That’s right, fantasy football is back! Well, it’s been back since June, but now it’s back for real, and so are our fantasy predictions and prognostications doomed to be wrong. We’re kicking off our 2011 fantasy coverage with a look at free agency, and the players whose fantasy stock either rose or plummeted with their new place of employment.
We start with the quarterbacks, a position that saw more good than bad, but still little in terms of significant fantasy movement beyond one obvious name. Later on today Laura Diakun will be around to assess how the running backs fared in free agency.
1. Kevin Kolb (traded to the Cardinals, then signed a six-year deal worth $65 million)
At one point in the offseason the waffling Eagles were considering keeping Kolb as Michael Vick’s backup, knowing the need for a quality arm behind Vick since he misses a handful of games every year. That didn’t happen, so his move to the desert alone clearly rockets Kolb’s value.
Although Arizona lost the underrated Steve Breaston, there’s still enough offensive weapons to capitalize on the potential Kolb has shown in his seven career starts. Larry Fitzgerald remains, and Todd Heap was acquired for help down the middle.
2. Matt Hasselbeck (signed three-year deal with the Titans worth $21 milllion)
Assuming that Chris Johnson gets paid eventually and Kenny Britt isn’t suspended by Roger Goodell for his moronic decisions during the lockout (the second assumption isn’t nearly as safe), Hasselbeck leaves an offense with minimal run support, and joins one that boasts a record-setting rusher from two years ago.
3. Donovan McNabb (traded to the Vikings)
If a quarterback is deemed a liability in a two-minute offense and is benched for Rex Grossman, the future looks bleak no matter where he’s playing. But despite the loss of Sidney Rice, the Vikings still offer more reliable targets (Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, and Visanthe Shiancoe). Adrian Peterson also supplies a consistent and explosive backfield presence, something that was lacking in Washington with Mike Shanahan’s love for the committee approach.
Similar to Hasselbeck, McNabb will be looking over his shoulder as a first-round pick develops. But while he’s under center keeping the seat warm, McNabb should be in a position to post solid numbers and be an effective No. 2 fantasy quarterback.
4. Bruce Gradkowski (signed a two-year deal with Bengals)
Gradkowski is such a deep sleeper that he’ll need at least three alarms to wake up. He’ll compete with Andy Dalton throughout training camp, but with Dalton quickly learning the playbook the rebuilding Bengals could lean heavily towards starting the rookie right away. If he falters Gradkowski has shown that he could be a sneaky waiver wire pickup as an injury or bye week fill-in.
Last year in Oakland he started only four times, yet the Polish brute still finished with 1,059 passing yards.
1. Tarvaris Jackson (signed a two-year deal with the Seahawks worth $8 million)
Sure, the Seahawks brought in Rice and Zach Miller. But despite the revival of Marshawn Lynch late last season, Seattle had the second-worst ground game in the league, averaging 89 yards per game. There will be plenty of DBs in the secondary preventing Jackson from connecting with those new targets.
2. Alex Smith (Re-signed with the 49ers, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $5 million)
Depending on the size of the league, Smith should have a permanent seat either on the waiver wire, or the bench. There are far better bye week or injury replacements out there, and Smith is still in the same offense that induced chants for David Carr last year, and six Troy Smith appearances.