Yesterday, we went back through our preseason top-35 wide receiver rankings to determine whether fantasy owners should applaud these backs or consider them frauds going forward. You can read that post here.
In this post, we’re going to look at receivers outside of the preseason top-35 and determine whether we should applaud these receivers or consider their numbers fraudulent. Read the individual reports to see whether the verdicts mean you should start a player, hold him on your bench, pick him up, or drop him. We’ve listed these players alphabetically.
Miles Austin, Cowboys – Austin’s season numbers – 331 yards and three touchdowns – look great until you realize that all but 81 yards came in last week’s monster game vs. the Chiefs. So where does this leave Austin going forward? He’s probably the Cowboys’ second-best fantasy receiver behind Roy Williams, and it’s at least conceivable that Austin could actually surpass Williams this year. He’s a bit of a gamble as a fantasy starter on any given week, but now that we’ve seen that the gamble can pay off big, Austin is worth owning and maybe even starting for your fantasy team. Verdict: Applaud
Kenny Britt, Titans – Britt, a first-round draft pick out of Rutgers, has been a bigger part of the Titans’ offense this season than many expected, averaging 56 yards per game. Maybe that’s because the Titans have been down so often and therefore throwing more than usual, but Britt has gotten a lot of looks. However, he hasn’t gotten into the end zone, and given the presence of Justin Gage and Nate Washington, Britt isn’t worth a roster spot in leagues with 10 teams or less. He’s a prospect, but he’s not ready to contribute for fantasy teams yet. Wait ’til next year. Verdict: A fraud
Nate Burleson, Seahawks – While T.J. Houshmandzadeh got most of the buzz as a Seahawks receiver, many fantasy owners forgot about Burleson, who was hurt much of the ’08 season after a surprisingly good ’07 campaign (9 touchdowns). But Burleson is off to a big start, averaging 68 yards per game and scoring three touchdowns thus far. He’s become a borderline fantasy starter, rewarding owners who picked him up in September. Verdict: Applaud
Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, Colts – When Anthony Gonzalez went out in Week One, the Colts turned to Collie, a rookie, and Garcon, a first-year player, to fill in. Collie took over Gonzalez’ slot responsibilities, while Garcon plays on the outside. Both have delivered nice numbers for fantasy owners who grabbed them off the waiver wire. Collie has 228 receiving yards and three touchdowns, including two on Monday night vs. the Jets. Garcon has 233 yards from scrimmage and two TDs of his own. Gonzalez could be back after the Colts’ bye this weekend, and that leaves fantasy owners with a dilemma of what to do with these players. Here’s the answer: Keep Collie and cut Garcon. Gonzalez will play mostly on the outside, which will force Garcon to the bench except in 4-WR sets. Meanwhile, Collie’s slot responsbilities can happen with Gonzalez also on the field. That makes Collie a No. 4 or 5 fantasy wideout and Garcon more of a No. 6 fantasy wideout, which will be beyond a roster spot in all but the largest leagues. Both Collie and Garcon deserve applause for what they’ve done the last month, but going forward the verdicts are clear: Verdict: Applaud Collie, Garcon A fraud
Percy Harvin, Vikings – Harvin got some hype before the season as a trendy sleeper because of his speed and explosiveness, but we were skeptical because rookie receivers so often struggle. But Harvin has produced with 261 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns (including a return) thus far. The best sign for fantasy owners may be that Harvin’s receiving touchdowns have been red-zone touches, which shows that he’s legitimately part of the offense and not just a trick-play specialist. Harvin is a No. 3 fantasy receiver who should start against most matchups going forward. He’ll end up being the Vikings’ best receiver in fantasy circles. Verdict: Applaud
Johnny Knox, Bears – The Bears’ receiving corps was incredibly unproven coming into the season, which left room for someone to emerge. And the biggest emergee has been Knox, a rookie out of Abeline Christian who was thought to be little more than a return specialist coming into the year. But Knox has 190 receiving yards and two touchdowns, in addition to a return TD in Week 4. Knox has scored three straight weeks, and he’s had two games with at least 5 catches, which shows that he really can be a receiver and not just a deep-ball threat. Knox’s production will probably be more up and down going forward than it has been, but he’s definitely worth having on your roster because of his ability to get in the end zone. For a guy who was a fantasy nobody before the season, that’s reason for applause. Verdict: Applaud
Mario Manningham, Giants – Manningham was a supersleeper before the season who has blow up this year with 71 yards per game and three touchdowns. He’s the big-play complement to Steve Smith’s solid presence for the Giants, and his huge game against the Cowboys in Week 2 (10 plays, 150 yards, 1 TD) shows his upside. Manningham will be a bit more hit or miss than Smith, but in a good matchup he becomes a quality fantasy starter. That’s a huge gain for a former waiver claim. Verdict: Applaud
Sidney Rice, Vikings – After a slow start to the season, Rice has really come on the past three weeks, recording at least 56 receiving yards in each game and scoring in two of three games. He’s beginning to establish himself as a presence in the offense as big as Bernard Berrian or Percy Harvin. That troike of wide recievers gives the Vikings options, and it also allows fantasy owners to have three different players who are No. 4 caliber receivers who can start when they have a good matchup. That’s solid enough value for us to clap for Rice. Verdict: Applaud
Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars – Sims-Walker has stepped into the void caused by upheaval in the Jags’ receiving corps to become their No. 1 receiver, at least from a fantasy perspective. Before a missed bed check caused him to be suspended in Week 5, Sims-Walker had three straight games with at least six catches and at least 81 yards, and he scored three TDs over that span. In fact, though he didn’t catch a pass in Week One when he was slowed by injury, Sims-Walker is still averaging 69.5 yards per game played. He’s a starting-caliber fantasy receiver as long as he hits curfew from here on out. Verdict: Applaud
Steve Smith, Giants – It’s hard to believe, but Smith is one of the best fantasy receivers thus far this season. He leads the league with 481 receiving yards and is tied for the league lead with four touchdowns. While it’s unlikely that Smith can stay at the tip-top of the receiver pantheon, it’s more than reasonable to project him as a sure-fire fantasy starter on an every-week basis. Verdict: Applaud
Mike Wallace, Steelers – While Limas Sweed was projected as the sleeper receiver who could emerge in Pittsburgh this season, it’s been the rookie Wallace instead who has stepped into Nate Washington’s role. Wallace has already had a 100-yard game in Week 3, and he scored his first career touchdown last week vs. Detroit. He’s averaging 49 yards per game and projects to around 50 catches for 700 yards on the season, which makes him a good bench player in larger fantasy leagues. For a rookie whom no one really knew about coming into the season, that’s worthy of applause. Verdict: Applaud
Nate Washington, Titans – Wallace has taken Washington’s old role in Pittsburgh, while Washington has moved onto Tennessee where he is one of the top threats. His numbers have been a little up and down, in part due to an early hamstring injury that slowed him in the first week of the season, but he has now scored in three different weeks. He’s averaging less than 40 yards per game, but his TD proclivity makes him a No. 4 fantasy wideout. That’s what we expected when we projected Washington just outside the top-35 fantasy receivers entering the season. So we’ll applaud for a solid if unspectacular player. Verdict: Applaud