tennessee, San Francisco, St. Louis and Houston).
6 NO Joe Horn Horn’s performance in the Saints’ loss to the Giants on Monday negates any concerns about his lack of production in the Saints’ win over Carolina in Week 1 (5 catches, 66 yards). This may be his 10 th year in the league, but Horn’s ninth year was his best to date and due to his consistency alone, he should stay near the top for at least one more season.
7 BAL Derrick Mason Last year’s league leader in catches is at it once again, despite playing in Baltimore. Mason’s 16 catches are second only to Larry Fitzgerald’s 17, and he’s added 159 yards and one TD. Any wideout who can produce in consecutive with QBs Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright at the helm has earned gobs of credit.
8 CAR Steve Smith In the Panthers’ 27-17 win against the Patriots in Week 2, Smith was slowed to four catches and 34 yards as no component of the Panthers’ offense had any value outside of RB Stephen Davis. Another contest offering sparse potential looms in Week 3 at Miami, but then the Panthers get four games in a row against teams not known for being stingy against the pass (Green Bay, Arizona, Detroit, Minnesota).
9 ARI Larry Fitzgerald Fitzgerald was out-produced by fellow wideout Anquan Boldin on Sunday, something that should happen only a few times this season. He still has a league-leading 17 catches through two weeks. A bigger problem is Arizona’s inability to score TDs (two games, one TD on offense), but the Cardinals should should be good for a couple of TDs in Seattle on Sunday.
10 SEA Darrell Jackson Two weeks in the books and Jackson is in the top six in the NFL in both catches (14) and yards (196), with a TD to boot. He should continue the pace with a home date against Arizona on Sunday.

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

Climbing The Ladder

T.J. Houshmandzadeh (CIN) – Like any other starting skill position player on the Bengals’ offense, fantasy owners had high hopes for Houshmandzadeh in 2005. Even so, his production after two games surely meets or exceeds the expectations of those who pegged him as a fantasy sleeper darling (10 catches, 130 yards receiving, 24 yards rushing and two TDs total). The Bengals have averaged 31.9 points in their last eight regular season games, and as long as anything close to that continues, Houshmandzadeh owners should reap rewards disproportionately favorable to where they drafted him in the first place.

Deion Branch (NE) – The knock on Branch hasn’t been his talent, but his ability to stay healthy. And while two games in the books offers little in terms of a long-term forecast, it appears that Branch is set to live up to his potential. He’s currently tied for fourth in the NFL with 15 catches, tied for 13 th with 159 yards receiving and he seems to be the clear-cut No. 1 guy in a passing game that’s been known in recent years to share the wealth. If any one thing will prevent Branch from becoming a top-15 wideout other than his health, it may be the Patriots’ schedule, which includes two games apiece against Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets, and contests against Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay – all teams expected to be tough against the pass.

Mystery Wideout (???) – He’s the No. 2 receiver alongside one of the league’s most explosive wideouts, his QB is one of the best in the game, he plays for one of the top five teams in the NFL and he’s probably available in your league. That person is the Eagles’ Greg Lewis, who has totaled nine catches, 83 yards and one TD in the first two weeks of the season – nothing mind-blowing, but stats that owners in deep leagues must respect. Lewis should continue to be a viable option the next couple of weeks when the Eagles host Oakland in Week 3 before playing at Kansas City in Week 4.

Sliding Back

Nate Burleson (MIN) – The Vikings have been playing hot hands on offense for a few years now (Marcus Robinson, Nate Burleson, Onterrio Smith, Michael Bennett, Moe Williams, Mewelde Moore, etc.), and it’s coming back to haunt them following the departure of Randy Moss. Sure, Burleson performed admirably when Moss was hampered with a hamstring injury in 2004, but Moss only missed three complete games, and opposing defenses start to sweat even if he’s only standing on the sidelines in street clothes. One gets the feeling that until coach Mike Tice establishes a true starting unit and sticks with it, the Vikings will continue to field a lot of players who offer lots of fantasy potential, but who bear few rewards.

Lee Evans/Eric Moulds (BUF) – Owners disappointed in Evans’ five catches, 80 yards and zero TDs through two games need only to take a look at Eric Moulds’ numbers to feel better about their situation (five catches, 48 yards and zero TDs). Tampa Bay laid bare the Bills’ biggest weakness on Sunday by stacking eight or nine men on the line in order to stop RB Willis McGahee and make J.P. Losman beat them with his arm. The plan worked to perfection, meaning that everyone and their brother will be out to do the same thing against the Bills. Losman may be alright in the long run, but until he proves it, the Bills' passing game should be mediocre, at best.

Keary Colbert (CAR) – Carolina’s resurgent running game appears to be for real, and it’s also a possible harbinger of Colbert’s fantasy demise. One look at the stats – two games, two catches, 11 yards – is imploration enough for owners to keep Colbert away from their starting lineups. He does have nice long-term potential as a talented young wideout playing alongside Steve Smith, but start-worthy fantasy stats from Colbert will be few and far between unless the running game reverts to 2004 form, and even then there are no guarantees.