By Marc Mancuso

Either because they are coming off down years, inuries, or are simply overlooked on their own teams, these are players which can be had at a bargain this year and could produce excellent returns for the GM willing to take on some risk. Championships are won in the middle and late rounds of drafts so be sure not to overlook these guys.

All-Undervalued Team
QB: Matt Hasselbeck, SEA — A healthy back, and some WR’s this year (TJ Housmanzadeh, and the return of Nate Burleson) combined with a suspect running game means Hass will be putting the ball up a lot this year. In 2007, he was 4th in pass attempts with 562 with fewer weapons than he has now. Hasselbeck has been going very late in drafts (round 12 and beyond) but he has the potential to put up low end QB1 stats.

RB: Larry Johnson, KC – Yes he’s a knucklehead and has a lot of wear on his tires. But at 28 and looking very good in camp thus far, Johnson has plenty left in the tank to put in solid numbers in a contract year.

RB: Ryan Grant, GB — Grant was a first round pick in 2008 in most FFL drafts. After a holdout, minor injuries and a slow start, Grant came on in the second half of 08, still producting 1200+ yards on the ground. Despite this, many owners were scared off by his totals, and he is slipping to round 4 or 5 in many drafts now. Grant is healthy, in camp, and will rebound and should produce numbers which will equal low end #1 level stats.

WR: Chad Ochocinco, CIN — Ryan Fitzpatrick is no longer a Bengal. Carson Palmer is 100% healed from elbow problems. TJ Housyoumomma is in Seattle. To think that #85 will not rebound after an awful 2008 would be a mistake. He’s only 31 years old and capable of turning in monster games. Ochocinco has slipped as far as the 6th round in many drafts, and can be a sweet value pick as your #2 WR.

WR: Eddie Royal, DEN – I’m still seeing Eddie Royal going in round 7 of drafts. In an offense like Josh McDaniel’s which is dynamic and a QB (Kyle Orton) who is not a downfield passer, Royal seems like a lock to produce stats similar to Wes Welker. Coming off 91 receptions in his rookie year, Royal made a very quick transition to the pro game, and runs fantastic routes. He could easily emerge as a low end #1, Top End #2 just like Welker has been the past 2 seasons. Consistency is what wins championships.

WR: Torry Holt, JAX — Last year was dreadful if you owned Holt. This season, he gets a chance to revive his career with Jacksonville. I’m seeing Holt go as late as the 12th round in some drafts. This is a guy who before last year was a lock to produce 1200 yards and 8 TD’s every year. David Garrard has never had a viable WR (sorry Matt Jones) and this seems like an excellent value and 1000+ Yards + 6 TD’s seems very possible.

TE: Jeremy Shockey, NO — With another year of working in Sean Payton’s high powered offense, Shockey has the potential for a nice rebound year. He was becoming a regular target for Drew Brees in 2008 but injuries hampered his development. Fantasy owners have plenty of reasons to pass on Shockey, but in a deep crop of TE’s he represents high upside at a very low price (I have been in drafts where he wasn’t even drafted). If Brees can make Lance Moore, and Billy Miller valuable, imagine what he can do with a talent like Shockey? His biggest competition may be between his ears, but Shockey reportedly has looked great in camp thus far, so the potential to return to 800 yards and 6-7 TD’s makes him a nice late value pick.

Torry Holt is thankful to escape the mess that is the St. Louis Rams.  Not that Jacksonville is a passing mecca, but they are a team that should rebound after a disappointing 2008 season, unlike the rams, who should continue to be bottom feeders.  Because he has been an elite WR for so long it seems that Holt is older than he actually is.  While he’s no spring chicken, he’s still just 33.  He had the worst season of his career last year, but St. Louis as a whole struggled last year.  His string of 1000+ yard seasons ended at eight.  He is easily the best wideout that Jacksonville has had since the days of Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell.  His days of 1300 yard seasons are behind him, but he still makes a solid WR3 and a great WR4.  He is going in the 8th round of fantasy drafts, and could end up being a great value.  I think he’ll catch 80 passes for 1000 yards and 4 TDs.
Derrick Mason briefly retired following former teammate Steve McNair’s tragic death.  I think he was just evaluating his life, and clearly he feels he has some football left in his system.  Good news for Ravens fans because it would have left their WRs pretty thin.  Mason had another fine year with 80 catches for 1037 yards and 5 TDs.  You would think a 35 year old WR with 12 years in wouldn’t have much upside, but Joe Flacco should be a little more comfortable with the pace of the league and should get a longer leash in 2009.  Mason is a nice WR4, especially in PPR leagues.  He’s going around the 9th round in fantasy leagues.  I can see a 90 catch, 1000 yard, 5 TD season from Mason.

Muhsin Muhammad is another veteran that continues to produce despite being 36 and entering his 14th season.  Moose had 65 catches for 923 yards and 5 TDs last year.  He was a bit inconsistent with eight games with 50 or fewer yards, but he salvaged two of them with a TD.  He ended the year on a relative high note averaging 76.3 yards in his last three games.  Most of the focus will be on Steve Smith and the running game so Moose should be able to find his spots.  He’ll be challenged by Dwayne Jarrett, but if the Panthers are in contention again they will likely lean on the veteran.  He’s a solid choice to add depth to your bench and spot start, perhaps in Week 8 (Arizona) or Week 9 (New Orleans). I’m expecting 65 catches for 800 yards and 6 TDs.  Not bad value for a guy going in the 13th-
15th round.

Chris Chambers had a disappointing 2008 season with just 33 catches for 462 yards and 5 TDs.  The year before he had 66 catches for 970 yards and 4 TDs in split duty with Miami and San Diego. Clearly he’s not the same guy who caught 82 passes for 1118 yards and 11 TDs for the Dolphins in 2005.  With LT, Gates, Vincent Jackson, Sproles, and Malcom Floyd, it doesn’t appear as if that is going to change anytime soon.  He’s still young enough (31) to bounce back though, especially with a talented QB like Philip Rivers.  His days as a fantasy starter are likely over, but he is still worthy of a roster spot.  He’s being taken in the 10th round of fantasy drafts, but I’d probably wait a little longer.  He should be good for 50 catches for 750 yards and 5 TDs.

David Garrard
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

David Garrard had a disappointing 2008 season.  Most of the team did, in fact.  Their Offensive Line was crippled with injuries.  Their Defense took a major step back.  About the only productive players was Maurice-Jones Drew.  2009 should look a little better as they bolstered their O-Line in the offseason with the addition of Tra Thomas, Eugene Monroe, and Eben Britton.  They also added Torry Holt to improve their WR play.  Maurice Jones-Drew is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and Marcedes Lewis is a solid pass-catching TE. 

Jacksonville’s fantasy playoff schedule consists of Miami, Indianapolis, and New England so it’s unlikely you’ll use Garrad in the fantasy playoffs.  During the season they have some decent matchups against Arizona in Week 2, St. Louis in Week 6, and Kansas City in Week 9.  Peyton Manning and Tony Romo have byes in Week 6 so he could be a decent option to pair with them.  I wouldn’t trust any of the Week 9 bye teams as a #1 QB so it doesn’t pay to pair Garrard with them.

ESPN is reporting that Torry Holt has agreed to a three-year contract with the Jacksonville Jagaurs.  The contract has accelerators that will pay him more if he performs well. 

The move is great for Jacksonville and QB David Garrard.  His top target, Matt “Crackman” Jones was cut because he couldn’t stay clean and sober.  Reggie Williams also had run-ins with the law and won’t return.  Jacksonville will still have to address the position in the upcoming NFL Draft because the cupboard is pretty bare and Holt, at 32, is not a long-term answer.

Holt’s fantasy value takes a hit as he joins a team with a Run First mentality.  If his knee holds up though, they still can produce decent fantasy wideouts.  When he played last year, Crackman was solid.  Same with Reggie Williams a couple years ago.  Holt’s other primary choice was Tennessee, which is pretty much the same smell.  Heavy on the run, heavy on the D.

Torry Holt is actively pursuing work now that he’s back from his vacation.  Last week he visited with Jacksonville Jaguars and he’ll meet with the Tennessee Titans later this week.  Both teams heavily favor the run, but Holt would give them a valuable possession receiver.  He runs crisp routes and has excellent hands.  Holt will turn 33 this summer, which isn’t too old for a Wide Receiver.  Jacksonville has a more immediate need following the departure of Matt Jones.  Tennessee, however, has a better team and a better group of wides with Justin Gage and Nate Washington in the mix.  Holt was cut a few weeks ago by the St. Louis Rams.

Meanwhile Marvin Harrison’s phone remains silent.  Considering his legal woes stemming from last year’s shooting incident, that may be a good thing.  I guess I figured Marvin had a little in the tank, and that his February release from the Colts was simply based on economic factors.  Perhaps that’s what is keeping his phone silent.  Harrison may be looking for a payday that exceeds what teams would be willing to bring him in for.

The remaining crop of Free Agent receivers is pretty thin.  Reggie Williams, Ronald Curry, Amani Toomer, Brandon Lloyd, Shaun McDonald, Darrell Jackson, and Keary Colbert are the top options.  None of whom appear to have fantasy relevance regardless of destination.

J.D., a young Bleacher Report writer and creator of The Sports Report with J.D., contacted me to see if I wanted to post some of his articles on the site.  Always looking to encourage an aspiring writer, I agreed.   J.D. discusses NFL rumors.

J.D. discusses Torry Holt
Unfortunately Holt is on vacation so don’t expect a signing any time soon, though a lot of teams are interested.

Before he was released by the Rams, the Tennessee Titans were in negotiations to acquire Holt in a trade.  They could use him along with newly acquired Nate Washington and holdover Justin Gage.  That would give Tennessee a solid trio of wides, and it would allow Holt to remain a #1 receiver.

The 49ers could also express interest in Torry Holt, although they have concerns with the condition of his knees.  He would add a veteran presence to a team featuring Brandon Jones, Josh Morgan, and Vernon Davis.

The Jaguars could also express interest in Holt after releasing Matt Jones.

Keep an eye on the Ravens.  He would join Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, and Todd Heap in the passing game while being a No. 1 target for Joe Flacco.

How about them Colts? He would be a great replacement for Marvin Harrison.

My favorite though is the Eagles. Holt would make a great target for Donovan McNabb.  McNabb called for more weapons, and Holt would qualify.  He would take pressure off of Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson in the passing game. 

Lester Discusses Julius Peppers Situation
According to several sources, unidentified by NFL.com, the Patriots have expressed interest in aquiring Julius Peppers, who earlier this year was slapped with the franchise tag.  Peppers wants to make the switch from Defensive End in a 4-3 system to Outside Linebacker in a 3-4, which the Patriots run. 

According to NFL.com’s Vic Carucci the Patriots would send the second-round pick (34th overall) acquired from Kansas City in the Matt Cassel trade to Carolina for the four-time Pro Bowler.  Since Peppers has yet to sign the franchise tender, his camp will have to broker the deal. 

Many thought the Patriots were crazy taking a second-round pick for Matt Cassel, but if they can turn that pick into Julius Peppers, Bill Belichick will come out smelling like roses.  New England has long been ahead of the curve with personnel matters, and while it appeared that they could have received a first rounder, the economics of that pick may have made it more difficult to move.

Rams Release Torry Holt

13 March 2009

torry-holt
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI

The Rams continued to purge by releasing future Hall of Famer Torry Holt on the heels of their release of future Hall of Famer Orlando Pace to officially close the door on the Greatest Show on Turf. 

Holt had his streak of eight straight 1188+ yard season snapped last year as he managed just 796.  He managed just 64 receptions, which was the first time he dipped below 81 since his Rookie season.  He also scored a career low three TDs.

Does that mean Holt is finished as a fantasy factor?  Hardly.  He played on a miserable team last year.  He will turn 33 this summer and should have a couple of good years left in him.  He is one of the smartest receivers in the league.  He runs great routes and has tremendous hands.  Derrick Mason, Marvin Harrison, and former teammate Isaac Bruce are examples of WRs who have produced in their early thirties.

Speaking of Isaac Bruce, San Francisco is one of the possible targets according to Rotoworld.  Other likely destinations include Tennessee, the Giants, and Carolina.  Right now that’s just speculation and I wouldn’t put any stock into it until he starts going on visits. 

One thing I would put stock in is improved numbers for Holt in 2009.  He’s too good of a receiver to have less than 800 yards and 3 TDs.  A change of scenery will do him good.  The Rams have a lot of work to do rebuilding, and it’s best for the team and Holt for them to part ways.

With Holt gone, Donnie Avery will assume the #1 WR status on the team.  While his value will go up next year, don’t get carried away.  The Rams have issues on the line and at Quarterback, which puts a cramp in any WRs style.

The Rams need a lot of work.  That’s to be expected when you go 2-14, losing your last ten to close the season.  Marc Bulger isn’t the answer at QB, but he’ll be with the team in ’09 because he’d be too costly on their cap to cut.  I don’t see them going QB with the second pick though because they would have over $100 earmarked to that position.  A more likely scenario is they attempt the monumental task of replacing Orlando Pace with either Michael Oher or Andre Smith.  Steven Jackson looked great down the stretch running for 517 yards and 4 TDs (3 rushing, 1 receiving) in the last five weeks.  He needs to prove he can stay healthy though as he missed four games.  Kenneth Darby and Antonio Pittman are his backups, but that’s a spot that could use and upgrade.  New Coach Steve Spagnuolo saw first hand what a solid stable or RBs can do for a team.  He didn’t quite pass the torch yet, but this could be the year Torry Holt relinquishes his throne on the #1 spot.  There is talk that he could even be cut or traded.  Donnie Avery will likely be the new number, unless they surprise everyone and select Michael Crabtree.  Keenan Burton dealt with a lot of injuries in his rookie season, but should see an expanded role next year.  This is another spot attention.  The Randy McMichael experiment did not work out.  Joe Klopfenstein doesn’t appear to be the answer so Tight End needs to be addressed as well.  So if you’re keeping score at home the Rams need to upgrade on O-Line, WR, TE, and backup RB on Offense. 

Last year’s #1 pick Chris Long should improve in his second year.  Leonard Little is in the last year of his contract and will be playing for a new deal.  They both should be able to produce in Spags’ scheme.  The Rams will likely bring Restricted Free Agent Victor Adeyanju back and lose La’Roi Glover as a cap casualty or to retirement.  Their LBs are fairly set with Pisa Tinoisamoa, Will Witherspoon, and Quinton Culberson.   The Rams have some key free agents in their secondary.  CB Ron Bartell and S Oshiomogho Atogwe will likely be back.  Fahkir Brown and Corey Chavous (already cut) will not return.  With so many needs, Rams fans need to be patient.  Rough waters are ahead.

KFFL Free Agent Tracker:

Pos Player Name FA Status Previous Team Current Team
QB Brock Berlin RFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
RB Samkon Gado UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
RB Travis Minor UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
FB Richard Owens UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
WR Matt Caddell Signed St. Louis Rams St. Louis Rams
WR Joel Filani Re-signed St. Louis Rams San Francisco 49ers
WR Dante’ Hall UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
WR Dane Looker UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
TE Dominique Byrd RFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
OG Mark Setterstrom RFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
OT Adam Goldberg UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
OT Brandon Gorin UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
OT Clint Oldenburg Signed St. Louis Rams Denver Broncos
C Nick Leckey UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
DL Victor Adeyanju RFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
DL La’Roi Glover UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
DL Eric M. Moore UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
DL Willie X. Williams Re-signed St. Louis Rams St. Louis Rams
LB Gary Stills UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
CB Ron Bartell UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
CB Fakhir Brown UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
CB Jason Craft UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
CB Ricky Manning Jr. UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
SS Corey Chavous UFA (Cut) St. Louis Rams Free Agent
FS Oshiomogho Atogwe UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent

I’m going to look at the matchups each week and pick five fantasy starters that could be in for a tough week.  Here’s who could have trouble out of the gates.

Quarterback
Matt Cassel
- So you snatched up Matt Cassel from the waiver wire when Brady went down.  If he were playing at home, perhaps you could plug him in.  He gets to face the Jets on the road though.  Not the simplest of tasks.  Often you see somebody replace the starter with great success only to find that magic hard to duplicate.  Judging by his preason performance, he still has a long way to go.
Stat Line: 16 of 23 for 165 yards

Running Backs
Kevin Smith
-  Smith had 80 total yards and a TD.  Solid rookie debut.  He gets to play at home next week, but he’s facing Green Bay instead of Atlanta.  He’ll find quite a difference between the Defenses.  His second NFL game won’t be nearly as successful.
Stat Line:  10 carries for 40 yards, 4 catches for 21 yards

Chris Perry - If he thought Baltimore made his life tough, Tennessee could be even more difficult against the run.  They are playing at home, but until Cincinnati gets their passing game going it will be difficult to run.
Stat Line:  21 carries for 64 yards, TD

Wide Receiver
Wes Welker
- Randy Moss is a freak that can go up and get a ball no matter who threw it to him.  Welker, on the other hand, relies more on timing patterns and quick hits.  That’s an area that Tom Brady was extremely good at.  Cassel knows the system, but knowing and doing are two different things.
Stat Line:  7 catches for 72 yards

Torry Holt - The Rams looked like absolute garbage against the Eagles.  They are going home, but the road has been kind to the New York Giants of late.  They put a lot of pressure on the Quarterback which doesn’t bode well for Marc Bulger, Torry Holt, and the rest of the passing attack for the Rams.  It appears the “Greatest Show on Turf” isn’t making a reprisal.
Stat Line:  6 catches for 76 yards, TD

St. Louis Rams Preview

4 September 2008

Few teams had to deal with the kind of injuries the Rams did last year. Although they are getting older (Torry Holt and Orlando Pace especially), they still have the skill players to get it done. They welcomed in Al Saunders to inject life into their Offense. They have a talented QB in Marc Bulger. If he can stay healthy, he should be able to return to form. They brought in Trent Green to hold the clipboard. He’s good for a game or two in a pinch if need be. Steven Jackson held out for and eventually got the big bucks. He’s deserving, but I don’t get what took so long. He would have been better served to get into camp and get the rust off. He should be fresh from missing the preseason, but could come out of the gates a little slow. The Rams will need to be cautious with him to avoid an hamstring or groin injury, which tend to happen when you try to do too much too fast on a football field. Torry Holt is still the leader of the WR corps, but they’ll have to make due without Isaac Bruce, who moved onto San Fran. Drew Bennett is penciled in as the other starter, but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy. Dane Looker and Dante Hall should factor in the receiving game as well. At Tight End they are hoping to get more production out of Randy McMichael, who was underwhelming in his first season with the Rams.

On Defense the Rams drafted Chris Long to help their Defensive Front. He joins Leonard Little, La’Roi Glover (6 Sacks), and second-year first rounder Adam Carriker. This should be a pretty strong unit if they can stay healthy. Will Witherspoon (110 Tackles, 7 Sacks) is an outstanding Middle Linebacker. Cornerback Fahkir Brown picked off 5 passes last year. Safeties Oshiomogho Atogwe (75 Tackles, 8 INTs) and Corey Chavous (75 Tackles, 3.5 Sacks) give them a pair of solid Safeties.

If they can stay healthy they will challenge for the NFC West. This division is pretty wide open. I still think the Seahawks will find a way to win it. The Rams will win around 8 games.

Fantasy-wise Steven Jackson is worthy of a top four selection. He is a dynamic runner that is capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. Al Saunders has a pretty good history with RBs. Torry Holt is still worthy of being a #1 WR, but he’s no longer a Top 5 WR. Marc Bulger is taking a shot on as a fantasy starter, but you should have a capable backup. Randy McMichael is worth a look at Tight End. He’ll probably start off as a reserve, but could prove worthy of a starter.


Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties