With their projected top wide receiver out indefinitely and still using crutches, the Minnesota Vikings today acquired Randy Moss from the New England Patriots.
Reports indicate the Patriots will receive a third round draft pick in the 2011 draft in return. Interestingly enough, the Patriots would likely have received a compensatory third round pick if Moss signed with another team as a free agent following the season.
The acquisition of Moss reunites the mercurial receiver with the franchise that selected him in the first round of the 1998 draft. Moss burst on to the scene as a rookie, catching 69 passes for 1,313 yards and an amazing 17 touchdowns – a rookie record that no other wide receiver has come close to approaching and which may never be broken.
In his initial stint in Minnesota, Moss had an amazing six-year run, topping 1,200 yards each season, before having a disappointing year in 2004 which ultimately led to the team trading him to Oakland.
During the period from 1998 to 2003, Moss caught 525 passes for 8,375 yards and 77 touchdowns. Only Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison have exceeded that level of production over a six-year period.
In Minnesota, Moss immediately becomes the Vikings top wide receiver and unites him with quarterback Brett Favre for the first time in their careers. As a Packer, Favre encouraged team management to pursue Moss, but a trade with the Raiders never materialized and Moss was dealt to the Patriots.
Reports have circulated that the Packers refusal to trade for Moss was the point at which Favre began contemplating life in a uniform other than gold and green.
Minnesota’s passing attack has struggled thus far in 2010, failing to match the lofty heights it achieved in 2009 when Favre passed for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. With Sidney Rice (hip) on the physically unable to perform list, the Vikings deep passing attack has floundered with few big plays in 2010.
However, the acquisition of Moss provides the team with a player that excels on deep passes and jump balls. In essence, Moss is a similar player to Rice with better deep speed… although Rice is a more skilled player on crossing routes.
In New England, it appears the Patriots are once again choosing to jettison a veteran player on the downside of their career in return for a quality draft pick. The decision to trade Moss follows the pattern that was set with the trade of defensive end Richard Seymour to the Oakland in return for a first round pick.
As with the Seymour trade, it is difficult to argue that trading Moss will help the Patriots in the short term, even if the team has developed young players at the wide receiver and tight end positions over the last two years.
If red lights aren’t going off for Sidney Rice owners, they should be. With reports indicating Rice is still walking with crutches after preseason hip surgery, the move to acquire Moss may be an indication that Rice is behind in his recovery and possibly headed for injured reserve.
With Moss on board, even if Rice comes back healthy, he now shapes up as a high-end WR3 given that Moss will almost certainly cut into his opportunities on deep passes and in the red zone.
Second-year jack-of-all-trades, Percy Harvin was a preseason favorite as a potential breakout player, in part due to Rice’s injury, but the chances of that happening now become nil.
In the short term, Harvin remains a viable option as a fantasy starter since he will continue to get opportunities in the short and intermediate passing game. Moss’ presence may actually help Harvin as teams will likely move their safeties further from the line of scrimmage to prevent Moss from getting deep.
However, Harvin becomes a WR4 with both Moss and Rice in the line-up. Don’t give up on him in dynasty formats since the trade was not conditional on Moss signing a contract extension with Minnesota.
Owners of Bernard Berrian, already fed up with his lack of production, can now safely jettison him from their rosters.
Favre is obviously a huge fantasy winner with this trade as Moss provides him with the exact type of player he loves to throw to – a tall player, with excellent deep speed and leaping ability. While Favre remains unlikely to hit the top five as a fantasy quarterback in 2010, he immediately moves from being a matchup play to being a fantasy starter that should be ranked just outside of the big six – Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Matt Schaub.
Brady moves to the bottom of the aforementioned list of big six now that Moss no longer resides in the Patriots starting line-up.
As for Adrian Peterson, he remains arguably the top fantasy running back but his touchdown projection may take a slight hit as Moss is an excellent red zone option as are tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and Rice. Shiancoe also will likely lose red zone touches with Moss in the line-up.
In New England, second-year receiver Brandon Tate is the player most likely to assume Moss’ role in the team’s offense. However, he will not receive the same opportunities that Moss had in the deep passing game and the team will look to replace Moss’ production with a number of players.
Tate becomes an intriguing fantasy option but is nothing more than a WR4 or WR5 in most formats. He is more valuable as a prospect in dynasty leagues.
Slot receiver Wes Welker already gets plenty of use and it is difficult to imagine the Patriots actually increasing his role given that he is less than a year removed from ACL surgery.
That leaves the Patriots tight ends and running backs as the players most likely to increase their fantasy production with Moss no longer on the roster.
Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez has had an excellent start to the season and has more receiving yards in his first four games than any tight end has ever had. Look for him to become an integral part of the team’s offense and to replace Moss as the team’s preferred option in the red zone.
Fellow rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski figures to get more looks as well but is unlikely to be worthy of a roster spot in fantasy leagues that are not dynasty formats.
Diminutive running back Danny Woodhead has already proven adept in the passing attack and has been effective replacing Kevin Faulk, who is out for the year. While Woodhead may get more touches, he is a low-end flex play in larger leagues only.