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Wide Receiver Report - Week 4
Todd Gray
September 26, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own Comment
1 IND Marvin Harrison Harrison is first in the NFL in receiving yards (334) and second in catches (22) after his six-catch, 94-yard performance against Jacksonville, but fantasy owners are still waiting for his first TD catch.  He began last season with only one touchdown through three games before finishing the campaign with 12 scores, so a TD binge may be on the horizon.  The Colts play in New York on Sunday against a Jets squad that has allowed generous passing yardage (253 yard per game), but only two TD passes in three games.
2 STL Torry Holt Just when serious doubt began to surface about Holt’s fantasy potential in the Rams’ new offense, he posts a classic Holt line with eight catches, 120 yards and one TD.  A bad call and a dropped pass prevented what could have been a monster day.  The Rams will entertain one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses when Detroit visits on Sunday.  The Lions have allowed a league-worst 75.5 percent completion rate (that’s not a typo), 269 passing yards per game and seven passing touchdowns in three games.
3 CAR Steve Smith Suffice it to say it’s safe for fantasy owners to re-insert Smith into their starting lineups.  He caught seven passes for 112 yards on Sunday against the Buccaneers in his first action of the season, a contest in which supposedly he wasn’t 100 percent.  Whether he was 100 percent or not, he was the quickest guy on the field.  The Panthers’ schedule now gets more offense-friendly beginning with home games against New Orleans and Cleveland in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively.
4 ARI Anquan Boldin Boldin is tied for fourth in the league in catches (20) and eighth in yards (253) following his 10-catch, 129-yard outburst against the Rams.  There is no “best” wideout on the Cardinals, but presently Boldin seems to have the hotter hand.  Now speculation is that rookie QB Matt Leinart may replace Kurt Warner as the team’s starting QB, but there shouldn’t be too much of a downturn in fantasy production considering how poorly Warner played the past couple of weeks.
5 ARI Larry Fitzgerald Share and share alike: Fitzgerald (19) has one catch fewer than Boldin and is three yards (250) shy of his teammate’s total in that category.  He caught QB Kurt Warner’s only TD pass on Sunday and finished the day with six catches and 65 yards.  If everyone stays healthy, it’s quite possible that two Cardinals could finish among the top five fantasy wideouts.
6 CIN Chad Johnson While wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry were splitting four touchdown catches on Sunday, Johnson wound up with one measly catch and 11 yards.  The Bengals are so deep at WR that QB Carson Palmer can simply find alternate targets when defenders blanket Johnson.  Nevertheless, Johnson’s showing on Sunday is all but guaranteed to be his low point this season.
7 PHI Donte’ Stallworth Something finally slowed down Stallworth – his hamstring.  His late scratch on Sunday spelled doom for legions of fantasy owners who believed he would play after being listed as probable as late as Friday, but the Eagles weren’t going to take any chances.  To make matters worse, seemingly everyone wearing an Eagles uniform had a field day against the 49ers. 
Stallworth underwent an MRI on Monday, the results of which are unknown at the time of this writing.  If he can’t play on Monday night when the Eagles enjoy a lovely matchup against a Green Bay pass defense ranked among the worst in the NFL, his fantasy owners would be well advised to snag WR Reggie Brown, who produced five catches and 106 yards on Sunday in Stallworth’s absence.
8 NYJ Laveranues Coles Coles was an iffy play on Sunday due to a sore calf, but it must have been someone else’s calf everyone was talking about.  His 10 catches and 78 yards marked his third straight strong outing and reassured fantasy owners that he’s become a must-start in all settings.  Coles should turn in another solid performance when the Jets host Indianapolis on Sunday.
9 SEA Darrell Jackson Jackson is tied for the league lead with three touchdown catches after his seven-catch, 57-yard, two-TD day on Sunday against Giants.  His knees still can’t be trusted, but so far, so good.  That isn’t the worst of it, anyway: the Seahawks visit Chicago on Sunday to face a Bears squad that has yet to surrender a TD pass this season.
10 GB Donald Driver A late touchdown catch salvaged what would otherwise have been a miserable day for Driver (3 catches, 20 yards), and statistically speaking he played second fiddle to rookie wideout Greg Jennings.  It won’t be the last time that happens, but Driver proved again he should continue to be one of the most consistent fantasy wideouts week-in and week-out.  Green Bay has a tough matchup at Philadelphia in Week 4, but that only means the Packers will throw a lot as they try to keep pace with one of the best offenses in the NFL.

(Note – this listing considers the rankings of WR’s if a draft was held today)

Climbing The Ladder

Andre Johnson (HOU) – The Texans are a bad football team that gives up lots of points (98 in three games), and from a fantasy perspective that probably means good things for Johnson’s fantasy owners.  Case in point: Johnson has either scored a touchdown or topped 100 yards receiving in every game this season following his 11-catch, 152-yard performance against Washington.  The Texans get Miami at home in Week 4, and though the Dolphins haven’t allowed many passing yards (172 per game), they’ve surrendered five passing TDs total in three tight ballgames.  Johnson must be considered a low-tier No.1/upper-tier No. 2 fantasy wideout in most settings right now, and if he continues his current pace he’ll end up being much more than that.

Roy Williams (DET) – The Lions’ Mike Martz-led offense may finally be clicking, though Sunday’s competition (Green Bay) was hardly a reliable forecast of things to come.  Nonetheless, Williams had his first big day of the season with seven catches, 138 yards and one TD.  Detroit isn’t likely to be a very consistent team, especially early in the season, but the Lions will throw a lot given the nature of their offense and because they might be playing catch-up more often than not.  Detroit plays at St. Louis on Sunday against a Rams squad that suddenly seems to have found a defense, but Williams remains a must-start in nearly every fantasy format.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh & Chris Henry (CIN) – Houshmandzadeh (heel) didn’t start for the Bengals against the Steelers in his return to action, and he limped off the field after making a catch early in the game.  However, in the end he had amassed nine catches, 94 yards and two TDs.  Meanwhile, Henry, who started in Housh’s place, posted five catches, 69 yards and two TDs of his own.  Suffice it to say this won’t happen every week as the pair’s good fortunes came in part at the expense of No. 1 wideout Chad Johnson (one catch, 11 yards), who was blanketed by Steelers defenders for much of the afternoon.  Apparently, there’s no need for QB Carson Palmer to force the issue if teams want to double up on Johnson.  The Bengals may boast the best wide receiving corps in the NFL and the team’s top three wideouts could have fantasy value on a weekly basis.  Henry makes the riskiest play, but he’s a must-have due to his potential if/when Johnson or Housh miss any time.

Sliding Back

Plaxico Burress (NYG) – Burress (back) was benched during the second half of the Giants’ shellacking at the hands of the Seahawks, and his stats for the day included one catch, 23 yards, two dropped passes, one fumble and a misplayed pass that the Seahawks turned into an interception.  The general consensus is that both Burress’ lack of focus and his sore back may have been factors in his poor play.  For now, chalk this up as a bad day at the office, but if Burress’ back continues to bother him or if he and head coach Tom Coughlin are on the outs, it could be an unpleasant ride for Burress’ fantasy owners.  The Giants will have two weeks to iron out their kinks thanks to a Week 4 bye, and then the team will host division rival Washington in Week 5.

Hines Ward (PIT) – The Steelers’ passing game has been dreadful the past two weeks, and Ward has virtually disappeared from fantasy scoring columns as a result.  His two-catch, 17-yard outing in the Steelers’ 28-20 loss to the Bengals on Sunday marked back-to-back games of fewer than three catches and 30 yards.  On the season, Ward has nine catches, 99 yards and one TD – totals reminiscent of Torry Holt’s single-game output on Sunday.  Much of the problem has been QB Ben Roethlisberger’s erratic play since returning two weeks ago from an appendectomy that kept him out of the Steelers’ season-opening win against Miami.  The Steelers’ Week 4 bye gives the offense two much-needed weeks to get into synch before the team plays at San Diego in Week 5.  Ward currently appears to be a risky fantasy play in that contest, even as a No. 3 wideout.

Ernest Wilford (JAC) – Wilford was among the most fashionable sleeper picks at wide receiver this season, but thus far his stats – 10 catches, 117 yards and zero TDs in three games – have done little to justify those lofty predictions.  He appears to be the odd man out in the Jaguars’ stable of promising young wideouts.  Playing second fiddle to Matt Jones is one thing, but few expected Reggie Williams to outperform Wilford.  Jacksonville fields a deep offense that is more suited to running the ball, and the Jaguars’ dominating defense should ensure that the offense has ample opportunity to grind up opponents on the ground.  Wilford may have a fine season, but he probably won’t be on the field enough to merit consistent status as a No. 3 fantasy wideout.  However, if Jones’ injury lingers, Wilford could make a respectable No. 3 WR in favorable matchups.