- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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As cut-down days go, 2012's edition was a virtual missing persons bureau. I daresay there wasn't a single player you were considering starting in your fantasy league, no matter how deep or what the scoring format. But there are ramifications from a few of Friday's NFL moves, so let's do a quick review:
Washington Redskins cut RB Tim Hightower: Hightower suffered a torn left ACL in Week 7 last year, but his knee healed and Mike Shanahan talked him up as the Skins' starter pretty much all throughout July and August. Let that be an object lesson to newbies: Never listen to Shanny when it comes to RBs. Hightower played sparingly in the preseason and was released Friday. This means Washington's four-headed backfield is now three-headed: Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Alfred Morris will be in the mix for carries. I've maintained all summer that, if you have to own one of these guys, eventually you'll be happiest with Helu because he's the most talented runner and pass-catcher of the bunch. But don't be shocked if rookie Morris gets the most carries in Week 1.
New England Patriots cut WR Deion Branch: The former Super Bowl MVP might have reached the end of the road at age 33. When the Pats cut Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth a few days earlier, Branch appeared safe. But instead the team will roll with Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd as their starting WRs and Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater as backups (and special-teamers). In other words: Don't expect Welker, Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez to come off the field very much if they're healthy. In addition, the Pats parted company with backup QB Brian Hoyer and will roll with second-year man Ryan Mallett if Tom Brady gets hurt. In other words: Here's hoping Tom Brady doesn't get hurt.
Cleveland Browns cut TE Evan Moore: Moore was owed $1.87 million, and speculation was rampant that he or Ben Watson would wind up on the chopping block. Moore is essentially a big (6-foot-6, 250-pound) wide receiver and has been on the cusp of intriguing production for a couple of years, but the emergence of second-year TE Jordan Cameron made him expendable. I'd still presume that Watson will play the most snaps at tight end for the Browns this season, but Cameron -- a former hoops player with excellent athleticism -- should be squarely on the dynasty league radar screen. In addition, Cleveland axed Seneca Wallace, signaling the team's intent to keep Colt McCoy as its backup to rookie QB Brandon Weeden.
New Orleans Saints place WR Nick Toon on injured reserve: Toon has battled a foot problem all summer and made no headway into a potentially shaky Saints receiver corps after the team drafted him in the fourth round this spring. He's been called a "Marques Colston clone," so Toon will be interesting if he ever gets healthy, but, for now, New Orleans rolls with Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson as its top three wideouts, with nonsleepers such as Adrian Arrington, Joe Morgan and Courtney Roby behind them. The Saints' offense will still be excellent when in good health, but, considering Colston's and Moore's injury histories, I'd be lying if I said I didn't see a few cracks in the foundation.
San Diego Chargers cut Nick Novak: Kicker roulette took place the past few days, as the New York Jets chose Nick Folk over Josh Brown, the Baltimore Ravens kept rookie Justin Tucker over Billy Cundiff, the Washington Redskins snatched up Cundiff and cut both Graham Gano and Neil Rackers, the Houston Texans put rookie Randy Bullock on IR and handed their job to Shayne Graham, and the Carolina Panthers jettisoned Olindo Mare and chose Justin Medlock. Now the musical chairs are all filled, as the Chargers dropped Novak, thus deciding to go with Nate Kaeding, who tore his left ACL on the opening play of the '11 season. There are legit questions about the Chargers' offense with Philip Rivers coming off a down year, Ryan Mathews already hurt and Vincent Jackson gone to Tampa Bay, which means that, for now, Kaeding doesn't look like a fantasy starter. But he's a kicker, so there's a great and random chance for that to change.
Christopher Harris discusses the fantasy fallout of cut-down day in the NFL.