Don't expect Ochocinco to be Moss
Veteran wide receiver has value with Patriots but isn't a fantasy superstar anymore
Things just got much chattier in Massachusetts. The New England Patriots have acquired that mouthy entrepreneur himself, Chad Ochocinco, from the Cincinnati Bengals, ESPN's John Clayton reports. Ochocinco accepted a restructured three-year contract from the Patriots to get the deal done. Meanwhile, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Bengals will receive late-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013 for Ochocinco.
It's no secret Bill Belichick has been a big fan of EightFive for years, right down to an exhibition game in '09, when "Esteban" Ochocinco booted an extra point and Belichick gushed. Now the Pats take another low-risk look at a veteran who talked his way out of a prior NFL home. Can it work? Will Ochocinco kindle memories of Randy Moss in '07?
I don't think so. First of all, The Ocho might need a new number. Tight end Aaron Hernandez already owns 85. (Could another name change be in the offing? Or will Ocho simply buy Hernandez a bunch more tattoos?) More importantly, the Ochocinco I watched on game film from Cincinnati last year looked like he was shying away from contact. Great wheels were never his game, even when he was in his prime, so he needs physical route running and spectacular hands to be effective. I saw alligator arms galore in '10 and too many flamboyant displays of on-field frustration.
That's not to say this is a bad acquisition by New England. It took a look at Torry Holt last year and decided Holt had nothing left. Now the Patriots will try out Ocho, after a small investment. If he's sharp, he gets into the mix with Wes Welker and Deion Branch (in particular serving as injury insurance for Branch, whose knees aren't likely to make it through a full season), and lets kids such as Brandon Tate and Taylor Price continue to develop. If he's not, he's gone. But make no mistake: Ocho is not a Moss-like deep threat. He's not going to produce a double-digit TD season. And he's not going to lead the team in catches, targets or receiving yards. He's a complementary piece who almost certainly won't influence the values of Welker or the two tight ends (Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski). Branch could be due for a slight value dip. But Ocho himself is still only borderline ownable in most leagues.
As for what's left behind in Cincinnati, we're looking at an entirely new aerial attack. Newly acquired Bruce Gradkowski is probably the Week 1 starter with rookie Andy Dalton waiting in the wings; Carson Palmer is evidently retired. Terrell Owens is out for a good long while with a torn knee ligament, and Ochocinco is a Patriot. That leaves behind rookie A.J. Green, Jordan Shipley, and some combination of Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell. If that doesn't sound like a well-oiled offensive machine to you, well, it probably isn't. Jay Gruden's attack will be conservative. This is a caretaker year, designed to get experience for the many young players on this team. Nobody in this Bengals pass offense is going to be a fantasy starter this year.
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.