A Look At The Top Fantasy Receivers
No other position in fantasy football garners stronger polarizing
opinions than wide receiver. It is the only position where you can
find a player listed as the top-ranked receiver in one publication,
but as low as #6 in another. Interesting, especially when you consider
those involved in fantasy football are exposed to the same pre-draft
information, but yet somehow develop diametrically opposed viewpoints.
The list that follows is my look at this year’s top-rated
wide receivers in seasonal drafts and whom I believe is the best
Owens – Dallas Cowboys
The Player: T.O. is #1 on my list because he is the best receiver
in the league. Period. That is certainly debatable, but he has
proven his worth under numerous circumstances, in various offenses,
with an assortment of quarterbacks, plus he can do everything
asked of a receiver. And sure, there should be trepidation with
his age (he will turn 34 in December), but T.O. is one of the
rare athletes whose supreme talent is matched only by his Herculean
work ethic. He could easily play another three or four years and
remain productive. T.O. led the league in receiving TDs with 13,
but missed out on at least two more with a serious case of the
dropsies due to a broken hand. Expect T.O. to once again battle
for touchdown-receiving supremacy and show why he is considered
one of the most dominant receivers of his era.
Offensive Philosophy: It’s anyone’s
guess what the approach will be on offense. First-time offensive
coordinator Jason Garrett lacks a true track record from which
to draw an opinion, but one thing is clear: T.O. will hound Garrett
from Day 1 to get and keep him in the game plan. My money is on
Garrett complying in an effort to pacify his mercurial receiver.
And it’s a sure bet that T.O. will make certain QB Tony Romo knows
he’s open on every passing play. As a result, those involved in
ensuring T.O. receives his requisite attention will be proactive
in their attempt to cater to T.O., culminating in a rewarding
season for T.O. owners. It’s not hyperbole when I say the success
of the Cowboys offense hinges on the productivity of Owens, and
the coaching staff knows it – and to the delight of his owners,
so does T.O.
Friendly Competition: Terry Glenn
is the perfect complementary receiver: he’s not so great that
he becomes a #1 option, stealing potential catches from T.O.,
but he’s not a bum that defenses can totally ignore and concentrate
on T.O. exclusively either. Tight end Jason Witten will also contribute
to diverting attention away from Owens. Consequently, T.O. should
continue being the recipient of a passing attack that involves
getting him the ball in the best possible position to be successful.
QB Or Not QB: Tony Romo is a young and developing quarterback
who should continue to improve. The best and quickest way to ensure
that happens is getting Terrell Owens the ball. The Cowboys have
no other offensive weapon on their roster with the playmaking
ability of #81, and I trust that Romo understands that and will
take all the necessary steps to ensure T.O. gets the rock on a
regular basis. And here’s the best part for T.O. owners:
Terrell Owens will see to it!!
Harrison – Indianapolis Colts
The Player: Eight consecutive years of double-digit TDs, a 12-TD
per season average during the same period and being the #1 receiving
option for, arguably, the best QB of his generation is all you
need to know about this eerily consistent wide out. Is this the
year he starts his descent? Is the most common question this time
of year regarding Harrison, and evidence during the previous eight
years proves it will be awhile before his decline commences.
Offensive Philosophy: It’s easy
to view the Colts as a team that throws the ball all over the
field. And while they certainly have the skill position players
to do so, their approach has always been about balance and taking
what the defense gives them. Even with that philosophy, it’s amazing
how everyone remains highly productive in this offense – both
receivers and running backs. Suffice it to say the Colts – and
specifically Harrison and QB Peyton Manning – will continue their
assault on the NFL receiving record books.
Friendly Competition: Surprisingly,
Reggie Wayne’s development at wide receiver has not affected Harrison’s
production at all. Harrison’s yearly averages since Wayne’s arrival:
101 receptions, 1357 yards and 12 TDs. Not too shabby. Owners
of Harrison should expect this kind of production for at least
the next two years.
QB Or Not QB: No need to elaborate beyond these two words: Peyton
Manning. As long as he remains under center, Harrison will maintain
his standing as a top-five fantasy receiver.
3. Torry Holt – St. Louis Rams
The Player: He’s had one of the most productive first eight
years of a career of any other receiver in history. Seems like
a lifetime ago that Holt once was considered the reception and
yardage king who lacked a nose for the end zone. I’d say
he’s picked up the slack, as he’s averaged 10 TD receptions
each year during the previous four seasons.
Offensive Philosophy: The casual
observer may think the absence of head coach Mike Martz would
spell doom for the Rams’ passing game, and specifically Torry
Holt. Interestingly enough, the Rams had more passing plays last
year (591) than they did in 2004 (577), Martz’s last full season
in St. Louis. What does this mean? It means we should expect more
of the same from Holt, although the presence of Steven Jackson
in the passing game could create some anxiety for those greedy
Holt owners who want every pass to go #81’s way.
Friendly Competition: Holt has little
competition at the receiver position. Isaac Bruce continues to
get longer in the tooth, newly-signed Drew Bennett is an overpaid,
over-hyped, under-performing possession receiver and prototypical
slot receiver Kevin Curtis signed with Philadelphia. Holt owners
needn’t worry about Jackson’s role in the passing game, however.
If last year is any indication, the two can co-exist smoothly,
as both had at least 90 receptions and transformed a passing offense
that at times looked like the Rams circa 1999.
QB Or Not QB: Marc Bulger’s veiled
threat of a holdout could leave Holt owners shaking in their collective
boots, but assuming he signs a new contract and participates in
training camp, Holt will remain Bulger’s favorite and most viable
down field weapon. Bulger played in all 16 games last year for
the first time in his career, and as long as he remains vertical
Holt has a good chance to continue his consistent production and
burgeoning Hall of Fame career.
Johnson – Cincinnati Bengals
The Player: As an owner of Chad Johnson two of the last three
years, it’s been fun witnessing his maturation into a very
good receiver. He’s a tough player with tremendous heart
who is capable of running every route in football, including the
clock-cleaning, over-the-middle variety. He enjoyed a stretch
from 2003-2005 when he snagged at least 90 catches each year,
but there’s something about his productivity that leaves
us wanting more. Having only one season with double-digit TDs
(10 in 2003) – a disappointing fact considering he has been
the #1 option – may be the culprit. Keep in mind, too, that
Johnson scored in only four games last year, with five of his
seven TDs coming in two games.
Offensive Philosophy: Cincinnati’s
offense is designed for receivers to be the catalyst for success.
Bengals’ receivers accounted for 70% of the completions last year,
with Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh being the primary beneficiaries.
Quarterback Carson Palmer spreads the ball evenly between the
two, and while that’s great for the Bengals as an NFL team, it
could be a source of frustration for Johnson owners – it sure
was for me last year. But the personality of the Bengal’s offense
will remain an intriguing enticement for those waiting for Johnson’s
Marvin Harrison-like explosion.
Friendly Competition: Here’s what should worry those who
use a high draft pick on Johnson: Houshmandzadeh had three more
receptions than Johnson, two more TDs, but played two fewer games.
What’s more, Houshmandzadeh scored in eight of the 14 games
he played – a far cry from the feast or famine Johnson owners
experienced last year. So while it’s obvious the Bengals
enjoy a productive one-two punch, the question is who’s
the “two” in that equation?
QB Or Not QB: Carson Palmer remains a season or two away from
taking over for Peyton Manning as fantasy football’s top
QB. In the meantime, Johnson should remain a major cog in the
offensive machine that resides in southern Ohio. Just keep your
fingers crossed that Houshmandzadeh doesn’t vulture the
targets previously reserved for Johnson.
Smith – Carolina Panthers
The Player: Steve Smith’s production and consistency never
cease to amaze. Despite missing the first two games of last season,
the Carolina Panthers’ one-trick pass receiving pony still
produced respectable numbers, scoring in seven of the first 10
games in which he played. But therein is the concern with Smith:
can he stay healthy? If so, he’s proven to be one of the
most feared playmakers in the league; if not, he’s relegated
to second-thought status and placed in the ‘would’ve,
could’ve, should’ve’ domain.
Offensive Philosophy: Out as offensive coordinator is the fossil
Dan Henning, in is Jeff Davidson, the Cleveland Brown’s
interim O.C. from last year. Ouch. I’d imagine Davidson
is smart enough to realize that Smith is the most talented player
on offense, and that it would behoove him to focus the weekly
game plan on his abilities. Obviously we won’t find out
how this offense will run until the start of the season, but for
those with the fortitude to choose Smith, tempering your expectations
should be in order.
Friendly Competition: Smith has
shown he can produce monster numbers even as a solo act. He’s
done it before as recently as 2005, the year Muhsin Muhammad departed
for Chicago, leaving Smith as the only receiving threat and he
rewarded owners with a career year. Now with the (forced) retirement
of Keyshawn Johnson, Smith is once again left with a collection
of underachievers (Keary Colbert, Drew Carter) and young, unproven
players (Dwayne Garrett, Ryne Robinson) as help. So Smith owners
needn’t worry about reception vultures; rather, the attention
should be paid to Smith and his hamstrings and whether or not
he can repeat his performance from 2005.
QB Or Not QB: Color me skeptical
when it comes to QB Jake Delhomme. He enjoyed dynamic seasons
in 2004 and 2005, but endured a thumb injury last year that hindered
Smith’s production late in the season. Personally, I’m not a big
fan of Delhomme and would think long and hard about drafting Smith
because of it. Further, it should be interesting to see how short
a leash he has since former #1 overall pick David Carr – he of
Houston Texan lore – is now on the roster.