Monday, August 10, 2009

Preseason Column #1: Old faces in new places

Every offseason, trades and free agent signings alter the fantasy landscape. And as usual, there were some seismic shifts in 2009 that are sure to reverberate across the NFL.

By my count, more than 20 notable veterans have changed teams to date. To put that in perspective, that’s more player moves than player arrests this offseason. We’re talking a lot of changes.

In our first pre-draft column of the season, we’ll span the league to take stock of each of the significant offseason moves, categorized by the projected impact on each player’s fantasy value.


Sage Rosenfels, QB, Vikings. His first order of business: win starting gig. Next, reverse unfavorable touchdown-to-interception ratio. I like his chances on both counts. With the talent surrounding him, Rosenfels is a dark horse with substantial fantasy upside.

Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos. He’ll be throwing to Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal instead of Devin Hester and Rashied Davis. That alone justifies the upgrade. But can he capitalize on his good fortune? Don’t bet your team on it.

Byron Leftwich, QB, Buccaneers. Depending on whom you ask and when you ask it, Leftwich is either the odds-on starter, Luke McCown’s backup, or a placeholder until rookie Josh Freeman is ready. At least he’s got a chance, which is more than he had in Pittsburgh.

Derrick Ward, RB, Buccaneers. Ward will serve in a backfield committee with Earnest Graham. He should see significantly more carries than he did as Brandon Jacobs’ sidekick.

Laveranues Coles, WR, Bengals. If Carson Palmer stays intact, Coles could have a career year. But watch out for Chris Henry, who already enjoys great rapport with Palmer and could conceivably outshine the Jet import.


Jay Cutler, QB, Bears. He provides an instant upgrade to the Bears’ aerial attack; but with one of the least-imposing receiving corps in the league, Cutler can’t transform the run-oriented offense overnight. The elite fantasy passer from Denver is now a marginal fantasy starter in Chicago.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs. So was it the system or the quarterback? We’re about to find out, as Cassel moves from arguably the NFL’s most potent passing attack to one of its most pedestrian. It seems inconceivable that Cassel could approach last year’s stats teaming with Dwayne Bowe and Mark Bradley in lieu of Randy Moss and Wes Welker. That said, I like him as a fantasy backup.

Jeff Garcia, QB, Raiders. Unless he beats out JaMarcus Russell for the starting gig, his relevance in fantasy circles is history.

Fred Taylor, RB, Patriots. The 33-year-old goes from one committee backfield to another; and this time, he’ll share the load with at least two other backs: Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk. Don’t expect more than 10-15 touches per game, or many goal-line carries.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bills. The Cowboys refer to Owens’ loss as “addition by subtraction;” but from a fantasy perspective, the receiver’s move is pure subtraction. Lower your yardage and scoring expectations for both Owens and Tony Romo, as each player loses his most valuable cohort.

Bobby Engram, WR, Chiefs. He once prospered as Matt Hasselbeck’s favorite receiver. In Kansas City, he’ll be Cassel’s third option at best, so he won’t merit a roster position in any fantasy format.

LJ Smith, TE, Ravens. Once seemingly on the verge of fantasy stardom, Smith is now relegated to backing up Todd Heap. That takes him off the fantasy radar.


Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan, RBs, Broncos. Both have had more highs than lows throughout their careers, but each could play a role in their new backfield. But rookie Knowshon Moreno is the only Denver back worth owning.

Torry Holt, WR, Jaguars. Coming off his worst fantasy season ever, it’s a stretch to think Holt can return to his dominant ways on the run-oriented Jaguars. David Garrard is an efficient passer, and Holt will be his primary target. But don’t expect either to be every-week contributors.

TJ Houshmandzadeh, WR, Seahawks. Palmer’s favorite target will soon become Hasselbeck’s go-to man. Either way, he should improve over last year’s disappointing showing.

Nate Washington, WR, Titans. He becomes an instant starter (plus), but he must catch passes from Kerry Collins now (minus).

Bryant Johnson, WR, Lions. A career underachiever, look for more of the same in Detroit. Perhaps if the entire opposing secondary shifts over to cover Calvin Johnson, “Johnson Lite” will see some passes heading his way.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons. After a dozen outstanding seasons in Kansas City, the future Hall of Famer joins one of the youngest and most prolific offenses in the game. Problem is, there’s nowhere to go but down for Gonzo. The best you can hope for is another year among the fantasy elite.

Kellen Winslow, TE, Buccaneers. It sure would be interesting to see a fully healthy Winslow playing in a potent passing attack. Maybe in 2010…

Next Monday: A look at the 2009 rookie class.

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