Peerless Price is now a Falcon, Josh Reed jumps into the
#2 slot in Buffalo, Curtis Conway is the top wide out for
the New York Jets and Charles Rogers was the big play maker
at WR that the Lions took in the first round of the NFL
Draft. And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it
comes to WR movement. The constant movement of WRs is one
of the biggest variables in the production of a WR.
Let’s take Price and Reed for a moment. Peerless
Price was the #2 WR in a high scoring offense with a veteran,
pocket passer, and he put up big numbers. Now he moves
to Atlanta, with a young QB, known more for his running
ability then his passing prowess, and he will be asked
to assume the #1 WR position, a position that requires
breaking free from double teams and finding a way to put
up similar numbers in a completely different situation.
Not an easy thing to do, and a reason to do a double-take
when your fantasy draft position comes up and Price is
still on the board.
Josh Reed on the other hand wouldn’t get a second
look in the first half of fantasy drafts going by last
years numbers alone, but it isn’t his numbers that
have people talking, it is his newly found position as
the #2 WR in Buffalo. Reed now assumes Price’s position
opposite Eric Moulds, who will no doubt get the majority
of defensive attention, and should be able to put up similar
numbers. Reed has the skills to be a productive WR and
is one of those players that didn’t change teams,
but did receive a promotion.
Curtis Conway has demonstrated the ability to be a top
notch WR, but circumstances have left him short of his
potential. Those circumstances including playing for run
dominated teams in both Chicago and San Diego, and he will
get a chance to showcase his field stretching ability this
coming year with Chad Pennington and the NY Jets. Conway
has averaged only 5 TDs a season since 1999, and just under
900 yards. But in an offense that will stress getting him
the ball, he may emerge as an above average fantasy WR.
As the Jets showed in the second half of last season, they
can be a high scoring, pass-first offense, and that can
only mean good things for Conway.
These are only 3 of the major examples that can be pointed
to when discussing WRs. Some players are in totally new
environments, (Price, Conway) while some have kept their
address, but are in new situations (Reed). These aren’t
the only WRs to be effected, the list is long and distinguished.
JJ Stokes, a former first round draft pick of the 49ers,
never lived up to expectations in the city by the Bay and
was cut loose, but quickly picked up by the Jacksonville
Jaguars. Will he be able to succeed in the Sunshine State?
So far there is nothing to suggest this, in fact, if you
can’t be a successful WR in the West Coast Offense
with QBs such as Steve Young and Jeff Garcia getting you
the ball, where can you be a success? Stokes will have
every opportunity in Jacksonville to become a starter and
attempt to jump-start his production.
Back in San Francisco, Tai Streets, who took Stokes starting
position last year, looks to continue his rise and put
up even better statistics now that he will be the starter
from day one. Another beneficiary of the Stokes departure
is Cedrick Wilson, the #3 WR for the 49ers. Wilson is entering
his third season, and poised to demonstrate his ability
now that he will receive regular playing time. Both of
these players should see their productivity increase by
virtue of a step up the depth chart.
One person who welcomed the departure of Jon Gruden from
the Oakland Raiders was Jerry Porter. Porter who had spent
more time in Gruden’s doghouse then anyone else,
was finally able to demonstrate his ability on the field
under new Head Coach, Bill Callahan. Porter led the Raiders
in TD receptions and gained the confidence of QB Rich Gannon.
With the additional age of Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, Porter
should become an even more intricate part of the Raider
offense this year.
Other WRs to keep your eyes on:
Ashley Lelie, Denver - Lelie should be able to work his
way into the starting lineup this coming year. With the
age and injury factor effecting both Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey,
Lelie could find himself Jake Plummer’s favorite
David Boston, San Diego - Boston goes from the doldrums
of the NFL in Arizona, to an up-and-coming team in San
Diego. With one major change, he won’t be asked to
carry the team. That job belongs to LaDainian Tomlinson.
Boston will be asked to be the #1 WR, but not the make-or-break
player. With less stress on the WR position, and defenses
looking to stack the box to stop Tomlinson, Boston could
have a breakout year, especially considering QB Drew Brees
is entering his 3rd season and has a firm grasp on the
Darrell Jackson & Koren Robinson, Seattle – No
QB was hotter at the end of the 2002 season then Matt Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck finally was able to demonstrate the ability
that Head Coach Mike Holmgren saw in him when he traded
away a first round draft pick for him. Seattle also has
one of the top RBs in the league in Shaun Alexander, and
a new defensive coordinator that should be able to strengthen
a defense that was full of holes last year. All of this
adds up to Jackson and Robinson having strong seasons,
from opening day through December.
The movement of WRs, either to new teams or a step up
the depth chart, is an important factor to consider when
drafting your WRs, and these are only a few of the many
cases that need to be examined and studied before draft
day. WRs are as unpredictable as any position, but the
smart owners have already prepared themselves for the decisions
of which WR to take and when. Make sure you are one of
those owners, it can be the difference between playing
meaningful games around Christmas time, and simply playing
out the season.
Todd Kleinheinz is the
founder /commissioner of the auction-based SGFL (Sports
Geeks Fantasy League). The SGFL is an intricate league with a salary cap,
auction style draft, keepers and restricted free agents. If you have any
questions, comments or ideas, he can be reached at Fbxpert@aol.com. Previously,
Todd worked as a sports reporter for an NBC affiliate in Texas covering
Texas A&M and Baylor University Sports, and in Sports Radio for KNBR
and The Ticket 1050 in San Francisco.