Fantasy Football: Player’s stock rarely improves after offseason team swap
WITH LADD BIRO August 15, 2011 8:10PM
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:29AM
There’s nothing unusual about offseason player movement. Big names swap teams every year. In each of the previous two seasons, roughly 20 offensive skill-position players of note changed jerseys via free agency or trades.
What’s rare is the free agent who improves his fantasy stock in the season after leaving his previous team.
In 2009, only Brett Favre, Kyle Orton, Nate Washington and Kellen Winslow measurably upgraded their fantasy production from the previous season. In 2010, the standouts were Peyton Hillis, Terrell Owens and Ben Watson. Danny Woodhead and Marshawn Lynch also found happier climes after moving in-season.
Meanwhile, following the historical trend, the 2010 list of team-swapping disappointments was exhaustive, highlighted by longtime fantasy stalwarts such as Donovan McNabb, Thomas Jones, Brian Westbrook, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall and Randy Moss.
The lockout, of course, has spawned an unprecedented round of free-agent musical chairs. The number of fantasy-relevant players changing ZIP codes this season roughly doubled from recent years, and the music hasn’t stopped yet.
Who will prosper? Who will disappear? Let’s examine the most significant moves, broken down by the projected impact on each player’s fantasy value in 2011.
MOVIN’ ON UP
Kevin Kolb, QB, Cardinals — As the unchallenged leader in Arizona, Kolb (below) is a lock to vault up the passer rankings. Just how far up is the question. Consider him a borderline fantasy starter with upside.
Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins — After missing half of the 2010 season to
injury, a healthy Bush should fare better in Miami by default. He’ll reprise his role as a lethal passing-game weapon, but rookie Daniel Thomas was drafted to be the rushing workhorse.
Plaxico Burress, WR, Jets — Call it a shot in the dark, but I’d consider pulling the trigger on the free agent out of the Oneida Correctional
Facility in the middle rounds of your draft.
Lee Evans, WR, Ravens — He’ll benefit from a more consistent quarterback and a better offense in Baltimore. But the improved scenery is unlikely to make him more than a desperation starter.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots — Though well past his prime, the diva will fill a void in Tom Brady’s receiving corps that could translate to a doubling of his four-touchdown output of 2010.
Sidney Rice, WR, Seahawks — He scored only twice in an injury-shortened 2010 season. But given the horrid state of quarterback affairs in Seattle, don’t expect a return to his 2009 form.
CALL IT A WASH
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans — The former Seahawks quarterback hasn’t yet adjusted to his new offense. The Titans likely will remain a one-dimensional, run-dominant team.
Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Seahawks — He might not even hold off Charlie Whitehurst as the starter.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Vikings — Dumped by the Redskins for a sixth-round pick and a case of Schlitz, McNabb merely is holding down the fort until Christian Ponder is ready. It might be an ugly season.
Marion Barber, RB, Bears — Long past his fantasy prime, Barber will settle for Matt Forte’s leftovers.
Tim Hightower, RB, Redskins — He might begin the season as the starter in a crowded backfield, but he likely will fumble the job away to one of his younger understudies.
Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos — Will poach touchdowns from Knowshon Moreno instead of Ray Rice.
Darren Sproles, RB, Saints — He was
recruited to fill Reggie Bush’s cleats, but his opportunities will be few.
Steve Breaston, WR, Chiefs — He gets an upgrade at quarterback, but the ceiling is low for No. 2 receivers in Kansas City.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Steelers — All but forgotten by the Jets, you’ll forget where he landed before long.
Jabar Gaffney, WR, Redskins — He had his moments in Denver. He’ll have some in Washington, too. Not enough to matter, though.
Legedu Naanee, WR, Panthers — Vowel-blessed receiver might start opposite Steve Smith, but that job rarely has been a lucrative one.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Rams — If you believe, as I do, that Sam Bradford’s star is on the rise, then Sims-Walker becomes an intriguing prospect. But he needs to win a starting job first.
Roy Williams, WR, Bears — Don’t be surprised if Jay Cutler ignores him as much as Tony Romo did.
COMIN’ BACK DOWN
Ronnie Brown, RB, Eagles — His days as a starter — and Wildcat impresario — are over. But he’ll be a useful handcuff to LeSean McCoy.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Rams — Will be parked behind Steven Jackson, waiting for an opportunity.
Braylon Edwards, WR, 49ers — Highly unlikely to match 904 yards and seven touchdowns as a third or fourth target.
Derrick Mason, WR, Jets — You have to have a lot of confidence in Mark Sanchez to believe his third receiver can be a productive fantasy weapon.
Steve Smith, WR, Eagles — Once his knee heals, he likely will be the No. 3 receiver — unless Jeremy Maclin’s mysterious illness lingers.
Ricky Williams, RB, Ravens — Relegated to insurance for Ray Rice.
Next week: A look at the sleepers of 2011.
Ladd Biro was named the 2010 Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).