Deep Sea Fishing: Seattle's WR3
Posted 6/23 by Sigmund Bloom, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
At this point in the offseason, the NFL rosters are large enough that the "potential value" of winning a position battle is spread out among many contenders. Knowing who's got a dog in the fight can allow you to milk more upside out of end of the roster spots in deep dynasty leagues. Liberal offseason roster limits and late round rookie picks can be used to get more than one of the contenders in a race. This is a smart strategy because the prevailing winds of a position battle can change quickly during training camp, and you don't want to be relegated to the waiver process if an injury or a breakout happens during the preseason. Now is the time to position your rosters to have some lottery tickets in these potentially productive openings at WR, and knowing whose winning can help you cash in on late picks in early redrafts. Let's run down the situations and handicap the primary participants - many of whom are on your league's waiver wire:
Seattle Seahawks #3
Matt Hasselbeck is a prolific passer, especially to his wide receivers. The #3 wideout has not gotten less than 482 yards in the last six years, and has had 600+ more than half the time during that stretch. He also finds his WRs downfield and in the end, with 20+ TD passes to WRs each of the last two years. Deion Branch is not a sure thing for week 1, and the PUP list is definitely a possibility. Nate Burleson was the team's top scoring WR last year, but might be best suited as a slot receiver, so the #3 could get some snaps lining up outside. Bobby Engram is threatening holdout for more money, and 2007 was the first season since 2003 that he played in more than 13 games. Whoever wins the #3 WR role will play a sizable role no matter what, but it's also very possible that he'll be worth plugging into your lineup a few times in 2008. All of the young WRs vying for this role have gotten hearty praise from Seahawks coaches or beat writers at times - so there doesn't seem to be a clear favorite in this battle.
- Courtney Taylor - Taylor is a hard-nosed receiver with good size, toughness, agility, and ups. He's also a good route runner and very aware of soft spots in zone coverage in the middle of the field and on the sidelines. While he won't threaten safeties with his speed or make great things happen after the catch, he can be a QBs best friend on intermediate routes, much like Bobby Engram - so it's no surprise that he's working as Engram's backup at flanker. Taylor is probably only worth pursuing in PPR leagues, but he could easily catch 60 balls as the full-time #3. He should be #3 on the depth chart going into training camp.
- Logan Payne - Payne's scouting report is similar to Taylor - good size, good routes, and good ups make him a quality possession WR. Payne went undrafted, even after a very impressive pro day, at least partially because his Minnesota Golden Gophers leaned on the run during his time there. Like Taylor, he's working at flanker, but may be best suited for the slot. Unlike Taylor, he's been very durable and could get playing time by attrition. Chances are, one of Taylor and Payne will play Engram's role while Engram is playing Deion Branch's role this year.
- Ben Obomanu - Obomanu joins fellow Auburn product Taylor as the two guys in this foursome that actually caught passes in regular season games last year. He is definitely more athletically gifted than Taylor or Payne, but he is also not the same kind of technician in his routes that they are. Obomanu got plenty of targets in extended playing time during October games vs. Pittsburgh and New Orleans last year, and while he did notch a touchdown and show his prowess as a downfield threat, he also seemed to fight the ball at times and did not always exhibit the body control and awareness to put himself in position to make the catch. Obomanu did come on in the playoff loss vs. Green Bay, but his game will have to become more precise to beat our Taylor (and Payne) to truly play the #3 role, as opposed to a novelty WR that only stretches the defense in three and four wide sets.
- Jordan Kent - Kent is the answer to the question "Who has the most upside of this group?". He was a latecomer to college football, focusing on track and basketball until 2005. He was an All-American track star and had a stint starting for his father while he coached the Oregon Ducks roundballers, and only dedicated himself to football full-time in 2006. Kent joined a list that includes names such as Bo Jackson and Roger Staubach of college athletes to letter in three major sports in one year (2005 - Track, Basketball, and Football). He's a burner, but he's also fluid and sudden when he changes direction, which is a lethal combination in a 6'4" frame. Obviously, he entered the league as one of the most raw WRs in the '06 class, but if he "gets it" and gets on the field, he could be the kind of dynamic talent this WR corps lacks now that D.J. Hackett is a Carolina Panther. Be ready to jump on Kent in deep dynasty leagues if he stands out and wins the #3 or #4 job in training camp.