Roundup: Meachem up, Wayne down
Robert Meachem to the San Diego Chargers. On Tuesday, I wrote about the state of the Chargers in the wake of Vincent Jackson signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Meachem probably makes things better. He's a former first-rounder with size (6-foot-2, 214 pounds) and speed (a reported 4.39 at the 2007 combine). The raw materials are there for Meachem to be a No. 1 wideout in the NFL. But obviously it hasn't happened yet. He's never topped 45 catches in his four pro seasons (he missed his rookie year due to injury). Away from Drew Brees' spread-the-love philosophy in New Orleans, it's possible Meachem blossoms into a legit every-week fantasy threat, and he should probably be drafted as a high-upside No. 3 wideout for '12. But would anyone be shocked if he wound up being a high-dollar ($14 million guaranteed) bust? I'll grant that the move seems to solidify Philip Rivers' value for now (he clearly stays in the QB top 10 and emerges as a sleeper of sorts), and puts guys like Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown into more comfortable roles. But in the realpolitik of the NFL, this is still a net step backwards for the Chargers offense.
Reggie Wayne stays with the Indianapolis Colts. I understand why the Colts re-signed Wayne. Andrew Luck will (probably) be coming to an unbelievably young team, and it makes a world of sense to have a wily veteran teach the kid how to practice and play like a pro. But I think this pretty much squashes Wayne's fantasy value for the remainder of his career. I know: You look at Wayne sticking around to play with Luck the same way you look at Steve Smith sticking around to play with Cam Newton, which worked out pretty well for Smith last year. The thing is: I already was of the opinion that Wayne is fading badly, not because his numbers were down in '11 while he played with a motley crew of QBs, but because when you watch him run, his long speed simply seems gone.
Wayne is "only" 33 (he turns 34 in November), but that's the same age Torry Holt was during his ill-fated season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and there seem to be similarities. Like Holt, Wayne's quickness is diminishing and he can't get open down the field. Luck should eventually be good, and maybe I'm dead wrong, and Wayne finds some late-career magic of the sort shown by Terrell Owens in his final decent season with the Cincinnati Bengals. But I don't see it, and I'm not building my fantasy team around it. Had he gone to a team likelier to be higher-scoring than the Colts will be this year, I'd still have considered Wayne a top-30 receiver. As it is, I've dropped him out of my overall top 100.
Martellus Bennett to the New York Giants. Bennett in the Big Apple could be interesting. He's not known as the most mature guy in the NFL (remember his profanity-laced rapping?) and has faced scrutiny in Dallas for failing to live up to his physical gifts. But now he seems to be in line as Eli Manning's top pass-catching tight end, since Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum both figure to need long recovery times from injuries they suffered in the Super Bowl. Catching passes from Eli isn't a bad thing for one's fantasy value, and Bennett has the size/speed combo (he's 6-foot-6, weighs 275 pounds, and ran a 4.68 40 way back at the '08 combine) to join the current crop of freakishly uncoverable tight ends. He instantly makes for a fantasy sleeper in deep leagues. Heck, he might wind up being a very chic waiver-wire acquisition early in the '12 season. But the question of how he'll react to New-York-level expectations and hype certainly lingers in the air.
John Carlson to the Minnesota Vikings. I guess the Vikings simply must have two receiving tight ends at all times. They're expected to let Visanthe Shiancoe walk, but appeared to have a nice replacement available in last year's second-round draft pick, Kyle Rudolph. That could've made Rudolph a fairly intriguing tight end sleeper in deeper leagues. But the team overpaid ($11 million guaranteed for a guy who didn't play a regular-season snap last year) to grab Carlson from the Seattle Seahawks. From a football perspective, I guess this means we'll see a whole bunch of two-tight-end sets. From a fantasy perspective, neither guy is likely to be consistent enough to be draftable, despite the fact that Carlson had 12 receiving TDs in '08 and '09 combined.
Jason Campbell to the Chicago Bears; Kyle Orton to the Dallas Cowboys. The Bears learned their lesson from the trials and tribulations of Caleb Hanie last season, and the Cowboys learned the same watching the ghost of Jon Kitna play for them. If either Jay Cutler or Tony Romo goes down, their respective teams don't want to be caught without a viable NFL QB. The sad thing for each of these guys is that they probably are league-average talents. Campbell still has still never really gotten a fair shake in a stable situation; he played acceptably well as the Oakland Raiders' starter for six weeks last season, before a broken collarbone sidelined him, but think about the circuses he's been at the center of: the Washington Redskins for four years, and the Raiders for two? Orton was less persuasive in his five games with the Denver Broncos and his cameo with the Kansas City Chiefs in '11, but he's a couple years removed from generating 3,653 passing yards in 13 games. Nevertheless, in a world where highly-drafted rookie QBs are expected to play right away, there just don't appear to be starting gigs available for guys like this.