Initial Free Agent Fantasy Thoughts

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Though no contracts can be officially signed until late Friday afternoon, the blizzard of player-team agreements that have been negotiated gives us an early idea as to how the 2011-12 NFL fantasy season will play out.

Let's look at the top developments so far:


Kevin Kolb, Arizona - Kolb's trade from Philadelphia to Arizona has long been rumored and the result should mean improved production from the Cardinals' No.1 receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is one of the top wideouts in the league, but suffered a below-average season (90-1,137-6), for him, in 2010 because his quarterbacks were not very good. Though Kolb has only seven starts on his resume, most believe he is an upgrade from John Skelton, Derek Anderson, Max Hall and Richard Bartel. Kolb, who's current ADP is 130.4, is a bargain as an 11th-round choice, while Fitzgerald (ADP 23.2) should easily produce statistics worthy of his second-round selection.

Donovan McNabb, Minnesota - McNabb heads to another team with inferior receiving talent. The Washington Redskins best pass catchers were tight ends and with Sidney Rice leaving the cold of Minnesota for the rain of the Pacific northwest, McNabb's best receiver might again be a tight end - Visanthe Shiancoe. He'll also have the elusive Percy Harvin, assuming Harvin is over his migraine problem. McNabb isn't an everyday fantasy starter anymore, but he could spot start against some of the weaker defensive teams.

Running Backs

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina - Those who chose Williams in early fantasy drafts expecting him to leave Charlotte have to be disappointed that he'll share the backfield with Jonathan Stewart again this season. Many expected Williams to follow his former coach, John Fox, to Denver to be the primary workhorse in the Broncos' running game. Instead, he'll put up solid rushing yards in Carolina, but see his touchdown total limited by Stewart.

Jonathan Stewart, Carolina - I had Stewart as a top-10 fantasy value if Williams was out of the picture, but now he'll be the same borderline starter he has been in the past few years when both backs are healthy. Stewart has averaged 195 carries, 913 yards and eight touchdowns in his three years alongside Williams. Williams and Stewart are ranked as the 21st and 22nd backs, respectively, in the latest ADP rankings.

Reggie Bush, Miami - Expectations and media hype have always been over-the-top for Bush, well above his actual performance level. As a running back he's never carried the ball more than 157 times in a season, nor rushed for more than 581 yards. He's a great receiver, for a running back, with 294 catches for 2,142 yards over five seasons. But he's always hurt and can't be depended on week-in, week-out. Don't be fooled by his move to the Dolphins, he's not the every down back, that job will belong to rookie Daniel Thomas. If you draft Bush, you better draft depth at the position because you are going to need it.

Darren Sproles, New Orleans - Sproles has always been the change-of-pace back and kick returner and that won't change this season. He'll just be doing it in "The Crescent City" instead of San Diego. He was stuck as the No.3 guy behind Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert last season and in New Orleans, he'll be behind rookie Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas. His best opportunity to produce reliable fantasy value will be in those leagues who use punt and kickoff return yardage.

Wide Receivers

Chad Ochocinco, New England - The trade of Ochocinco to New England has to be a huge bonus for the wideout. He goes from catching passes from Carson Palmer or rookie Andy Dalton to Tom Brady. However, I have plenty of questions before I move Ochocinco too far up my draftboard. Can he play by Bill Belichick's rules? Can he play the Randy Moss role or has he lost a step and is only a possession receiver? Is he ready to think team and championship, not tweets and television shows? Though he's better than his current ADP of 113, he's not a top-20 receiver anymore, even in New England.

Sidney Rice, Seattle - The combination of Rice and Mike Williams gives the Seahawks a nice receiving if only they can find someone to reliably deliver the ball. Seattle also picked up former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and he appears to have the first shot at the starting gig. Though Rice and Jackson have hooked up seven times over their career, it was under Brett Favre's time in Minnesota that Rice became a fantasy stud. I'm not sure that will happen for Rice in Seattle and therefore I believe his fantasy value will never reach his 2009 high. Remembering his great 2009 season, someone will pick him too high, don't you be that guy. He's no better than No.50 at his position.

Steve Breaston, Kansas City - I think this is a good move for Breaston, who thrived as a No.3 receiver with Kurt Warner at quarterback, but was invisible last season. He'll play across from Dwayne Bowe, who will draw all the attention that Jamaal Charles doesn't, and should be able to produce solid statistics in 2011 catching passes from Matt Cassel.

Tight Ends

Greg Olsen, Carolina - As expected in a Mike Martz-led offense, the tight end didn't get used to his full potential. Olsen has too much talent to catch just 41 balls over a 16-game schedule, but that's what happened last year. Now he'll ply his trade for the Panthers where the less-talented Dante Rosario caught 32 passes. Olsen should be a great target and safety value for rookie quarterback Cam Newton and his numbers should improve from last season. Still, with the quality of talent at tight end around the league, Olsen is a low-end fantasy starter.


David Akers, San Francisco - The five-time Pro Bowl selection will start for a new team after 12 successful seasons in Philadelphia. He has cracked the 100- point mark in 10 of the last 11 years and led the league in scoring last season with 143 points. But he's headed to a much less explosive offense and you must drastically lower your expectations. He's just a borderline fantasy starter in 2011-12.

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