Off-season Update: Quick hits at wide receiver, tight end and cornerback [NFL News]

Most of the moves made in the last several weeks have no immediate fantasy impact. Backups are still moving from team to team, but a few starters finally landed at wide receiver in the last couple of weeks.

FANTASY WATCH-WORTHY MOVES

The 49ers dropped Darrell Jackson after his disappointing 2007 and added Bryant Johnson. I would have liked to see Johnson end up in Buffalo where he might have been a compliment to Lee Evans, but he is daring and will take his chances in the new Mike Martz system.

He will get his chance to be a number 1 wide receiver. I don’t expect Isaac Bruce to make a Randy Moss-like revival out there, and Arnaz Battle can’t put up much of a fight.

Ben Utecht escaped the shadow of Dallas Clark to Cincinnati this week when the Colts decided not to match the Bengals offer. Utecht showed some ability with the Colts, and he will become a key target for Carson Palmer in 2008 especially if Ocho Cinco (Chad Johnson) keeps his act up and leaves.

D.J. Hackett finally found someone to answer his agent’s phone calls this offseason and signed with the Carolina Panthers. All the dynasty owners of Dwayne Jarrett just died inside.

Jarrett probably won’t hit the field for awhile now that Carolina has signed Muhsin Muhammad and Hackett unless this move scares him straight. Hackett and Muhammad should be able to open up the field for Steve Smith to make a comeback in production for 2008.

Kickers become fantasy-relevant for once outside of a close fantasy showdown now that Jason Elam has left the high altitude of Colorado to boot for the Falcons in 2008. It’s a tought loss for Denver since Elam won more games than any other single Bronco in 2007. While they search for a replacement, Elam will have to adjust to kicking in Southern humidity. I think he’ll be okay.

The DeAngelo Hall deal finally got done, so now he’s an overpaid Raider, too. The Raiders now have an even better secondary with Nnamdi Asomugha and Hall. Rumor was that they want to nickname the cornerback pair “Haul Ass-o” but Nnamdi won’t go for it.

YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH BACKUPS

Quinn Gray signed on to be the second/third quarterback for the Houston Texans. This signing puts the wise Sage Rosenfels in danger of being traded if an offer comes the Texans’ way, or they just want to be VERY secure at the QB position if Matt Schaub goes down again in 2008.

Bubba Franks signed on to the Jets but will likely just provide veteran leadership behind Chris Baker and endless Bubba jokes for the locker room.

NEWS THAT MIGHT INTRIGUE YOU

Brandon Marshall got so upset after last week’s episode of Lost that he put his fist through a TV. He might be out for up to four months.

Just let that be a lesson to you to always pick up your McDonald’s slop after a late night Big Mac binge. I’m not too concerned. He’ll probably be back in shape for training camp and be in line for a breakout season as long as there is no lasting nerve damage.

The Patriots have been taking a look at Josh Johnson, the little known quarterback loved by many scouts and experts as a potential sleeper quarterback of the future. The theory is that the Patriots might try to convert him to a wide receiver if they draft him in a later.

What? They aren’t going to get rid of that Tom Brady guy? Maybe Josh can work the camera until he becomes Brady’s favorite target. He has the potential to be a QB in the NFL if someone puts the time into working him into it.

Free agents, controversial players on the move pre-Combine [NFL Rumors]

What better way to start day 1 of the NFL Combine coverage than with a collection of trade and free agency rumors from around the NFL. There are several key free agents making moves out there that you should keep your eye on for fantasy football in 2008.

After making his rounds around the Patriots and Saints, Zach Thomas signed with the Cowboys. His $3 million salary isn’t as much as his stats, but it’s not about the money. Thomas wanted to return to his hometown team and hopes to be able to be tackling for the Cowboys rather than hitting linemen. Thomas could be a high impact player for the Cowboys defense, a unit that did well for fantasy owners in 2007 already.

Rex Grossman signed for another year with Chicago as “the starter.” He got replaced last year after a poor start, so there’s nothing stopping Lovie Smith from replacing mid-season in 2008. The quarterback situation for the Bears probably won’t be worked out until after the draft and training camp, but there are rumors that Brian Griese may have played his last ball in Chicago.

While the talk has been that Alge Crumpler would be happy in Carolina next season after Atlanta released him, the Tennessee Titans have an interest in him for 2008. With Bo Scaife hurt and possibly not starting immediately in 2007, and Ben Troupe probably on his way out, Vince Young could use another tight end target. The Titans utilized the tight end effectively in 2007 with Scaife being third on the team in receptions and receiving yards, so Crumpler might find a productive situation there like he had with Michael Vick in Atlanta.

Tampa Bay is considering a trade with the Denver Broncos for the unhappy Javon Walker. Although he had a bum knee this season, Walker still have a playmaker ability within him that the Bucs could use. It wouldn’t be a very long-term solution for Tampa Bay though since their receivers are all getting up there in age. They might not be willing to make a good enough deal for Walker and could take a young rookie in the draft instead.

After saying he wanted to stay in Atlanta, DeAngelo Hall didn’t receive the warm welcome he wanted from the new coaching staff, and he went off to reporters that he wants out. According to the latest rumors, both the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins are interested. The Giants are probably more likely to deal for him and could seriously use him with all the poor secondary play they had early in 2007. The Dolphins have expressed interest in Hall and Troy Williamson of the Minnesota Vikings. They likely would only take Hall if they had a good deal for him considering Parcells probably doesn’t want Hall’s off the field drama.

Fullback Lorenzo Neal is on the block with the Chargers. He is 37, but he might still have a good year or two left in him. He spent the last several years blocking for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, so it will be interesting to see whether L.T.’s running game is affected if Neal goes.

Now for players who are staying put…

If you think Rudi Johnson‘s 2007 running game for the Cincinnati Bengals had declined, you might find him a changed man in 2008. Rudi plans to put on weight this offseason and return to his power running game. If he achieves his goal, he could surprise in 2008 and might be a steal come fantasy draft day.

Speaking of player with a lull in 2007, Lee Evans may get some help with the Buffalo Bill. Evans, as the only passing threat of the Bills, was horribly double-teamed and shut down this season. To help him out, the Bills are rumored to be taking a big wide receiver like Malcolm Kelly from Oklahoma or possibly DeSean Jackson from Cal. Depending on Trent Edwards’ development, the Buffalo Bills could have a very improved passing game in 2008.

The Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, are looking for some speed in the running back department. While they love Edgerrin James for his production in 2007, they want a change up back that can hit those homerun drives–like a Ahmad Bradshaw or Adrian Peterson–and they will seek one in the draft ths year.

Going for Broke: Sure things and daring moves to win Week 15 in fantasy football

Well, it’s probably round 2 of the playoffs for most of you. Some of you may already be drowning your sorrows in a bottle of fine liquor–or a jar of Papa’s moonshine.

For the sober ones, it’s beyond time to start plotting next week. What studs does your opponent have? Who will have a big week to save you? If you have studs in a big match up, you are set–and we all hate you. If you are lacking in a few key areas, you may need to take some risks to put down the Tom Brady or Randy Moss owner in your future.

First, some pretty obvious things. Several studs are lined up to have big games and should stay on your starting roster.

STUDS THIS WEEK

  • Joseph Addai   against OAK
    He’s my pick of the week to have a big game against the worst run defense in the NFL. Just look at what Ryan Grant did to them last week.
  • Willis McGahee against MIA
    Even though he struggled last week, he couldn’t ask for a more powerful bounce back match up. Miami allowed 2 100-yard rushers in a single game last week against Buffalo, so what if McGahee just makes it 200+?
  • Kurt Warner against NO
    Kurt Warner likes to pretend he’s a pitcher and throw the ball for the entire game. It just so happens that he gets the Saints defense this week. They like to act like a horrible baseball outfield and just watch the balls sail over their head.
  • Drew Brees against ARI
    With the above message in mind, Brees is going to have to keep up if Warner really turns it on this week. While he’s not as much of a lock as Warner, he will definitely be putting it up big this week.
  • Earnest Graham against ATL
    The Hawks are broken and feeling a little bit rejected this week with Petrino leaving them. I don’t think they will even be able to sleep without a light on with all those feelings of abandonment, and the league took away all their dogs. Graham is a solid runner, and he will put the hurt on them this week.
  • Carson Palmer against SF
    It’s San Francisco, people.
  • Jamal Lewis against BUF
    While Buffalo was getting those 200+ yards rushing, Miami’s Samkon Gado was getting 2 TDs against the Buffalo defense. Expect Jamal Lewis to be able to do some damage after the bruising performance he showed this week.

What? Did I not mention any Patriots? No LT?   Don’t worry. If you have a stud rated at the top and performing hot all season, you should feel safe starting them, and I don’t think you need my advice.

For those of you that need a little daring this week, he is your chance-y plays of the week. They could be big enough to get you over a hump, or they could be snubbed and snub your championship hopes. Say a little prayer for each of them, and only play them if you have a huge deficit to overcome with your week 15 opponent or no other options.

DARING PLAYS THIS WEEK

  •  Lee Evans against CLE
    Buffalo wants to win and lock in a playoff appearance. Now that Trent Edwards has met Lee Evans, they might hook up again with the Browns being one of the worst receiving defenses (30/32). He will either get his due TDs or he will get nothing, and the Bills will lose.
  • Bernard Berrian against MIN
    You can’t run on Minnesota–unless you are Ryan Grant. Berrian will be a key performer if the Bears win this week. The only risk is whether Kyle Orton can come off the bench at QB to make him a star. Better hope his star shines bright, but Berrian could put up a TD and plenty of yardage if he has a good day.
  • Trent Edwards against CLE
    Much like Lee Evans, he is hit or miss. He will either be on and winning the game with his arm, or he will let us all down.
  • Darius Walker against DEN
    Denver’s defense is unpredictable, but as the lead in the RBBC that is now going to operate for the Texans, Walker has the best chance of making them look bad again if he can get the running game going in this one. He could save you or just put up enough numbers to be average and let you lose.
  • Derrick Mason/Mark Clayton against MIA
    With so many passes going out last week over Miami defender’s heads, you would expect one of these guys to have a big game with at least one TD. My money would be on Mark Clayton, but it all depends on whether the Ravens find TOO much success running the football and just stick with Willis McGahee.
  • Jabar Gaffney against NYJ
    Gaffney is consistently getting looks in the zone. Considering the bad blood between these two teams, the Patriots wide receivers could all get big days, and Gaffney could receive a hefty load of that–more so than the likes of Stallworth.
  • Jerheme Urban against NO
    Urban could benefit from a lot of Warner passing this week especially if Boldin sits this one out. Keep your eye on the injury report, but keep in mind that Bryant Johnson could also take some catches. It’s a gamble who takes any TDs from Larry Fitzgerald in this one.
  • Sidney Rice against CHI
    Rice has the ability to take it to the house with every catch. If Tavaris continues to develop, he could get at least one TD in this one against the Bears. He’s probably the most risky play at receiver, but he could pay off in a pinch. It’s possible.

If you still have questions or you just find yourself feeling lonely and vulnerable after absorbing all that, feel free to comment and have the fantasy football genie answer all your questions. Just give me a heads up. It takes awhile to rub this lamp.