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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Wide Receiver Report - Week 2
Todd Gray
September 12, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own Comment
1 CIN Chad Johnson Blame it on the rain.  Johnson had only five catches for 48 yards as the Bengals employed a run-heavy game plan against the Chiefs, largely due to the uncooperative weather.  The good news is that QB Carson Palmer looked great and the Bengals beat the Chiefs rather handily.  Things should get easier for Johnson and Co. on Sunday when Cincinnati hosts Cleveland.
2 STL Torry Holt Headline: Ground Game, Defense Lead to Win Over Broncos.  Not exactly what Holt owners want to see.  Regardless, his seven catches for 80 yards was acceptable.  The Rams may now have a “normal” offense under head coach Scott Linehan, but little should change for the team’s go-to wideout.  Fantasy owners who are nervous need only to look at the schedule, which reveals a string of soft defenses starting on Sunday when St. Louis plays at San Francisco.
3 IND Marvin Harrison Fantasy owners disappointed that Harrison didn’t make a trip to the end zone should take a quick peek at the Week 1 wide receiver landscape and count their blessings.  His nine catches and 113 yards against the Giants are a great sign of things to come, especially when those “things to come” are the Houston Texans, who will be in town on Sunday.
4 DAL Terrell Owens The gale that kicked up in your neighborhood on Sunday was the collective sigh of relief made by thousands of fantasy owners who suddenly felt much better about drafting Owens higher than common sense dictated.  He actually looked even better than his numbers (six catches, 80 yards, one TD) against the Jaguars.  Inter-division rival Washington visits on Sunday.  Owens hasn’t played against the Redskins since 2004, and he only managed eight catches, 70 yards and a single score against the ‘Skins in two games that season.
5 ARI Larry Fitzgerald Fitzgerald tallied nine catches and 133 yards against the 49ers, a team that fielded the NFL’s worst pass defense a year ago.  Don’t worry about QB Kurt Warner’s passing scores to Troy Walters and Adam Bergen – that won’t happen often.  Warner’s bread is buttered on two sides, the Fitzgerald side and…
6 ARI Anquan Boldin …the Boldin side.  Boldin may not have accumulated many catches (3) or a gaudy yardage total (62), but he did snag a six-point pass.  The Cardinals’ offense was every bit as good as advertised against the 49ers, but the going gets tougher when Arizona plays at Seattle on Sunday.  Boldin and Fitzgerald combined for a respectable 17 catches and 231 yards in three total games played against the Seahawks in 2005 (Fitzgerald two, Boldin one), but neither wideout scored a TD.
7 CAR Steve Smith Anyone for a re-draft?  Smith’s DNP against Atlanta due to hamstring issues surprised few given his recent history, but his absence reverberated throughout the fantasy world nonetheless.  At the moment, he’s probably a 50-50 bet to play at Minnesota on Sunday, which may be a good thing considering both the Metrodome turf and the fact that Smith owners don’t’ want their No. 1 wideout to rush back too soon.
8 MIA Chris Chambers Fantasy owners should take Chambers’ five catches and 59 yards against the Steelers in stride.  He was playing in Pittsburgh, for goodness sakes, QB Daunte Culpepper made it through the game in one piece, and it was the first real game in which the pair shared the field together.  The going should be tough again this week when the Dolphins host Buffalo (Chambers is a must-start, anyway), but fret not – matchups against Tennessee and Houston await in Weeks 3 & 4, respectively.
9 OAK Randy Moss No doubt Moss is the prime target in the Raiders’ offense.  Too bad that was worth only four catches for 47 yards against San Diego in Week 1.  On the bright side, his production was way better than anyone else wearing silver and black in the Raiders’ 27-0 pasting at the hands of the Chargers as QBs Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter completed only eight of 19 passes for 96 yards and were sacked nine times.  Moss also recently voiced frustration with the direction in which the team is heading, so Moss owners may have a malcontent on their hands, as well.  Things won’t get any easier in Week 2 when Oakland plays a Ravens squad that has already pitched a 27-0 shutout.  This doesn’t look good…
10 IND Reggie Wayne If Sunday’s game was any indication, Wayne will not be supplanting Harrison as Manning’s go-to guy anytime soon.  In fact, based on Sunday’s results, Wayne will never supplant Harrison as long as the latter wears as Colts uniform and has a pulse.  The good news – if it can be called that – is that the Colts have a new challenge this season, which is getting the running game untracked.  Odds are that Wayne, the running game, and the kitchen sink all produce on Sunday when Indy hosts Houston.

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

Climbing The Ladder

Donte’ Stallworth (PHI) – One week does not a stud fantasy wideout make, but Stallworth may be an exception to this rule.  For starters, a line of six catches, 141 yards and one TD can’t happen accidentally.  Second, the 26-year-old Stallworth is coming off of his career year (70 catches, 945 yards, 7 TDs in 2005 with the ‘Aints).  Third, Philly QB Donovan McNabb has made a career of posting big passing numbers despite having receiving corps comprised of unprovens, also-rans, rookies, and of course Terrell Owens for 21 games.  The Eagles’ matchup at home on Sunday against the Giants will be no cakewalk, but fantasy owners need to keep Stallworth in their starting lineups nonetheless.  He did post eight catches and 141 yards against the Giants in one game last season while with the Saints, and he’s playing on a much better team now.

Donald Driver (GB) – Bret Favre’s new motto: when in doubt, or when possibly in doubt, or even when the possibly of some ambiguous form of doubt appears on the distant horizon, thrown the ball to Donald Driver.  With the exception of RB Ahman Green’s 132 total yards and zero TDs, Driver was the only player on the Packers who fantasy owners should have touched with the proverbial 10-foot pole.  His 96 yards receiving were six yards better than all other Packers pass-catchers combined, and his seven catches were only two fewer than the sum of all other players wearing green and yellow against the Bears.  Driver has proven for two years running that he can be a viable low-tier No. 1/upper-tier No. 2 wideout regardless of the circumstances, and that seems unlikely to change this season – especially when considering that his most recent performance came against the best defense in the league.  Sunday’s home game against New Orleans should be a much better indicator of how bad the Packers really are, but Driver should produce nonetheless.

Deion Branch (SEA) – As if you haven’t heard, Branch is now a Seahawk.  The bad news is that he joins an already-talented receiving corps.  The good news is that once he gets acclimated to QB Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks’ game plan, he should be no worse than the team’s No. 2 wideout – and his stock will rise in a hurry if/when Darrell Jackson’s knee decides to take another vacation.  Branch’s strengths – speed and solid route-running skills – fit nicely with the Seahawks’ offense.  Fantasy owners who’ve elected to hold onto him need to temper their expectations for the time being as he’ll need to learn the ropes with his new team, and he probably shouldn’t be started this weekend.  However, this turn of events is a solid plan B and automatically makes Branch a receiver to hold onto or to trade for a very good player in return (nix all talk of dropping him).

Sliding Back

Joe Jurevicius (CLE) – One of the league’s top TD-per-reception players from a year ago, Jurevicius is now expected to miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs suffered against the Saints on Sunday.  Ironically, Jurevicius’ stock plummeted a bit prior to his injury when, surprisingly, he came off the bench in favor of Dennis Northcutt in Week 1.  Jurevicius was viewed as a serviceable No. 3 wideout in most fantasy circles prior to his injury, and he should be dropped like a sizzling M-80 now that he’s out for an extended period of time.  Meanwhile, Northcutt and Josh Cribbs will compete for more playing time in Jurevicius’ absence, but neither should accumulate enough stats to satisfy the needs of fantasy owners who are left seeking an adequate No. 3 WR in the wake of Jurevicius’ injury.

Nate Burleson/Bobby Engram (SEA) – Now is the time for the Super Bowl runner-up Seahawks, and it shows in the team’s decision to surrender a No. 1 draft pick for Deion Branch.  This turn of events speaks volumes about how management views its receiving corps.  Granted, Darrell Jackson’s gimpy knee may be a major factor in all that’s transpired, but Burleson is an underwhelming No. 2 wideout and he recently knocked Engram from the No. 2 role, which says a lot about Engram's relative value as well.  Burleson (one catch, 36 yards against Detroit) stands to lose the most playing time with Branch on board, and Engram (five catches, 52 yards) won’t be far behind.  The good news is that the Seahawks may employ four-receiver sets as often as is reasonably possible in order to create some breathing room for RB Shaun Alexander.  Regardless, both Burleson’s and Engram’s days as fantasy producers appear to be numbered.

Joey Galloway (TB) – Maybe Galloway should be placed in the “Climbing the Ladder” section.  After all, he can only go up following his zero-catch performance against Baltimore on Sunday.  Keep in mind that Galloway was shut out twice last season, yet he still finished the campaign with 83 catches, 1,287 yards and 10 TDs.  Perhaps most disheartening is that on Sunday he received only three looks by QB Chris Simms, while No. 2 WR Michael Clayton, RB Cadillac Williams and TE Anthony Becht were targeted six times apiece.  Galloway turns 35 in November, and despite the fact that 2005 was the best year of his career, it came in part at the expense of an unhealthy Clayton and at times a banged-up Williams.  Fantasy owners should play it safe, consider Galloway to be a very good No. 3 wideout, and take the appropriate actions to find a new No. 2 fantasy wideout.  Despite all of this, Galloway remains a solid start when the Bucs play in Atlanta on Sunday.