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Third and Three: Wide Receivers

Jabar Gaffney is the third Broncos' receiver off the board with an ADP ranking at No.150.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With NFL training camps just around the corner, we all have our early thoughts as to who will be this year's fantasy bargains and who will be a flop.

In Part III of the series, we continue our search for bargains at the wide receiver position and over the next few weeks we will evaluate the other spots. We'll look at three players who will play above their current projected fantasy value and three who won't perform up to expectations.

Of course, over the next two months my opinions could change based on what I see at camp and in the preseason, but going into the season here are some of my early expectations.

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Jabar Gaffney, Denver - With Brandon Marshall benched for the final game of 2009, it was Gaffney who stepped up "big time." Against a weak Kansas City defense, Gaffney caught 14 balls for 213 yards. The previous week, even with Marshall on the field, it was Gaffney who was the receiving star, hauling in seven balls for 69 yards and two scores. So now that Marshall has been traded to Miami, it should be Gaffney, not rookie Demaryius Thomas or Eddie Royal who is the No.1 option. Yet in the most recent ADP rankings, Gaffney is the third Broncos' receiver off the board at No.150. At that price, a 13th round pick, Gaffney will be a great bargain.

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco - Crabtree missed all of 2009 training camp and the first five games of the season before signing on the dotted line, yet he was already a solid contributor by the end of the year. With a full camp and preseason schedule, he should become the player fantasy owners were expecting. He plays big at 6-foot-1 and has great hands and instincts. The only downside is that the team doesn't look for him in the red zone...yet. From Week 6 on, after Crabtree signed and began to play, the 49ers threw the ball 61-percent of the time versus 53.5-percent before his arrival. He's being selected in the fifth round (ADP 51) and that will seem like a bargain by the end of the year.

Johnny Knox, Chicago - Knox has dynamic speed (4.34 40 at the 2009 combine) and in Mike Martz's offense should end up being the starting split end opposite Devin Hester. Assuming quarterback Jay Cutler and Martz are on the same page by Opening Day, both Knox and Hester should have their best seasons. Hester and Devin Aromashodu are getting more attention, but Aromashodu will likely end up being the slot receiver (think Kevin Curtis in St. Louis) and Knox will have more fantasy value. Knox has moved up from No.157 to No.120 in the last month, but is still a bargain.

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Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona - The Kurt Warner-to-Fitzgerald passing combination was very good for many years. But Warner is retired and it's Matt Leinart throwing the football in 2010. There is only a small amount of data with which to analyze their ability to work together. There have been 14 games in which Leinart was the starter and Fitzgerald played at wideout. In those games, Fitzgerald averaged 5.6 receptions for 78.1 yards and scored five times. Unfortunately, those are not No.1 receiver statistics. Yet with his ADP of 13, that's what it will take to draft him. As much as I like Fitzgerald, I have to recommend looking elsewhere in 2010 because the price is too high and the risk is simply too great.

Brandon Marshall, Miami - Despite a few games missed due to various suspensions, Marshall was the model of consistency in Denver, with three consecutive 100+ catch seasons and at least 1,100 yards every year. That may be a bit of a stretch now that he is in Miami. First of all, the Dolphins don't pass the ball as much as the Broncos did (51.7% vs. 55.9% in 2009). He'll also be catching passes from a quarterback, Chad Henne, with all of 13 career starts. That's a dangerous combination. In just the last month, Marshall's ADP has dropped to No.22 so perhaps fantasy owners agree that at the moment, Marshall is "overpriced."

Marques Colston, New Orleans - It's not that Colston's play has fallen off, it's just that his quarterback, Drew Brees, has become so adept at finding the open receiver that he doesn't have to force anything to his No.1 option. Colston (ADP 29) managed to have a solid season in 2010 (see below), but the Saints are such a good team that last year's stats may be the top end for him. With a deep receiving corps (Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore), solid tight end play, a good running game and the Saints playing with a lead more than behind, Colston just can't be depended upon to give you No.1 receiver-type numbers for every week of 2010.

2009 Selected Wide Receiver Statistics
PlayerTeamRecYardsTDADP
Jabar GaffneyDEN547322150
Michael CrabtreeSF48625251
Johnny KnoxCHI455275120
Larry FitzgeraldAZ971,0921313
Brandon MarshallMIA1011,1201022
Marques ColstonNO701,074929


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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