You know you're a pretty good wide receiver when you cross the 1,000-yard mark before Thanksgiving. Still, it seems Houston Texans star Andre Johnson is having trouble getting his due in fantasy circles. Nobody has more catches or receiving yards this season, and a mere five players have more fantasy points at wide receiver. So what does Johnson have to do to earn our respect and be known as a weekly start?
Well, there's this thing called a touchdown. You get six points for it. Fantasy owners, real owners, any owner craves it. But does it really matter how Johnson wins you fantasy games?
Johnson has not done a whole lot of touchdown-scoring, whether it's due to schedule, quarterback play or just bad luck. But I'd argue it's not that big a deal since the other numbers are so overwhelming. He's on pace for 118 catches and more than 1,500 yards. Sure, among players in the top 30 for scoring among fantasy wide receivers, only three gentlemen have scored fewer times, but DeSean Jackson remains popular, Wes Welker is going to catch 100 passes and top 1,000 yards, and Derrick Mason has his moments. To me, it's about the receptions. In fantasy football, I don't sit wide receivers that catch as many passes for as many yards as Johnson does.
Entering Week 12, fantasy owners were wavering on not just Johnson as a must-start, but Randy Moss and Terrell Owens as well. While Moss and Owens had enormous fantasy performances and combined for 57 points (with four touchdowns and 338 yards) in Week 12, Johnson made it to 100 yards for the sixth time. He just didn't score. The lack of scoring turned what could have been a Moss- or Owens-type game into 11 fantasy points, and probably angered Johnson owners. It's important, however, to keep his performance in perspective and not bench the guy.
Sure, Sage Rosenfels might not have the same upside as injured quarterback Matt Schaub, but he actually has been finding his top wide receiver plenty. Detractors might point to the four-week span in which Johnson averaged 10 receptions per game, and that he hasn't done this with Rosenfels since, but he was also facing the Colts, Dolphins, Lions and Bengals during that nifty four-week stretch. Rosenfels isn't Schaub, but he's not preventing Johnson from putting up big statistics, either. Neither is the team's second wide receiver, the underrated Kevin Walter, who's currently tied for No. 13 at his position for the season in fantasy points, or standout rookie running back Steve Slaton. This Houston team isn't bad at all in our game.
The Texans don't get many chances to play in front of a national audience, and this Monday night affair will give viewers a long-overdue opportunity to check out how good Johnson is. He'll be facing the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that used to pride itself on shutting down opposing offenses but has allowed 13 touchdowns to wide receivers this season. Only the Cardinals and Dolphins have permitted more. Johnson stands to enjoy the first Monday night game of his career, just like fantasy owners.
Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.