The next wide receiver on my "Where the $#!@ did that guy come from?!" list is the Lions' Mike Furrey. Unlike Cotchery, he wasn't deep on the 3rd year wide receiver list -- he was in his fourth year. And he wasn't a wide receiver. In fact, this guy might be the least likely player to catch for over 1000 yards in the history of fantasy football.
Coming out of Northern Iowa he played in the XFL and the Arena League. In his first two NFL seasons he played in 21 games and caught 21 passes. His next season, in 2005, he switched to safety finishing with 41 tackles and four interceptions. The season after that, he caught 98 balls for 1098 yards. How many people saw that coming?
So how did this guy pull it off? Furrey played all sixteen games starting behind stud receiver Roy Williams. Furrey outgained Williams in seven of those games, including four straight games in December. He took advantage of the fact that opposing defenses didn't know who he was either and usually faced a single defender while Williams was blanketed. Furrey was a consistent and reliable option for fantasy players last year.
With the Lions adding rookie phenom Calvin Johnson to the mix, it appears that Mike Furrey's time in the spotlight is done but I don't think that's the case at all. Furrey is going to have a new role on the team, moving to the slot position while Johnson takes over the outside. Johnson is much faster than Furrey and it will be Johnson that will get the long passes this season. But Furrey's new role has plenty of opportunities as well.
As the slot receiver, Furrey will be expected to get open for the 7 yard pass and take a big hit the same way Ed McCaffrey used to do with the Broncos (Note: Since Furrey is a white wide receiver, fantasy football rules require that I compare him to Ed McCaffrey)
With defenders having to worry about Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson streaking down the sidelines, and some combination of Tatum Bell, Kevin Jones and TJ Duckett rumbling from the backfield, Mike Furrey should be the least of their worries.
I don't think Furrey will repeat his total of nearly 1100 yards this season, partly because of his new role and partly because I think Jon Kitna won't put up the same stats this year. But I think 850-900 yards with 4-5 touchdowns is a reasonable projection. Owners who draft Furrey thinking he'll repeat last year's performance will be disappointed, but owners who draft Furrey late should have a solid #3 or #4 WR for their team.