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2008 Player Rankings: Wide Receivers
Updated: September 2, 2008
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Tier 1
Huddle Rank: 1
Keeper: 1
Auction 10: 30%
Auction 12: 25%
2005 OAK 16 60 1005 16.8 8      
2006 OAK 13 42 553 13.2 3      
2007 NEP 16 98 1493 15.2 23      
Avg   15 67 1017 15.1 11 0 0 0
Proj NEP   90 1520   15      

Maybe the Raiders really were the problem? In his first year with the Patriots, Moss shattered the all-time touchdown record that was supposedly forever set by Jerry Rice. He ended with 23 touchdowns and had 98 catches for 1493 yards (#2 in the NFL). It was basically all the same yards from two years in Oakland but with twice the scoring. It wasn’t even his best yardage year (2003 – 1632) but six more touchdowns than he had ever managed in a season.

Can Moss repeat the feat? Probably not but the question is how far does he fall? Brady goes against a history of every top QB scorer experiencing significant declines the following year but does that hold true for wideouts as well? Consider the only wideouts with 17 or more scores and what happened to them the following year: Jerry Rice (22 down to 9 in strike-shortened year, 17 the next and then 13 following that), Mark Clayton (18 to 4), Sterling Sharpe (18 then retired), Carl Pickens (17 to 12) and Cris Carter (17 to 10). Oh yes, and there is also Randy Moss (17 to 11, 17 to 13). All but one of the eight times a wideout had a 17+ touchdown year, he returned to remain in double digit scores. No effect. They remain nearly as good and likely better than almost all others.

Moss had a sharp decline in the playoffs but during the regular season, he was golden. And Welker ensures that the defenses cannot hope to only worry about Moss. There is no guarantee Moss will be the #1 wide receiver again this year but it’s hard to bet against it.

Huddle Rank: 2
Keeper: 5
Auction 10: 26%
Auction 12: 22%
2005 PHI 7 47 763 16.2 6 1 2  
2006 DAL 16 85 1180 13.9 13      
2007 DAL 15 81 1355 16.7 15 1 5  
Avg   13 71 1099 15.6 11 1 2 0
Proj DAL   84 1290   14      

Owens comes off the second best season of his career with 1355 yards and 15 touchdowns which gives him 28 scores in the two seasons since leaving Philadelphia. Other than his injury-marred 2005, Owens has topped 1100 yards in each of the last eight years. His 129 receiving touchdowns are only one short of Cris Carter which would then make him the second most prolific wideout other than Jerry Rice (and only five ahead of Randy Moss). Owens has been highly productive in Dallas and last year he was never a media issue. He had no ongoing problems with players, coaches, etc.. He just played one of the greatest seasons of his career.

Owens is happy in Dallas and the Cowboys are happy with Owens. The same team returns this year and the schedule is roughly the same difficulty as last year. There is only one caveat that always accompanies Owens – “if he stays healthy”. Owens hasn’t played all 16 games in the last six years and turns 35 in December. Granted – he has only missed one game in each of the two seasons in Dallas and rarely misses more than one or two but then again, he has played injured in many of the recent seasons. His advancing age doesn’t make him any less prone to being hurt or making him heal any faster.

There is no doubt that Dallas is geared up for a playoff run again this year and the passing game revolves around Owens. There is only one reason why he wouldn’t turn in yet another fine season of 1100+ yards and 12+ touchdowns and that is injury. He has risk to be realistic and yet demands to be drafted early by those willing to assume that risk in light of what stats he is sure to generate when healthy.

Huddle Rank: 3
Keeper: 2
Auction 10: 25%
Auction 12: 20%
2005 IND 16 83 1055 12.7 5      
2006 IND 16 86 1310 15.2 9      
2007 IND 16 104 1510 14.5 10 1 4  
Avg   16 91 1292 14.1 8 0 1 0
Proj IND   92 1360   12      

It’s not like Wayne hadn’t been highly productive during his seven NFL seasons, but when Marvin Harrison was out of the way last year, Wayne turned in a career best 104 catches for 1510 yards and ten touchdowns. He led the league in receiving yardage, wresting that title from Chad Johnson. His 14.5 yards per catch was also one of his highest so he didn’t merely turn into a possession receiver. A top ten wideout for years, Wayne became a premier receiver in the league.

Wayne not only excelled, he did it as the only real downfield threat for the Colts. He had 104 catches while the next best was the rookie Anthony Gonzalez with only 37. Wayne scored ten times. Again the next best wideout was Gonzalez with only three. Wayne was main threat and yet opponents still could not shut him down. His stats remained strong throughout the season as a hallmark to what an effective #1 wideout he became.

Harrison is likely back this year to some yet unknown degree and Anthony Gonzalez will have a year of experience to draw from. It is unlikely that Wayne will be called on quite as much but he remains a no-brainer draft pick with almost no risk and upside every week.

Huddle Rank: 4
Keeper: 3
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 18%
2005 HOU 13 63 688 10.9 2 6 10  
2006 HOU 16 103 1147 11.1 5 3 14  
2007 HOU 9 60 851 14.2 8      
Avg   13 75 895 12.1 5 3 8 0
Proj HOU   94 1390   11      

Chances are high that Johnson doesn’t miss his quarterback for the first four years of his career. While Johnson has been productive, he’s never looked as good as when Matt Schaub is under center. Or even when Sage Rosenfels is filling in. Johnson missed seven games with a sprained knee and yet still posted 60 catches for 851 yards and eight touchdowns. Over 16 games, that would be a pace of 106 receptions for 1500 yards and 15 touchdowns. Johnson only had two games without a score and the second time was in the final week of the season. He broke 100 yards in four games and averaged seven receptions per game. He always looked good in the past. He looked great last year.

Entering the second season of the offense installed by HC Gary Kubiak should only help Johnson reach higher heights. As it worked out, he only played in four common games with Matt Schaub and the first three were all over 120 yards and at least one score. This should be a very exciting year for Johnson owners provided he can remain healthy.

Huddle Rank: 5
Keeper: 10
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 18%
2005 ARI 16 103 1409 13.7 10 8 41  
2006 ARI 13 68 941 13.8 6 1 5  
2007 ARI 15 100 1409 14.1 10      
Avg   15 90 1253 13.9 9 3 15 0
Proj ARI   92 1370   10      

Fitzgerald ended ranked 3rd best in passes thrown to him (166) and 4th best in receiving touchdowns with 10 last year and the most remarkable aspect is that it was a mirror to his 2005 season. In both years, literally, he had 1409 receiving yards and ten scores. He recorded 100 catches in 2007 and 103 catches in 2005. In 2006, he missed three games and even had one missing last year but Fitzgerald has already proven himself to be an elite NFL wideout. He’s already averaged over 75 yards per game in his career and comes off his best season of 14.1 yards per catch.

The concern with Fitzgerald this season is that Matt Leinart should be back as starter and Leinart really struggled in 2007 before getting injured. As a rookie, Leinart slightly preferred Fitzgerald over Boldin and was connecting better with him towards the end of the season with three touchdowns over the final four games but this will be a new offense from 2005 and Leinart has to show that he can make it operate at least nearly as good as Warner did last year when the Cardinals schedule proved to be a cakewalk towards the end of the season. Fitzgerald is the primary receiver in this offense with Boldin a close second but so much of what Fitzgerald can do will rely on Leinart’s success on turning the corner in his career.

No doubt that Fitzgerald ranks as one of the most talented wideouts in the league but the schedule will be a little tougher and Leinart will be back behind center. Notable too is that Fitzgerald’s week 16 game comes in New England which could hurt. The worst you will get from Fitzgerald is still pretty good, but 2008 is not shaping up to be a great year unless Leinart takes the next step or the team reverts to Warner quickly enough if Leinart falters. Considering last year, the team may continue to play both in the hopes that Leinart comes around and that could depress Fitzgerald’s numbers.

Tier 2
Huddle Rank: 6
Keeper: 4
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 16%
2005 CLE 10 32 512 16.0 3      
2006 CLE 16 60 879 14.7 6 4 12  
2007 CLE 16 80 1289 16.1 16      
Avg   14 57 893 15.6 8 1 4 0
Proj CLE   88 1300   11      

Reinforcing the axiom that third-year receivers break out, Edwards became part of the set of elite wideouts in the league when he caught 80 passes for 1289 yards and 16 touchdowns – 2nd only to record setting Randy Moss. And while the passing game took off under Derek Anderson, Edwards did more than his share in turning many passes into impressive if not improbable catches. While both Anderson and Kellen Winslow slowed down in the later part of the season, Edwards did not. Almost everything good in the passing game was attributed to Edwards who scored six times over the final six weeks. His yardage decreased a bit but remained around 65 yards per game and - he kept catching touchdowns. Over the season, Edwards turned in four games over 100 yards and four times had more than one score in a game. Once Charlie Frye was gone, Edwards only had four games in the last fifteen without at least one touchdown.

There’s no need to overanalyze here. Edwards has joined the ranks of stud wideouts and is part of a rare breed that actually makes his quarterback look better than he should. His hands are as good as anyone in the league and for whatever the Browns do through the air, it goes through Edwards first. The addition of Donte Stallworth should actually help Edwards who was the only wideout of any concern to defenses last year.

Huddle Rank: 7
Keeper: 6
Auction 10: 16%
Auction 12: 14%
2006 NOS 13 70 1038 14.8 8      
2007 NOS 16 98 1202 12.3 11      
Avg   15 84 1120 13.6 10 0 0 0
Proj NOS   100 1250   12      

Colston had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee that bothered him last year but is expected to be 100% for training camp. He is also healing a hand injury he sustained in the final game of the season and of course he was bothered by his back in 2007 as well. But all those problems didn’t keep him from trumping his fine rookie season – Colston ended with 98 catches for 1202 yards and 11 touchdowns. Not unlike Brees, Colston started out painfully ineffective with only 263 yards on 25 catches with two touchdowns over the first seven weeks. Those teams that stuck by their painfully-high draft pick were rewarded when he turned it on in week eight and had seven games with over 90 receiving yards and three weeks with multiple touchdowns.

The Saints started slowly last year but finally came around with a vengeance thanks in large part to the Brees-to-Colston connection. They ended the season strong and there’s no reason to expect less this year. Colston is a minor watch in the preseason to ensure he is fully healed from all his maladies but the expectations are definitely another fine year.

Huddle Rank: 8
Keeper: 7
Auction 10: 14%
Auction 12: 12%
2005 CAR 16 103 1563 15.2 12 4 25 1
2006 CAR 14 83 1166 14.0 8 8 61 1
2007 CAR 15 87 1002 11.5 7 9 66  
Avg   15 91 1244 13.6 9 7 51 1
Proj CAR   85 1200   9      

No player in Carolina will be happier to see Jake Delhomme return than Steve Smith. In the new offense installed last year by OC Jeff Davidson, Smith exploded in the first two games with a total of four scores and 271 yards. After Delhomme left during week three, it was downhill for Smith as he fielded passes from a never-ending carousel of quarterbacks. He ended the season with only eight touchdowns and 1166 yards on 83 catches – his worst in the last five years (he missed 2004 injured). He still has managed to top 1000 yards in each of his last four full seasons and never had less than seven scores in each.

The new offense was looking great at first last year before the wheels fell off when Delhomme left. This season Smith has the specter of a great rushing game with the addition of Jonathan Stewart and the chance that Muhsin Muhammad, D.J. Hackett or even second year wideout Dwayne Jarrett can actually prompt the secondary to care about anyone other than Smith. Last year with Keary Colbert and Drew Carter didn’t concern anyone, much less with the quarterbacks of Testaverde, Moore and Carr. This year is shaping up to yield the best offense that the Panthers have put together in quite a while and that is bound to help Smith who will always be the preferred receiver.

There is some concern that an improved rushing game will decrease the need to pass but Smith is always low risk to give you at least a very good year – 1000 and seven scores being the absolute worse – and as always the potential for a great season.

08-02-08 Update: Steve Smith has been suspended for the first two games by the team and that shifts the rankings around slightly. Smith could be no less effective when he returns and may even be more motivated, but he just lost 13% of his games this year.

Huddle Rank: 9
Keeper: 11
Auction 10: 12%
Auction 12: 12%
2006 PIT 16 49 824 16.8 2 1 13  
2007 PIT 13 52 942 18.1 8 5 17  
Avg   15 51 883 17.5 5 3 15 0
Proj PIT   70 1200   9      

If year three is the breakout, better watch Santonio Holmes. In only his second season, Holmes turned 52 catches into 942 yards for a very healthy 18.1 yards per catch. He scored eight times and all that while only playing in 13 games due to a hamstring strain and later a high ankle sprain. So long as those injuries are not going to become commonplace for Holmes, he has nice upside this year as he enters his third season and with Hines Ward only getting older and more likely to be injured.

The Steelers have a tougher schedule in 2008 and that should force more passing which would benefit Holmes. With Hines Ward to attract the most attention, Holmes has a chance to turn in the standard big third year – if he can remain healthy this season.

Huddle Rank: 10
Keeper: 12
Auction 10: 12%
Auction 12: 10%
2005 STL 14 102 1331 13.0 9 1 2  
2006 STL 16 93 1188 12.8 10      
2007 STL 16 93 1189 12.8 7      
Avg   15 96 1236 12.9 9 0 1 0
Proj STL   90 1160   8      

Holt had surgery to repair the meniscus cartilage in his knee a year ago and was bothered by balky knees most of the 2007 season. That still didn’t stop him from almost exactly replicating his 2006 season. Both years had 93 catches and his 1189 yards was just one yard more than the previous season. He did fall from ten to seven scores last year but he played every game and remains one of the best fantasy wideouts.

But Holt turns 32 this year and peaked five years ago when he had 1696 yards on 117 catches. Since that season, he has declined in yardage and catches until repeating his 2006 effort. His yards per catch has been declining and the 12.8 YPC of the last two years are the lowest of his career. His knees are a yearly concern but he still has only missed two games in the last four seasons.

Holt remains a solid pick at wideout but his days as the top dog or even a top three player are likely over. The new offense installed by OC Al Saunders will not ignore him, but it will not feature him as have past offenses. He deserves to be drafted as a starting wideout of course, but he’ll be picked by someone in every league going by his name and past rather than his present. He’s a great one to be sure and not done, but he’s not the super star he once was.

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