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Antonio Bryant to Bengals—Fantasy Impact

By: — March 11, 2010 @ 1:37 pm
Filed under: Free Agents

Almost one year after signing Laveranues Coles to be the team’s starting wide receiver opposite Chad Ochocinco, the Bengals have signed former Buc Antonio Bryant to provide the production Coles failed to. Bryant has signed for a reported $28 million over four years.

Bryant is coming off a down year in Tampa Bay which was partly due to knee surgery during training camp. The Bucs also used inexperienced quarterbacks for most of the year. In 13 games, he had 39 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bengals are hoping that his knee is fully recovered and that he can duplicate his career year in 2008 when he had 83 receptions for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns, all career highs. The team struggled in the passing game in 2009, finishing 26th in yards passing while featuring the league’s 9th best running attack.

Although Bryant isn’t a true burner, he is a strong, physical receiver who is adept at making acrobatic catches and is capable of getting deep, as evidenced by his career average yards per catch of 15.4.

Fantasy Impact

In Cincinnati, Bryant joins a team that morphed from being a passing team to a running team during the 2009 season. The team averaged just 181 yards passing last year and quarterback Carson Palmer had his worst year statistically since his second year in the league (excluding his injury shortened 2008 season).

With the Bengals making the playoffs using an offense based heavily on the run, there is little reason to suggest they will change that in 2010. Bryant figures to be more productive than Coles, who clearly lost a step in 2009, or Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson, 2nd year players last year who clearly were not ready for feature roles.

Bryant figures to slot in as a fantasy WR4 or WR5 with upside. However, look for him to be drafted higher than that based on his strong 2008 campaign and perhaps the unfounded belief that the Bengals will revert back to their pass happy ways. A season of 750 yards and 4-6 touchdowns seems likely.

Bryant’s presence should have no effect on Ochocinco but certainly hinders the prospects of Caldwell and Simpson as well as Matt Jones. Caldwell figures to get the work out of the slot with Jones being used more in the red zone. Simpson might be looking for employment elsewhere in 2010.

As for Palmer, his status as a fantasy backup remains unchanged. Ignore these stats at your own peril—only nine games with over 200 yards passing, one game with over 300 yards passing and just five multi-touchdown games. He moves up in the rankings with Bryant on board but remains a low end backup at this point.

Fantasy Football Rankings—Running Backs

By: — @ 8:40 am
Filed under: Forecast

It’s never too early to start planning ahead for the 2010 fantasy season. My quarterback rankings came first, and now it is time for the running backs.

These rankings are based on my preliminary—and not yet released—2010 projections, which haven’t been scrubbed for off the field issues and consistency factors, plus some players are still bound to change teams via trade, release or inability to agree on a contract with their current club. The rankings are sure to change many times between now and September.

Still, it is great to be thinking and opining about football, and I’m sure there will be lots of discussion right off the top of most RB rankings this year as there is no clear cut consensus number one selection.

For me, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings gets the nod for top spot, followed by Maurice Jones-Drew ahead of Chris Johnson. Peterson is a more powerful runner. He’s managed to stay healthy during his three seasons in the league, he improved dramatically as a receiver in 2009 and he’s the running back most likely to hit the 16-18 touchdown range. Let the quibbling begin.

I haven’t ranked veteran runners such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook because we don’t know where they will be in 2010. Realistically, they are going to be in time shares or backup roles. The same logic applies to rookies so they haven’t been included yet.

Also, with Tomlinson off the roster in San Diego and Darren Sproles not suited for the feature role, these rankings do not include as yet unknown feature back in San Diego next year.

1. Adrian Peterson, MIN—Bit of a disappointment in 2009 but still the best bet to land at the top of the RB rankings in 2010.

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC—Big numbers last year despite a lack of talent around him.

3. Chris Johnson, TEN—Most will have him higher but he’s here due to concerns about the dual effects of his overuse in 2009 and his stature.

4. Ray Rice, BAL—No reason why he can’t duplicate his breakout performance from last year.

5. Frank Gore, SF—There’s a lot of young skill position talent in San Francisco. If Alex Smith is decent at quarterback and the O-line is replenished, Gore will be dynamite.

6. Steven Jackson, STL—The Rams O can’t be any worse and SJax was huge last year despite his weak supporting cast and a back injury that slowed him down.

7. Michael Turner, ATL—Injuries are the only thing that are going to slow down
Turner but his lack of receiving ability keeps him out of the top 5.

8. DeAngelo Williams, CAR—Injuries held him back in 2009, otherwise he would have been in the top 10 for the second year in a row.

9. Ryan Grant, GB—Grant isn’t flashy but he’s the undisputed lead back on one of the league’s most explosive offenses.

10. Knowshon Moreno, DEN—Solid but not spectacular as a rookie. Bet on an increased workload propelling him near the top 10 in 2010.

11. Chris Wells, ARI—Kurt Warner is gone, so the Cardinals are going to run more next year and Wells is clearly a more talented back than Tim Hightower. Sometimes it’s that simple.

12. Jonathan Stewart, CAR—There’s no reason why the Panthers won’t have two 1,000 yard backs again in 2010.

13. Cedric Benson, CIN—Undisputed lead back in an offense based heavily on the run. His hard running style makes him susceptible to injury or else he would be in the top 10.

14. Rashard Mendenhall, PIT—Put up solid numbers after taking over for Willie Parker last year but never looked all that impressive.

15. Fred Jackson, BUF—Bills figure to move Jackson ahead of Marshawn Lynch. Finished 17th in the rankings last year so there’s no reason to move him down.

16. Pierre Thomas, NO—Lead back on an offense returning all of its key pieces. Committee backfield keeps him around the 18h position he finished in last year but he has huge upside.

17. Matt Forte, CHI—He’s not overly talented but he has receiving ability, a prerequisite for a back in a Mike Martz offense. Injuries and a poor O-line held him back in 2009. He was just outside my top 10 until the Chester Taylor signing.

18. Shonn Greene, NYJ—Came on strong at the end of last season and in the playoffs. Greene represents major upside with the release of Thomas Jones.

19. Kevin Smith, DET—Bit of a sophomore slump coupled with a knee injury last year that could hold him back early in 2010. Lions have young, talented playmakers on offense.

20. Ricky Williams, MIA—The Dolphins run it a lot, Williams looked fantastic last year and Ronnie Brown is coming off an injury (again). What’s not to like.

21. Joseph Addai, IND—Snuck into the top 10 last year, courtesy of his 13 TD and rookie Donald Brown missing five games. Look for Addai’s role to decrease in 2010.

22. Jamaal Charles, KC—He was a monster for eight games last year, partly because of his receiving ability. Was in the top 10 until the team signed Thomas Jones who will eat into the goal line work and likely get 10-12 carries a game.

23. Ronnie Brown, MIA—He’s missed an average of four games a year over his five-year career and has only one 1,000 yard season. Just giving you the facts.

24. LeSean McCoy, PHI—Brian Westbrook is gone and McCoy takes over full time. McCoy could land higher but Leonard Weaver figures to get the goal line work.

25. Jerome Harrison, CLE—Most will rank him higher but the bottom line is that he did nothing for three years and 89 of his 150 fantasy points came in three games against the Chiefs, Raiders and Jaguars.

26. Brandon Jacobs, NYG—Huge letdown in 2009 courtesy of a knee injury that wasn’t disclosed until after the season. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s always out with injuries or having to play through them.

27. Cadillac Williams, TB—Bucs O can’t be as bad as it was last year and young O-line should improve, especially if guard Aaron Sears returns.

28. Felix Jones, DAL—Bank on a bigger role for Jones in 2010 but unless he gets more goal line work, it’s difficult to move him higher.

29. Marion Barber, DAL—Expect fewer yards from Barber, but a similar TD total in 2010.

30. Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG—Put up solid numbers with an increased workload in 2009. Key question is whether that workload was the result of Jacobs’ injury or Bradshaw’s effectiveness?

31. Darren Sproles, SD—Coming off a career year with 840 total yards and seven TD. In my opinion, this is pretty much his upside, save for a few more yards.

32. Justin Forsett, SEA—He’s the number one guy in Seattle until the draft. Check back after that.

33. Michael Bush, OAK—He’s been Oakland’s healthiest and most effective back running the football over the past two seasons. Presumably the Raiders will eventually figure that out.

34. Reggie Bush, NO—It looks like the Saints want him back. On the plus side, he equalled a career high in TD last year. On the down side, his touches have declined three straight years, hitting 117 last year.

35. Clinton Portis, WAS—New head coach Mike Shanahan’s teams have a history of running the ball successfully and although Portis wasn’t great last year before being injured, he wasn’t as bad as advertised.

36. Thomas Jones, KC—Coming off two top 10 fantasy seasons, he’s going to eat into Charles’ workload in K.C.

37. Arian Foster, HOU—Let’s assume Foster gets the running downs and goal line carries in Houston next year. The draft may dictate otherwise.

38. Steve Slaton, HOU—He ran it horribly last year but did you know he was the 31st ranked RB playing in only 11 games? Hard to move him lower than this.

39. Donald Brown, IND—Look for an increased role for Brown in his 2nd year. He’s projected here but has major upside.

40. Darren McFadden, OAK—Basically, the Raiders offense is in shambles and in two years, McFadden has done nothing to prove that he’s a feature back.

41. Tim Hightower, ARI—Highly productive first two years in the league but is likely relegated to a backup and pass catching role in 2010. Wells seems too powerful to not get the goal line work.

42. Chester Taylor, CHI—He’s here based on the assumption he backs up Forte but he moves up significantly if he wins the job and is just outside the top 30 if he gets the goal line work.

43. Willis McGahee, BAL—Somewhat surprisingly, the Ravens wanted him back this year. Note that 113 of his 146 fantasy points came in five games.

44. Laurence Maroney, NE—Surprisingly solid season in 2009 but fell into the doghouse at the end of the year. He might not be back in New England.

45. Julius Jones, SEA—What is there to say? He’s never fulfilled the promise he showed as a rookie six long years ago.

46. Sammy Morris, NE—The Pats like him so he’ll be back and score a few fantasy points, almost certainly sitting on someone’s bench. Why bother?

47. Leonard Weaver, PHI—With Westbrook gone, Weaver is likely in line to get the goal line work and some carries as McCoy’s backup.

48. Mike Bell, NO—Great change of pace back for the Saints. Look for another 600 yard, 5-6 TD season if they bring him back.

49. Correll Buckhalter, DEN—Moreno’s in line for more work but Buckhalter has proven to be effective in a backup role.

50. Marshawn Lynch, BUF—No surprise if he’s elsewhere in 2010. Major shocker if he opens the season as Buffalo’s starter.

51. Derrick Ward, TB—Bust in 2009 will be relegated to backup role in Tampa next year.

52. Kevin Faulk, NE—See Sammy Morris above.

53. Leon Washington, NYJ—His injury was a bad one, so expect his upside and touches to be limited for now.

54. Bernard Scott, CIN—Showed some promise as a rookie but workhorse Benson will restrict Scott’s carries unless injuries strike.

55. Jason Snelling, ATL—Looked good last year with Turner and Jerious Norwood suffering injuries but likely earns very limited touches if both are healthy in 2010.

56. Jerious Norwood, ATL—With Snelling’s emergence, he could be attractive trade bait and end up elsewhere next year.

57. Maurice Morris, DET—If Kevin Smith isn’t ready to open the season, Morris may be a useful flex play.

58. Brandon Jackson, GB—Injury prone backup is an effective receiver but has no chance to usurp Grant given his poor running ability.

59. Mewelde Moore, PIT—Surprisingly productive when given an opportunity.

Thomas Jones Joins Chiefs—Fantasy Impact

By: — March 10, 2010 @ 10:53 am
Filed under: Free Agents

Kansas City has made its second major move in free agency, this time signing former Jets running back Thomas Jones to a 2 year contract for a reported $5 million. Jones’ signing comes on the heels of the team re-signing wide receiver Chris Chambers. The moves help solidify an offense that struggled during most of 2009.

Released by the Jets because of the emergence of Shonn Greene and because the team didn’t want to pay close to $6 million to a backup, Jones was one of the most sought after unrestricted free agent running backs.

The 31 year old player is coming off a career year in 2009, having amassed 1,402 yards rushing to go along with 14 touchdowns. During his three year stint in New York, Jones had 4,315 total yards and 31 touchdowns.

At an age where most running backs are wearing down significantly, Jones has been highly productive. Although he has topped 296 or more touches in each of the last six years, his highest number of touches during his first four years in the league was just 161. He is known for his heavy workout regime and that is a key factor in his success this late in his career.

In Kansas City, Jones figures to serve as the backup to Jamaal Charles, a dynamic young player who excelled in 2009 once given the chance to unseat Larry Johnson. The Chiefs obviously felt he was too young or, at 5’11”, 197 pounds, too small to carry the full load at the position, hence their signing of Jones, a more powerful back that Charles. The Chiefs also considered signing Willie Parker or Justin Fargas.

Fantasy Impact

The player with the biggest impact from this signing isn’t Jones because he was clearly going to carve out a role as either a starter or quality backup with potential goal line duties wherever he signed.

Charles figures to lose out significantly from a fantasy perspective with Jones now his backup. With Jones likely to assume the goal line work and get significant carries spelling Charles, Charles’ role will be significantly reduced from what it was over the last half of the 2009 season.

Simply put, Charles is a quality receiver who will likely get all of the work on passing downs, but the lack of goal line work means he can no longer be considered a low end RB1 or high end RB2. At this point, he should be considered a low end RB2 with upside in 12 team leagues or a high quality RB3 in 10 team leagues.

As for Jones, he figures to rush for between 700-800 yards and score 6-8 touchdowns in 2010. That production means he slots in as a RB3 in all leagues and becomes a desirable handcuff for Charles owners.

Fantasy Football Rankings—Quarterbacks

By: — March 9, 2010 @ 9:48 am
Filed under: Forecast

There were plenty of solid fantasy quarterback performances in 2009, and 2010 figures to produce another bountiful crop of studs at the position.

Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers proved his monster 2008 was no fluke, moving from fantasy’s 2nd ranked quarterback into the top spot.

Meanwhile, Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub showed what he was capable of when healthy for 16 games and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger vaulted into the top 10 as the Steelers offense moved further away from being a running team.

Several veterans enjoyed stellar seasons, including Peyton Manning recording his best fantasy stats since 2006, Drew Brees continuing his amazing run in New Orleans, Brett Favre having a renaissance season for the Minnesota Vikings and Tom Brady successfully returning from a knee injury in 2009.

Looking ahead to 2010, there are storm clouds on the horizon for a couple of veteran quarterbacks, some major question marks at the position for a number of teams along with the usual question marks surrounding young players who have been vaulted into the top spot on the depth chart, courtesy of retirements and poor play from last year’s starters.

1. Aaron Rodgers, GB—Fantasy football’s top ranked QB from 2009 returns to the top spot for 2010. What propels him to the top of the projections is his rushing ability (304 yards and five TD last year).

2. Matt Schaub, HOU—Schaub led the NFL in passing yards last year and figures to do so again in 2010 with Kevin Walter re-signed and assuming Owen Daniels returns to health.

3. Peyton Manning, IND—Nice bounceback season for Manning in 2009 after posting the 2nd worst (yet still respectable) fantasy numbers of his career a year earlier. Reggie Wayne is a year older but Anthony Gonzalez returns to add even more firepower at wide receiver.

4. Drew Brees, NO—The Super Bowl champions figure to be strong again in 2010 and it looks like all of the skill position weapons will return.

5. Donovan McNabb, PHI—We’re assuming McNabb is back in Philly and gets to enjoy the benefit of perhaps the best young group of offensive skill position players in the league.

6. Philip Rivers, SD—He’s at six but could move higher if the team fails to find a running back in the draft and Malcom Floyd emerges as a big play threat opposite Vincent Jackson.

7. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT—A career year for Big Ben in 2009 and the Steelers have clearly morphed into a passing team. Hines Ward might be a year older but Santonio Holmes is coming off a career year and Mike Wallace offers tantalizing speed as the team’s 3rd wideout.

8. Jay Cutler, CHI—The team’s receivers are suspect but the Mike Martz factor propels Cutler into the top 10. Martz has turned every QB he has worked with into a fantasy stud and Cutler arguably has more natural ability than any of Martz’ previous pupils (Kurt Warner, Trent Green, Marc Bulger, Jon Kitna and J.T. O’Sullivan).

9. Tony Romo, DAL—Coming off a top 5 fantasy season, it’s easy to argue that Romo should be higher but expect the Cowboys to revert to a more ground based attack in 2010.

10. Eli Manning, NYG—Manning creeps into the top 10 and has upside potential based on the team’s three potent wideouts (Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham) and durability concerns at the running back position.

11. Tom Brady, NE—Here’s the first shocker with Brady outside of the top 10. There are red flags everywhere in New England—Randy Moss is whining about this being his last year with the team, Wes Welker is coming off a major knee injury that occurred late in the 2009 season, and tight end Ben Watson doesn’t figure to be back. Buyer beware.

12. Brett Favre, MIN—Coming off a monster season, we’ll lean to Favre returning in 2010, but assuming that prediction is correct it’s still difficult to forecast that he will duplicate his best fantasy performance since 2001.

13. Joe Flacco, BAL—He’s likely to be ranked higher by most due to the addition of Anquan Boldin but the Ravens are a run first team plus Todd Heap is a year older and they haven’t groomed anybody to take his place in the offense.

14. Jason Campbell, WAS—For all the criticism Campbell gets, he has increased his yards and TD passes every year he has been in the league. If new head coach Mike Shanahan can get the offensive line straightened out, Campbell should improve again in 2010.

15. Matt Ryan, ATL—Ryan’s a talented player but the Falcons lean on the run and emphasize avoiding turnovers in the passing game.

16. David Garrard, JAC – In 2008, he passed for 3,620 yards and 15 TD while rushing for 322 yards and two TD. In 2009, it was 3,597 yards passing and 15 TD to go along with 323 yards rushing and three TD. At least he’s consistent.

17. Matthew Stafford, DET—There are some nice young parts in Detroit but running back Kevin Smith might not be ready to start the reason and tight end Brandon Pettigrew is also coming off injury. On the plus side, Nate Burleson adds a nice threat opposite Calvin Johnson.

18. Alex Smith, SF—Smith is at 15 but with some major upside if he can stay healthy and utilize the talented young skill position players that surround him in San Francisco.

19. Vince Young, TEN—Had a nice run of 10 games to end the season and has the makings of a solid, if unspectacular, group of wideouts in Kenny Britt, Justin Gage and Nate Washington, provided they can stay healthy.

20. Carson Palmer, CIN—At one time, Palmer seemed destined to be a top five fantasy quarterback for years to come. Those days are over and the team hasn’t adequately replaced T.J. Houshmandzadeh and doesn’t seem to have anybody to take over for Chad Ochocinco when he slows down.

21. Kyle Orton, DEN—Orton put up decent numbers in his first year in Denver but he’s prone to the checkdown and his numbers will suffer if Brandon Marshall leaves town as expected.

22. Matt Cassel, KC—Cassel can’t possibly be any worse than he was last year. Or can he?

23. Josh Freeman, TB—Makes some plays in the running game which help pad his fantasy stats but the team’s crop of wide receivers are not awe inspiring by any stretch.

24. Matt Leinart, ARI—Kurt Warner would be at least 14 spots higher if he were returning. Leinart looked shaky last year and his upside will cause him to get drafted much higher than 24th, although the upside did take a hit with the trade of Boldin.

25. Chad Henne, MIA—Played well as a starter in 2009 but the team’s wide receivers and tight ends offer no proven playmakers and not much upside.

26. Mark Sanchez, NYJ—Love the physical and mental aspects of his game and having Braylon Edwards for a full season will help some but the bottom line is that this is a run early, run often offense.

27. Matt Hasselbeck, SEA—He’s old, he’s injury prone, and his best receiver Nate Burleson left town and the OL has major question marks. There’s almost no upside to taking Hasselbeck.

28. Brady Quinn, CLE—No guarantee at this point that Quinn is the Browns starter in 2010 since he didn’t do much to distinguish himself in 2009.

29. Matt Moore, CAR—Jake Delhomme’s days in Carolina are over. Unfortunately for Moore, Steve Smith is slowing down, the starting spot opposite him is a black hole and no receiving tight end has emerged.

30. Marc Bulger, STL—There is almost no chance he returns as the Rams starter but that’s where he sits on the depth chart at the moment.

31. Trent Edwards, BUF—Amazingly, the signals indicate that the Bills are planning on going with the checkdown king again in 2010. Remarkable.

32. Bruce Gradkowski, OAK—Hey, I’d have him higher but the Raiders won’t bench JaMarcus Russell until midseason.

33. JaMarcus Russell, OAK—See above.

34. Seneca Wallace, CLE—Former Seahawk head coach Mike Holmgren is now in charge of the Cleveland Browns, and he just traded for backup QB Seneca Wallace from the ‘Hawks. Incumbents Quinn and Derek Anderson (who will more than likely be released) should consider Wallace a legitimate threat to take the starting job.

35. A.J. Feeley, STL—If Bulger returns, Feeley will be in there at some point.

Walter Sticks With Texans—Fantasy Impact

By: — March 8, 2010 @ 12:53 pm
Filed under: Free Agents

With his primary anticipated free agent bidder the Baltimore Ravens out of the picture, wide receiver Kevin Walter chose to re-sign with the Houston Texans over the weekend.

Since the top available free agent wide receivers are generally either restricted or unrestricted players with baggage, Walter was rumoured to be a target for numerous teams with the Ravens a strong candidate to acquire his services.

However, Baltimore acquired Anquan Boldin from the Arizona Cardinals for a pair of mid-round picks and the market for Walter never seemed to materialize. Reports indicate he signed a $21.5 million, 5 year contract that includes $8 million in guarantees. The deal is slightly less than Nate Burleson’s 5 year, $25 million deal with the Detroit Lions.

Walter missed the first two games of last season with a hamstring injury which may explain why he was not able to duplicate the career year he enjoyed in 2008. His production dropped from 899 yards and eight touchdowns to just 611 yards and two touchdowns in 2009. His average yards per catch also dropped from 15.0 to 11.5.

Fantasy Impact

Walter’s fantasy prospects were almost certainly enhanced by re-upping with the Texans. The team is familiar with what he brings to the table – reliability, a willingness to go over the middle and block in the running game and the occasional big play. The Texans are a pass heavy team and a move to another team would likely have relegated him to a more minor role.

In Houston, with tight end Owen Daniels coming off a torn ACL and backup wide receiver Jacoby Jones having yet to earn the trust of the coaching staff, Walter should record between 700-800 receiving yards and 4-6 touchdowns.

The speedster Jones could eat into Walter’s playing time but it speaks volumes that the club chose to re-sign Walter rather than hand the starting spot over to Jones even though Jones is entering his 4th year in the league.

Quarterback Matt Schaub also benefits from having three talented wide receivers in the team’s stable as well as quality 4th and 5th wide receivers in David Anderson and Andre’ Davis. Barring a return to form from third year player Steve Slaton, the team acquiring Thomas Jones or using 1st or 2nd round pick on a running back in the rookie draft, Schaub may once again lead the league in passing yards which makes him a possible top three fantasy quarterback.

Ravens Acquire Boldin—Fantasy Impact

By: — March 5, 2010 @ 11:35 pm
Filed under: Transactions

Moving quickly to improve on what has been the weakest position on their roster over the last several years, the Baltimore Ravens acquired Anquan Boldin from the Arizona Cardinals on the opening day of the 2010 league calendar.

Baltimore gave up its 3rd and 4th round picks in this year’s draft to acquire Boldin, a move that significantly upgrades the position from last season regardless of whether unrestricted free agents Derrick Mason and Kelley Washington re-sign with the team.

The Ravens immediately signed Boldin to a 3 year contract extension that will pay him $28 million over four years.

In acquiring Boldin, the Ravens obtain the most physical wide receiver in the league and a player with a history of solid production. In seven years in the league, he has topped 1,000 yards five times while amassing 7,520 receiving yards to go along with 44 touchdowns.

Fantasy Impact

For Boldin, his move to the Ravens is marginally positive from a fantasy perspective. At this point, Joe Flacco is more of a known commodity than Matt Leinart so there is a reduced risk fantasy wise. In addition, the depth the Cardinals have at wide receiver caused the offensive touchdowns to be spread out in 2009. Boldin shapes up as a low end WR1 or top tier WR2 in 2010.

At quarterback, Flacco acquires his first bona fide number one wide receiver since he entered the league. While Mason was productive in Baltimore, he was rarely a game-breaker. Simply put, Boldin is bigger, stronger and faster. Whereas opposing defenses respected Mason, they have to fear Boldin. Flacco should be considered a top quality back-up fantasy quarterback with upside.

In Arizona, Leinart certainly sees his fantasy stock drop with Boldin’s departure although not as much as one might think. The team has perhaps the most skilled wide receiver in the league in Larry Fitzgerald. Steve Breaston moves into the starting line-up and he topped 1,000 yards in a back-up role in 2008. Early Doucet flashed some ability last season and had 14 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns during the team’s two playoff games.

As for Mason, at this point he is a player without a team. Given that he considered retirement last year, it is possible he may go that route unless the Ravens step up to the plate to re-sign him.

Chester Taylor to Bears—Fantasy Impact

By: — @ 7:45 pm
Filed under: Free Agents

The Chicago Bears have bolstered their backfield with the free agent signing of former Minnesota Vikings running back Chester Taylor. Rumours have circulated over the past week that the Bears were after Taylor, who provides the team with a solid player to pair with incumbent Matt Forte while providing the added benefit of stealing a productive player from a division opponent.

Taylor, who has served as Adrian Peterson’s backup in Minnesota for the past three years, will sign for a reported $12.5 million over four years. He has hit the dreaded 30 year old mark for running backs but does not have a history of overuse. He topped 300 touches in 2006 but does not have another season with over 200 touches in his eight year career.

Forte was not able to duplicate the success he had as a rookie in 2008. Although part of his troubles were due to hamstring and knee injuries, the Bears entered the off-season desiring an upgrade at the position.

With Taylor, they acquire a player who was coveted by many teams for his versatility and was likely the second most sought after running back behind former Jet (and former Bear) Thomas Jones.

Fantasy Impact

The Bears backfield is now fantasy kryptonite with a pair of players featuring similar skills. Because of that, predicting their roles in 2010 will not be an easy task.

Both players are excellent receivers with Forte having caught 117 passes over two years and Taylor having four seasons of 40 or more receptions, including each of the last two years.

Although neither player is exceptionally shifty, they can both make defenders miss once they get past the line of scrimmage. Both players check in around the 215 pound mark so determining who gets the goal line work is also difficult, although Taylor runs with slightly more power.

Looking ahead to fantasy drafts in 2010, with Mike Martz now running the offense in Chicago, fantasy owners are going to want to get a piece of the Bears offense, likely driving up the stock of both Forte and Taylor.

Expect a committee approach with Forte retaining his starter role and assuming a larger share of the workload and Taylor spelling him and perhaps assuming the role of receiving back on third downs.

However, given Martz’ propensity for passing, Forte will still accumulate plenty of receptions. Based on that, both players are far more attractive in points per reception leagues than in standard performance leagues.

At this point, Forte checks in as a low end RB2 with upside and Taylor as a RB3 with upside. However, the smart fantasy owner who wants a piece of the Chicago offense should prefer quarterback Jay Cutler over both players.

Lions Sign Nate Burleson—Fantasy Impact

By: — @ 12:56 pm
Filed under: Free Agents

The Detroit Lions have made the first big splash in free agency, signing former Seahawks wide receiver Nate Burleson to a 5-year, $25 million contract.

The Lions have struggled to find production at the wide receiver position over recent years and their interest in a solid player to start opposite Calvin Johnson was well known. In Burleson, the Lions are getting arguably the most sought after unrestricted free agent on the market.

The 28 year old Burleson missed 15 games in 2008 after tearing knee ligaments during the opening game of the season but bounced back this year with 63 receptions for 812 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games. He suffered a high ankle sprain late in the season, causing him to miss the final three games of the season.

In Detroit, Burleson will push Bryant Johnson out of a starting spot and, given Johnson’s lack of use on special teams, perhaps off the roster. With the team looking to expand the role of 2009 3rd round pick Derrick Williams and Dennis Northcutt a solid slot receiver, Johnson may be looking for a new team in 2010.

Fantasy Impact

Burleson provides the Lions with a solid receiving threat opposite Johnson and his presence should help reduce the constant double teams that he sees. However, it’s doubtful that Burleson will improve his production substantially in Detroit given the presence of Johnson and second-year tight end Brandon Pettigrew, although a marginal increase can be expected if he can stay healthy for 16 games.

At this point, he should be considered a fantasy WR3 with upside given his big play ability and quarterback Matthew Stafford’s ability to throw the deep ball.

Stafford was already expected to put up better fantasy points in 2010 but this signing enhances his prospects for next season. With Burleson on board, Stafford now has three solid wide receivers, an emerging tight end and a solid pass catching running back in Kevin Smith, provided he is fully recovered from his ACL injury. Consider him a mid-tier backup fantasy quarterback with upside and a solid option in dynasty leagues.

In Seattle, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck figures to suffer with the loss of his top wide receiver but given his struggles in 2009, continuing injury concerns and lack of upside, he shouldn’t have been on your radar for 2010 anyway. Look for the Seahawks to add to their stable of wide receivers due to declining production of veterans T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch and the uneven play of 2009 3rd round pick Deon Butler in his rookie season.

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