This is the second part of our 2 part article on the wide receiver situations of all 32 teams as they head into camp.
Dallas, Roy Williams mid WR II, Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, Sam Hurd
Although Terrell Owens is a knucklehead he put up great fantasy statistics in Dallas, replacing his 1,029 yards and 10 scores from 2008 will be tough. Roy Williams never asserted himself after being obtained from the Lions but has shown flashes of fantasy stardom during his career, he had 82 receptions with 7 touchdowns in 2006. Williams should get close to 1000 yards and 7-9 scores in 2009, but keep in mind he has played an entire season just once in his 5 year career. Both Patrick Crayton who had 4 touchdowns last year and Miles Austin will be involved and should be drafted, Crayton is 43 on the board, Austin is 74, but if he proves he can stay healthy he could win the other starting position in camp and his value will be higher than Crayton’s, Austin has averaged 19.7 yards a reception his career.
Giants, Steve Smith, low WR III, Domenick Hixon, Hakeem Nicks, Sinorice Moss, Ramses Barden
Without Plaxico Burress, Eli Manning should throw around 20 touchdown passes in 2009. Their wide receivers are nothing special and lack down field speed. Smith 36 and Hixon 38 on the board combined for just three scores last year, Nicks and Barden will play some but rookie wide receivers rarely score well, Moss will start the year as the third receiver and give way by mid season to the rookies. Smith and Hixon should combine for 1600 yards and 8 touchdowns with Smith having a little more value especially in points per reception leagues.
Eagles, DeSean Jackson, mid WR II, Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant, Jeremy Maclin, Hank Baskett, Reggie Brown
This is the deepest group of wide receivers in football, because of that though no one receiver distinguishes himself from a fantasy perspective. Jackson is the most talented and should score the most points, on the high end expect 950 yards and 7-8 touchdowns. Curtis is projected to start but has had 2 hernia operations and could give way to Avant, 52 on the board, watch for this in camp. Maclin a rookie will produce a couple of touchdowns at some point this year and Baskett always has value near the goal line, but will not catch more than 40 passes. This is a true receiver by committee. After Jackson, all of them have limited value..
Washington, Santana Moss, low WR III, Antwaan Randle El, Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly
One of these seasons Moss will break out and be a top ten fantasy receiver. Quarterback Jason Campbell does hold him back but former Seahawk’s, Redskin head coach Jim Zorn and Redskin offensive coordinator Sherman Smith view Moss in the same light as their former Hall of Fame teammate Steve Largent. They need to take pressure off the running game and want to get the ball to Moss as much as possible, he has averaged 880 yards and 5 scores the past three years. Everything says that he should be around those statistics this year, but I use this term rarely “sleeper”, the statistics say low WR III, but 1100 yards and 8-10 touchdowns is possible. You can win with him as your second receiver in 2009 and wait to draft him. Randle El is a low backup at 68 on the board and disappears in most games but will start.
Chicago, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Rashied Davis
Throw out the passing statistics from last season, with Jay Cutler starting the value of the Bear wide receivers has increased but they will have to battle for receptions with the talented running back Matt Forte and TE Greg Olsen. Bennett is reunited with Cutler his Vanderbilt teammate and he and Hester should equally share fantasy points, Bennett is 39 and Hester is 40 on the board, they should combine for 1700 plus yards and 8-11 touchdowns.
Lions, Calvin Johnson, high WR I, Bryant Johnson, Dennis Northcutt, Derrick Williams
Calvin Johnson is a special player, he can overcome the glaring weakness at quarterback the Lions will have in 2009. You have to go back to the mid 1940’s to draw a comparison for Johnson’s situation. Hall of Famer Don Hutson, perhaps the greatest receiver of all time, never had a drop in statistics although he went through several quarterbacks in his 11 year career. He started with Hall of Famer Arnie Herber and enjoyed tremendous receiving statistics, he finished with below average Irv Comp behind center but Hutson’s dominance remained constant. Johnson is that type of player, he will get 1275 yards and 9-twelve touchdowns in 2009. Bryant Johnson 60 on the board has been disappointment his career, he will catch 30-40 passes and score 2-three touchdowns, with Ronald Curry being traded to the Rams, Dennis Northcutt will play in the slot and has some value around the goal line, but the Lions will not have many chances. Williams will get some throws but his value will increase next year when he competes for a starting position.
Green Bay, Greg Jennings, mid WR I. Donald Driver low WR II, Jordy Nelson, James Jones
Jennings had 10 games in 2008 in which he scored or had 100 yards receiving. He has twenty one touchdowns the past 2 seasons, 1250 plus yards and nine-11 touchdowns are projected for 2009. Driver has had 5 straight 1,000 yard seasons, he will again get close to that but second year player Jordy Nelson 67 on the board will gradually be worked in and start taking some receptions from the older veteran Driver. Jones makes plays when he gets the ball thrown his way, he is 73 on the board and makes for a decent low back up receiver.
Vikings, Bernard Berrian, mid WR II, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bobby Wade
Brett Favre’s presence obviously increases value here. Berrian, 16 on the board, is maturing and no longer is just a deep threat. He repeatedly improvised on routes in 2008 for Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte and got open. With or without Favre, Berrian should get 1,100 yards receiving and 7-nine scores. Rice, 54 on the board, has 8 touchdowns on just 46 career receptions, word is he will beat out Bobby Wade for the other starting spot. Harvin is the most intriguing, he will line up as both a receiver and running back, the fact that he is a rookie drops him to 83 on the board, but do not hesitate to use a late choice on him.
Falcons, Roddy White, low WR I, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, Brian Finneran
On the surface it appears that new TE Tony Gonzalez will take receptions, yards, and touchdowns from the wide receivers, but Matt Ryan will be throwing more in 2009 than he did as a rookie. There may be some lessening of their statistics but not by much. White who caught 88 passes in 2008 will be in the 70-80 catch range, with 1150 plus yards, and 8-ten touchdowns. Jenkins scored in just 2 of the fifteen games he played in 2008, he is 50 on the board and will begin the season as a starter but will lose receptions not because of Gonzalez but because Harry Douglas a second year player from Louisville with great speed will see more playing time. Keep him in mind with one of your last picks.
Panthers, Steve Smith mid WR I, Mushin Muhammad, Dwayne Jarrett
The Panthers are a run first team, so fantasy depth at wide receiver is lacking. Steve Smith 5 on the board, had a “down” season in 2008 but gained over 1400 yards, his six touchdowns made him a fantasy disappointment. Even with Jake Delhomme on the downside of his career, Smith will stay around the 1400 yard mark and should be near double digit touchdowns in 2009. Muhammad, seems to have been around forever and will start and is 48 on the board, he had over 900 receiving yards last year with 5 scores, you never get a big game from him but he is still a solid fantasy back up. Jarrett was drafted in the second round in 2007 and does not receive much playing time because he still has not been able to fully grasp the playbook, if he can, he moves into a starting position this year, if not he remains a third receiver on a run heavy team, he is 96 on the board.
New Orleans, Marquaes Colston, mid WR I, Lance Moore, high WR III, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson
Colston was limited to ten games in 2008 with a thumb injury, he is healed and should pair with Drew Brees to be one of the most productive fantasy passing combinations in 2009. He may drop on some boards because of the thumb, he is 7 on my board, 1200 plus yards and nine -11 scores are projected. Moore will not be a one year wonder, he gets open and produced both when Colston was and was not playing, he is 27 on the board although repeating double digit touchdowns will be tough. Meachem has not matured into the receiver the Saints thought he would although he will get chances in three wide receiver sets, he is 76 on the board. Henderson can get deep but drops a lot of passes and Brees does not have confidence in him, he is 79 on the board.
Buccaneers, Antonio Bryant mid WR III, Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall
Bryant had a career year in 2008 with Jeff Garcia behind center in 2008, 1,248 yards and 7 scores, including 4 scores the last 4 games of the year. With Byron Leftwich the likely starter at quarterback, Kellen Winslow coming over from Cleveland at TE and taking receptions, and the fact that new head coach Raheem Morris wants to pound the ball all adds to Bryant having a drop in fantasy statistics. Do not be swayed by last year, Bryant is no more than a WR III. Clayton, a disappointment his entire career, scored just once in 2008, because he will start, he is 59 on the board.
Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, high WR I, Anquan Boldin, low WR I, Steve Breaston , mid WR III, Early Doucet
Fitzgerald led the NFL in receiving yards and receptions for the second year in a row and scored twelve touchdowns. He had a touchdown or gained at least 100 yards receiving in twelve games. He is 1 on the board and worthy of being a late first round selection. Boldin, 9 on the board caught a career high 11 touchdowns all while missing 4 games, he should be at double digit touchdowns again in 2009. Breaston, 30 on the board, is the league’s best third receiver also had over 1000 receiving yards. While having three wide receivers go over 1000 yards 2 years in a row appears to be a daunting task, Kurt Warner and these receivers can accomplish it. Doucet would get substantial playing time if Fitzgerald, Boldin, or Breaston gets injured and is worth a late choice.
St. Louis, Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Ronald Curry, Laurent Robinson
New offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will try and take pressure off of faltering quarterback Marc Bulger and use running back Steven Jackson even more. This takes value away from the mostly unknown corps of Ram wide receivers that are left with the departure of Torry Holt. Avery the first wide receiver selected in the 2008 NFL draft shows promise and is 41 on the board, he has 4.3 speed and had 53 receptions last season with 674 yards and three scores. He should modestly improve on these statistics in 2009. Burton who has recovered from knee surgery should be the other starter and is 65 on the board. The Rams just traded for Ronald Curry and he could contend for Burton’s spot or at least be the third receiver. Robinson appears to be the odd man out, Avery will only get better with experience and could be top 25 receiver next season, but that all depends on the once fantasy elite play of Bulger.
San Francisco, Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, Michael Crabtree, Arnaz Battle, Brandon Jones
Bruce returns for his 16th season, he led the team in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns in 2008 and moved into second place on the NFL’s all time receiving yards list. He runs along with Torry Holt the most precise routes in the game today. He missed just one game last year and remains in great shape, he is 49 on the board. Most publications have Crabtree as the top San Francisco fantasy wide receiver for 2009, you have to respect his college statistics but I feel his learning curve will hold him back. Morgan, who averaged 16 yards a reception in 2008 will be the other starter along with Bruce opening day, Crabtree will get thrown to, but Morgan has a little more value this year, Morgan is 53 on the board, Crabtree 57. Veteran Arnaz Battle and former Titan Brandon Jones have little or no fantasy value.
Seattle, TJ Houshmandzadeh, high WR II, Deion Branch, low WR III, Nate Burleson
The Seahawks threw for just eighteen touchdowns in 2008, Matt Hasselbeck had just 5 and the wide receivers were decimated by injuries. They will bounce back in 2009. Houshmandzadeh will be the catalyst, he has averaged over 1000 yards and 7 scores the last three seasons, playing somewhat in Chad Johnson’s shadow in Cincinnati, then last year he had Ryan Fitzpatrick as his quarterback. He should be around 1150 yards and 7- nine touchdowns. Branch, 32 on the board, because of his size does not score much but if healthy will catch 50-70 passes and get close to 800 yards, he can get to 5 touchdowns in 2009. Burleson is 82 on the board, he is that low because he is coming back from an ACL injury, but makes for one of the better third receivers in the NFL. TE John Carlson will steal some fantasy points from them but based purely on statistics the Seahawks will be the most improved passing team in the NFL.