Faceoff - WR Ashley Lelie, Denver Broncos
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Upside - by Aaron Rudnicki
Lelie was one of the latest WRs to breakout during his 3rd season in the NFL, when he nearly doubled his fantasy production and finished as the #23 ranked WR. He has good size at 6’3”, 200lbs, but his biggest strength is his blazing speed, which helped him to a league-leading average of 20.1 yards per catch. Lelie has improved his hands, route running, concentration, and overall consistency and could be poised to overtake the 35 year old Rod Smith as the #1 passing target in Denver as early as this season. Jake Plummer is coming off the best season of his career (4089 yards and 27 TDs) and the Broncos should continue to have one of the best offenses in the league. The Broncos dominant running game and the presence of Rod Smith should also prevent defenses from focusing too much attention on Lelie, which will give him plenty of favorable matchups to exploit. Lelie’s big play ability allows him to maximize his fantasy production on a limited number of catches, so he doesn’t need to be one of the most targeted WRs in the league to have a big season. If he does see more targets in 2005, however, he clearly has the potential to have a top-15 type of season.
Downside - by Cecil Lammey
Ashley Lelie has improved his receiving statistics every year he’s been in the league. However, I believe that we have seen Lelie’s statistical ceiling from his performance in 2004. Ashley Lelie has had plenty of time to develop into the wide receiver that the Broncos had hoped for when they drafted him in the first round of the 2002 draft. At this point in his career it seems that Ashley will be a good but not great number two wide receiver. I don’t believe he will develop further to emerge as a true number one receiver, which is what you spend first round draft picks on. We’ve seen pretty much all of what Lelie can do and in the end it is quite pedestrian.
Lelie has only had four 100 yard games in his 3 year career. In comparison Randy Moss had three 100 yard games in 2004, and that was by far the worst performance of his career. Some may think it’s unfair to compare Lelie to Moss, but the Broncos were looking for a game breaker type receiver when they selected Lelie out of the University of Hawaii. Inconsistency plagues Lelie, and it is not the only flaw that his game has.
Ashley is a below average route runner, often making his catches on “go” routes, but rarely going over the middle. Defenses know how to guard Lelie because the basic principal is only to not let him by you. He does not have many moves and does not set up defenders well. He can effectively be jammed at the line of scrimmage because of a lack of upper body strength. Basically, an average cornerback can effectively take him out of a game. He is not a red zone threat because he lacks the physical strength to get himself into the best position for lob passes. In summation, don’t expect much more production than what we’ve already seen from Lelie. He is a middle of the pack receiver and it looks like that is what he’ll always be.