Week 6 is not the point of the football season where fantasy owners can find starting running backs and quarterbacks waiting to be plucked off their league’s waiver wire. But, there are probably some available wide receivers that could make fantasy impacts in every league.
The events of the last week have opened doors for some receivers. New teams, new teammates, injuries to present teammates, and expanded roles have turned the fantasy values around for several receivers. Here are a half dozen whose fantasy values just went skyward, and many could or should be available in your league.
Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings
The arrival of Randy Moss seems to have become the aspirin for Harvin’s migraine headaches and his fantasy value. Harvin, in his young career, has looked like a kick returner filling in as a wide receiver, just like Cleveland’s Joshua Cribbs and Chicago’s Devin Hester appear more times than not. Moss elevates the fantasy worth of the pass catchers around him, though, and Harvin should be no exception.
The former Gator speedster was uncomfortable lining up as an outside receiver with Sidney Rice out. Harvin was easier to cover since he wasn’t in the slot, so he and Brett Favre and never seemed in sync. Plus, without Rice on the opposite side of the field, defenses were giving Harvin extra attention. All these factors added up to him only having 106 yards and one touchdown over Minnesota’s first three contests.
But now with Moss on the outside taking multiple cornerbacks and safeties on 40-yard joyrides down the field, Harvin is finding more open spaces than a dentist working on a patient with four teeth. Harvin had five catches for 97 yards and two scores against the New York Jets in Moss’ first game back with the Vikings.
Look for Harvin to snag more passes and rack up more yards per game than he has in the past.
Deion Branch, New England Patriots
It is déjà vu all over again in New England. Branch is back for a second go-round after wasting four-plus years in Seattle listening to grunge music, drinking tons of coffee, and not being any sort of fantasy factor.
For $5 million per year, the Seahawks got a smallish receiver who averaged about 500 yards and four touchdowns per season. Give the Seahawks credit for being consistent, though, because it is not like signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett or LenDale White worked out well either.
But don’t you have a funny feeling that Branch’s fantasy value could be in for a baby bump now that he has returned to the Patriots? All signs point towards him doing well. Branch has Tom Brady throwing to him, he has Wes Welker and rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez distracting defenders, and he doesn't have to spend time learning the offense.
Branch’s best days are behind him, and who knows how long his surgically repaired knees can hold up, but he could turn out to be a 50 to 60-yard receiver who might reach the end zone every other game. You would not have been able to say that if he stayed in Seattle.
Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers
No more Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch throwing passes Wallace’s way. Ben Roethlisberger is back from his four-game suspension and sounds like he is amped up to revive Pittsburgh’s pitiful passing attack, which is mired in last place in the NFL rankings.
Having “Big Ben” heaving long balls will be a boon to Wallace’s numbers. If you scratch out his game against Tampa Bay where he magically snared two Batch alley-oops for touchdowns, Wallace has been a non-factor (six receptions, 111 yards, no TDs). Look for Wallace to be Roethlisberger’s new Santonio Holmes from here on out.
Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams
Many fantasy owners have probably never heard of Amendola, or seen him play, but his name should pop up as much as Colt McCoy’s on waiver wires this week. Due to the season-ending injury to Mark Clayton, this poor man’s Wes Welker should become Sam Bradford’s favorite target, especially on third downs.
Amendola is no Willie Gault (8.3 yards per reception for career) or Cris Carter (one touchdown in 76 career catches), but in fantasy leagues where receptions count as points he should be a jackpot because he could average 6-10 per game from here on out.
St. Louis will be trailing in many of its games, so Amendola should pile up the points when the Rams are passing on every play in the fourth quarter.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans
Britt started off the season in Jeff Fisher’s penalty box and needed a couple weeks to escape, but the former first-rounder is now consistently finding his way into the end zone. He has scored in each of Tennessee’s last three games and is getting targeted more frequently by Vince Young.
Before you get too excited about Britt, remember that Tennessee is a run-first team built around the No. 1 player in fantasy football, Chris Johnson. Britt will be lucky to catch more than five passes per game, but it seems that Britt is built to do a lot with the few passes he gets. If Vince Young and he can grow and improve together, Britt could become a fantasy find in touchdown and distance-based leagues.
Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills
Buffalo receivers are about as popular in fantasy leagues as Jimmy Johnson was among the members of the Survivor tribes. That may be about to change. With Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing passes that travel farther than 10 yards (unlike Trent Edwards), some Bills receivers are showing up a little more in scoring summaries, namely Johnson.
Johnson has quietly scored four touchdowns in Buffalo’s past three games. This may have gone unnoticed by some fantasy owners since the Bills get about as much attention as a streaker at a nudist colony, so Johnson could still be available in your league. Johnson is only averaging 43 yards per game, but that is sure to go up if he keeps proving that he can make big-time plays.
And here are four receivers whose fantasy values are falling faster than President Obama’s approval rating.
Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals
Either the receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson has tired legs from all of the foxtrots he did on Dancing with the Stars or running away from the horny women on The Ultimate Catch, or Carson Palmer and Terrell Owens have bonded behind his back. But while T.O. has been one of the top fantasy receivers over the past two weeks, Ochocinco has disappeared. Ochocinco has 157 yards and no touchdowns over his last four games. Owens had 222 yards and one touchdown in one game against Cleveland alone.
Bernard Berrian, Minnesota Vikings
Is this cat over the hill at age 29? Berrian has proved this year that neither being a reality show sidekick, nor being a main member of Minnesota’s passing attack is something he is good at. On a team with Brett Favre passing and hardly any healthy receivers, all Berrian could muster in four games was five receptions for 38 yards. By mid season, when Minnesota has Moss, Harvin and Rice all playing at once, Berrian might be getting cut.
Mike Sims-Walker, Jacksonville Jaguars
One game Sims-Walker is as visible as Sasha Grey at an adult movie convention, and the next he's as invisible as Wonder Woman’s plane. In five weeks Sims-Walker has had two games where he has scored touchdowns, and two where he has been held without a catch. He is the only No. 1 receiver in the NFL who has gone reception-less twice already, and it seems like the Jaguars are outright ignoring him for long stretches. Jacksonville, please either throw this man the ball or trade him to a team that will!
Braylon Edwards, New York Jets
It will be very interesting to see how Edwards and tight end Dustin Keller’s numbers are affected by Santonio Holmes’ arrival. The Jets are a running team and will continue to be that way as the weather gets colder, so Mark Sanchez is going to have a hard time spreading enough balls around to his talented receivers. Edwards had 288 yards and three touchdowns over his last four games, but he may only end up with 800 yards and six to seven touchdowns at season’s end thanks to Holmes.