- KC Joyner, NFL Insider
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Before I jump into this week's picks, I wanted to take a moment to review the criteria I use to determine if a player is a No. 3/flex wide receiver candidate.
I aim to include only those receivers who are question marks for their fantasy owners. This means the pool of candidates is constantly churning, because a player's question mark status can change over time. For example, most fantasy owners saw Braylon Edwards as a questionable week-to-week start at the beginning of the season. As such, I placed Edwards on the start/sit list early in the season. Now that he has proven his worth as a big-time fantasy point-producer, he is no longer considered a question mark and I will no longer list him as one of my picks.
Another way to put this is if a player has been putting up at least seven to eight fantasy points per week (using standard yardage league rules), I won't include him on the start list because it is likely already known that he belongs there.
On the flip side, there are certain wide receivers who simply don't produce enough points to be considered for this list. Bobby Wade may be a starter for the Vikings, but he will only be on a fantasy coach's roster in extremely deep leagues. As such, I don't consider him a viable candidate for my weekly sit picks. The rule of thumb I use for sits is that a player has to be coming off a good game or have a recent history of putting up seven/eight points per week.
The sleeper criteria are quite simple. I look for players with favorable matchups who are available as waiver candidates in at least 50 percent of ESPN's fantasy leagues. That ensures that they are sleepers in the truest sense of the word, and also ensures that as many owners as possible can take advantage of the picks. The limitation on player choice does make it harder to get the picks right, but I believe it makes the information much more valuable.
Now on to this week's picks!
Starts (11-16 this season, but 7-3 in past three weeks)
Ronald Curry, Raiders:
Curry has been an up-and-down player this season. He has three games of four or fewer points to go along with three games of 10 or more points. This week, Curry is due to face DeMarcus Faggins. Faggins has been beaten consistently in just about every game this season (including for a touchdown by Chris Chambers last week), so it should be one of Curry's up games.
David Patten, Saints:
I normally wouldn't put Patten in the start column because he has posted 10 points in two of his past three games. Since he is only owned in 3.3 percent of ESPN leagues at this moment, however, I feel I can include him as someone that most owners might not be considering as a starter.
As I detail in my Insider column this week, Patten is gaining 12.0 yards per attempt (YPA) in 21 pass attempts over the past three games. A YPA total of 10.6 led the league last season, so that should give you an indication of the torrid pace Patten is currently on. Rashean Mathis, his lineup matchup, is a solid cornerback (he has a C-plus grade) but he won't be able to slow down Patten enough to limit him to under seven points.
Vincent Jackson, Chargers:
Jackson has been a huge disappointment for some fantasy owners during the past couple of games, because he has posted zero points in that span. The Vikings' weak secondary should be just the salve that Jackson's owners need for their fantasy wounds. Jackson's matchup is Antoine Winfield, who is not having a shutdown season (I have him ranked as C-level in coverage). Given the Vikings' safety coverage woes and the fact that Jackson now has Chris Chambers on the other side of the field, his odds of posting a very good fantasy day are high.
Sits (17-6 this season)
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs:
Bowe has been an extremely consistent point producer this season, totaling seven or more points in five of his seven starts. As good as Bowe is, Charles Woodson, his lineup matchup this week, is even better. Woodson has been slowing down some of the best wide receivers in the league this season. As good as Bowe is, he probably isn't good enough to beat Woodson for many points.
Jerricho Cotchery, Jets:
Cotchery is the quintessential No. 2 wide receiver, in that he tends to have his best days when Laveranues Coles, the Jets' No. 1 wide receiver, has a tough matchup. Now that Carlos Rogers is out for the season with an injury, Coles is due to face Fred Smoot, formerly the Redskins' No. 3 cornerback. Smoot will be targeted quite often, so that bodes badly for Cotchery seeing the ball very much. His matchup against Shawn Springs, a very good cornerback (rated B-plus on my charts), makes Cotchery's fantasy scoring prospects even worse.
Kevin Walter, Texans:
After I put Walter on my sit list two weeks ago and he posted 15 points during the Texans' furious comeback against the Titans, I promised myself I wouldn't put him on the sit list again this season. As much as I want to keep that promise, Walter's matchup against Nnamdi Asomugha (rated A-minus) is extremely daunting. I believe in Asomugha's coverage skills a lot more than I believe in Walter's route-running skills, so I'll have to make an exception and put Walter on the proverbial bench this week.
Sleepers (3-12 this season, but 3-5 after 0-7 start)
James Jones, Packers:
Jones' 79-yard touchdown reception on Monday night is only part of the reason I have him listed as a sleeper. The other part is Jones' lineup matchup, Benny Sapp. Sapp's coverage history tells me that his C-minus/D-plus coverage grade has been earned. Teams have also been targeting Sapp, so that also fares well for Jones.
Laurent Robinson, Falcons:
The 49ers' secondary has been playing quite badly of late and only Nate Clements is holding down the coverage fort. Robinson has been seeing the ball a lot more of late, with five passes being thrown his way in the Falcons' last game. Four of those passes were medium, deep or bomb passes, so he is also being used vertically. Shawntae Spencer doesn't present much of a coverage roadblock (rated F-plus), so expect Atlanta to go to Robinson with success.