Before I get into this week's picks, I want to take a moment to review the concept behind this column for those who might be first-time readers. What I do each week is use game tape and performance metrics (my statistical analysis system) to grade offensive and defensive players. I then take these grades and review the lineup matchups for the coming week for every wide receiver.
For this column, I take these grades and try to find the most favorable and unfavorable matchups for the borderline wide receivers fantasy coaches have to choose to fill their No. 3 wide receiver spots.
I also want to review my point total aims for this column's picks. My goal in the favorable matchups is to pick a player who will score eight or more points. I use eight as a benchmark because a 12-team league with two starting wide receivers and a flex pick will see approximately 30 wide receivers start in a given week. Eight points usually will put a player in the top 30 wide receivers in most weeks (the average is 27th place so far this season), so those receivers should be among the starters. The only caveat to the eight-point total is when I make the occasional point per reception league pick, as I did with Derrick Mason prior to his 10-reception performance last week. Over the past two weeks, in a time where we have more concrete data from this season, I am 4-4 in my starts (although I would be 5-3 if Vincent Jackson had not dropped that wide-open touchdown pass against the Chiefs -- I hate it when that happens!).
For sits, I consider five or fewer points the benchmark. Over the past three weeks, I am 9-1 in sits, and those players are averaging only 3.7 points per game.
For sleepers, I also consider eight points a benchmark, even though those players tend to be higher risk/higher reward. I am 1-3 in sleeper picks the past two weeks, although I should point out that the win was when I picked Patrick Crayton as an upside play due to his matchup against Lenny Walls last week.
OK, now on to the picks!
Wes Welker, Patriots: Welker put up 21 fantasy points in the first two weeks of the season but has totaled only 10 in the past two weeks. That might scare some fantasy coaches away from him, but a matchup against the C-minus rated Kenny Wright should be just what Welker needs to return to his earlier fantasy form.
Chris Chambers, Dolphins: Chambers' fantasy owners might be having some concerns after his two-point performance last week, but that had more to do with Oakland's talented secondary than it did anything else. Houston does not have a very talented secondary, other than the often-inconsistent Dunta Robinson. The odds also are quite good that the Dolphins will be able to get Chambers lined up against Demarcus Faggins (rated F-plus), as the Texans typically don't move their cornerbacks around to follow wide receivers when they move to the opposite side of the field. If Chambers does play against Faggins, it is a big play waiting to happen.
Brandon Marshall, Broncos: The Broncos are not passing the ball as often as it was thought they would coming into this season, but when Jay Cutler does pass, Marshall definitely is his go-to guy. The San Diego secondary is not playing at its 2006 level, and Drayton Florence, Marshall's matchup, also has regressed some this year. Both of those factors make Marshall a solid start.
Vincent Jackson, Chargers: Jackson tends to have good games against bad cornerbacks and disappears against good cornerbacks. His lineup matchup this week: Champ Bailey. Bailey should be able to shut Jackson down.
Bernard Berrian, Bears: The concern with starting Berrian is two-fold. First, it would not be a surprise to see Chicago call a conservative game plan after the Brian Griese debacle last week. Second, Berrian is lining up against Charles Woodson. Woodson is playing just as well this season as he did in 2006 (I have him rated as an A-level cornerback). Add it up, and it bodes quite poorly for Berrian.
Roddy White, Falcons: White has totaled 32 fantasy points the past three weeks, but his lineup matchup this week is Nick Harper (rated a B-plus). In addition, the entire Tennessee secondary has been playing much better this season, so White could have trouble finding a favorable matchup anywhere in this secondary.
Jerheme Urban, Cardinals: When Urban played in Seattle a couple of years ago, he had fantastic metrics in limited playing time. The Cardinals have been looking for more consistency out of their No. 3 wide receiver position, and Urban's performance last Sunday (five catches, 53 yards and a touchdown) shows he could be the solution. The Rams secondary is in terrible shape, and it is likely that Urban will end up matched up against Lenny Walls. As I mentioned earlier, Walls was toasted all game long by Patrick Crayton last week. Urban might not be quite as good as Crayton, but he is more than capable of putting up a very good game against Walls.
Ruvell Martin, Packers: The Bears secondary is banged up, so it is unclear exactly who will be covering Martin. Even if all of Chicago's defensive walking wounded play Sunday, Martin likely will be lined up against Ricky Manning Jr. Manning's coverage has been so bad over the years that he is rated F. With the number of times Brett Favre is likely to throw the ball, the fantasy percentages are in Martin's favor.
KC Joyner, aka The Football Scientist, is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider. His core passing metrics can be found in the ESPN Fantasy Football Magazine, which was released in June. A free sample of his latest release ("Scientific Football 2007") is available at his Web site.