Doug Martin
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Every year there are players that go to new teams. Some work out (DeAngelo Williams, Jeremy Maclin), others not so much (DeMarco Murray). Teams will still throw buckets of cash looking for a quick fix. Here are some of the top fantasy football options and some possible destinations.
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Matt Forte, RB – Forte is more likely to continue his excellence than Martin given his track record. He’s a dual threat option that would be perfect for a contender. At 30 with more wear and tear, he doesn’t offer as much long-term upside. Still, he’ll immediately make a team better.
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Chris Ivory, RB – He’s a power runner but his style leads to bumps and bruises. He’s a great 1-2 punch for someone.
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Doug Martin, RB – Martin finished second in the league with 1,402 yards. He added 33 catches for 271 yards and seven combined touchdowns. He had not been relevant since 2012. He’s still only 27.
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Alfred Morris, RB – Unlikely the other available running backs Morris is not versatile. He can still run between the tackles. His landing spot will be interesting.
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Anquan Boldin, WR – He’s 35 but he’s still productive. Boldin is WR3 material at best, but he still has some fantasy value.
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Travis Benjamin, WR – Benjamin had a strong showing last year with 966 yards and five touchdowns. He likely won’t register high on the fantasy radar next year.
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Marvin Jones, WR – He’s not a tremendous option, but he’ll likely be overpaid as this is a soft market for wide receivers. With a good blend of size and speed he should draw attention. I just don’t see a major impact next year.
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Rishard Matthews, WR – He had a decent season in Miami with 662 yards. His relevance depends on where he lands.
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Dwayne Allen, TE – He was underutilized in Indy. Depending on where he lands,  he could be a viable TE1. He’s a red zone threat.
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Impact Players Likely to Re-Sign
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB
Brock Osweiler, QB
Lamar Miller, RB
Antonio Gates, TE
Ladarius Green, TE
Coby Fleener, TE

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Assuming NFL free agency eventually begins, there will be be some frantic player movement. Teams are already behind the eight ball considering the NFL Draft has come and gone. The teams that failed to address their holes in the draft will be looking do so in free agency. A lot of the movement will depend on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The assumption is that the league will operate under last year’s system. If you are interested in free agency in greater detail, KFFL did a great job breaking it down.
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Quarterbacks
Matt Hassellbeck is the cream of the crop, though Marc Bulger could get some run depending on where he lands. Both of those veterans have some potential in two-quarterback leagues, but probably aren’t even worth roster spots in standard leagues.
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Running Backs
DeAngelo Williams could be the top prize, if he is available. The Panthers will look to bring him back. It will depend on whether he is a restricted free agent or not. Wherever he lands, D-Will will be a solid fantasy asset, though he will likely be part of a committee like in Carolina. That said, he’s been quite effective in that role.
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Cedric Benson is even more likely to stay put. The Bengals’ draft clearly indicates that they are committed to having him in their rebuilding plans. Benson is a strong option wherever he lands, which will most like be in Cincy.
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Ahmad Bradshaw will be an attractive free agent option if he is granted unrestricted free agency. If he gets the restricted tag, he’s likely to remain a Giant. Like D-Will, Bradshaw is a solid fantasy option that will operate out of a RBBC once again wherever he lands.
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Mike Tolbert tentatively has a second round tender as a restricted free agent. Given the injuries and ineffectiveness of Ryan Mathews, Tolbert won’t make the free agency splash that Michael Turner did a few years back. My guess is that Tolbert will be overdrafted this year as Mathews plays a larger role.
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Ronnie Brown has likely played his last game in South Beach. He will draw plenty of interest, but his days of being a primary back are over. At best he is the lead back in an RBBC.
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Ricky Williams will be 34 when and if the season begins. He may have some value to an NFL team, but his days of fantasy glory are over.
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Wide Receiver
Perhaps the biggest prize in the free agent market is Vincent Jackson. The Chargers could try to bring him back, but wherever he lands he should have a much more productive season.
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Sidney Rice is another big prize.  If he is an unrestricted free agent, he’s as good as gone. Rice has dealt with injuries during his career, most notably the hip injury that cost him most of last season, but he had a huge 2009 campaign. When healthy he can both separate from cornerbacks and jump over safeties.
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Santonio Holmes is a curious case. He has already stated that he won’t sign a restricted free agent tender. He wants a long-term deal. If he’s unrestricted, he will go the highest bidder, making him hard to quantify as a fantasy prospect. That said, he will be a WR2 or a WR3 regardless of where he lands. If he is restricted and the Jets don’t want to offer a long-term deal, he will holdout.
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Braylon Edwards is also a potential free agent. He would like to return to the Jets, but could make a healthy payday if he tests the waters. His hands keep him from being a WR2, but he does have value wherever he lands.
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James Jones is one to keep an eye on. If he is an unrestricted free agent he is gone. Depending on where he lands he could be a nice WR3. If he stays in Green Bay, I’d pencil him in as a WR4.
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Then you have the old divas Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. Who knows where they will land? They are a risk in the locker room and on your fantasy team.

Westbrook Soars
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

 

Brian Westbrook finally has a new home. After spending his first eight seasons with Philadelphia, Westy is headed West to San Francisco to join Frank Gore in the Niners’ backfield. Westy is an electric playmaker when healthy. He has dealt with an assortment of injuries in the past, but it is his string of concussions that have his career in jeopardy. Even when he was limited to eight games last year, he managed 25 catches as well as a 4.5 ypc on 61 carries. One more concussion could end his career so don’t expect him to be much more than an insurance policy should Frank Gore go down. Anthony Dixon had a strong showing in the Niners’ preseason opener, and will challenge Westbrook for the backup spot.

 

Westbrook wasn’t he only former NFC East runner moving westward. Ladell Betts also spent eight years with his first team, in his case the Washington Redskins. Betts only topped 100 carries once in his career, and isn’t expected to do so with his new club. Betts will essentially replace Lynell Hamilton as RB depth for the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. While Westbrook has limited fantasy value, Betts has even less. Even if Pierre Thomas were to go down, I would not expect Betts to even match the production Mike Bell had last year.

 

A couple of running backs are in the news for completely different reasons. Former Raider RB Justin Fargas signed a deal with Denver. He doesn’t really have any fantasy value unless Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and Correll Buckhalter (back) remain sidelined. The Broncos also signed LenDale White last week, but he is also sidelined with leg cramps. Fargas, who isn’t exactly a durable runner, could struggle to make the team. If he looks good during the preseason, perhaps he could catch on since LenDale White will be out the first four games due to a suspension. Stay tuned to see how the Broncs RB situation plays out.

 

Meanwhile, Saints RB Lynell Hamilton, who was expected to be the short yardage back for the Saints, suffered an apparent knee injury that could put his season (and career) in jeopardy. Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush should see additional carries, while P.J. Hill and Chris Ivory could work their way into the mix.

A couple of big name NFL players have new homes. LaDainian Tomlinson left sunny San Diego for the Big Apple as he signed on to backup Shonn Greene of the New York Jets. I thought he would be a good fit with the Vikings, where he could justify to himself that he’s backing up an elite running back. Clearly LT knows where he’s at in his career. Otherwise he could not have accepted being second fiddle to a back with Greene’s credentials. 

Personally I think he misjudged the ability of the Jets. They made a great run last year, but I think will be hard-pressed to return to the playoffs in 2010. You can basically pencil in New England, Indianapolis, and San Diego. Baltimore, Pittsburgh (depending on Big Ben’s availability), Cincinnati, Houston, and Tennessee will be challenging the Jets for the remaining playoff spots. Assuming Brett Favre returns, I think the Vikings are in a better position to win it all. LT will likely have a bigger role with the Jets. Perhaps that swayed his decision.  

LT’s fantasy value clearly takes a hit. Barring injury, he won’t get as many touches in New York. Shonn Greene’s value shouldn’t change. He was getting the touches down the stretch when Thomas Jones was still with the team. Personally, I think Jones is better than LT at this stage of their careers.

In other news, the Broncos acquired Brady Quinn from the Browns for Peyton Hillis and some draft picks. Hillis is not a fantasy option in Cleveland. It appears his brief run two years ago will just be a blip on his fantasy radar. The real piece in this deal is Quinn. I’m not sure he could have found a better home. While Jay Cutler had to deal with John Elway comparisons, Quinn doesn’t come with the same expectations. The bar is set much lower. Besides, he’ll be happy to escape Cleveland where he was looked at as a hometown hero prior to his stint with the Browns.

It’s hard to say if you can count on Quinn this year. He’ll at least have the opportunity to beat out Kyle Orton. If he wins the starting gig, his value will be tied to the whereabouts of Brandon Marshall. If Marshall is dealt, his options could be limited. Thankfully you don’t have to make any decision on Quinn right now.

Big names have new homes, but nothing for fantasy players to get excited about.

Larry Johnson signed a three-year deal with the Washington Redskins. He basically serves as Clinton Portis insurance. Honestely, with their aging line and age (LJ) and mileage (Portis) working against them, I don’t see either back being all that productive in 2010.

LJ’s character issues remain while his burst and ability have dried up. The signing truly makes no sense. That’s Washington for ya. You may want to take a flier on LJ at the end of your fantasy drafts. I’d probably just pass on him though.

In other news, Ben Watson signed with the Browns. Though a more low-profile signing, it has significantly more fantasy relevance. Watson is a gifted tight end that often got lost in the Patriots’ arsenal. In Cleveland there are fewer mouths to feed. Don’t be surprised if Watson becomes a top ten fantasy tight end for the Browns.

Chad Johnson doesn’t have much pull after all. Despite lobbying for the Bengals to sign T.O., they opted for Antonio Bryant instead. He’s a much younger option than T.O., but I’m not sure it’s a deal I would have done. Bryant got a four-year, $28 million deal. He’s had a couple of nice years, but for the most part has been underwhelming.

His fantasy value increases though. Carson Palmer is a major upgrade for Bryant. Assuming he’s healthy, he should be a nice #3 or #4 WR. I’m expecting around 1000 yards and 5-7 TDs.

Who says you can’t kill two birds with one stone…or in this case sink two players’ fantasy value at once. That’s exactly what happened when Thomas Jones signed with the Chiefs. Clearly any high that Jamaal Charles’ owners have been on following his impressive run at the end of the year came to an abrupt halt at the news of Jones’ signing. While I still think Charles will be a solid fantasy starter, I think I can put the Chris Johnson Lite moniker away.

Meanwhile Jones will take a back seat to Charles. I can’t comprehend why he wouldn’t go to a contender. He could have been a backup for Minnesota or Philadelphia. He could have been in a 50-50 split in San Diego. He could have been the lead dog in Houston. Even bad teams like Seattle, Detroit, and Tampa Bay would have been better options for he would at least be the lead back. Being a backup for a dismal team makes little sense to me.

Jones could have been a decent #2 or #3 RB depending on where he landed. Now I see him more as a low-end #3 or a #4. I’d put him lower, but he does seem to produce even when the odds are against him.

By landing Anquan Boldin, who’s fantasy value probably stays about the same given the upgrade from Matt Leinart to Joe Flacco, Baltimore is unlikely to take a WR in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Because Boldin had such a brilliant rookie season in 2003, he seems to be older than he actually is. He’ll be 30 this year, and has plenty left in the tank. He can challenge Ray Lewis as the tougher player on the team.

The Falcons won’t be looking at cornerback early in the draft after signing Dunta Robinson to a long-term deal. They are more likely to turn their attention to acquiring a speed rusher.

I know Bill Parcels loves drafting linebackers, but the likelihood that he goes a different direction in the first round, perhaps DT Dan Williams, increases with the signing of ILB Karlos Dansby. He is a gifted player with a knack for making big plays. The AFC East, minus Buffalo, is shaping up to be an ultra-competitive division.

The G-Men could be looking at DT Brian Price or a speed rushing DE now that they hired the services of safety Antrel Rolle. Safety was a glaring need, and not that they addressed it, they will likely bolster their front four.

At least when he was backing up Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor was a pretty valuable commodity. You knew that the pieces were in place, name an impressive offensive line, for big time numbers if AP went down. He also brought something (pass receiving ability) to the table that wasn’t a strength for All Day. 

After signing with the Bears, he finds himself in an offense where neither of those will be in play. First of all, Chicago’s line went downhill fast. Not only do the struggle to protect the quarterback, but they have trouble opening holes. The tried to put a band-aid on it with Orlando Pace, but that failed miserably. Plus, they are short of draft picks to add one in the draft. The odds of their line improving this year are slim.

Matt Forte has 120 catches in two years meaning Chester’s receptions (45 & 44 the past two years) will likely come down. He could be hard-pressed to reach the 762.5 total yards he’s averaged as Peterson’s backup.

To me signing with Chicago makes little sense. If I were Chester Houston or Philly would have been more ideal destinations. Not only would he have the opportunity for more touches, but he’d be on a contender.  

Taylor is still worth having at the end of your draft, but he doesn’t have the upside he once did.


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