Ben Liebenberg / NFL.com
Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez has seen his stock rise with Marvin Harrison no longer in the mix.


In the history of the National Football League, a number of wideouts have broken out to record career bests after two NFL seasons. That trend, which includes success from the likes Harold Carmichael, Steve Largent, Terrell Owens and Steve Smith, has become a popular draft tool to help fantasy leaguers unearth potential sleepers and breakout candidates. However, the recent success of Marques Colston, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall as NFL sophomores now expands our focus to both second- and to third-year wideouts.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 wideouts who will enter their second or third NFL season.

Team Player Analysis

St. Louis Rams

Donnie Avery
(Second season)
Avery, the first wide receiver selected in the 2008 NFL Draft, showed flashes of potential as a rookie and is now the top wideout in the Rams' passing attack after the release of Torry Holt. He'll start opposite fellow second-year wideout and deep sleeper Keenan Burton. Avery's speed and position on the depth chart will make him an attractive sleeper. He'll be a middle- to late-round selection.


Team Player Analysis

Chicago Bears

Earl Bennett
(Second season)
The addition of Jay Cutler, who Bennett played with for one season at Vanderbilt, has made the wideout far more fantasy relevant. In his lone collegiate season with Cutler, Bennett scored a career-best nine touchdowns. While he won't duplicate that number of end-zone visits in 2009, Bennett should be far more involved in the Bears' passing attack. Consider him in the late rounds in leagues with 12-plus teams.


Team Pick Analysis

Kansas City Chiefs

Dwayne Bowe
(Third season)
Bowe is without question the most valuable member of our list of second- and third-year wideouts heading into 2009 drafts. He's coming off the first 1,000-yard season of his NFL career, and Bowe should only increase that number in the offense of new coach Todd Haley. Now a viable low-end No. 1 fantasy wideout in leagues with 12-plus teams, Bowe will be worth as much as a third-round selection.


Team Player Analysis

Arizona Cardinals

Steve Breaston
(Third season)
Breaston came out of nowhere to produce 77 receptions and 1,006 yards in his second NFL season, due in large part to an offense that threw the ball a ton under former coordinator Todd Haley. While he's still no better than the third-best option in the passing attack behind superstars receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, the Michigan product is still worth a middle- to late-round selection in drafts.


Team Player Analysis

Miami Dolphins

Ted Ginn Jr.
(Third season)
Ginn saw statistical increases across the board in 2008, posting 56 catches for 790 yards with four total touchdowns. The Dolphins will continue to use his speed to help stretch defenses, but it remains to be seen if Ginn can be a 1,000-yard receiver at the NFL level. If this trend holds any water, this could be the season Ginn breaks out. Consider him in the middle to late rounds as a No. 4 fantasy wideout.


Team Player Analysis

Indianapolis Colts

Anthony Gonzalez
(Third season)
Gonzalez is one of the biggest sleeper candidates in fantasy football, and his status as a third-year wideout makes him even more attractive. With Marvin Harrison no longer in the pass attack and Peyton Manning under center, the Ohio State product has a chance to post the first 1,000-yard season of his NFL career. He'll be seen as a No. 3 fantasy wideout in drafts, but he could emerge into a No. 2 option.


Team Player Analysis

Oakland Raiders

Johnnie Lee Higgins
(Third season)
Higgins showed flashes of potential as a wide receiver last season, scoring a touchdown in each of his final three games. While the addition of rookie Darrius Heyward-Bey puts a big of a damper on his value, Higgins should still warrant late-round consideration if he can earn a prominent role in the Raiders' pass attack. Of course, owners should temper their expectations for anyone in Silver & Black.


Team Player Analysis

Philadelphia Eagles

DeSean Jackson
(Second season)
Jackson, who might have been remembered most for flipping the ball away at the 1-yard line and missing out on a touchdown against Dallas, finished his rookie season with 62 receptions and 912 yards. While the presence of rookie Jeremy Maclin could affect his targets, Jackson is still a good bet to post 1,000-plus yards in a pass-laden Eagles offense. He'll be selected in the middle rounds of drafts.


Team Player Analysis

Denver Broncos

Eddie Royal
(Second season)
Royal was one of several rookies to make an impact for fantasy owners last season, posting an impressive 91 catches for 980 yards and five touchdowns. His value shouldn't fall under new coach Josh McDaniels, who will use Royal in a Wes Welker-type role in the offense. While the loss of Jay Cutler does hurt, Kyle Orton will no doubt look to Royal often. He's a low-end No. 2 fantasy wideout.


Team Player Analysis

New York Giants

Steve Smith
(Third season)
With Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer both out of the mix, Smith is now a favorite to start in the Giants' new-look passing attack. He'll see a possession-receiver role in the offense, so fantasy leaguers should expect improved numbers across the board out of the USC product. While he won't be a 1,000-yard wideout, Smith will have some late-round value and could be even better in most PPR formats.


Have a burning question for Michael Fabiano on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section below or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com, and the best questions will be answered throughout the season right here on NFL.com!

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