Tony Romo Contract Extension Serves Twofold Purpose
Smart replacement for Wes Welker
Wes Welker's addition could mean even bigger things for Manning in 2013
Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald Left Off List
In a recent article I named my top 10 players in the early 2013 fantasy football Wide Receivers rankings. But in looking at it, I was amazed at some of the players who didn’t make the list. Now it’s just a simple fact that on a top 10 list, there can be only be ten players isted and therefore many quality guys aren't going to make it. It's a simple numbers game and believe me when I say that it was difficult to leave out some players as they could have easily been listed on it.
For example, Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson didn’t make my early top 10. And all Johnson did in 2012 was to be second in fantasy points scored in standard scoring systems at the WR position. He set a new career high with 1,598 receiving yards and caught 112 passes. The only downfall was that he scored only 4 TD’s, and he has never reached 10 TD’s at any point in his 10 year career. Johnson still possesses size, strength, and smarts on the field, but his speed and playmaking abilities are in decline. With it appearing the Texans aren’t going to make WR a priority in free agency (despite the fact they really should as Johnson has never had a strong complementary WR opposite him) it’s hard to imagine Johnson having 1,500 yards again entering his age 32 campaign on a team that is much more about their power rushing attack than it is lighting it up thru the air.
Another guy I left off the list is Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald. In terms of pure talent and skills, only Calvin Johnson is better in the entire NFL at the WR position. In fantasy football, Fitzgerald has usually been amongst the elite producers, but not even Fitz could make up for the worst QB situation in the league in 2012 after Kevin Kolb went down (Fitz did catch 32 passes for 367 yards and 3 TD’s in Kolb’s 5 starts; he caught 49 passes for 431 yards and 1 TD the other 11 games started by other Cardinals QB’s). It certainly has to be better in 2013, but enough for Fitz to regain fantasy stardom? It’s hard to bet on it when there are so many other high quality WR’s in better situations. A lot will depend on who the Cardinals get at the QB position in 2013.
Now, Johnson and Fitzgerald are names fantasy owners are used to seeing high on fantasy football rankings each season. But another guy who didn’t make the list, but probably is going to be considered by many to be top 10 heading into the season is Green Bay’s Randall Cobb. Cobb came on strong in 2012 despite starting the season as the Packers 3rd or 4th WR. His 80 catches for 954 yards and 8 TD’s are impressive and show promise of things to come, but I am concerned about Cobb possibly suffering the same type of letdown Jordy Nelson experienced in 2012 after an impressive 2011 campaign. The Packers have so many weapons to throw the ball to. In 2012 Cobb didn’t have a single game with both over 100 receiving yards and a TD. Cobb has more of the feel of a guy who is going to be a high upside fantasy WR2 in 2013 and likely to be drafted higher based on unrealistic expectation.
Let the debates begin!
Several with Strong Fantasy Impacts
The first day of the free agency season is in the books and we trudge into day 2. While I will keep updating our 2013 NFL Free Agents list pages and rankings as players sign new contracts, I figured I'd share some thoughts on some of what has happened so far. There were some signings that will impact fantasy football in 2013.
*-RB Reggie Bush signs 4 year deal with Detroit Lions (money undisclosed as this was just announced). It has been rumored that the Lions were willing to give the starting RB job to Bush over Mikel Leshoure and he has bought into that. Bush's addition means Leshoure takes the complementary role of between the tackles grinder. It also likely means last season's surprise, Joique Bell will be relegated to being the #3 RB. Bush actually lands in an excellent spot for him. The Lions are more of a pass first team and have a solid QB in Matt Stafford, along with the best WR in the league in Calvin Johnson. Bush has proven capable of being a good fantasy RB2 the last 2 seasons in Miami despite only getting 443 rushing attempts the last two seasons combined. Those rushing attempts aren't likely to change much but his receptions (only 78 in that span) should come up a little. There's no reason to not expect him to retain good RB2 fantasy value in 2013.
*-RB Rashard Mendenhall signs a one year deal with Arizona Cardinals. Mendenhall has a firm grasp of the RB role in new Head Coach Bruce Arians offense from their days together in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals released Beanie Wells on Monday and while Arians had spoke glowingly about Ryan Williams, the signing of Mendenhall on a one year "prove it" type of deal means there are plenty of concerns about Williams ability to stay healthy after two seasons marred by injuries. Mendenhall will be nearly two years removed from a torn ACL by the start of the regular season in 2013 and has proven to be capable of being a featured RB. If the Cardinals can improve their run blocking, Mendenhall is fully capable of putting up good numbers. While there's upside with him, there's also concern about whether he'll regain his pre-injury speed. Mendenhall should be considered a low end fantasy RB2 who could seriously swing in either direction.
*-WR Mike Wallace signs with Miami Dolphins. Wallace got a 5 year $60 million deal and instantly becomes the top WR in Miami. With the Dolphins having re-signed Brian Hartline last week, the WR corps for Miami appears set with a top 3 of Wallace, Hartline, and Davone Bess. Wallace may not put up top 10 fantasy WR numbers in 2013 as the jury is still out on QB Ryan Tannehill, but at least he should be an adequate fantasy WR2 with upside.
*-WR Donnie Avery signs with the Kansas City Chiefs. This signing happened at the time of this writing and no terms were released. Avery becomes a complementary starting option opposite of Dwayne Bowe. While some think the Chiefs may try to trade former first round pick Jon Baldwin, I expect Baldwin to be kept and Avery to be the speedy "stretch the field" WR the Chiefs have lacked recently. Avery is coming off a good season with the Colts, but expecting him to be better in 2013 than the inconsistent WR3 he was last season is a bit of a stretch unless we see glowing things from Alex Smith in training camp and Avery clearly beats out Baldwin.
*-TE Jared Cook signs with St. Louis Rams. Cook leaves Tennessee to hopefully become a much more utilized weapon for Sam Bradford and received a 5 year $38 million deal. Cook is an instant upgrade over draft bust Lance Kendricks and with the Rams expecting to lose WR Danny Amendola, Cook could become the new favorite weapon on short-to-intermediate routes for Bradford. Cook was never properly utilized to his full potential in Tennessee and I expect that will change in St. Louis as they didn't pay him all that money to not use him. Cook's value on upcoming 2013 fantasy football TE rankings is likely to go up.
*-TE Martellus Bennett signs with Chicago Bears. After a strong season with the Giants in 2012, Bennett got a 4 year $21 million deal to become the pass catching TE the Bears have lacked since they foolishly got rid of Greg Olsen. The Bears have Brandon Marshall as a dominant WR1 but no proven WR2. While it's hoped that Alshon Jeffery will make strides in his second season, if he doesn't, Bennett could become the second most targeted player by Jay Cutler. I'm cautiously optimistic that Bennett will be a medium to low end TE1 in 2013.
*-TE Anthony Fasano signs with Kansas City Chiefs. Fasano got a 4 year $16 million deal and will compete with Tony Moeaki to be the starting TE for the Chiefs. Fasano has never lived up to expectations in Dallas or Miami as a pass catcher, but has a chance to surprise in 2013 in the new Chiefs offense. Andy Reid's offenses have usually done well with TE's and Moeaki disappointed greatly in 2012. Part of it could be blamed on the QB situation in KC last season, but Moeaki looked nothing like the promising rookie TE he was in 2010 (Moeaki missed most of 2011 with a torn ACL). Fasano is my bet to win the job and with the Chiefs having a suspect WR corps (even after signing Donnie Avery) outside of Dwayne Bowe, Fasano could have value as a fantasy TE2 in 2013.
*-TE Delanie Walker signs with Tennessee Titans. Walker was never used to his full potential as a TE/H-Back with the 49ers and received a 4 year $17.5 million deal to help replace departed Jared Cook. Walker isn't the same league talent-wise as Cook and the Titans didn't use him properly. Walker probably will "start" for the Titans but is unlikely to have much fantasy value as he competes with second year TE Taylor Thompson for the pass catching TE role for the Titans.
*-TE James Casey signs with Philadelphia Eagles. Casey has a lot of untapped potential as a pass catching TE and received a 3 year $14.5 million deal to join the Eagles. Philly already has an accomplished pass catching TE in Brent Celek so this signing is interesting. Celek could remain the primary TE with Casey reprising his (under-utilized) role as TE/H-Back that he had with the Houston Texans the last couple of seasons. Maybe the Eagles are planning on trading Celek and giving Casey more opportunities; it's just too early to tell. But keep Casey in the back of your head as a potential deep fantasy football sleeper as training camps approach.
Trade Solidifies WR's Ranking in Top 10
Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawk.
Why doesn't that sound as strange to me as I think it should?
The Minnesota Vikings have traded the talented, but troubled WR to the Seahawks in exchange for Seattle's 1st and 7th round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, plus an undisclosed middle round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. That's a pretty good score for a player who, while possessing a wealth of talent, has yet to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards or 6 receiving TD's in 4 NFL seasons. He probably would have reached the yardage milestone though in 2012 if his season hadn't been cut short by an ankle injury.
I'm not saying that Harvin doesn't have the potential to become a top level WR in terms of production, but his lack of maturity and list of off-field issues have detracted him from fulfilling the promise of his talent. Of course, it didn't help that for the last 2 seasons Harvin's been plagued by poor play from the Vikings QB's. Weak-armed Christian Ponder, aged Donovan McNabb, and erratic Joe Webb hardly brought out the best in what we could have seen from Harvin.
But that is now history and only time will tell if the Vikings got more than they should for Harvin, or, as many think, got less than what Harvin is worth.
So what can we expect in Seattle from Percy Harvin?
First, he goes to one of the few teams that possess a rushing attack to rival that of the Vikings. Marshawn Lynch has been outstanding the last two seasons and the addition of Robert Turbin last year just made them deeper at the RB position. Lynch and Turbin will keep opponents honest defending the run.
Second, he gets a young QB in Russell Wilson who just tied the rookie record in passing touchdown passes with 26 in 2012. Wilson started the season slowly as a passer, but progressively got better as the year went on. He possibly could have done much better if not for a WR corps that was mediocre at best and in desperate need of a quality talent. That's what Harvin will bring to Wilson.
Third, he gets a head coach who seems to excel at taking on players who present a challenge. Pete Carroll doesn't discourage his players from having their own personalities. He seems to even somehow create an atmosphere of "team" while also encouraging individual attitude within players. On the surface, this appears to be a way of reaching players like Harvin and getting them to step up their play. Another thing with Carroll: he doesn't seem to care how he lists players on injury reports. Guys can not practice at all, be listed as doubtful, and still end up playing on game days. That should definitely appeal to Harvin as he appears to come up with various injuries/illnesses during the NFL's regular season that prevent him from practicing.
Now for what's important for fantasy football owners: will Percy Harvin step up his production in 2013 now that he is in Seattle?
I say "YES". In my early 2013 fantasy football top 10 WR rankings, Harvin checked in at #10 despite the uncertainty of his situation. Now that I know where he will be playing in 2013 I see no reason to move him out of that spot.
Conflicting Reports as to Whether He'll Re-sign with Patriots
Wes Welker is reportedly close to signing a new deal with the New England Patriots before the start of free agency March 12.
Wes Welker reportedly has no intention of signing a new deal with the New England Patriots until he at least tests the free agent market.
Both of these statements have been circulated in the media within the past week. One of them is true. The other is false. But which is which?
This is just all part of the fun that is the lead up to the beginning of the NFL's free agent period each season. This type of conflicting information is rampant as teams and agents play out a clever game of cat and mouse against each other in a media that is desperate for any type of NFL news to report. And we really can't blame the media as they are just catering to us fans who everyday crave any new information we can get about the sport we love and are so passionate about. The sport that gives us our little hobby of NFL fantasy football.
So, with a keen eye on the implications of what is best for the fantasy football value of Wes Welker, we should all be hoping that statement #1 is correct. In fantasy football, Welker has been a ppr league machine since being acquired by the Patriots via trade with division rival Miami in 2007. In the last 6 seasons, Welker has amassed 672 receptions (most in Patriots franchise history) for 7,459 yards, and 37 TD's.
Darn good numbers for a guy who is undersized at 5'9", 185 lbs, and not blazing fast.
Now, to be fair, this is likely to be Welker's last opportunity to cash in with a big contract. He seriously outplayed the original 5 years, $18.1 million contract he signed with the Patriots in 2007 that took him until the end of the 2011 season. He easily was a bargain playing under the 1 year, $9.5 million franchise tag contract in 2012. A guy who has put up the type of production Welker has, and never asked to renegotiate his original 5 year deal, should have made more in today's NFL than $27.6 million over the last 6 seasons. So if Welker really wants to see what he can cash in on this free agency period, I can hardly blame him on a personal level. He deserves as much as he can get.
But the fantasy football owner in me recognizes that for me, it is clearly in my best interest for him to remain in New England. Few quarterback/wide receiver combinations have had the uncanny chemistry that Tom Brady has enjoyed with Wes Welker. And it has translated into many fantasy points scored.
1,639.9 fantasy points in a standard decimal point, ppr scoring format over the last 6 years. That's an average of 273.3 per year, and factored into the 93 games he's at least been active for in that span, 17.63 per game.
Fantasy football owners know what that type of production on a regular basis means to their success.
Now I fully expect that both the Patriots and Welker himself know that he is much more likely to maintain a high level of productivity if he remains in New England. Welker could go the Packers and play with Aaron Rodgers. Or Denver and play with Peyton Manning. Or New Orleans and play with Drew Brees. But the simple fact is that while he'd still likely be productive, he probably wouldn't be as productive as he would be if he stayed with the Patriots and kept his chemistry going with Tom Brady. And it's much more likely that those teams wouldn't be the ones offering the most money for Welker on the free agent market.
Rather, you'd likely see teams like Cleveland or St. Louis putting up the $$$. And in either of those two spots, Welker's fantasy value drops from being a solid #1 WR, to maybe a borderline WR2/3. And we don't want to see that. We like knowing that Welker is one of those guys that can be safely started every week in our lineups.
But what will happen? Only time will tell. And there's still plenty of time before we stop hearing conflicting reports about free agent players and what they are planning on.
Top 2013 Free Agent WR off the Market
Well, you can take Dwayne Bowe off the top of the available WR's who are 2013 NFL free agents. Bowe signed a 5 year, $56 million deal with the only NFL team he's ever played for, Kansas City.
It's a smart move by the Chiefs. Although some think they overpaid to keep Bowe, there's no denying he is vitally important to any type of offensive turnaround Andy Reid is going to orchestrate for Kansas City's passing game. Alex Smith needs weapons and Bowe was the top free agent WR on the market. He's also proven to be near unstoppable at times and is in the prime of his career (turning 29 years old in September).
In three of the last 5 seasons, Bowe has managed to have over 1,000 receiving yards despite a cast of QB's who weren't very good. Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton, Tyler Thigpen, Brody Croyle, Damon Huard; only Orton could be conceived of having been a decent starter. Add in that the Chiefs haven't had another WR starting opposite Bowe that has prevented opponents from keying on him on every passing play in that span, and you start to get a sense of why the Chiefs made Bowe a priority for them before he got to the open market.
In 2013, Bowe will have a new quarterback (Alex Smith) throwing to him and I believe that Smith will represent an improvement at the position over what Bowe has seen in his 6 NFL seasons. Smith isn't a gunslinger who will put up huge numbers, but he is a capable QB who had in the last 2 seasons in San Francisco proven to be efficient. There have even been times when Smith has flashed the potential to put up big numbers (the playoff game against New Orleans in January 2012 is a prime example).
We know Andy Reid runs a pass-first style of offense, and with Bowe not having to think about his contract anymore, Smith has a legitimate weapon to lean on. I don't expect Bowe is going to finish as a top 10 fantasy WR in 2013, but he stands a good chance of having close to 1,100 yards and catch 8-10 TD's. If Jon Baldwin steps up in his 3rd season and provides the Chiefs with a true complementary WR to start opposite Bowe, Bowe could do even better.
The official start to free agency begins on March 12, but in the moves the Chiefs have made so far, from the hiring of Andy Reid to the soon to be completed trade for Alex Smith, and the re-signing of Dwayne Bowe; I think they just might be able to make some noise in the AFC West in 2013.