On the Wire: Week 13 Pickups, Vince Young, Fred Jackson, and Playoff Depth

Let’s not play games. I know you’re most likely looking for just one or two players to complete your fantasy football playoff dynasty before Week 13 or ignoring most of the free agents for a chance to ride out the season while looking nonchalant. Chicks dig nonchalant.

While it’s always admirable to fight to the bitter end, it is hard to find your motivation at this point in the season. That’s when being bitter and hardened by fury comes in handy. You have to encapsulate all that disappointment you experience throughout the season as your team loses and unleash it this week by making your team a one-week force to be reckoned with, purely for the sake of knocking someone out of the playoffs.

You may never look at the draft board from this season again. Maybe you did that poorly, but you can always tell Steve that you killed his chance at a championship in 2009. I imagine all losers are named Steve. Sorry, Steve! Not you, the other one. He’ll never forget that, not even when the dementia kicks in.

So play like a champion today. Treat your opponent like that dirty defensive end portrayed in The Blind Side and be the Michael Oher who takes him to the bus because it was time for him to leave.

I trust you will do some damage.

Now, on to the next harsh reality. There’s not a lot to go around right now in your fantasy league. I’m sure of it. By now, teams have been scrounging for a way to make it to the playoffs that any good picks are off the board.

There are only a few gems left to be plucked, mostly from this week’s action. For more potent waiver wire grabs, see the last few weeks of On the Wire. It was good stuff. Oh, those were the days.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans — Young has been clutch for the Titans since taking over as the starter, and he has a sweet three-game home stretch during the fantasy playoffs. He’s not an impact starter if your team is bound for playoff glory, but picking him up as an insurance policy and backup is highly recommended, especially if your current starter has a tough game when VY faces the Rams.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills — I’m not sold on Jackson being back in business for the Bills. Marshawn Lynch may be banged-up, but he’s still the more talented runner in this backfield despite his recent lack of production. I’d blame the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line for that. Still, Jackson looks like he’s returning to his early-season form…for now, and he scored twice last week.

Antonio Bryant, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Not dead, apparently, and also very good at catching passes from Josh Freeman. Bryant became a fantasy stud at the end of last season, and if he’s completely healthy now, he could get back to it. The way the Bucs secondary gives away points right now, Freeman should be throwing it plenty for the rest of the season.

Larry Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — If you own Cedric Benson, you might consider getting some insurance for him by picking up L.J. Once their playoff hopes are secure, Benson could see a reduced workload so that the Bengals can have him at full strength when they get to the playoffs, and that’s if Benson even returns to the starting lineup this week as expected.

Matt Moore, QB, Carolina Panthers — For those of you looking to play David to a playoff-hopeful’s Goliath this week, Moore could get the start if Jake Delhomme sits out with a broken finger. Playing the Bucs seems promising.

Jason Avant, WR, Philadelphia Eagles — I’m not a huge fan of any Eagles wide receiver. They spread the ball around too much, and just when you think they’ll have a huge day, the Eagles disappoint. But Avant should be a factor if DeSean Jackson misses any games. Besides, he’s gotten involved enough in recent weeks to provide wide receiver depth for your squad.

Chris Redman, QB, Atlanta Falcons — And standing in for Matt Ryan is another one-week play for the bitter hearts, but this one has to play the Eagles.

Jerious Norwood, RB, Atlanta Falcons — He looks like the better play than Jason Snelling right now based on how he was used when Turner got injured late in the game. I don’t love any of the fill-in Falcons against an aggressive Eagles defense pushing to make the playoffs, but Norwood has some explosive qualities that could do his fantasy point totals some good this week.

For more waiver wire claims, compare notes with The Talented Mr. Roto, Fantasy Joe, Fanhouse, The FF Geek Blog, FF Toolbox, and KFFL.

And the “Brady Quinn” Award goes to Matt Ryan

It is fitting that it would go to another quarterback, don’t you think?

Matt Ryan is probably getting the cold sweats as he read this article. Yes, I know he reads my articles because someone has to summarize for Darren McFadden in the Green Room on draft day.

As I pointed out in the rankings of my latest round up of mock drafts, the media and scouts aren’t putting Matt Ryan at the top of a lot of lists. Being the top QB is not enough.

Ryan has been touted as the only franchise-worthy QB to come out the 2008 draft class, but despite that title, teams are worried about drafting him.

QBs just aren’t carrying the good name they used to back in the day, and everyone is worried that they will run off to Mexico with some hot blonde or supermodel, host kegger parties in their hot tubs or head butt windshields in their downtime. You can’t even trust them when they are sitting at home with a few friends. That’s no way to win fans or win games.

In his days at Boston College, Ryan did it all with just a little, but the 2008 QB class is weak. Jake Long could eat ever single one of the QBs in this year’s draft. Luckily, his job is to protect them.

He won’t go to Miami because Bill Parcells thinks John Beck will be better as Jake Long’s little spoon. He’s not going to pass on Long to take Matt Ryan if he’s not a significant improvement — which he might be.

The St. Louis Rams only want QBs that have at least one concussion or a severe upper body injury under their belt, so Ryan doesn’t have a chance there unless he rams himself into the wall of the Green Room after he doesn’t go first overall to Miami.

The Vick-less Atlanta Falcons would just love a Prince Charming QB like Ryan to come in a sweep them off the floor of the dog fighting pit with his squeaky clean image, but they are scared of this QB class. They’d apparently rather put hopes in Chris Redman rather than take Ryan. They know they’ll be back near the top of the draft in another year when a much better class of QBs will be hitting the pros. Why spend a top pick when you can spend another year wallowing in your own self-pity?

The Oakland Raiders would take Ryan if he could run a sub-4.5 40 — no luck there.

Kansas City could save him, but Matt Ryan would probably remove himself from that one by running his head into the wall of the Green Room. There’s no hope for any QB in Kansas City until they figure out what those big guys that stand in front of the QB are supposed to do when they are on the field. Brodie Croyle would welcome a breather, but I think KC will pass.

Now the Jets, they could use a QB with some promise. Unfortunately, by the sixth pick, McFadden will probably have gotten through the instructions on how to walk up to the stage, and the little Mangini is looking for more of a miracle than a dependable QB.

New England. Yeah, only if he can hold a camera.

Baltimore is Matt Ryan’s last city of salvation. Being the last player in the Green Room until the eight spot isn’t so shabby, but hey, Baltimore might get ballsy. Figuring he would be off the books much sooner, the Ravens could just move on to address other issues — although having no starting QB is a pretty large issue — and dare to take one of their lesser QB prospects in the second round like a Brian Brohm or Joe Flacco. Very daring but possible.

If Ryan makes it past Baltimore — which is doubtful — he will probably curl up into the fetal position in the back of the Green Room, and Jake Long won’t be there anymore to hold him. Even Vernon Gholston will be out of there by then. Who knows who will take him at that point.

He could make it all the way to Detroit. Who wants to be Jon Kitna’s new friend? You get to train under him on how to set unrealistic team goals, offend coaches and get creamed.

No matter what happens, it looks Ryan will be the man who gets to count ceiling tiles and twiddle thumbs in the Green Room longer than any of the other big boys that accompany him.

Hold out your arms because the “Brady Quinn” Award for bravery in the line of shame is coming your way. I will airmail it to you tonight. The trophy is a used and abused jock strap that you must wear under your suit in the Green Room.

Please do try not to look squirmy when you itch. People will only feel worse for you.

Good luck, Matty boy, and bring a Nintendo DS. You can fend off the hot tears of shame with Nintendogs.

Bloodletting of veterans starts free agency with a bang [NFL News]

The days preceding free agency were full of contract re-negotiations, but the veterans who didn’t want to let their value be tossed aside found themselves tossed aside instead. Just before the opening bell of free agency, the blood flowed freely across the NFL’s older locker rooms. The most tragic loss, of course, being the one-glove wonder. David Carr might never even have a back up job again. Tragic.

I feel tears coming, so let’s move on.

With so many player released, the stage was set for a hot and fast free agency season. We had been tracking the rumors, but when the clock started this weekend, some teams came out strong to sign players early. Football Jabber broke down free agency aftermath from this weekend for each individual team, but we can shoot through a few quick notes with fantasy implications right here.

First, the big moves.

As expected, the big drama surrounding Randy Moss‘s free agency ended when he signed a three-year deal with the Patriots. Did anyone expect him to move? I certainly didn’t want to guess who would get custody of the love child between Moss, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady if Moss left town.

Also as expected, Oakland is still insane. I am more convinced everyday that the front office for the Raiders is run by helper monkeys.

Bernard Berrian settled down with Minnesota, so the pressure is on Tarvaris Jackson now to learn how to make good decisions on when to throw the long ball and, hopefully, not mature into the next Rex Grossman. If he fits in this offense, Minnesota could legitimately open the field up for both Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson in 2008.

The highest bidder in the Asante Samuel lottery ended up being the Eagles. Samuel will now make sure the Eagles secondary is locked down for 2008.

Alge Crumpler officially signed on with the Titans to make Vince Young as productive a member of a quarterback-to-tight-end tandem as Michael Vick was in Atlanta.

Derek Anderson decided to stay with the Browns–as long as they paid him more than Brady Quinn. Donte’ Stallworth also signed with the Browns. Obviously prepping for a big Super Bowl run the same way as the Patriots, the Browns now officially have two receivers worth mentioning besides tight end Kellen Winslow.

Michael Turner, touted for years as an incredible beast of a running back but with doubters, took the check from the Atlanta Falcons–almost makes it a lock that Atlanta will take Matt Ryan of Boston College as the third overall pick in the NFL draft. Warrick Dunn was released, so Turner will likely be spelled by the break out running of Jerious Norwood through the ghostly shadow that Michael Vick left in Atlanta. Dunn might end up in Houston, but that’s exactly what the Texans need, another veteran running back.

Muhsin Muhammad is back in Carolina after being cut by the Bears. Note: Once again, Carr is gone. The people rejoice.

The consistent foot of Josh Brown will serve the Rams next year since Jeff Wilkins decided to retire.

Teams with large amounts of money to spend are gobbling up veterans.

The San Francisco 49ers may be planning on opening a museum in 2008. They started snapping up veterans as they were released from other teams. DeShaun Foster found a home with the 49ers–likely as Frank Gore‘s backup next year. Isaac Bruce, after being tossed aside by the Rams, got his own two-year deal with the 49ers, but Bruce only has a few more good routes in him to add to an already shallow wide receiver group in San Francisco–even if he already knows Martz’s ways.

The Jacksonville Jaguars went after better receivers to give David Garrard some targets (good move), but their choices were an aging Jerry Porter and the Vikings’ Troy Williamson, a burner with quick feet and slow, slippery hands (not so good move). Garrard still won’t have a big “sure thing” receiver in Jacksonville to make something happen unless Williamson starts catching and/or Porter returns to form as a number one or a valuable possession receiver. With Quinn Gray not re-signed, Jacksonville signed Cleo Lemon from Miami, who might forever be known for his game-winning pass in Miami’s 1-15 season.

The Buccaneers started spending hard and heavy by signing a couple of guys to strengthen their offensive line in Jeff Faine and John Gilmore. Devery Henderson might also find some of their money in his pocket. He is much younger than most of the Tampa Bay wide receiver corps. Not to be out-done by the 49ers after competing for Foster, the Bucs traded a draft pick for Brian Griese–the safest option the Bears had at QB. He will likely serve as a more legitimate backup for Jeff Garcia in 2008.

Bill Parcells is building a team of contributors to Miami with the signing of Ernest Wilford and Josh McCown along with his moves on the defensive side.

Some players with minor fantasy value in 2007 also chose to stay put.

Justin Gage will try to remain relevant in Tennessee as the Titans look to bring in greater wide receiver talent. D.J. Hackett, who played with the Seahawks last year, should be coming through soon along with a potential visit from Bryant Johnson, subbing in for Arizona’s starting receivers well in 2007. Both have significant upside when compared to the aging Gage, but he could find a place with them.

Andre Davis will return to Houston, and David Patten opted to stay with the Saints and count on Drew Brees to increase his fantasy value. Chris Redman also kept his return to the NFL going strong by re-signing for another year with the Falcons.

Despite all these moves and various trades–in only the FIRST weekend–rumors are still circulating about where more free agents will land.

The Dallas Cowboys might be interested in Tatum Bell as as backup to rest Marion Barber. The Cowboys are also leading the race to land Javon Walker since he was cut from the Denver Broncos. Their main rival for his services is the Philadelphia Eagles.

To track all the top players down to their height and weight, check out the SportingNews’ 99 Free Agent table [via Fantasy Football Librarian].

Hot 2008 Fantasy Football Offensive Free Agents

If the Patriots proved one thing this season, they proved it is absolutely required for top fantasy managers to track free agent movement. Don’t be distracted by rookies taken in the NFL draft. Besides a few impact first-rounders, you probably won’t see a lot of impact to your fantasy season by anyone in the draft until 2009 or even 2010 year.

This offseason, many critical fantasy players are up for new contracts. Football Jabber provides some analysis of some of the top offensive free agents [Link no longer available]–although I suspect many of the players he discusses will stay where they are besides Michael Turner–and Draft Daddy went in-depth to rank and track all the offensive free agents [Link no longer available]. Note that Draft Daddy pulls out the Key Restricted Free Agents from their rankings and lists them below each position.

Offensive free agents that I suggest you pay attention to in the offseason:

Rex Grossman, QB Chicago Bears
If someone else gives Grossman a chance, i.e. Atlanta, Baltimore or Miami, Grossman could become fantasy-relevant again. I like the guy even though he has never been solid. He might be worthy of a QB2 spot if given a different supporting cast.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers
I know Hill has already signed an extension, but with Alex Smith on rocky terms with the coach, Hill could be the quarterback that Mike Martz gives his offense. Hill fits the mold a little better than Smith does, and Smith might not take kindly to returning from injury only to take part in an offense built around Frank Gore.

Chris Redman, QB Atlanta Hawks
I, for one, felt that he showed promise with the games he started for Atlanta. He might be on the same level as Grossman. If someone is willing to give him a chance–like Miami maybe–he could make a mark in the NFL and be fantasy-relevant. He certainly had his shining moments to end 2007.

Michael Turner, RB San Diego Chargers
Turner is where the big free agent money is aiming this offseason. He has been touted as a guy that can carry the full load for more than two season now. With no contract in hand, he is ready to take all offers and see what he can do outside of L.T.’s shadow. Big hopes and big money will be put on him in 2008 for whatever team gets him. The Houston Texans and the New York Jets are two teams that could benefit from a running back in free agency if not from the draft.

Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have enough running backs. Fargas is most likely on his way out and might land a decent back up role somewhere. I don’t expect him to be carrying the full load anywhere even though he was solid for the Raiders in 2007. He could very well end up in a decent committee somewhere after this season though.

Derrick Ward, RB New York Giants
He’s in talks with the Giants already, but considering they don’t need him as bad as other teams do, you could see Ward popping over to another team. He filled in nicely for Jacobs this season and handled starting and taking a full load–until he got injured, that is.

Bernard Berrian, WR Chicago Bears
Berrian is the top receiver that has the potential to move. Most likely, the Bears will franchise him and keep him one more season, but I bet Berrian would love to escape Chicago’s QB problems to the Raiders and see what JaMarcus Russell can do with him.

L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles
Smith has been plagued by injuries lately. While he is most likely headed right back to the Philly locker room, he could test the waters. When healthy, L.J. Smith can be a critical receiving tight end, and plenty of teams could use more offensive production from their tight ends in 2008. Anyone else thinking Seattle?

Offensive linemen will be significant this offseason, and impact the offensive production more than you would think. I won’t break down each and every one, but watch who moves where to know how your quarterback and running back production could be impacted. Draft Daddy ranked all the top centers and linemen for your enjoyment [Link no longer available].