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FANTASY FOOTBALL PRE-SEASON FEATURES

2006 Fantasy Football Sleepers - Wide Receivers
Huddle Staff
August 9, 2006
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

David Dorey's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Derrick Mason, BAL – While Mason barely clipped 1000 yards last year and only scored three times, he is re-united with Steve McNair again and that relationship produced an average of 1150 yards and seven touchdowns over the last four seasons the duo played together which never fell below 1000 yards (despite missing two games in 2002) and was as high as 1300 yards and nine touchdowns. The Ravens have never had a quarterback the caliber of McNair so any conclusions drawn from last year don’t really matter. Mason won’t be huge this year, but he should be rock solid and a good value for where he is being drafted.

Reggie Brown, PHI – Though he was only a rookie last year, Brown managed to secure what is currently the only certain starting spot for an Eagle wideout this season. Philly no longer has Terrell Owens and no other wideout has impressed much other than the undrafted rookie Hank Baskett (which is more an indictment on all the other wideouts). Brown started very slow last year largely because of needing to learn the offense and the presence of Owens but he ended the year on an upswing when he was made a starter. He was only a rookie last year and still had five games over 70 yards in his final eight games.

David Givens, TEN – After spending four years in the “spread it out” offense in New England, Givens left via free agency for less money than was being offered by other teams for a chance to become a #1 wideout with the Titans. While he has not had more than 59 catches or 872 yards in a season so far, Givens will have his first shot at being the first read of the quarterback. Drew Bennett proved last year that he is nothing more than a complementary #2 wideout (at best) and this is Givens shot at being a primary receiver for a team that is likely to be trailing in most games this year. Forget about Bennett – that has already been proven as nothing special. Givens is the guy to get in Tennessee.

David Dorey's Wide Receiver Bust

Joey Galloway, TB – There are magic years and then there are almost unbelievable years – just ask Joey Galloway, Brandon Stokley, Muhsin Muhammad, Drew Bennett or Peerless Price. Galloway ended with 1287 yards last year – 7th best for all wideouts and his ten touchdowns tied for 5th best in the NFL for 2005. That was a bit surprising given that Galloway had not topped 1000 yards or six scores anytime during the six previous years. He somehow waited until he was 34 years-old to have a career season for catches (83) and yardage. He only had 18 touchdowns total during the six previous seasons.  Galloway was hottest during an eight game stretch during the middle of the year when he logged four 100 yard games but in his final four games he only once rose above 39 yards in a game – all with Chris Simms as quarterback. Galloway is 35 this year and is one of the oldest wideouts in the NFL who managed to stay healthy for the entire season unlike the previous two years. Last year was great, it was even magic. But it was already ending when the season was winding down in 2005. Sort of like when a skyrocket finally bursts, Galloway is heading back down now.

Mike Courter's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Derrick Mason, BAL  --  The 32 year old pass-catcher’s first season in Baltimore produced 86 catches for 1,073 yards, but only three touchdowns, still impressive numbers considering that they came on the receiving end of the erratic two-headed quarterback play of Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright.  With Steve McNair’s arrival in Baltimore this season, Mason is reunited with his favorite passer from his days as a member of the Oilers / Titans franchise, a quarterback who already has an established rhythm and timing with the 10 year receiver.  That improvement alone over last season should boost Mason’s numbers into the 90+ catches, 1200+ yards and between 8-10 touchdowns (stats reflecting numbers from his last two seasons in Tennessee), solid second or third receiver numbers in fantasy football.

Nate Burleson, SEA – Only two seasons removed from his quasi-breakout season in 2004 (68 receptions for 1,006 yards (14.8 avg.) and nine touchdowns), Burleson hit rock bottom last season as injury’s and Daunte Culpepper’s implosion wrecked all the positive momentum Burleson had built in Minnesota the two seasons prior, choking his production at 30 catches for 328 yards and one score in a forgettable campaign for the fourth year receiver from Nevada.  With the Vikings using most of their cap space on Seattle free agent guard Steve Hutchinson, Burleson was free to make a fresh start with the Seahawks, and takeover a starting receiver spot that last year saw journeyman Joe Jurevicius catch 55 passes for 694 yards and 10 touchdowns.  With Mike Holmgren’s play-calling and Matt Hasselbeck’s superior quarterback play, Burleson stands to make a considerable statistical leap from last season, and most likely flirting with 1,000 receiving yards and 8-10 scores in 2006.

Sami Parker, KC – With resident Chiefs No.1 receiver Eddie Kennison turning 33 years old and increasingly becoming a possession receiver, and Tony Gonzalez starting to slip in stature thanks to both a run-oriented offensive philosophy and a questionable call for him to take on an increasing role as blocker, the third year receiver from Oregon is in the midst of a rapid ascent to become the brightest light on Trent Green’s radar.  Parker enters the magical third season with a head full of steam after last season’s 36 catches for 533 yards and three touchdowns (with most of his numbers coming in the last month of the season) after only recording nine catches for 137 yards and one score two years ago in his rookie season. Parker will be available in the later rounds of fantasy drafts and could become that highly productive player who provides critical depth and extra player flexibility that enables fantasy teams squeak out a league championship.

Mike Courter's Wide Receiver Bust

Joe Jurevicius, CLE – I certainly won’t be rooting against one of the league’s nicer guys but the former Penn State product’s off-season move from the dynamic, veteran-laden Seahawks passing attack to the struggling Browns offense, led by inexperienced second year man Charlie Frye was clearly “about the money” and Jurevicius will certainly see his production pay the price this season.  Expect the cold Lake Erie wind gusts whirling into Cleveland Browns Stadium to drop the nine year NFL veteran’s stats quicker than the mercury in the building’s thermometer.  Last season’s dream-like 10 touchdowns with nearly 700 receiving yards (694) will succumb to the cold reality of the Browns 23rd ranked passing offense under control of a head coach (Romeo Crennel) whose preference is to grind out wins with defense and running the ball.

Paul Sandy's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Nate Burleson, SEA - 2005 was supposed to be Burleson’s coming out party. He flamed out with the rest of the Vikings offense and was one of fantasy football’s biggest busts. Look for a re-birth in Seattle, home to one of the NFL’s most consistent offenses. Don’t forget Darrell Jackson had some knee troubles last season and some reports suggest he may be experiencing lingering effects. If DJax misses time, Burleson could put up numbers like a #1 WR for stretches of the 2006 season.
                         
Marty Booker, MIA - Booker is a bit of a forgotten man in fantasy circles. Just five seasons ago he caught 100 passes and made the Pro Bowl. Injuries and poor QB play have kept him down in recent years, but he’s finally healthy. More importantly, he will have the benefit of playing with the most talented QB he’s ever lined up alongside. Most of the attention in Miami is being paid to Chris Chambers. Grab Booker in the late rounds. He gives Daunte Culpepper his best possession receiving target since Cris Carter. Booker has the potential for 70 receptions, 950 yards, and a bunch of TDs.

Mark Clayton, BAL - Last year was the season of small wideouts, with five of the top seven receivers in 2005 measuring less than 6’0” and weighing under 200 lbs. With the increased emphasis on illegal contact, the trend is likely here to stay and small/fast wideouts will continue to see success. Mark Clayton is one of the young wideouts who fit the mold. In the last five games of 2005, Clayton caught 24 passes and two touchdowns, averaging over 60 yards per game.

Paul Sandy's Wide Receiver Bust

Javon Walker, DEN - Walker has two factors working against him that have historically killed the value of fantasy receivers. First, he’s coming off major reconstructive knee surgery. It typically takes a couple years to fully recover from this type of injury. Second, he has changed teams. Most wide receivers who switch teams have experienced a marked drop in production in their first year with the new ball club. It all adds up to unspectacular stats for Walker in 2006.

Joe Levit's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Roy Williams, DET – Williams has been written about extensively on value and sleeper lists this off-season. There is a big reason why. He is an absolute stud when he is healthy. The conditioning he will gain this year, combined with the better leadership of Jon Kitna, will mean the first 1,000-yard, 10+ TD campaign for Williams. He has the potential to be a top-five fantasy receiver.
                
Koren Robinson, MIN – For me, Robinson represents a distinct type of value pick: number one receivers on a team not being touted as a big deal in the passing game. I see lots of fantasy owners grab second receivers on teams before selecting the top talent on NFL rosters. That may be sound advice regarding the Cardinals, or where Reggie Wayne is concerned, but anywhere else it is bordering on folly. Robinson is underrated going into this season, and could finish as a top-15 fantasy wideout.

Antonio Bryant, SF – Owners seem to be down on Bryant, especially after he was unceremoniously shipped off to the Bay by the Browns. The fact is though that he will be the top receiver by far in San Francisco, and that he has one more year of experience after learning how to deal with being the center of attention for opposing secondaries in Cleveland. I think he will be a top-25 fantasy receiver.

Joe Levit's Wide Receiver Bust

Marvin Harrison, IND – When I talk about a bust here, I don’t mean that Harrison will fall flat on his face. He will hardly do anything like that. But, Wayne could best him on the same team, and there are enough young, emerging receivers to push him down the fantasy rankings at wide receiver. I see him finishing around the 10-spot, and possibly as far back as 15.

Bob Cunningham's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Michael Clayton, TB – Look up the phrase “sophomore slump” in a sports dictionary, and there’s Clayton’s mug shot.  After a brilliant rookie campaign in 2004, Clayton disappeared from the map last season as veteran Joey Galloway seized the No. 1 slot.  But head coach Jon Gruden is a smart guy – you don’t get an NFL head coaching gig at 33 unless you’ve got a few active brain cells.  He recognizes Clayton’s raw talent and will maximize the kid’s opportunity to resume being a productive receiver. A great guy to snag in a late round and stash away.

Brandon Lloyd, WAS – This is a hunch play, because Lloyd’s talent and physical assets won’t sneak up on anyone.  But with Santana Moss the clear No. 1 and Antuan Randle El in the slot and causing coverage issues for opposing defenses, the athletic Lloyd could break though for a solid, 70-reception campaign with plenty of opportunities to make plays in the red zone.  The question is whether the Redskins have a QB who can get him the ball enough.

Roscoe Parrish, BUF – Admittedly, if Clayton and Lloyd are considered sleepers, Parrish should be labeled as a REM sleeper.  Buffalo’s passing game is very much up in the air (pun intended) with veterans Josh Reed, Andre Davis and newly-signed Peerless Price candidates to get playing time opposite No. 1 Lee Evans.  But Parrish is arguably the most talented of the group, he’s fast, and the other guys have each failed in previous attempts to be starters.  If you can get Parrish as your first option off your bench, you’d be looking smooth when he complements Evans as the latter did for Eric Moulds about three years ago.

Bob Cunningham's Wide Receiver Bust

Randy Moss, OAK – Hold on… hear (read) me out before you assume I must be playing without a helmet.  Labeling Moss as my WR bust for this year doesn’t mean I believe he will be worthless.  Far from it.  But on many listings, he’s rated No. 1 among wideouts.  That means in most drafts, he would justify an early second round, maybe even a late first-round pick in larger leagues.  That also means that unless he catches at least 90 balls for 1,500 yards and scores 15 times, he will come up short of the needed productivity.  With new head coach Art Shell favoring ball-control, turnover-machine Aaron Brooks as the QB, and a disgruntled Jerry Porter as the second option, I can’t see Moss dominating on a weekly basis because the supporting talent is questionable.  I’m predicting about 70 receptions for 1,200 yards and 6-8 touchdowns.  Very respectable numbers, but not elite stats.

Brent Clement's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Roy Williams, DET - Many are high on Williams talent, but some have given up on the headache of his health. The past few years he has been in and out of the lineup so much, fantasy teams took goose eggs in their lineup, only to see his game time decision turn into a DNP in the box score. Williams has the tools to be one of the elite WR’s in the game, but must stay healthy to live up to those expectations. Is this the year?

Javon Walker, DEN - A year ago walker was one of the top 5 WR’s taken, and on his way to stardom. A season ending injury later, he has fallen from the graces of the top 10 WR’s to the mid 30’s on most WR draft boards. Do not make the mistake of letting him slide to far, and stacking another team with a great #2 or #3 WR, for a player that will not help you next season. Some guys are just worth taking a shot on, past injury or not, and Walker in this offense, is one of those guys.

Terry Glenn, DAL - Glenn is coming off a 1100 yard season, with 7 TD’s and most draft boards have him in the late 30’s to mid 40’s. Glenn drew double coverage most games, as teams could cover Keyshawn Johnson with a nickel back, or safety. Now Glenn’s role is reversed as he will see few double teams with WR Terrell Owens in Big D, and will be a nightmare for opposing defenses, and your fantasy opponents.

Brent Clement's Wide Receiver Bust

Anquan Boldin, ARI - Boldin will not be a bust in the sense of the word, as he is a huge part of the Cardinal offense, but he will disappoint fantasy owners, due to lofty expectations. Boldin made his living in the middle of the field, and now the Cardinals have a TE who can do most of that grunt work. Add the fact that this offense will run the ball considerably more than a year ago, and Larry Fitzgerald is the main vertical receiving target, Boldin’s stats can only go down.

Todd Gray's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Michael Clayton, TB – The list of Clayton’s physical and performance issues was a lengthy one in 2005, and though it’s not easy to forget his incredible rookie campaign in 2004, he’s likely to slide a ways down the board in many drafts this season.  Clayton approaches the new season healthy and in shape – two things he wasn’t at this time last season.  With no viable No. 3 option for QB Chris Simms behind Clayton and No. 1 WR Joey Galloway, the third-year wideout should have every chance in the world to approach his rookie numbers of 80 receptions, 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns.

Samie Parker, KC – Parker is entering that ever-telling third season for an NFL wideout, he’s established a favorable rapport with QB Trent Green, and his only real competition for catches is the solid-but-underwhelming Eddie Kennison and a TE (Tony Gonzalez) who may have seen his last 70-catch season.  Parker gave fantasy owners a glimpse of his potential in the second half of 2005, and Green seemed to grow more confident in him as the year progressed.  His progress may be accomplished at a measured pace, but Parker can be considered a budding No. 3 fantasy wideout in many leagues in 2006. 

Reggie Brown, PHI – Donovan McNabb is healthy, the Terrell Owens experience is becoming a distant memory and Brown enters the season as the Eagles’ No. 1 wideout.  Almost all of Brown’s 463 yards and four TDs accumulated over the final eight games last season came with backup Mike McMahon at QB, and it’s only logical to assume that he can do the same thing or better with McNabb under center.  Eleven hundred yards and 8-9 TDs is a distinct possibility, and that’s a lot of production for a wideout projected by many to be no better than a 9th- or 10th-round draft pick. 

Todd Gray's Wide Receiver Bust

Santana Moss, WAS – Moss stormed out of the gates through the first six games of the season in 2005, but a close look at the stats show that he was a rather ordinary fantasy wideout from week eight to the end of the season.  No doubt the nearly constant double-teams hindered Moss’ ability to continue his torrid early-season pace, but take away a 3-TD, 160-yard performance in week 16 and you get one 80-yard game and a lone TD grab over the season’s last nine weeks.  Newcomers Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El should help to ease the pressure on Moss, but their arrivals also mean that Moss will no longer be Brunell’s only legitimate target this side of TE Chris Cooley.

Scott Boyter's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Andre Johnson, HOU – Johnson should be foaming at the mouth to rebound from a lousy 2005 season in which he gained only 688 yards and managed only two scores. But the Texans’ acquisition of Eric Moulds will take off some of the pressure. And it will also help that David Carr should remain upright a lot more this season with the new zone blocking scheme that coach Gary Kubiak will implement. Houston picked up Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan to shore up the O-line. Johnson is a good mid-round pick after you’ve solidified your starting receiver corps.

Mark Clayton, BAL – Clayton is a quality receiver who will benefit from the Ravens’ signing of Steve McNair. McNair’s chief target will be former Tennessee teammate Derrick Mason, but Clayton will still get plenty of looks. A lot of fantasy players will overlook him.

Derek Hagan, MIA – This rookie was a stud at Arizona State, and he has a solid chance of beating out Marty Booker and Kelly Campbell to earn the No. 2 receiver spot. Pay close attention to developments in Dolphin camp; if Hagan does grab that slot he’ll be a huge pickup in the late rounds.

Scott Boyter's Wide Receiver Bust

Todd Pinkston, PHI – It’s open season for the No. 1 WR in Philly with the departure of Terrell Owens, but Pinkston is by no means a good bet to become The Man. It’ll be tempting to roll the dice on him with a mid- to late-round pick, but Pinkston’s coming off of a torn Achilles that cost him the 2005 season. Beware.

Kevin Ratterree's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Joey Galloway, TB - Lots of people will be writing off last season as a "last hurrah" for a guy that never seemed to reach his full potential.  And truth be known, it is unlikely he will put up numbers to match last season.  But somehow I just can't see the Buc's turning a blind eye to the kind of production Galloway gave them last season.  I have been as guilty as anybody of writing off older players, but I'm not biting on this one.  Galloway might be old, but he may end up being the Buc's best option yet again.  And seeing as how he is a potential number one receiver in the NFL, and will be available as a WR 3 for my fantasy team, I would have no problem taking him if my fellow drafters give me the proper discount.

Mark Clayton, BAL - Here is probably my favorite sleeper this season.  Clayton had a rough go of it for most of his rookie season, but turned it on late.  And as you experienced fantasy players know, that is often a sign of a player ready to bust out.  Clayton can be had in the back third of your fantasy draft.  The guy has skills, and a new quarterback that can actually deliver him the ball.  I expect big things from Clayton, and it may be as early as this season.

Nate Burleson, SEA - And here is my second favorite sleeper of the year.  Many will be turned off Burleson after his crash and burn as a highly touted player in last years drafts.  But the Vikings were a train wreck last season, and Burleson did not fare well under the pressure of being expected to fill the shoes of Randy Moss.  Now he is in a perfect situation.  A great team.  A great quarterback.  And with D.J. lining up on the other side, Burleson should find the going much easier this year.  He will be a bargain in this years draft.

Kevin Ratterree's Wide Receiver Bust

Chad Johnson, CIN - Hold the phone.  I have drafted Chad Johnson at every opportunity over the last couple of years and he has delivered the goods on a consistent basis.  Why in the world would I include him on this list?  I'm not exactly sure.  But we all know his quarterback is coming off a major injury.  And we all know that the Bengals have assembled a talented offensive cast.  Two years ago the Bengals needed to get Johnson the ball at every opportunity, but now they just have too many more options.  Johnson will still have a solid season, but I don't have him at the top of my WR list any more.  He is due for a drop in production this year.  He won't be a bust, but now that the fantasy community is fully onboard with this guy, he has a lot more downside than upside.
                         
Javon Walker, DEN - Walker has a new team, and a new contract, and new quarterback.  But he also has new surgically repaired body parts.  Yet he is still being drafted fairly high in mock drafts.  But the best case scenario here is that a) he stays healthy b) he is the featured receiver c) the Broncos suddenly become a passing team d) he re-gains the form that made him a fantasy star 2 seasons ago.  Lots of question marks for a guy being drafted as highly as he will be.  Good luck with all that.

Fritz Schlottman's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Braylon Edwards, CLE - Edwards goes into 2006 as the Browns Number 1 receiver, when he gets healthy.  Edwards is coming off an ACL and may not start season, and as a result, Edwards may fly under the radar in your draft.  Many of the preseason fantasy magazines have Edwards down in the 30’s in their rankings.  I’d love to get a former number one pick playing as a number one receiver late in the draft and stash him on my roster until he gets healthy.

Koren Robinson/Troy Williamson, MIN - Randy Moss and Nate Burleson have left the Vikings via free agency and someone is going to have to catch the ball in Minnesota.  Going into camp, Robinson and Williamson look to be the starters, but these guys are flying so far under the fantasy radar their rated down among the middle of the 2nd receiver group.  Williamson is faster, but struggles to get off the line against bump coverage and may end up playing in the slot.  Robinson went to the Pro Bowl last season as a punt returner and is a former number one receiver is Seattle.  If his off-field problems are past him, Robinson may make a nice late draft addition to your fantasy roster.

Fritz Schlottman's Wide Receiver Bust

Lee Evans, BUF - The Bills quarterback situation is an unqualified disaster.  J.P Losman choked early last season, got benched, and may need to be traded or released to salvage his career. Kelly Holcomb isn’t mobile enough to avoid the rushers flooding through the Bills’ porous offensive line and Holcomb doesn’t have the arm strength to throw the deep ball.  To make matters worse, he’s one concussion away from retirement.  After Holcomb and Losman, it’s anyone’s guess.  Evans gets downgraded through no fault of his own…he has the poor luck of playing on a crappy offense.

Darin Tietgen's Wide Receiver Sleepers

Derrick Mason, BAL – What’s not to like about Mason this year?  He’s reunited with the QB he flourished with in Tennessee, and now has a competent burner on the other side (Mark Clayton) and help up the middle (TE Todd Heap) to alleviate double-team issues.  Mason still managed over 1,000 yards in his first season with the Ravens and will go for his 6th-straight season with 1,000 or more.  So tell me why he’s being drafted after the inconsistent Andre Johnson and Plaxico Burress?  Or Javon Walker?  Or Joe Horn?

Drew Bennett, TEN – Bennett took over for the aforementioned Mason as the #1 WR in Tennessee in 2004.  His injury-plagued 2005 season will cause him to be underrated.  Whether it be Billy Volek (who he had a great rapport with) or Vince Young, Bennett will put up solid WR2 stats and could approach double-digit TDs again.  The Titans will be pass-happy this season and Bennett could be the beneficiary of some late-game garbage time yards and scores.

Jerry Porter, OAK – This guy never gets any love.  Yes, he is a tease.  He oozes talent and has yet to put forth that monster season that he’s capable of.  Will it happen this season?  Perhaps.  I’m saying “absolutely” should Randy Moss get injured this season.  He’s scored 9 TDs in 2 separate seasons.  I would expect him to approach that total yet again, and finally break the 1,000 yard mark.  The Raiders are going to be chucking the ball all over the field.  Moss will command double teams when healthy, so Porter, healthy Moss or not, will be reaping the benefits.

Darin Tietgen's Wide Receiver Bust

Roy Williams, DET – Oh man, it took me about 10 minutes to type his name here.  As a big Williams fan, I would love to see him light up the scoreboard every week.  He’s certainly talented, but appears to take plays off and sometimes lacks the fire necessary to be a weekly game-changer.  Plus, you can sprinkle in some injury concerns after missing significant action last season.  The hype surrounding the “new and improved” Detroit offense carries right over to Williams, with many employing him as their #1 WR.  I personally think this is a mistake.  I think WR is a very shallow position this season – more than in other seasons – and there will be plenty of up-and-down play from many of the supposed “number one WRs”.  I wouldn’t put my faith in Williams as a true stud #1 fantasy WR.  Of course, I’m hoping I’m wrong. 

Philip Gentles' Wide Receiver Sleeper

Derrick Mason, BAL – The Ravens’ offense was pretty bad last year. But despite the team’s struggles WR Derrick Mason still went on to have a decent season with 86 catches and 1073 yards. He only scored twice, but then again starting QB Kyle Boller only threw 11 touchdowns all year. Mason’s best years were back when he played for the Titans, and with former Titans’ QB Steve McNair joining the Ravens in the off-season look for Mason’s numbers to improve.

Philip Gentles' Wide Receiver Bust

Joey Galloway, TB – Things couldn’t have gone any better for veteran WR Joey Galloway last season. Not only did he stay healthy, but had a career year catching 83 balls for 1,257 yards and 10 TDs. But at 35 years old there is very little chance that he will be able to push himself to duplicate his 2005 numbers. The reemergence of Michael Clayton, who was hurt last season, won’t help either. Clayton is a very talented receiver and several Bucs’ officials believe that he will take over as the team’s number one WR this year. Everything is pointing towards a down year for Galloway.

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