WR rankings

So while Sheil's been doing yeoman's work on these football rankings, I've been off in baseball la-la land. Finally, he gave me an ultimatum: It's August; get with the program. You start chipping in, buddy, or you're off the blog. Only he didn't use such nice words.

So this is me chipping in with my preseason rankings for wide receivers. Lots of good players here, but no one worthy of a first-round pick. I mean that. Guys are all the time telling me how they're thinking about taking T.O. late in the first round. Are you crazy? Do you remember last year, how he, like, stopped playing? Unless you were in a league that gave bonus points for situps and shady agents, you were out of luck.


Stick with running backs early, is what I'm saying, and wait until late in Round 2 or Round 3 to grab a pass-catcher. Any of the top 6 will do, and No. 7 (Randy Moss) is no slouch. That's my expert advice. And if you want to see how the experts pick 'em, throw your hat into the ring for the baltimoresun.com fantasy football league by emailing Sheil at skapadia@baltimoresun.com. Just don't tick him off - you wouldn't like him when he's angry.

1. Chad Johnson, Bengals
Good news: Always first in flamboyance, and now first in the fantasy receiver rankings. Few wideouts have been as dependable as Johnson, one of only three wideouts with nine or more touchdowns in each of the past three seasons (Torry Holt and Marvin Harrison are the others). In a crowded class, he's as good a pick as any. I predict big things.


Bad news: Johnson's quarterback, Carson Palmer, is attempting to come back from a major knee injury. Early indications are good, but any setbacks for Palmer – with all due respect to Anthony Wright – would send Johnson tumbling out of the top 10.

2. Steve Smith, Panthers
Good news: There was no stopping Smith in 2005 – he became the first receiver to lead the NFL in catches (103), yards (1,563) and TDs (12) since Sterling Sharpe in 1992. There's no reason to think he can't do it again. If anything, the addition of Keyshawn Johnson, a proven possession receiver, could make the explosive Smith more dangerous.

Bad news: After such a ridiculous season, he's destined to come back to the pack. Right? Of Smith's 12 touchdown catches a year ago, only three came in Carolina's final seven regular-season games. Maybe defenses caught on, even if they couldn't catch up once he had the ball. He's likely to put up numbers more in line with his 2003 output – 88 catches, 1,110 yards, 7 TDs. Not too shabby, but not top-of-the-list caliber.

3. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Good news: Fitzgerald blossomed in his second season, sharing the league lead with 103 receptions and adding 10 touchdowns. He won't wow you with his speed, but his size (6-3, 224) makes him a formidable red-zone option. The arrival of Edgerrin James in Arizona should keep defenses honest, allowing Fitzgerald to take another step forward.

Bad news: The addition of James should make the NFL's top passing offense of a year ago more balanced in 2006. That could mean fewer balls thrown Fitzgerald's way and a slight regression from his 2005 line. He'll have to share the spotlight with Anquan Boldin, but sharing can be fun. Tell the kids.

4. Terrell Owens, Cowboys
Good news: When T.O.'s on, he's nearly unstoppable. Despite playing in only seven games a year ago, he's got into the end zone six times and averaged a ridiculous 109 receiving yards per outing. And Owens loves honeymoons – he scored 14 TDs in his first season in Philly in 2004. A change of scenery should do him some good.

Bad news: An unhappy Owens can make for a miserable fantasy season, and after last season's famous flameout, it's buyer beware. Owens is in tremendous physical condition, but at 32, he's not capable of what he once was – his hammy is already an issue in training camp. Mostly, though, he's just a jerk, the kind of guy I wouldn't take in the fifth round on principle, much less risk picking in Round 2. Never owned him, never will.

5. Marvin Harrison, Colts
Good news: Sure, he's lost something, but when you catch 143 passes in a season, that's bound to happen. Even with his best years behind him, Harrison still has a few good seasons left in him, and as the featured receiver in the NFL's best passing offense, he's going to put up some pleasing numbers. Peyton Manning loves this guy.

Bad news: At 34, Harrison is nearing the end, and it could come without warning. If Harrison does show signs of slowing, the Colts have plenty of other weapons they can turn to on offense. But his track record speaks for itself. Pencil him in for 10-12 TDs.

6. Torry Holt, Rams
Good news: There's something to be said for consistency, and Holt is about as consistent as they come. He leads all receivers in receptions and yards over the past three seasons and has scored at least nine TDs three years running. Despite all that, he usually comes as a relative bargain on draft day because he doesn't have the flash of some of the other guys in the top 10. I'm OK with that.

Bad news: Without Mike Martz, the Rams could turn to a more balanced offense, cutting into Holt's touches. Plus, he'll have to adjust to a new offensive system under Scott Linehan. Still, Linehan didn't have any trouble getting the ball to Randy Moss in his days as Minnesota's offensive coordinator. I don't imagine he'll short-change Holt, either.

7. Randy Moss, Raiders
Good news: Speaking of the freakish one, he's as gifted as they come and has the game to top this list. Just throw it up and let him go get it. Despite playing hurt for the second half of 2005, Moss eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and scored 8 TDs. If he's healthy, bombs away.


Bad news: Injuries have kept Moss in check in each of the past two seasons, and you have to wonder about his durability. You also have to wonder if the Raiders know how to use him properly – they struggled to get him the ball at times last season, and Aaron Brooks probably isn't the solution.

8. Chris Chambers, Dolphins
Good news: The Dolphins' passing attack has been downright laughable at times over the past two seasons, but Chambers has been a real bright spot. He's caught 29 touchdowns over the past three seasons, including 11 in 2005, accounting for half of Miami's scores through the air. With Daunte Culpepper in town, Chambers is ready to make the jump to elite status.

Bad news: Culpepper's health is a question mark, and Joey Harrington is likely next in line, a scary thought for anyone counting on Chambers to be their No. 1 receiver. Also, Chambers was a favorite of Linehan, who moved on to St. Louis. It's possible new offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey will use him differently.


9. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals
Good news: Boldin bounced back from a knee injury and topped 100 yards in eight of 14 games a year ago, second only to Smith's nine 100-yard efforts. It helps that the pass-happy Cardinals look his way often – Boldin's 7.3 catches per game were tied for tops in the league.


Bad news: Because he plays alongside a big red-zone target in Fitzgerald, Boldin doesn't score enough to satisfy some finicky fantasy owners. He also has a history of knee problems. And then there's the aforementioned Edgerrin James factor.

10. Hines Ward, Steelers
Good news: Ward's yardage doesn't always stack up, but – as Ravens' fans well know – he has a knack for getting in the end zone. He has 10 or more touchdowns in three of the past four seasons and will be counted on more than ever this season, particularly with Cedrick Wilson penciled in as the No. 2 receiver.

Bad news: The Steelers love to run the ball – they've ranked last in the NFL in pass attempts two years in a row. But the development of Ben Roethlisberger, coupled with the retirement of battering ram runner Jerome Bettis, should work in Ward's favor.

The best of the rest:

11. Santana Moss, Redskins
12. Plaxico Burress, Giants
13. Darrell Jackson, Seahawks
14. Reggie Wayne, Colts
15. Javon Walker, Broncos
16. Roy Williams, Lions
17. Donald Driver, Packers
18. Deion Branch, Patriots
19. Andre Johnson, Texans
20. Derrick Mason, Ravens
21. Joey Galloway, Buccaneers
22. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals
23. Lee Evans, Bills
24. Reggie Brown, Eagles
25. Drew Bennett, Titans
26. Matt Jones, Jaguars
27. Joe Horn, Saints
28. Rod Smith, Broncos
29. Keyshawn Johnson, Panthers
30. Keenan McCardell, Chargers
31. Muhsin Muhammad, Bears
32. Eddie Kennison, Chiefs
33. Roddy White, Falcons
34. Laveranues Coles, Jets
35. Donte' Stallworth, Saints
36. Jerry Porter, Raiders
37. Brandon Lloyd, Redskins
38. Koren Robinson, Vikings
39. Antonio Bryant, 49ers
40. Terry Glenn, Cowboys

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