Housh gets chance to redeem himself

March, 2, 2009
T.J. Houshmandzadeh certainly wasn't the best fantasy bargain in the 2008 season, as several key Bengals players around him crumbled and led to his falling out of the top 30 for wide receivers in fantasy points. He was, after all, a top-10 wide receiver on draft day, and a third-round pick, so in fantasy terms, he must be called a bust, no matter who was at fault. To regain fantasy status, Houshmandzadeh, the pre-eminent wide receiver on the free-agent market, needed to bolt Cincinnati for a place with a stable quarterback situation. Enter Seattle.

The Seahawks are a team desperate for help on the outside. Tight end John Carlson led this franchise in receptions and receiving yards, and he's not exactly Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez. Bobby Engram, Koren Robinson and Deion Branch, Seattle's top receivers, combined for fewer yards than five individual receivers in 2008. Matt Hasselbeck might not be in the prime of his career anymore, but without a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, it can be tough to tell how much some quarterbacks have fallen off. Now we'll get to see.

In truth, Houshmandzadeh probably did all he could to overcome Cincy's loss of Carson Palmer and the subsequent ascension of untested Ryan Fitzpatrick to starting quarterback. Houshmandzadeh got outscored for the season at wide receiver by a lot of people he shouldn't have, including multiple rookies, a pair of Jets and Texans … even ancient Isaac Bruce. Houshmandzadeh had three games of 20 fantasy points (standard scoring), but those were the only weeks in which he reached double digits.

All was not lost, though. In terms of receptions, Houshmandzadeh was a weekly asset in points-per-reception formats, finishing sixth in the NFL with 92 catches. However, of the 32 wide receivers who caught 64 or more passes, he's the only one who averaged less than 10 yards per catch. Whose fault is it? Well, I don't think it was Houshmandzadeh's. Blame the offense, Chad Johnson and Chris Henry, the running game, an overall lost season. Things will get better for Housh in the Northwest.

But how much better? Even at 31, he doesn't seem to have lost a step, and he's going to a team with a clear need to use him often, but it would be nice if the Seahawks had a deep option to take the pressure off. Houshmandzadeh is more of a sure-handed possession receiver than a long-ball threat, though it was hard to tell in 2007. With Palmer slingin' it that season, Houshmandzadeh caught 112 passes for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns. That season was a bit of an aberration; Houshmandzadeh's fantasy value in 2008 was so low only because the touchdowns weren't there, and 2007 was the only time he reached double digits. The Seahawks suffered through a brutal 2008 campaign, but in the NFC West division, where defense isn't, shall we say, priority No. 1, we should expect the wide receiver's average scoring output to get back to its normal levels, around double digits.

For now, I wouldn't call Houshmandzadeh a safe top-10 wide receiver but rather a borderline choice. In his recent Top 200, colleague Matthew Berry placed Houshmandzadeh at No. 46 overall, good for 14th among wide receivers, and with this move he bumped him up to No. 9 among receivers. I slot Houshmandzadeh in at No. 11, behind Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith, Randy Moss, Roddy White, Marques Colston and Terrell Owens.

In terms of other Seahawks, we'll wait and see what the team does for the other starting wide receiver slot. Hasselbeck was a borderline top-10 choice in 2008, and I'd say adding arguably his greatest wide receiver weapon since an in-his-prime Darrell Jackson is a good thing, but not enough to move him ahead of Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Donovan McNabb or probably even Matt Cassel to make my top 10.

As for the Bengals, Chad Johnson had a lost 2008, but he might end up sticking around now. Palmer is expected to be ready for the season, so although the Bengals won't have Houshmandzadeh, it's a bit premature to know how this will affect the offense and who will get opportunity.

• In other news, the Tennessee Titans picked up Nate Washington, agreeing to a six-year contract with the receiver. Washington was a productive No. 3 receiver for the eventual champion Pittsburgh Steelers, providing 631 receiving yards, and this is exactly the type of offseason move he should be making, aiming to start somewhere else. The problem is, Kerry Collins remains the Titans' quarterback, and this is not a team that throws the ball downfield so much. It's a running team. Washington should be more productive as a deep threat, and increase the viability of Justin Gage, but I wouldn't call either wide receiver a fantasy starter. Gage caught six touchdown passes, nearly half of the Titans' entire team output. I would expect neither Gage nor Washington to get that many touchdowns in 2009, but man, I do like Chris Johnson even more as a second-round pick!


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