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Vereran Widouts Strike Back
Joe Levit
November 3, 2004

After seven weeks of weeks of the NFL season, the leader board showcasing receiving yards was littered with new faces. Sophomores Javon Walker and Andre Johnson were tearing up the league. rookies Roy Williams and Michael Clayton were making defenses design ways to stop them, and even third-year players like Ashley Lelie and David Givens were making their mark.

The young guys were clearly hitting their stride, while owners who stuck with old standbys like Amani Toomer were left shaking their heads and handing in their fantasy seasons. The occasional resurrection occurred, as with Marcus Robinson in Minnesota, or Donald Driver in Green Bay, but league-wide this was mere sputtering.

To be sure, Isaac Bruce was getting a lot of yards, and Jimmy Smith was beginning to hook up with his young quarterback, but by and large, except for branded fantasy studs like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison, there was a definite deficiency of veteran commodities who were pulling their fantasy weight.

Then week eight hit, and the veterans threw a counter-punch. No fewer than five established talents got their game on again, just when fantasy owners were giving them up for dead this year. Such formidable fantasy outputs warrant a closer look, so let’s explore what these wily guys were able to accomplish, and see if it is a trend, or only a happy turbulence.

Rod Smith

Receiving Stat Line in Week 8: 9 catches for 208 yards and 1 TD

NFL Experience: 10

Fantasy Forecast: Reaching Cruising Altitude

Smith is definitely not going to register an 80-yard touchdown with regularity, but even if you throw out the anomalous play against the Falcons you end up with 8 catches for 128 yards, which is a great day by most fantasy standards. The most impressive statistic about his afternoon Sunday is not really the deuce yards or the score, but the number of receptions he logged. As the offense continues to balance in Denver, expect Smith to remain a target much more often than he was last season. He still has the talent and will to make that many opportunities count. The development of Lelie and even rookie Darius Watts makes Smith’s job that much easier.

Mushin Muhammad

Receiving Stat Line in Week 8: 8 catches for 106 yards and 2 TDs

NFL Experience: 9

Fantasy Forecast: Reaching Cruising Altitude

Muhammad has size on his side, and has always possessed the talent to record big fantasy outings. He has struggled throughout his career with a myriad of minor maladies, though ironically he seems healthy now just when the player who had become the new go-to receiver (Steve Smith) got the news that he’ll be out for the rest of the year. The Panthers have been devastated by injuries, particularly on offense. They will be behind in a lot of games yet this year, and have nothing to lose. I like seeing the high catch count that Muhammad tallied Sunday too, and think he’ll be a fantasy bargain the rest of the season, barring any setbacks to his health.

Keyshawn Johnson

Receiving Stat Line in Week 8: 3 catches for 80 yards and 2 TDs

NFL Experience: 9

Fantasy Forecast: Fasten Your Seatbelts

Johnson unlocked Detroit’s defense this weekend while both Terry Glenn and Quincy Morgan were on the sidelines. Those two other receivers won’t be out forever though, and Johnson is not going to convert two-thirds of his catches each week into touchdowns. His meager three catches seem even less impressive when you find out that TE Jason Witten grabbed nine passes. Johnson is quite capable of the occasional big game, and I think that is what he has to offer fantasy owners in the season’s second half. Predicting his success on a weekly basis will not be easy.

Plaxico Burress

Receiving Stat Line in Week 8: 3 catches for 63 yards and 2 TDs

NFL Experience: 5

Fantasy Forecast: Reaching Cruising Altitude

What a difference a change at quarterback can make... to a whole team! Burress has been one of the largest benefactors of Big Ben’s ascension in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger has found a way to delay enough in the pocket for Burress to make his slow moves and get open down the field. Once the ball is in the air, if it is at all accurate there is a high likelihood that Burress will bring it down for a big gain or a touchdown. He has been improving each week, and this was his breakout game. There is no reason that he can’t continue to score touchdowns this year as long as Roethlisberger is under center.

Peerless Price

Receiving Stat Line in Week 8: 2 catches for 59 yards and 2 TDs

NFL Experience: 6

Fantasy Forecast: Fasten Your Seatbelts

Peerless has been far from it for about a season and a half now. He looked absolutely golden in the preseason of 2003, but suffered through a tough year once Michael Vick was injured. The tandem did not exactly come out like superheroes this season, but perhaps connecting on two scores will accelerate the link between them. Personally, I’m not ready to anoint the Falcons wideout a priceless fantasy item, as I expect some very up and down weeks from a guy who is only catching two balls in a big game.