Below The Radar Redux — Receivers
The “Gut Feeling” is often synonymous with a sense
of desperation resulting from a lack of preparation. The Gut Check
is a huge proponent of studying the numbers, but there’s
a point where one can place too much emphasis on the wrong information.
This can result in the undervaluing or overlooking a player’s
potential. Therefore, The Weekly Gut Check is devoted to examining
the frame of reference behind certain number-driven guidelines
that fantasy football owners use to make decisions.
Although The Weekly Gut Check doesn’t claim to be psychic,
he does believe that he can dispel certain numbers biases and
help you make the best choices for your team. We’ll keep
a running tally of The Weekly Gut Check’s insights. This
way you can gauge his views as something to seriously consider,
or at least seriously consider running the opposite way as fast
as you can!
Okay, The Gut Check lied. He’s not doing target analysis of
backs and receivers. Why frustrate anyone heading into the playoffs
when most can’t do any trades or free agent pickups? The rest
of this month is going to be devoted to those of you that share
Yours Truly’s passion for Dynasty Leagues. This format is
by far The Gut Check’s favorite way to play fantasy football.
This week The Gut Check profiles intriguing players at the receiver
and tight end positions. Next week will be devoted to individual
defensive prospects. And the week after will cover quarterbacks
and running backs.
What makes an intriguing pick? Joe Jurevicius, Koren Robinson,
and Donté Stallworth were all likely on dynasty league
waiver wires to begin the 2005 season. All three look like solid
keepers for next year—two of them turned out to be top-30
receivers in point per reception leagues. Unlike the running back
position, there is a significant disparity among NFL teams with
talent at receiver. The Colts, Bengals, Rams, and Raiders have
enough talent at receiver that they will likely see a few of their
receivers go elsewhere. The Packers, Vikings, Seahawks, and Buccaneers
just need their corps to be healthy next year. The Lions and Jaguars
have the talent, but need more development.
That leaves more than two-thirds of the league with maybe a quality
primary guy, yet still lacking a solid complement—not to
mention a quality slot receiver. There are some decent prospects
in the draft, but The Gut Check will have a lot more detail on
many of these guys at FF Today in March (Scouting
Profiles). Dynasty league waiver wires from this point to
the beginning of next year is the fantasy football equivalent
of one of those auto auctions where the IRS or DEA impounded some
pretty awesome looking vehicles that are selling for cheap. If
you happen to know a thing or two about what you’re looking
at, you’re likely to discover some great deals. Yours Truly
mentioned Koren Robinson a few weeks ago—and it looks like
he’s already showing some promise as a starter for 2006.
Here’s a division-by-division look at more intriguing dynasty
wide outs and tight ends that could surprise in 2006.
WR Andre Davis — the
Patriots took a shot on the former Cleveland Brown-Virginia Tech
star. The 2005 numbers aren’t impressive, but Davis was
a promising red zone and deep threat during his first two seasons
as a Cleveland Brown. In Davis’ first 32 games, he averaged
a touchdown every seven receptions. Injuries and the coaching
mess in Cleveland were big reasons Davis wound up a free agent.
New England found it worthwhile to take a chance on Davis and
that in itself is a promising sign. Scott Pioli and Bill Belicheck
have a good track record with free agents—think David Patten,
Corey Dillon, and Christian Fauria. So what if David Terrell didn’t
pan out—nobody’s perfect. The Gut Check believes the
acquisition of Davis is possible recognition that Bethel Johnson
isn’t working out in New England, and Davis looks like a
guy that grow into a more promising role if healthy. So far Davis
has remained healthy and had some decent—though isolated—moments
or productivity on game day. With a full off-season in New England,
Davis could re-emerge as a promising receiver and at a cheap price
WR Eric Moulds — The
Bills long-time go-to guy doesn’t appear to qualify as an
under the radar kind of player, but it’s highly possible
he’ll be a free agent in 2006. Moulds had a pretty good
2004 season, but he has been a fantasy tease for much of his career
and that apparently has extended to football reality:
|Moulds A Tease?
|| Rush TDs
|| Rec Yds
|| Rec TDs
Moulds is what people use to perceive about Tiki Barber until
recently—an every other year fantasy player that has the
talent to be a top tier guy, but his year to year shifts in production
often scare owners away. If Moulds lands in a situation with a
good, veteran quarterback he could experience a Keenan McCardell-like
renaissance. Moulds first years with Flutie and then Bledsoe were
among his best. Moulds matched up with quarterback like McNabb,
McNair, or Plummer could be an ideal situation for him. This is
a quality starter, one may be able to acquire through either a
cheap trade and maybe off the waiver wire in some leagues. Make
a deal while Moulds is in hot water with his current coaching
staff and reap the benefits later.
TE Kevin Everett — Like
Kellen Winslow, Jr., some owners are going to sleep on Everett
because of the out of sight, out of mind factor—talent
that gets injured prior to demonstrating his skills. Everett isn’t
same kind of talent as his former Hurricane teammate, but he has
enough physical skill to develop into a quality receiver in his
own right. His ACL injury means a slow recovery, but he did injure
it early enough last year, that he could be very close to 100%
prior to the start of 2006 and a cheap acquisition for you. The
Gut Check does warn you that Everett was somewhat an underachiever
WR Jerricho Cotchery —
The former NC State receiver doesn’t possess the physical
skills of his predecessors Torry Holt and Koren Robinson, but
the book on Cotchery is his route running and hands. He continues
to impress the current Jets coaching staff and with Pennington
suffering multiple injuries to his throwing shoulder, New York’s
need for a quarterback may precipitate an inquiry to a prospect
such as Phillip Rivers. Cotchery would certainly be in favor of
this reunion and that could spell good things for his career.
Justin McCariens certainly hasn’t distinguished himself
thus far—in fact, he has demonstrated the very thing that
made him expendable in Tennessee: inconsistent hands.
WR Quincy Morgan — Morgan
is another former Brown with great athleticism, and had at least
one impressive season as the go to guy for a quarterback many
view as a bust. Considering Andre Davis, Kevin Johnson, and Morgan
all had good seasons and wore out their welcome in Cleveland prior
to Butch Davis’ firing is a sign that maybe the problem
ran deeper than the receiving corps. Morgan’s talents are
his leaping ability, ability to gain yardage after the catch,
and a history of making big plays in key moments. Still, there
are some things lacking with his game or Bill Parcells obviously
wouldn’t have gotten rid of Morgan after dealing away a
promising Antonio Bryant to acquire him. Morgan is an inconsistent
pass catcher and his routes need more development. Parcells is
not a coach that has patience for players with great athleticism
but lack consistent application of positional fundamentals. On
the other hand Bill Cowher has a more developmental approach that
has paid off for him before. The Steelers are certainly lacking
an explosive deep threat and it’s clear they picked up Morgan
with the hope he could be a diamond in the rough. The Gut Check
isn’t sold on Morgan, but he has the physical talent to
be a star if he can learn to be more consistent receiver. If he
can’t do this in Pittsburgh, don’t count on it happening
south of the Canadian border.
WR Frisman Jackson —
The former quarterback actually put it together for a 100-yard
effort in the season opener and he’ll get more a few more
looks with Braylon Edwards out for the year. An incredibly raw,
but impressive athlete when he arrived in Cleveland, Jackson has
steadily improved and is worth watching to see if he sticks with
the roster for another season. Edwards will likely need two years
to recover and Antonio Bryant may not receive contract with the
Browns next year. It’s a big-time long shot at this point,
but still worth remembering the name.
WR Kelley Washington —
Washington hasn’t developed as the Bengals expected and
both T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry have passed “The
Future” by. Look for Washington to wind up with another
team—he has the tools to be a go-to guy. The fact Marvin
Lewis lost enthusiasm for Washington likely means the former Volunteer
hasn’t consistently approached his job with a level of professionalism
the coach expects from his players. Expect Washington to try to
make a good impression elsewhere in 2006. If he does a good job,
he could be in someone’s starting lineup on a consistent
WR Devard Darling — Darling
was considered a steal in the 2004 draft in many scouting/personnel
circles. The Washington State receiver is a smooth athlete with
the reputation for making impressive big plays on a consistent
basis. Darling showed some promise his rookie year prior but not
enough to crack the starting lineup. This year he has all but
disappeared on the depth chart. He’s a waiver wire special
that should be available well into mini-camp and beyond. If the
media begins reporting good things, take the chance at that time.
WR Roydell Williams —
Williams reminds the Gut Check of Brandon Lloyd—not too
big; not super fast; but has good hands, sneaky speed, and good
body control when going for the ball in man coverage. Yours Truly
has been a fan of Williams after watching him at Tulane, and was
even more impressed to learn that 2004 All-Pro safety, Corey Chavous
was working out with Williams on a regular basis after the two
became friends at the end of Williams’ junior year. Look
for Williams to get healthy, work out with Chavous again, and
report to camp ready to challenge for a starting job. While the
Gut Check would rather see Steve McNair throwing to Brandon Lloyd,
Williams is going to turn into quite a consolation prize.
WR Jerome Mathis — Talk
about speed! Mathis will scare defenses just on his speed alone.
He’s about as raw as former Raider’s burner, James
Jett. But the skills are definitely there. Corey Bradford and
Jabar Gaffney haven’t been the answer. Of course, the Texans’
sieve otherwise known as the offensive line has made receiver
evaluation a more difficult task. Still, speed and hands win out
over route running (Gaffney) or experience and inconsistency (Bradford).
Mathis may need another year or two, but he’s worth watching.
TE George Wrighster —
Byron Leftwich is an excellent pocket quarterback with his career
still on the rise. But the Jaguars have to recognize that Leftwich
is a younger and slightly more mobile version of Drew Bledsoe.
One of the most effective ways to buy more time in the pocket
for Leftwich—besides more improvements with the offensive
line—is to develop a more effective play action game. The
media often foretold that Jaguars offensive coordinator Carl Smith
would incorporate the play action pass into the playbook. Like
bread and butter, throwing to a wide-open tight end is a common
benefit to play action. Kyle Brady no longer has the wheels to
take this role in the offense, but he’s still the Jags’
best blocker at the position and the offensive line often needed
the help. Wrighster has shown a lot of promise as a receiver in
his first three seasons. Look for the Jaguars to either put the
former Oregon Duck in a make or break situation in 2006 or draft
a tight end. Either way, keep an eye on this position in Jacksonville.
WR Doug Gabriel — The
Gut Check has talked about Gabriel enough in previous columns
that if you haven’t shown interest by now, you won’t
until he actually gets a starting job elsewhere.
WR Ronald Curry — Two
Achilles tendon injuries in consecutive seasons doesn’t
sound like a good prognosis for Curry’s career. The former
UNC wunderkind is such a special athlete that it still may be
worth keeping tabs on him. He was making strides as a receiver
and on the verge of busting out after a few excellent games in
WR Craphonso Thorpe —
Like Curry, Thorpe is on the wrong side of a devastating injury.
If he can return to his early collegiate form as an athlete, Thorpe
has a shot on a Chiefs depth chart that is devoid of young, special
talent at the position. He’s one of those no harm-no foul
waiver acquisitions during the preseason that could develop into
quite a bargain if it works out in Thorpe’s favor.
WR Eric Parker — Eric
Parker makes plays for the Chargers when he’s healthy. He’s
already a borderline fantasy starter in leagues with 3-5 WRs in
a lineup. Parker has a knack for getting open and the speed to
go deep. The Gut Check can’t see how the Chargers won’t
want to re-sign him. Keenan McCardell will be another year older
and Vincent Jackson, the Chargers project out of Northern Colorado,
will need at least another year. The best bet for Parker is to
remain a Charger where he and Drew Brees continue to develop a
rapport. But if he finds the right match elsewhere, he could still
be a good pickup.
WR Patrick Crayton —
This guy right here is the reason why the Gut Check believes Keyshawn
Johnson will not be a Cowboy after 2005. Crayton is fast, tough,
has after the catch skills, and the former quarterback is still
learning the finer nuances of the position. Bill Parcells clearly
likes this guy because he already performs like a polished player.
If you watched any of the games early in the season, you would
have seen the things Yours Truly mentioned about Crayton. Kind
of reminds The Gut Check of a young Troy Brown—maybe that’s
also what Parcells sees in him, too.
WR Taylor Jacobs — The
Gut Check isn’t a big fan of Florida receivers not named
Darrell Jackson, but Jacobs has apparently impressed Joe Gibbs
when he’s been on the practice field getting behind the
Redskins secondary on a regular basis. Injuries have been Jacobs’
bugaboo. The Redskins will seek a complement to Santana Moss in
2006 (Maybe Eric Moulds??? Here’s another nice potential
match.), and Jacobs has the first shot at keeping the Redskins
from looking outside the organization.
WR Bernard Berrian —
The Gut Check really likes Berrian’s skills. He plays fast
and aggressively. He just needs to stay healthy. Mark Bradley
really came on, but Berrian still has a shot to become a future
starter along side Bradley in another year or two. The Bears just
need consistent quarterback play from one guy so the corps can
develop some rapport. If Berrian can stay healthy enough to get
opportunities, The Gut Check likes the former go-to guy of David
Carr at Fresno State to be one of those players that establishes
WR Steve Savoy — Charles
Rogers is likely a goner from the Motor City. Roy Williams and
Mike Williams will get a chance to become true professionals under
a new coaching regime and Kevin Johnson’s best days may
be behind him. Steve Savoy came out a year too early, riding the
coattails of Alex Smith’s success at Utah. But Savoy has
skills and could be a sneaky project that turns into a successful
starter in a few seasons. Keep an eye on him and watch where he
turns up in mini-camp for 2006.
WR Drew Carter — This
Ohio State athletic phenomenon tore his ACL three times—the
last time as a rookie in 2004’s training camp. He returned
to the Panthers in 2005 fully recovered, and quickly made the
coaching staff take notice with his speed and natural skills as
a receiver. He has lacked a lot of playing time as both a collegian
and pro, so he’s an unknown commodity. This can be to your
advantage if you keep an eye on his progress. Kerry Colbert took
a step backwards this season, and Rod Gardner continues to demonstrate
he’s not ready for prime time, despite his draft status.
Carter is one of those guys that play his way into an opportunity.
WR Rashaun Woods — The
soon to be third year 49er puzzles The Gut Check. Scouts, the
Niners, and current NFL players that faced Woods will tell you
this guy was one of the better receivers in a great draft class.
But he is a guy likely on the bubble when he enters training camp
next season. For a guy Bill Walsh had a role in scouting and drafting,
this is a quite a drop in status.
Woods has excellent hands and was known as a good route runner
that put pressure on a defense because he could make great plays
in tight coverage. But nagging injuries and lack of time on the
practice field have slowed his development and chapped his coaches.
Woods didn’t start off very well under Mike Nolan and topped
it off by tearing his thumb ligament sending him to injured reserve
for the year. On the bright side, Jerry Sullivan is a terrific
receivers coach, and if Woods can have a fully healthy off-season
he has as great of a chance to develop a rapport with Alex Smith
as Arnaz Battle or Brandon Lloyd. If Woods can land a role in
the receiver rotation as the #3 receiver in 2006, he’s worth
grabbing cheap because it only takes an injury for Woods to assume
a greater role—a role he’s talented enough to keep
if he can stay healthy.
There are only two tight ends on the list because the Gut Check
believes the 2006 draft has a few solid prospects that will be
more worthwhile to acquire—namely Vernon Davis of Maryland.
Marcedes Lewis is the top prospect in most people’s eyes,
but The Gut Check believes Davis will have the better career as
a receiving TE and fantasy player. Check out his Scouting Profile
of Davis in March.