2007 Free Agents
The “Gut Feeling” is often synonymous with a sense
of desperation resulting from a lack of preparation. The Gut Check
is a huge proponent of studying the numbers, but there’s
a point where one can place too much emphasis on the wrong information.
This can result in the undervaluing or overlooking a player’s
potential. Therefore, The Weekly Gut Check is devoted to examining
the frame of reference behind certain number-driven guidelines
that fantasy football owners use to make decisions.
Although The Weekly Gut Check doesn’t claim to be psychic,
he does believe that he can dispel certain numbers biases and
help you make the best choices for your team. We’ll keep
a running tally of The Weekly Gut Check’s insights. This
way you can gauge his views as something to seriously consider,
or at least seriously consider running the opposite way as fast
as you can!
For most, the 2006 fantasy season will come to an end this week.
Congratulations to those of you that have made it this far. This
week the Gut Check tips his hat to those of you looking to next
season with his take on the members of the 2007 free agent class
that have a better than average shot to make an impact in your fantasy
league. It is also important to note the players mentioned in these
profiles that would see a change in their status for playing time
(or potential playing time) as a result of these possible moves.
Matt Schaub, ATL: The Falcons’
restricted free agent will once again be a sought-after talent
in the off-season. Schaub was rumored to be the subject of a 2006
pre-draft trade to the Vikings that involved a first day pick,
but the Falcons were of the belief they might need a solid back
up to Vick and his high-risk style of play. The Falcons’
starter certainly made strides this year as a passer, but he still
demonstrates a maddeningly amount of inconsistency from the pocket
on a regular basis. Despite the fact Vick and his receivers are
still undergoing a longer than desire growth period as a passing
attack, the Gut Check believes there has been enough good moments
for Atlanta to part with Schaub in 2007.
The Gut Check believes Schaub is by far the most promising free
agent quarterback prospect for dynasty leagues because of his
combination of youth, on-field experience, and physical skills.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team make a strong bid
for Schaub’s services next year as player to compete for
a starting job—a bid high enough to discourage Atlanta from
matching the offer. Atlanta took measures to prepare for this
eventuality with the selection of Georgia quarterback, D.J. Shockley,
a raw but talented signal caller that demonstrated the potential
to develop into a better than solid back up in a few years. It
is not that Schaub wouldn’t be welcome back in Atlanta,
but it is difficult to believe he’ll be an affordable option.
The Gut Check believes Schaub winds up in Tampa, Carolina, Houston,
or Oakland and Atlanta looks for a veteran presence that fell
out of favor elsewhere (a Joey Harrington-Aaron Brooks type) to
replace Schaub on the bench in 2007.
Damon Huard, KC: Despite some
excellent on-field moments from the KC clipboard holder, there
is no mistaking Huard as a potential opening day starter somewhere
else in 2007. Of course there is a chance Huard could go for a
bigger payday elsewhere as a backup, especially if KC’s
draft pick Brodie Croyle demonstrates any amount of significant
development prior to 2007 mini-camp. But that’s the extent
one should consider the former Washington Husky. Croyle has an
excellent arm, but he needs to add some weight to withstand the
rigors of Sunday football. The Gut Check believes Huard remains
in Kansas City in 2007 until Croyle shows something to make the
Chris Simms, TB: Tampa has
offered their injured starter a deal, but the Gut Check can imagine
Simms wanting a better offer despite the fact he hasn’t
generated enough of a track record to warrant a more lucrative
contract. Jon Gruden will be feeling more heat in 2007—if
he’s still the coach—and it’s likely he’ll
feel more tentative about Simms’ prospects after his 2006
performance and season-ending injury. That doesn’t mean
Simms is likely to go anywhere. The Gut Check is steadfast in
his opinion than Bruce Gradkowski has potential to be Gruden’s
starter in the next year or two and we all know the jump from
rookie to second year is significant, so expect the makings of
a training camp battle once Tampa hammers out a deal with Simms.
Tim Rattay, TB: The former
49er and current Buccaneer is a true journeyman at the position.
NFL teams feel they can do a lot better in terms of finding a
starter, but they know they could do a lot worse when they need
someone to fill-in for an extended amount of time. Jon Gruden
is still a Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski fan. Based on his
interviews, one should expect the coach to have an open competition
between these two young players in 2007.
Michael Turner, SD: Is there
any doubt this guy is the top free agent back in 2007? Turner
has shown terrific power and an excellent burst in relief of Tomlinson
and several teams are rumored to be eyeing him already. Turner
has youth and low mileage in his favor and no real injury history.
If there is a back in 2007 that could have the impact many expected
from Edgerrin James in 2006, it is “the Burner.”
The Jets, Eagles, Giants, Texans, and Browns all seem like good
candidates for this back that is ripe for a 1200-yard season.
Ahman Green, GB: Green had
some decent moments while making his return from a torn quadriceps
tendon, but he didn’t do enough to garner a hefty payday
in 2007. Green still has a bit of gas left in the tank and it’s
most realistic to expect the Packer to find his way to a team
that wants to use him as a role player in a rotating backfield.
The Gut Check believes if Green doesn’t remain a Packer,
he’ll wind up going the same route as his predecessor, Dorsey
Levens: Philadelphia. Andy Reid has a decent track record of getting
mileage out of former Green Bay runners because of their versatility
and familiarity with the West Coast system he uses with the Eagles.
If Correll Buckhalter finds his way elsewhere, Green might be
a reasonable alternative with slightly more upside for at least
one year. Otherwise, he’s about to hit Terry Allen-Stephen
Davis-Antowain Smith status for fantasy owners—decent depth
to own for a few games, but nothing more.
Chris Brown, TEN: If there
is a back that will have a chip on his shoulder entering 2007,
it will be the former starter for the Titans that likely feel
he got “jobbed” out of a potential deal to the Texans.
His reputation has taken a hit over the past two years because
he hasn’t demonstrated the skills to succeed as a short
yardage runner. Then throw in the fact that Brown has a penchant
for breaking a long run and missing the rest of the game, and
one can see how interested teams suddenly grew skittish. Brown
is a complete boom-bust free agent because he has the talent to
put it all together and have a great season, but his track record
doesn’t indicate this will be likely. It’s a bit of
a shame, because Brown might wind up as the next unfulfilled talent
due to several smaller factors that detract from his appeal as
opposed to one huge problem. Brown is still a player you should
active acquire or keep on a dynasty roster, because he could easily
be in store for a good season if a more established player gets
hurt. Could the Lions or Texans find Brown a worthwhile option?
Kevin Jones’ injury is pretty nasty and Houston hasn’t
found a definite successor to Domanick Davis. In all honesty,
the Gut Check thinks Brown will remain a Titan for one more year.
Kevin Curtis, STL: Curtis might
be the most talented free agent receiver on the market. He has
speed to burn and the only reason he isn’t a starter at
this point of his career is the fact he’s sitting behind
two, future Canton enshrines. If Isaac Bruce decides to hang up
the cleats, the chances of Curtis remaining a Ram increase. If
the Reverend out of Memphis sticks around, Curtis might lack the
patience to continue a year-to-year approach with his possibility
of starting for a franchise. The Gut Check believes Curtis has
better skills than at least one quarter to as many as one third
of the current starting receivers in the NFL. Because the Rams’
third string pass catcher has only been given the opportunity
to show flashes of his talent, he’ll be a reasonably easy
player to acquire between now and the free agency period. Once
Curtis’ future is determined though, all bets are off. He
could wind up as one of the favorite sleepers among the fantasy
football media. The Gut Check believes the Patriots and Lions
would be teams that could benefit—especially a Mike Martz-led
offense with great familiarity with Curtis’ skills.
Drew Bennett, TEN: Some of
the luster has dulled from the former 1200-yard receiver, but
he is still the most proven player on the market at the position.
Bennett’s leaping ability and long-striding gait makes him
a solid, all around complement on a receiving corps. What will
make organizations cautious is his history of nagging injuries
and disappearing for stretches of time. A team will have to be
convinced Bennett’s streaky production had more to do with
inconsistent quarterback play in Tennessee. The Falcons could
use a player of Bennett’s skills. He’s a rich man’s
Brian Finneran—a player Atlanta missed this season—and
could help Vick a great deal. Jacksonville also has issues at
receiver—Reggie Williams hasn’t come around, Matt
Jones is still developing, and Ernest Wilford is viewed as role
player. Bennett learned the receiver position from Steve Walters,
the Jaguars current position coach, so the familiarity is there
and Bennett is more reliable than what they’ve got thus
far. The Gut Check would rather take his chances with Curtis,
although Bennett could post better numbers elsewhere.
D.J. Hackett, SEA: Hackett’s
late-season opportunities could earn him the honorary Mathew Hatchette
status in the off-season. For those of you with short memories,
or no recollection whatsoever, Hatchette was a physically talented,
but seldom-used receiver for the Vikings that signed a nice deal
with the Jets. His hype was like Chester Taylor’s this summer,
but his performance wasn’t close. Hatchette wound up bouncing
around the league for the next few years and never fulfilled the
promised other organizations saw in his game. The Gut Check isn’t
completely writing off Hackett, but he is more inclined to believe
the CU alum is more of a system-oriented producer than a bona
fide stud in the making. Personally, yours truly believes the
next player on the list has more potential (although he isn’t
as likely to find himself elsewhere)…
Patrick Crayton, DAL: When
you are former quarterback stuck behind two excellent receivers
about a year or two from the twilight of their careers, your chances
are slim you’re going to win a starting job or find yourself
going elsewhere. Crayton plays with decent on-field awareness
and can make plays once the ball is in his hands. His potential
development fits somewhere between Bobby Engram and Hines Ward;
not a burner, but crafty and tough. Don’t’ count on
him leaving Dallas, but odds are he’ll be needed to start
in 2007 when one or both of the Cowboy’s high-strung thoroughbreds
throws a shoe or gets put out to pasture.
Ernest Wilford, JAX: The Gut
Check believes Wilford is a great option to buy cheap and hope
for the best. His size and hands are good enough to earn him starting
consideration with many teams and he plays with a level of toughness
that could earn him a starting job with many teams. Amani Toomer
isn’t getting any younger and the Giants could use a reliable
possession receiver that could stick arrive as a role player but
take over the role immediately if necessary. Atlanta certainly
could pursue Wilford—the Falcons seem to have a thing for
Virginia Tech players and he could certainly be a potential upgrade
to Brian Finneran if Atlanta doesn’t want to wait and see
on their veteran’s health status. Since Wilford is a restricted
free agent, it’s likely he’ll remain in Jacksonville
if Del Rio’s supreme confidence in William’s potential
wanes in the off-season. Either way, the talent is there. You
just have to determine if he’s worth holding until the opportunity
Eric Johnson, SF: With Vernon
Davis in the fold, Johnson is likely gone in 2007. There should
be some decent opportunities for this talented, but injury-prone
receiving tight end if San Francisco doesn’t retain him
as a role player and insurance policy. Put Johnson on a team with
a West Coast offense paired with a veteran quarterback such as
Green Bay or Seattle, and you have an instant value pick in 2007.
He’ll likely be a forgotten man to most casual fantasy owners
so you should have the luxury to add him to your roster with little
problem if so inclined.
Daniel Graham, NE: Cincinnati
could use a tight end and despite the fact Graham has shown some
trouble hanging onto the ball at times, he’s a definite
talent. New England already has enough tight ends to make Graham
expendable and it wouldn’t be surprising if the former first
round draft pick wanted a chance to star elsewhere. He’ll
likely become more popular this spring as a fantasy sleeper, but
right now his value is as low as it’s going to get. Grab
him now and you might be thankful later. Seattle could be another
fine option for Graham because the next guy on this list hasn’t
Jerramy Stevens, SEA: The Gut
Check would probably say not to waste your time with Stevens unless
you have the luxury of a keeping an underachiever that has worn
out his welcome with a team that initially gave him more chances
than any other organization might. Yours truly doesn’t like
to make snap judgments about a player’s attitude, but Stevens’
track record suggests a player that didn’t ever really love
the game of football and his performance on the field demonstrates
it. This kind of money player rarely fills his potential because
the desire to excel isn’t great enough.
League Updates - Week 15
Fantasy Auction League: Yours truly he Gut Check was an injury-ridden,
bottom dweller in this league in 2005, but has rebounded nicely
and makes his first championship appearance in his second year
doing this league. He faces RotoWorld’s top-scoring squad.
Fortunately (well, hopefully) the Gut Check is armed with LT,
which should keep him competitive versus any squad. Plus, his
team isn’t too shabby in addition to Tomlinson.
Projected Starting Lineup: Young
(or Pennington), Tomlinson, Drew, Donald Driver, Reggie Wayne,
Santonio Holmes, Randy McMichael, Josh Scobee, and the Patriots
Auctioneer Experts Invitational: The Gut Check came back in
dramatic fashion to get the opportunity to defend his championship
against last year’s runner up, and 2004 champ, Scott Pianowski
of Fantasy Guru. His squad is stacked with Tomlinson, Barber,
and Harrison but week 16 is always funky with the lineup choices.
Yours truly picked up Tim Rattay as a possible match up play over
McNair or Carr. He may also have to consider Cadillac or Pittman
over Jones-Drew (though not as likely). Yours truly honestly wouldn’t
say he’s the favorite in this match up but he could make
Projected Starting Lineup: McNair,
Jackson, Maurice-Jones Drew, Driver, Brown, Holmes, Todd Heap,
Scobee, and Ravens defense.
FFTOC: The Gut Check is 96th out of 206 with three mediocre-bad
weeks. Unless he gets career days from every player in his lineup,
his chances are nil for anything better than finish in the top
40. He’s rolling the dice with Brett Favre, Ladell Betts,
Cadillac, Javon Walker, Reggie Wayne, D.J. Hackett, Vernon Davis,
Lawrence Tynes, and the Panthers defense.
Good luck to those of you still playing this week!