NFL Fantasy Forecast: Look for New York's Smith to blossom

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It's considered a rule of thumb in fantasy football: Keep an eye out for wide receivers entering their third year. It is widely held that WRs in the NFL blossom in their third year, and every fantasy owner will be on the lookout for those young WR gems in the middle-to-late rounds of their draft.

I asked the Sports Grumblings computer, Mighty Max, to pluck out WRs entering their third season and select those receivers whose fantasy production increased in their sophomore season.

After being bribed with some extra juice (I had to remove his surge protector), Max produced the following list:

The following two-year receivers have displayed an upward statistical trend, and thus need to be considered likely candidates for success in their junior season (stats are from 2008):

Not too many candidates to choose from...

• Dwayne Bowe is pretty much an established fantasy WR1, so there's no surprises there• Steve Breaston's value is directly tied into his playing time, but he should still remain productive.• Steve Smith might be the guy to watch this season. Having jettisoned Plaxico Burress and (functionally) Amani Toomer, the Giants need a steady, possession-type receiver that QB Eli Manning can count on. Smith is the leading candidate to fill that role, regardless of who wins the role of deep-threat receiver.

Since there aren't that many third-year WRs to choose from, I decided to stretch the definition of "receiver". I asked Max to include tight ends in the analysis -- and the following results came back:

All three of the TEs listed here are solid performers that are poised to post some impressive gains in 2009:

• Greg Olsen is being touted by many experts as the breakout TE of 2009. While I think he's probably the best receiver the Bears have at this point and that QB Jay Cutler will get him the ball more often than Kyle Orton did last season, I doubt that Olsen will live up to the hype.• I liked what I saw out of Zach Miller last season, but he has the misfortune of playing with a sub-par QB in JaMarcus Russell. While I think Miller will still snag his share of passes in 2009, his TD total is likely to remain low -- unless Russell suddenly becomes a pro quarterback or Jeff Garcia takes over.• Kevin Boss may use 2009 to establish himself as a red zone vulture among the league's TEs. Boss is a big target, and last season it seemed that Manning looked for him a lot whenever the Giants got inside the opponent's 10-yard line.

There you have it, the 2009 third-year receivers poised to make a move this season ... will they fit or break the mold?