Anybody who witnessed Carson Palmer during the 2005 NFL regular season remembers how impressive he can be when he gets hot. Well, as of Week 7 in 2009, fantasy owners can now consider Palmer “hot”. On the first play of this game, Carson threw a play-action 20-yard “floater” pass, a trademark pass which he hasn’t flashed with ease since the 2005 season. For the remainder of this game, Palmer looked as proficient as ever, completing 20 of his 24 pass attempts for five TDs. As a mirror to his 2005 form, he had the Bengals in a pass-first mode, and the success opened up the run game, where Benson went for almost 200 yards rushing. Where should owners expect Palmer’s passes to land, other than Ochocinco? The answer to this question should unveil a fantasy sleeper.
A closer look for the season shows that FB Jeremi Johnson has only received 6 targets (3 catches), RB Cedric Benson only 14 targets (10 catches), TE Daniel Coats 23 targets (10 catches), and TE John Paul Foschi 11 targets (8 catches). Also note that although Coats received 16 looks through Weeks 4-7, he dropped three catch-able TD passes in that time frame and has since been demoted to backup. It is easy to see that the Bengals do not use the FB, the RB, or the TE much in the passing game, primarily because their options are all poor pass catchers. As a result, this search can be dwindled down to exclusively the WR options.
At the moment, there are three WR options who could possibly suddenly evolve, Laveranues Coles, Andre Caldwell, and Chris Henry. Each has their own distinctive role and strength, but each also tends to cancel the others out in terms of elite fantasy production.
Coles could simply have been a product of needing time to develop chemistry with a new QB. To start out the season, Coles had experienced trouble catching the ball and thus lost Palmer’s trust. Over the last two weeks though, he has caught a TD in each game while also featuring his two highest yardage games. While his numbers are still relatively low, he is by far the most NFL-polished among the three WRs listed here, and his statistical increase could be a sign of chemistry starting to mesh with Carson Palmer.
Andre Caldwell has become the most dependable WR for Carson. He has been the target of at least eight passes thrown in three of the seven games so far this season. In addition, he also has shown clutch tendencies by catching game-winning TDs against Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the closing minutes of those games. At this point, Caldwell should be considered the WR3 for Cincinnati in terms of the amount of plays that he will be on the field.
Chris Henry has the most prolific intangibles and brings the most big-play ability. The problem though is that he hasn’t shown enough consistency yet to merit steady playing time. The result is that he only has one game where he received more than three looks from Palmer. The offset is that even with a low number of looks, Henry’s yards per catch is almost double that of Caldwell or Coles.
The end result could be that all three will have a rotation of big games, but fantasy owners should notice an increase in at least one of these WRs in fantasy production.
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