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FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT GUIDE

2007 Player Rankings: Wide Receivers
Updated: September 3, 2007
Top 10's:        
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Tier 1
Chad Johnson - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 1
Keeper: 1
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 20%
2004 CIN 16 95 1274 13.4 9 4 39  
2005 CIN 16 97 1432 14.8 9 5 33  
2006 CIN 16 87 1370 15.7 7 6 24  
Avg   16 93 1359 14.6 8 5 32 0
Proj FA   93 1390   10      

Johnson comes off one of the most unusual and frustrating seasons of his six years in the league. His 1369 receiving yards were more than any other player. He ranked 8th best in both targets (152) and catches (87). He had seven touchdowns and was a top five fantasy wideout in almost every league. And yet – he did almost all his damage during a three week frenzy when he had 34 catches for 573 yards and five scores. In just three weeks! For the other 13 games of the season, he only had one game over 100 yards and scored only twice more. He only had 786 yards in those 13 games – an average of only 60 yards per game.

Johnson was far more consistent in 2005 when he had at least one score in eight different games and topped 100 yards four times. He ended with 1432 yards that year – 3rd best in the NFL. His inconsistent play – though productive – was bothersome last year to all but those in total points leagues. With the absence of Chris Henry, Johnson will need to be no less integral to the passing attack in Cincy and yet he could endure more coverage – though that would be hard to do. Figure Johnson as a reliable wideout and look for him to return to more consistent play in 2007 with the entire offense (sans Henry for 8 weeks) to be back again this year.

Steve Smith - CAR YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 2
Keeper: 2
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 20%
2004 CAR 1 6 60 10.0        
2005 CAR 16 103 1563 15.2 12 4 25 1
2006 CAR 14 83 1166 14.0 8 8 61 1
Avg   10 64 930 13.1 7 4 29 1
Proj CAR   91 1380   10      

Smith comes off a down year but still had 1166 yards and eight touchdowns in 2006. That paled to the 1563 yards and 12 touchdowns he turned in for 2005.He missed the first two weeks with a hamstring strain but roared back to life with 112 yards in week three against TB. Over the first eight games that he played, Smith totaled 870 yards on 57 receptions but along with the rest of the team, Smith took a nosedive as the wheels fell off the offensive wagon. For the next five weeks – right through fantasy playoffs – Smith never had more than 67 yards and even failed to make a single catch in week 16 when owners needed him most.

Smith was openly critical of the offensive play calling (as were others) and the Panthers have a new OC in Jeff Davidson from Cleveland (but mostly New England). The new playbook calls for a return of the slant pass which Smith has been deadly within the past and Smith is already excited about 2007. He’s healthy and he’s happy. Now he just needs to be as productive as he already has proven he is capable of being. The Panthers have a much lighter schedule this year and Smith should be the direct beneficiary.

08-24-07 Update: Smith falls from the top spot to the #2 mostly because no clear-cut #2 has emerged from Drew Carter, Keary Colbert or Dwayne Jarrett. He will still get a ton of passes and could easily remain the #1 wideout, but the lack of a credible #2 so far means Chad Johnson is a better risk.

Terrell Owens - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 3
Keeper: 3
Auction 10: 18%
Auction 12: 18%
2004 PHI 14 77 1200 15.6 14 3 -5  
2005 PHI 7 47 763 16.2 6 1 2  
2006 DAL 16 85 1180 13.9 13      
Avg   12 70 1048 15.2 11 1 0 0
Proj FA   85 1230   12      

Owens' first season in Dallas resulted in 1180 yards and 13 touchdowns - about the same that he had in his final healthy year in Philadelphia. He played much of the year with an injured right ring finger that was blamed for his unusually high number of dropped passes. The finger had two surgeries in the offseason and an entourage everywhere it went. Owens has been faithfully rehabbing the finger with a hand specialist and has already shown up for minicamps. The finger should not be an issue this year and he played with the condition much of last year anyway.

What is most notable about last year was the role that Tony Romo had in Owens' success. Prior to week seven, Bledsoe had only thrown three scores to Owens and two of those came in his final game as a starter when Romo first took the field. In the 12 games that Romo played, Owens scored in all but three of them and had three 100 yard games. He had none with Bledsoe. While Bledsoe had trouble connecting with Owens, Romo knew right where the money was. Terry Glenn's numbers did not really suffer much with Owens, so the defense cannot solely concentrate on Terrell though he obviously will always be a concern. The new coaching staff may change some aspects, but feeding the ball to Owens will not be among the differences from 2006.

Marvin Harrison - FA* YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 4
Keeper: 6
Auction 10: 18%
Auction 12: 18%
2004 IND 16 86 1113 12.9 15      
2005 IND 15 82 1146 14.0 12      
2006 IND 16 95 1366 14.4 12      
Avg   16 88 1208 13.8 13 0 0 0
Proj FA*   93 1260   10      

Just when it appeared that Harrison was slowing down, he turns in 95 catches for 1366 yards and 12 touchdowns last season – 2nd in both the NFL in yardage and receiving touchdowns. Harrison has not been under 10 touchdowns per year since 1999 and though he turns 34 this season, it does not appear he is ready to slow down quite yet. He had six 100 yard games and scored multiple touchdowns in four match-ups. As long as Peyton Manning is on the other end of the pass, Harrison remains one of the most consistently productive wideouts for the last eight years and has never missed more than one game in any season during that time.

Reggie Wayne - IND YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 5
Keeper: 4
Auction 10: 18%
Auction 12: 18%
2004 IND 16 77 1210 15.7 12 1 -4  
2005 IND 16 83 1055 12.7 5      
2006 IND 16 86 1310 15.2 9      
Avg   16 82 1192 14.5 9 0 0 0
Proj IND   86 1250   10      

Wayne ended his sixth season in the NFL last year and had career high receptions (86) and receiving yardage (1310) to rank 9th and 4th in those categories for 2006. He’s been consistently good for the last three years and has never missed a game. With Peyton Manning under center, Wayne is a lock for a 1000+ yard season and it is his touchdown scoring that wavers each year. He split the difference with nine scores last season but had five in 2005 and 12 in 2004. Like Harrison, Wayne is always a solid draft pick with the promise of returning to his 12 touchdown ways. The worst you get is still top ten.

Larry Fitzgerald - ARI YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 6
Keeper: 8
Auction 10: 16%
Auction 12: 14%
2004 ARI 16 58 780 13.4 8 8 14  
2005 ARI 16 103 1409 13.7 10 8 41  
2006 ARI 13 68 941 13.8 6 1 5  
Avg   15 76 1043 13.6 8 6 20 0
Proj ARI   92 1300   9      

(+Upside) The third season for Fitzgerald did not provide the breakout year (which really was 2005 anyway) but much of that was due because of a balky hamstring that forced him to miss three games and play less than 100% in a couple others last year. Fitzgerald still ended with 946 yards on 69 catches and scored six times. He had only two games over 100 yards though he was pretty solid in turning in 70 or more in most games. This was a big step backwards from his 1409 yards and 10 scores in 2005.

Fitzgerald had one monster game in 2006 – 172 yards against the Vikings in week 12 but never again had more than 93 for the rest of the year. But he did score four times in those final six games as a precursor to what he can do with a more experienced Matt Leinart under center. So long as he can remain healthy – a problem shared with Anquan Boldin – Fitzgerald will overtake Boldin as the clear top wideout in Arizona this year. In the new scheme ushered in by HC Ken Whisenhunt, the two primary wideouts should continue to enjoy fairly heavy use and Fitzgerald’s success in the endzone will be exploited. Also, Whisenhunt has always been noted for creative, "trick" plays that often use wideouts in various rushing or even passing capacities. Fitzgerald is the best athlete for a Cardinals wideout and that too will lead to more use in any gimmick plays dreamed up by the coaching staff.

Roy Williams - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 7
Keeper: 5
Auction 10: 16%
Auction 12: 14%
2004 DET 14 54 817 15.1 8 1 1  
2005 DET 12 45 687 15.3 8      
2006 DET 16 82 1310 16.0 7 2 2  
Avg   14 60 938 15.5 8 1 1 0
Proj FA   91 1300   9      

(+Upside) Following the traditional route, Williams had his breakout season in his third year when 2006 saw him catch 82 passes for 1310 yards and seven touchdowns. He has never had less than those seven scores in a season but he almost doubled his career best yardage in his first year in the Martz offense in Detroit. He ended with six games over 100 yards and four of those exceeded 130 yards. The drafting of Calvin Johnson should not dig into Williams’ numbers (but will for Furrey) since by mid-season, defenses were content on blanketing Williams and letting Furrey end up with 98 catches on the year. Secondaries will not have that luxury once, or if, Johnson can meet his expectations.

Williams is now entering his prime years as an NFL wideout and plays in an excellent offense for generating big passing numbers. While Johnson gathers the attention, don’t forget that Williams’ ranked #3 in the NFL last year with 1310 yards while escorting much of the secondary around the field every week. It’s too early, of course, to overrate Johnson but what worked well with Holt and Bruce now turns into Williams, Johnson and Furrey.

Torry Holt - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 8
Keeper: 7
Auction 10: 14%
Auction 12: 14%
2004 STL 16 94 1372 14.6 10      
2005 STL 14 102 1331 13.0 9 1 2  
2006 STL 16 93 1188 12.8 10      
Avg   15 96 1297 13.5 10 0 1 0
Proj FA   88 1290   9      

(-Risk) Holt comes off yet another good season with 93 catches for 1188 yards and 10 scores. Those marks all were top eight or better in the NFL last year and Holt’s been golden for the last seven years but perhaps all is not as well as total numbers suggest. Holt comes off his lowest yardage since his rookie year in 1999 and his yards per catch (12.8) was the lowest of his NFL career. He started the year out red hot and by week six, he already had 526 yards and seven touchdowns. But in the final ten games of 2006 – when the new offense was starting to take shape and Jackson was running well – Holt only averaged 66 yards per week and scored in only two of those ten games. Not exactly what the first six weeks suggested would happen.

He topped 90 yards only once in those final ten games despite keeping up with the number of receptions. Even Isaac Bruce averaged 71 yards a game for the last ten weeks. Make no doubt – Holt is one of the most talented wideouts in the NFL and in his prime but the change in offensive scheme has not proven to benefit Holt’s production. Two main culprits exist here – the receptions by Jackson cost Holt some yardage and more importantly, the Rams now use more traditional formations instead of the four and five receiver sets. That means on most plays Holt and Bruce are alone in patterns and that prompts the secondary to devote extra attention to Holt. He did have a knee injury sustained in week 13 but that was his only 100 yard game in that last ten stretch. And he had 75 yards and two scores the following week against the Bears. He still has a solid reception total, but they are shorter catches than ever before. Add in Drew Bennett and Randy McMichael into the mix and Holt improving his numbers is harder to expect.

Holt still deserves to be a top wideout draft pick but he may carry more risk this year from the increased options for Bulger with Jackson’s receiving and the addition of Drew Bennett and Randy McMichael. There are only so many balls to throw in St. Louis. While obviously a solid pick, this season will answer if the change in personnel, team dynamics and scheme are really to blame for Holt’s marginal downturn in 2006.

08-27-07 Update: Holt falls a few spots with the news that his knee is bothering him from back when he had surgery in January. The joint has swollen and prevented Holt from playing in a preseason game. The Rams are taking it easy with Holt who may still not be 100% by the start of the season. Holt already saw a major decline in his production last year when the offense was finally installed and running to form.

Tier 2
Lee Evans - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 9
Keeper: 13
Auction 10: 14%
Auction 12: 14%
2004 BUF 16 48 843 17.6 9 5 85  
2005 BUF 16 49 743 15.2 7 4 38  
2006 BUF 16 82 1290 15.7 8      
Avg   16 60 959 16.2 8 3 41 0
Proj FA   90 1290   9      

True to form, Lee Evans had his break-out during his third season when 2006 provided 82 catches for 1292 yards and eight touchdowns. Evans went from catching the occasional long pass for a score to a consistent receiver with around 70 yards in most games and as high as one magic 265 yard effort he had in Houston. He only had two other games exceed 100 yards but he also ended the year on a high note with touchdowns in each of the last four games. Once the Bills elected for stability at the quarterback spot with J.P. Losman, Evans became one of the better wideouts in the league. His 1290 yards ranked 5th best among all NFL receivers last year and only nine wideouts had more touchdowns.

On the negative side, the Bills have a brutal schedule this year but then again, that will mean that Evans will be called upon no less than in 2006. He still lacks a credible #2 to lessen his coverage, but he excelled last year with the same situation.

Andre Johnson - HOU YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 10
Keeper: 9
Auction 10: 14%
Auction 12: 12%
2004 HOU 16 79 1142 14.5 6 4 12  
2005 HOU 13 63 688 10.9 2 6 10  
2006 HOU 16 103 1147 11.1 5 3 14  
Avg   15 82 992 12.2 4 4 12 0
Proj HOU   99 1350   8      

(+Upside) Johnson led the NFL in 2006 when he had 103 catches – the only one over 100. He ended with a career high 1147 yards while scoring five times but he stands to improve if only Schaub can meet expectations. Johnson had a good overall season last year but like the rest of the Texans passing game, he did almost all his damage in early in the season and was much less effective as the season progressed. Johnson opened the year with four 100 yard games in the first six weeks and scored four times by midseason.

Johnson could be a great value in your league since the offense will improve with Schaub at the helm and so far there are just no other receivers that seem likely to cut into his action much. That could end up with him constantly double covered, but Johnson is much more talented than the team around him has allowed. The change to Schaub and at least marginally better rushing from Ahman Green should only help Johnson. Expect Johnson to improve this year and make a stronger case for being considered one of the elite wideouts in the NFL.

   
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