Monday, October 12, 2009
Week 5 column: Sometimes, ‘tis better to receive
This could be remembered as the weekend when Austin Collie and Jeremy Maclin emerged as future elite wideouts. But Week 5 may also go down as a turning point in the 2009 season, when receivers served notice that they would be a dominating factor in fantasy title runs.
Not only were we treated to the season’s first two 200-plus-yard performances by wideouts (Miles Austin and Roddy White), but no fewer than ten receivers posted a pair of touchdowns each. That’s twice as many as last weekend’s previous season-high.
That’s a pretty dramatic turn of events, considering four fairly prolific offenses weren’t even playing this weekend.
Of course, few owners benefited from the exploits of Austin, Maclin and Collie, each of whom is a free agent in more than 90 percent of fantasy leagues. You can bet they’ll be flying off the shelves this week.
So what can we learn from this remarkable confluence of aerial fireworks?
For starters, never sit an elite wideout. Roddy White, Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and T.J. Houshmandzadeh all proved they have the ability to torch opposing secondaries at any given time. Getting cute by playing the matchups, or last week’s shooting star (Mohamed Massaquoi anyone?), is more often a prescription for disaster than a winning formula.
Second, when in doubt, it’s almost always better to start a complementary receiver playing with a gun-slinging quarterback than a lead receiver in a pass-challenged offense. You could be forgiven for starting Pierre Garcon over Collie. But those who cast their lot with Kenny Britt or Massaquoi got what they deserved: A painful reminder that all the talent in the world can be squandered when it’s paired with an erratic passer.
Last, injury reports matter. When a talented backup finally gets his opportunity to start for a high-octane offense, good things can happen. We saw it earlier this season when Mario Manningham took over for Domenick Hixon, and when Mike Sims-Walker replaced Troy Williamson. This week, Maclin and Austin filled-in for injured starters and made an emphatic case for hanging onto the job even when those players return.
Here’s more good news: If your receiving corps is shooting blanks, this is a great week to re-load.
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, you need to start with a good draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. After a week in which receivers dominated the fantasy headlines, let’s look at a few wideouts worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else’s lineup.
Catch ‘em while you can
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles. It was only a matter of time before Philly’s most electric new toy took over for the mediocre Kevin Curtis. After Maclin’s 142-yard, two-touchdown outing against the Bucs, the transition seems complete. The rookie won’t out-shine DeSean Jackson every week, but he obviously has earned the trust of the pass-happy Donovan McNabb. That’s good enough for me.
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys. Prior to the season, I thought Austin would claim a starting job opposite Roy Williams by opening day. A poor preseason derailed that notion. Williams’ rib injury opened the door again, and Austin exploded through with 10 receptions for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It helped that the Chiefs’ secondary can’t tackle, but don’t be surprised if Austin replaces Patrick Crayton in the starting lineup after the Cowboys’ Week 6 bye.
Austin Collie, WR, Colts. Last week’s highlight-reel scoring reception was clearly no aberration. Any receiver who catches eight passes for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns from Peyton Manning gains instant fantasy cred. Though the rookie may still swap turns in the spotlight with Garcon, Collie’s days as a free agent are behind him.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants. After notching his second TD reception in as many weeks, the rookie should be on your radar. More important, with Mario Manningham suffering a chest contusion on Sunday, Nicks’ prospects are even brighter. Though Manningham claimed to be fine following the game, he could miss some practice time, giving the first-round selection extra reps with the suddenly prolific Eli Manning.
Don’t be fooled
Laveranues Coles, WR, Bengals. He has scored just one touchdown in five games (a five-yarder), and his highest production came in Week 3 with five catches for 34 yards. He’s now Cincinnati’s fourth-best receiver, trailing not only Chad Ochocinco and Chris Henry, but Andre Caldwell, too. If you can’t trade Coles, waive him.
Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers. He got some attention with a 102-yard effort against the Bengals in Week 3. After scoring on the Lions Sunday, many will be tempted to pick up the first-year speedster. But while Wallace has supplanted Limas Sweed as the No. 3 wideout in Pittsburgh’s offense, he won’t get enough consistent looks to merit a roster spot. That said, should one of the starters go down, Wallace could easily become the next Maclin or Austin.
Dennis Northcutt, WR, Lions. Calvin Johnson’s owners should be very concerned about the knee injury that sidelined him during Sunday’s game. Not only is he one of the best wideouts in the game, but his absence can’t be filled by any of his backups. Though Northcutt had a solid outing this weekend, so did Bryant Johnson in Week 3. So what? Detroit’s passing game is worthless without Megatron.