Week 1 of Free Agency
Finally Fantasy Football is back – say that five times fast!
The owners and players came to terms last week, and a flurry of intriguing moves followed. I’ll try to track the process as the signings and trades with fantasy implications go down. We have many risers and fallers in the rankings which will be finalized in the upcoming weeks once all the commotion is over. Read on for the winners and losers of free agency…
Winners and Losers of Week 1:
Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers
Olsen, traded for a 2012 third-round pick, was in fantasy purgatory in OC Mike Martz’ offense in Chicago, sparingly used. He lands in Carolina with a rookie QB (or a weak-armed Jimmy Clausen) that will lean on him heavily. Don’t worry about Jeremey Shockey – he hasn’t been fantasy-relevant in years. Olsen should be a top-12 TE in Carolina.
Philadelphia Eagles Defense
Already a top-3 defense in my eyes, the Eagles will be awfully tough to pass on with the additions of Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha to man the corners. Not to mention Asante Samuel as their 3rd cornerback. Before making a splash in the Asomugha sweepstakes, the Eagles locked up top Defensive End Jason Babin to a 5-year deal. Watch out. Look for the Eagles to be a top defense all year and a terrible matchup for opposing offenses.
Plaxico Burress, Jets
While Plax may not be a fantasy starter after signing with the Jets, he did land in the best possible situation, likely replacing Braylon Edwards’ targets. Better-suited for PPR Leagues, Burress is in a run-first offense and must show the Jets he has no rust from spending the last 2 years in prison.
Reggie Bush, Dolphins
The former Heisman Trophy Winner bolts New Orleans for Miami to earn starters’ carries. He will likely split carries with rookie Daniel Thomas, but Bush should be a PPR Monster assuming he stays healthy. Expect a lot of dump-offs from Chad Henne / Matt Moore.
Chad Ochocinco, Patriots
85 was traded to the Patriots for two picks and could not ask for a better QB to be throwing him the ball. Ocho pushes Deion Branch out of the way to likely be Tom Brady’s # 1 Target. I wouldn’t expect Randy Moss circa 2007 numbers, but Ocho should be a decent WR 1 / WR 2 for most teams.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Larry Fitz owners rejoice! The fantasy football gods have brought his owners a gift, and his name is Kevin Kolb. While the jury is still out on Kolb as an established NFL Quarterback, the situation in Arizona is a million times better than having Derek Anderson/Max Hall/John Skelton/Steve Urkel/Danny Tanner throwing the ball to him. It would be gravy if Braylon Edwards signs with Arizona, thus taking some attention away from Fitzgerald.
Houston Texans Defense
The Texans are one of my sleeper defenses this upcoming season. Jettisoned from Dallas, noted Defensive Guru Wade Phillips takes over the D, hoping to improve a defense that was one of the league’s worst last year. This off-season has been dedicated to improving the porous D as CB Johnathan Joseph and Safety Danieal Manning were signed as free agents. I don’t expect the addition of these two to suddenly transform the D into a powerhouse, but with a little bit of Phillips’ mojo, the Texans could be a top-12 Defense this season.
Minnesota Vikings Offense
Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson become the main beneficiaries of the addition of Donovan McNabb. Although McNabb is a shell of his former self, defenses will have to respect a smart veteran QB over a rookie QB not given enough time to learn the offense thanks to the lockout. Harvin becomes the de facto # 1 WR with Sidney Rice’s departure to Seattle.
Arizona Cardinals Running Backs
The convoluted backfield got a little bit clearer in the swap of Tim Hightower for DE Vonnie Holliday of the Redskins. Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams will likely split carries between each other as the latter will see more time on passing downs thanks to better pass-catching ability.
Carolina Panthers Running Backs
Can the Panthers please stop? Was it really necessary to give a 28-year old running back coming off injury a 5-year deal with $21 million guaranteed when you have a perfectly capable and younger replacement waiting in the wings? I understand the Panthers want to establish a hard-nosed running game with a rookie Quarterback, but Jonathan Stewart deserves a shot to start. DeAngelo Williams will be the starter with Stewart spelling him. Hope for an injury as this appears to be a messy situation for Stewart owners.
Washington Redskins Running Backs
With the aforementioned Tim Hightower deal, Mike Shanahan gets to torment fantasy owners everywhere yet again. Hightower joins a crowded backfield of Ryan Torain, Rookie Roy Helu and Keiland Williams. Hightower will presumably play the pass-catching role of Williams, while Torain and Helu fight for carries until Torain encounters his annual injury.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
Destined to be a loser in free agency with new HC John Fox attempting to establish a running game similar to his days in Carolina, Moreno actually made out better than anticipated. Fox was long rumored to be targeting his former back DeAngelo Williams, but DeAngelo received an offer he couldn’t refuse. Instead the Broncos go out and overpay an aging Willis McGahee to spell Moreno. Don’t expect Moreno to score much with McGahee in town. See Ray Rice circa 2008-2010.
Sidney Rice, Seahawks
Rice wanted out of Minnesota so badly that he went to a familiar place to play with former teammate Tarvaris Jackson. However, Rice didn’t break out until Brett Favre’s arrival in Minnesota, and won’t put up WR1 or maybe even WR2 numbers. He’ll likely be drafted as a # 2 WR in 2011. Seattle is a fantasy city to avoid this season.
Jordy Nelson, Packers
Nelson, high on every experts' breakout lists, was expected to take over veteran WR Donald Driver's # 2 WR role in Green Bay following the departure of James Jones. However, a funny thing happened in free agency, and Jones re-signed with the Super Bowl Champs. With Jermichel Finley healthy, Greg Jennings assuming # 1 WR role, Donald Driver back and healthy, and Jones in the fold, there are simply not enough targets to go around in Green Bay. Not to mention the running game should be back with Ryan Grant and James Starks in the mix.
Tim Tebow & Kyle Orton, Broncos and Brandon Marshall, Dolphins
Orton was long-rumored to be traded to the Dolphins until Denver called their bluff, and the QB Market quickly bottomed out. Then Denver goes ahead and pays Orton his roster bonus although they have been declaring Tebow as the incumbent starter for the Broncos. Orton is now taking starter reps in Denver, so one would assume he will be the starter unless an injury occurs to a QB-needy team. Prior to this mess, Tebow was going to be a possible break-out candidate. This will have to wait. Poor Brandon Marshall saw Orton revitalize Brandon Lloyd's career last week and had visions of a career-year himself. Instead, Marshall will have fantasy stalwarts Matt Moore and Chad Henne lobbing passes to him.
Anyone else in particular wins or loses this crazy first week of the off-season? Did I miss anyone notable? Let me know in the comments…
As usual, head on over to our friends at Fantasy Rundown for all other fantasy analysis.