Must Start: The Top 15
1. Chad Johnson @ KC—Where
you at, 85? Oh, there you are: right on top where you belong.
Gold mohawk? Check. Gold toofuses? Check. Gold standard at the
receiver position? Checkmate! Expect triple digits, a score, and
reams of quotable CJ at Arrowhead this Sunday.
2. Steve Smith v. ATL—In
a late-breaking development, Smith appears to have “tweaked”
his other hamstring (the good one), making him questionable for
this Sunday’s tilt with the Dirty Birds. Not exactly the
start you were hoping for when you made him the first receiver
taken, huh? Don’t sweat it for the long haul but make sure
he’s playing before giving him the nod in Week 1.
3. Anquan Boldin v. SF—Most
pundits have teammate Larry Fitzgerald ahead of Mr. Boldin but
(surprise, surprise) the Shot Caller doesn’t see it that
way. This guy’s done it longer, has done it by himself at
times (his rookie season), and is slightly more predictable than
his equally talented cohort. In fact, Boldin didn’t catch
fewer than eight balls in the last seven games of ’05. Pretty
consistent, folks. Call him steak to…
4. Larry Fitzgerald v. SF—…Larry
Fitzgerald’s lobster. These two put up remarkably similar
numbers in ’05 and there’s no reason to think there’ll
be any slacking off in ’06…unless Edge demands more
attention than we’ve been led to believe. Expect something
in the neighborhood of 1300-1400 yards for them both and 24 combined
5. Marvin Harrison @ NYG—If
Boldin and Fitzgerald are steak & lobster, Marvin and running
mate Reggie Wayne are steak & lobster…at Appleby’s.
Don’t get me wrong. Appleby’s is a decent enough joint.
In fact, next time you’re there, try the fajitas. Muy bueno,
6. Terrell Owens @ JAX—“Bring
the popcorn,” he urges us, “’cuz it’s
gonna be a show.” Um, T.O.? When did it ever STOP being
a show? You win, man. You get more press than God. Now, if you
could just earn all that attention by not detonating an already
combustible mix of egos in Big D.
7. Torry Holt v. DEN—He’s
everything T.O. isn’t (consistent and quiet, primarily),
having posted 1300+ yards in every one of the last six seasons.
I’ve already indicated I think the Rams will run more this
season but that shouldn’t dent Torry’s production
too much. Anticipate something real close to 1300 yards and 8
to 10 scores in ’06.
8. Chris Chambers @ PIT—The
expectations are stratospheric for Chambers and new battery mate
Daunte Culpepper in South Florida this year. Not hard to see why
after the former Badger torched opposing secondaries in the second
half of ’05. Still not crazy about the #2 and #3 options
in Miami but that didn’t stop Steve Smith in Carolina. Get
him in there.
9. Randy Moss v. SD—He
was plugging along under the radar until (whammo!) he scored twice
in Week 3 of the preseason. Perfect timing for those looking for
an excuse (any excuse) to move him up the receiver food chain.
If Aaron Brooks is truly reformed and if Moss can stay healthy
and if the Raiduhs can find a consistent second target (you listening,
Mr. Porter?)…. Yeah, lotta ifs. Still supremely talented,
10. Reggie Wayne @ NYG—I
told you he wouldn’t return to Indy this season but the
Colts decided to jettison Edge instead of Marvin’s eminently
gifted running mate. Wise move? I’m not so sure. Definitely
a boon for Wayne’s owners, though, as he could have ended
up the #1 guy in a third-rate passing offense. Ask Lav Coles if
that does much for a guy’s fantasy value.
11. Plaxico Burress v. IND—The
Manning Bowl should be everything it’s cracked up to be
which means you want to start as many Giants and Colts as you’re
able to. That includes this guy, the chronically ill-tempered
wideout who Kid Bro will be leaning upon heavily in ’06.
Luckily for Manning Jr., Burress seems to be a gamer. Plus, there’s
always Jeremy Shockey if things go sideways.
12. Antonio Gates @ OAK—A
tight end in name only, Gates is the centerpiece of San Diego’s
aerial attack. How much that attack will be affected by the departure
of Drew Brees and the insertion of Phillip Rivers is anybody’s
guess. Mine? He goes for 1100-1200 yards and ten scores, just
like last year. Beware this Monday, though, as his career numbers
against Oakland are less than stellar (just under 50 yards/contest).
13. Hines Ward v. MIA—He
looked iffy coming out of the weekend but he practiced Monday
and looks like a definite go for Thursday night’s season
opener. You gotta think the loss of Roethlisberger will hurt Ward’s
value some but he’s one of those guys you should NEVER underestimate.
80-100 yards and a score seems possible, even with Charlie Batch
14. T.J. Houshmandzadeh @ KC—For
the first time in a long time, a fellow league mate beat me to
the punch on T.J. Whosyourmama. If I told you I’m over it,
I’d be lying. He’s a stellar #2 option and a ridiculous
#3 guy. Doubt you got him to fill that particular role, however,
unless you went WR-WR-WR with your first three picks. Guess the
secret’s out, huh?
15. Rod Smith @ STL—The
Broncos added deep threat Javon Walker in the offseason to serve
as a more reliable complement to the ageless Smith. Although some
folks assume the latter’s numbers will decline because of
that move, I’m not one of them. In fact, I think the extra
attention paid to Walker will make Smith even more lethal than
he usually is. Think Jimmy Smith’s numbers in ’05
if you need a reference point.
Grab a Helmet
Donald Driver v. CHI—There’s
not much to gush about in Green Bay this season but one guy who’s
definitely worth your attention is Driver. He’s caught 84
and 86 balls the past two seasons, respectively, and is still
the Ol’ Gunslinger’s favorite target, though rook
Greg Jennings has looked like a potential draft-day steal thus
far. Plug Don in as your #2 or #3 this weekend and hope the Pack
is able to muster something (anything) against Chicago’s
Joe Horn @ CLE—Horn is
coming off one of his most disappointing seasons and is definitely
on the downside of a stellar career. Nevertheless, he still possesses
the ability to get open and with the ultra-dangerous Mr. Bush
in the fold, it’s hard not to see him getting less attention
from opposing defenses and, consequently, more room to roam. Call
him a strong #3 and a good #2.
Braylon Edwards v. NO—Here’s
a guy I’m absolutely giddy about this year. Sure, his QB
could be better but the talent on offense is much improved (Winslow
and Jurevicius) and he was really starting to come on before going
down with the knee injury (86 yards and two scores in his last
tilt). Be patient with him but don’t be afraid to plug him
in as your #3. By year’s end, he could be a solid #2.
Donte Stallworth @ HOU—Will
the change of scenery help Stallworth fulfill his immense potential?
It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s now paired with
a more reliable signal-caller. Not to mention, he was surprisingly
decent last year (945 yards and seven scores as the Saints’
#2). Start him against Houston’s work-in-progress secondary
Roy Williams v. SEA—Michiganders
can’t wait to see how this guy performs in Mike Martz’s
pass-happy attack. Too bad the coach didn’t bring along
Mark Bulger, Torry Holt, and Steven Jackson, huh? Oh, well. At
least Williams isn’t competing with anyone for touches in
the passing game. Don’t expect miracles. Steady production
would be a more attainable goal.
Grab Some Wood
Santana Moss v. MIN—Perhaps
it’s the contrarian in me but I simply don’t see the
other Moss duplicating his surprise ’05 campaign this season.
For starters, Mark Brunell is still his quarterback. There’s
also the little problem of Clinton Portis’ availability…or
lack thereof, as the case may be. Make him prove it to you all
over again. I promise I’ll eat crow if he gets the job done.
Joey Galloway v. BAL—Here’s
another guy I’ve soured upon since last season. I don’t
really have a good reason for being so bullish on him but it probably
has something to do with the re-emergence of Michael Clayton.
Yes, I’m predicting that, too. Use him only as your #3 against
the tough Ravens D in Week 1.
Laveranues Coles @ TEN—Two
words: Chad Pennington.
Antonio Bryant @ ARI—Two
more: Alex Smith.