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Week 4 lineup calls: Wide receivers
I've received many wide receiver questions about Miles Austin following his low output against the Texans.
In some cases, owners are looking to divest themselves of the No. 1 wide receiver that they snagged in the first three rounds to secure another tailback or shore up a shaky (read: Brett Favre) quarterback slot.
Other owners have simply tired of their “headache” players. That is to say, they’re looking for some nice, steady and consistent performers. No, I do not write a relationship column.
I’m reaching deep to find some hidden gems.
Top 10 Wide Receivers
(other than Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Marques Colston, Randy Moss, DeSean Jackson, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Greg Jennings and Wes Welker)
Malcom Floyd vs. Arizona
Floyd has stepped into the No. 1 slot for the Chargers while Vincent Jackson remains entrenched in his holdout. He’s caught three or more passes in each of the Chargers’ first three games, and topped 90 receiving yards with a touchdown in back-to-back weeks.
The Cardinals’ pass defense currently ranks 19th (231.3 yards per game and five touchdowns allowed). This offense lives and dies with the passing game, and you can bank on Philip Rivers coming out firing following a disappointing loss in Seattle.
Santana Moss at Philadelphia
The run game has yet to come alive as we’d seen in Mike Shanahan’s tenure in Denver, but Donovan McNabb has found a new best friend in the veteran Moss. Moss has already caught 22 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown.
I don’t anticipate a huge day for the Washington offense overall against this Philadelphia defense. However, we’ve seen that McNabb and Moss have been able to make frequent connections, even with the scoreboard doesn’t light up like a pinball. Moss will make the most of his 10-12 looks in this game as Washington looks to score a road upset.
Donald Driver vs. Detroit
Driver rose up as a huge contributor in PPR leagues against the Bears in Week 9. He caught nine passes for 61 yards. That’s a nice day for PPR owners. Look for Driver to offer the full package this week against the Lions. He’d scored in back-to-back weeks before being limited to catches between the 20s in Week 3. Driver dominated the Lions last season, piling up 14 receptions for 249 yards and a touchdown in two games.
Brandon Lloyd at Tennessee
Lloyd has emerged as one of this season’s surprise deep threats and waiver wire darlings. Of course, it helps when your team can’t run the ball. As such, we’re watching Kyle Orton draw back and throw … and throw … and throw.
Lloyd is currently tied for the league lead in big plays (25+) with six. I anticipate another big throwing session is on tap this weekend. Eli Manning passed for 386 yards last weeks and, as we’ve seen, Orton is capable of moving the ball between the 20s.
Chad Ochocinco at Cleveland
Ochocinco has been quieted in back-to-back games following a strong fantasy effort in the season-opening blowout loss to New England. He’s caught eight passes for 78 yards in the past two weeks.
Ochocinco scored twice in the first matchup between these teams last year, although he registered just 62 receiving yards in two games (24 in the first meeting and 38 in the second). He has scored 11 touchdowns in 17 career games against the Browns. Let’s make it a dozen.
Austin Collie at Jacksonville
Wow! What else can be said about Collie’s huge Week 3 against the Broncos. The second-year man out of BYU has scored in each of the Colts’ first three games (four overall) while racking up 27 catches. Collie obviously benefitted from the absence of Pierre Garcon last week, but it’s clear that he and Manning have established a tremendous rapport. Those owners who invested in the Indianapolis offense are obviously salivating after watching Michael Vick light up the Jaguars last week.
Louis Murphy vs. Houston
Murphy has been the chief beneficiary of the quarterback change to Bruce Gradkowski in Oakland. In the past two weeks, he’s racked up 11 receptions for 220 yards, including a 70-yard catch and a touchdown. Murphy is a key waiver wire addition for Week 4 against the sieve-like Houston pass defense. Gradkowski missed his share of throws in Week 3 against Arizona, but you have to like the fact that he does attempt to stretch the field.
Johnny Knox at New York Giants
Knox caught four passes for a season-high 94 yards against the Packers in the Bears’ Week 3 victory. Owners are happy to see Knox stretch the field with receptions of 32, 35 and 59 yards this season. His role in Mike Martz’s attack is secure (for the time being) as the deep ball threat and has been the most-targeted option in the Chicago attack (17 targets).
Mark Clayton vs. Seattle
Clayton has been established as Sam Bradford’s go-to receiver through three games. He’s a heavily-targeted, sure-handed veteran who has excelled between the 20s and in the red zone (two touchdown grabs in Week 2). The Seattle pass defense ranks 30th in the league following Philip Rivers’ failed comeback bid that chewed up yardage in Week 3.
Mike Wallace vs. Baltimore
Wallace posted one of the great receiving games of Week 3, when he and Charlie Batch connected on 41 and 46-yard touchdown strikes in a blowout win over Tampa Bay. Batch unexpectedly worked the ball downfield to the second-year receiver, and Wallace demonstrated great concentration and poise in the end zone.
He next faces a Baltimore secondary that has been aided by tremendous work from the front-seven, at least they had been until the breakthrough effort from Peyton Hillis last week. The Ravens are shuffling defensive personnel to try and slow down the passing game, bringing back Ken Hamlin, who had been released. I look for Batch to take his shots downfield and test this secondary once again to slow Terrell Suggs and the rush (and, of course, to spring Rashard Mendenhall). Wallace caught three passes for 83 yards against the Ravens in Week 16 last season.
Wide Receiver Sleepers
Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. Houston
Heyward-Bey was held up as a poster boy for the issues in the Raiders’ NFL Draft war room following a difficult rookie season. He’s improved his game immensely in year two, and has benefitted from the insertion of Bruce Gradkowski, who shows no fear under center. Heyward-Bey is going to be a hit-or-miss big-play prospect, but this is a decent spot to take a flier on him in the third receiver slot this week. He’s caught nine passes for 129 yards in the past two weeks.
Deion Branch at St. Louis
Branch stands as the lone true veteran option in a youthful receiving corps for Matt Hasselbeck. He’s caught 12 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown through three weeks, and narrowly missed notching his second touchdown last week when he fumbled near the goal-line. Branch is perhaps the best option of the Seattle receiving corps (other than John Carlson), but Mike Williams and Golden Tate offer intriguing flier options as big-play threats for this contest.
Brian Hartline vs. New England
The second-year receiver out of Ohio State has become a solid route-running, sure-handed option for Chad Henne to complement Brandon Marshall. In the past two weeks, he’s caught eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, and I suspect that he’ll be active this week against the New England secondary. Second receivers have averaged 3.5 receptions and 41.7 receiving yards with two touchdowns against the Patriots.
Wide Receiver Flops
The Giants’ PPR machine piled up his first huge day of the season, piecing together nine receptions for 103 yards in the blowout loss to Tennessee. He’d caught nine passes in the first two games combined for a total of 78 yards. I suspect that we may see another big day in PPR-land, a la Donald Driver (nine catches for 61 yards in Week 3), but I’m not optimistic of a huge scoring day against the Bears with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs roving the middle. Take the short gains and slide him in as a WR3. Just don’t expect a big point total.
Steve Smith (Carolina) at New Orleans
Smith still rates as a low-end WR2 play, but it’s tough to have a ton of confidence after re-watching the Panthers’ Week 3 loss to Cincinnati. He was limited to just 22 yards on three catches after scoring in the Panthers’ first two games. Smith is obviously capable of popping off a big play at any point, particularly against cornerbacks that like to gamble. However, we can’t anticipate huge output at this juncture.
Derrick Mason at Pittsburgh
Mason caught four passes for 30 yards in Week 3 against Cleveland. He’s yet to top 30 receiving yards in a game, as Joe Flacco’s attention has shifted to off-season acquisition Anquan Boldin. It’s possible that he gets back on the radar as the Steelers work to shut down the Flacco-Boldin connection, but like with Smith (NYG) above, I can’t suspect that we see much more than a few short-yardage receptions.