Apr 30, 2007
In case you missed it online, here’s my post-draft Stock Watch. If you’re not a subscriber, you can become one now.
NFL Stock Watch
By John Hansen
I’ve never done it before, but I like the idea of quickly putting the NFL draft into a fantasy perspective by outlining the players whose values have risen and fallen based on the events that transpired this past weekend in New York City.Some of these selections are obvious; some aren’t. But I’m not just trying to fill space here; these are the guys who I like better or less than I did just a few days ago.UpgradesQuarterbacks
- Tom Brady (NE) – The one thing I’ve learned over the years is that if a fantasy situation appears too good to be true, it probably is, a case in point being the Raiders the last two years with Randy Moss and Jerry Porter. But this is a different situation than Oakland; this is Tom Brady and the Patriots. This is a player who was very close to getting to – and likely winning – the Super Bowl with Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney as his top two wideouts. There are a lot of mouths to feed here, but Brady is the kind of demonstrative leader who will keep the team’s focus on winning games, and the fantasy production will certainly come with the excellent weapons at Brady’s disposal. I was definitely bullish on Brady’s chances this year given the additions of Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker, and I certainly feel even better now with Randy Moss in the fray now.
- Drew Brees (NO) – Some of the rich got richer this weekend, and the explosive Saint offense has to be near the top of the get-rich list. They didn’t expect Robert Meachem to be there for them, but they had the luxury of taking the best player available, and Meachem was. A high-character guy, the only issue with him is that he’s a little inexperienced, having had only one big season in college. But that won’t be a big problem in New Orleans, where they have a terrific 1-2 punch in the backfield and a strong #1 in Marques Colston, an electric deep threat in Devery Henderson, and also a strong pass-catching TE in Eric Johnson. So then it comes down to Meachem’s talent and their ability to get the most out of it. There is no doubt head coach Sean Payton is an excellent schemer and play-caller and will get the most out of Meachem’s abilities. They love his size and athleticism, explosiveness, and his run-after- the-catch ability. He brings yet another dimension to their passing game, and he will definitely help them. Ideally, he steps in and wins the #2 job, and then they can keep Henderson as the #3 and primary deep threat. That is a potentially sick arsenal for Brees, who can certainly take full advantage.
- Peyton Manning (Ind) – If you think Manning’s value can’t go any higher than what it’s been the last two years, you must have a short memory. While no one expected him to duplicate his incredible numbers of 2004, the fact remains that his TD totals the last two years have been way down from ’04 (down 21 in 2005 and 18 in 2006). If I had to blame the decrease in production on one thing, it would be the lack of a consistent threat in the passing game on the inside, in the slot. Keep in mind Brandon Stokley put up big numbers in 2004 (68/1077/10). Since then, he’s scored 2 TDs total. So the Colts made a great pick in wideout Anthony Gonzalez, a smart football player who runs great routes, knows how to get open, and should be a great fit for this team on the inside. If he can work himself into the offense quickly, he should excel inside, as the guys on the outside consistently see double coverage, and the team also has a very good TE in Dallas Clark. If all goes well this year with Gonzalez and Clark, Manning could throw 40 TD passes.
- Jon Kitna (Det) – Well, what can I say other than draft Jon Kitna? I don’t know if Calvin Johnson will make the Lions a better team this year and in future years and I don’t really care. What I do know is that Johnson will make Kitna – a top-5 fantasy guy in some formats last year – a better fantasy player. It was too good to be true, a few years ago, when the Lions had the three #1 picks at the position along with Joey Harrington at QB. I do not believe it’s too good to be true this time around, however. Kitna’s a stopgap guy for an NFL team, but he can still put up big numbers and stay healthy. Fantasy god Mike Martz runs this offense, and he referred to Johnson as “the best receiver he’s ever seen.” Roy Williams is a legit stud; Mike Furrey can play; Shaun McDonald is a solid slot guy. This defense will be weak again, so they will be playing from behind a lot again. Plus, Josh McCown is gone. Barring an injury, there is a 100% chance Kitna will be a very good fantasy QB in 2007. The only caveat is the obvious one in Kitna’s propensity to throw picks and the price some fantasy owners pay for them based on their scoring system.
- Philip Rivers (SD) – Just as I had hoped, the Chargers invested a #1 pick in a player who should help Rivers. Wideout Craig Davis seems to be a nice fit in San Diego, since he’s more of a vertical threat as opposed to a physical guy, and they already have a few physical guys on the roster, especially Vincent Jackson. If Davis pans out, then we’re likely looking at a very nice receiving corps in Jackson, Davis, and Antonio Gates.
- Marc Bulger (Stl) – It’s almost an embarrassment of riches now for Bulger, whose team acquired a back who has the potential to really help this offense in Brian Leonard. Leonard is the ultimate team player, and that will help him here because he will have to be patient playing behind Stephen Jackson. But I think he will be a solid member of this team for many reasons. For one, he’s good enough of a runner to be the team’s #2 back, and he can spell Jackson from time to time. He can catch the ball very well, so he should see the field as a 3rd down back at times. And he can also be a FB for them. Leonard’s own fantasy value would be much higher on another team, but overall Bulger’s Rams got better on offense with this pick.
- Alex Smith (SF) – He desperately needed another playmaker because Ashley Lelie and Arnaz Battle were not going to cut it for another season. They added a solid prospect in Jason Hill in the draft, but the addition of veteran Darrell Jackson is the key for Smith right now. Jackson’s attitude hadn’t been the best in Seattle, and injuries are a considerable concern, but when he’s on the field, there is no problem with Jackson. He may not be incredibly reliable, since he’s had some problems with dropped passes, but he’ll be a consistent and productive target for Smith, and the 49ers should now have a legitimate offense.
- Rex Grossman (Chi) – Grossman has issues to work out, but this offense needs playmakers, and they surprisingly got one in Miami’s Greg Olsen, who will give them the dimension of speed at the position. Veteran Desmond Clark was very solid last year and won’t likely fade away this year, but Olsen will get on the field plenty, and he will test defenses vertically (it won’t be for his blocking, that’s for sure, since he’s in some ways a more of a wideout than a TE). This is good news for Grossman and for a Bear franchise that is trying to forget about past flops at the position such as John Allred, Dustin Lyman, and going way back a guy named Chris Gedney. Heck, you can make the argument that the Bears haven’t had a dominant TE since Mike Ditka, and that was a lifetime ago.
- J.P. Losman (Buf) – It’s only a slight upgrade, but it is one nevertheless. Had the Bills entered the season with Anthony Thomas as their only viable runner, Losman would have been in trouble. So the addition of the versatile Marshawn Lynch, who can be an every-down back right away, definitely helps Losman. Teams should have to respect the power running game and the dynamic quality Lynch brings to the table. On the downside, the team did nothing to help Losman at receiver, so he and the Bills should still be limited in the passing game.
- Jamal Lewis (Cle) – The Browns didn’t take the stud back, and they did beef up what should now be a solid O-Line. They also added a QB upgrade. This is all good news for Lewis’ fantasy value in 2007.
- Willis McGahee (Bal) – The situation for him in Baltimore was better than what he had in Buffalo going into this weekend, and the situation in Baltimore is better now than it was before the draft. In addition to using their #1 pick on the O-line, arguably the best guard in the draft in Ben Grubbs, the Ravens also added a big and very physical fullback in Le’Ron McClain, who should help them maintain a smashmouth mentality with their running game. These are wise moves for the franchise after acquiring the solid franchise back.
- Cadillac Williams (TB) – The team did add a back in Kenneth Darby in the 7th round, and Darby is a player who has some upside, but could also be out of the league in a year or two. Tampa didn’t add a serious threat to Williams, and they did even more to bolster their O-line with the addition of Aaron Sears, one of the best tackles in the draft. I still have some concerns with Williams, but things are setting up well for him to bounce back this year.
- Ronnie Brown (Mia) – The team did add RB Lorenzo Booker in the draft, but that’s okay for Brown. Booker is a pretty dynamic player, but he projects as a complementary back in the NFL, so Brown’s spot as the lead guy is very secure still. Even better for Brown, Sammy Morris is gone, and it does not look like the Dolphins will bring back Ricky Williams. I don’t know about all the other things the Dolphins are doing, but I’m sure Ronnie Brown will be the least of their troubles this year.
- Edgerrin James (Ari) – Another minor upgrade, but it’s always a good thing when a team that wants to run the ball more than anything else adds a top linemen, and the Cards certainly did with T Levi Brown. Brown is more of a finesse guy, and he will need to be coached up, but he’s a huge man, and he’s naturally strong. Coached by Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, Brown will help this line, and in turn will help James.
- Laurence Maroney (NE) – Having Randy Moss on your team can definitely help your running game because of the unique coverages he commands. This is good news for Maroney, who won’t have to face many stacked boxes this year.
- Randy Moss (WR, NE) – Obviously, Moss moving to a team with Tom Brady can only help the receiver’s value. While it certainly doesn’t reflect well on him, Moss needs to play for a team and with a QB he greatly respects, and there are very few situations better than being on the Patriots and with Brady. New England was the only place Moss was willing to go to and take a dramatic reduction in salary. Brady’s leadership on and off the field is unquestioned, and he will command Moss’ respect. Head coach Bill Belichick is a no-nonsense guy, as everyone knows, and it’s clear the organization will not put up with any attitude issues with Moss. I think it’s also very important to note that Moss, while he may not take the game as seriously as he used to, still covets a championship, and he’s now on the team that should be one of the top 1-2 Super Bowl favorites. Moss has limitations in the dimensions of his game, but he can still run as well or better than most NFL wideouts, and he’s still a very good red zone receiver. He’ll also help the players around him greatly, such as RB Laurence Maroney. He won’t be a go-to guy here, but at this point in his career, that’s probably a positive, since his body is starting to break down and also because he can simply be a guy here as opposed to the so-called leader and face of the franchise. Even in a lesser role than we’re used to, he could easily score 8-10 TDs with Brady at the helm and on a team that will consistently move the ball.
- Deion Branch (WR, Sea) – I felt strongly about the likelihood that Seattle would look to move Darrell Jackson after they acquired Branch last year, but Branch’s struggles and the fine play of Jackson in 2006 had me wondering about that as the season ended. But after getting only a 4th round pick in return, it’s now it’s clear that the Seahawks had no interested in keeping Jackson around. Branch did join the team very late last year, and it was a new system, so he should be in a much better position this year. They have some other guys here, namely Bobby Engram and the intriguing D.J. Hackett, but Branch is the #1 WR here. He may not be the ideal receiver for their offense, but he’s a good player, it’s a good system, and Matt Hasselbeck is a good quarterback. Branch’s value just went up.
- Brandon Jones (WR, Ten) – Titan fans probably aren’t thrilled the team passed on Dwayne Bowe, but I’m glad they did because I’m a Brandon Jones fan. The team did draft three wideouts, but Jones should be a lock to open the season in the starting lineup. In fact, with David Givens still recovering from his knee injury, Jones should be the #1 here. That makes him a great player to target later in drafts.
- Ronald Curry (Oak) – Although the QB situation isn’t great, there is definite potential with Josh McCown and, of course, JaMarcus Russell, and I think the Randy Moss trade sets up perfectly for Curry, who will now likely start alongside Jerry Porter. I don’t have a ton of faith in Porter as a #1, but I do in Curry as a #2. From Week Eleven through Seventeen last year, he was 4th in the NFL with 44 catches, and for him to put up 62/727 on a horrible Raider team with Andrew Walter throwing him the ball is certainly encouraging. If he can regain some of his explosiveness, he could really surprise. Worst case scenario he’s a productive possession guy, as he was late last year. As for Mike Williams, he should be much better off in this offense under former USC coach Lane Kiffen, but I’ll believe Williams excelling when I see it.
- Braylon Edwards & Kellen Winslow (WR and TE, Cle) – This is a slight upgrade for both. It can be tricky handicapping a quarterback situation when you have a rookie in the mix to play. On one hand, incumbent Charlie Frye has the experience in the system and a greater comfort level with these two receivers. But on the other hand, Brady Quinn is a better player. If Quinn does as well as expected, he’ll start for this team very early in the season. Quinn’s accuracy on the deep ball may not be his strong suit, but that shouldn’t be too big of an issue with these two because neither is a great vertical threat. Edwards can be great after the catch and in the red zone, and Winslow is a terrific weapon in the intermediate passing game. The experienced Quinn should be able to get both of these balls consistently, and his arm is much stronger than Frye’s, so this offense should be a little more open, and there should be more downfield passing. Quinn’s also bigger, so he should be able to be a more effective pocket passer than Frye. It’s hard to expect great things right out of the gate, but over the long haul this year, these guys are better off with Quinn, who is a more physically gifted QB than Frye.
- Vernon Davis (TE, Sea) – The addition of Jackson and also the drafting of T Joe Staley were good news for this offense, and Davis stands to benefit from both. Davis isn’t ready to step in and be a go-to guy who can consistently beat double coverage. But with Jackson on the field, the 49ers should have an easier time getting this playmaker the ball in situations where he can do something with it.
- Donovan McNabb (Phi) – First of all, I would still be happy to draft McNabb as my starter this year. But based on the events of the past weekend, I don’t feel quite as good about him. I think the drafting of Kevin Kolb with their first pick speaks to the team’s concerns about McNabb’s health issues, both for the long-term and probably also for the shorter-term. That doesn’t sit well with me, not that Kolb will be anything close to a threat to McNabb this year. Another issue is that they did little to help McNabb in the passing game, and I thought they might either take a TE relatively high, take advantage of the great depth at WR this year, or both. And last year we saw the identity of this offense shift a little toward their excellent offensive line and running game, and they took steps to continue on that path with the addition of Penn State’s Tony Hunt. In terms of McNabb’s fantasy value this year and the next couple of years, I don’t think anything good came out of this past weekend.
- Chester Taylor (Min) – I’m not in love with Adrian Peterson on the Vikings on a few levels, the most important of which is the committee situation the addition of Peterson creates. Taylor clearly wore down late in the season in part because it was his first year as a featured back and clearly because he was needed to carry the offense as much or more than most of his fellow starters at the position, and that’s a lot to ask a first-year starter. They won’t ask that much of him now, so while he’ll be fresher, he’ll get fewer touches. I wasn’t really feeling him on what should be a weak offense anyway, and now I’ll just let someone else take him unless the value is ridiculous. Of course, if Peterson’s injury issues pop up, Taylor’s value could be closer to what it was perceived to be just before the NFL draft. To me, the Vikings taking Peterson is comparable to a novice fantasy player drafting Peyton Manning early in the first round. It’s a safe pick and it’s hard to argue with it too strongly, but it probably won’t go down the best possible move for the franchise. Of course, over the long haul, adding an elite talent at the running back position can never be a bad thing.
- LaMont Jordan (Oak) – He was almost released this off-season, and when all that went down earlier in the season it was clear his chances in Oakland were already running out and that the new coaching staff weren’t huge fans of his. Jordan’s role in the offense should be prominent this year, and his job should be secure, but for the long-term, you have to assume Michael Bush will pose a serious threat. In fact, if Bush’s rehab is going well and all signs point to his being ready to rock and roll in 2008, Jordan could be released. So if you can get anything for him now in a keeper league, it’s a good time to move him.
- Anthony Thomas (Buf) – Maybe he opens the season as the “starter,” and he’s a decent insurance policy, but Thomas can’t shine Marshawn Lynch’s shoes in terms of ability. Thomas may be worked into the mix for a series here and there, but if Lynch does what he needs to do, he’ll be the guy for the Bills. Even worse for Thomas, the Bills drafted RB Dwayne Wright in the 4th round. Wright, like Thomas, is a North-South runner who should be an effective weapon in the red zone.
- Correll Buckhalter (Phi) – I respect the Eagle organization, but this is not exactly a front office that has made a lot of great draft picks. That said their draft this weekend was odd to say the least. One of their better picks was RB Tony Hunt, who will finally give the team a viable “bigger back” to presumably work into the mix with Brian Westbrook. Buckhalter may not relinquish his change-of-pace role right away, but there’s little question Hunt is a much more powerful back, so he should eventually have a role. In fact, Buckhalter has been playing at a lighter weight, so he’s even less of a power guy than he was a couple of years ago. And if Philly really wants to go “Thunder and Lightening” on the rest of the league, Westbrook and Hunt should be the way to go.
- Chris Perry (Cin) – He’s a dynamic player, but if you were holding on to him in a keeper league, you might want to give it up unless you don’t really care about the roster spot. Perry’s still recovering from a broken ankle and might not be ready to play when the 2007 season opens. Because of that, the Bengals took Auburn’s Kenny Irons, a speed back who should be a good complement to Rudi Johnson. Irons should be a nice addition and another viable weapon for the Bengals, and if he excels here, Perry’s time in Cincy could be done soon.
- Michael Turner (SD) – It’s not over for him yet in terms of moving to a new team in 2007, but time is running out. At this point, the team teams that could still be interested in him are the Titans and Packers. I would put the Titans at the top of the list, since they have been the most interested in him to begin with. The Titans added Chris Henry, who has the potential to develop into a lead back, but he will likely need some time to develop and doesn’t offer a ton of upside.
- Steven Jackson (Stl) – I’ll still draft him very early in the first round, obviously, but those expecting Jackson to come anywhere near his 2006 catch total (90) are bound to be disappointed. Many of those receptions last year were check-downs, not designed plays, and with Brian Leonard being such an accomplished receiver, I have to believe the Rams will utilize him in the passing game, plus Leonard can spell Jackson. Jackson is still a beast, but it’s fair to lower expectations a tiny bit.
- Larry Johnson (KC) – Again, I’m going to draft him very early in the first – you have to – but this team needed to address its faltering O-line, and they didn’t. It’s a bit mind-boggling. And not that he’s a threat to Johnson, but drafted RB Kolby Smith has some upside.
- Roy Williams and Mike Furrey (WRs, Det) – Williams should still put up great numbers this year, but I do have a problem with his upside potential now that the team has added Calvin Johnson. It’s kind of a shame because Williams has come a long way and certainly emerged as a legit #1 and go-to guy in 2006. He could have easily carried this passing game on his back even more so this. He should be an even better player in 2007, but the bottom line is he won’t be asked to carry this passing game now, so his value has to slip a little. I would not be thrilled with him as my #1 at this point, but he’s not going to fall out of my top-12 at the position because he’s too good and this is too good of a situation. As for Furrey, his value takes the bigger hit, although he will be their primary slot receiver, and there should be a lot of action for him (just not nearly as much as 2006). When they go four-wide, Shaun McDonald will be on the field, and that gives the offense a very solid and versatile foursome.
- Marty Booker (WR, Mia) – He was the subject of pre-draft trade rumors and now we know why: The Dolphins targeted Ted Ginn all along. Booker had a nice run last year, but that was likely a function of Joey Harrington’s looking to dump the ball off underneath than anything else. The Dolphins want big plays down the field, and Booker won’t give them that. Ginn may not start from Day One, but Booker’s value looks fairly negligible now.
- Samie Parker (WR, KC) – The team used its #1 pick on Dwayne Bowe, a big and physical receiver. Bowe is expected to compete with Parker and Jeff Webb for a starting position, but Parker should be considered the underdog at this point. He hasn’t delivered the last two years, especially last year, and this offense is more conservative than it’s been, so the speedier Parker isn’t all that useful.
- Sinorice Moss (WR, NYG) – He showed very little last year, and now the Giants have added a player in Steve Smith who projects nicely as a 3rd receiver in the NFL. Smith could also someday soon replace Amani Toomer as the #2. But Moss’ stock took a hit this weekend with the addition of Smith.
- Desmond Clark (TE, Chi) – No one was going to jump all over Clark this year, but he was still setting up to be a solid fantasy backup. But while he should continue to start here, the addition of Greg Olsen should hurt Clark’s chances of logging in another strong season. In other words, you probably want more potential from your backup TE.
- Alex Smith (TE, TB) – Not exactly draft-related, but the Bucs signed free agent TE Jerramy Stevens this weekend, so that’s bad for Smith. Stevens is a more athletic and dynamic player, although he has a lot more baggage. In a related note, head coach Jon Gruden plans to enter training camp with 17 TEs and 24 QBs on his roster.
- Greg Jennings (WR, GB) – The Packers did take receiver James Jones in the 3rd round, but there was no Randy Moss, and there was no highly regarded wideouts taken by the Packers this weekend. Jones looks like he’ll be something of a project, and there’s almost no way he’ll challenge Jennings for the starting job alongside Donald Driver. So that’s good news for the second-year receiver, and he’s now a nice value later in drafts.
- Donte Stallworth (WR, NE) – While Stallworth will likely catch fewer passes, I’m not ready to make the fairly obvious call that Stallworth’s value slips due to the addition of Moss. For one, there is certainly a chance Moss makes waves, and the veteran is also an injury risk these days. If Moss is on the field, he’ll command a lot more double-teams than Reche Caldwell would have, so Stallworth should still be in a good spot. You can even make the case that Stallworth isn’t consistent and complete enough of a receiver to be a viable #1 NFL wideout, so the addition in Moss could even be a positive over the long haul.
- Vernand Morency (RB, GB) – He’s worked hard this off-season, is in great shape, and has done what he needs to do to secure the starting job. Things could have gone much worse for him in the draft (the team could have taken RB Marshawn Lynch), but Morency should still be in for a fight for the team’s starting job. The Packers like 2nd round pick Brandon Jackson, and they passed on some higher-profile guys at the position to take him (Antonio Pittman, Kenny Irons, and Chris Henry to name three). Jackson came from a system in Nebraska that has some similarities to Green Bay’s zone blocking scheme, and they like his natural running abilities and his ability to catch the ball, plus Jackson has decent speed. Morency may be a little more explosive, but Jackson appears to be more of a natural runner with better technique, which could help him in his battle with Morency. Jackson will get a good chance to win this job, so Morency might have to settle on being used on a rotational basis. But again, had they drafted Lynch as everyone expected, he’d be in a much worse spot.
- Terry Glenn (WR, Dal) – I was a little surprised that Dallas didn’t use an early pick on a wideout, and very surprised they didn’t draft one at all. It’s good news for Glenn, at least, who should remain a huge part of their passing game. But if T.O. implodes this year, the Cowboys will regret not taking advantage of what was a very deep and talented receiving class.
- Tarvaris Jackson (QB, Min) – No one is doing handstands for Jackson today, but his value is stabilized now that the draft is over. It’s now clear they are fully committed to him, so forget about a legit battle between him and Brooks Bollinger, and the addition of Adrian Peterson will certainly help him and this offense. They also added a solid receiver in Sydney Rice. Rice may not be ready to contribute right away, but he offers the skill and potential to be a #1 wideout, and he can definitely catch the ball, unlike Troy Williamson. If you have Jackson in a keeper league, you should feel a little better now.
- LenDale White (RB, Ten) – The Titans did add Chris Henry in the 2nd round, but Henry right now project to, at best, compete with White for playing time and split time with the 2006 draft pick. There’s a long way to go between now and September – and we have to see if the team has any plans for Chris Brown – but White looks like he still has a very good chance to open the season as the starter in Tennessee.
- Warrick Dunn & Jerious Norwood (RBs, Atl) – The Falcons will move to more of a power running game, but they didn’t add a power runner in the draft. That’s good for Dunn, he can run inside, and he helps Norwood, who has a lot to prove but should have a fairly prominent role.
- Joey Galloway (TB) – The Bucs didn’t get Calvin Johnson, and they didn’t get a wideout of note at all, so it’s all Galloway again in 20007. The guy can still play at an extremely high level, and the QB situation will be better this year. That’s good stuff for JG.