No position in fantasy football is tougher to predict than the receiver slot.

More than any other spot, wideouts are hot today, gone tomorrow (see: Price, Peerless). For that reason, the big guns – players who put up huge numbers game after game, year after year – are precious and few. So while lemming owners are reaching for injury-prone running backs in the second round, you can blaze a trail and get a game-breaking receiver. Also, you can start referring to yourself as 'Maverick.' Not a bad deal.


Miss out on Moss, Owens and the like, however, and you'll be piecing together a receiving corps that's the football equivalent of a junkyard band. This has its merits – at this time last year, you could have plucked Reggie Wayne or Drew Bennett off the waiver wire and been the envy of the league come November – but generally results in Sunday afternoons of anguish, wondering why the Broncos "won't throw Rod Smith the damn ball." Been there. It's not pretty.

To avoid that humbling scenario – and to lend credibility to your catchy new nickname ('The Loner'?) – use the following rankings as a guideline and don't wait too long to jump into the wideout fray. Your blood pressure depends on it.


The best:

1. Randy Moss. Raiders – His Freakness heads west to Oakland, where he'll catch passes from Kerry Collins rather than Daunte Culpepper. His production might suffer slightly, but not enough to knock him off his perch atop the WR rankings. Moss, who's averaged a TD every 5.3 catches over the past two season, should find more smooth sailing by the Bay. Also, if he misses playing in front of Packers' fans, he can always take has antics to nearby Half Moon Bay.

2. Torry Holt, Rams – A nod to quiet consistency, Holt provides a refreshing contrast to his flashy top-four counterparts. Pick Holt for all the benefits of a top-tier receiver – last season, he caught 10 TD passes and became the first receiver in NFL history with five consecutive 1,300-yard seasons – minus the end zone shenanigans.

3. Terrell Owens, Eagles – If you can stomach the contract griping, occasional pouting, persecution complex, need for attention and outlandish scripted celebrations, T.O. is a pretty good receiver. His size, speed and strength make him nearly unstoppable at times, as evidenced by his three-year averages (1,201 yards, 12 TDs). Rocky relationship with Eagles and Donovan McNabb make Owens a risky pick, but one that could pay huge dividends.

4. Chad Johnson, Bengals – Look no further than the second half of 2004 to see what Johnson and an improving Carson Palmer are capable of together – seven TDs over the Bengals last seven games. Johnson has all the makings of an elite receiver but has never put up huge touchdown numbers – his career high is 10 in 2003. That changes this year.

5. Marvin Harrison, Colts – Harrison shared the spotlight with teammates Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley in the Colts prolific passing game last year, and his yardage (1,113) and receptions (86) were his lowest since 1998. But he still led Indy with 15 TD catches reached the 10-TD mark for the sixth season in a row. His numbers could continue to slip, but even an aging Harrison is better than most.

6. Javon Walker, Packers – Walker took a giant leap forward in his third season, catching 12 TD passes and more than doubling his previous career high with 89 receptions. He has elite ability and a QB who will get him the ball. Walker's brief holdout and a couple of nagging preseason injuries (hamstring, finger) could add up to a slow start, but he shouldn't last past the third round in any 12-team draft.

7. Reggie Wayne, Colts – The next great Colts receiver, this could be the year Wayne outperforms Harrison. He had a couple of poor outings a year ago but scored in 10 contests (12 TDs overall) while leading the team in receiving yards (1,210). Even if Peyton Manning's numbers dip slightly, Wayne's won't.

8. Joe Horn, Saints – A model of consistency, Cell Phone Joe posted career highs in yards (1,399) and touchdowns (11) last season. Nine seasons of NFL wear and tear haven't taken much of toll on Horn's performance, but you have to wonder if the Saints' hurricane-related homelessness will.

9. Nate Burleson, Vikings – Too much hype? Perhaps. But someone has to step up with Randy Moss gone, and who better than Burleson, who had 8 TD catches over the Vikings' final 10 games last season and 4 receiving TDs in the five games Moss missed? Count on a double-digit TD total.

10. Andre Johnson, Texans – Johnson has the total package – size, speed and superb hands – but doesn't get into the end zone enough to be mentioned among the game's top receivers. That will change in 2005 as the Texans' offense continues to improve and Johnson enjoys a breakout season.

The rest:


11. Darrell Jackson, Seahawks

12. Michael Clayton, Buccaneers

13. Hines Ward, Steelers

14. Steve Smith, Panthers

15. Laveranues Coles, Jets

16. Roy Williams, Lions

17. Donald Driver, Packers

18. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

19. Jerry Porter, Raiders

20. Drew Bennett, Titans

21. Isaac Bruce, Rams

22. Chris Chambers, Dolphins

23. Jimmy Smith, Jaguars

24. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals

25. Derrick Mason, Ravens

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