Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Derrick Ward sent packing

Hope you didn't draft Derrick Ward this year.

At least not if you figured he'd be a factor with the Tampa Bay Bucs, who cut Ward on Tuesday, one year after signing him to a four-year, $17.5 million contract. It's also two years after he rushed for more than 1,000 yards with the New York Giants.

The writing was on the wall for Ward, who failed to impress last year or this preseason and whose release will only cost the Bucs about $3 million this year. He was outplayed in 2010 by Kareem Huggins, a 24-year-old Hofstra product who didn't get a carry last year as a rookie with the Bucs but who should be Cadillac Williams' backup on Week 1. And if you know anything about Caddy's injury history, you know that Huggins is just a snapped tendon away from being Tampa Bay's starting tailback. Both Williams and Huggins should be moved up on your draft board accordingly.

As for Ward, I suppose he's still worth keeping tabs on, depending on where he ends up, as the season progresses. Granted, he's 30 and came to Bucs camp out of shape ... but Ward doesn't have a lot of mileage on him for a back his age after spending much of his career as a practice-squad player/third-stringer. He proved what he can do as a change-of-pace back when paired with Brandon Jacobs in '07. I could see him being a fantasy factor later this season if he lands in the right situation, but for now he's not worth a roster spot in all but the deepest of leagues.

Photo by The Associated Press

Draft recap: How my team looks

We held the 5th annual Newsroom Fantasy League draft over the weekend at Buffalo Wild Wings (highly recommend their draft party deal, by the way). We expanded from 10 to 12 teams this year, and by random draw I ended up with the 10th overall pick. I'm also the defending champion.

We have to carry 2 QBs, 4 RBs, 4 WRs, 2 TEs, 2 Ks and 2 D/ST. Regular scoring rules and a snake draft.

Here's how my squad turned out, with round of selection in parentheses and commentary below:


QB Tony Romo (3)
QB Chad Henne (11)

RB Ryan Grant (2)
RB Felix Jones (4)
RB Marion Barber (6)
RB Donald Brown (8)

WR Randy Moss (1)
WR Hakeem Nicks (5)
WR Mike Wallace (7)
WR Mike Williams (9)

TE Owen Daniels (10)
TE John Carlson (14)

K Ryan Longwell (13)
K Matt Bryant (16)

DEF Steelers (12)
DEF Browns (15)

Chose Randy Moss over Steven Jackson with my first pick at No. 10 overall. The running backs were flying off the board and S-Jax was probably a good value at that point, but I just don't have a good feeling about him this year.

Wasn't planning to have so many Cowboys on my team, but that's the way it worked out. I had to go RB with my second pick (Ryan Grant) and then sweat it out until the third round to grab the last elite QB (Tony Romo) left. That made Felix Jones a little more appealing to me as my second RB, and Marion Barber was the best remaining RB in Round 6. I'm very aware of the Cowboys' offensive struggles this preseason, thank you.

I could tell I was a little higher on my WRs than the rest of the league. I got Hakeem Nicks in the fifth round and Mike Wallace in the seventh, and I believe they can both produce like solid WR2s.

Mike Williams of the Bucs was kind of a sleeper in the ninth round. Ditto for Donald Brown in the eighth as my RB4 - he was the one remaining back that offered the most upside if his team's No. 1 (Joseph Addai) were to miss any time.

A little concerned about my No. 1 TE (Owen Daniels) since he's coming off a torn ACL and he could be questionable for Week 1 of the regular season. But I decided to wait on a TE until the 10th round after some of the others I was targeting (Brent Celek, Zach Miller) were swiped from me. But I still think Daniels offers huge upside if he can put the injury behind him, and I feel like I have a solid, top-15 backup (John Carlson) as insurance.

I have Ryan Longwell as the No. 2 kicker on my board but I believe he was the fifth one taken. Matt Bryant is just a flier since he'll kick in a dome in Atlanta for a decent offense.

Defenses are a crapshoot, but the Steelers are usually a safe pick. I don't particularly like the Browns, but I do like the idea of Josh Cribbs returning kicks.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

8/28 Sleeper of the Day: Arian Foster


I see this guy as an ideal RB3. He's got the potential to be a steal, but if he falls flat on his face it won't absolutely kill you.

Foster, a rookie in 2009, didn't get a carry until mid-December, and it wasn't until a few games later that he really got rolling. Then he couldn't be stopped. He rumbled for 97 yards and a TD on 19 carries in Week 16 against Miami, then sliced up the Patriots for 119 yards and 2 TDs on 20 carries in Week 17.

The Texans had been searching for a ground game all year behind a disappointing rotation of Chris Brown, Ryan Moats and major fantasy bust Steve Slaton, and Foster was arguably their most effective back, the only one to average more than 4 yards a carry. Yet Houston decided to go out and draft big Ben Tate from Auburn in the second round to compete for a starting position.

The good news for Foster is Tate suffered a season-ending ankle injury this preseason, so the job is his to lose. He's shown he can compete at the NFL level, but since those big performances came during the traditional fantasy playoffs and/or championship week last year, a lot of owners might not have noticed them. Couple that with the heavy preseason touting of Tate by a lot of publications, and you a have a recipe for a fantasy sleeper. Start looking for Foster in the fifth or sixth round.

Photo by The Associated Press

Friday, August 27, 2010

8/27 Bust of the Day: Chad Ochocinco

I'm torn over everybody's favorite reality star. On one hand, it's almost hard to take him seriously as a football player because of all the Twittering and self-promoting off the field and silliness on it. He's also 32 years old and appears to be past his prime, when he was catching 90-plus passes a year with regularity.

On the other hand, Ocho did have 72 receptions, 1,047 yards and 9 TDs in 2009, numbers that are nothing to sniff at and which represented a bounce-back year for him. The flip side is that 2008 was a real clunker - 53 catches, 540 yards (10.2 yards a reception) and  just 4 TDs.

So what can we expect this year? Ocho's still the Bengals' No. 1 option, but his supporting cast is much improved with the additions of Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant and rookie Jordan Shipley. Can QB Carson Palmer keep them all happy? Will Palmer's arm hold up all year? Or will Cincinnati lean on workhorse back Cedric Benson?

My gut tells me Ochocinco still has some life left in him, his rapport with Palmer will still be there, and the addition of T.O., while a potential headache-inducer, will also loosen up some coverages. I think he'll have fantasy value. But I believe people will overpay for him on draft day because of his name and past reputation alone. He's being selected, on average, as the 15th WR off the board in ESPN leagues right now, which sounds OK, but I wouldn't go any higher than that. I could see younger wideouts like Hakeem Nicks, Mike Wallace, Pierre Garcon or Michael Crabtree outperforming him, or at least equaling his best-case-scenario stats, while coming at a lower price.

Ochocinco's a low-end No. 2 for me, and a risky one at that.

National nightmare: Strasburg needs Tommy John surgery

Stephen Strasburg likely needs Tommy John surgery.

That's a terrible blow to the Washington Nationals' franchise pitcher and to the game of baseball, who counted Strasburg as its most electrifying rookie in recent memory.

It's also a killer for fantasy owners who were counting on Strasburg to be their savior during the stretch run of the season. And even if you aren't close to contending for a championship in 2010, you may have at least been looking forward to keeping Strasburg and building your squad around him next year. Unfortunately, TJ surgery comes with at least a 12- to 18-month recovery process, meaning Strasburg won't be available until 2012.

We saw red flags when the phenom had a DL stint a month ago with shoulder inflammation. Then he came back, made three starts, got pulled from Saturday's game against Philadelphia, and the rest is history. If you were able to capitalize on all the hype and trade Strasburg at his peak value, good for you. If not, I'm sorry.

All we're left with is some impressive 2010 stats (5-3, 2.91 ERA, 92 strikeouts in 68 innings) and the hope that he'll someday realize his potential. Tommy John surgery isn't a death sentence for a career - current aces Chris Carpenter, Francisco Liriano and Josh Johnson have all made successful recoveries in recent years. But all those comebacks took time, and that's what Strasburg needs right now.

Good luck, kid.

Photo by The Associated Press

2010 TE Rankings

The tight end position is deeper than ever. Long gone are the days of praying for Shannon Sharpe or getting stuck with somebody who spends most of his time blocking.

Sure, you had Dallas Clark (100 catches, 1,106 yards) and Vernon Davis (13 TDs) putting up WR-caliber numbers last year, but if you miss out on the top couple guys, all is not lost. Check this out: In 2009, eight TEs had 800 or more yards, and 11 had six or more TDs. In 2008, there were five and five, respectively. In 2007? Four and seven. Feel me?

The TE ranks are loaded, so you should adjust your draft strategy accordingly. You can grab one of the top-tier guys starting around Round 5 if the big WRs are off the board, or you can wait out a run on TEs not suffer that much of a drop-off.

As you peruse my rankings you'll notice a few things:

I put young guns Jermichael Finley and Brent Celek in the top five, at the expense of stalwarts like Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. I just think they both have more upside, but I'd be content with just about everyone in the top 11 as my starter.

It'll be interesting to see how the Chris Cooley/Fred Davis pass distribution works out with Donovan McNabb taking over as QB in Washington. Those guys could hurt each other, or one could emerge as a top-10 fantasy TE. We'll just have to wait and see.

You'll notice I'm not too high on Greg Olsen, who I tabbed as one of my busts a few weeks back. Mike Martz won't do any favors for his fantasy value.

Remember when Jeremy Shockey was among the cream of the crop? If the guy could stay off the trainer's table, he might still be there. But even if he can't play 16 games, he'll get enough good looks in New Orleans to be a solid fantasy backup.

Looking for a really deep sleeper? How about Jared Cook in Tennessee? He had a rough rookie year (9 catches, ankle injury, residence in coaches' doghouse), but he's 6-foot-5 and 242 pounds with 4.4 speed, for gosh sakes, he's only got Bo Scaife ahead of him on the Titans depth chart. He could do something.

1. Antonio Gates
2. Dallas Clark
3. Jermichael Finley
4. Brent Celek
5. Vernon Davis
6. Tony Gonzalez
7. Jason Witten
8. Zach Miller
9. Visanthe Shiancoe
10. Kellen Winslow II
11. Owen Daniels
12. Chris Cooley
13. Heath Miller
14. John Carlson
15. Kevin Boss
16. Greg Olsen
17. Dustin Keller
18. Jeremy Shockey
19. Tony Scheffler
20. Fred Davis
21. Anthony Fasano
22. Todd Heap
23. Marcedes Lewis
24. Ben Watson
25. Bo Scaife
26. Jermaine Gresham
27. Brandon Pettigrew
28. Aaron Hernandez
29. Jared Cook
30. Shawn Nelson

Photo by The Associated Press

Thursday, August 26, 2010

8/26 Sleeper of the Day: Mike Bell


Here's an offseason move that flew under the radar. Bell signed a 1-year, $1.7 million deal with Philly after compiling 654 yards and 5 TDs for the Super Bowl champion Saints. He began the year as a feature back in New Orleans, running for 143 yards on 28 carries in Week 1, but after that he settled into a rotation with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia last year, Brian Westbrook got hurt, rookie LeSean McCoy had some growing pains, and the Eagles were forced to give fullback Leonard Weaver a career-high 70 carries in an attempt to solve their short-yardage woes.

Fast-forward a year and Westbrook's gone, McCoy's the No. 1 back and Bell was brought in to back him up and handle some of those short-yardage/goal-line duties. With McCoy still getting his feet wet in the NFL and largely untested Kevin Kolb taking over at QB, I can foresee Bell getting a good amount of work this year, especially in the red zone. At 220 pounds he's a power runner and a good complement to McCoy's skill set, and though the Eagles aren't a run-heavy team, Bell will have his fair share of opportunity. He'll make a sneaky good fill-out-your-roster RB at the end of your draft and a great insurance policy for McCoy owners.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

8/25 Bust of the Day: C.J. Spiller


Fantasy geeks are going ga-ga over Spiller this preseason, and I can't say I blame them. If you've seen the speedster play at Clemson, caught the preseason highlight in the video above, or heard the news about fellow Buffalo backs Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson being injured, there's much to be excited about.

I don't doubt that Spiller has the talent to be a future NFL star, and I believe he'll be a worthwhile fantasy choice this year. I'm just cautioning that the rookie deserves to be an RB3 at the start of the year, no higher. Yes he's got a chance to be Buffalo's No. 1 back in Week 1 - but it's Buffalo! The offensive line was terrible last year and the QB play was subpar, and they've done next to nothing to improve either in 2010. The versatile Jackson did manage a 1,000-yard rushing total last year with the Bills, but is Spiller ready to take on that kind of workhorse role? He was originally slotted in as a "hybrid" player, a change-of-pace back, and he may still play that role when Jackson returns somewhere by Week 2. But I question whether new Bills head man Chan Gailey (who hasn't been an NFL head coach since 1999) even knows what he's doing here and will be able to maximize Spiller's potential.

Again, I believe in the talent, but I can't elevate Spiller to being a top-20 RB yet. I like him as a No. 3, but even then I'd be more inclined to take another rookie runner, Jahvid Best, a Spiller clone who has a better supporting cast around him in Detroit.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2010 RB Rankings


This year's top four are more or less no-brainers for me, but then you'll spot a few surprises. I have Frank Gore of the run-heavy 49ers, the rejuvenated Michael Turner and the always dangerous Steven Jackson in the next tier of runners. I do have my annual concerns about S-Jax, who still has a weak supporting cast around him.

Next up are a few feature backs I expect to see a ton of carries, Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Grant, and a surprise at No. 10, Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs. The breakout star of the second half of 2009 is going a lot later than many of the other backs on this list. but I believe he has the talent to produce like a top-10 RB.

I have Arian Foster ranked higher than many other experts, but with the season-ending injury to Ben Tate and the Texans' glaring need for a feature back, I think the rookie has a real opportunity in 2010.

You may also be surprised to see Michael Bush ahead of Reggie Bush, and I don't know if that says more about how much I like Michael or how much I dislike Reggie this year. Either way, I think they're best suited to be No. 4 fantasy backs in most leagues. Move Reggie up a bit in PPR leagues, of course.

I'm pretty high on Ahmad Bradshaw this year because I like his talent, I believe he's healthy, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him outperform Brandon Jacobs this year for the Giants.

I don't believe the Cardinals will be stubborn enough to favor Tim Hightower over Beanie Wells for the majority of 2010, and I've ranked the two players accordingly.

Looking for a deep, deep sleeper? The camp reports haven't been great and he's battling a shoulder injury, but I'm a fan of Steelers rookie Jonathan Dwyer. It might take him a year, but I think he can evolve into a good goal-line back. Stay tuned.

1. Chris Johnson
2. Adrian Peterson
3. Maurice Jones-Drew
4. Ray Rice
5. Frank Gore
6. Michael Turner
7. Steven Jackson
8. Rashard Mendenhall
9. Ryan Grant
10. Jamaal Charles
11. Cedric Benson
12. DeAngelo Williams
13. Ryan Matthews
14. Shonn Greene
15. Beanie Wells
16. Knowshon Moreno
17. Pierre Thomas
18. Jonathan Stewart
19. Felix Jones
20. Ronnie Brown
21. LeSean McCoy
22. Joseph Addai
23. Arian Foster
24. Brandon Jacobs
25. Justin Forsett
26. Matt Forte
27. Ricky Williams
28. Jahvid Best
29. C.J. Spiller
30. Marion Barber
31. Ahmad Bradshaw
32. Jerome Harrison
33. Clinton Portis
34. Michael Bush
35. Reggie Bush
36. Donald Brown
37. Fred Jackson
38. Cadillac Williams
39. Thomas Jones
40. LaDainian Tomlinson
41. Darren Sproles
42. Darren McFadden
43. Montario Hardesty
44. Tim Hightower
45. Steve Slaton
46. Chester Taylor
47. Laurence Maroney
48. Willis McGahee
49. Correll Buckhalter
50. Kevin Smith
51. Anthony Dixon
52. Mike Bell
53. Fred Taylor
54. Rashad Jennings
55. Toby Gerhart
56. Larry Johnson
57. Tashard Choice
58. Bernard Scott
59. Leon Washington
60. Jonathan Dwyer

8/24 Sleeper of the Day: Mike Williams


The Bucs are desperate for some playmakers. Why not this kid?

Williams has been a revelation in training camp so far, starring in two preseason games and already capturing a starting job at split end. He’s easily been the most impressive Bucs wideout in a group that includes vets Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall, Reggie Brown and Sammie Stroughter, plus fellow Class of 2010 draftee Arrelious Benn, who was taken a whole two rounds earlier than fourth-rounder Williams. The Syracuse product - not to be confused with the bust from USC who's attempting a comeback in Seattle - fell that far in April mostly because of character issues, but the Bucs have faith he’ll be a solid citizen in Tampa Bay. He’s rewarded them by looking like a star in the making and a possible go-to guy for franchise QB Josh Freeman.

Let’s not kid ourselves here, of course: The Bucs will have their struggles this season, and it’s always risky to count on a rookie wide receiver. Williams would also lose most of his value if Freeman’s thumb injury doesn’t heal quickly. But when you’re digging for that WR4 or WR5 at the tail end of your draft, this 6-2, 204-pounder is the kind of intriguing option that should catch your eye. I placed him at a generous 40th in my WR rankings for 2010, which would make him one of the last receivers taken in a 10-team league.

Monday, August 23, 2010

2010 WR Rankings


There are a lot of familiar names in the top 10, but after that things really get interesting. Old standbys like Terrell Owens and Roy Williams have been replaced in the top 20 by some exciting newcomers (Michael Crabtree, Hakeem Nicks, Mike Wallace to name three) who look like they could be fantasy No. 1s in the near future.

There's also a lot of uncertainty because of injury (Wes Welker), suspension (Santonio Holmes) or contract disputes (Vincent Jackson). You'll want to remain flexible in the case of late breaking reports on any of these players before your draft.

Unfortunately, we may have to wait for the regular season to see how the distribution of passes plays out as teams like Chicago (Johnny Knox/Devin Hester/Devin Aromashodu/Earl Bennett), Oakland (Louis Murphy/Darrius Heyward-Bey/Chaz Schilens), Arizona (Larry Fitzgerald/Steve Breaston/Early Doucet) and Denver (Demaryius Thomas/Jabar Gaffney/Eddie Royal) figure to have new looks on offense. There are likely to be breakout WRs lurking in all those situations, but your task is to find them in the later rounds. Good luck.

1. Andre Johnson
2. Randy Moss
3. Calvin Johnson
4. Larry Fitzgerald
5. Roddy White
6. Reggie Wayne
7. Greg Jennings
8. DeSean Jackson
9. Brandon Marshall
10. Marques Colston
11. Steve Smith (Panthers)
12. Anquan Boldin
13. Sidney Rice
14. Steve Smith (Giants)
15. Michael Crabtree
16. Dwayne Bowe
17. Chad Ochocinco
18. Hakeem Nicks
19. Mike Wallace
20. Mike Sims-Walker
21. Hines Ward
22. Pierre Garcon
23. Wes Welker
24. Vincent Jackson
25. Robert Meachem
26. Donald Driver
27. Santana Moss
28. Kenny Britt
29. Jerricho Cotchery
30. Derrick Mason
31. Dez Bryant
32. TJ Houshmandzadeh
33. Jeremy Maclin
34. Johnny Knox
35. Steve Breaston
36. Lee Evans
37. Percy Harvin
38. Braylon Edwards
39. Santonio Holmes
40. Mike Williams (Bucs)
41. Early Doucet
42. Terrell Owens
43. Louis Murphy
44. Devin Hester
45. Nate Burleson
46. Kevin Walter
47. Malcolm Floyd
48. Golden Tate
49. Chaz Schilens
50. Mohamed Massaqoi
51. Demaryious Thomas
52. Donnie Avery
53. Bernard Berrian
54. Mario Manningham
55. Devery Henderson
56. Anthony Gonzalez
57. Jabar Gaffney
58. Chris Chambers
59. Eddie Royal
60. Laurent Robinson
61. Arrelious Benn
62. Dexter McCluster
63. Devin Thomas
64. Austin Collie
65. Jacoby Jones
66. Lance Moore
67. Jacoby Jones
68. Joey Galloway
69. Antonio Bryant
70. Nate Washington

8/23 Bust of the Day: Larry Fitzgerald


I don't doubt Fitzgerald's talent. I'm not saying he won't be a No. 1 fantasy wideout this season. But to quote just about every character in the Star Wars movies, I have a bad feeling about this.

Maybe it's the fact Matt Leinart is taking over the reins as Cards QB from the prolific Kurt Warner. Maybe it's the sprained right knee Fitzgerald's already dealing with this preseason. Maybe it's the residue of the Madden Curse that never really struck him last year (but cost co-cover boy Troy Polamalu most of his season). You know what they say about karma ...

But seriously, there are plenty of reasons to worry about Fitzgerald this year. He's not going to have Anquan Boldin around anymore to put pressure on opposing secondaries. And you may remember Fitzgerald's last subpar season (946 yards, 6 TDs in 13 games in 2006) just happened to be the year Arizona was trying to break in Leinart as their starting QB. Now, Leinart is a better QB today then he was as a rookie (presumably) - but can he replace Warner's production? Will more targets come Fitzgerald's way with Boldin out of the picture, or will Arizona just lean more heavily on Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower in the running game?

That's an awful lot of question marks for a WR who I've seen go in the first round in some mock drafts. I still don't have a problem making Fitzgerald my No. 1 WR ... but I'm not sure I'd take him over Andre Johnson or Randy Moss, or even Calvin Johnson. I'm labeling him a bust because I don't think he's the shoe-in for 1,300 yards or double-digit TDs many are tabbing him to be.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

8/22 Sleeper of the Day: Aaron Hernandez


One of Tim Tebow's favorite targets in college, Hernandez now has the chance to be Tom Brady's boy in New England. The 2010 fourth-rounder won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end in his junior season for the Gators and offers the Pats a much-needed offensive threat at the position.

Now, anyone who's had a New England player not named Brady or Randy Moss on their fantasy squad in the past few seasons can tell you the team's offensive philosophy can be maddening. They alter their gameplans so much from week to week and utilize such a variety of players in many different ways that it's hard to see any kind of consistency. Consider this year's stable of TEs: Hernandez, fellow rookie Rob Gronkowski and former fantasy star Alge Crumpler have lined up all over the field this preseason for the Pats (split out wide or in the slot as receivers; as wing backs and fullbacks; plus at the traditional TE spot) and will all be vying for catches this year.

For those reasons, none of those guys is going to be a weekly fantasy contributor you can count on in 2010, but I'd be willing to bet they all have their moments. And I bet Hernandez, the most physically gifted receiver of the three, will have the most moments that are fantasy relevant. He already has seven catches for 72 yards and a TD through two preseason games and has started both contests. I predict a few big games out of the rookie when the matchups dictate, and he could be a sneaky No. 2 TE pick at the end of 12-team drafts. At the very least he'll be someone to watch on the waiver wire.

Photo by The Associated Press

Friday, August 20, 2010

8/20 Bust of the Day: Mike Sims-Walker


Sims-Walker's emergence in 2009 was one of those pleasant surprises that pops up every year in fantasy. The second-year receiver was an afterthought at the start of the year but finished with 869 yards and 7 TDs, proving to be one of the season's best waiver wire pickups.

Skip ahead to 2010 and Sims-Walker is being touted as a solid WR2 and a breakout candidate according to the third-year receiver theory. But before we get carried away, let's think this through, shall we?

MSW wasn't a big-time prospect when he was taken in the third round of the 2007 draft out of UCF - not that that's a prerequisite for fantasy success, but it does have some bearing. He was able to take a lot of people by surprise last year but won't have that advantage now that there's a full season of tape on him for opponents to study. The Jags are also still searching for another credible WR to line up opposite MSW. Second-year pro Mike Thomas might be that man - reports are that he's actually outplayed Sims-Walker at times this camp, another troublesome development - but the jury's still out. And Jacksonville QB David Garrard also has to be considered a question mark as he hasn't shown much improvement since becoming a full-time starter.

A closer look at Sims-Walker's numbers last year reveals he had just three 100-yard games (against Arizona, St. Louis and Kansas City), and he trailed off badly in the second half as he was plagued by nagging injuries. He also had a puzzling habit of playing much better at home than on the road, averaging 5.5 catches, 80 yards and .75 TDs a game in the J-A-X and 3.2 catches, 37 yards and .16 TDs per road game.

In short, I'm just not sold on this guy as a No. 2 fantasy receiver I can count on, and I think there are others with more upside.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2010 QB Rankings

A surprise at the top: Aaron Rodgers is the No. 1 QB in my preseason rankings.

Drew Brees got more pub last year - winning a Super Bowl will do that - but it was actually Rodgers who had more pass attempts and more yards than the Saints star. The Other A-Rod threw 30 TDs, four fewer than Brees, but he also rushed for 5 TDs to Brees' 2, and he tossed four fewer INTs than New Orleans' leader.

Rodgers isn't sneaking up on anyone like last year, and he certainly won't come as cheaply in your fantasy draft. But he's younger than Brees, is a more dangerous rusher and has his full complement of weapons back this year. Plus, he put up last year's excellent numbers despite taking a league-high 50 sacks, a number that's sure to drop with the healthy returns of veteran tackles Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton and the addition of first-rounder Bryan Bulaga.

Some other notes:

Tom Brady falls out of the top 5, mostly because I like some of the league's younger QBs better. Brady's still a bona fide fantasy starter, but I just can't pencil him into the top 3 like I used to anymore.

Brett Favre's value is tough to predict, but it's all about his health, I have to believe that ankle will be healed by Week 1 since he's already joined Vikings camp. Last year's miraculous numbers will be hard to duplicate, but he should still be a top-10 guy if he can last through the season.

I put Kevin Kolb just outside the top-10, which means he's not a starter in your typical 10-team league, but it would not shock me to see him finish there.

1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Drew Brees
3. Peyton Manning
4. Matt Schaub
5. Tony Romo
6. Tom Brady
7. Philip Rivers
8. Brett Favre
9. Jay Cutler
10. Joe Flacco
11. Kevin Kolb
12. Eli Manning
13. Matt Ryan
14. Donovan McNabb
15. Ben Roethlisberger
16. Matthew Stafford
17. Chad Henne
18. Carson Palmer
19. Vince Young
20. Matt Cassel
21. Matt Leinart
22. David Garrard
23. Alex Smith
24. Jason Campbell
25. Mark Sanchez
26. Josh Freeman
27. Kyle Orton
28. Matt Hasselbeck
29. Matt Moore
30. Trent Edwards
31. Michael Vick
32. Sam Bradford
33. Charlie Whitehurst
34. Jake Delhomme
35. Seneca Wallace
36. Byron Leftwich
37. Tavaris Jackson
38. Brady Quinn
39. Derek Anderson
40. Ryan Fitzpatrick

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

8/18 Sleeper of the Day: Michael Bush


Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas might have been the more familiar names occupying Oakland's backfield, but it was Bush who ended up leading the Silver & Black in rushing last year.

Granted, it was a paltry 589 rushing yards, but still - Bush averaged a more-than-respectable 4.8 yards a carry while getting nothing close to regular playing time in 2009. The Raiders would be wise to let Bush, a tough, inside-the-tackles runner with speed, play a bigger role this year. And all indications are they will do just that, with Fargas getting released in the offseason and the disappointing McFadden nursing injuries again this preseason.

We're probably looking at a timeshare here, unfortunately, with the quicker McFadden serving as a complement to the 247-pound Bush. But with Fargas out of the way I could see Bush getting a few more goal-line looks, and with Jason Campbell under center instead of a JaMarcus Russell/Charlie Frye combo the Raiders should at least have a more respectable passing game to keep opponents from stacking the box. I like Bush as an underrated RB4 who might be able to come close to 800 or 900 yards and 5 or 6 TDs.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

8/17 Bust of the Day: Clinton Portis


I’m sorry, but I’m not buying some of the hype surrounding Portis this offseason. I know he’s reunited with his old coach, Mike Shanahan, who coaxed two 1,500-yard seasons out of him at the start of his career back in Denver. I know Shanny’s worked wonders for running backs over the years. And I know Portis showed up to camp in shape and serious about football for a change (no Choo Choo sightings so far).

That’s all well and good, but the fact remains Portis is a 29-year-old back with more than 2,100 carries in his career, and he’s coming off a severe concussion problem that limited him to eight games last year. There’s a reason Denver brought in Larry Johnson, Willie Parker and former Shanahan draft pick Ryan Torain over the offseason, and it wasn’t simply to motivate Portis. Shanahan is a pioneer in the running-back-by-committee system that’s all the rage around the NFL these days, and I fully expect him to utilize a RB rotation in 2010. Portis may be No. 1 on Washington’s depth chart, but I think he’ll struggle to reach 1,000 yards this season with a limited workload. I’d cap his value at the RB3 level to begin the season.

Monday, August 16, 2010

8/16 Sleeper of the Day: Chad Henne


The young man from Michigan was nearly a top-20 QB last year, and that was in just 14 games (13 starts) and with essentially no receivers. It was an up-and-down year, to be sure - he topped 300 yards passing three times but also threw for 140 or fewer three times. But when you consider it was basically Henne's first year (he played sparingly as a rookie in 2008 - it wasn't all that bad.

Fast forward a year, and Miami has raised expectations for its QB. And make no mistake, this is Henne's team now, with former starter Chad Pennington relegated to possible third-string duties. Henne's the man in 2010, and as such the Dolphins have given him a shiny new toy in the form of star WR Brandon Marshall. The once-disgruntled Bronco gives the Miami WR corps an immediate upgrade and makes Henne that much more fantasy relevant. You can pencil in Marshall for at least 100 catches (101, 104 and 102 the past three seasons) and 1,000 yards, which will boost Henne's stats. Brian Hartline and Davone Bess are decent complementary pieces, and the Dolphins figure to have a strong running game their young QB can lean on.

I'm not ready to make any Dan Marino comparisons just yet, but I can foresee Henne being at least a serviceable QB2 in 2010, which places him solidly in the sleeper category.

Photo by The Associated Press

Sunday, August 15, 2010

8/15 Bust of the Day: Tom Brady

QB TOM BRADY, Patriots

Before you flip out and call me a crazy Brady hater (or worse), please read this blog carefully. I'm not predicting Tom Terrific's days as a fantasy force are over. I'm not saying he's washed up or not worth drafting. I'm simply stating my belief that Brady will fail to deliver on the general consensus of expectations for him this year, which is how I define a bust.

But first, the positives: Brady's currently playing for a new contract, as is his top receiver, the always dangerous Randy Moss. Standout slot man Wes Welker is progressing nicely from reconstructive knee surgery. The Pats still don't have a go-to running back, which means plenty of pass attempts. And Brady's more than a year removed from a devastating knee injury of his own.

Now check this out: I'm seeing Brady being touted as a definite-top-5/possibly-top-3/maybe-top-overall QB in many fantasy circles, but a lot of that is still based on memories of his record-breaking, pre-injury 2007 season. Take away that 50-TD anomaly, and he's never thrown for more than 28 scores in a season. Granted, he equaled that number last year and also had his second-most passing yards (4,398) - yet he still finished as the seventh-rated fantasy QB in standard-scoring leagues.

Other QBs have closed the gap on old stalwarts Brady and Peyton Manning - not just new standard-bearer Drew Brees but also young upstarts like Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers and Tony Romo. Brady still might be a safe fantasy pick, but it depends where you're picking him too, because there are others available who might have more upside or be even safer. Remember, Brady's 33 years old (and so is Moss for that matter) and is going to eventually decline. Nobody wants to spend a first- or second-round pick on him the year that happens.

That's all I'm sayin'.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

8/14 Sleeper of the Day: Mike Wallace


You can insert your own 60 Minutes joke here, but this kid is no laughing matter. Bet you didn’t know his 19.4 yards per catch was tops among all WRs last year with 35 catches or more – and that was with Santonio Holmes still on the team. Wallace is assured of being a starter this year opposite Hines Ward and will serve as the offense’s primary deep threat after he made Holmes expendable during the offseason. He totaled 756 yards and scored 6 TDs as a rookie and has a chance to bump those numbers up to 1,000 yards and double-digit scores in 2010 as he takes up Holmes’ slack.

There is some risk with drafting Wallace - the absence of QB Ben Roethlisberger for as many as six games at the start of the season, Ward’s continued presence and the Steelers’ desire to return to their rushing roots. However, I still believe he has the skills and the opportunity to finish the year in the top 20 among fantasy receivers and is a future WR1 even though he’s currently being drafted as a WR3. There’s big potential here, and it's only a matter of time before he realizes it. Tick, tick, tick, tick ...

Podcast time: Prep for your draft

Another Fantasy Focus podcast is available for your listening pleasure. This time we're offering up six simple steps to keep in mind as you begin prepping for your football draft. From mastering the tier system to mock drafting your brains out, we've got you covered.

Friday, August 13, 2010

8/13 Bust of the Day: Joseph Addai


There's a lot to like about Addai. He's a trusted and important part of the Colts offense. He scored 13 total TDs last year. He compiled 1,164 rushing and receiving yards in 2009. And he's playing for a new contract in 2010.

That said, why am I dissing Addai as a potential bust? Allow me to explain.

Addai's 13 TDs last year helped cover up the fact he averaged only 3.8 yards a carry, the second year in a row that number was under 4. Whether that's because the Colts offensive line is better equipped to protect Peyton Manning than to run block these days, it's hard to say. But Addai hasn't displayed a whole lot of big-play ability either - he hasn't had a run longer than 23 yards since his rookie season in 2006.

And I'll tell you who does have big-play ability: second-year back Donald Brown, Addai's backup. Brown's rookie season didn't go as well as I and some other prognositcators envisioned (281 rushing yards, 3.6 a carry, 3 TDs in 11 games). But he's flashed the explosiveness Addai has lacked - his 45-yard run in Week 7 against St. Louis last year is longer than any in Addai's career. Now that the former first-rounder has had more than a year to master the Colts' complicated offense, expect to see him take on a bigger role this year and siphon some carries from Addai. Besides, with Addai being eligible for free agency next season, Indy will probably want to figure out if their investment has what it takes to be a feature back.

I'm not saying Addai doesn't have value. His versatility and his role in the Colts' passing attack are still appealing. I just don't think he's a top-20 back this year as many are predicting.

Photo by The Associated Press

Thursday, August 12, 2010

8/12 Sleeper of the Day: Kevin Kolb


There’s a reason the Eagles let Donovan McNabb go. This guy is it.

Philly’s QB of the future gets his shot with McNabb having been unceremoniously run out of town. He’ll be under a ton of pressure, of course (Philly and pressure are almost synonymous when it comes to sports), but the Eagles are betting he’s ready after a three-year apprenticeship. Other than the high expectations of Iggles fans, Kolb steps into an almost ideal situation.

The Texas Tech product has spent three seasons learning Andy Reid’s West Coast offense, and in two fill-in starts in 2009 he proved he's got a handle on it. He torched the Saints in Week 2, throwing for 391 yards and two 2Ds on 31-for-51 passing (but also tossed two INTs), then followed that with a 24-for-34, 327-yard, two-TD obliteration of the Chiefs. In doing so he became the first NFL QB to throw for 300 or more yards in his first two career starts.

Here's why I like Kolb this year, aside from his obvious skills: he's playing for a pass-happy team. Reid's Eagles have been among the top 10 in pass attempts in each of the past six seasons and could skew even more in that direction this year with the departure of RB Brian Westbrook. And to top it off, Kolb has some terrific young skill players to throw to in WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and emerging TE Brent Celek. I think you'll see Reid show confidence in Kolb airing it out on a weekly basis, giving him a chance to finish as a top-10 fantasy QB. There's some risk here, but not as much as you might think, and there could be a great payoff for those who scoop Kolb up after some bigger names are off the board.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

8/11 Bust of the Day: Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant has already made quite a name for himself, and he hasn’t played a down in the NFL yet.

Bryant, a decorated wide receiver at Oklahoma State, had to sit out most of his junior season because he lied to the NCAA about meeting with Deion Sanders. Then, after being selected in the first round of April’s NFL Draft by the Cowboys, he made waves a few weeks ago when he refused to carry the shoulder pads of veteran WR Roy Williams, violating a longstanding rookie tradition.

In the long run we may look back and laugh at such nonsense when Bryant morphs into the next Michael Irvin, as many observers are predicting for the youngster. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder certainly has the size and the ball skills Irvin displayed coming out of The U, and I have no doubt that, if healthy, Bryant will supplant the underwhelming Williams sooner or later and crack Dallas’ starting lineup. But his health is a concern, as he’s currently nursing a sprained ankle suffered July 30, an injury originally expected to keep him sidelined for 4-6 weeks. And that means he’s already going to be behind the curve, always a dangerous proposition for rookie WRs, who tend to not make huge impacts to begin with.

It’s not that I don’t think Bryant will turn out to be an exceptional pro long-term or have any value short-term. It’s just that I think people (especially Cowboys fans) will recognize the name and the skill set and tend to overvalue him on draft day. Dallas QB Tony Romo has a lot of mouths to feed (Williams, Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Felix Jones ...), so a projection of, say, 700-800 yards and 5 TDs for Bryant in his first season is more than fair. But there are a lot of receivers who can put up those numbers, and many are likely to go later in your draft than a big name like Bryant. He’s promising, but a fantasy No. 3 at best right now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

8/10 Sleeper of the Day: Dexter McCluster


Think of McCluster as Percy Harvin Lite. He won’t make quite as much of an impact as the versatile Viking did as a rookie last year, but he’ll be valuable nonetheless and won’t cost as much as Harvin did on draft day.

McCluster, Kansas City’s second-round draft pick in April, was an outstanding performer at Ole Miss, where he lined up all over the field and amassed 1,700 all-purpose yards and scored 11 total TDs as a senior. Area high school football followers may remember McCluster as a standout at Largo High, where he was named the St. Petersburg Times’ All-Suncoast Player of the Year in 2005.

Listed at only 5-foot-9 and 172 pounds, McCluster’s even smaller than Harvin, but he’s got just as much speed, and he’s no weakling, having put up 20 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press at the NFL Combine. The Chiefs, who’ve sorely lacked offensive playmakers in recent years, have visions of McCluster as a slot receiver, scat back, wildcat runner and return man. It’s hard to pin down his exact role, but coach Todd Haley has lined up him all over the field so far this preseason.

I can’t see McCluster challenging Jamaal Charles or Thomas Jones for too many carries out of the backfield or taking away too many receptions from Dwayne Bowe or Chris Chambers, but I think Kansas City will definitely try to get him a fair share of touches. As always with hybrid players of his ilk (Harvin, Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles) it’ll be difficult to count on McCluster for consistent production. But I like him as No. 4 WR who you might get a big week out of here or there when you need to sub him in or use him as your flex player. Look for him late in your draft.

Monday, August 9, 2010

8/9 Bust of the Day: TJ Houshmandzadeh


TJ’s first year in the Pacific Northwest didn’t go quite as well as we envisioned – at least not compared to the previous three in Cincinnati. Houshmandzadeh had his fewest catches (79) since 2005 and his fewest TDs (3) since 2002 during his debut season with the Seahawks. That’s not the kind of production drop you want to see in a receiver who will be turning 33 this season, especially not a guy who had sports hernia surgery in the offseason.

Now, you can trace a lot of Houshmandzadeh’s problems of last season back to a shaky offensive line, the lack of a ground game and poor quarterback play from a banged-up Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace. But Seattle took significant steps to rectify those issues in the offseason, with new coach Pete Carroll bringing in esteemed assistant coach Alex Gibbs to revamp the offensive line and drafting left tackle Russell Okung and WR Golden Tate. On paper, the Seattle offense should be better, which can only help TJ’s numbers.

But ultimately, he’s still a 33-year-old receiver on the downside of his career. He’s still coming off a sports hernia, an injury that can resurface. He’s still got a creaky Hasselbeck (or untested new backup Charlie Whitehurst) throwing him the ball. There’s fantasy value here if you can get Houshmandzadeh as your third receiver, but not enough for me to stick my neck out and make him my No. 2 WR.

Photo by The Associated Press

Sunday, August 8, 2010

8/8 Sleeper of the Day: Matthew Stafford


What's this? A recommendation for a Detroit quarterback? No joke!

OK, so Stafford didn't exactly take the fantasy world by storm in Year 1, and nobody's confusing the kid with Bobby Layne yet. But there's a lot to like here in 2010.

For starters, let's begin with what's NOT here: No Daunte Culpepper to take away valuable snaps or practice reps from the developing Stafford, and no shoulder and knee injuries that hampered him throughout his rookie season. Stafford was forced to miss six games last year, and while his stats in the remaining 10 weren't all that pretty (13 TDs, 20 INTs), he'll have the benefit of being the team's unquestioned starter from the opening of camp and a having year under his belt.

Now, for the really exciting part. Not only does Stafford have Calvin Johnson, who's on the cusp of becoming the game's best receiver, as his main target, but the Lions have upgraded the rest of their offensive weapons. In the offseason they added WR Nate Burleson and TE Tony Scheffler and drafted explosive RB Jahvid Best and are starting to look like a professional football team. True, it could all be for naught if Detroit's offensive line does the same swiss cheese impression as last year and stunts Stafford's development. But that unit should improve, and so should Stafford. He's not ready to make the jump to No. 1 fantasy starter just yet, but I contend he'll make for a serviceable and underrated backup this year.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fantasy Focus podcast - football edition

Colleague Jason Dill and I did our first football edition of the Fantasy Focus podcast this year for your listening pleasure. This week we discussed a few of the sleepers and busts I've been blogging about, plus some strategies to consider as you prep for your draft. Enjoy.

8/7 Bust of the day: Thomas Jones


TJ outperformed fantasy expectations in each of the past two seasons, but he's never really been a by-the-book guy anyway. Running backs aren't supposed to have career years at the ages of 30 and 31, but that's exactly what he did in 2008 and 2009, running for a combined 2,714 yards and 27 TDs with the Jets. And what does he have to show for it? Walking papers handed to him in the offseason by New York, which replaced him with a younger, less expensive model in Shonn Greene.

The reason Jones was able to be so effective in his golden years - aside from the Jets' excellent run-blocking - is the fact that he had much less tread on his tires than other RBs his age. Remember, he was lightly used in his first four seasons with the Cardinals and Bucs, failing to attempt even 140 carries each year. And now, part of the reason I'm tagging him as a bust is he made up for lost time with a whopping 331 carries last year. We got a glimpse of how much of a toll that took on Jones by playoff time, when he couldn't muster more than 42 yards in three postseason games and was phased out in favor of Greene.

As if his age and mileage weren't enough to make you back off, Jones also has to contend with another up-and-coming young back, Jamaal Charles, in his new home in Kansas City. Like two ships passing in the night, expect Charles to get the bulk of the carries, perhaps as many as two-thirds, as Jones is used in moderation. He'll still have value, just not what we've been accustomed to seeing out of him. Think of him as a No. 3 or 4 RB.

Photo by McClatchy Tribune

Friday, August 6, 2010

8/6 Sleeper of the Day: Jermichael Finley


Depending on the savviness of your fellow leaguemates, Finley could be an absolute steal for you in the later rounds – or he’ll be snatched up way earlier than you ever dreamed. He’s getting a lot of hype this preseason, and with good reason.

At 6-foot-5 and 243 pounds Finley's a physical specimen, and he finished strong in 2009 as he took over the starting role from Donald Lee. He caught four of his five TDs in the final five weeks of the season last year, then topped that off with a six-catch, 159-yard destruction of Arizona's defense in a wild-card playoff loss. As he enters his third pro season he's become a favorite target of up-and-coming QB Aaron Rodgers, and though the Pack like to spread the ball around, Finley was still fourth in red-zone targets among TEs. We could see him double that TD number this year with a full season as Green Bay's No. 1 TE, which would put Finley among the top 5 options at the position in 2010.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

8/5 Bust of the Day: Donovan McNabb


The way the Eagles unceremoniously dumped their franchise QB wasn’t right, but unfortunately for McNabb, he’s not in a better place. Washington was inept at protecting Jason Campbell last year (46 sacks allowed, 5th most in NFL), and it’ll be breaking in a rookie left tackle (Trent Williams) in place of retired vet Chris Samuels this year. Factor in the downgrades at WR and the M.A.S.H. unit at RB (Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, Willie Parker), and McNabb doesn’t figure to have a lot of help around him.

Sure, he still has fantasy value as a backup QB. New Redskins coach Mike Shanahan will put McNabb in situations where he can succeed, and he’ll have his share of big games as always, but it looks like his days of being a consistent No. 1 are over. The Eagles' willingness to trade him to a division rival this offseason is perhaps the most telling signal he's in decline.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

8/4 Sleeper of the Day: Ryan Matthews


Matthews may not be as flashy or as well known as fellow rookie RBs C.J. Spiller or Jahvid Best, but he’s stepping into an ideal situation in San Diego, at least for our purposes. The first-rounder from Fresno State will be a part of an explosive Chargers offense with a good offensive line, and with LaDainian Tomlinson out of the picture, his only competition for carries is the diminutive Darren Sproles.

Much of the country didn’t see Matthews tearing it up in the WAC last year, where he led the nation with 1,808 rushing yards (6.6 a carry, 150 a game) and scored 19 TDs on 276 carries. He’s proven himself as a workhorse, but he’s also got quite a burst (seven TD runs of 50 yards or more last year).

If all goes well, Matthews should surpass LT2’s 2009 stats, and while I have a hard time counting on a rookie as my No. 1 RB, he’ll make an excellent No. 2 with upside.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Give 'em Hellickson

Tampa Bay is still buzzing about top pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson, who blazed past the Twins in his MLB debut on Monday.

"Hellboy" retired the first 10 batters he faced, finishing with three hits allowed, six strikeouts and two earned runs in seven innings. The 23-year-old looked cool, calm and collected while mixing a 92-93 mph fastball with an 82 mph change and keeping the Minnesota hitters off balance.

While Hellickson had been dominant at Triple-A this year to the tune of an 11-2 record, 2.21 ERA and 104/26 K/BB ratio, the righty's being sent back to the farm after giving Tampa Bay's starters an extra day of rest. But you have to figure we'll see him in a Rays uniform again soon after such a successful debut, most likely in the bullpen this September, a la David Price in 2008. Of course if there's an injury in the Rays rotation, they now know they have a spot starter who's proven he can hang with the big boys. For that reason, Hellickson could be worth hanging onto in most fantasy leagues and should certainly be scooped up in keeper leagues.

Photo by The Associated Press

8/3 Bust of the Day: Greg Olsen


Trivia time! Of course you remember the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams offense of 1999-2001, right? Kurt Warner. Marshall Faulk. Torry Holt. Isaac Bruce. Az-Zahir Hakim. But who were the tight ends?

Give up?

Remember Roland Williams and Ernie Conwell?

Didn’t think so.

The reason I bring it up is because the architect of those offenses, Mike Martz, is now the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, which spells bad news for tight end Greg Olsen. Martz simply doesn’t utilize his tight ends as pass-catchers. He didn't in those halcyon days in St. Louis, or any other stop along the way. Want more evidence? When Martz spent 2008 as the 49ers’ O.C., Vernon Davis caught 31 passes. Davis had 52 catches the year before Martz got there, and 78 the year after he left.

Olsen, a terrific talent and great target at 6-foot-4, was supposed to have his breakout last year with Jay Cutler at the helm of the Bears' offense, and he did lead the team with 60 catches. But there’s a good chance Olsen will regress under Martz, who’s already brought in TE Brandon Manumaleuna from his later Rams days to – you guessed it – block. That's a shame, because Olsen has top-10 talent but will hard pressed to be a top-20 performer this season.

Monday, August 2, 2010

8/2 Sleeper of the day: Hakeem Nicks


This 2009 first-rounder has big-play receiver written all over him. He showed us that last year, catching 47 passes – including 13 of 20-plus yards and five of 40-plus yards – in his rookie campaign, including six for TDs. He also had a few big drops, but perhaps we can chalk those up to rookie mistakes. If Nicks can beat out Mario Manningham for the Giants’ No. 2 WR spot, he should be the primary deep threat and a great complement to possession receiver Steve Smith. The 6-1, 210-pounder is an excellent fantasy No. 3 with the potential to be a No. 2.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Trade deadline wrapup: What it all means

A quick scan of the major moves made leading up to MLB's trade deadline, and their fantasy impact:

LANCE BERKMAN TO YANKEES: Berkman's value jumps up considerably after being plucked from one of the league's most punchless offenses in Houston and plopped down into the middle of one of its most potent in New York. Though clearly on the decline - just a .245 average and 13 HRs for the former All-Star so far - you have to wonder how much of that was a function of playing for the Astros. Here's hoping he'll show a little life as a full-time DH and provide some more power down the stretch.

KERRY WOOD TO YANKEES: Unfortunately a relocation to the Big Apple does little for this veteran's value. Wood loses what little fantasy appeal he had since there's absolutely no save chances coming his way as long as Mariano Rivera is in good health. Bradenton's Chris Perez is now the man in Cleveland.

OCTAVIO DOTEL TO DODGERS: Ditto for Dotel, who won't sniff a save opportunity with Jonathan Broxton at 100 percent. Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek will get the call in the ninth now for Pittsburgh.

TED LILLY TO DODGERS: Lilly's lack of strikeouts (89 in 117 innings) doesn't help his fantasy value, and neither does his 3-8 record with the Cubs. But there should be a few more Ws coming his way with contending L.A., and he won't hurt your ERA (3.69) all that much either.

RYAN THERIOT TO DODGERS: The second baseman certainly isn't known for his power (1 HR), so a move from Wrigley Field to spacious Dodger Stadium won't have a negative impact in that department. He'll take over the starting 2B spot in L.A. with Blake DeWitt going over to Chicago in the deal, but aside from his speed (16 steals) he doesn't offer a ton of value to begin with.

JAKE WESTBROOK TO CARDINALS: The veteran right-hander has put up middling numbers this year (6-7, 4.65 ERA, 1.39 WHIP), but he's certainly a good NL-only option and could be worth a look in mixed leagues now that he's under the tutelage of pitching guru Dave Duncan.

MATT CAPPS TO TWINS: The Nationals closer and All-Star gets an automatic upgrade as he moves to a contender where he'll see more save chances. And in Washington, up-and-comer Drew Storen gets a shot to prove he's a ninth-inning star.