Offseason Notebook: Stallworth, Walker find new homes
It's not easy to keep track of all the happenings as a fantasy player nowadays. We are being blitzed by all sorts of news and announcements from every angle. You may feel overloaded trying to prepare for your fantasy baseball draft, while dealing with the somewhat surprising trends in fantasy racing and also managing your fantasy basketball and/or hockey teams. Some of us, like me, have even wrapped themselves up in the new Arena Football League season. (Hint/Plug: Check out my Week 2 selections right here.)
For those of us who have kept our fantasy sights focused mostly on one or two sports, it's still been a challenge to stay on top of everything. My colleagues, Christopher Harris and Eric Karabell, have already provided us with in-depth spins on the Randy Moss and Brett Favre situations, plus we have already fully covered the Michael Turner and his move to Atlanta. Yet even if you only play fantasy football, there's been a lot of other important moves to cover since last week's notebook, and I'll round them up here. Players are listed with their new teams.
Bernard Berrian, WR, Vikings: Some people perceive him as a pure speed merchant, but Berrian can make tough catches, too, and will bring a good work ethic and big-play potential to the Vikings. Yet he can't be looked at as anything more than a third fantasy receiver until Minnesota improves its quarterback situation and gets better complements for Berrian. That may be tough to do now in a thinning market for free agents and trades. Sidney Rice should continue to improve next season, but Berrian won't be a regularly effective fantasy player if the supporting cast around him doesn't change much in the near future.
T.J. Duckett, RB, Seahawks: This could be a very interesting move, although Duckett has always been touted as a promising player with new teams before, only to become irrelevant for fantasy purposes. We all know Seattle cannot depend on Shaun Alexander anymore, so Duckett has the opportunity to emerge as a part-time presence in the backfield rotation and could become a very useful flex player at best. It remains to be seen, however, if the Seahawks will draft a running back, which could push Duckett back into a limited or meaningless role from a fantasy perspective again.
Javon Walker, WR, Raiders: A source told ESPN's Michael Smith that Oakland gave Walker a six-year deal, which seems very risky for a player with health questions. But the Raiders also gave a very questionable seven-year deal to defensive lineman Tommy Kelly, so go figure. Knee troubles crept up on him again in 2007, and while he can be potentially more effective than the departed Jerry Porter, Walker is obviously a big gamble in any fantasy format and will only be drafted as a backup in yearly leagues and has only minimal keeper appeal. In dynasty leagues, he will be worth retaining in case he can rebound to be productive again in the future.
Mewelde Moore, RB, Steelers: Willie Parker should still remain atop the depth chart, and Pittsburgh may still elect to draft a physical, bruising type to complement him. Moore initially projects to be nothing more than a third-down running back for the Steelers, but he will certainly be draftable as a handcuff to Parker next season.
Jerame Tuman, TE, Cardinals: This may not seem like a signing of real note at first, but it can certainly help the fantasy value of Leonard Pope. With Tuman brought in to help as a blocker, Pope can be freed up to operate more as a pass-catcher and now can be looked at as a possible player on the rise for 2008 after catching five touchdown passes last season.
Marty Booker, WR, Bears: Chicago has lost Bernard Berrian and released Mushin Muhammad, and as it stands now, Booker does have a chance to start in his return to the Bears. Booker often suffered from poor quarterback play in Miami, but there's no assurance he'll get much more help from that position in Chicago, and he should be nothing more than a final-round pick in yearly leagues.
Brian Griese, QB, Buccaneers: He joins a crowded quarterback picture, but he could perform respectably if pressed into service. I don't expect him to compete for the starting job, but he can still be a decent emergency fantasy option if the Buccaneers must plug him in at some point.
Keary Colbert, WR, Broncos: He will make a real push to start alongside Brandon Marshall. Colbert did have opportunities to seize a starting job in Carolina, though, and never blossomed as hoped. He only figures to be drafted in larger leagues next year, although he will bear watching as a possible free-agent addition during the season.
Ernest Wilford, WR Dolphins: He is a big target who can make important catches, especially in the red zone, and can ultimately mix well with up-and-coming wideouts like Ted Ginn Jr. and Derek Hagan. With Dan Marino's statue still being the best-looking quarterback in Miami, though, he won't have any fantasy value in 2008.
Josh Brown, K, Rams: He has become known as a clutch guy, which is why the Rams stole him from the NFC West rival Seahawks with a five-year deal. As the TMR will tell you, though, and I wholeheartedly agree with him, kickers should be left for the final rounds, and if you don't get Brown in your draft, no problem. Any other top-10 kicker will do, including any unknown the Seahawks may bring in to replace him.
Joel, Poteau, Okla. I was one of the guys who drafted Frank Gore last year, with the fourth overall pick. Well, we all know what kind of year he had. What does Mike Martz's hire in San Francisco mean for Gore's production next year? Should Gore be a top keeper this next season? I also have Marion Barber III, Ryan Grant, Carson Palmer and Brandon Marshall as potential keepers.
Engel: Martz was brought in as the offensive coordinator to shape up the passing game, and if the Niners can get respectable quarterback play throughout the full season, it should open up more running lanes for Gore. Also, the acquisition of DeShaun Foster will give Gore some more breathers, keep defenses off balance against two quality runners and prevent Gore from being overworked. I think the outlook for Gore going forward can be that of a very strong No. 2 fantasy running back in an improving offense. But I would not keep him over a possible franchise quarterback like Palmer or a quickly rising standout receiver like Marshall. I would put him on equal ground with Grant, who may get more defensive attention now that Favre has retired and still must prove his fine 2007 season was no fluke. Barber is a strong and determined runner who still may share a workload with another running back now, so he is in the same bracket as well. In a pinch, I would keep Grant first, then Barber and Gore last, as all three have upside, but are not quite sure bets.
Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.
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