Mar 3, 2009
Here’s the latest…
Derrick Ward (RB, signed by Tampa Bay from NY Giants) – With tons of money to spend, the Bucs decided to give Ward a four-year, $17 million deal with $6 million guaranteed. While never being the starter for an extended period of time with the Giants, Ward managed to amass 1025 yards at league-leading 5.6 yards per carry. The 28-year-old will join Earnest Graham in a two-headed attack for Tampa, which ranked 15th in the rush last year.
Fantasy Analysis – I have to say, I like how the Bucs are shaping up. Granted, they may be rolling with a very unproven QB in Luke McCown, but if they in fact do, that means they are confident in him, and I can see why. He may be slight, so durability is an issue, but McCown has a good arm, and he’s something of a gunslinger. He’s been in the league for a few years now, so this isn’t just a rookie or a second-year player. They have a #1 NFL wideout in Antonio Bryant, plus TE Kellen Winslow is an elite talent. I even like giving Michael Clayton another shot as a physical possession receiver and their #2. The problem for Ward fantasy-wise is he’ll have to split time with Graham, but that may not be a huge problem for Ward. We should know by now that committees are en vogue in the NFL, and Ward may be a guy who is better off splitting time with another back, preferably a bigger power back. Graham’s only 5’9″ but he’s a sizable runner who can grind it out running inside. He’s a decent receiver, but Ward’s a little more athletic and has a little much juice, so I see Ward being more of a big-play and receiving threat. Certainly, based on the size of the contract, Ward will get plenty of touches in all phases, yet not quite enough to expose him as a player who might not be an ideal feature back. If the passing game can reach its potential, this could be a surprisingly good offense. Keep in mind their OL is very good. We’ll have to get a better feel for his role later this year, but Ward’s a good player in a potentially-good situation, so I certainly think he’s worth drafting if the price is right. We’ll just have to see later this year if he’s a low-end #2, or a high-end #3 fantasy RB.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh (WR, signed by Seattle from Cincinnati) – The Seahawks won the Houshmandzadeh sweepstakes with a five-year, $40 million deal, including $15 million in guaranteed money. Houshmandzadeh, 31, will team up with Deion Branch as the starting WRs for Seattle. With “Housh” averaging 98 catches the past two seasons, he will be an immediate upgrade to a receiving corps that was led by Bobby Engram’s 47 catches in 2008.
Fantasy Analysis – Houshmandzadeh hasn’t played in a west coast system, but he’s a good fit here. He’s a terrific intermediate possession receiver and route-runner, and he’s not afraid to go over the middle and make tough catches, a key in this offense. Seattle has dealt with issues with their receivers in the red zone for several years, in part because they’ve lacked size, but while Houshmandzadeh isn’t a giant, he’s an excellent red zone threat who finds a way to get open. Seattle has also been plagued by dropped passes over the last 2-3 years, but that won’t be a problem with Houshmandzadeh, who has excellent hands. Being paired with a quality pro in Matt Hasselbeck also appears to be a good fit, and since both are savvy veterans the pair should be able to get on the same page relatively quickly. He won’t catch as many passes here, however, since Seattle actually throws to the TE, but if healthy TJH should rack up a solid 70-75 grabs along with a solid 7-8 TDs.
Nate Washington (WR, signed by Tennessee from Pittsburgh) – Washington will get $27 million over six years with Tennessee. This was a no-brainer deal for Washington, who immediately leaps to the top of the Titans’ receiver-thin depth chart. Tennessee seems confident that Washington will be able to make the jump to a #1 receiver, after he competed with Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes for catches in Pittsburgh. The speedy Washington should help spread the field and complement the talents of the bigger Justin Gage, and to offset the loss of Brandon Jones to San Francisco.
Fantasy Analysis – This should be a nice pickup for the Titan, but there’s not too much to like from a fantasy perspective. In Washington, the Titans finally now have a speedy receiver to go along with the speed RB Chris Johnson brings to the table, and adding a wideout who can run and test defenses down the field was critical for the Titans. But this is till a run-heavy team, and I still believe that the solid Justin Gage is still the #1 WR here, plus TE Bo Scaife is one of the better TEs in the league these days, so there will be only so much production to go around. QB Kerry Collins does have a good arm, and Mike Heimerdinger does like to take shots down the field, so Washington will make some big plays. But consistency will be an issue for fantasy owners, so he’ll be a deeper backup only for fantasy purposes this year.
Bryant Johnson (WR, signed by Detroit from San Francisco) – Six-year veteran, Bryant Johnson signed a three-year, $9 million deal with the Lions, giving them another tall receiver to compliment stud Calvin Johnson. He spent his first five seasons in Arizona, where he was often overshadowed by WR standouts Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, before moving on to San Francisco in 2008 to play alongside Isaac Bruce. Johnson, 27, had a 2008 season that was nothing special (45 catches/546 yards/3 TD), but he is durable having only missed three games in his six seasons.
Fantasy Analysis – Johnson at this point is just a guy, but he’s not a bad #2 wideout, and the fit in Detroit is pretty good, since he’ll play alongside a beast like Calvin Johnson. Bryant can run, and he’s always been a solid red zone threat, so the Lions will have another option in the passing game, a legit #2 WR as opposed to guys like Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald, who are better utilized as slot receivers. But this won’t be a great offense, and they will get the ball to their RBs a lot, plus Calvin commands the ball big time, so Johnson’s fantasy impact in 2009 should be negligible