2006 Fantasy Wide Receivers: Ranking Analysis

As your fantasy draft approaches, we break down the top ranked fantasy wide receivers in the NFL.

ELITE
Chad Johnson - Cincinnati Bengals
Chad Johnson's 97 receptions for 1432 yards (and 9 TDs) in 
2005 may pale in comparison to the numbers he puts up in 
2006.  CJ and QB Carson Palmer and have just begun to 
connect on the field.  And as for Palmer's knee injury?...
Carson proved on MNF (in Cincy's 3rd pre-season game) that 
he's rested and feeling no effects from his off-season ACL 
knee surgery.  Palmer may throw 35 TDs this year in 
Cincinnati's high-powered offense, and the majority will 
be caught by Chad Johnson.  Bengals WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh 
(opposite Chad) is demanding his own respect and should 
actually help CJ's stats as he helps draw away double 
coverage from Johnson.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-97       Rec yds-1432    TDs–9
      

Terrell Owens - Dallas Cowboys
Terrell Owens is the most talented wide receiver in the 
NFL today.  So why will we be heavily criticized about 
having him so high in our rankings?...Because Owens has a 
history of being a head case and a team cancer.  Case-in-
point: a contract dispute (actually a suspension) put 
Owens out the Eagles' door less than half-way through last 
season.  And...Terrell's fresh start in Dallas for '06 
seems to be more about a side-lining hamstring injury and 
Owens' curious relationship with head coach Bill Parcells.  
But, Parcells is known as the master of handling difficult 
players and may be the perfect fit for Owens.  He has 70+ 
TDs over the last 6 seasons, and would likely have 80 if  
not for last season's early departure.  Terrell wants to 
perform on the field and last year's fiasco has him 
especially motivated to playing this season.  In fact, 
T.O. may be more motivated this year than he was in his 
last Superbowl.  Like him or not, Owens will be a force on 
the field this season and he'll reward his fantasy owners 
with many elite performances.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-47       Rec yds-763     TDs–6


Steve Smith - Carolina Panthers
Steve Smith was undeniably the top fantasy wide receiver 
of 2005. Smith had 12 receiving TDs, 1 rushing TD, and 3 
returns for TDs. Smith's yardage totals were consistent on
the season, but his touchdown production was another 
story. SS had 9 TDs in his first 8 games...but just 3 TDs 
in his last 8.  In other words...Smith may have been enough 
to boost owners to their fantasy playoffs, but his lack of
TD production in the last half of the season may not have 
been enough to send his fantasy owners to their superbowl.
We're not saying that Smith will continue his TD fall this
year, but we do believe that defenses will continue to 
swarm Smith like they did in the last half of 2005...thus
limiting his monster games a bit.  Opposing defenses will 
demand that Carolina utilize their running game until 
proven...and ultimately take the pressure back off of 
Smith.  The addition of possession receiver 
Keyshawn Johnson on the other side should help Smith somewhat.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-103      Rec yds-1563    TDs–13 


Larry Fitzgerald - Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald was the perfect wide receiving fantasy
compliment in 2005. He wasn't impossible to acquire and he 
produced quality numbers all season long.  Fitz scored in 
10 different games and had 7 - 100+ yard games...pretty 
consistent. He had a touchdown and/or 100+ yards in all 
but 4 games...again, pretty consistent.  Quarterback 
changes, a poor offensive line, and lack of a decent 
running back didn't seem to phase Fitzgerald...he still
produced.  No dropoff is expected in Fitz's numbers in 
2006, and he he won't be drafted cheaply.  Fitzgerald's
name will likely be called early as one of the top 4 
receivers taken in fantasy draft rooms.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-103      Rec yds-1409    TDs–10


Anquan Boldin - Arizona Cardinals
See Fitzgerald...ditto above.  Boldin's 102 receptions and 
1402 receiving yards were beyond admirable...and Anquan 
actually missed a couple of games during the season due to
injury.  Imagine if Boldin was healthy the full season!

2005 Stats        Rcptns-102      Rec yds-1402    TDs–7


Reggie Wayne - Indianapolis Colts
This may be the year that Reggie Wayne surpasses 
Marvin Harrison in stats.  Similar to the situation in Arizona,
we're going to think of Wayne and Harrison as 1A and 1B.
Peyton Manning loves Harrison, but doesn't much care who
he throw his touchdowns to.  We think defenses may key a
bit more on Harrison and leave Wayne with the split 
majority of Peyton's darts...but only slightly.  Wayne
and Harrison were close in 2005, but Wayne's size and 
another year in Indy's offense will help grow Wayne's TD
total for 2006.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-83       Rec yds-1055    TDs–5 
     

Marvin Harrison - Indianapolis Colts
See Reggie Wayne.  Marvin may have smoked Reggie in 2005
TD performance, but this year may be different.  And aside
from splitting hairs in a slight edge to Wayne, both of 
the WRs are ranked in our top 7 and deserving of Elite 
status.  In fact, we believe the Colts will throw the ball 
more this year as they adjust to a new rookie running back 
(Joseph Addai).  Either Colt WR will land their fantasy 
owners supreme statistics, but don't be surprised if 
Wayne's numbers edge Harrison's by a couple of grabs and
a yard or two.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-82       Rec yds-1146    TDs–12


Torry Holt - St. Louis Rams
"The Greatest Show on Turf" mastermind Mike Martz missed
most of the 2005 season and quarterback Marc Bulger missed 
half of the year, but Torry Holt was able to amass over 
1300 yards for the 6th straight year...and he did it in 14 
games.  Although a knee issue did keep him out of 2 games,
Holt otherwise showed no signs of slowing (30 years old).
New head coach Scott Linehan may favor the run slightly
more than former coach Martz, but not by much.  Holt 
definitely belongs in the Elite fantasy receiver class and
may again finish in the top 3 at the position, but changes 
at the coaching position and an aged Rams' offensive line 
have us bumping Holt down just a bit for 2006.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-102      Rec yds-1331    TDs–9



ROCK SOLID
Roy Williams - Detroit Lions
Speaking of Mike Martz, he's arrived in Detroit and has
perhaps been given the top young wide receiver in the 
league.  Roy Williams is a phenom of talent, but has been 
hampered by injuries and an inadequate quarterback (and 
we're not sure which was worse).  IFF Roy can stay healy
and off-season acquisition QB Jon Kitna (he has to be 
better than Harrington's dreadful performances) can adjust 
to Martz's system, then the sky's the limit for Williams.  
Bottom line...we see Williams with over 1000 yards this 
year with 10 or more TDs, but we're not ready to push him 
to Elite fantasy status until he proves he can stay healthy 
and Detroit proves it has an offense that can get Roy the 
rock.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-45       Rec yds-687     TDs–8
      

Randy Moss - Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are going into the 2006 season with retreaded 
QB Aaron Brooks...and just signed...Jeff George?!  We 
don't really know what this means for Randy Moss, but we
do know that there may be trouble in Oakland.  Jeff George 
has a cannon for an arm and loves to throw the deep ball, 
but he hasn't played in 5 years!  Regardless of who throws
the football, Randy Moss is in the top 3 of talented wide 
receivers in the NFL.  But Moss' lack of surrounding team
talent and his history of nagging injuries has knocked him
nearly out of our top 10 fantasy WR rankings.  Moss will
still be fun to watch on Sundays, but we'd advise allowing
another owner to select him on draft day...and let that 
owner deal with the headaches as Moss mails it in with 
Oakland likely in the cellar by mid-season.  

2005 Stats        Rcptns-60       Rec yds-1005    TDs–8
    

Chris Chambers - Miami Dolphins
Last season, Chris Chambers scored 6 of his 11 touchdowns 
in December.  Chambers may not have led his fantasy owners
to their playoffs with his average performance from 
September through November, but for those owners that did
happen to make the playoffs,...Chambers' outstanding 
scoring performance during the month of December was a 
huge boost towards the fantasy Superbowl.  Fast forward to 
2006...even though Chambers is a top tier wide receiver 
and is clearly the number one WR in Miami, there is a bit 
of uncertainty with the arrival of QB Daunte Culpepper.  
Culpepper has never played with Chambers and Daunte wasn't 
exactly accurate last season prior to his knee injury.  
Regardless, we're thinking Culpepper will find a home in
Miami and quickly link up with Chambers as his favorite
target...but we can't justify Chambers into our top ten
until we see some consistency from the Miami passing game.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-82       Rec yds-1118    TDs–11  
      

Andre Johnson - Houston Texans
Most fantasy owners are so down on Andre Johnson that he 
doesn't even crack their WR top 20.  Johnson truly did 
have a dreadful season in 2005 with 2 total TDs and 
minimal yardage.  The Texans had a woeful offense (thanks 
largely to a pitiful offensive line) that spent a 
significant portion of the season helping QB David Carr 
off of his back.  To compound the problem for Andre, he 
had a nagging calf injury that kept him from 4 games and 
suffered an ankle injury that kept him from a 5th.  But as 
miserable as 2005 was for Johnson, we actually like his 
value in 2006.  Andre Johnson is one of the finest young 
receivers in the NFL (not unlike Roy Williams) and has the 
skills to explode in the right system.  The Texans may 
have helped Johnson by beefing up their o-line this off-
season (although much more is necessary) and brought in 
Gary Kubiak from Denver to serve as offensive coordinator.  
The result is a healthier Andre Johnson in an improved 
Houston offense that throws the ball often.  Johnson is 
worth a gamble and could be a legitimate sleeper primed 
for a big year.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-63       Rec yds-688     TDs–2
      

Hines Ward - Pittsburgh Steelers
Ward finished 2005 as the 10th ranked fantasy WR with 11
TDs and nearly 1000 receiving yards.  But Ward was either 
hit-or-miss over the season. He had 5 games with 40 or 
less yards with no TDs...and had 5 games with either 
multiple scores or 100+ yards with a score.  2006 will 
likely be more of the same.  Ward has evolved as primarily
a possession receiver and the Steelers have become perhaps 
the most dominant running team in the NFL.  Ward will 
still have some nice stats, but predicting when he'll 
shine with numbers will be difficult at best.
 
2005 Stats        Rcptns-69       Rec yds-975     TDs–11  
      


Santana Moss - Washington Redskins
Santana Moss and Mark Brunell were often on the same page 
in 2005.  But, like Brunell, Moss was inconsistent for his 
fantasy owners.  On the plus side, Moss had 3 games of 
150+ yards and 2 or more touchdowns...but he also had 10 
games with under 100 yards and zero touchdowns.  When Moss 
was on, he was really on and gave his owners a most likely 
win...but he also could be a miss.  So far in pre-season 
2006, Brunell hasn't had his A-game and has us worried 
about the stability of the QB position and the ability of 
Santana Moss to put up solid numbers.  Moss has great 
skills and it's tough to argue with nearly 1500 yards and 
9 TDs on the season, but Moss is perhaps the biggest 
feast-or-famine example of anyone in our rankings...and we 
don't see things changing this year with Washington's QB 
situation.  We're not saying that Moss' 2005 numbers are 
all glass beads and shiny foil, but advise to let someone 
else take a chance on his inconsistency this year.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-84       Rec yds-1483    TDs–9
      

Darrell Jackson - Seattle Seahawks
Provided D-Jax can stay upright, he and his fantasy owners
will be the big benefactors of Matt Hasselbeck's throws in
Seattle's pass-friendly system.  Hasselbeck loves to toss 
the rock to Jackson, and it's very apparent when Jackson 
is on the field.  Jackson caught 38 for 482 yards and 3 
TDs in only 6 starts (which would have been a really nice
season total had he stayed healthy).  But, staying healthy
was the issue for Jackson last year...and he goes into '06
as a bit of a question mark.  Jackson thinks he'll be 
ready game 1, but is a slight risk without a significant 
test to his knee.  Jackson has a tremedous up-side, but 
we'd advise waiting until the late 4th or early 5th rounds
before inking him onto your fantasy team.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-38       Rec yds-482     TDs–3
      

Plaxico Burress - New York Giants
We really like Burress and wish we could find a way to 
move him up in our rankings.  Plax started out the '05 
season with a bang, but slowly slid as the season wound 
down...and without explanation.  Plaxico is 16th in our 
rankings at present with a strong QB (Eli Manning) and a
top TE (Jeremy Shockey) to give him plenty of single 
coverage in the red zone.  Burress is a big receiver with
a chance of putting up elite numbers,...provided he finds 
his groove.  The Giants' offense should score plenty and 
look Burress' direction often.  Plaxico isn't exactly a 
sleeper, but he does have an extra high up-side and is
worth a significant risk on draft day.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-76       Rec yds-1214    TDs–7
      

Javon Walker - Denver Broncos
Javon Walker started 2005 with 2 first downs on his first 
4 catches, but then blew his ACL and his season.  With a 
new team and his surgery behind him, Walker is looking 
forward to building upon stats of 2004 - where he had 12 
TDs and a whopping 1382 receiving yards.  Walker has good 
hands and is a nice fit as a number one WR in Denver.  
Provided Walker has no ill-effects from his knee (he 
should be fine), Javon is in a system with the skills to 
be a top ten wide receiver by year's end.

2005 Stats        Rcptns-4        Rec yds-27      TDs–0       
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