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Friday, August 18, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Fantasy Football: Top-tier wideouts are worth early look

Seattle Times staff

I've always been a take-two-running-backs-with-my-first-two-picks kind of fantasy-football drafter.

At least that's always the plan going in. But I've changed my outlook this year, as the crop of first-tier wide receivers is more appealing to me than the crop of second-tier running backs.

Here are my top 25 pass-catchers, with Nos. 1 through 7 making up the first tier:

1. Steve Smith, Panthers: No reason to think he can't repeat remarkable 2005, especially with newly acquired Keyshawn Johnson drawing away coverage.

2. Torry Holt, Rams: Over the past three seasons, no receiver has more catches (313), yards (4,399) or 100-yard games (22); very safe pick, as he has played in 110 of a possible 112 regular-season games in his seven-year career.

3. Chad Johnson, Bengals: Carson Palmer's health makes Johnson a bit of a question mark, but not enough of one to fall too far on draft day.

4. Marvin Harrison, Colts: Likely to lead league in touchdowns (at least 12) as quarterback Peyton Manning's top red-zone target once again.

5. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: He'll be the man in the red zone, and it won't be long before Fitzgerald, who turns 23 on Aug. 31, is the best receiver in the league.

6. Randy Moss, Raiders: Could easily return to top-WR status if health and new QB Aaron Brooks hold up.

7. Terrell Owens, Cowboys: Draft at your own risk, although I'm betting he's on his best behavior in his first season with Dallas and coach Bill Parcells.

8. Chris Chambers, Dolphins: As Miami's only legitimate WR threat, he will hook up with new QB Daunte Culpepper for a lot of big gains.

9. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals: Probably better than Chambers talent-wise, but past health issues and lack of touchdowns put him just below.

10. Hines Ward, Steelers: Durable, dependable and great near the end zone.

11. Plaxico Burress, Giants: QB Eli Manning just about always looks for Burress first.

12. Reggie Wayne, Colts: Hasn't missed a game since rookie year.

13. Santana Moss, Redskins: Hard to believe he'll surpass 1,400 yards again with additions of Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El.

14. Roy Williams, Lions: A TD machine when healthy, Williams has the talent to break out big.

15. Darrell Jackson, Seahawks: Continuing knee problem knocks him down a few spots.

16. Andre Johnson, Titans: With WR Eric Moulds in the mix and QB David Carr more seasoned, this season presents Johnson's best shot to move into the elite.

17. Derrick Mason, Ravens: Playing again with QB Steve McNair — they were teammates with the Titans — should allow him to score more than the three TDs of last season.

18. Donald Driver, Packers: QB Brett Favre will look his way a lot, but constant double teams could stifle him a bit.

19. Deion Branch, Patriots: Expect him to surpass 1,000 yards for the first time, but New England's spread-it-around passing game won't allow him to score more than seven TDs.

20. Donte' Stallworth, Saints: Finally showed more than glimpses in 2005 of what many had expected, and now he'll have the ultra-accurate Drew Brees throwing to him.

21. Javon Walker, Broncos: A risk because he's coming off a season in which he played just one game after blowing out a knee. But if he's at full strength, you're getting No. 1-WR talent from your No. 2.

22. Joey Galloway, Buccaneers: He's 34 years old, but don't let that scare you too much because his speed is still there. Don't forget about teammate Michael Clayton later on.

23. Joe Horn, Saints: Best years are behind him, but he's still capable of some monster games. Stallworth's emergence should free him up a bit, too.

24. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals: Palmer's health also key to success of Cincinnati's No. 2.

25. Nate Burleson, Seahawks: Should fit in nicely in high-powered attack.

Got questions about fantasy football? Send them to Jerry Faull: jfaull@seattletimes.com, or Jerry Faull, Seattle Times Sports, 1120 John St., Seattle, WA 98109. His look at fantasy football will appear each Friday during the NFL season.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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