Sunday, July 31, 2011

2011 NFL Free Agency and Trades: Fantasy Football Impact

The NFL season officially got underway this week and the off-the-field action has been moving fast. There have been a lot of rumors, a few monster signings and a couple big trades involving big name players. While NFL teams are busy re-working their rosters, The Source breaks down the fantasy impact of these trades and free agent signings, and tells you whether you should buy'em or sell'em.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, New England Patriots
Ochocinco said he landed in heaven after he was traded to the Patriots. Ochocinco should find new life in New England, much like Randy Moss did in 2009. Ochocinco gives Tom Brady and the Patriots a reliable receiver who can challenge defenses. If Ochocinco can follow the "Patriots way," he will be in for a big season in New England.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Minnesota Vikings
McNabb's fantasy value has plummeted in recent years, but should get a boost now that he's a Viking. McNabb will have the luxury of handing off to Adrian Peterson 20-25 times a game and throwing short passes to Percy Harvin. McNabb also has two very good pass catching tight ends to throw to in Visanthe Shiancoe and rookie Kyle Rudolph. If the Bernard Berrian and newcomer Michael Jenkins can provide the Vikings with any production, McNabb becomes even more of an appealing fantasy option. Consider him a fantasy QB2, with the potential to be fill-in starter against favorable match-ups.  

Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins
Bush joins a Miami team that is searching for feature back. Bush leaves New Orleans, where he was primarily a pass catcher, to join a Dolphins team where he could play a more prominent role. I'm not sure Bush is a guy who can carry the ball 15-20 times a game, but his fantasy value increases now that he's in Miami. Consider him a solid RB3/flex player (RB2 in PPR leagues). I still think rookie Daniel Thomas will get a bulk of the carries eventually this year for the Dolphins.

Kevin Kolb, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Kolb to the Cardinals was the worst kept secret in the league. With a deal now done (and a ridiculous amount of money thrown Kolb's way: $63 million over five years), Arizona finally has a quarterback who can get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald. I'm not ready to call Kolb a fantasy QB1, but he is a solid back-up option with a big upside. Look for the Cardinals to pick-up another wide receiver before the season, which will help Kolb's value as well. Kolb is a quarterback that you can land later in drafts.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers
Most people thought Williams would bolt for Denver and become the Broncos featured back. Instead, Williams re-signed with the Panthers for big money and will share the running back load with Jonathan Stewart. Williams' fantasy value takes a slight hit with him re-signing with Carolina, mostly because he would have had more opportunities for carries in Denver. Still, Williams will likely be the main runner in Carolina and the centerpiece of their offense, simply based on the amount of money the team invested in him. This move hurts Stewart's value the most, as it appeared he was in line to be the Panthers featured back. Also, downgrade Carolina third string running back Mike Goodson, who played well last season.

Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
Holmes helped his fantasy value by staying with the Jets. If Holmes had gone elsewhere, like the Redskins for instance, his value would have decreased. Holmes' best situation as a player and as a fantasy option is with the Jets. In 12 games last year, Holmes was targeted 94 times by quarterback Mark Sanchez. It's clear the duo has good chemistry together and Holmes should be looked at as a solid WR2 in standard leagues. I'd like to see him catch more balls, but he's still a solid WR2 in PPR leagues as well.

Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints
Moore was quarterback Drew Brees' most reliable target last season, catching 66 passes for 763 yards and eight touchdowns. Moore is a consistent receiver, who Brees likes to target in the red zone. Despite playing in an offense that spreads the ball around, Moore will find a way to catch 65-70 balls and seven to eight touchdowns. Consider him a very serviceable WR3 in all leagues.

Willis McGahee, RB, Denver Broncos
McGahee's fantasy value improves now that he's on the Denver Broncos. Expectations are that McGahee will be Denver's goalline back, much like he was in Baltimore. What increases McGahee's value is he's now playing behind Knowshon Moreno, who's injury prone. Also, Moreno is a smaller back and not built to carry the ball 20 times a game. McGahee is a good fit in John Fox's run-heavy offense and he could be a tremendous value pick in the later rounds.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, St. Louis Rams
The Rams needed to find a big play wide receiver for Sam Bradford and Sims-Walker is who they landed on. While Sims-Walker is not considered a big time receiver, he does have a great opportunity staring him in the face in St. Louis. Sims-Walker has scored seven touchdowns each of the past two years and could be a big part of the Rams new offense under Josh McDaniels. McDaniels is the guy who turned journeyman Brandon Lloyd into a star last season in Denver, Sims-Walker could be that guy this year. Consider Sims-Walker a solid sleeper, who might turn out to be a great value pick in the later rounds.

Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals made Benson a top priority this offseason and they got their man locked up. Benson re-signed with the Bengals and it's really the best fit for him. Sure Benson has had his offseason troubles, but he remains a very viable fantasy option. Benson has the ability to carry the ball 20-25 times a game, and while he won't put up gaudy numbers he'll consistently get 75-100 yards per game. Also, with Benson you can count on seven or eight touchdowns a season. Before you write-off Benson, look at his value and where's being drafted.

Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans
Sproles enters a great situation in New Orleans, He'll be the Saints primary pass catching running back, a role that could mean 50-60 catches. Consider him a good option in PPR leagues, but not necessarily a standard leagues. Keep on eye on the Saints crowded backfield during the preseason. Watch how New Orleans uses Sproles, and more importantly how Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory are being utilized in the passing game. I say wait on Sproles in standard leagues, but buy'em in PPR leagues.

Sidney Rice, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Rice took the money and ran to Seattle, signing a huge 5-year, $41 million deal. Rice's fantasy prospects don't improve any in Seattle, in fact, they take a slight hit with McNabb now in Minnesota. Rice is a tremendous talent when healthy, but Seattle doesn't have a quarterback who can consistently get him the ball. The Seahawks signed former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and already have Charlie Whitehurst on their roster, neither are very good NFL quarterbacks. Rice is definitely the best receiver the Seahawks have, but that isn't saying much and he should be considered a WR3 in standard and PPR leagues.

Jospeh Addai, RB, Indianapolis Colts
If Addai can stay healthy, he is still the best option in Indianapolis' backfield, but that's not saying much. Addai should be able to beat out Donald Brown and rookie Delone Carter and maintain his spot atop the Colts depth chart. While Addai isn't the runner he once was, he still has enough left to warrant a pick on draft day. However, consider Addai a back-up running back option for your fantasy team.

Steve Breaston, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Breaston followed his former offensive coordinator Todd Haley to Kansas City where he'll likely line-up opposite Dwayne Bowe. Breaston is a guy who is a good route runner and can move the chains on third down. Breaston will be a nice compliment to Bowe and rookie Jonathan Baldwin, but don't look for much fantasy value with him. The Chiefs are a run first team and not very dynamic in the passing game. While Breaston is a good fit for the Chiefs, he's not a good fit for your fantasy team. Even if Breaston turns out to be Kansas City's starter opposite Bowe, I'm saying sell'em.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Tennessee Titans
Hasselbeck moves into a tough spot in Tennessee, where there is plenty of drama already building. Hasselbeck will lead a team that may not have superstar running back Chris Johnson or wide receiver Kenny Britt to start the season. Johnson is threatening to hold out if he doesn't get a new contract and Britt has legal issues that might lead to him being suspended. And on top of all that, Hasselbeck is nothing more than a bridge quarterback to rookie Jake Locker. If things get bad early for Hasselbeck and the Titans, look for Locker to replace him as starter. Don't waste your time with Hasselbeck, he's not worth a fantasy roster spot.

Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins
Moss has been the Redskins most consistent receiver for the past several years and they rewarded him with a new three-year deal. Moss doesn't have the elite speed anymore, but he's still a very good route runner and knows how to get open. However, his stats will likely take a hit this year due to the Redskins quarterback situation. While I don't expect Moss to match his 93 catches, 1,115 receiving yards and six touchdowns from last year, he's still a guy worth having on your fantasy roster as a solid back-up receiver and fringe WR3. But until the Redskins figure out their quarterback situation, I say sell'em.

Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Jackson left Minnesota after a rocky tenure with the Vikings. The split was mutual and now Jackson finds himself on a team that won a playoff game last year. Not only is he on the team, he's currently Seattle's starting quarterback. Jackson joins his former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in Seattle, along with newly signed free agent Sidney Rice. While Jackson has starting quarterback experience, familiarity with Bevell's offense and a history with Rice - Jackson should not be in your fantasy football plans. His passing is too erratic and he's injury prone -- keep Jackson off your draft boards.

Marion Barber III, RB, Chicago Bears
After being released by the Cowboys, Barber caught on with the Bears where he'll back-up Matt Forte. Barber still has fantasy value as goalline back, but not much more. Barber's 3.3 yards per carry last season was a career low and he's showing signs of wearing down. Don't expect Forte's numbers to suffer too much with the arrival of Barber, but still, Barber might take a goalline touchdown or two away from Forte. Barber's bruising running style has caused his his body to wear down and I don't expect him to have much fantasy impact.

Plaxico Burress, WR, New York Jets
The Jets signed BurressBurress provides the Jets with a big receiver who's a nice compliment to their number one guy Santonio Holmes. I'm not ready to endorse Burress as a fantasy option until I see him on the field. However, he's a good situation with the Jets and could very well become Sanchez's go-to guy in the redzone, but until Burress shows he's back I say sell'em.

James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers
Jones was considered one of the top free agent wide receivers on the market, but the market turned out to be soft and he returned to the Packers. Jones' fantasy value would have been higher had he signed with another team and became their number two wide receiver. Instead, Jones rejoins a loaded Packers offense where he will compete for passes with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson. Unless Jones makes significant strides in training camp and unseats Driver as the Packers starter.

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