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With receivers, risk can be rewarding
By John Dietz | Daily Herald Columnist

Patriots receiver Randy Moss is still high on many Fantasy Football draft lists this season.

 

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Published: 8/25/2010 8:28 PM

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Change, it has been said, is good.

A fresh start can often revitalize, reinvigorate and reignite our senses and abilities.

But I'm wondering if the same can be said when it comes to how some big-time fantasy football wide receivers will perform in 2010.

On one hand, I am excited to see how the young, up-and-coming players perform; on the other, I can build a crash-and-burn case for anyone after No. 8 on my WR list.

• Will the Eagles' DeSean Jackson click with Kevin Kolb?

• Can Chad Henne take ad- vantage of Brandon Marshall?

• Will Anquan Boldin actually stay healthy all year?

• Just how badly will Larry Fitzgerald be hurt by having Matt Leinart at quarterback?

• Will Chad Ochocinco's numbers suffer because Terrell Owens is his teammate?

• Is Wes Welker a walking time bomb?

See what I mean? Any of those guys could be a 1,200-yard, 9-TD guy - or they could fall into Santana Moss territory (900 yards, 3 TDs last year).

But go lower on the list and things get exciting.

So my advice this year is simple: Make sure to grab two of the top 21 on my list ... then have fun and take some chances. Grab a Derrick Mason, Santana Moss, Donald Driver, Chris Chambers, Lee Evans or T.J. Houshmandzadeh if you must.

But those are the boring, semi-safe picks.

If you want to spice things up, I would write down 8-12 potential breakout names, and try to acquire three of them. If some go by the wayside, so be it because you only need one to break out in a league that starts three WRs.

So, whom should you target? Thought you'd never ask.

Here's my list of 12 with my overall ranking first, then rankings by two prominent websites in parentheses. The reason for this is to show you what your opponents (the ones who don't read this paper, anyway) are looking at, and to make sure you're not grabbing Robert Meacham in the fourth round when you could get him in the seventh, eighth or ninth.

• At No. 18, the Saints' Meacham (38th, 32nd). Seven of his 9 TDs and 37 of his 45 catches came in New Orleans' last nine games last season. It's true that Drew Brees spreads the ball around an awful lot, but Meacham's ranking on other sites boggles the mind. Grab him in the middle of your draft and it's likely you have just secured a sweet WR3.

• At No. 27, the Bears' Devin Aromashodu (50th, 45th). Look, Jay Cutler loves this guy. Period. You don't end up with games of 8 catches for 76 yards and 7 catches for 150, as Aromashodu did at the end of last season, by accident. And even though it's preseason, Aromashodu had a 4-catch, 78-yard, 1-TD game in limited action at San Diego. Johnny Knox is higher on other boards, but it's Aromashodu who will be the team's top fantasy receiver.

• At No. 29, the Lions' Nate Burleson (51st, 49th). I'm obviously out on a limb with Burleson, but I believe in him. He's a perfect late-round flier because as a guy who has caught 9 TDs in a season twice before, you know the potential for a huge season is there.

• At No. 30, the Steelers' Mike Wallace (26th, 27th). With Ben Roethlisberger suspended, Wallace will struggle for the first month. But after that, it's bombs away.

• At No. 32, the Chargers' Malcolm Floyd (33rd, 57th). If Vincent Jackson sits out all year or is traded, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Floyd will deliver. He had 776 yards last season, and with Philip Rivers at QB, Floyd would be a great bet for 1,000-plus yards.

• At No. 34, the Cowboys' Dez Bryant (36th, 35th). He's a bit banged up, but by Week 4 or 5, this rookie should be burning many opposing secondaries.

• At No. 37, the Giants' Mario Manningham (57th, 56th). He's the third receiver for New York, but Eli Manning will throw enough that Manningham will have big games.

• At No. 42, the Texans' Jacoby Jones (NR, 63rd). Teammate Kevin Walter is a stiff. Jones is the real deal. Given a chance on an offense that makes pinball machines everywhere proud, Jones could post monster numbers.

• At No. 45, the Broncos' Jabar Gaffney (56th, 77th). Brandon Marshall's in Miami, and Gaffney (732 yards is his career high) may be on his way to his first 1,000-yard season.

• At No. 56, the Saints' Lance Moore (83rd, 68th). A big disappointment last year, he is a year removed from a 79-catch, 928-yard, 10-TD campaign.

• At No. 57, the Chargers' Legedu Naanee (72nd, 72nd). Like Malcolm Floyd, Naanee's value is tied to what happens with Vincent Jackson. If Jackson doesn't play for San Diego, keep an eye on Naanee.

• At No. 58, the Falcons' Harry Douglas (85th, 113th). If you are in a deep league, consider him for your bench.

A terrific trio

My all-underappreciated wideouts are the Packers' Greg Jennings, the Falcons' Roddy White and the Bengals' Terrell Owens. Putting all three on one fantasy team would produce a sensational group.

Jennings and White may not need an explanation, but it seems Owens (a ridiculous 43rd on ESPN's site) does.

Let me refresh everyone's memory with one name: Randy Moss. After struggling in Oakland (3 TDs in 2006), he went to New England the next year, and with a certain someone named Tom Brady throwing him the football, Moss set an NFL record with 23 TDs.

Owens will not come anywhere near that, but let's not forget he was in another NFL abyss - Buffalo - last season with no QB. He'll bounce back nicely this year and has a chance to be a top-15 WR.

Tight ends

It's a deep group this season, so there's no reason to burn an early pick on Antonio Gates or Vernon Davis if you don't have to.

My value pick this season is the Packers' Jermichael Finley. He's a superstar on one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league. Ten TDs and 900 yards is not out of the question.

• Friday: quarterbacks • Saturday: running backs