Commentary

Monday Night Story Line: Cotchery, Coles ready to break out?

Updated: September 22, 2008, 3:05 PM ET
By Eric Karabell | ESPN.com

Maybe you've already heard this, but Brett Favre is a New York Jet. Yup, it's true. There was this summer retirement thing, then he "unretired," then there were trade talks … and this is how it all ended up, with the Hall of Famer being the featured attraction on Monday Night Football in Week 3. Of course, while Favre has been a member of the Jets for barely six weeks, his wide receivers have also been in the news. Hey, they get to play with a new strong-armed quarterback! Fantasy owners everywhere got excited, and altered draft and trade strategy because of it.

Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesLaveranues Coles (left) and Jerricho Cotchery haven't been fantasy stalwarts, but the breakout could begin this week.
The question is, what have we learned about the true fantasy value of Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles through two weeks, and what should be expected against the San Diego Chargers, a team that comes off a nightmare game in which it thinks a referee cost them a win? The Chargers' defense should take some, if not most of the blame, as it allowed a near-record-setting day by Brandon Marshall and a whole lot of points, including a last-minute touchdown and two-point conversion.

Meanwhile, Favre has his new team off to a 1-1 start, and in the Week 2 loss to the Patriots, who were just shredded by Miami and running back Ronnie Brown, the Jets managed only one touchdown. Favre's numbers through two weeks appear pedestrian; he has yet to reach 200 passing yards in a game, and the Jets have looked more like a running team. Cotchery and Coles, who were both expected to increase their 2007 production, have yet to have breakout performances. That said, a seemingly tough test against the Chargers might actually be good for this offense.

Each starting Jets wide receiver has managed four receptions through two games. A season ago, Cotchery hauled in 82 passes for more than 1,000 yards, while Coles was on his way to similar stats before missing four games with injury. Coming into this season, fantasy owners expected Cotchery to play the role Greg Jennings did in Green Bay, being the main aerial threat near the goal line, while Coles would catch more passes but score less, just like Donald Driver. So far neither receiver has played their projected roles. The Chargers, perceived to have a top defense but struggling without star linebacker Shawne Merriman, should be plenty motivated Monday. The same can be said about Cotchery and Coles.

AFC West blog

For more on the struggling Chargers defense while awaiting tonight's showdown, check out ESPN.com's Bill Williamson AFC West blog:
Turnaround in San Diego depends on defense

• Blog network: NFL Nation

Wide receiver Chansi Stuckey leads the Jets in touchdowns with two, and is tied with backup running back Leon Washington in receptions, with six. Stuckey, a seventh-round draft pick by the Jets in 2007, and largely ignored in fantasy until last week, when he was one of the more popular free-agent additions, could be emerging, but it's far too early for fantasy owners to give up on Cotchery and Coles. Look at 2007 for more proof. Did you give up on Jennings? He actually missed the first two weeks, then in Week 3 -- coincidentally against the Chargers -- he started a streak of three straight games with touchdown catches.

Fantasy owners need to avoid being too reactive to struggling players in the first place, and stick with players they trusted on draft day. Cotchery and Coles were drafted as top 30 wide receivers, meaning people were expecting them to play roles on their fantasy teams, starting most weeks. This week, however, they are active in a relatively low percentage of ESPN standard leagues, 55.9 and 24 percent, respectively. It sure seems fantasy owners who were excited about Favre's addition to the Jets offense are backing off a bit after only two weeks. Look for Favre, who always seems to up his game on "Monday Night Football," to get each of his top wide receivers more passes in Week 3, and more fantasy points in the process.

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "Top 100 Philadelphia Sports Arguments," will be released in October. You can e-mail him here.

Eric Karabell | email

ESPN.com Senior Writer

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