Friday, August 11, 2006

FANTASY FOOTBALL WIDE RECEIVERS, 3 HOT! & 3 NOT!

This week, I've been putting fantasy Football's skill position players under a narrow, 3-athlete wide 'scope.

Today, let's dissect 6 Wide Receivers!

Who's Hot? Pass catchers rarely impact rosters the way Running Backs do. Studs such as Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, "Marvelous Marvin," Larry Fitzgerald, and Torry Holt are rare gems; pass catchers capable of posting preposterous fantasy point totals on a week-in, week-out basis.
Owners are, however, fortunate in that a number of top-tier contributors will be ripe for the mid-round picking; Randy Moss, T.O (who is more likely a 3rd rounder predicated upon your leagues' depth), Anquan Boldin, and Roy Williams amongst them.


Ravens, Derrick Mason: Any number of receivers could head this list; Donte' Stallworth (assuming Drew Brees is healthy, RBs Saint Reggie and Deuce will keep defenders back on their heels and Stallworth, Joe Horn, and sleeper TE Zach Hilton will punish those coordinators who elect to focus upon the New Orleans run game), Kevin Curtis (slowly but surely, Curtis is supplanting Isaac Bruce as Torry Holt's wing-man), and Plaxico Burress (a maturing Mann' has a wealth of targets at his disposal), as a for-instance troika.
But the drafting of Reggie Bush has brought the 'Aints lots of publicity, and the signing of Drew Brees gives the O much more credibility. Curtis is part of a well-known aerial attack, and Burress plays for one of the singlemost visible franchises in the league.
But Derrick Mason (86/1,073/3) has fallen off many owners' radar due to the previously shoddy Raven QB play, and both he and Steve McNair once shared a fine rapport. Indeed, Mase' fondly remembers the Titans; he notched 37 receiving scores as "Air's" top target (McNair wasn't Mason's QB for all 37 TDs). Now that the pass and catch tandem has been reunited by Balty' coach Brian Billick... the hope is that the pair will pick up where they left off.
The Ravens have become known... feared, for a carnivorous defense spearheaded by both LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed. But McNair instantly renders the offense credible, something neither Kyle Boller nor predecessor Chris Redman were able to do, and with #2 receiver Mark Clayton, TE Todd Heap, and RB Jamal Lewis all offering above-average to elite level skills... the Defense will no longer be expected to carry the entire club.
Look for Mason to rapidly become Steve McNair's top target and a 1,200/8+ campaign should be within reach.

Dolphins, Chris Chambers: If they hadn't been before, virtually every fantasy owner became acquainted with Chris Chambers last season. The 'Phin blew-UP last year and recorded career highs for receptions with 82, receiving yards with 1,118, and matched his career mark with 11 TDs.
Just imagine the dizzying heights Chambers will be able to reach with Pro Bowl field General Daunte Culpepper over Center!
It's understood that C-Pepp' has much to prove; dude tore 3 of his 4 God-given knee liggies' and is still on the mend, he's got a nasty habit of fumbling, and was seemingly unable to succeed when Randy Moss was pine-lined with injuries of his own. However... and there's always that however, Culpepper is supported by a fine young back in Ronnie Brown (1,100+ total yards and 5 TDs), a rare if not troubled athlete in TE Randy McMichael (60/582/5), and an above-average #2 receiver in Marty Booker (averaged almost 18 YPC)
So long as the club isn't forced to award the QB duties to Detroit castoff Joey Harrington Chris Chambers, a tall, fast, fan-freakin'-tastic Red-Zone threat, amounts to a top-15 fantasy weapon. If everything comes together, I'd look for a season akin to 1,400/12-15.

Jaguars, Matt Jones: Matt Jones (36/432/5) might be viewed as a curious inclusion given the NFL's innumerable, more proven pass catching commodities... but this is a list of pass catchers you might be inclined to overlook, and by no means should "The Freak-thlete" be overlooked!
The unexpected retirement of WR Jimmy Smith, QB Byron Leftwich's highly productive and reliable go-to, has produced a vacuum. Although the club is publicly pushing Ernest Wilford (41/681/7) as Smith's heir-apparent, Jones is more likely to be the #1, Wilford the #2, and bringing up the rear? Former 1st round pick, Reggie Williams.
At 6-6 Jones is taller than every D-Back, at 245 pounds he's bulkier than the biggest Safeties, and Jones' measureables don't end there; the Cat' Wideout brings a stunning confluence of speed, short area quickness, vertical leap and soft-hands to the Jag' offense. Speaking of the Jag' offense, veteran RB Fred Taylor is recovering from a slight hamstring pull but should be ready to butt helmets come Opening Sunday, and rookie TE Mercedes Lewis is yet another towering (6-6/275) target.
With an ample arsenal, QB Byron Leftwich could be on the cusp of the season his coaches have been waiting for... and his top target will likely be the acrobatic leviathan, Matt Jones. Look for numbers approaching 900-1,000/8-10.

Who's Not? Will Randy Moss reclaim his Elite status with fallen Saint Aaron Brooks now donning the Black & Silver? Yeah, I think that he's healthy, he'll benefit from a powerful, sure-handed runner in LaMont Jordan, and with fellow Wideouts Jerry Porter, Doug Gabriel and Ronald Curry making life miserable for opposing secondaries... Moss should thrive. But what about some lesser lights?

Jets, LaVeranues Coles: A meal is only as good as the chef who prepared it, and an offense, like the chef's ingredients, is only as good as the Quarterback. I could bust-it down further and examine the head coach and Offensive Coordinator but you get the jist.
Although the party line is that "nothing is concrete," the Jets will more than likely enter the '06 season with Chad Pennington at the helm. The team brought in the stronger armed and younger Patrick Ramsey, but he's been unimpressive so far as has Brooks Bollinger, and despite the excitement rookie Kellen Clemens is as green as broccoli. But Gang-Green's troubles don't end with a spunky but ultimately weak-armed Pennington... oh no, far from it. The Offensive Line will feature 2 highly regarded but still inexperienced rookies in D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, and the suspect rushing attack is just as daunting as the up in the air QB situation. With RB Curtis Martin slow to recover from a serious knee injury, it was revealed that he might not be back til' mid-season... if then. That leaves Derrick Blaylock (he's been nothing more than a 3 yards and a cloud o' dust runner), Cedric Houston (he's big at 6'/220, and is the more likely lead back should C-Mart miss considerable time or retire altogether), and rookie Leon Washington (great speed and fine hands, his dimunitive size 5-8/195 will force him into a 3rd down role) to alleviate the vise-like pressure opposing defenders will subject the Jet passing game to.
So with a Quarterback who is recovering from yet another shoulder surgery (and was never known for his arm strength when to begin with), a very iffy run game, and a pair of unproven complementary receivers in Jericcho Cotchery and Justin McCareins (please add both lazy and fragile to McCareins' blurb), Defensive Coordinators will devise schemes that put the clamps on LaVeranues Coles (who still insists upon spelling his 1st name incorrectly).

Chargers, Keenan McCardell: This, my fantasy friends, is a short story and for obvious reasons.
The 'Bolts, somewhat surprisingly, decided to part ways with proven Field General Drew Brees and instead, handed the keys to the kingdom to a promising but raw Philip Rivers.
Rivers will be forced to contend with several of the NFL's top defenses; Baltimore, Denver, Pittsburgh and Seattle are all on the Charger docket this season, and the young gun will have no easy go of it. In turn, the Charger coaching staff will be inclined to simplify the system for Rivers and subject RB LaDainian Tomlinson to an even heavier workload... and make no mistake, San D' has been using their bell-cow back in much the same way the then coach of the then Houston Oilers ground their then star Running Back, Earl Campbell, down to a nub before he was 30.
McCardell (70/917/9) will probably eclipse 60 receptions, though TE Antonio Gates is sure to be a favored outlet receiver, but it's unlikely the 15 year vet' will rack anything close to double-diggy' scores this year. A 65/850+/5 season would have to be viewed as a ringing success.

Packers, Donald Driver: And last but certainly not least on our "Not!" parade? cheese-wiz, Donald Driver.
Here again we have another cut and dried candidate. QB Brett Favre, aging, strong-armed but losing velocity, has exactly one credible pass catching threat; Driver. Sure, TE Bubba Franks will snare a few... but by no means will he jolt a defense into action. Nope', with the Packers trotting-out an Offensive Line that's as tight as a Fishnet Stocking and with RBs Ahman Green (dude was spent before he ruptured his quad') and Najeh Davenport each coming off serious injuries, foes will slide double... and even triple-coverage Drivers' way until either Robert Ferguson proves he can be a consistent threat or the club goes run-heavy and makes excellent use of Sam Gado.
Reports out of G-Bay camp have Favre pressing and throwing picks in bunches, again, and as I have written before... 1 hand can't clap. But alas, the truth of the matter is that this is an all-or-nothing selection!
The Pack' have a pretty soft schedule and it could be that Favre recoups his poise and refuses to be lured into foolish picks, either Green or Gado... or both force defenders to creep up closer to the line and leave Ferguson, rookie WR Greg Jennings, former Redskin Rod Gardner, and TE Bubba Franks room to roam after making the catch, and Driver puts up numbers that are within hailing distance of.... or even surpass his standout (86/1,221/5) '05. Still, I can't get around that suspect O-line, Ferguson's suspect health, a mighty questionable rushing attack, and an aging Brett Favre. I would be inclined to leave Driver to another owner.

NEXT UP... FANTASY FOOTBALL'S TIGHT ENDS, 3 "HOT!" & 3 "NOT!"

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