Bigger isn't always better.
Some examples are obvious: credit card debt, swimsuit models, belligerent drunks. Others aren't. That big house down the block? The heating bill is even bigger. An athlete's pimped-out SUV? It loses some of its allure after the first $100 fill-up.
What about wide receivers? Scouts, coaches and general managers have fallen in love with big, physical receivers -- guys like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. Do you really think teams would be willing to put up with those players' prickly attitudes if they were pipsqueaks?
Taller receivers provide easier targets in the red zone. They give quarterbacks a larger window to hit on deep balls. There's also the widely held assumption that they're tougher to defend because of their strength. The average corner can't bump them off their routes. It might take a semi.
It's a bit surprising then that no one was tougher to defend this season than Steve Smith. NFL receivers hardly come any smaller.
Smith (5-9, 185) led the league in every major receiving category in 2005. He had 103 receptions for 1,563 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns -- he also had a rushing score. He had nine 100-yard games -- actually, one of those was a 200-yard day.
All of that doesn't even include the playoffs, where he again led all receivers in receptions (27), yards (335) and touchdowns (three). He averaged 111.7 receiving yards in his playoff games, and that number is dramatically lower than what he had before Seattle held him to 33 yards in the NFC Championship loss.
Smith wasn't the only short guy to come up big in 2005. Of the top five receivers in fantasy scoring, three of them were shorter than 6 foot and weighed less than 200 pounds. The other two, Santana Moss (5-10, 185) and Joey Galloway (5-11, 197), found themselves in situations similar to Smith's. They were the No. 1 receivers on offenses that never found a second option, so the coaches did everything possible to keep them heavily involved. Few defenders were able to match their speed and quickness.
TSN's Dan Pompei looks at the evolving view of miniature receivers in this week's Insider column. He explains that small guys who are durable and can break jams at the line are able to take full advantage of their edge in quickness. The new emphasis on defensive holding has helped because defenders are less likely to slow them down. Pompei also suggests that the influx of taller corners, brought in to guard the taller receivers, has helped smaller guys fit through the cracks.
Did any of these guys fall through the cracks in your draft in 2005?
Terry Glenn (5-11, 193) stayed healthy and had the best season of his 10-year career. He set a career high with seven touchdowns and fell just 11 yards short of his best yardage total. Those numbers allowed him to finish among the top 12 fantasy scorers. Don't expect a repeat; it's not going to happen. Still, Glenn deserves a lineup spot.
Although Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch (5-9, 193) came up two yards short of a 1,000-yard season, he still posted the best numbers of his career. He should do even better in 2006 if, as expected, free agent David Givens leaves town. Branch will make a nice No. 2 as Tom Brady's favorite target.
Lee Evans (5-10, 197) is another "undersized" receiver who has provided oversized results. He scored 16 times in his first two seasons, and his third-year potential becomes greater because Eric Moulds won't be around. J.P. Losman threw five of his eight scores last year to Evans, so we're sure Evans can produce with anyone.
Kevin Curtis (5-11, 186) shone while Isaac Bruce was hampered. He finished tied for 16th among receivers with seven total scores, and he'll be a factor again this season as long as the Rams retain him -- he is a restricted free agent. New coach Scott Linehan will be more open to letting Curtis battle Bruce for a starting job than Mike Martz would have been.
Even the guys who fell short -- excuse the pun -- finished with respectable '05 numbers given their circumstances. Laveranues Coles (5-11, 193) didn't meet expectations in his return to the Jets. Poor quarterback play after Chad Pennington's injury is to blame. Derrick Mason (5-10, 192) wasn't the dominant force the Ravens hoped he would be, but he still compiled his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season.
Little dudes to watch
The next wave of impish receivers won't stand out in a crowd, but they should draw owners' attention in the later rounds. Here are a few small sleepers.
Mark Clayton, Ravens. Clayton (5-10, 195) was Baltimore's first-round pick last spring (22nd overall), and the only negative scouts saw was his size. He started slowly before finishing his rookie season with 471 receiving yards and three total touchdowns. Of those totals, 305 of the yards and all of the scores came in December. Having Mason across the field from him will keep the pressure off, and Clayton should pay off as a bench receiver for owners.
Roscoe Parrish, Bills. Parrish (5-9, 168) never had more than 31 yards in a game as a rookie, and his lone touchdown came in the season finale. Buffalo will look for more from this second rounder in 2006. Because Moulds isn't expected back, Parrish could end up starting opposite Evans. Parrish's racehorse speed could make him a major surprise if the Bills' quarterback, whoever it is, can get the ball in his hands.
Samie Parker, Chiefs. We love third-year receivers, and this year's group includes as many goodies as a pillowcase on Halloween. Parker (5-11, 190) merits some attention. One of the bugaboos with smaller receivers is that they can't stay healthy, and Parker's durability will be in question until he plays a 16-game season. He is worth a spot in the late rounds in case he has that breakout season.
Santonio Holmes and Sinorice Moss, TBD. Holmes (5-11, 185) and Moss (5-8, 183) are two of the top receiver prospects in this year's draft. Many franchises still might have concerns about using a first-round pick on smaller receivers, but as Smith and others have shown, don't think about writing off the little guys.
I like the Samie Parker pick, but with thier respective QBs, I can't put any faith in those other guys.