By Brian Spencer
Kevin Walter, Houston Texans – The quintessential possession receiver who can also bust big plays, Walter is the Texans’ version of Wes Welker–except that he’s a good 5 inches taller and 20-odd pounds heavier, and according to Ol’ Fay “even sexier than hunky Wes.” Drafted in the 7th round back in ’03 out of collegiate football powerhouse Eastern Michigan, Walter was squarely on fantasy radars last season following a breakout campaign in ’08 (60 catches, 899 yards, 8 TDs), but though solid he failed to move the needle much and established himself as a waiver-wire slut, getting added and dropped on a weekly basis by desperate/frustrated players.
This year, his eighth one in the NFL, he’s off to a torrid start after being overlooked on fantasy draft day by most everybody not playing in a 12- or 14-team league. He’s already equaled his touchdown total from all of last season (2), and caught 13 passes for 173 yards; by comparison his WR running mate, consensus first-round fantasy pick Andre Johnson, has 15 catches for 191 yards and a score. Johnson is obviously the (far) superior talent here, but Walter just might end up being the better value: it’s early, but at the moment he’s the fourth-most valuable WR in fantasy football.
Austin Collie, Indianapolis Colts – Of all the mock drafts I did leading up to draft day–nerd up, bitches–I’d guess that I grabbed Collie in 90% of them in anywhere from the 9th – 12th round. Of course, he fell all the way to the 13th round during the real thing, but with the second pick in the round I instead opted for Tim Hightower (a pick which has worked out rather nicely so far) and Collie was taken two picks later; in a word, fuck.
I should have known this was going to happen. Instead, I invested heavily in the Pierre Garcon hype and thought he’d render Collie somewhat moot, but should have remembered that A) Garcon, while still quite talented and still the WR2 in Indy, is also still largely unproven, and B) Peyton Manning loves him some WR3. After two weeks, Collie has basically been Reggie Wayne’s equal, pulling in 15 catches for 188 yards and 2 TDs; that’s enough to make him the sixth-most productive fantasy WR with the season already 12% over.
Joining him the top six? Walter and Welker, two other 6-footish, 200-poundish white-ish guys. Collie’s ADP in Yahoo! public leagues, by the way, was undrafted. I heart football!
Mark Clayton, St. Louis Rams – Speaking of undrafted, raise your hand if you saw this coming… now put it back down, you lying sonofabitch. Save for his “breakout” year back in ’06 (67 catches, 939 yards, 5 TDs), the former first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens was little more than consistently mediocore during his time in the lovely state of Maryland. His time was finally up after the team signed washed-up free agent T.J. Houshmandzadeh to replace him, and he was sent packing to St. Louis, presumably to wile away his days on the bench while dreaming about the days when he was fantasy relevant.
Well, a funny thing happened: Sam Bradford took a look at his WR depth chart, thought “blech”, and decided to lock in on the veteran receiver, at least for now. After two games, the 28-year-old Clayton has caught 12 balls for 143 yards and 2 TDs, making him more valuable so far than Johnson (both Andre and Calvin), Greg Jennings, DeSean Jackson, etc; clearly we were all foolish not to draft Clayton in the first or second round, this guy is going to be huge all year long. As for Clayton’s replacement in Baltimore, ol’ T.J. has racked up 1 catch for 27 yards–chuckle all you want, that catch was good for a first down! A first down!
Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos – Last week I wondered whether Royal, coming off a worst second season than Lost, would sink or swim after a sturdy performance in Week 1: we got our answer. He came out hyper-motivated against the Seahawks after reading my column, finishing with 5 catches for 65 yards and 1 TD.
Those aren’t exactly “stud” numbers, but with his quarterback looking comfortable (at least against the defensive juggernauts that are the Jags and Hawks), Royal feeling confident, and rookie DeMaryius Thomas possibly emerging as a force that’ll make defenses concerned, I like this kid’s chances of equaling, if not exceeding, his fantasy production of two years ago (91 catches, 980 yards, 5 TDs). In fact, I’m so optimistic about my 12th-round pick (Yahoo! ADP: undrafted) that I might even start calling him “Rude Dude”. (Inside joke, and not a very funny one at that, but I couldn’t help it.)