- KC Joyner, NFL Insider
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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. If a player has been putting up at least seven fantasy points per week (using standard-yardage league rules), I won't include him on the "Starts" 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. 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 at least seven 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 the picks!
Anquan Boldin, Cardinals: Boldin normally might not be considered a fantasy question mark, but he has only six points in the past two games, one of which was against a bad Detroit secondary. He also has only 94 yards in his past three games. Even with that recent lack of production, Boldin's matchup against Johnathan Joseph (rated D) says he is a must-start this week.
Kevin Curtis, Eagles: Curtis is the type of receiver who is a great start against bad secondaries. In his three games against weak secondaries (Detroit, N.Y. Jets and Minnesota), Curtis has totaled 59 fantasy points. In his six games against strong secondaries (Green Bay, Washington twice, N.Y. Giants, Chicago and Dallas), Curtis has 22 fantasy points.
Miami certainly qualifies as a weak secondary due both to poor play and to injuries. Curtis' lineup matchup, Michael Lehan, also has a history of being very bad in coverage (I have him rated as a D-plus). This should be one of Curtis' upside weeks.
Joey Galloway, Buccaneers: In my ESPN.com Insider article this week, I reviewed the last two years' worth of coverage history of Galloway versus DeAngelo Hall. If an inaccurate pass that prevented a 40-yard completion is factored in to the numbers, Galloway averages 10.4 yards per attempt (YPA) against Hall. To put that YPA into perspective, a YPA of 10 yards or more will normally rank at or near the bottom of the league in the season-ending cornerback YPA metrics. The Bucs don't throw the ball that often, so Galloway may only see one long pass, but the odds are that he will beat Hall on that pass, and that makes him a good start candidate.
Jerricho Cotchery, Jets: Cotchery has totaled eight or more points in three of his past four games, so most fantasy coaches are likely considering starting him in their flex or No. 3 wide receiver position. The Steelers should be able to get an excellent pass rush against a struggling Jets offensive line, so that would be one reason Cotchery is a risky start. Cotchery's matchup against the very good Ike Taylor (ranked as a B-plus in my charts) is a second reason he shouldn't be started.
Lee Evans, Bills: At some level, it sounds crazy to consider benching Evans. He has put up nine, 19, 22 and six points in his past four starts. He's obviously on a hot streak right now, so many coaches are probably considering putting him in their lineup even though the Bills are facing the Patriots.
If you are one of those coaches, I implore you to fight off that impulse at any cost. Evans has only four catches for 42 yards in his past three games against New England. I also ran his metrics against each of the Patriots cornerbacks for this week's Insider article and found Evans is having zero success no matter who covers him. He is also only 1-for-8 on medium, deep and bomb passes in those games. The Patriots are great at taking away the main weapon for an offense, and history shows Evans is no exception.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: Bowe has put up eight or more points in two of his past three starts. Even with that recent level of performance, everything about this week's matchup says he should be sat down. The Chiefs will be playing with a rookie quarterback (Brodie Croyle) at Indianapolis. Dwight Freeney won't be able to get after Croyle, but Robert Mathis and Co. certainly will. In addition, the only passing game that has been able to exploit the Colts on a consistent basis this year is New England's. Kansas City's passing offense isn't anywhere near the Patriots' league, so all the odds are against Bowe having a good game.
Mark Clayton, Ravens: Coming into Sunday's game, Clayton had totaled only 14 fantasy points all season long. He nearly doubled that output with a 10-point game against Cincinnati. The big question for fantasy owners looking for a long shot pick this week is whether Clayton's point explosion was due to luck or skill on his part.
After breaking down the Bengals-Ravens tape, I am convinced it wasn't luck. Clayton was 8-for-11 last week and beat all three of the Bengals' cornerbacks on at least one pass. Cleveland's cornerbacks aren't any better than Cincinnati's, so Clayton has a good chance for a repeat performance.
Andre Davis, Texans: Davis may be the biggest beneficiary of Andre Johnson's return to the Texans' starting lineup. If Davis is used as a slot receiver, he is likely to face Jason Craft. Craft has been struggling very much of late, especially on the deep pass, so Davis' upside is high in that scenario.
Even if Johnson is used only sporadically and Davis still sees the bulk of the playing time at split end, he would spend the game matched up with Jason David. David hasn't improved much in coverage this season, so Davis' upside would be high here, as well.
KC Joyner, aka The Football Scientist, is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider.