by Jason Powell - Associate Editor, Fanball.com
Tuesday, July 6, 2004

At this time last year, fantasy owners were buzzing with speculation over the newly created Michael Vick to Peerless Price hookup. Meanwhile, the same owners were not as optimistic about Chris Chambers' rebounding from his three-touchdown year. Yet at the end of 2004, Price had just three scores, while Chambers had reeled in a career-high 11 touchdown grabs. Can the return of a healthy Vick help make Price a better keeper league wideout than Chambers? Or will Chambers prove once and for all that he's a better fantasy receiver than Price? Let's put the players through the Keeper Combat wringer and find out.

Chris Chambers
Peerless Price

Team:
Miami Dolphins
Atlanta Falcons

Age:
25 (8/12/1978)
27 (10/27/76)

Height:
5-11
5-11

Weight:
220
190

2003 Stats:
64 receptions, 963 yards, 11 touchdowns
64 receptions, 838 yards, 3 touchdowns

Contract:
Signed through season
Signed through season

Age and Durability

Peerless has been surprisingly durable for a player who had a reputation for being soft and injury prone throughout his college career. A foot injury slowed the former Tennessee Volunteer for a few weeks last year. He also missed a start for the first time in four seasons, yet still managed to play and recorded five receptions during that game.

Chambers hasn't missed a game since week seven of the 2002 season when a concussion kept him on the sidelines. He's played through ankle, rib, and hamstring injuries at various times during the last three years, helping him shed the image of being a soft receiver who was leery of running routes in the middle of the field.

Price and Chambers have each suffered their share of injuries, but both wideouts have earned respect by playing through the pain. The players appear to be equally durable, but Chris is two years younger than Peerless.

Edge: Chambers

The Fluke Factor

Price spent four years the No. 2 receiver in Buffalo. He joined the Falcons last season and became the No. 1 receiver for the first time in his career. Unfortunately, Vick suffered an injury during preseason, and Price was never able to prove whether he is capable of carrying the first receiver load.

Chambers emerged as the Dolphins' top receiver over the past two seasons. He's posted some impressive stats despite playing in an offense that is geared toward Ricky Williams and the ground attack. On the downside, Chris has yet to top 1,000 yards receiving. And while he scored 11 times last year and seven times as a rookie in 2001, he found the end zone just three times in 2002. Oddly enough, Chambers' numbers are similar to those of Price's old running mate in Buffalo, Eric Moulds, who has a well-earned reputation for being an every-other-year performer. It's too soon to put that label on Chambers, but we can't rule it out yet either.

Despite the slight concern about Chambers' year-to-year consistency, Price is the bigger fluke risk. Peerless recorded 1,252 yards and nine touchdowns during a contract year in 2002, but he's only scored more than three touchdowns one other time during his five-year career.

Edge: Chambers

Teammates

The return of a healthy Vick should give Peerless a major boost this season. However, Peerless and Michael didn't show much chemistry when the elusive signal caller returned from injury late last year. Vick and Price hooked up 17 times for just 265 yards and one touchdown during the last five games of 2003. The good news is that the Falcons added wide receivers Dez White and first-round draft pick Michael Jenkins to help pull some of the defensive attention away from Price.

The biggest offseason addition to the Dolphins' offense is wide receiver David Boston, who will start opposite Chambers. Boston was considered a top-10 fantasy wide receiver before he became a major head case. Even if the muscle-bound, nipple-piercing lunatic that played for the Chargers last season shows up in Miami, he's still an upgrade over the receivers who have played opposite Chambers in the past. Boston may be nuttier than a Snickers bar, but he's still a big-play threat whom defenses will have to respect, which should create more openings for Chambers.

Jay Fiedler has an impressive 35-17 record as a starting quarterback in Miami. Such a record might lead you to assume that I'm pulling for Jay win the starting job over A.J. Feeley. Think again. Not only am I bored with Fiedler's erratic play, I'm also tired of seeing those gigantic ears of his. Those side-flaps are so enormous that they would look big even if they were attached to the mega-sized gourd of Eagles' head coach Andy Reid. Okay, so maybe criticizing the size of a quarterback's ears is petty. Here's a stat to keep in mind if you're tinkering with the idea of drafting Fiedler. Jay (or "Dumbo" as we like to call him at Fanball World Headquarters) threw one touchdown and five interceptions during the fantasy playoff weeks last season. If that's not enough to make you hope that Feeley is the person passing the ball to Chambers this year, I don't know what else it would take. Of course, it's not like Feeley is a proven commodity. He has just 168 pass attempts in his career, and did not throw a single pass last season. So while the possibility of Vick being injured again remains an issue, the Fins' quarterback situation is an even greater concern.

Edge: Price

Coach/System

New Falcons' head coach Jim Mora Jr. is installing the West Coast offense. This seems to fit Price's game perfectly, as he is a skilled short-route runner. The plan in Atlanta is to scale back on Vick's rushing attempts as much as possible. If Vick stays in the pocket longer, Price and the other receivers will have more time to get open downfield. Mora would prefer to run a balanced offense, but he won't hesitate to let Vick air it out if the situation calls for it.

The Dolphins live and die with Williams. The addition of Boston should open up the passing game, but Wannstedt is a defensive-minded coach who prefers to run the ball. In other words, don't look for them to return to the pass-heavy days of the Dan Marino era. Ricky will flirt with 400 carries again, so it's hard to imagine Chambers topping 75 receptions this season.

Edge: Price

Conclusion

As the Keeper Combat formula shows, a strong case can be made for either player emerging victorious. In the end, Peerless wins the battle because of his quarterback and the offensive system in which he plays. It's also worth nothing that while Price is under contract through 2009, Chambers' deal expires at the end of the season, so there's a chance he'll leave the Dolphins via free agency. However, Dolphins' officials appear willing to use their franchise tag to keep their star receiver in Miami. Chambers is a better all-around wideout than Price, but several intangibles make Peerless a slightly safer keeper league pick.