The Denver Broncos have been busy this offseason retooling their wide receiver unit with the signing of former Carolina Panthers pass catcher Keary Colbert. Colbert will battle Brandon Stokley for the No. 2 receiver position beside Brandon Marshall. Colbert's arrival follows the release of receiver Javon Walker.
A former second-round pick of the Panthers, Colbert reportedly received a three-year deal, worth $7.2 million, including a $2.5 million signing bonus. In four seasons, he has caught 109 passes for 1,424 yards and seven touchdowns. His best season came as a rookie, when he totaled 47 receptions, 754 yards and five scores. Colbert has not been able to approach these numbers since, due mostly to injury, having missed nine games the past two seasons.
During two seasons with the Broncos, Walker showed flashes of the greatness that made him the first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2002. He also has displayed the ill effects of a devastating knee injury that could derail a once promising career.
Walker injured his knee in the first game of 2005 and missed the remainder of the season. He was traded to Denver for a second-round pick prior to the NFL Draft in 2006. In his first year with the Broncos, Walker hauled in 69 catches for 1,084 yards with eight touchdowns and played in all 16 games. He came out of the gates fast in 2007 compiling 17 receptions for 220 yards in the first two games. He left a Week 3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars due to the troublesome knee, which required an arthroscopic surgery. Walker was not able to regain his early season form, finishing the season with 26 receptions for 287 yards upon returning to the lineup in Week 12.
The Oakland Raiders have taken a chance on Walker, signing him to a reported six-year deal worth $55 million, including more then $16 million in guarantees.
In six NFL seasons Walker has caught 252 passes for 3,815 yards (15.1 yards-per-catch average) adding 30 touchdowns. Walker clearly has a more impressive resume, but his injury history coupled with his stated desire to play elsewhere, caused the Broncos to go in a different direction. Colbert, four years younger than Walker, will look to replace his on-field production.
After a solid rookie campaign Colbert has failed to live up to expectations. He leaves injuries and inconsistencies in Carolina, getting a chance to revive his career in Denver.
In 2007, Colbert played in only 12 games. He was affected by inconsistent quarterback play; the Panthers used four different starters last season. He should benefit from playing with Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler. Last season, Cutler posted solid numbers. He passed for 3,497 yards, 20 touchdowns and completed 63.6 percent of his passes. He is establishing himself as one of the NFL's top young signal callers along the way.
Marshall clearly is Cutler's favorite target. He proved himself to be a top fantasy receiver in 2007. Marshall finished with 102 catches (fifth-most), 1,325 (sixth-most) and seven scores. Stokley, in his first season with the Broncos, added 40 receptions, 635 yards and five touchdowns to Denver's passing attack. In addition, the Broncos have two pass-catching threats at tight end in Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham.
Heading into training camp Colbert will have to establish himself as the Broncos No. 2 receiver. If he is able to do that and stay healthy, his fantasy value should increase slightly. His career per-season averages are 27.25 receptions, 356 yards, 1.75 touchdowns and 13.5 games played.
View Colbert as a late-round flier pick as a No. 4 fantasy receiver if he wins the No. 2 job. Marshall should be considered a high-upside No. 2 fantasy receiver with added value in point-per-reception formats, while Stokley can be looked at as a free-agent waiver wire option for the occasional spot-play.
About Thomas Griffenkranz
Thomas has been a KFFL contributor since 2007.
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