Must Start: The Top 15
1. Chad Johnson @ CLE –
When have you ever known me to be conventional? I’m stating
this now so I can take credit for it when the season is over:
7-11 will be the top points-producing fantasy wideout in ’05.
Why? He is a phenomenally talented receiver who plays in a prolific
offense. Oh, and he also happens to be playing for a big paycheck
in ’06. All the makings, folks.
2. Randy Moss @ NE – Of
course, Randy is still the most talented receiver in the history
of the game. Go ahead and argue with me if you’re up to
the task. The only thing that might, um, blunt his progress this
year is his self-admitted laziness and/or an inability to bond
with his big-armed battery mate, Mr. Collins.
3. Javon Walker @ DET –
Walker’s big-armed battery mate gave him a little what-for
this offseason for threatening to sit out training camp. The fact
he didn’t tells us how much the young wideout looks up to
his veteran leader. Expect the two to combine for many, many yards
and a bunch of points this campaign. Your money is coming, Javon.
4. Terrell Owens @ ATL –
Yours? Don’t get me started. At least he never lost the
ability to entertain us while very publicly complaining about
his SEVEN-figure salary. Did you catch the interview with agent,
Drew Rosenhaus, during the Packers-Chargers preseason game? Funniest
15 minutes of television I saw all summer.
5. Nate Burleson v. TB –
Some are anointing Randy’s replacement the next breakout
star but I’m a little less sanguine. It’s not that
I don’t like his ability. It’s just that half of his
1,000+ yards and nine touchdowns last season came against three
of the league’s worst pass defenses (New Orleans, Detroit,
and Green bay [twice]). He’ll probably assuage my fears
but I’d like to see him put up big numbers against a quality
opponent before I fall in love with him.
6. Marvin Harrison @ BAL –
This guy’s been putting up big numbers against quality opponents
since Burleson was in high school. He doesn’t appear to
be slowing down, either, though it’s a weekly crapshoot
figuring out which of Indy’s wideouts will get the most
attention from Peyton. I’ll flip a coin and say it will
be Marvin this week. The Ravens are unlikely to let anyone get
deep and operating underneath is Marvin’s specialty.
7. Joe Horn @ CAR – I
get asked the same question every year: how can you love Joe Horn
but not like his quarterback, Aaron Brooks? It’s simple.
When Brooks isn’t hooking up with Horn, he’s spraying
balls all over the place and getting sacked regularly and fumbling
every time he gets sacked and not tucking and running despite
possessing good speed and…should I go on? You CAN have one
without the other, folks. Choose wisely.
8. Steve Smith v. NO –
Statistically, the Panthers didn’t miss him that much last
year (thanks, Mr. Muhammad). Realistically, they could have used
his playmaking ability down the stretch run as they attempted
to secure an improbable playoff berth. He’s back this season
and without Muhsin around, looks to be the guy Mr. Delhomme will
rely upon. Get him back in there.
9. Torry Holt @ SF – Unless
Coach Martz loses his mind again (always a possibility), the Rams
will demonstrate better run-pass balance this season. That’s
not necessarily the best thing if you’re a Holt owner but
don’t worry. He’ll still be the main man in the passing
game and looks good for at least 1,200 yards and 8-10 scoring
10. Drew Bennett @ PIT –
McNair-to-Mason will now be replaced by McNair-to-Bennett (or
Volek-to-Bennett should the injury bug reappear). That’s
a long-winded way of saying the former Bruin is now the go-to
guy in Music City. Though some are probably concerned he’ll
pull a Peerless, I’m betting he doesn’t. He’s
simply too big for most corners and too talented for others.
11. Laveranues Coles @ KC –
After an ill-fated sojourn in D.C., Laveranues returns to the
Meadowlands eager to make up for two lost years of untapped potential.
Having escaped the worst QB situation in the league, he’ll
be thrilled to be on the receiving end of some Chad Pennington
precision for a change. Expect another 1,000+ yards and more than
one score (his ’04 total).
12. Reggie Wayne @ BAL –
The more dangerous of Indy’s dynamic duo is back for another
year of field-stretching fleetness and gaudy statistics. If Brandon
Stokley is slow to recover from a preseason-dashing injury, he
could be even more valuable in the early going. Start him as your
#2 but treat him as a #1.
13. Larry Fitzgerald @ NYG –
He isn’t the speed-burner the previous two guys are but
he makes up for it with precision route running, super-sticky
hands, and uncanny body control. He now has a QB who can consistently
get him the ball where he wants it, too. I like his chances of
notching a 100-yard game (he hasn’t done it yet) and scoring
once against a suspect Giants secondary (28 TD passes yielded
14. Roy Williams v. GB –
The cavalry seems to have arrived with Charles Rogers returning
and Mike Williams joining up. He might lose some red zone opportunities
to the latter eventually but will still be option 1A for now.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see him in the top 7 or 8 by
year’s end, especially if Joey is able to spread the ball
around and keep opposing defenses honest.
15. Hines Ward v. TEN –
You wanna know how to secure that coveted contract, T.O.? Hope
you were taking notes. Sometimes, subtle pressure and stellar
numbers are all it takes to get paid. Now, Ward has to prove his
mettle minus a legit deep threat on the other side of the field.
Shouldn’t be a problem this week against a suddenly dreadful
Grab A Helmet:
Jimmy Smith v. SEA – He
fizzled down the stretch last season but still managed to post
over 1,000 yards and six scores. This year, he could end up sharing
the spotlight with one of Jacksonville’s younger targets.
Then again, the folks in J-Ville are promising a more wide-open
attack this year. Might just be enough touches for everyone in
Donald Driver @ DET –
Like Reggie Wayne, he serves as a #2 guy but produces like a #1
(#12 points scorer at the receiver position last year). If the
Pack, as expected, struggles to slow down opponents, he could
be in for another big year opposite Javon Walker. Line him up
if you’re sitting on the fence.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh @ CLE –
Yet another #2 guy who will produce better numbers than half the
league’s #1 wideouts. He has always played in the shadow
of his more flamboyant teammate (even in college) but is potentially
more reliable and almost as dangerous in the open field. If you
missed out on the heavy hitters, thank your lucky stars you stole
him in the later rounds.
Samie Parker v. NYJ –
I know what you’re thinking: another Duck? Well, tell me
who else (besides Gonzo) is gonna catch all those passes from
Trent Green this year. Coach Vermeil loves his potential and with
Eddie Kennison nearing the end, the Chefs could use a little of
his cornerback-broiling speed on the flank. He won’t be
considered a sleeper too much longer so go get him if his owners
don’t know what they have yet.
Michael Clayton @ STL –
No rookie receiver accomplished more than Mr. Clayton last season
and another year working with the same signal-caller (Brian Griese)
should only enhance his value in ’05. He’s big, fast,
and runs great routes. He’s also a mother to bring down
after the catch. Suit him up and watch the fantasy points pile
Grab Some Wood:
Any Baltimore receiver v. IND –
Even with the addition of Derrick Mason and solid rookie, Mark
Clayton, I was able to cut and paste this recommendation over
from last year. The reason is simple: Kyle Boller is still the
starter for the Ravens. Where’s the justice? My homey, Joey
Harrington, gets abused during PRESEASON games in Detroit but
this pretender is still considered an up-and-comer in the Charm
City. Watch Mason’s value plummet this season if you still
believe Boller is the answer.
Chris Chambers @ BUF –
Very few receivers possess his blend of size and speed but what
makes him less valuable than all of them is that he has never
had a QB who could consistently utilize his skills. I’m
still waiting for the day he hits the free agent market ‘cuz
his value will almost certainly skyrocket. Until then, use him
Jerry Porter @ NE – He
will eventually form a lethal tandem with Mr. Moss but he played
exactly zero snaps in the preseason and hasn’t gained the
full confidence of his coach for this Thursday’s tilt. You
probably won’t see him on this list the rest of the season
but for Week 1, at least, he stays on the bench.
Muhsin Muhammad @ WAS –
What a difference a year makes, eh? He was the toast of Carolina
less than nine months ago but is now staring down the business
end of a 4-12 season (if they’re lucky) and fantasy oblivion.
At least he’ll be living quite comfortably as he fades away
into the sunset. Do NOT think he will come close to repeating
last year’s stellar numbers. Simply isn’t gonna happen,
Amani Toomer v. ARI –
If he repeats last year’s numbers, he won’t be playing
professional football much longer. After five consecutive years
of four-digit receiving yardage, Toomer managed only 747 last
year to go with ZERO touchdowns. How is that even possible for
a #1 receiver? The arrival of Plaxico Burress could take some
of the heat off him but he’s still working with a second-year
QB in a fairly conservative system. Steer clear ‘til something
Best of luck, folks!