Is Donnie Avery a Fantasy Starter?

To look at Rams top wide receiver Donnie Avery brings a litany of questions:

  • Will he be able to progress from his rookie season and assume the pressures as the team’s top receiver?
  • Will his QB be able to get him the ball?
  • How will missing the majority of the preseason affect his performance?
  • Will he even be able to take the field for Week 1?

A second round draft pick in 2008, Avery was second on the Rams in 2008 with 53 receptions and 674 yards, trailing just Torry Holt in both categories.  With Holt now calling Jacksonville home, Avery was thought to enter 2009 as the team’s prime target but injuries have derailed those plans a bit.

He had been sidelined since August 7 after suffering a stress fracture in his foot during a scrimmage.  It was questionable if he would recover in time to open the season, but he was in the line-up for Thursday’s final preseason game.

He was only in the game for the first two series and didn’t have a single pass thrown his way, but being able to take the field was a huge victory.  While it is possible that he’s still hindered by the injury for a week or two into the regular season, the fact that he will be able to take the field gives him a chance to be productive.

Marc Bulger has also been limited this preseason, just helping fuel the questions about his potential success in 2009.  Once regarded as one of the elite quarterbacks in the game, he has been mired with injuries only once starting all 16 games in a season.

Last year he did manage to play in 15 games, but still had just 2,720 yards.  Over the past two seasons he’s thrown just 22 touchdowns compared to 28 interceptions.  His completion percentage hasn’t exceeded 58.5% each of the past two years.

Even this preseason, he’s been sidelined with a fractured pinkie.  Considering that the projected second-string quarterback is Kyle Boller, with a career passer rating of 71.9, there is reason to worry that Avery could suffer this season from poor quarterback play.

Will Bulger be healthy?  Can he rediscover his Pro bowl status?  What if Boller is forced into duty?

With that said, let’s take a look at what I would expect from Avery this season:

Receiving – 61 catches, 835 yards, 5 TD

When looking for a wide receiver, you want someone who you can count on.  With Avery, I don’t think you get that.  He proved to be good last season, but he was far from elite.  Throw in the questions about his QB and the fact that the Rams are going to be a team to ride Steven Jackson into the end zone at any time possible, and you get a WR with more questions then answers.

He has upside, however, considering he will be his teams top receiver.  He’s worth getting, but too me I don’t want to be depending on him as one of my top three receivers.  While he could prove worthy of a starting spot, he’d look better on my bench as a #4 who I can reap the benefits from if he outperforms my projections.

What do you think?  Do you think Avery will be a must start fantasy WR option or is he better as your fourth option?

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