On the Wire: Week 4 Pickups and Sleepers [Insert Coffee Joke Here]

Ah, I just love the sweet smell of bacon in the morning. What? You thought I was going to say coffee, as in Glen Coffee? That would be silly. Silly like little kids who talk like big people.

Now, get your Coffee while it’s hot. Burn!

Glen Coffee, RB, San Francisco 49ers: With Frank Gore set to miss about three weeks, Coffee should get most of the work against the Rams and the Falcons before the 49ers go on bye in Week 6. If you’re lucky, Coffee could see more work than usual against the Texans and Colts post-bye. I’ll take a double shot of that.

Tashard Choice, RB, Dallas Cowboys: He took over the Dallas run game on Monday night. If Felix Jones’ knee keeps him from hitting the field in Week 4, Choice could be the lone back for the Cowboys until Marion Barber returns, and he can handle that job. Dallas faces Denver and Kansas City before their bye in Week 6.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts: The French name with another the solid game, Garcon has stepped it up in Anthony Gonzalez’s absence. Peyton Manning trusts him, and until Gonzalez returns, you can, too.

Nate Burleson, WR, Seattle Seahawks: Burleson has been posting decent stats while T.J. Houshmandzadeh runs his mouth and fails to impress with his bad back. Maybe T.J., as I’ve felt all along, is just average. Burleson’s worth a look as a WR3 even without Hasselbeck under center.

Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles: He’s getting plenty of looks in this offense, especially with Kevin Kolb doing the passing.

Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers: Two touchdowns? Now that’s almost enough to convince me that he’ll stick around. Incubate him for a game or two unless you’re desperate at tight end and see what develops. Unlike many of the most targeted players this week, Davis came down with the majority of the passes thrown his way. That’s promising.

Fred Taylor, RB, New England Patriots: Brady was saved by his ground game in this one, and Taylor is that ground game. He’s got plenty left in the tank, but just when we start to trust him, the Patriots will mix in someone else out of that backfield and throw the ball 60-plus times each game. Taylor adds good depth as we head into the bye weeks.

Correll Buckhalter, RB, Denver Broncos: He’s fighting every week to get his yards even if Knowshon Moreno keeps the hype and the goal line touches.

Maurice Morris, RB, Detroit Lions: We might see more Morris if Kevin Smith misses time with his injury. Smith can’t heal that fast, but don’t expect the same production you get from Smith out of Morris.

Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams: Maybe without competition from Laurent Robinson, who is now out for the season, Avery will finally step his game up. He’d probably have better luck if Kyle Boller takes over at quarterback.

Josh Johnson, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As we’ve seen from the Byron Leftwich appearances this season, the Bucs are bad, and they are going to be throwing often. Johnson has the potential to be better than Leftwich, and he’s certainly faster and more agile. I broke down some of his background in this week’s Foolish Thoughts. If you’re desperate or digging for trade bait, grab him while he’s an unknown.

Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins: Same first name, different starting Miami quarterback. Sadly, this injury may be the end for Pennington. Due to Pennington’s bionic shoulder capsule explosion in the game this week, Henne takes over a tad early and tries to right this Dolphin ship in 2009. Please, sir, may we have a deep ball?

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns: I wouldn’t suggest that he’s better than your current benched players, but if Jamal Lewis stays out, Harrison could be in line for a big game or two when Cleveland faces weak run defenses. There aren’t many of those on the schedule, but maybe you just have a bench spot that’s completely empty and in need of a warm body. Yeah, you can slot Harrison there.

Denver Broncos D/ST: Who knew? The Broncos have a defense. Leave it to Josh McDaniels to teach them how to repel people. I’m still not sure I believe.

Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Maybe he will break out after all? Only if Favre keeps passing like he did on Sunday, but I’m a fan of Rice’s potential.

Bryant Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: It was Bryant, not Calvin Johnson, that had the important touchdown catch against the Washington Redskins this week. If Megatron gets shut down, look for Bryant to reap the benefits. He’s been on my watch list since he left the Arizona Cardinals, but he’s never produced consistently. This year may finally be his time if he can stay healthy.

Guys from Week 3′s On the Wire that should be owned in all leagues by now (but I’ll list them here anyway just to drive home the point):

  • LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Without Westbrook, he’s just as good and maybe even more explosive.
  • Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: He is David Garrard’s favorite target, and the Jags are going to put the ball in the air this season.

For more waiver wire grabs, talk to the geeks at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, get the list from Fanhouse, sweat it out with Lester’s Legends, get the pickups of the week at FF Toolbox, add Coffee to your list at USA Today’s Fantasy Joe, see through the haze at The Hazean, and check out both the first and second collection from Fantasy Football Librarian this week.

Get out there and make your team better this week. Try toying with some handcuffs and consider the rises and falls of Sunday at Fanhouse, prepare for the bye weeks as noted by The Fantasy Football Geek Blog , sell off a few high-performing pretenders at FF Toolbox and cut the dead weight with the Bruno Boys.

As always, the comments are yours. I’ll be answering questions all week if you don’t know who to claim and who to drop on your waiver wire. Just leave a message below.

Manning, Colts D on Fire as Cards Misfire

On the Wire: Week 2 Pickups and Sleepers

Welcome to the first edition of our in-season “On the Wire” spectacular, coming to you every week from the sadness of your own heart. If you’re players are underperforming or injured, we’re here to pick you up for the low, low price of four installments of free.

We’ll keep it short and simple — listing a few players each week who could upgrade your team and a few sleepers who might perform well in the next week. If you like what you see, go get them on your waiver wire, and if there’s anyone else you are considering picking up for your fantasy squad, bring him up in the discussion in the comments below.

Here are a few potential fantasy free agents who could help your team this week:

Mike Bell, RB, New Orleans Saints: He’ll have a rough time this week against the Eagles, but as long as Pierre Thomas is out, he’ll get the bulk of the Saints workload.

Cadillac Williams, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: His knees seem better now, but what the hell did they put in there? He looked stronger than ever and bionic on Sunday. He’ll share time with Derrick Ward, but he’s a decent RB3 to consider at this point.

Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders: Bush will be a short-yardage, goal line back for the Raiders, a team who will run the ball plenty this year. When he spells Darren McFadden, he could also be spelling your fantasy team.

Earl Bennett, WR, Chicago Bears: In his second season with the Bears, he’s finally emerging as a possession receiver for Jay Cutler.

Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins: The receiver-by-rotation model the Dolphins are using makes him a risky pickup, but Bess was the Dolphins’ leading receiver this weekend. If that moves him up the Dolphins’ depth chart, he’ll continue to have value in PPR leagues, but he’s unlikely to score a lot of touchdowns.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts: If not Garcon, it’s Austin Collie, but whoever fills in for Anthony Gonzalez will have value and will face Miami this weekend.

Laurent Robinson, WR, St. Louis Rams: So they do have someone besides Donnie Avery? Robinson was a sleeper back when he was with the Falcons, but he has finally caught on in St. Louis. They could use the help.

Steve Smith, WR, New York Giants: If undrafted, the other Steve Smith could be a stud in PPR leagues this season as Eli Manning’s No. 1 guy.

Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Looks like they’ll use him in this offense. You could, too. Harvin’s explosive and could be Brett Favre’s new Chansi Stuckey.

John Carlson, TE, Seattle Seahawks: If no one in your league drafted him this year — probably unlikely — you should correct that. He’s a young tight end who should be one of the top two targets in the Seattle offense, and he’s a great red zone option for Matt Hasselbeck. His two-touchdown performance on Sunday could be repeated against other NFC West opponents throughout the season.

Jeremy Shockey, TE, New Orleans Saints: Don’t expect him to do that every week, but Shockey could be a solid tight end for you this season if your current guy was disappointing in the first week.

Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets: He won’t win you any games, but Sanchez could be a Joe Flacco-like rookie quarterback this season if the Jets continue to dominate Baltimore-style. He has potential as a backup.

Chaz Schilens, WR, Oakland Raiders: Write this one down. Schilens is out right now with a broken foot, but upon his return, he should be the No. 1 in Oakland, where JaMarcus Russell seems able and willing to make big plays. Louis Murphy stood out last night, but Schilens could easily take over that role very soon. Consider this one a longer-term investment.

Washington Redskins, D/ST: St. Louis meets Albert Haynesworth this week. Who wants a Bulger sandwich? How about a pancake?

For more pickups this week, check out FF Toolbox, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog and FF Report.

The Favre Effect: Brett Favre’s fantasy impact on Vikings

It’s easy to hate Brett Favre right now. In fact, it’s encouraged. Just as we were about to lock in Sage Rosenfels as the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, Favre decides to show up after the toils of training camp and sign a contract for, you know, whatever the Vikings could find in the couch.

Most NFL franchises might have moved on after they were “turned down” the first time. But no, not the Childress. Brad Childress would have stood outside Favre’s house in the rain in a trenchcoat holding a contract over his head until the greatest player Childress has ever wished to have on his team finally accepted him.

After all, what’s the use of team chemistry at this point in the season? We got a month to put it all back together and forgive, right guys?

I would say that this move to obtain Favre looks even more look-at-me-doing-everything-I-can-to-win-the-Super-Bowl than the New York Jets’ reach for him last season, but I actually think Favre fits better in Minnesota than he did in New York since he already knows the offense.

That said, it’s hard to like the guy. He still has skills and opportunity, but I don’t think I would want to have him on my fantasy team. Call me indecisive. Harrumph.

Sage Rosenfels vs. Brett Favre

As I’ve previously argued, Brett Favre doesn’t impact the rest of the Vikings’ squad significantly by coming in for Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson. Besides ego, age and legend status, the physical attributes that Sage and Favre bring to the table are similar, and Tarvaris would have been a long shot to start Week 1.

Brett Favre’s got a great arm, many years of experience and loves to throw the ball down field, even when it’s going to be intercepted. That’s what a gunslinger does. As long as he stays healthy, he adds that vertical dimension to the Vikings’ offense that they’ve lacked with Jackson under center.

Take a little bit away from the experience column and Rosenfels offers the same arm strength and irresponsibility, but he does also enjoy helicopters.

Fantasy Impact on Minnesota Vikings

Running Backs: Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor

If that’s the way you’re leaning already, Favre’s signing in Minnesota should cement Adrian Peterson as the consensus No. 1 pick. Just look at Thomas Jones’ performance last season. With Favre’s arm, defenses have to give Peterson room to run, and the Vikings have a strong run-blocking line just like the Jets built last offseason for Jones.

Opposing defenses might have felt the same way about Rosenfels once he beat a few teams who didn’t respect his abilities, but we’ll never know for sure.

Rosenfels aside, Favre also adds a concern for Peterson. A.P. often needs close to 20 carries each game to be effective and score his touchdowns. If Chester Taylor continues to take carries away from A.P. and Favre allows the Vikings to do more in the passing game, Peterson could have limited opportunities this season. If the game plan calls for shutting down Peterson and letting Favre do what he will, Peterson’s owners lose in a big way.

Receiving Options: Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe

Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe all have a better outlook this season, but the upgrade isn’t significant enough for me to recommend drafting them any higher than their current average draft positions, or ADP.

Other than Berrian and Shiancoe, all the receiving threats for the Vikings are a little risky and inconsistent. Berrian will get a slight upgrade now that we know who’s throwing to him, but his history suggests his numbers will stay the same.

Shiancoe was a low-end tight end at best despite his big fantasy point total at the end of last season, and he stands to benefit if Favre’s love of the tight end comes with him to Minnesota. As of now, Shiancoe could still go undrafted in many fantasy leagues, but he might be worth grabbing if he gels with Favre.

Minnesota Vikings Team Defense

Here is where things get interesting. The Vikings defense could suffer from the addition of Favre because with Favre come turnovers. Getting stuck on their own side of the field could prevent the Vikings from keeping the score low, and if any games become blowouts as a result of Favre’s arm, the defense will probably give the opponent a little slack.

The Vikings are usually a stout defense, but facing Cutler’s Bears and Rodgers’ Packers this season with Favre handing the ball over a time or two every game could wear on them in a hurry. I’d drop them a few spots in your rankings after Favre’s signing.

Where to draft Brett Favre?

Now that he’s back, Favre is a middle-of-the-pack backup fantasy quarterback in most leagues. He’s got weapons and a great running back, but he’s still a threat to fall apart near the end of the season. He’s not a bad option to bet on near the late rounds of your draft, but I’d rather have a guy with more upside like Trent Edwards, who probably carries about the same draft stock right now.

So there you have it, the Favre effect. He makes the Vikings slightly better than they were without him. Do I think the Vikings are Super Bowl bound? Not likely. The Vikings have to prove that they’re better than the Green Bay Packers Favre left with Aaron Rodgers and the Chicago Bears with new quarterback Jay Cutler.

Michael Vick signs with Eagles, playing tight end?

When you think about it, an eagle is just an older, more mature cousin to the falcon. I guess once you’re a bird, you’re always a bird.

Michael Vick finally landed in Philadelphia after an offseason of speculation. The most recent rumors had him signing with the Patriots or Bills, but the Eagles jumped to work out a deal this week after current backup quarterback Kevin Kolb went down with a knee injury.

The Eagles expect Kolb to return “in about a week,” but his injury along with all the other freak injuries the Eagles have had in camp may have urged them to err on the side of caution and add more depth with Vick. Current statements from McNabb and Andy Reid suggest there is no threat to McNabb’s starting job or Kolb’s backup role, but if that is the case, how will Vick be involved in this offense?

One theory out there has him slotted as a tight end, but can you really believe what you hear on TMZ? It’s an interesting proposal, nonetheless, since playing Vick at tight end would keep him on the roster each week without unseating Kolb or McNabb and allow for some creative playcalling with Vick, McNabb and Brian Westbrook on the field at the same time.

From a fantasy perspective, getting him on the field more can only serve to increase his value. If put on a shelf as a backup quarterback or used only in a Wildcat role, Vick’s fantasy stock would be nothing more than as a late flier in your drafts this season. As a tight end, he might really be worth something.

We know that the Eagles are in “win now” mode this year. McNabb isn’t getting any younger and Philly fans have tasted blood too often not to have made it to a Super Bowl in recent years. Three weapons in the backfield may be the surest way to guarantee they make it as far as possible this season even if their defense comes up shorter than expected without their starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley or Brian Dawkins’ leadership.

On less of a fantasy note, the reactions to the Vick signing have been mixed. The NFL’s tweeting players seem excited, but some NFL fans are having a hard time accepting the news. When it comes to Philly fans, every single one of them that types in all caps seems to like this decision.

To Waiver Wire or Not to Waiver Wire?

It’s a debate that rages in my leagues just as the first league emails start to go out. The date of the draft hasn’t even been decided. The chips and beverages of choice are still safely on store shelves, but the league emails begin with the eternal debate: “Why don’t we change the waiver wire this year?”

A waiver wire, for those of you who may not know, is the system the regulates how teams request and obtain free agents in your league. Most leagues use some kind of waiver wire system to lock down free agents as soon as they have played their games on Sunday and prevent them from being obtained until the Wednesday or Thursday of the following week. At that time, your league software or commish sorts out which team gets a player they requested based upon a predetermined order.

No one wants the unemployed guy that sits on his laptop all day or the stay-at-home hermit to grab up all the decent free agent gold as soon as their mug comes across ESPN, so, in theory, waiver wires are a perfect solution. If it wasn’t for waiver wires, I’d probably have to build an NFL Network command center that even Jerry Jones would envy just to watch the latest news, injury reports and player profiles throughout the season.

Who wants to give away a Ryan Grant every season? Grant won playoff games and championships for owners who were lucky enough to get him as a free agent back in 2007.

The problem arises when you actually get down to discussing how the waiver wire is going to work. Without a doubt, someone is unhappy that they didn’t get a Ryan Grant or a LeRon McClain the week they needed him. With the season just weeks away, they want to change to another option, and there are several out there without getting too much into salary cap, waiver wire bidding or limiting the number of transactions.

From Worst to First

Is it fair to give the last place team first crack at the free agents? This method, often the default setting in fantasy football leagues, gives the lesser teams a chance to rise up from their ashes like a phoenix during the season and keeps some owners from giving up too soon. That said, it also allows good teams to tank the first week, improve their rosters with the best breakout free agents from Week 1 and dominate your face off all year.

The common argument against this “worst to first” rank is that it gives owners who do not do their research, neglect to follow the NFL news and draft very poorly a break.

Use it and Lose It

Do you adopt a “use it and lose it” system where you go to the back of the line each time you use the waiver wire? This method discourages using the wire each week and rewards the players who wait around for the big score, if one ever comes their way.

The downside of “use it and lose it” is that good teams who don’t have to pick up any free agent players from the waiver wire to dominate will often be the No. 1 pick when the best free agents come available. When the time comes, they block desperate teams from having any shot at the best player.

Wild West

Or do you just screw the system, do away with the waiver wire and live life by the seat of your pants?

Sure, a bit of luck may allow one team owner to hear a rumor or see an injury report first and beat the league to the free agent pool. The hermit may get all the best free agents every Monday night while the rest of the league sleeps. But at least you all have a fair shot at getting who you want when you want them.

The Question

I don’t really have an answer for this one. I prefer using a waiver wire simply because I often write during games or go out to watch them with friends. I like to have a day to collect my thoughts before I get to deciding how to rebuild my team for the following weekend, but there is something to be said for being able to get a player the second your gut tells you that you must have him.

Last season, my most competitive league settled on the “use it and lose it” method. It seemed to work like magic as I used mine often to replace a player without too much concern while others held out all season for the big score — and eventually landed Tony Gonzalez for their patience when he was dropped by a less-than-genius owner. Was it fair? It was close. At least there was a bit of strategy involved rather than luck.

What say you? Do you use a complicated system? A bidding war? Limited transactions? No waiver wire at all? Tell us about your method in the comments.

I’m always open to hearing what is out there, and maybe we can all nip those debates in the bud before we even start sending those emails.

To waiver wire or not to waiver wire? That is the question.

How about that Rundown: Things you should have known before the 2009 NFL Draft

Unlike me, you may not have been following all the NFL news since the offseason began. Sometimes people have lives. That’s okay — so I am told. In order for you to keep your edge and get in the right state of mind now that football is only a few months away, you just might need a “rundown” of the news you may have missed or overlooked during your hiatus from the land of football.

The thing about Marshawn Lynch is…
Lynch received a suspension for three games due to his increasing talent of finding himself in bad situations at bad times (and somehow also avoiding any major legal consequences). The Bills will be without his services to start the season, but they have also acquired Dominic Rhodes to help them out while their workhorse running back pays his debt to society the NFL. Fred Jackson is still said to be the starter in Lynch’s absence, but Rhodes may win the hearts of the coaching staff before the end of camp. He’s got a pretty good talent for that.

The Jenny Craig Effect
Both Daunte Culpepper and David Garrard returned to their teams from the offseason a little lighter and a little more in shape. For Culpepper, claiming he was in the best shape of his life since he was a good quarterback might have led Detroit to believe they were safe with him under center in 2009. (Unfortunately for him, no such luck.) For Garrard, his lightened load could mean his ability to get out of the pocket and run is on the rise. If you remember his run in the playoffs against the Steelers, he can get up and going pretty quickly for a big guy, but with a little less weight, he might do it more often in 2009.

And then there’s the fat one…
On the other end of the weight shift, Adrian Peterson claims he wants to beef it up for 2009. Unfortunately for Peterson, that weight can’t all be added around his knees, which are almost ready for their next breakdown after he made it through 2009 mostly unscathed. The wrath cometh, no matter much bacon you pack on those bones, A.P.

Coles becomes a Bengal (pending felony conviction)
Yes, I know that most of the Bengals are trying to get the team’s reputation under control, but then they go out and sign Tank Johnson, and yeah, that’s not working so well. Laveranues Coles obviously didn’t want to wait around and see what one-armed batting practice machine became the man for the Jets in 2009, so he took a deal with the Bengals as somewhat of a replacement to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I wouldn’t exactly call him the perfect complement to Chad Johnson, but he’s got a pulse and no parole, unlike Chris Henry.

Matt Hasselbeck has a back again
Hasselbeck told us all he was healthy before the draft — mostly because he wanted to make sure he didn’t get a little punk like Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford drafted onto the Seahawks’ bench and waiting for him to injure his back again. It remains to be seen how much Hasselbeck will be able to do when the season starts after his injury-plagued 2008 season.

Well, I guess if Jay’s gone…
Tony Scheffler, the tight end companion of choice of Jay Cutler, may no longer have a home in Denver now that Josh McDaniels has arrived to kick everyone out of the party and start a math club that worships Belichick.

But was he the Right-wich?
The Bucs signed Byron Leftwich to be their quarterbacks of the now — or was it all just a clever smokescreen for their Josh Freeman pick? Leftwich is an upgrade over the quarterbacks currently developed in the Bucs’ stable, but they may still be overlooking what they have in Josh Johnson.

Sweed takes three
With the departure of Nate Washington to the Titans, Longhorn standout Limas Sweed moves up to the third wide receiver spot, and he might just have his head in the game this year. That’s a good sign for dynasty owners and Big Ben Roethlisberger.

Young no more in 2010?
Speaking of Longhorns, Vince Young may be on his way out of Tennessee in another season if he doesn’t find his game again. His contract isn’t going to make him any friends in 2010. If he’s going to prove he’s the quarterback of the future for the Titans, he better get back into that “hoopla” soon.

Laurent Robinson is a Ram
He was all the rage each preseason that the Falcons had him, and now, he’s one of a few receivers with a name we know and somewhat trust on the Rams roster. Don’t forget about Robinson when it comes time to make those last round selections in your fantasy draft. He might be all they got.

And Detroit quarterbacks will throw to Megatron AND…
Former Cardinal and former 49er Bryant Johnson signed a contract with the Lions this offseason. Assuming he hopes to find himself opposite Calvin Johnson on Sundays — and thereby form the unstoppable Johnson & Johnson duo — he should probably stop dislocating his fingers in practice. Johnson is one of those players who always looks like he improved his situation, i.e. moving to San Francisco last season, just before he disappears off the map. His main competition at receiver is former Raider Ronald Curry, who is expected to be the slot guy in Detroit.

Torry Holt makes final growl with the Jags
It’s no secret that Holt is old. He’s got the freaky fingers to prove he’s a veteran in this league, and he’s crafty. The Rams gave up on him in favor of getting younger, but the Jaguars will be giving him another chance. What could go wrong? Taking the old guy worked so well with Jerry Porter last season, didn’t it? Holt is the likely No. 1 in Jacksonville, but he might not hold that position all season if his skills and health fade.

Jeff Garcia on the Al Davis payroll
Garcia joined the Raiders before the draft to back up and help develop JaMarcus Russell. But how can someone so large learn anything from a man as tiny as Garcia? Time will tell whether the leadership and veteran instincts rub off on Russell, who has been looking very raw since taking the reins in Oakland.

Jake Delhomme fully extended
What’s the first thing you should do when your franchise quarterback throws more passes to the opposing team than his own to end your season? That’s right, contract extension — and a massive one at that. Carolina signed Delhomme to a 5-year deal that he will probably never see the end of as the starting quarterback. I am sure there is logic to it in saving the team a little money now, but Jake isn’t getting any younger. Maybe they’re resting their future on current backup Matt Moore’s Romo-like potential.

Matt Ryan gets his tight end
In a move that might have more impact than anything that happened in the draft, Kansas City traded veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta. Rather than spend a pick on Brandon Pettigrew, the Falcons got Gonzalez at a good price, and they’ll have one of the more weapon-laden offenses in football next season with Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, Gonzalez and Roddy White all threatening opposing defenses. The Gonzalez trade may prove to be exactly what Ryan needed to progress next season into a more fantasy-worthy quarterback.

Now, I think we’ve covered just about everything to get you back into sync with all the latest NFL news before the NFL draft. Drop your questions, discussion items and comments in our brand new commenting system down below and let the predictions for next season begin. I have just one question to start: What exactly is a “rundown” anyway?

Jay Cutler traded to Chicago Bears for Neckbeard. Set your Broncos free.

Jay Cutler is now on his way to The Windy City. For first-round picks in both 2009 and 2010, a third-round pick in 2009 and Kyle Orton — founder and president of the Neckbeard for Men Club, which just so happens to be moving its headquarters to Denver this summer — the Chicago Bears have acquired a Pro Bowl quarterback and an additional fifth-round pick in 2009.

Da Bears

While it’s certainly better than Detroit might have been for the promising young quarterback, this trade leaves Cutler’s status a little iffy. Other than Greg Olsen and the project that is Devin Hester, the Bears don’t offer a lot of talented receivers up as targets. Without Marty Booker, it’s hard to even rely on guys like Rashied Davis for a good circus catch.

Luckily, Jay Cutler’s arm happens to be bionic and stronger than three of John Elway’s arms acting in sync. It’s hard to doubt that he can make something out of the Bears with his arm and his legs, and he’s sure to bring the passing game up a notch across the board — lucky you, Hester and Olsen owners.

Matt Forte could certainly use a boost in the passing game to take the pressure off of him out of the box, but he could fade a bit in his production now that the Bears aren’t constantly feeding him the ball. This new offense is one you’ll want to watch come preseason because there’s no telling what Chicago will do now that they have a quarterback — and not a Rex Grossman. I’d still like Forte as a borderline RB1/RB2, but that could change.

Busted Broncos

As I tweeted earlier — excuse me — you can mark your calendars today as the day the Broncos started a downward slide. Brandon Marshall could soon potentially face another suspension for his continued off-the-field issues; Josh McDaniels is going to try to establish a new offense while running a season of The Apprentice to decide who’s going to carry the ball between J.J. Arrington, Correll Buckhalter, Peyton Hillis, LaMont Jordan, Ryan Torain, Selvin Young and Andre Hall; but at least they have a savior in their new quarterback, Kyle Orton…

Orton is an extreme downgrade. Despite his phenom run last year — during which, he was keeping pace with Peyton Manning in the fantasy points department — he’s an inconsistent signal caller. He limits what the Broncos can do through the air and takes Brandon Marshall down a notch whenever Marshall does get a chance to return to the field.

Eddie Royal, sadly, might drop off the radar entirely unless Marshall is out for a prolonged period of time. It would seem that, at least in the short term, Josh McDaniels is content running the ball with 67 different running backs, so it’s hard to rely on him to keep the passing game up to the level it was at last season. Don’t even start looking to the tight ends. Tony Scheffler could be out of Denver sooner rather than later, and then it all goes to this very scary place where Daniel Graham might be the only one of the field.

In short, maybe it’s time you let your Broncos go. Orton’s worth a chance in 2009 just because of the talent around him — and his relative bargain value as a quarterback. Marshall can’t be passed on even with his potential problems, which could make him a value pick in 2009 anyway. But there’s no telling which running back emerges as the best option, and Eddie Royal could be decent or completely invisible in 2009.

Mark your calendars and thank Josh McDaniels. Today, the Broncos blew apart their fantasy goodness…just when I thought they had so much promise. Does anyone feel good about this new Broncos team?

Mark Schlereth, please explain how this happened.

Houshmandzadeh upgrades Seahawks, downgrades self

With the departure of Bobby Engram to free agency, Seattle was hurting for a reliable target — especially one who wasn’t also hurting like most of Seattle’s receiving corps. Playmaker Deion Branch has been too injury-prone during his time with the team, and none of the Seahawks’ young prospects showed that special spark last season when the wide receiver positions were up for grabs.

That’s probably why they dropped the big contract that T.J. Houshmandzadeh was seeking, five years for $40 million with $15 million guaranteed.

With a limited window for Matt Hasselbeck, the Seahawks need to try to make a run or two at the Super Bowl soon, and I’m sure Housh recognized the Seahawks desire and likelihood of making the postseason out of the relatively easy NFC West.

Other than two rebuilding franchises, the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams, the Seahawks only have the Cardinals to contend with in 2009. The Cardinals, dormant for years, could suffer a setback with the loss of some free agents and the post-Super Bowl slump, which would leave the door open for Seattle.

Holes at running back aside, Housh upgrades Seattle’s ability to move the ball and score in the red zone. As the most trustworthy hands in their arsenal, he’s likely to see most of the action from Hasselbeck, who jumps a couple of notches up fantasy quarterback rankings as long as he’s back in good health this preseason.

If he keeps drinking those Myoplex shakes, he’ll get there.

Hasselbeck’s been pretty low on my list, even last year, with the general evaporation of all that was good out of Seattle. Jumping up a spot or two still won’t break him into my list of reliable starters, but he could be a top backup with Housh as a target.

From Housh, I expect a little less than his usual. 2008 was an off year with Carson Palmer sidelined for the majority of the season, but his 2007 numbers — 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns — are probably his ceiling in Seattle.

A guns-blazing Carson Palmer was putting everything in the air in 2007, but Hasselbeck will likely more limiting early in 2009. Seattle might put the ball on the ground as much as they can despite their lack of a legitimate running back. 

Housh could, however, blow us away with his scoring in the red zone. Without knowing how exactly he’ll fit in the offense for the moment, he probably hits around the third tier at wide receiver. Karabell’s got the right idea.

For now, I wouldn’t call Houshmandzadeh a safe top-10 wide receiver but rather a borderline choice. In his recent Top 200, colleague Matthew Berry placed Houshmandzadeh at No. 46 overall, good for 14th among wide receivers, and with this move he bumped him up to No. 9 among receivers. I slot Houshmandzadeh in at No. 11, behind  Larry Fitzgerald,  Andre Johnson,  Calvin Johnson,  Greg Jennings,  Reggie Wayne,  Steve Smith,  Randy Moss,  Roddy White,  Marques Colston  and  Terrell Owens.

Although I have never seen him as a worldly talent, Houshmandzadeh has outplayed Chad Johnson for several years now. His good hands and ability to run the possession routes should become a trusted asset for Hasselbeck.

Now the Seahawks just have to look to Deion Branch and Nate Burleson to provide the speed and maneuverability on the outside to keep defenses off of their new toy.

T.O. got to go: Cowboys cut controversial receiver

According to ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys just cut Terrell Owens. Not only does this defy some good logic, it also might be the best move for the Cowboys after all.

Jerry Jones obviously spent a lot of time over the offseason speaking to his coaching staff and players about what went wrong in the bust of a season that was 2008. Outside Tony Romo’s injury, the entire team struggled to find an identity on offense, and that confusion allowed the one player that did have one, T.O., to take control.

With that much power, Matt Mosley notes  that T.O. had to go, even with the loss of value.

But in the end, the people he trusts at Valley Ranch may have finally convinced him that T.O. was too divisive a force in the locker room. I talked to a source at Valley Ranch  late Wednesday evening  who said that T.O.’s future was discussed in meetings Wednesday, but that Jones hadn’t made a final decision when most people left the building.

This is a clear admission on Jones’ part that the team couldn’t get to the next level  (winning a playoff game)  with T.O. If you just go on the  receiver’s production (38 TDs in three seasons), it’s hard to believe the Cowboys would move on without him. But T.O. had become the most powerful voice in the locker room and head coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett couldn’t compete with him.

By putting Owens on the street, the Cowboys are dropping the passing game — some pun intended — in the hands of Williams and attempting to justify all those picks they spent to get him.

While he hasn’t quite fallen off yet, T.O. would have begun to decline over the next few seasons, and he probably won’t take it very well as he degrades into a No. 2 receiver. Jones is abandoning the money and reputation he sunk into Owens in order to have Williams fill the void early and save the team more grief.

Let’s hope they saw something in Williams this offseason that looked better than he did last season.

Williams’ fantasy value jumps now that he moves to the No. 1 role, but can we trust a guy who had just 19 catches in a Cowboys uniform in 2008? He doesn’t assume T.O.’s spot in my fantasy wide receiver rankings, but floating the gap between the second and third tier, he’s got some big upside when he clicks with Romo.

Opposite Williams, Miles Austin or Patrick Crayton will have to step up in a big way — and perhaps if Austin wins the job, he’ll finally become that explosive receiver we saw flashes of last season.

It’s likely that this move signifies the Cowboys shift towards the run game. Jason Garrett didn’t know what to do with what he had last season, but in 2009, he knows he can feed the ball to Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.

Maybe this move will turn the Cowboys around and get them a playoff win, but we all know Jon Kitna’s going to be the real reason they make it to the postseason … right?

The real tragedy here is for T.O. who just wanted to end his career as a Cowboy.

Owens told the Dallas Morning News in May 2008 he “definitely” wanted to finish his career with the Cowboys.

Now we have another unemployed, aging industry veteran who’s got to find a new job while  re-examining his personal life in his new reality show. Blame the economy.

Laveranues Coles copies Harrison, gets released

Let’s not get crazy here. Just because Marvin Harrison does something, that doesn’t mean all the old, aging receivers in the league have to do it.

But no one told that to Laveranues Coles. Coles is so confident that he can get a long-term deal in free agency that he was willing to give up the $6 million the Jets would have paid him next season.

Coles thinks he can play for another three or four years, but the Jets apparently didn’t feel the same. The team agreed to release him amicably before the start of  free agency but still might work out a deal.

Coles has been convinced of his value long-term by his agent Roosevelt Barnes, who must have met Coles at the last meeting of the ridiculously-formal-sounding name club.

Sure, there’s a team or two out there looking for receivers, but I’m sure they’d rather have a T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Anquan Boldin or even Plaxico Burress before a Coles.

Coles, much like Harrison, is a fading talent. He’s dropped in fantasy rankings with the departure of Brett Favre, and it’s hard to see him finding a situation within the NFL that makes him any more relevant to fantasy football.

Tampa Bay, with their open bag of cap space, has been a safe haven for veterans in recent years,  Weekend at Bernie’s-ing Joey Galloway for most of the modern century, but even that love affair came to an end when the Bucs cancelled their social security policy and released a slew of veterans.

Will the Eagles take him? Unlikely. Donovan McNabb would probably rather have Marvin Harrison than Coles, and neither would really show a huge effort on the Eagles’ part to improve his targets.

I guess he’s got a shot in Miami depending on how much he really likes that Chad Pennington guy.

Coles is most likely bound for a few meetings with a handful of teams, a few phone calls to Roosevelt about the proper spelling of “Laveranues” and, after all that time wasted, a new contract with the Jets.

He should just hope his new one is somewhere close to the money he just left on the table.