With the collective bargaining agreement drama behind us and the flurry of free agency activity calmed, we now have a fairly clear look at who is playing where and what system and talent they will be surrounded by. The changes aplenty have had some serious effect on the fantasy football landscape and definitely changed the over all rankings on your fantasy draft cheat sheet!
Here is the rundown.
Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb was the fantasy darling early in last season’s fantasy rankings, but that quickly vanished when he played subpar early on and was injured quickly. This set the stage for the return of the Michael Vick show where Vick proceeded to have one of the best fantasy seasons in recent history for a quarterback and effectively ended Kolb’s time as a starter inPhiladelphia. Kolb has moved to friendlier surroundings in sunny AZ as the anointed savior of the Cardinal’s horrific quarterback situation that rendered the all world Larry Fitzgerald almost worthless last season. Although the triplets of Fitzy, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston are no longer intact, Kolb’s arrival should add some stability to a once potent Cardinal’s offense and once again make he and Larry Fitzgerald adequate fantasy performers.
Donovan McNabb, Minnesota Vikings: McNabb became the odd man out in the Kevin Kolb/Michael Vick lovefest in Philly last season and many (including me) questioned the Eagles decision to trade him to a division rival. After the smoke of 2010 cleared, McNabb had accomplished almost nothing in the nation’s capital except maybe allow Rex Grossman one more delusional thought that he may someday be a starting qb in the NFL. Keep in mind that although McNabb was completely irrelevant as a fantasy quarterback in D.C. it must be said that the entire team was irrelevant in terms of fantasy production last year. The only exception possibly was 2 games by Ryan Torain, but that ended as quickly as it did inDenver for Torain with a major injury. McNabb is now inMinnesota where he will not be relied on at all to win games or even carry them. There is a running back inMinnesota who is pretty good, you may have heard of him, Adrian Peterson…..no? McNabb will not have the end zone threat Sidney Rice available to him anymore but there is Percy Harvin who is dynamic and should be very productive with substantially more touches this season and he will also have a good defense behind him so the pressure will be gone. I would not look for Donny to return to his NFC champion form, but he should be a very adequate bye week filler for you this year unlike last season where I would not have trusted him as a seat filler in a crowd seen on a movie shoot.
Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans: When Hasselbeck is on the field, which seems to be sporadically as of late, he has always been a very productive fantasy quarterback. He is walking into a situation inTennessee that badly needs calm veteran leadership and a skill set that can be counted on under pressure. He also has a very good WR1 in Kenny Britt to look to down field. Hasselbeck has the same limitations he has for the last several seasons; he is old and has a bad back. What he also has inTennessee which he has not had inSeattle since Shaun Alexander dropped off the face of the planet is a true stud running back to take the heat off of him. If Chris Johnson gets his head out of his…well if he gets what he wants and shows up for preseason Hasselbeck could actually have a decent season this year.
Fantasy Running Backs:
Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins: Reggie Bush, although a highlight reel from time to time inNew Orleans never really delivered on the promised potential as a NFL running back or a fantasy running back. So, when Mark Ingram was snagged in the first round of the draft, it was only a matter of an agreed upon CBA before Reggie was sent packing.Miami has been a good spot for fantasy running backs even when they are splitting time (see Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams). The Dolphins drafted Daniel Thomas in the first round so Bush will not be the go to ball carrier but one thing we know about Tony Sparano’s offense is that he likes to get the ball in the hands of playmakers in any way he can. Bush will never be a guy you can count on for consistent fantasy production, but he will be a decent RB3 or flex option.
Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos: McGahee is an enigma, he produces everywhere he goes, but no one wants to keep him. He actually reminds me a lot of Thomas Jones, they should form a band called the produce and pack duo. That being said, Willis McGahee may find himself in a situation where he becomes the go to workhorse inDenver. Knowshon Moreno has been the man who would be king for 2 seasons inDenver, but he is also the man who would be king if he could keep his ass off the DL inDenver. If history is any indication of patterns, McGahee should be the featured back by mid October.
Ricky Williams, Baltimore Ravens: Ricky Williams has been the most underappreciated running backs for several seasons now. He has produced as a fantasy rb every chance he has received since he came back since returned from his pseudo retirement. He will most likely end up as a part time goal line vulture inBaltimore so his trend as unappreciated fantasy stud rb unfortunately will continue. Steer clear, if there are any other options, take them.
Marion Barber, Chicago Bears: Barber’s move to the windy city has shaken up the fantasy running back bag in two major football markets. Barber has always been a guy who runs and plays like he is possessed leading to a history of being nicked up but he has been consistently one of the best goal line backs in the league making him a headache for both his owners and Felix Jones owners. His departure leaves Jones as “the man” inDallas, no more looking over his shoulder and no more coming off the field on the goal line, Felix Jones leaps in the fantasy rankings. With Yin there is always Yang so what is clear inDallas is now very murky inChicago. Matt Forte had a good season last year with only Chester Taylor in the rearview, now add Marion Barber. Here is the math, Matt Forte on downs one and two, Chester Taylor on down three and now Marion Barber on the goal line. Forte is still the only guy worth drafting until late, late in your draft but if the Chicago offence moves the ball, Barber might be a late round scoop who will get you Jerome Bettis like numbers 4 carries for 6 yards and a touchdown. Running back by committee is good for football teams but horrible for fantasy football!!
Tim Hightower, Washington Redskins: Hightower will undoubtedly produce in DC; he is playing for Shanahan after all! The problem is that he is playing for Shanahan! If Hightower can hold on to the ball, which has been his knock since he was a rookie, he should be draftable and a decent RB2. But if Shanahan gets up on the wrong side of the bed Olandis Gary could be the Redskins number 1. The auxiliary product of the move is that Beanie Wells finally gets his shot in what should be a greatly improvedArizona offense. Look for Wells to emerge as one of the pleasant surprises of 2011.
Cadillac Williams/Jerious Norwood, St. Louis Rams: The Rams have added a couple of productive vets to their running back stable and finally given Steven Jackson some much needed support. This is great for the Rams and surprisingly might work out forJackson owners as well.Jackson has had some problems staying completely healthy down the stretch in the past few seasons. This has lead to some diminished production and a slip in his rankings.Norwood nor Williams are going to takeJackson’s job, but they just might give him enough of a break to bring him back to the elite class of fantasy running backs.Jackson should be a top 10 pick. Additionally the departure of Williams fromTampa leaves Blount as the real deal for the Buccaneers.
Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Defense…………coming next, stay tuned