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 ___________________________________________________________ send your fantasy questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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