Moss, T.O. disappoint while new faces emerge at WR position

The value of wide receivers in fantasy football increased drastically after the 2007 season.

Randy Moss established the record for touchdown catches, Terrell Owens told us to get our popcorn ready while he posted monster numbers and Braylon Edwards broke out in Cleveland. Other wideouts like Reggie Wayne, Chad Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (to name a few) also had solid seasons. Based on the fact that fantasy leaguers lost faith in running backs after the likes of Larry Johnson, Deuce McAllister and Thomas Jones failed them, there was a shift to favoring wideouts in 2008.

That turned out to be an enormous mistake.

A number of the aforementioned receivers saw major drops in production, while a spike in running backs put the position back atop the fantasy food chain. The biggest disappointments were Edwards and Johnson, who came nowhere near their 2007 totals. Moss did score 11 touchdowns, but that was 12 fewer than his 23 the previous season. He also finished with close to 500 fewer yards without Tom Brady. Owens barely reached the 1,000-yard mark and posted just two 100-yard performances the entire season.

Wayne and Houshmandzadeh also failed to duplicate their previous season's success.

With Marvin Harrison back in the mix and Dallas Clark established in the Colts' passing attack, Wayne finished with a significant decrease in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

Houshmandzadeh did catch 92 passes, but he couldn't hold onto his status as an elite fantasy wideout with Carson Palmer on the sidelines. Houshmandzadeh had just two 100-yard games and posted a meager 178 yards and no touchdowns from Week 12 until the end of the season.

Both Wayne and Houshmandzadeh should rebound in 2009, especially if the Colts part ways with Harrison and Palmer returns to the Bengals at 100 percent. But that doesn't change the fact that neither was able to produce the sort of numbers expected of them in 2008.

Of course, there were a number of bright spots at the position as well.

Larry Fitzgerald, who will be the top wideout in most 2009 drafts, totaled 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has now averaged an impressive 98 catches, 1,420 yards and 11 scores over the past two seasons, and he's scored double-digit touchdowns in a season three times since 2005. His teammate, Anquan Boldin, was also a star in fantasy land. Despite missing time after a horrific hit against the Jets, Boldin still finished with more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.

It was also a huge season for Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson.

Andre was a beast in PPR formats, catching 115 passes for 1,575 yards and eight touchdowns. All of those totals established or matched career highs. Calvin, who might be the most talented wide receiver in the league, had a monster season despite playing on a winless team that never had an established quarterback.

Heck, there were some weeks it seemed like the Lions might have needed to bring Eric Hipple or Erik Kramer out of retirement after Jon Kitna was lost for the season. Despite the constant quarterback carousel and being on such a bad team, Calvin finished with better than 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns. He'll be a surefire top-five fantasy wideout in all drafts going forward.

Fantasy leaguers also saw solid production from Greg Jennings, Roddy White and Steve Smith. Jennings continued to thrive even without Brett Favre, and White proved that his breakout 2007 season was no fluke. With Matt Ryan under center in Atlanta, White will remain an attractive fantasy option in 2009.

The same holds true for Smith, who finished with 78 catches, 1,421 yards and six touchdowns despite missing the first two games due to a team-imposed suspension.

Antonio Bryant, a low-end preseason sleeper, was also a star. He hauled in 83 passes for 1,248 yards and scored seven touchdowns, despite sitting out the entire 2007 season. He was especially effective for owners when it mattered the most -- in the fantasy postseason. Bryant put up 200 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers in Week 14, 108 yards and one touchdown against the Falcons in Week 15 and finished with 127 yards and a score against the Chargers in fantasy's championship week.

While the position will remain valuable going forward, especially in PPR leagues, there isn't a wideout who warrants a first-round selection like Moss did last season. What's more, the top names at the position will now be Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Boldin instead of Moss, Owens, Wayne and Edwards.

Awards

Player of the year: Fitzgerald. In standard leagues, no wideout scored more fantasy points than Fitzgerald in 2008.
Bust of the year: Edwards. His decreased production was monumental. He was a complete waste of an early round pick.
Breakout of the year:Calvin Johnson. Imagine what Megatron is capable of if the Lions ever get a consistent quarterback?
Sleeper of the year: Bryant. He wasn't even selected in most fantasy drafts, but Bryant helped owners win championships.
Top player for 2009: Fitzgerald. He's consistent, productive and one of the most talented wideouts in the entire league.

Have a burning question for Michael Fabiano on anything fantasy football related? 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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