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Peyton Manning to Join the Denver Broncos

By: — March 19, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

Various news outlets are reporting that former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning will be joining the Denver Broncos for the 2012 season.

Is the AFC West Denver's division to lose?

The Manning sweepstakes began when Indianapolis chose not to pay their future Hall of Fame quarterback a $28-million bonus payment, releasing him on March 7th and setting in motion the biggest free agent frenzy for one player in the history of the league.

After his release, reports indicated that up to 12 teams had inquired as to whether Manning was interested in signing with them. Presumably the only teams that didn’t inquire were those with Pro Bowl quality quarterbacks, outstanding young players at the position or teams that knew they had no chance to land the player regarded as arguably the best to ever play the position.

In the end, Manning’s decision came down to three teams – the Broncos, the Titans and the 49ers.

Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, must still finalize contract arrangements with the Broncos, a process that could take some time in order to protect the Broncos in the event Manning’s prior neck injuries reoccur. However, Manning has repeatedly stated that he wants to protect his next employer in the event that he is injured, making prolonged negotiations unlikely.

In Denver, Manning will join an offense that features a solid offensive line and a pair of promising young wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. The Broncos have holes at running back where Willis McGahee was productive in 2011 but has complained about his contract and at tight end.

Interestingly, the Colts released running back Joseph Addai and tight end Dallas Clark this off-season and both players remain unsigned.

Fantasy Impact

The Broncos have largely sat on the sideline for the beginning of free agency, signing former Browns safety Mike Adams and re-signing linebacker Joe Mays. Reports have indicated that the team planned to continue building through the draft with Tim Tebow at quarterback unless Manning decided to join the team.

With Manning in the fold, the Broncos are expected to become more aggressive in free agency and the expectation is that a number of former Colts could join Manning in Denver.

There can be little doubt that the team will add a multi-dimensional threat out of the backfield as well as a pass receiving tight end and perhaps a slot receiver to the roster. Since that hasn’t happened and we don’t know who those players might be and whether those areas will be addressed through free agency or the draft, it is difficult to ascertain Manning’s fantasy football value for the 2012 season.

Let’s consider his age and health.

Manning will turn 36 this month and while that is clearly old for most positions, recent history suggests that quarterbacks can be very productive at such an age. The most recent example is Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who remained productive until 38 years of age.

Health-wise, Manning’s nerve damage to his neck is clearly cause for concern but not necessarily an indicator that he is more susceptible to injury going forward.

Keep in mind that Manning’s ability to recognize coverages was the main reason the Colts regularly ranked near the bottom of the league in sacks allowed. His ability to get the ball out before being pressured reduces his likelihood of suffering an injury.

Manning’s performance over the 2009 and 2010 seasons do not suggest any drop off from his performance over the earlier part of his career. He established a career-high in passing yards in 2010 with 4,700 and threw for the 3rd highest yardage total of his career in 2009 (4,500).

In addition, he threw for 33 touchdowns in each of those seasons and a touchdown interception-ratio of two to one while finishing as the top ranked fantasy quarterback in 2010 and 4th at the position in 2009. It is safe to conclude that Manning’s performance did not suffer in either of those seasons as a result of his advancing age.

In Denver, Manning will inherit a pair of young, talented receivers entering their 3rd seasons in the league. While Decker was more productive last season (44 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns), Thomas (32 receptions for 551 yards and four touchdowns) is the more exciting talent of the two. However, neither player has reached the heights of Reggie Wayne, Manning’s top wide receiver in Indianapolis.

As for comparing the tight end positions for the two teams, there’s simply no comparison. Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme were far better receiving options than what currently resides on the depth chart in Denver (a pair of second-year players in Julius Thomas and Virgil Green as well as Cornelius Ingram).

As the Denver roster currently stands, Manning would shape up as a low-end fantasy starter, perhaps sneaking into the top 10 but only barely. Lump him into the tier of fantasy quarterbacks that includes Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger but consider moving him up once we see what types of additions the Broncos management has planned on the offensive side of the ball.

Consider Thomas, a player with perhaps more physical ability than any wide receiver Manning has ever played with, a mid-tier WR2 with upside and Decker a low-end WR3.

As for Tebow, his fantasy value in redraft leagues plummets to zero and it isn’t much above that in dynasty formats.

Patriots Land Brandon Lloyd

By: — @ 1:07 pm

The wide receiver signing most expected to happen entering free agency has finally occurred.

The New England Patriots have signed Brandon Lloyd to a multi-year deal. Reports indicate that Lloyd will sign a three-year, $12-million contract, a discount from what he was expected to sign for, particularly considering the free agent contracts that similar wide receivers have signed for this offseason.

Lloyd is a significant upgrade for the Patriots at the WR position.

In New England, Lloyd will be reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was Lloyd’s head coach when he had a breakout season in 2010 and last season in St. Louis, where he served as the Rams offensive coordinator.

Lloyd posted career highs in every receiving category in 2010, finishing the season with 77 receptions for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. Traded by the Broncos to the Rams in 2011, he finished last season with 70 receptions for 966 yards and five touchdowns.

The Patriots were in the market for a wide receiver capable of stretching opposing defenses and Lloyd has proven capable in that role over the last two seasons. He will start opposite Wes Welker and join a receiving cast featuring four Pro Bowl quality players including Welker and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Fantasy Impact

Let the hype machine start rolling and it is going to be based on Lloyd’s stellar 2010 production with McDaniels in Denver combined with Randy Moss’ other-worldly production with McDaniels in New England.

Let’s run down the reasons why Lloyd could bust out once again in 2012.

Moss consistently topped 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns as the Patriots main deep threat, the role that Lloyd figures to fulfill this season. It is also worth noting that Lloyd’s breakout season came with Kyle Orton at quarterback and Tom Brady is several notches up the quarterback food chain from Orton.

Let’s also throw in that BenJarvus Green-Ellis remains unsigned so the Patriots current running back depth chart features a pair of unproven second-year players in Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen as well as Danny Woodhead, whose main role is as a receiver out of the backfield. If that situation doesn’t change, we can assume even more passing attempts in New England in 2012.

Time to switch to the cup is half-empty mode.

In his 2010 breakout season, Lloyd wasn’t just the Big Dog in Denver, he was the only dog. The team’s other wide receivers were Jabar Gaffney, a slumping Eddie Royal and a pair of largely unproductive rookies in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.

That factor combined with the fact that Broncos finished 4-12 that season and spent plenty of time playing from behind helped Lloyd finish fourth in the league in targets.

Although the Patriots throw the ball plenty (the 3rd most in the league last season), Lloyd won’t be the Big Dog and there’s a chance he might be the Little Dog behind Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez.

Not helping matters is that Lloyd certainly won’t be the Red Zone Big Dog given the Patriots preference to either throw underneath to Welker or utilize the size of Gronkowski and Hernandez in red zone situations.

You see where I’m going on this one. The chances of Lloyd finishing as a top ten fantasy wide receiver in 2012 are very low. There certainly won’t be a repeat of his marvelous 2010 production. Consider Lloyd a mid-tier WR3 in 2012.

Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez are the fantasy losers with Lloyd’s signing as well as Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, at least if you were under the impression that Lloyd was considering re-signing with the Rams.

Welker should no longer be considered a top five fantasy wide receiver, except in PPR leagues.

In Gronkowski’s case, he remains the top ranked tight end but with lower overall production. Hernandez slides down a few notches but remains a top ten option.

The biggest fantasy football winner with Lloyd’s signing? Well, that has to be Brady. The fair-haired one comes out on top once again.

Jacksonville Gets a No. 1 Receiver?

By: — March 15, 2012 @ 9:52 am

With a dearth of talent at the wide receiver position and numerous free agent options going off the market quickly, the Jacksonville Jaguars entered the fray by signing former Dallas wide receiver Laurent Robinson.

Robinson has landed in a fantasy wasteland.

Reports indicate that Robinson will sign a five-year, $32.5-million contract that contains $14-million in guarantees.

Robinson enjoyed a career-year in Dallas in 2011. Despite playing a reserve role behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, he caught 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns, establishing career-highs in each category.

While Dallas was satisfied with his production, they made little effort to re-sign him, likely in the belief that his production came as a result of being the team’s fourth option in the passing game behind Austin, Bryant and tight end Jason Witten.

In Jacksonville, Robinson ascends to the top of the team’s depth chart at the position and will be paired in the starting lineup with Mike Thomas, barring another free agent addition or the team using a high draft pick on the position.

While Robinson possesses solid size and speed, he has failed to remain healthy and the Jaguars will be his fifth team as he enters his sixth season in the league.

Fantasy Impact

First off, let’s take a shot at the Jaguars business acumen, particularly when it comes to the wide receiver position.

The Jaguars decided to sign Mike Thomas to a three-year, $18-million extension ($9-million in guarantees) that runs through 2015. That amounts to $6-million per season for a 5’8”, 198 pound receiver who should play out of the slot.

Of course, in Jacksonville, he was their top wide receiver in 2010, catching 66 passes for 820 yards and four touchdowns. After signing the extension, Thomas become persona non grata, catching 24 passes for 203 yards and failing to find the end zone over his next 11 games (he missed one game with an injury).

So, after that abysmal failure, do the Jaguars learn to pay a player for his ability as opposed to his performance given favorable circumstances? Not a chance.

Enter Robinson, who gets guaranteed money similar to what far more established receivers such as DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon received. This for a player who was waived by the Chargers in training camp last year, remained unsigned entering the season, has missed 28 games over the first five years of his career and has failed to establish himself as a number two receiver, let alone the top dog.

Don’t for one second make the assumption that Robinson will match his 2011 production with the Jaguars while catching passes from second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. It ain’t gonna happen.

Unless the Jaguars are planning on trading up to acquire Justin Blackmon in the draft, Robinson’s signing is foolhardy. Even then, it might still be.

Somebody in your league will reach or overpay for Robinson. Please don’t let it be you.

And don’t drink the Thomas or Gabbert Kool-Aid either.

Peyton Hillis Signs with Kansas City

By: — @ 8:51 am

The Kansas City Chiefs made their first foray into the 2012 free agent market, signing former Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis.

A change of scenery may do Hillis some good.

Reports indicate that Hillis has agreed to a one-year, $3-million contract with the Chiefs. He is coming off an injury-marred, drama filled 2011 season in which his rushing yardage plummeted after a career-high 1,177 rushing yards in 2010.

In Kansas City, Hillis will be reunited with the team’s new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who filled that position with Cleveland in 2010. The Chiefs will pair Hillis in the backfield with Jamaal Charles, who also enjoyed a breakout 2010 campaign before missing 14 games last season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The Chiefs were in the market for a power back after the combination of Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle and LeRon McClain failed in that role last season. Hillis will fill that role in 2012 and also provide insurance if Charles struggles in his return from injury or isn’t ready to assume a large workload early in the season.

Hillis established himself as the Browns key offensive weapon during the 2010 season, gaining 1,177 yards on 270 carries and catching 61 passes for 477 yards while scoring 13 touchdowns.

However, he struggled during his last five games of the season and suffered through a miserable 2011 season in which he topped 100 rushing yards just once while being criticized for complaining about his contract, missing a game due to strep throat and angering the team’s management due to missing treatment for his various injuries.

Reports out of Cleveland indicate the Browns were so disenchanted with his behavior that they failed to make him a contract offer.

Fantasy Impact

The good news for Hillis is that he will be playing for an offensive coordinator who believes in him and has had success rushing the ball over the last two seasons (witness career seasons for Hillis in 2010 and Reggie Bush in Miami this past season). It is also nice that Hillis will be motivated to perform in order to secure a more lucrative long-term deal after the 2012 season.

However, there is no sugarcoating that Hillis would have been given every opportunity to compete for the starting job with Montario Hardesty in Cleveland but in Kansas City, he has almost no chance of unseating Charles as the team’s starting running back.

While Hillis had an opportunity to enter 2012 as a mid-tier RB2 in Cleveland, he will be no better than an RB3 or flex option in Kansas City. For reference, take note of Thomas Jones’ 2010 production as Charles’ backup when he gained 896 rushing yards and six touchdowns. That production is Hillis’ upside for the coming season, assuming Charles remains injury free.

Given that it was known that the Chiefs were in the market for a power back and his production splitting time with Jones in 2010, Charles’ value remains static as a top 10 fantasy running back, again assuming he is sufficiently recovered from the knee injury that ended his 2011 season.

Since that injury occurred early in the season, expect Charles to be ready to assume a full load early in 2012 although he is unlikely to produce at his 2010 levels until mid-season at the earliest.

In Cleveland, quarterback Colt McCoy, the team’s current starter but with no guarantees that will remain the case on opening day, loses his best pass catching threat out of the backfield while Montario Hardesty immediately climbs to the top of the depth chart.

Unfortunately for Hardesty and his fantasy owners, the Browns are almost certain to replenish their running back depth chart and there is a possibility the team will use the 4th overall pick in the draft on Alabama running back Trent Richardson. In addition, they could look to the free agent market where the options currently include Michael Bush, Cedric Benson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Mike Tolbert, Ryan Grant and Brandon Jacobs, amongst others.

Vincent Jackson Joins the Bucs

By: — March 14, 2012 @ 11:20 am

The Buccaneers have joined the 2012 free agency fray, landing the top available free agent wide receiver in former Charger Vincent Jackson.

Jackson will reportedly sign a five-year, $55-million contract with Tampa Bay that includes $36-million in payments over the first three years of the deal.

With second-year players Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn suffering through sophomore slumps in 2011, the Buccaneers were in the market for a big play wide receiver and Jackson figures to take over as the team’s top threat at the position in 2012.

The former Division II player out of Northern Colorado possesses excellent size (6’5” 230 pounds) and speed, as his career average yards per catch of 17.5 indicates. Jackson has also shown the ability to out jump defenders on deep balls.

Removing his injury-marred, suspension and contract holdout shortened 2010 season, Jackson caught 187 passes for 3,371 yards and 25 touchdowns during the 2008, 2009 and 2011 seasons.

Despite his solid production, the Chargers were unwilling to sign him to a lucrative long-term contract given their belief that he had failed to reach his potential, his constant injury issues and their concerns regarding his off the field behavior.

Fantasy Impact

Jackson's move to Tampa may not improve his fantasy stock.

Off the top, this move has to be viewed as lowering Vjax’s fantasy value. He goes from catching passes from one of the top quarterbacks in the league and playing in the league’s 5th ranked scoring offense to playing with a far more inexperienced quarterback coming off a horrible season and playing in the league’s 27th ranked scoring offense. Let’s get one of those pointing down arrows and stick it beside his name.

Jackson was the 10th ranked fantasy wide receiver in 2011 but he rates as a mid-tier WR2 in 2012. Simply put, Josh Freeman is coming off a horrendous season and has not proven to be as accurate on deep passes as Philip Rivers and those plays have been Jackson’s bread and butter throughout his career in San Diego.

Freeman obviously wins out as he now has a true number one wide receiver for the first time in his career and the Bucs receiving depth chart rounds out nicely with Williams, Benn, Preston Parker, Dezmon Briscoe and Sammie Stroughter. Freeman ranks as a high-end fantasy backup with upside in 2012.

Williams wasn’t a complete bust last season but he was clearly a huge disappointment, as his yardage and touchdown totals plummeted from his solid rookie season in 2010 when he caught 64 passes for 955 yards and 11 touchdowns. Given Jackson’s size and ability to stretch the field, Williams figures to be featured on more short and intermediate routes in 2012 and his red zone opportunities also figure to be diminished.

Williams rates as fantasy backup in 2012 but is worth taking a flier on provided he shows a renewed dedication and reports to training camp in better physical condition than was the case in 2011.

Outside of deep leagues and dynasty formats, Benn’s fantasy value basically drops to nil. Unless he beats out Williams, he is waiver wire material in most formats.

However, the biggest fantasy loser is Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who loses his top wide receiver and arguably San Diego’s top receiving option ahead of tight end Antonio Gates. While Robert Meachem will take over for Jackson in the Chargers starting line-up, he is an inconsistent player and both Gates and Malcom Floyd, the team’s other starting wide receiver, have proven to be injury-prone. Rivers moves to low-end starter status in 2012.

Both Meachem and Floyd see their fantasy values rise but neither should be relied on as a starting option in 2012 until they prove otherwise.

Durable NFL running backs – a true football fantasy

By: — November 6, 2011 @ 1:43 am

In 2010, there were 25 NFL running backs that logged at
least 100 carries and played in all 16 games. In 2009, the number was 19.

This year, let’s hope you kept your rabbit’s foot alongside
your four-leaf clover and threw some salt over your shoulder while avoiding
black cats and remembering not to walk under ladders…

In 2011, the numbers are sobering. Since the season is
nearly half over, I’ll set the bar at 50 carries. By my count, only 30 runners
have surpassed that low benchmark so far. Of those 30 players, only 18 can be
considered decent (or better) regular fantasy starts – and that’s only if you
classify the likes of Chris Johnson, James Starks, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and
Jackie Battle as “decent” this season.

Taken one step further, I count only 14 of those 18 as
runners who have yet to miss a game and/or not projected to sit out this week
(which includes Darren McFadden, Ryan Mathews and Ahmad Bradshaw).

Among the more intriguing bits of information are the names
of some of the players who have survived the carnage so far: Maurice Jones-Drew
(entered season with knee concerns), Frank Gore (missed at least one game in
five of first six NFL seasons), Shonn Greene (yet to play a full season) and
Starks (missed most of 2009 and 2010 seasons due to injury).

Assuming Mathews (who hasn’t played a full football season
since high school and has suffered five known injuries already this season)
beats the odds and finds a way to play through his groin injury in Week 9 –
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune tweeted that he “had a
feeling” he would – he only adds to bizarre list of this season’s
“durable” runners.

With running back depth charts around the NFL already
looking like something out of a horror movie, I decided it was about time to
take a look at the “new wave”. For the purposes of this blog, I’m not
interested in singing the praises of a high-profile second-stringer who is about
to step into the starting lineup, I’m more interested in writing about the
talented third- and fourth-stringers that may end up deciding fantasy
championships this season if this injury wave doesn’t stop.

In no particular order…

Tashard Choice – Perhaps I’m a fool for Mike Shanahan
running backs, but unlike the other RBs on this list, Choice has already shown
a little bit in the league – albeit not much recently. However, unlike the
situation in which he found himself with the Cowboys, Choice may now be able to
show fantasy owners the skills that made him one of the best backup RBs in the
league just two years ago. With a change of scenery, more devotion to the
running game and a chance to rest his nagging injuries, Choice is as good of
bet as any to emerge as the Redskins’ lead RB by the time the fantasy playoffs
roll around.

Taiwan Jones – If the rookie from Eastern Washington wasn’t
buried behind one of the league’s premier backs (McFadden) and one of its
finest second-stringers (Michael Bush), there is a pretty good chance you would
know Jones by now. Perhaps Oakland’s plan of resting McFadden for Week 9 allows
him to play in Week 10 (a Thursday night game vs. the Chargers), but D-Mac’s
return for that game is far from guaranteed, which means Jones could have a
shot at fantasy value for two games. With his speed and playmaking ability, he
may not need more than 8-10 touches in either game to have a fantasy impact for
desperate owners.

Chris Ogbannaya – Peyton Hillis aggravated his hamstring
(again) and is likely to miss multiple weeks while Montario Hardesty is on the
same timetable with a calf injury, which means Ogbannaya is already assured a
starting job for the next week or two. Ogbannaya, who did some good things with
the Texans in the preseason, struggled in his first real shot at significant
touches in Week 8. However, as long as he is only fighting off the likes of
Thomas Clayton, Ogbannaya will have a shot at 15-20 touches and will be a
usable bye-week fill-in/desperation start in PPR leagues because the Browns
lack playmakers in the passing game but rank among the league leaders in pass

Kregg Lumpkin – There’s a pretty good chance Lumpkin is
already rostered in deeper leagues. HC Raheem Morris is talking up LeGarrette
Blount as an every-down back in the wake of Earnest Graham’s season-ending
injury, but I can’t imagine how that experiment will work out well for the
Bucs. First and foremost, when Blount returns to the field in Week 9, it will
be for the first time he’s played in nearly a month, so conditioning will be an
issue. Secondly, Blount isn’t the most able or willing in blitz pick-up nor is
he an accomplished receiver, so defenses like the Saints will be even apt to
load the box and blitz more than they already do. Last but not least, I have my
doubts about Blount’s ability to avoid another injury.

Curtis Brinkley – The Chargers’ running-back rotation of
Mathews and Mike Tolbert takes turns getting hurt, which means owners of either
one or both players really need to consider keeping tabs on Brinkley. While he
is hardly a threat to either player and is clearly a backup, PPR owners
undoubtedly took note at what Brinkley was able to do following Mathews’
departure in the Monday night loss to the Chiefs. Should Mathews and/or Tolbert
both miss games at the same time, Brinkley would quickly become a temporary RB2
in PPR since San Diego utilizes its backs so often in the passing game. With
bye weeks mercifully coming to an end, I would strongly advise owners of
Mathews and/or Tolbert to find room for Brinkley.

Phillip Tanner – I briefly discussed Tanner in the Blitz
last week, so suffice it to say that his opportunity to shine on the likelihood
that DeMarco Murray cannot stay healthy and Felix Jones continues being
“fragile”. Since both Murray and Jones are huge injury question
marks, it is not a stretch to think that Tanner won’t get an opportunity as the
featured back for a 1-2 game stretch. There’s also a pretty good chance Tanner
never gets that shot, but Dallas should consider using him in a goal-line role
and make sure it reduces its risk of burdening any of its runners by making
sure it uses all of them.

Da’Rel Scott – Even by the standards of this blog, Scott is
a complete shot in the dark for any modicum of fantasy value this season.
However, his chances just increased this week with Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot
injury. Coming off his own injury, Brandon Jacobs is talking and playing his
way out of New York and D.J. Ware has essentially been pigeonholed into a
third-down back role. The one thing Scott has is what Bradshaw brings to the
table and the other two do not – speed. Like Bradshaw, Scott enters the league
as a talented but injury-prone enigma. Either way, it would not surprise me if
Scott got his first real chance vs. New England today and makes the most of it.

Wells The Man in Arizona

By: — August 23, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

The Cardinals expected the worst when rookie running back Ryan Williams went down in the team’s first preseason game and their fears were realized. The team’s 2nd round selection in this year’s draft suffered a ruptured patella tendon that will cause him to miss the 2011 season and he was placed on injured reserve.

Dissatisfied with the platoon of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, Arizona had traded up in the 2nd round to acquire Williams. The former Virginia Tech star had performed well enough in training camp that the Cardinals were comfortable enough with their running back depth chart to trade Hightower to the Redskins.

With Williams out, diminutive LaRod Stephens-Howling becomes the team’s top backup with a number of undrafted rookie free agents after him on the depth chart. That has to be a concern for Cardinals management given Wells well-documented injury history at Ohio State and last year in Arizona when he missed time due to torn meniscus in his knee.

A number of veteran free agent running backs remain unsigned and it seems likely that the Cardinals will look to replenish their running back depth chart at some point during the preseason.

Fantasy Impact

Beanie: The lead man.

Wells becomes the lead man in Arizona with an outside chance of becoming one of the few workhorse backs in the league. There is little proven talent behind him and of the veteran running backs currently available in the free agent market, none are likely to come to Arizona and steal his job.

That means Beanie is likely in line for a significant workload (approaching the 300-carry mark) in 2011 provided he can stay healthy – something that’s been difficult for him to do.

He came to the NFL with the injury prone label and appeared to shake that off in his rookie season by playing in all 16 games. However, he missed three games last season and most of another contest with some reports indicating the team felt he was taking too long to get back in the line-up.

So what can we expect from Wells? A breakout season is unlikely given it is quarterback Kevin Kolb’s first year as an NFL starter as well as his first year in Arizona and the state of the team’s offensive line.

A more realistic scenario would Wells emerging as a solid RB2 but his injury history wouldn’t make this a comfortable proposition for his fantasy owners either. Consider Wells a great option as one of the first RB3’s off your draft board.

As for LaRod Stephens-Howling, he clearly gets the biggest uptick in fantasy value going from being undraftable to the top backup behind an injury prone player. That scenario plays out if the Cardinals don’t add a veteran running back.

If a draft were being held today, Stephens-Howling would be worth a late round pick given the likelihood of the Cardinals acquiring another player to challenge him. Whoever is Wells’ backup figures to get a decent amount of work considering how head coach Ken Whisenhunt has rotated the team’s running backs over the past few seasons.

Edwards Jets to the 49ers

By: — August 6, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

Set adrift by the New York Jets, Braylon Edwards has finally found a new team. With the free agent market for his services not matching his expectations, Edwards will reportedly sign a one-year deal with the 49ers.

Is Edwards a good fit for Jim Harbaugh's west coast offense?

In San Francisco, Edwards will immediately move into the starting line-up with Michael Crabtree out with a foot injury. If Crabtree is out for an extended period of time, Edwards will start opposite Josh Morgan, who will likely move to a reserve role when Crabtree returns.

Given their salary cap situation, the expectation entering free agency was that the Jets would have a difficult time re-signing Edwards and that proved to be the case.

With Edwards after a lucrative long-term extension, the Jets moved quickly to sign Plaxico Burress, agreeing to a $3-million, one-year deal with the former Giant. Reports indicate Edwards will receive just $3.5-million from San Francisco.

Fantasy Impact

Edwards decision to sign a short term contract with the 49ers in hopes of having a solid season and hitting the market as a free agent in 2012 is a curious one. While his size and speed would seem to indicate that is a good fit in the West Coast offense new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh will run, Edwards has not proven adept at running short patterns, in part because of his questionable hands.

In New York, he was used almost exclusively on intermediate and deep routes. After a pair of disappointing seasons, he played well in 2010, making several big plays on his way to a 53-reception, 904-yard, seven-touchdown performance.

The issue for Edwards is that 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith has never proven capable of connecting with his wide receivers on deep patterns. His preferred option on those plays is tight end Vernon Davis and that is not expected to change in 2011.

Edwards’ upside in 2011 is similar to what he produced in 2010 and that would make him a WR3. However, the more likely scenario is a reduction in big plays and touchdowns. Grab him as a low end WR3 if you have to but feel more comfortable with him coming off your bench as a bye week fill in and injury replacement.

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