The AFC East is getting crazy.
ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting Wednesday that the Miami Dolphins have agreed to trade a second-round pick in next week's NFL draft and what league sources say is a second-rounder in 2011 to the Denver Broncos in exchange for wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall is the second problem-child receiver -- after Santonio Holmes went to the New York Jets -- to jump to the AFC East in the past few days. Considering that Randy Moss will spend at least one more season in New England, the Buffalo Bills must have some small part of them that wishes they'd kept Terrell Owens for another year. After all, the Bills are now the only team in their division that's diva-less.
Marshall's skills don't quite fill the bill of what's been ailing the Dolphins' offense these past couple of seasons. He's not a deep threat (as Holmes is). But he's still an immense talent: a sure-handed, huge-bodied playmaker after the catch, a reliable red zone target and a receiver most defenses will double-team most of the time. In '09, he scored double-digit touchdowns for the first time in his career, caught over 100 passes for the third straight season and had a Week 14 outing in which he caught 21 passes for 200 yards and two scores. But he was also an insubordinate jerk last season. During training camp, he made a fool of himself kicking a ball away from a ball boy, and by Week 17 he was suspended for allegedly exaggerating the extent of a hamstring injury. And that's to say nothing of his run-ins with the law during his time in Denver, his alleged punching of a television set which led to a hand and wrist injury, his suspension to begin the '08 season and his ongoing petulance. Giving him a huge contract (which the Dolphins reportedly will right away) is a big-time risk, given his personal issues.
But considered strictly in on-field terms (that is, if Marshall stays on the field), this is a coup for the Dolphins. He's obviously a go-to, No. 1 receiver, and while he's trading the potential of a Josh McDaniels offense for the Tony Sparano/Bill Parcells model in Miami, the truth is that the Broncos didn't throw down the field much last year anyway. Marshall averaged just 11.1 yards per catch in '09. Heck, new teammate Greg Camarillo averaged 11.0. Yes, the Dolphins were a bit more run-oriented than the Broncos in '09: Miami featured a 48/52 run/pass mix, while Denver submitted a 44/56 ratio. But some of that can simply be chalked up to the lack of an elite receiving weapon. I honestly don't see Marshall's value falling here. I had him rated as my No. 5 fantasy receiver before the trade (under the assumption that he was getting dealt somewhere), and for now, that's where I'm leaving him.
This move boosts Chad Henne's value. I previously had Henne at No. 25 among fantasy quarterbacks, because while the Fish have been strong at unearthing high-character, soft-handed possession receivers, they haven't had a No. 1 man (Ted Ginn Jr. doesn't count). I certainly think Henne is as talented as Marshall's quarterback in Denver last year (more on him in a moment), with a bigger arm and more upside. That leads me to elevate Henne to No. 16 on my QB list. He's a bye-week fantasy option now, with the potential to be more than that, depending on how the Dolphins' offense shakes out. Of course, Ginn is now trade material, so we'll see where he lands. And the rest of the guys in Miami -- Camarillo, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline -- see their fantasy values drop. Hartline is an intriguing outside-receiving prospect who probably needs another season of development before he can be termed fantasy-relevant, and Bess and Camarillo are best-served as slot receivers; if Marshall's grabbing his customary 100 balls, everyone else is fighting over scraps.
What about what's left in Denver? The primary victim here, fantasy-wise, is certainly Kyle Orton, who loses his most (only?) reliable target. Orton is entering the final year of his contract anyway, the Broncos traded for Brady Quinn and now he's down a No. 1 receiver? Oh, boy. This doesn't seem like it'll go well. When McDaniels took over the Broncos I envisioned Patriots West, a high-flying attack that would spread the field and throw on a near-constant basis. That didn't happen in '09, and looks less likely to happen than ever right now, even if Denver goes out and drafts someone like Dez Bryant in the first round. The deck is really stacked against Orton, whom I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole in fantasy leagues right now.
But surely some receiver or receivers will step up and garner stats in Marshall's place. Eddie Royal was a huge fantasy bust last year, going from 91 catches in '08 to 37 in '09, as McDaniels put him almost exclusively at split end and had him run longer patterns, patterns Orton doesn't have the wing to throw. Royal still has terrific hands (he had only one drop in '09), and I'm expecting a bounce-back. I think he'll be the Broncos' best fantasy receiver, though he probably only belongs in the mid-30s among pass-catchers. And Jabar Gaffney -- who had 213 yards receiving in Week 17 last year while Marshall was suspended -- figures to get a lot of looks, too; he's not an exciting physical specimen, but he knows where to be in McDaniels' offense. Gaffney has a chance to lead the team in receptions and be a factor in PPR leagues.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.