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Phoenix Picks
Joe Levit
October 13, 2004

Things happen fast in the National Football League. Players get promoted or demoted in an instant, and a bruising running back one minute might more closely resemble a bruised banana the next. Players suddenly become hot with a new teammate around them. Because of injuries and due to the desperation of coaches searching for any way to win, the fortunes of players do change play by play.

Like the phoenix, which rejuvenates itself after an age, arising from ashes to present the world with a pristine bird, so too do certain players rise from the dust each season. Owners have been forced to become downtrodden on these guys over time, but they have the raw talent and ability to stoke new flames the moment a change happens. Try netting some of these birds of a feather below, before their fancy plumage attracts the attention of too many owners, leaving them entrenched in someone’s lineup.

Plaxico Burress – It looks like the new QB under center has been a boon for Burress, as Ben Roethlisberger is willing to wait while Plaxico gets open downfield for some big gains. Because the team is winning, expect Roethlisberger to remain the starter, meaning Burress could be a bargain player the rest of the way. He finished with over 100 yards and a score on Sunday.

Marcus Robinson – When he was signed, Robinson was seen as the perfect complement to Randy Moss. But once he started getting hurt in mini camps and during the preseason games, most people started to jump off his bandwagon. When he didn’t do much to start the season, watching Kelly Campbell and Nate Burleson gain the supplemental scores, it seemed like Robinson was done. In one game, he is back, and it isn’t hard to envision him making those types of touchdowns the rest of the season.

David Carr – Carr was supposed to be a big thing when he entered the league, but he needed time to mature, and needed his weapons to hone their skills as well. Though the Texans lost to the Vikings in a close game last weekend, Carr went for 372 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He is a young gun who you can start on your fantasy team if you have terrific runners and receivers.

Jeremy Shockey – The big knock on Shockey as a fantasy player the last few years – other than his inability to stay healthy – is his dearth of touchdowns. Old-hand QB Kurt Warner has not been negligent in this regard, finding Shockey each of the last two weeks in the end zone. With the G-Men on the move, Shockey should continue his resurgence.

Drew Brees – The prospect of Philip Rivers taking his job, added to the rookie’s holdout, conspired to produce a breath of fresh air in San Diego this season. Brees has looked good in leading the Chargers to a 3-2 record, and he is beginning to be a consistent fantasy performer, with one stud (TE Antonio Gates) in the passing game to lead a group of hard-working wide receivers.

Eric Johnson – Injured all of last season, Johnson was a forgotten man on draft day, since his quarterback went down before the season and the team had lost so many playmakers. Now, as the third-leading receiver in the NFL so far this season with 460 yards, he is a hot commodity in a year that has seen a different group of tight ends become valuable as fantasy players.

Larry Fitzgerald – Larry had so much hype coming into the season. He was practically anointed the rookie-of-the-year honor before he played his first game. But the absence of Boldin has meant near-constant double teams for Fitzgerald, and it has taken him a few weeks to get his feet under him. He scored for the first time this week, and looks poised to be more productive in a passing attack that will be in full swing under Denny Green.

Tim Rattay – True, it was the Cardinals pass defense that Rattay sliced up, but 417 passing yards is never something to scoff at. With Julian Peterson and Mike Rumph out for the season on defense, this offense is going to be playing from behind all year long, which means that Kevan Barlow will remain largely ineffective, but the passing game could produce some winners.

Wayne Chrebet – Don’t look now, but it appears that gritty veteran Chrebet has supplanted Santana Moss as Pennington’s favorite mark. Wayne always was talented at making the key first down, but as the top target on an undefeated team, he could be in for some workmanlike receiving days. He’s not likely to oust your top receiver, but he could serve as a sneaky third starter.