Fantasy Football 2011: Analyzing the big moves
|08.03.11 at 9:36 am ET|
In this article, we will analyze most of the significant NFL player moves (and there have been many!) for fantasy purposes. This does not include players who stayed with their original teams. The last week or so has been confusing enough as it is. Our take on those situations and some of the smaller moves can be found in our full player rankings at Rotobahn.com.
Kevin Kolb to the Cardinals
Kevin Kolb’s value goes up as he is once again a starting quarterback. The man is also very rich, but the big story here is that Larry Fitzgerald is back. The best receiver in the game over the last five years was subjected to some of the worst quarterback play you will ever see. That he was able to post the stats that he did is a testament to just how great a player Fitzgerald is. As expected, we are bullish on Larry’s chances to return to the ranks of the statistical elite in 2011.
Matt Hasselbeck to the Titans
This is a great move for the Titans, and it’s very significant for fantasy as Hasselbeck could change the trajectory of a few Titans players. First off, you have to like this move for Kenny Britt, who will benefit from having a solid vet to work with. And, unlike Kerry Collins, Hasselbeck still has game. The Hasselbeck signing is also big for Chris Johnson, who will now have some room to run … if he ever gets into camp.
Reggie Bush to the Dolphins
This is a sleeper story. Bush has morphed into a fantasy riddle over the last few years, and he missed the bulk of 2010 with a freak leg injury that has fully healed. The thing to watch here is what Miami does with its roster between now and week one. If no other significant backs are added, then this backfield will be split in some way between Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas out of Kansas State. Over the long haul, we expect the rookie to become the feature back, but in the short term, the veteran back might be leaned-upon. This could make Bush a nice sleeper who can be had very late in drafts this year. It’s worth noting that Bush is an accomplished goal-line back.
Not the place we were hoping he would land. The Seahawks lack a viable quarterback, and it looks like they will roll with newly-acquired Tavaris Jackson, who also made the trip from Minnesota. The only benefit we see here is that Rice and Jackson know each other well from their time together in Minnesota. Rice is a good player, but if folks draft him based on his last full season, they would be wise to remember that Brett Favre was the one throwing him the ball, and that he was having one of his best seasons. We see Rice as a good WR3 with WR2 upside, but don’t ignore the red flags and reach for him too soon.
Chad Ochocinco to the Patriots
Ochocinco is chasing the ring, not fantasy glory. The same is true with the Patriots. We cannot project with any accuracy just how the targets will break down in New England this year, but we know that this is only positive news for Tom Brady owners. What we can tell you is that Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Rob Gronkowski are not going to just disappear. Neither will Danny Woodhead or Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots are a deep bunch and we see them adding Ocho as just another piece of the puzzle. For fantasy purposes, we view him as a WR3, and we expect modest improvements over last year’s numbers.
Plaxico Burress to the Jets
Here’s a wildcard for fantasy GMs … Plaxico has boom or bust potential. The Jets now have two receivers on their team who caught game-winning scores in the Super Bowl. Sadly (for the Jets), neither of them did it wearing a Jets jersey. They take a calculated gamble here, and we wonder just how much the massive 34-year old (by week one) receiver has left. We wonder further as to what kind of physical shape he could be in after a lengthy stay in the pen. He’ll add serious size, and he could be a big asset in the red zone. Burress has always had trouble staying in shape, and is not much for attending practice. Rex Ryan has his work cut out for him here. We like Burress as a late rounder in deeper leagues, but his name will likely have folks reaching for him earlier than we’d advise. Hopefully we get a few good looks at him in preseason. That would help a bit in terms of deciding how much risk Plaxico is worth. Of course, the Jets signed him sight unseen, which begs the question, how much do we trust Mike Tannenbaum?
Roy Williams to the Bears
It will be very interesting to see how Williams is valued in drafts going forward. So far, we think folks are underselling this deal for Chicago. The Bears now have two legit outside guys in Johnny Knox and Williams, and they have some nice supplemental talent in Devin Hester and Earl Bennett. Mike Martz has the guys he needs to do what he does. If you can get Roy Williams in the mid-to-late rounds, he could really help your team. He’s been too inconsistent to bank on, but we really like his upside. Williams played a little better in 2010 than he was given credit for. He actually looked very good on film at times. Our take is that he will provide WR3 numbers or better as long as he is healthy. That last part is the key; Williams has always been a bit brittle, and though he is still only 29, he has shown some signs of age. So keep it real, but keep him in mind too. Right now, we’d target him around the eighth or ninth round in 12-team leagues. That number could move depending on how things go in August.
Greg Olsen to the Panthers
This move is a huge win-win. It’s a win for Olsen, who is freed from the shackles of Mike Martz and his anti-tight end offense. It’s also a win for Martz, who had to find a way to use a talent like Olsen, but didn’t really want to. Now Martz can use his tight end to protect Cutler and that works for Cutler, I’m sure. Olsen should be a big part of Carolina’s offense and will give them a nice option on and near the goal line. He moves extremely well for a big man, and could make a strong contribution between the 20’s as well. Olsen represents a nice late value option at tight end in 2011.
Marion Barber to the Bears
Here’s another move that is sort of flying under the radar. Barber may or may not have significant fantasy value in 2011, but he is a real threat to Matt Forte’s value. This certainly has to silence any notion Forte had of making his contact an issue again this year. Marion Barber is a very nice fit for OC Mike Martz, and gives him one more weapon. We expect Chester Taylor‘s role to shrink, unless he really steps up his game. This move creates competition throughout the Chicago backfield, and that’s a good thing. A lot of this will have to do with how well Barber plays. If he returns to form, he is a guy who can do a lot in a split role. No way does this help Forte.
Tim Hightower to the Redskins
This adds clarity to the Arizona backfield, and simultaneously muddles the situation in Washington … which was already murky at best. The newly-acquired Hightower might be the most experienced back in Washington, but we like his ability the least. Hopefully he will be a third-down contributor and not much more. We’re far more bullish on the fantasy potential of Ryan Torain and rookie Roy Helu than we are on Hightower. That being said, we are moving the ex-Cardinal up a few pegs in our rankings, but not as high as we are the Cardinals’ Beanie Wells, who is now up there with the RB3s. Rookie Ryan Williams is also moving up a few spots as he is now virtually guaranteed some touches. This is all very annoying for fantasy GMs, because if any single back were to gain a real share of the starting job for either Washington or Arizona, he would be a very valuable fantasy player. Welcome to the age of specialization in the NFL.
Ronnie Brown to the Eagles
I have to admit. I didn’t see this one coming at all. The Eagles are obviously loading up for a run at the crown and with Mike Vick in his 30s, it’s easy to see why they have chosen to go all-in. Brown is a nice fit in many ways. He’s a dual threat back and he is a nice size contrast to LeSean McCoy. For fantasy purposes, there were a lot of better places for Brown to go, but what he has in Philly is a chance to win. There’s no way to tell just how big his role will be, but Andy Reid is not going to let a guy like Brown waste away on the bench. He always found room for Correll Buckhalter in the past, even when Brian Westbrook was at the top of his game, a healthy Buckhalter would get carries–sometimes near the goal. Brown is a superior talent compared to Buckhalter and McCoy is not in Westbrook’s class. This leads us to believe that McCoy just lost some value. The question is, how much? We’ll do our best to read the tea leaves in August as more news comes out.
Zach Miller to the Seahawks
It’s easy to understand why a player would want out of Oakland. We can’t blame Miller on that one, but did he have to choose Seattle? They already have two huge goal line options at receivers and their quarterback situation is totally unsettled. It’s hard to think of a destination that would have been worse for his fantasy value. We’re not writing him off, but we can’t ignore the writing on the wall either. Miller just went from a TE1 to a TE2 with some upside. The only way that upside gets realized is if QB Tavaris Jackson raises his game. Jackson has some potential, but we’re not holding our breath.
Mike Sims-Walker to the Rams
Not a household name, but fantasy geeks know him. Walker has teased for years and has legit ability if he can stay healthy. Sam Bradford needs somebody to step up and be a lead receiver for him, and Sims-Walker is probably the best bet on their current roster. He’s injury prone and he found his way into Jack Del Rio‘s dog house during his stay in Jacksonville, but the slate is clean in St. Louis and a big target like this guy is definitely what Bradford needs. This is a player to watch in August. If he ends up starting, he could end up being a nice value starter on draft day.