If you have suffered in the starting wide receiver department this year, you are not alone. Javon Walker was injured in the first game and ruled out for the season. Randy Moss, Joe Horn, Torry Holt, Nate Burleson, Darrell Jackson, Drew Bennett, Isaac Bruce and for a game Hines Ward have all missed time with injuries, putting a burden on owners to find replacements who can keep them in key early-season fantasy matchups. Andre Johnson and Roy Williams did not play well to begin with, and then got hurt. And receivers like Michael Clayton, Lee Evans, Laveranues Coles, Reggie Wayne and Jerry Porter have been healthy, but unbelievably ineffective.
So, what is a forlorn fantasy owner to do? Take aim at some of the very small denizens of the NFL landscape. That’s right – Get Shorty. The fact this season is that the WR position in fantasy football favors plucky, but pint-sized personnel. Prototypical wideouts need not apply. If you are 6-2, 212 pounds and athletic, I’ve got a trainer’s table with your name on it.
If, however, you are fewer than six feet and average 191 pounds, step right up! Six of this year’s top 15 leaders in receiving yards (which excludes TE Antonio Gates) are tiny, and three of the top five are an atypical size to star against NFL safeties and cornerbacks. Steve Smith and Santana Moss are leading a small-scale renaissance at the wide receiver position. Those two game-breakers are followed by Terry Glenn and Joey Galloway, two veterans who have always had the skill to succeed, but not always the health. Finally, Kevin Curtis and Deion Branch are a couple of miniscule reception mavens.
What is the common characteristic leading to their success? Obviously they need superior speed and fancy moves in the open field to excel, but it is their fearlessness and overwhelming heart that allow them to stand tall among towering colleagues. Let’s take a closer look at these six wideouts, and analyze the value of trading for them at this time. Adding the appropriate mini mite to your fantasy team could be just the solution you need to move to the top of your league.
As the top-rated fantasy receiver this season, attempting to get Smith in a trade is not going to be an easy proposition. His eight touchdowns put him two ahead of anyone else this season. Your best chance would be to offer the combination of a highly rated receiver, like Joe Horn, who has not performed well yet (but who another owner may believe will soon) with another player at a position of need for that same owner.
Smith shows no signs of slowing down, and this looks like a repeat of the 2004 season, which saw quarterback Jake Delhomme zero in on one particular receiver for a colossal fantasy season.
Checking in at number two is Mr. Moss – Santana, that is. An afterthought for many owners coming into the season, he has proven the Redskins prescient and any fantasy owners who drafted him brilliant this season. Despite an abysmal performance against the Giants last week (every Redskins player was putrid in that contest) he has a really good rapport going with QB Mark Brunell. His sweet moves mean he can break a big gain at any time.
Since he is also going to be nearly impossible to pry loose from an owner, perhaps you can hand over a good wideout to fill his void, then sweeten the deal with a good running back. If you have three quality guys, keep the ones done with their bye week and hand over the upgrade to his team, to help yours overall.
Glenn ranks fifth in the league with 682 receiving yards. He has tailed off of late however, doing no better than 65 yards receiving and no touchdowns in any of his last three games. If you believe he is in store for more explosions this year, now is the perfect time to trade for him, though you should recognize that he gets his touchdowns on big plays, and that the team looks to Keyshawn Johnson closer to the goal line, as evidenced by Johnson’s five touchdowns to Glenn’s three.
Point out that the team seems to be relying on the run more, especially with Marion Barber III during the absence of Julius Jones. Then, offer up a receiver who has done something recently but is not an overall threat – Eddie Kennison comes to mind – and make that deal.
Though Galloway is without his main benefactor, Brian Griese, keep in mind that Chris Simms still found him often enough (eight completed passes for 149 yards and a touchdown) not to worry about that facet of his ability to perform. For whatever reason, it has been all Galloway, all the time in Tampa Bay.
He has 260 more yards on the season than Marvin Harrison, and the two receivers have produced the same number of touchdowns so far. So send an offer of Marvin Harrison for Joey Galloway and another minor player you covet. The Harrison name alone may tip the transaction in your favor, but if not the owner may come back with a straight-up deal for the receivers. Take it.
With 536 yards and 4 touchdowns, Curtis is surpassing so far the expectations even of experts who thought he would be a sudden fantasy factor. Keep in mind that this has happened after an injury promotion via Isaac Bruce, and then a further depth-chart ascension after Torry Holt was hurt. When those receivers return, Curtis will not be nearly as valuable. In this case I recommend trading away Curtis if you own him.
Branch plays his best in big games (he seems to respond to the spotlight) so now may be the time to acquire him, with the Indianapolis grudge match hype building with a crescendo toward the weekend. He has not had a breakout game this year, but still ranks 15 th among receivers with 529 yards and two touchdowns. That makes him a very solid number two fantasy receiver, who you may be able to steal from an owner who thinks of him as a three or flex player.
Hire Joe Levit for corporate or client appreciation events at fantasyfootballspeaker.com. His fantasy football columns appear on SI.com and thehuddle.com. Joe, a PFWA and FSWA member, writes about the NFL for patriotsinsider.com and is a fantasy football analyst on radio. He is the creator of the Sleeper League and FF Hold ‘em League concepts.