Here's a little bit of football trivia: What do Harold Carmichael, Stanley Morgan, Terrell Owens, Rod Smith, Santana Moss, Steve Smith and Javon Walker have in common? Aside from the obvious answer (yes each of these athletes was an NFL wide receiver), all of them recorded statistical breakouts in their third season at the pro level.
This trend has been viable for several decades, from the likes of Homer Jones and Charley Taylor in the 1960s, Carmichael and Steve Largent in the 1970s, Ricky Sanders and Steve Watson in the 1980s, Owens and Rod Smith in the 1990s, and Moss, Steve Smith and Walker in the current era. The trend was also viable in 2006 as the likes of Bernard Berrian, Jerricho Cotchery, Lee Evans, Devery Henderson and Roy Williams all recorded career statistical performances in their third NFL season.
With the numbers to back it, this trend has become a popular tool in the world of fantasy football in the determination of potential breakout and sleeper candidates at the wide receiver position. With that in mind and in our continued effort to prepare owners for next season's drafts, here's our list of the top 20 wideouts who will enter their third season in 2007.
1. Reggie Brown, Philadelphia: The most valuable member on our list, Brown should become a prominent option in the Eagles pass attack now that Donté Stallworth (Patriots) is out of the mix. Brown, a skillful athlete who will have a chance to thrive in the pass-laded offense of head coach Andy Reid, should be considered a No. 2 fantasy wideout.
2. Mark Clayton, Baltimore: Clayton showed serious flashes of potential in his second season, and there's little doubt he will build on that success. The Oklahoma product recorded two 100-yard performances and two touchdowns over the final four weeks of 2006, and he has the abilities to record around 1,000-plus yards and five to seven scores in 2007.
3. Vincent Jackson, San Diego: The Chargers have new uniforms and a new No. 1 wideout this season in Jackson, a 6-foot-5, 241-pound specimen who will become a terrific red-zone threat for Philip Rivers. One of the most attractive sleeper candidates in the world of fantasy football, Jackson should be considered as a viable No. 3 fantasy wide receiver.
4. Braylon Edwards, Cleveland: There's no question that Edwards has all the tools to become a 1,000-yard receiver, but injuries and questions at the quarterback position have limited his level of statistical success. He will continue to be an important component in the Browns offense, however, so Edwards should become a more consistent fantasy wideout.
5. Troy Williamson, Minnesota: Williamson, who has been a serious disappointment for the Vikings to this point, has corrected an apparent eyesight problem and has been very impressive in offseason workouts. With no real standout wide receivers on the roster, Williamson will have a definite chance to start and is worth the risk in the late rounds.
6. Roydell Williams, Tennessee: Williams could become a starter for head coach Jeff Fisher if David Givens misses the start or all of the regular season, but he will have to compete with Brandon Jones, Courtney Roby, Eric Moulds and rookie Paul Williams for the role. He's worth a late-round flier in larger leagues.
7. Matt Jones, Jacksonville: A former collegiate quarterback and one of the best pure athletes on the Jaguars roster, Jones has the skills but has been a disappointment in training camp. His size (6-foot-6, 238 pounds) will make him a nice red-zone choice for Byron Leftwich, but Jones has much to prove before he warrants more than a late-round pick.
8. Roddy White, Atlanta: White has immense speed and would have been a more viable sleeper candidate had it not been for the offseason addition of Joe Horn, who will force White into a somewhat lesser role. Head coach Bobby Petrino will utilize countless three-receiver sets, so White will be used to stretch defenses and could have late-round value.
9. Brandon Jones, Tennessee: With the status of David Givens in doubt after a second surgical on his knee, Jones was the favorite to open the regular season as the Titans' No. 1 wide receiver. He's had a mediocre camp, however, and seems to have fallen behind Eric Moulds and Roydell Williams. He's worth no more than a late-round flier.
10. Chris Henry, Cincinnati: Henry would have been ranked much higher on our list if it weren't for a league-imposed, eight-game suspension that will keep him out of action until Week 10 at Baltimore. He is still worth a late-round flier for owners that can stash him away on their rosters, but he will miss more than half of the fantasy football regular season.
12. Mark Bradley, Chicago: Injuries and the emergence of Bernard Berrian hurt Bradley's value last season, and now he'll be forced to battle Rashied Davis and Devin Hester for opportunities in the offensive attack of coordinator Ron Turner.
13. Tab Perry, Cincinnati: Perry, not Antonio Chatman, is now considered the favorite to open the regular season as the Bengals' No. 3 wideout, but he won't be able to do the same statistical damage as Chris Henry did in the pass attack.
15. Mike Williams, Oakland: A reunion with head coach Lane Kiffin, who tutored him while at Southern California, does make Williams a bit more attractive, but not much. He still must improve on his questionable work ethic, and he's no lock to make the roster even with Kiffin at the helm. As a result, don't look for Williams to have his name called in most drafts.
17. Marcus Maxwell, San Francisco: Maxwell was impressive in NFL Europe, but he's a long shot to make the roster.
18. LeRon McCoy, Arizona: McCoy continues to slide down the Cards' depth chart and might not make the roster at all.
19. Craphonso Thorpe, Indianapolis: Thorpe signed with the Colts in the offseason but might not make the final cuts.