Fantasy: Searching for the next breakout receiver
While writing for Sports Illustrated in 2009, I astutely predicted that Vikings wideout Sidney Rice — coming off a 15-catch debacle in 2008 — would amass 1,150 receiving yards and seven TDs with Sage Rosenfels as his starting quarterback.
Of course, that was before Brett Favre officially entered the purple picture and helped Rice tally 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, while playing a major role in Favre's MVP-caliber season with Minnesota (33 TDs/7 INTs/4,202 yards).
Four years later, Rice has graduated from an eminently replaceable asset to respectable receiver in fantasyland. But that ascension has sparked a prove-it-again ritual within my research, in the quest to find the next stud out of the rubble of receivers with 30 or fewer catches last season.
In my search for the next Sidney — a prospective 1,1050-yard receiver who will undoubtedly be drafted at Round 14 or lower — I have brainstormed the following criteria:
1. The receiver must have an established quarterback throwing him the ball.
2. The wideout has the physical traits (size, speed, hands) to be a No. 1, 2 or 3 option in real-world circles.
3. The receiver has modest competition within his own team, fueling a potential breakout.
Here are six reasons to support Sanu's breakout from the phalanx of receivers with 30 or fewer catches:
1. In his final three games last year (Weeks 11-13), Sanu racked up four touchdowns — highlighted by two scores against the Raiders.
2. Sanu (19 targets in his final three outings) had a catch-to-target efficiency rate of 50 percent or higher for every game from Weeks 7-12.
3. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has averaged 32.6 passes for his career. In 2012, Dalton attempted 37 or more passes six times.
4. Sanu has the size (6-foot-2), speed and requisite track record to develop into a solid WR2 for the Bengals.
5. With BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard in the backfield and Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert at tight end for the Bengals, receivers Sanu and A.J. Green should have more expansive route-running lanes downfield.
6. For what it's worth ... during his final year at Rutgers (2011), Sanu crossed the elite-wideout threshold of eight catches, 100 yards and/or one touchdown 10 times.
Here's the next cluster of intriguing assets — for both standard-scoring and PPR leagues — among the receivers with 30 or fewer receptions in 2012.
For this mini-section, think upside!