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Burress Back to New York – With the Jets


By: — August 2, 2011 @ 11:40 pm

Burress (one-year deal) will have to prove it to the Jets and to fantasy owners.

With a difficult salary situation and a hole at wide receiver opposite Santonio Holmes in their starting lineup, the New York Jets have reportedly reached a contract agreement with former Giant, Plaxico Burress.

The Jets lost backup receiver Brad Smith to division rival Buffalo and were apparently not willing to meet Braylon Edwards’ contract demands to secure his return to New York. That led to the signing of Burress, who will likely assume Edwards’ role as a red zone target and deep threat.

Burress returns to the league after a two-year absence stemming from a jail term related to shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub.

Although a significant market for his services seemed slim, there turned out to be remarkable interest, and the Jets were in the market for a veteran receiver. He was also recently linked to the Giants, Steelers, Eagles, Rams, and 49ers.

Fantasy Impact

Given his age and time away from football, Burress faces significant challenges in returning as the player he was when he left the league. He will get that opportunity with the Jets, but in New York’s heavily run-based offense, his upside would appear be limited. In fact, it’s basically what Edwards accomplished in 2010—53 receptions for 904 yards and seven touchdowns. And the odds of Burress getting there seem remote.

He is 34, he hasn’t played in two years, and he has never had the reputation as a truly dedicated player. Not to mention that the Jets still have Jerricho Cotchery as their top backup receiver, a player who has 64 starts over the past five seasons.

For Burress to move up to WR3 status, he will need to find the end zone plenty because he’s just not going to get close to 1,000 yards. He will likely become the team’s top red zone target, so he could reach seven or eight touchdowns, but banking on touchdowns is never a smart thing.

If you’re willing to gamble on those touchdowns and the inconsistency that comes with them, you could roll Burress as a WR3. But there are better options out there that possess far more upside.


Saints Sign Sproles to Replace Bush


By: — @ 11:29 pm

With Sproles in the mix, the Saints are now 4-deep at running back.

Having traded Reggie Bush to the Miami Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints were in the market for a versatile player to replace him. They found that player in former San Diego running back Darren Sproles.

Sproles figures to assume much of the role that Bush performed during his five-year career with the Saints. He joins a revamped Saints running back depth chart that includes Pierre Thomas, second-year player Chris Ivory, and rookie first-round pick Mark Ingram.

The Chargers franchised the diminutive Sproles for the 2009 season and retained his services last year, paying him close to $14 million over the past two seasons. Reports indicate the Saints will pay Sproles that amount over the next four years.

Because San Diego had a difficult salary-cap situation and had Mike Tolbert, 2010 first-round pick Ryan Mathews, and 2011 sixth-round pick Jordan Todman on their roster, it was expected that Sproles would leave as a free agent.

Fantasy Impact

While Sproles is a dynamic player, he doesn’t enhance an offense the way Bush did, and he is unlikely to have as big an impact in New Orleans as Bush had.

In addition, Lance Moore was re-signed to a lucrative contract extension this offseason. A receiver’s new contract may seem to have little bearing on a running back’s production, but Moore was essentially Bush’s replacement as a receiver, often posting big numbers when Bush was injured. While Sproles will certainly contribute in the passing game, Moore’s lucrative deal likely means that he will get more playing time in 2011 than in previous years.

In the run game for the past few seasons, Bush essentially split time with Pierre Thomas and a second running back (first Mike Bell and then Chris Ivory last year). With Sproles now on the roster, the Saints are four deep at running back. This ensures that, barring injuries, Sproles won’t be receiving a significant number of carries.

If the presence of Sproles in New Orleans doesn’t sound too exciting from a fantasy perspective, there’s a reason for that. It’s all about opportunity. It’s hard to see Sproles getting significant touches in New Orleans, and that leaves him as waiver wire material unless those above him on the depth chart become injured.


Bengals Unload Ochocinco to the Patriots


By: — August 1, 2011 @ 3:14 am

With a youth movement under way and their star wide receiver no longer in their plans, the Cincinnati Bengals have traded Chad Ochocinco to New England. Reports indicate the Bengals will receive the Patriots’ fifth-round draft pick in 2012 and their sixth-round pick in 2013.

Me? No longer the imposing deep threat?

The enigmatic Ochocinco has spent the last few seasons talking his way out of Cincinnati. With the team expected to start rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and having used their fourth pick in the draft on wide receiver A.J. Green, Ochocinco finally got his wish.

In New England, he will join a receiving unit that has lacked a proven deep threat since Randy Moss was traded early in the 2010 season. He will start opposite Deion Branch with Wes Welker playing out of the slot.

Ochocinco is coming off a disappointing 2010, having caught just 67 passes for 831 yards and four touchdowns during a season in which Terrell Owens overtook him as the team’s lead receiver.

Fantasy Impact
In Cincinnati, Ochocinco would have been the lead receiver on a team that will likely start a rookie quarterback and would have been looking to reduce the receiver’s role as they underwent a youth movement.

Going to New England, Ochocinco joins one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses led by arguably the league’s top quarterback in Tom Brady, so this trade increases his 2011 fantasy prospects.

However, expecting him to return as the fantasy stud he was a few years ago is ill-advised.

New England’s offense features a pair of solid, young pass-receiving tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez; Welker remains the league’s top slot receiver; and Branch was a good, if inconsistent, performer last season after coming over from the Seahawks.

In addition, Ochocinco is approaching 34, he has failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards in two of the last three seasons, and he is no longer the imposing deep threat he was for most of his career.

He was a WR5 in Cincinnati, and while the move to New England should increase his production, he still ranks no better than a low-end WR3 with the Patriots.

The biggest fantasy losers in this deal are Dalton and Branch. Dalton loses his top receiver while Branch will likely see his targets reduced. Branch was rated as a WR3 before the trade but drops to an upper-tier WR4.


Hasselbeck to Lead Titans


By: — July 29, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

After failing to reach an agreement on a long-term extension in Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck has landed in Tennessee with the Titans.

Hassebleck to Tennessee - Music to fantasy owner's ears?

Reports indicate that Tennessee was willing to give Hasselbeck a lengthier contract than Seattle was, and he is expected to open the season as the Titans’ starter.

With rookie first-round pick Jake Locker previously atop the depth chart because of Kerry Collins‘ retirement, the Titans were interested in acquiring a veteran to help ease Locker’s transition into the NFL. Hasselbeck’s solid character and experience make him a perfect fit for that role.

In Seattle, Hasselbeck had become redundant after the team came to terms with former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

Fantasy Impact
Going from the unemployment line to starting in an offense with Chris Johnson certainly improves your chance of success, so the move is positive from Hasselbeck’s perspective.

That’s not to say you should plan on owning him in 2011.

While the Titans’ solid offensive line should keep him upright more than he was in Seattle, it is hard to ignore that he suffered through his worst year as a starter last season. He is also 36 years old and is coming to a team with major question marks at tight end and wide receiver. Avoid Hasselbeck in 2011.

However, Johnson’s value gets a slight uptick since Hasselbeck will help take some of the pressure off the rushing game.

The Titans wide receivers and tight ends also see an increase in their fantasy value. Of those players, only Kenny Britt has the potential to be a fantasy starter, and his off-the-field troubles make him a huge risk.

Even with Hasselbeck on board, the only Titan offensive player you want to own is Johnson.


Seahawks Land Sidney Rice


By: — July 28, 2011 @ 10:14 am

Looking to bolster a wide receiver depth chart devoid of playmakers, the Seattle Seahawks landed Sidney Rice, the premier wide receiver available in free agency.

Rice is reunited with offensive coordinator Darren Bevell.

The acquisition of Rice immediately upgrades the Seahawks’ passing attack, providing their starting quarterback with a true No. 1 wide receiver, a role Mike Williams was ill-suited for. Who will be starting at quarterback for the Seahawks remains a major question mark, with Charlie Whitehurst and the recently signed Tarvaris Jackson expected to compete in training camp and through the preseason.

Chosen in the second round of the 2007 draft, Rice did little during his first two years in the league before reaching the Pro Bowl in 2009. With Brett Favre at quarterback, Rice had 83 receptions for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns.
His production fell dramatically in 2010, however, as poor quarterback play and a hip injury suffered at the end of the 2009 season limited him to just 17 receptions for 280 yards and a pair of scores over six games.

Fantasy Impact
Prior to the Vikings’ acquisition of Donovan McNabb, moving to Seattle would have made little difference to Rice’s fantasy prospects, with each team having major question marks at quarterback. But while McNabb is clearly on the downside of his career, he represents an obvious upgrade over rookie first-round pick Christian Ponder in Minnesota, as well as over the Seahawks’ pair of Whitehurst and Jackson.

In addition, the Vikings’ offense features more talent at the skill positions and along the offensive line than Seattle’s. That figures to limit Rice’s touchdown count with the Seahawks.

In Seattle, Rice will be reunited with former Vikings offensive coordinator Darren Bevell, so he should make a smooth transition to the Seahawks offense—always a concern when a wide receiver joins a new team.

While that is a positive, Rice’s fantasy value takes a hit with his move to Seattle because the Seahawks are likely to struggle with a pair of unproven quarterbacks and a rushing attack that also has major question marks. Rice remains a WR3 but moves down a couple of notches in the rankings, and the odds of him having a big season are far less likely in Seattle than they would have been in Minnesota.


Seahawks Cut the Fat, Release LenDale White—Fantasy Impact


By: — May 31, 2010 @ 10:11 am

A little over a month into his career with the Seattle Seahawks, LenDale White was released by the club on Friday.

LenDale White

End of the road for LenWhale?

The Seahawks acquired White and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson during the NFL draft in April in exchange for the teams swapping fourth and sixth round draft choices. Although the cost to acquire White was minimal, it was a shock that his former college head coach Pete Carroll would release him prior to training camp.

However, general manager John Schneider’s comments regarding the decision to release White left little to the imagination. Schneider commented that White, “was not ready to be a member of the Seattle Seahawks” and that he does, “not appear to be the right fit at this point in our program.”

Reports also indicate that White is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, although the Seahawks were apparently aware of that at the time of the trade.

The looming suspension explains why the team was able to acquire White at such a minimal cost.

The 25 year old White is coming off the least productive season of his four-year career, finishing 2009 with 222 yards rushing on 64 carries to go along with two touchdowns. During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, White accumulated 1,883 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Entering 2009, it was expected that White would continue to pair with Chris Johnson in a thunder and lightning backfield but Johnson’s emergence as perhaps the league’s best running back left White with only a minimal role in the team’s offense.

Fantasy Impact

For White, this could very well be the end of the road for him in the NFL. He has been mostly a bust during his career and is likely viewed by most team’s as a marginal talent whose production does not overcome the many issues that he has had.

Expect White to remain a free agent and perhaps an option if a team suffers an injury at the position during the preseason.

The biggest winner from White’s release has to be Julius Jones. When the team acquired White and former New York Jet Leon Washington during the draft, it was expected that Jones would be jettisoned by the club because Justin Forsett is a similar player with a much cheaper salary.

However, Jones now figures to compete with Forsett for the starting role during preseason while Washington recovers from a horrific leg injury suffered last year. Louis Rankin and Quinton Ganther are also on the roster but neither player is likely to earn much playing time in the team’s base offense.

While White’s release provides Jones with an opportunity to earn a roster spot, expect the diminutive Forsett to earn the starting role on opening day. Jones’ Seahawks career has been marred by inconsistency and an inability to run the ball inside the red zone (1.8 yards per carry) and play well on the road (180 yards in 2009).

Forsett displayed much more big play ability than Jones in his first extended playing time in 2009, finishing with 619 yards rushing to go along with 350 receiving yards and five total touchdowns. He finished the year with an impressive 5.4 yards per carry rushing average and averaged 8.5 yards per reception.

However, while Forsett may win the job on opening day, it is likely that Washington will be given an opportunity to earn a significant role once he returns to full health.

With so many questions marks in the Seahawks backfield, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the team were to acquire another veteran rusher to add to the mix. Marshawn Lynch’s days in Buffalo appear to be numbered and Brian Westbrook remains on the market.

With the Seahawks in a rebuilding mode and issues along the offensive line and at quarterback, the Seahawks backfield is certainly one to avoid when drafting your fantasy football squad in 2010.


Possible Landing Spots for Brian Westbrook—Fantasy Impact


By: — May 14, 2010 @ 10:07 am
Filed under: Free Agents

It appears that the once dormant market for former Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook is heating up. Fresh off a trip to the Washington Redskins, Westbrook is in Denver visiting the Broncos.

The Broncos’ interest appears to be serious, as reports indicate that the NFL free-agent Westbrook cancelled an engagement in Washington to head to Denver immediately after meeting with the Redskins.

Westbrook visited St. Louis two weeks ago, where he passed his physical and was offered a contract by the Rams. In St. Louis, he would be reunited with former Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur, who is the Rams’ offensive coordinator, and runs the same offense that the Eagles use.

The 30 year old Westbrook is coming off a season in which he suffered two concussions, causing him to miss eight games. He finished the season with 274 rushing yards and 181 receiving yards, to go along with two touchdowns, easily his lowest production since his rookie season.

During his eight years in the league, the former Villanova product has amassed 5,992 rushing yards, 3,790 receiving yards, and 66 touchdowns.

Although Westbrook has hit the dreaded 30 year-old mark for running backs (he will be 31 on opening day), he was productive when in the lineup in 2009, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

However, given his age and injury issues, he is clearly viewed as a backup capable of assuming a change of pace, be it a receiving role, or as a fill-in.

Both the Redskins and Broncos are deep at running back with Washington featuring three older backs in Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Willie Parker. However, the only major financial commitment is to Portis.

In Denver, the Broncos will start second-year player Knowshon Moreno, and have Correll Buckhalter and J.J. Arrington in reserve.

Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is apparently pushing Redskins management, as well as new head coach Mike Shanahan, on the merits of adding his former teammate Westbrook to the roster.

Although the Redskins’ and Broncos’ interest in Westbrook seems genuine, former San Diego Charger LaDainian Tomlinson’s signing with the New York Jets likely provides the best clues as to where Westbrook will emerge.

Tomlinson wound up on a Jets team that runs the ball heavily, and has a player ahead of him on the depth chart with a limited resume of success. Hence, Tomlinson has a bigger opportunity to carve out a significant role with the Jets than he did with the Minnesota Vikings, his other suitor.

Of the three teams interested in Westbrook, the Rams figure to provide him with the most opportunity for playing time. Their feature runner, Steven Jackson, has a history of dealing with injuries and just underwent back surgery, and there is no proven backup on the roster.

The team’s wide receivers feature young, and up-and-coming players, and the depth chart at tight end features five players who have a combined 52 receptions in the NFL. Westbrook would likely be featured in the Rams offense even with Jackson healthy.


Fantasy Impact

Westbrook is an intriguing player for fantasy purposes, given his history of production, and ability to produce in a limited capacity as a receiving threat out of the backfield. Even on a team that figures to struggle offensively like the Rams, he will likely put up reasonable production provided he can stay healthy.

Although the knock on Westbrook has been that he is injury prone, a closer look reveals that not to be the case. In his first seven years in the league, he played in 99 of 112 regular season games.

Clearly, the concussion issue is a significant one, but Westbrook is definitely worth taking a later round flier on in fantasy leagues, especially if he winds up in St. Louis behind Jackson.


Mike Bell to Eagles—Fantasy Impact


By: — March 24, 2010 @ 10:16 am
Filed under: Free Agents

As expected, the New Orleans Saints will not match the offer sheet that restricted free agent running back Mike Bell signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints won’t receive any draft pick compensation because Bell was an undrafted player who the Saints tendered at the lowest level.

Reports indicate the offer sheet was a one year contract for $1.7 million with $500,000 guaranteed and also included modest incentives as well as a no-trade clause. With a solid one-two punch of Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush and a desire to increase the role of third year power back Lynell Hamilton, the Saints decided against retaining Bell.

Bell is coming off a solid year in which he ran for 654 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games last season. He had success as a rookie in 2006 with Denver but bounced around the league in 2007 and 2008 before resurrecting his career in 2009.

In Philadelphia, Bell will provide another veteran presence behind LeSean McCoy and allow Leonard Weaver to concentrate on the fullback position. His acquisition reduces the likelihood of the team taking a running back in the rookie draft this year.


Fantasy Impact

The biggest winner with Bell moving to Philadelphia is Pierre Thomas. With Bell off the roster, the short yardage and goal-line work will fall to either Thomas or Hamilton. Hamilton lacks Bell’s experience so there is now a greater likelihood of Thomas getting increased touches at the goal-line.

Thomas moves up to 15th in my running back rankings with an increased likelihood of a breakout season.

Hamilton assumes Bell’s role in the offense but is unlikely to match Bell’s production from a year ago. Look for approximately 450 yards and 4-5 touchdowns from him.

In Philadelphia, Bell’s signing negatively impacts fullback and backup running back Leonard Weaver more than McCoy. Weaver figures to be relegated almost exclusively to fullback duties with Bell taking over in short yardage situations. Barring injury, Weaver is not worth owning except in leagues with deep rosters.

Bell is a proven short-yardage runner and figures to amass 500-600 yards and 5-6 touchdowns as part of a potent Eagles offense. The move is slightly negative for Bell from a fantasy perspective since he was expected to achieve similar production in New Orleans as he had last year.

The Saints run the ball far more frequently and effectively than the Eagles. While Bell’s touchdown production won’t suffer in Philadelphia, there is a risk that he won’t see enough carries to match his yardage total from 2009.


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