Yesterday we painted a picture of roses and sunsets shining on sunflowers in our assessment of the free agency movement and its fantasy impact on quarterbacks. Today before reading further we’ll ask you to please change into black clothing as we witness the death–or near death–of the fantasy production we used to expect from a few wideouts.
A chunk of the top wide receivers in the free agent pool stayed with their 2010 teams, and largely maintained their 2010 value. This includes Santonio Holmes, James Jones, and Lance Moore, although there was one exception. Santana Moss was widely rumored to be heading to the Jets, but instead he stayed in Washington, where his value will plummet when he’s getting overthrown/underthrown by either Rex Grossman or John Beck.
We’re generally cheery, perky people here at GLS, especially on the Friday afternoon before I start holidays that will include a sporadic trip to Cleveland (Joakim Noah approves). So let’s begin with the good news before we crush the spirit of those in keeper leagues who wasted a roster spot on Sidney Rice last year.
1. Steve Breaston (signed a five-year deal with the Chiefs worth $25 million)
Look, we get it. Kansas City is primarily a running team, and Breaston will still be overshadowed by Dwayne Bowe to some extent. But in Arizona he wasn’t in Larry Fitzgerald’s shadow, he was in Larry Fitzgerald’s darkness. If Breaston can still post serviceable, WR3-type numbers (718 receiving yards) behind Fitzgerald while receiving passes from John Skelton, Max Hall, and Derek Anderson, he’s set for a leap forward with Matt Cassel.
2. Mike Sims-Walker (signed a one-year deal with the Rams worth $3.7 million)
Sims-Walker also received a quarterback upgrade with his move away from Jacksonville and into the same huddle as the steadily progressing arm of Sam Bradford. Like the child’s toy with the choking hazard warning, there’s still an injury tag attached to Sims-Walker, and perhaps an even larger attitude warning.
But a move to the Midwest could put his mind in the right place, and two years ago we saw what Sims-Walker is capable of when he develops chemistry with a quarterback (869 yards, seven touchdowns).
3. Plaxico Burress (signed a one-year deal with the Jets worth $3 million)
I hesitated for a long time in my decision to put Burress here, because as we’ve written previously there’s really no blueprint for what he’s trying to accomplish. He’ll turn 35 in a week, and he’s been out of football for 18 months.
But Santonio Holmes will bear the brunt of the receiving load in New York, which should remove pressure from Burress’ rusty legs and already swelling ankle. The durability concern is certainly present here, so if you’re expecting the 2008 Burress, don’t ever talk to me again. But if you’re more realistic and looking at drafting Burress in the middle rounds as your third wide receiver, you’ll be happy with your decision.
1. Chad Ochocinco (traded to the Patriots)
The casual fan and fantasy player will see the man throwing to Ochocinco now, and observe that his last name is Brady. They’ll see that as a good thing, and that’s certainly correct. Any time a quarterback is willing to attach a camera to his crotch in public he’s clearly fearless and a future Hall of Famer.
But what the inexperienced young fantasy Jedi (“aren’t all Jedis a fantasy?” is what you’re thinking) misses is that Ochocinco is now competing for touches in an offense that spreads the ball around more than any other unit in the NFL. Ocho will be splitting receptions with Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Brandon Tate, two tight ends who emerged quickly as rookies, and Danny Woodhead, who’s often used as a receiver out of the backfield.
2. Sidney Rice (signed a five-year contract with the Seahawks worth $41 million)
Just thinking about Brett Favre’s season last year makes me reach for the nearest walker instinctively. It takes a genuine QB mess to make fantasy owners yearn for Favre, but Rice may have actually located this mystic land of misfit NFL arms.
As long as he remains healthy, Rice is talented enough to be productive regardless of who’s under center. But his numbers are destined for a tumble with Tarvaris Jackson declared the starter in Seattle, the abandoned pivot who hasn’t consistently started since 2008 in Minnesota when he had a passer rating of 70.8.
3. Braylon Edwards (signed a one-year contract with the 49ers worth $1 million)
Edwards’ paltry San Francisco salary provides clear evidence of his massive fall. This isn’t 2008 for Plax, and it isn’t for Braylon either. He’s far removed from being an elite receiver who hauled in 16 touchdowns.
With the Jets, Edwards still retained value because of his ability to be a large red-zone target. That’s a role reserved for Vernon Davis in San Fran, and the Alex Smith show will lead to wayward balls, and a receiver who could decline even further.