Faceoff: WR Most Helped By Free Agency
Clayton Gray: Is there a wide receiver whose fantasy prospects were really helped by free agency? If so, expound on what happened and how it increases his 2011 outlook.
Jeff Tefertiller: From a pure fantasy football perspective, Percy Harvin should be seen as a big winner. The other wide receiver threat for targets, Sidney Rice, signed in Seattle. In addition, Donovan Mcnabb was acquired via trade. While McNabb is erratic and far from elite, he still has enabled WRs to put up big fantasy seasons (i.e., Santana Moss last year).
Jeff Haseley: Mike Sims-Walker has the tools, ability and opportunity to be a major offensive focal point for the Rams in 2011. Sam Bradford is coming into his own as a QB that can make accurate and strong throws. Combine that with the presence of Josh McDaniels running the offense and we could see a big change for the better in the Rams passing game, led by Mike Sims-Walker. McDaniels has a history of transforming good WRs into great WRs. Most recently, Brandon Lloyd in Denver. Sims-Walker was not in a place to make a move into elite status with Jacksonville, however he does have the ability to do so in St. Louis. He has promising QB with talent still emerging and an offensive philosophy that caters to his strengths. I would not be surprised to see Sims-Walker finish in the Top 25 this year as a result.
Ryan Hester: Larry Fitzgerald should benefit from the improved quarterback play brought by Kevin Kolb. Last year Arizona was 31st in average yards per drive, and Fitzgerald saw his touchdowns plummet as a result. The first six years of Fitzgerald's career he averaged a touchdown every 9 receptions. In 2010 with poor QB play, this dropped to a touchdown every 15 receptions. Even if Kolb isn't the next Kurt Warner, Arizona should still see a marked improvement on offense, with Fitzgerald a big recipient.
Jason Wood: I agree with Greg that the top beneficiary is Larry Fitzgerald. Although I don't think Kevin Kolb is going to be a top end NFL QB, I do think he'll be serviceable and that equates to a MASSIVE step forward in Arizona. When you consider that Fitzgerald was an 1,100 yard, 90 catch receiver last year with the likes of Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton, Kolb is going to assure Fitzgerald returns to his former position as one of the very best in the game.
Other receivers I see as winning were:
- Roy Williams -- Williams was going to be 3rd fiddle in Dallas this year, or could've ended up as a backup in lots of places after his release. Instead he signs with Chicago, where Mike Martz has made it clear he still thinks Williams is capable of catching 70-80 balls and 1,000+ yards. While I'm not buying the hype just yet, there's no doubting Williams opportunity is massive compared to where he could've otherwise found himself.
- Chad Ochocinco -- Ochocinco had clearly let the dire situation in Cincinnati get to him, and it looked as though he might be ready to give up on football -- at least as his primary focus. But like so many times before, Bill Belichick has plucked a disgruntled yet talented veteran away from their personal hell and added him to the Patriots franchise. Ochocinco is still a talented receiver and there's no doubt in my mind he'll thrive in New England. There are lots of other targets, but Chad instantly becomes one of their best.
- Plaxico Burress -- I'm skeptical we'll see Burress do that much this year. But there's no denying he made out well. Coming out of prison, he ended up getting a starting job on a Super Bowl contender. When you think of some of the other receivers who struggled to get a new home, Burress' ability to lock down a prime spot so quickly makes him a winner.
Matt Waldman: Andre Roberts and Larry Fitzgerald are big winners because Kevin Kolb is enough of an upgrade that the Cardinals will be able to at least throw the ball competently in 2011. Roberts also wins because of the departure of Steve Breaston to Kansas City. The Cardinals organization has the second-year receiver from the Citadel (a top-five WR prospect in the 2010 RSP) slated to start opposite Fitzgerald and reports from camp indicate that Roberts looks night and day different from the confused rookie of last year. With his run after the catch ability and excellent hands in traffic, I suspect Arizona didn't need to feel beholden to Breaston any longer.
Steve Breaston wins because he returns to a Todd Haley system that he'll feel familiar with and he should get a lot of chances as a slot receiver. I don't believe Jonathan Baldwin has special talent and I think that's going to put more targets in Breaston's hands this year and possibly next.
Percy Harvin is a huge winner in Minnesota because he gets a veteran of Donovan McNabb's caliber to throw him the football. Harvin should continue to develop into one of the better young receivers in the NFL. I'd say Bernard Berrian and Devin Aromashodu are candidates for consolation prizes because McNabb can make even limited receivers look good and both are very solid perimeter threats even if they haven't demonstrated great skills between the hash.
On a sneaky level, second-year wide receiver Riley Cooper is a winner because the Eagles didn't offer Randy Moss a free agent deal and now he has a chance to start if Jeremy Maclin doesn't get healthy soon. Even if he does, Maclin has some weight to regain and Cooper could pick up the slack.
The Jacksonville starting corps of Mike Thomas and Jason Hill should have a boost of confidence that the team believes in them to produce at a high enough level. Especially Hill, who has true deep threat potential.
With Matt Hasselbeck and his strong anticipation and veteran leadership, I think Damien Williams and Kenny Britt saw a significant upgrade in talent to the notoriously late-throwing Kerry Collins. I expect bigger plays from these two receivers more often, especially Williams because he runs good routes and has skills after the catch.
Sigmund Bloom: Lots of great names mentioned already: Fitzgerald, Sims-Walker, Roy Williams, Ochocinco, Harvin - all of them have moved up in my rankings. A few others:
Earl Bennett - The best WR added in free agency by the Bears was Roy Williams, not Santana Moss or another more accomplished wideout who would threaten the 24-year old's potential breakout this year.
Brandon Lloyd - He was probably going to be just fine with Tim Tebow if his performance last year with the QB was any indication, but we already know he has top 5 potential with their current starter Kyle Orton. Orton staying in Denver makes him a much safer pick this year.
Lance Moore - Moore was re-signed by New Orleans as expected. He stays in a high octane pass offense with a QB who knows him well and will lean on him in key situations.
Santana Moss - Even though Washington has one of the worst QB situations in the league, Moss keeps continuity within the Shanahan offense and he actually put up great numbers last year for PPR leagues, even with Rex Grossman. He could have done a lot for fantasy in free agency than staying with Washington, such as going somewhere that he would have been a #2 WR.
Chris Smith: I see two players that have had their stock elevate in a huge way due to free agency and both have been mentioned.
Larry Fitzgerald was fantastic last year despite horrible quarterback play plaguing the team all season long. The Cardinals have brought in a good prospect quarterback in Kevin Kolb and even if he struggles, he is light years ahead of the garbage they tried to pass as quarterbacks in 2010. Fitzgerald is going to have a monster season.
Chad Ochocinco was on the scrap heap as an afterthought in fantasy leagues then an interesting thing happened. He went to New England to team with the one and only Tom Brady and his fantasy worth is skyrocketing. He is a talented receiver yet and should be a season or two away from the inevitable decline. If (and this is definitely an 'if' to keep in mind) he can leave the silly antics behind and work his tail off, he has an opportunity in this offense to re-discover his past elite production. Only time will tell but he is certainly a 'winner' at this point.
Jeff Pasquino: I tend to agree with many of the names already mentioned - Fitzgerald and Harvin are at the top of my list. Chad Ochocinco gets a huge bump with Tom Brady, and Plaxico Burress could not have asked for a better situation. A big win for Brandon Lloyd in Denver with Kyle Orton likely to be the starter once again. I think one name that is missing from the discussion is Malcom Floyd, who is now the WR2 for Philip Rivers and Steve Smith remaining in Carolina. One more to add is rookie Torrey Smith, as Baltimore had several chances to add a replacement for Derrick Mason yet now they have Smith penciled in as a starter.
Mark Wimer: I think Braylon Edwards deserves to be in this discussion. Given Michael Crabtree's foot injury and the fact that Edwards has just a one-year, "show-me" type contract, Edwards has plenty of motivation to focus on football and play well, while also the opportunity for significant playing time with the perennially injured Crabtree not participating in players-only workouts this summer and now missing all of training camp (again).
Edwards has some talent, and there is room for somebody to emerge as a go-to guy at WR in San Francisco. Edwards is worth a late-round roll of the dice this season, IMO. There could be a big payoff if he revives his career with the 49ers.
Sigmund Bloom: Edwards clearly found NO market for his services in free agency. That alone makes him a big loser, no matter where he landed or what opportunity he gets in his new home. Yes, he's worth a late-round roll of the dice, but he was esteemed higher than that in fantasy circles before free agency.