Top 5 pre-draft moves

25 04 2009

It’s eve of the NFL Draft, which means the opening kickoff is only about four months away. It’s been a busy off-season for teams. Trades, signings and releases have kept teams busy and fantasy football owners interested — and eagerly anticipating the next season. Here’s a look at the top five off-season moves to date and what they may mean for fantasy owners …

1. Jay Cutler to the Bears: The Broncos shipped the strong-armed quarterback to the Bears for a couple of key draft p
icks and Kyle Orton, whose stats bear a striking resemblance to Cutler’s. In two full seasons, Cutler has thrown 13 more TDs than interceptions (45 to 32) while Orton had 18 TDs to 11 picks last year, his first full season after a forgettable rookie campaign in which he only had nine TDs and 13 interceptions.

The lowdown: While Bears fans are overjoyed at having a young QB who can zing the ball, fantasy owners may be better off taking a chance on Orton as a strong backup. While Cutler is capable of throwing for 4,000 yards for a season and a threat to toss multiple TDs in most games, the Broncos offer a better mix of offensive players key to the QB’s success. WR Brandon Marshall is a top 10 receiver, while Eddie Royal makes for a strong second option. The Broncos running game is assured of being more consistent than last season when about 172 of their running backs ended up on the disabled list. Orton, who has started 33 games for the Bears in three seasons, will provide steady leadership and could return good value on what will surely be a lower-tier pick. Cutler will be between the sixth and 10th quarterback taken but his value depends heavily on the currently weak corp of Bears wideouts. Pass on him and take Orton later for a value pick.

2. Warner stays with Cardinals. The grocery-shelf-stocker-turned-quarterback flirted with leaving the Super Bowl runner-up Cards in the offseason but decided to stay in Arizona. Warner may or not have his dynamic duo wideouts lining up once the season begins. Larry Fitzgerald showed the world his playoff ability during last year’s playoffs, but Anquan Boldin has been the rumor of trade talks starting about 90 seconds after the Steelers raised the trophy. Warner tossed 30 TDs last year (27 the year before).

The lowdown: Warner will be a highly regarded commodity, whether or not Boldin returns. If Boldin is traded, the Cards figure to add a young wideout (in addition to finding a solution at running back). Either way, Warner and Fitz have developed a real chemistry. Their values should remain high, especially Fitz who could be the top wideout taken when draft day rolls around.

3. Giants give Plax the ax. In the final five games of the season without their main wideout, the Giants lost four, including the playoff game to the Eagles. The Giants won Super Bowl 42 (yeah, I don’t do Roman numerals) and dominated the first 12 weeks of last season until Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg. Without him, the Giants could still pound the ball but they were clearly lacking a go-to wide receiver. The complementary receivers are decent – the “other” Steve Smith who is a good young possession receiver, Kevin Boss is growing into a productive tight end, and if you need a clutch catch David Tyree is still around.

The lowdown: For a franchise on the brink of a Super Bowl run (and fantasy owners) none of the current WR options will get them to the promised land. The Giants have been rumored to be chasing Boldin and Braylon Edwards of the Browns. If either lands with the Giants, their value should at least stay the same if not increase. If Eli Manning is able to start the season with Boldin, Edwards or a similar top-tier receiver his value soars probably around sixth or seventh of QBs. If not, stay away. Kevin Boss could be a good pickup since Eli looked to him more and more during the end of last season.

4. Going, going Gonzo. Days before the draft, the Chiefs sent longtime TE Tony Gonzalez to the Atlanta Falcons for a 2010 draft pick.

The lowdown: This gives rookie sensation Matt Ryan a great option and a legitimate scoring threat in the red zone. Gonzo scored 10 times last season, equating his output from the two previous seasons combined. Don’t expect another double-digit TD season but he will be productive enough to be a quality top 10 TE. For Ryan owners, the Gonzo trade should increase his value. For owners of Michael Turner, this could mean a slight decrease in TDs (he had 17 last year) near the goal line but overall the offense will be improved enough so TDs and yards will be in good supply.

5. NFL suspends Lynch. The Bills running back makes for a good second round selection, either adding depth for a team that took a top-shelf RB in the first round, or needs a steady, TD threat after taking a top QB or WR in round one. However, Marshawn Lynch’s three-game suspension threatens his value. The Bills also added some other offensive firepower in the offseason, adding Terrell Owens and Dominic Rhodes.

The lowdown: In a fairly normal 13-game fantasy schedule, Lynch will be unavailable for 31 percent of a fantasy owner’s regular season games, including the Bills bye week. I’d move him back to a 4th or 5th round pick, depending on the size and scoring of your league. With TO in a Bills uniform, defenses will focus less attention on Lynch (15 TDs in two seasons) which may help him when he starts in Week Four. However, that seems late in the season to realize value of someone who would ordinarily be a strong second-round pick. If you are picking near the top of your draft, you may be able to snag AP or another elite runner and then be patient and wait for Lynch late in the fourth round or early fifth. Having an AP-Lynch backfield tandem for the playoffs would serve any owner well. Just be certain you have enough other firepower from the early rounds to cover for the games that Lynch will miss.

The lowdown (2): The signing of Rhodes further perplexes the situation at RB. If Rhodes starts the season really strong, could he end up staying as the starter? Even if he remains the No. 2 back, Rhodes will be a good mid- to late-round pickup who can steal some carries, yards and TDs from the troubled Lynch.




One response

23 05 2009
Running back battles to watch (AFC) « 1st and 5

[…] No. 2 back and could repeat a nine-TD season in what should be a very improved Bills offense. As I blogged about earlier, if Lynch’s three-game suspension holds up he will miss about a third of your regular season […]

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