WIDE RECEIVER TIERS
Steve Smith, Car (9.0, $37)
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Cin (29.6, $22)
Vincent Jackson, SD (107.0, $7)
Kevin Curtis, Phi (114.0, $6)
WIDE RECEIVER TIERS
Steve Smith, Car (9.0, $37)
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Cin (29.6, $22)
Vincent Jackson, SD (107.0, $7)
Kevin Curtis, Phi (114.0, $6)
What's your price for flight
In finding mister right
You'll be alright tonight
Every time "Sister Christian" is played on Vh-1 Classic, I'm puzzled by its lyrical context. Is it a monster ballad about attractive, parochial-schooled girls looking for a good time? Or is it a lamentable attempt at trying to find words that rhyme with "flight?" Maybe I need to pull a "Boogie Nights" and prance around my living room with a loaded pistol in hand, wearing nothing but a silk robe and black Jockeys to ascertain its true meaning.
Or, better yet, I should give Bill Maas a jingle. Surely, he's tried to decipher "Sister Christian's" lyrics while under the influence of mood-altering substances …
For a large number of fantasy owners, trying to interpret wide receiver draft perplexities is just as confusing as fingering the meaning of the Night Ranger classic.
Whether you employ a RB-RB-WR or RB-WR-RB blueprint, you'll likely pause at some point in the first three rounds to gauge when the appropriate time to abandon conventional ground wisdom really is.
Let me ease the mental burden, this year, Round 3 is your "price for flight."
If you inspect last year's numbers through a magnifying glass, 12 fewer wideouts finished with 150 or more total points in standard scoring leagues when compared to running backs. Interestingly of the 14 wide receivers that totaled 150 points, eight – Driver, Williams, Houshmandzadeh, Walker, Evans, Burress, Jackson and Colston – were drafted after pick 40.
Several of you might think that the point-per-game disparity between Marvin Harrison, the top-rated receiver in '06, and Marques Colston, the last player in the 150-point tier, is enormous, but in reality the gap is thinner than Night Ranger's catalogue of hits.
Take a detailed look at the '06 150-point WR class:
The FPPG (Fantasy Points Per Game) column says it all doesn't it?
For those of you that struggled reading charts on standardized tests, all of the 150-point receivers listed above, with Javon Walker the exception, averaged a miniscule 2.5 points-per-game shy of the top dog, Harrison.
This year, view wide receivers as if you had intentions of purchasing an iPhone.
Sure, Steve Jobs' latest money-sucking mega-device can make phone calls, play the video version of "Sister Christian" and run a faster forty than Devin Hester, but for a retail price of $599, it's impractical to wait in line to buy one now when within a year they'll be giving them away with every pair of iPod enabled Nikes. It's only sensible to stick with your ancient, uncool "brick" until the price drops. Right?
Apply the iPhone thinking to any Tier 1 receiver this year. If the discrepancy between the WR elite and the next-in-line is marginal, it's illogical to overpay for Steve Smith – in a non-PPR league – over an upper-level ground pounder like a Maurice Jones-Drew or Willis McGahee – especially when the Oompah Loompah and Willie Mac will likely outdistance the No. 1 wideout by 10-15 total points.
Instead of breaking the bank for the sticky-fingered aristocracy, exercise patience and target the discounted upper-middle wideout class – Houshmandzadeh, Colston and Boldin – in Round 3.
No player in the second class of wide receivers possesses the bells and whistles of a Harrison or Ocho Cinco, but they certainly are a "motoring" bunch, who'll be consistent low double-digit point scorers on average each week.
Here are the risers, fallers and baby crawlers at WR this year:
*Average Auction Values (AAV) are courtesy of Fantasy Auctioneer.
On the Rise
7.5 TGT/G, 45 REC, 632 YDs, 3 TDs, 14.0 YPC
73 REC, 1049 YDs, 7 TDs
With explosive downfield speed, Jennings can turn secondaries into Velveeta. The second-year wideout out of Western Michigan is a fluid route runner whose maturity is advanced well beyond his years. Prior to an ankle injury in Week 7, Jennings was very profitable, averaging 8.6 targets, 4.0 receptions, 72.8 YPG, with three total TDs in his first five games. Extrapolate those averages over a full 16-game slate and Jennings would have finished with 60 catches, 1,150 yards and nine scores – nearly identical to Javon Walker's end-season line. Now that Ahman Green is sloughing it in Houston, the dubious backfield tandem of Brandon Jackson and Vernand Morency will lead the Pack ground attack. Unless Jackson has a Samkon Gado-esque debut, it appears Brett Favre will sling the pigskin another 39 times per game this year – ideal for Jennings. Although he's been selected roughly 40 picks later than Reggie Brown, Jennings is a Tier 3 receiver cloaked in Tier 6 clothing.
3.5 TGT/G, 40 REC, 479 YDs, 4 TDs, 12.0 YPC
66 REC, 891 YDs, 6 TDs
No longer the third option in St. Louis, the Dennis the Menace doppelganger will shine in Andy Reid's pass-first West Coast scheme in Philly. Despite his Mighty Mouse frame, Curtis is a dynamite playmaker (10 TDs in 100 career catches) who's gallant in traffic. Although he was almost exclusively used in the slot in St. Louis, the Eagles believe he can play outside and find release points in press coverage. With Donovan McNabb healthy and in a system that loves to go airborne (60:40 Pass:Run in '06), Curtis could match Reggie Brown's output from a year ago (816 Yards, 8 TDs). Select him over a Muhsin Muhammad or Jerry Porter as your No. 3.
4.7 TGT/G, 45 REC, 610 YDs, 4 REC, 13.6 YPC
59 REC, 784 YDs, 8 TDs
Expected to be Matt Hasselbeck's No. 2, this D.J. just might be the Grand Master Flash of receiver sleepers. Hackett, a determined receiver with a long, strong frame, deceptive speed and ability to catch tough passes in the clutch, is an exemplary red-zone target – especially when Deion Branch totaled a meager nine red-zone targets in 14 games in '06. When Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram were overcome by injuries last year, Hackett exploded, crossing the chalk three times while averaging 6.5 targets, 4.2 receptions and 61.8 yards-per-contest from Weeks 12-17. Hasselbeck is close to a 100 percent after a smorgasbord of injuries (ribs, knee, non-throwing-hand/shoulder) and will likely transform Hackett into Joe Jurevicius circa 2005 (55 rec, 694 yards, 10 TD).
3.5 TGT/G, 1.6 REC/G, 28 YPG, 6 TD, 16.8 YPC
49 REC, 779 YDs, 6 TDs
This Jackson is the "P.Y.T." of a revamped Lightning Bolt air attack. Now that Norv Turner has taken the reigns from the dismissed Marty Schottenheimer, look for the Chargers to confide more in Philip Rivers. If Turner does institute more explosive pass plays, Jackson will become the clear-cut second option behind Antonio Gates. Though somewhat raw, Jackson's lanky 6-foot-5 frame and superb athleticism are reminiscent of an unrefined Plaxico Burress. The third-year wideout excelled in his last four '06 games, racking three TDs while averaging 7.3 targets, 3.5 receptions and 71.5 yards-per-game. Look for him to build on his end-season success and be an admirable No. 3 receiver. Since the Chargers face two deplorable secondaries in Tennessee and Detroit in Weeks 14 and 15, Jackson could shine with owner reputations on the line. A repeat of what Keenan McCardell accomplished in 2005 (70 rec, 917 yards, 9 TD) is unlikely, but attainable given Jackson's home run abilities.
5.3 TGT/G, 3.1 REC/G, 51.5 YPG, 2 TD, 16.8 YPC
68 REC, 1013 YDs, 5 TDs
"Sherlock" Holmes has the route-running skills to unravel the mystery of any NFL secondary. On the suspension fast-track way of the Pacman early last year, Holmes matured off and on the field in his rookie campaign. In his last four '06 contests, the former Buckeye averaged a stout 7.3 targets, 4.0 receptions and 80.0 yards-per-game. His electrifying 67-yard TD reception to defeat the Bengals in overtime in Week 17 showcased his overflowing talent. A twenty-something version of Joey Galloway, Holmes, a future PPR dynamo, possesses excellent burst, which allows him to gain separation with ease and fine soft spots in zone coverage. Although Holmes has set an unattainable 100 reception goal this season, he is only a year or two away from surpassing Hines Ward as Ben Roethlisberger's weapon of choice. With Holmes expected to be a crucial piece of Bruce Arians' no-huddle, pass-happy philosophy, he is primed for a production surge.
2.4 TGT/G, 1.3 REC/G, 20.6 YPG, 2 TD, 15.4 YPC
48 REC, 729 YDs, 4 TDs
Marshall's back-alley toughness is capable of taming any cornerback in the wild AFC West. Ironically, Marshall has freakishly similar attributes as the incumbent No. 2 he's about to overtake, Rod Smith. The 23-year-old tracks the ball extremely well and is a superb short-to-medium range route runner. At 6-foot-4, he should be able to wrestle away red-zone looks from Javon Walker if he can solidify himself as Jay Cutler's secondary option in camp. Super corner Champ Bailey stated in mini-camp that he's convinced Marshall will "standout" this season and, if Cutler carries over his confidence in him from late last year (6 TGT/G over his L4), he could emerge as a serviceable No. 3 fantasy option.
8.6 TGT/G, 4.8 REC/G, 73.5 YPG, 10 TDs, 15.2 YPC
65 REC, 913 YDs, 6 TDs
The odds of D-Jax returning to the 150 total-point plateau are about as likely as Pat Robertson working up a sweat to "Dancing Queen" at a nightclub in San Francisco's Castro District. Jackson missed three games last season with turf toe, but still managed to establish a new career benchmark in touchdowns with 10. At 29, he's an experienced, crafty receiver who still has enough speed to separate from defenders. However, his occasional butter-finger afflictions and recurrent knee problems (missed 10 games in '05 because of two knee surgeries) are disconcerting. Because Smith is hardly the caliber of quarterback – and under the tutelage of his third offensive coordinator in three years – as Hasselbeck, and since San Fran threw 13 percent less than Seattle did last year, the likelihood D-Jax accumulates double-digit TDs again is minimal. In fact, with Vernon Davis, Frank Gore and Ashley Lelie all viable options for Smith, D-Jax may plummet two tiers come January.
9.6 TGT/G, 3.7 REC/G, 42.3 YPG, 4 TDs, 11.5 YPC
65 REC, 845 YDs, 5 TDs
"Gas" Chambers asphyxiated owners last season with a series of ghastly performances. The victim of a shoddy O-Line and a stone statue for a quarterback (Daunte Culpepper), Chambers notched a horrific 38.3 catch percentage, dead last among WRs in the NFL. The former Wisky standout still has the physical attributes – gymnastic athleticism, blazing downfield speed, acrobatic body control – to be a top-flight receiver, but his mental lapses and soft play against smash-mouth corners keeps his ceiling low. Trent Green is an upgrade over Culpepper, but his sloth-like movement in the pocket will likely hinder the air attack, unless the Fins O-line dramatically improves. New head coach Cam Cameron employed a run-centered offensive approach in San Diego and took sparse shots downfield – bad news for Chambers. Taking into account the peripherals and coming off a season of 15 games of 60 yards or less, devalued expectations for Chambers must be applied.
7.8 TGT/G, 4.6 REC/G, 68.6 YPG, 3 TDs, 14.8 YPC
66 REC, 953 YDs, 3 TDs
"The Reverend" better pray for divine intervention with Drew Bennett in the picture. In 2006, Bruce captured his eighth 1,000 yard season, racking six games of 75-plus yards. At 34, he's still a sharp, intelligent route runner despite an apparent downgrade in foot speed. Because Bennett is more fearless in traffic, a larger red-zone target and six years Bruce's junior, the Rev is the third St. Louis receiver you want on your roster this season. However, that doesn't mean Bruce is completely undraftable. Scott Linehan called 16 percent more pass than run plays a season ago and Marc Bulger attempted 38.6 passes per game, the third highest in the league. Because Bulger spreads the ball around effectively, Bruce will be an occasional temp play in yardage leagues. But, with the ADP disparity between Bruce, Hackett and Holmes a mere six picks, I'm aiming young.
6.3 TGT/G, 3.3 REC/G, 53.7 YPG, 5 TD, 16.2 YPC
51 REC, 810 YDs, 4 TDs
When Brodie Croyle tops the QB depth chart, EK should forget about sunset walks on Waikiki Beach in February. Like Bruce, Kennison is a rickety 34-year-old who's become more of a sideline threat than a dependable between the hashmarks target. Last year, Kennison's yardage numbers plunged 22 percent and his overall totals regressed back to 2003's languid marks. The second receiving option next to Tony Gonzalez in Herm Edwards' ball-control offense, Kennison must shed his prissy style across the middle if he wants to reach 800 yards. With first-round draft pick Dwayne Bowe expected to compete for catches, Edwards' designs of incorporating Larry Johnson more into the passing game and the inexperience of Croyle, it's apparent, Kennison is destined to be bench waste this season.
4.3 REC/G, 46.8 YPG, 2 TD, 11.0 YPC
60 REC, 672 YDs, 2 TDs
Now that Mark Clayton has surpassed Mason as Steve McNair's primary weapon, it's time for fantasy owners to quote this Raven nevermore. Last year, Mason failed to surpass the 1,000 yard mark for the first time since '00 and tallied his lowest pay-dirt total (2) in eight years. Overall, he was the 46th best receiver behind No. 3 options Chris Henry and Bryant Johnson. At 32, he still runs fantastic timing routes, but, like Rod Smith and Bruce, his explosiveness has eroded. Mark Clayton – a ridiculously undervalued receiver in early drafts – is poised to upstage Mason this season after McNair targeted him more in crucial moments (8 TGTs vs. Mason's 3 TGTs in the Divisional Playoffs) late in'06. If you're someone who notoriously drafts based on name and wants to avoid looking buffoonish, purposely forget to include Mason on your Draft Day cheat sheet.
Rookies to Watch
(Georgia Tech) 76 REC, 1202 YDs, 15 TDs, 15.8 YPC
79 REC, 1120 YDs, 8 TDs
Blessed with a long, thick frame (6-foot-4, 224-pounds), Johnson is an impeccable mix of power, speed, leaping ability and body control. His superhero strength and height – which is comparable to Andre Johnson – dwarfs opposing cornerbacks. Most fantasy pundits will tell you to avoid rookie receivers like the plague, but Johnson is immune to such jargon. Mike Martz's airborne offense passed 32 percent more than it ran in '06 and will again take flight this year. Despite Jon Kitna's obscene 21:31 TD:TO split, he proved adequate enough to turn Mike Furrey into a viable fantasy force and will transform Johnson into a star. In early drafts, Johnson, for good reason, has been drafted ahead of established talent and should be trusted as a No. 2 in 12-team leagues. Barring an unforeseen injury or mental setback, he's destined to repeat Anquan Boldin's rookie success (1,377 YDs, 8 TDs) from 2003.
(Ohio St.) 51 REC, 734 YDs, 8 TDs, 14.4 YPC
50 REC, 625 YDs, 4 TDs
"The Great Gonzo" is a future PPR machine who is a spectacular late-round pick for owners with a daredevil personality. Draped in scarlet and gray, Gonzalez was a fundamentally sound receiver who was much more polished than headliner teammate Ted Ginn Jr. He is a sensational, heady route runner with better-than-advertised speed (4.29, 40) who gobbles up more passes than Peyton Manning does endorsements. Manning has worked extensively with the rookie in one-on-one drills this summer and has been impressed with Gonzalez's work ethic and overall skills package. Expected to work out of the slot vacated by the departed Brandon Stokley, Gonzalez could be a sneaky starter when the matchup warrants. A mid-13th round selection on average in 12-team leagues, he's worth stabbing at as a No. 4 receiver.
Ted Ginn Jr.
(Ohio St.) 59 REC, 781 YDs, 9 TDs, 13.2 YPC
38 REC, 589 YDs, 2 TDs
More speed than substance, Ginn is former Oakland Raider James Jett revisited. Ginn, the ninth overall selection in April's draft, is an agile, balanced reciever with otherworldly acceleration off the line. In terms of conventional football speak, he'll be much more of an impact player in special teams as a rookie than in the passing game. Due to his lean, wiry frame (6-foot, 180-pounds) Ginn will be jarred in press coverage – especially since he's not the most fluid of route runners. Given the inadequacies of the Dolphins O-line and the inconsistencies of Chris Chambers, Ginn will disappoint as the Fins No. 3. Scouts have compared Ginn to Dante' Hall, which in fantasy terms means he's virtually undraftable.
(USC) 70 REC, 1015 YDs, 12 TDs, 14.5 YPC
39 REC, 460 YDs, 2 TDs.
Now that Keyshawn is flashing his ear "ice" in the booth, Jarrett will likely takeover as the Panthers No. 2. Much like his predecessor, Jarrett (6-foot-4, 215-pounds) is a prototype possession/red-zone receiver who works the sidelines flawlessly. He doesn't have the speed (4.57 forty) to leave defenders in the dust, but his pinpoint cuts allow him to gain adequate space between the hashmarks to be effective. Currently, Jarrett is in an open competition with Drew Carter and Keary Colbert to start opposite Steve Smith in Week 1. Even if he wins the job, keep expectations for an impact year relatively low. In years when Smith played in at least 14 games, only Keyshawn eclipsed 800 receiving yards. For Jarrett, he's probably a year or two away from reaching such a feat.
(Tennessee) 71 REC, 1298 YDs, 11 TDs, 18.3 YPC
48 REC, 705 YDs, 4 TDs
Although rumors are swirling that his virtual self lined up at TE in a game of Madden, this Saints rookie receiver will not be shrouded in eligibility controversy in Yahoo! leagues this year. Like Colston was at this time last year, Meachem is a real fantasy dark-horse. Meachem possesses a wide wingspan, soft hands, optimum initial burst and acute awareness in traffic. Really the former Volunteer is a better fit to work opposite Colston as the Saints No. 2 than Devery Henderson. Sean Payton is a mastermind at maximizing the potency of his weapons and even if Meachem was third in the pecking order behind Reggie Bush and Colston, he has the skills and the size (6-foot-2, 215-pounds) to surprise – especially with Bush's ability to stretch defenses – in a shifty Saints offense. Meachem is currently rehabbing his arthroscopically repaired knee, but is slated to be in pads when Saints camp opens on July 25. Instead of taking a second tight end, defense or kicker – why would you ever? – lasso the best Vols receiving prospect since Carl Pickens in the midnight hour of your draft.