Three wide receivers found new teams in the past few days. Here are the updates we've made to reflect them, with a little more detail than usual to give you a better idea of how we adapt to the news as it comes.
Lee Evans traded to Ravens. Lee Evans to No. 43 among wide receivers, behind James Jones and ahead of Plaxico Burress. The upgrade in quarterback and overall team quality warrants a bump in projections of targets, completions and touchdowns. Check out Christopher Harris' trade spin for more details.
Steve Johnson gets a token bump down one spot to WR 20, flopping with Kenny Britt, but no change to his projection. Anquan Boldin gets a bump to WR 24 ahead of Brandon Marshall and Austin Collie and merits a modest targets bump to 120. Torrey Smith, whose deep-threat role now goes to Evans, dives to WR91, aka Donnie Avery territory. We'll adjust his projection to 2.5 targets per game, which comes out to 25 catches.
Then, there's the Buffalo receivers, for what they're worth. Roscoe Parrish gets a bump to WR 70 and gets 100 targets and an extra TD as the one most worth owning after Johnson. David Nelson gets a bump up to WR 86, where Roscoe used to be. Donald Jones moves up to WR 124 and we bumped him to 40 targets and an extra TD. Brad Smith gets a bump to the same area code, WR 122, right below Josh Cribbs, since they're kind of similar players in kind of similarly bad situations. Your guess is as good as ours as far as whether he gets any more play in some sort of trick package. This is a hot mess. Sorry, Bills fans.
Steve Smith, formerly of the Giants, signs with Eagles. Not much impact here until we get clarity on Smith's injury. We've updated the profiles of Smith, Jason Avant, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Jerrel Jernigan and Riley Cooper, but no rankings or projections changes at this time.
Jerricho Cotchery signs with the Steelers. Bad landing spot for him. We moved him to right ahead of Devin Aromashodu at WR 92. Docked him a few targets, down to 65. Some moves have more impact than others.
News: Ronnie Brown signs with the Eagles
News: Derek Anderson signs with Panthers
Action: Anderson upgraded to QB 56. Profiles updated for Anderson, Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen.
Other player maintenance on Tuesday:
News: Ahmad Bradshaw re-signs with Giants
Action: Profiles updated for Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs and D.J. Ware. Christopher Harris comments on Giants backfield.
News: Plaxico Burress signs with Jets.
News: Cedric Benson re-signs with Bengals
News: Tim Hightower traded to Redskins.
Action: Ryan Williams bumped up to RB 31, Beanie Wells bumped up to RB 37, Keiland Williams downgraded to RB 89, LaRod Stephens-Howling upgraded to RB 92, all projections and profiles updated. Hightower, Ryan Torain and James Davis profiles updated.
News: Randy Moss says he is retiring.
Action: Downgraded to WR 69. Projection kept, profile updated; we are not counting out the fact that Moss could decide to sign with a team late in August.
News: Marion Barber signs with Bears
News: Mike Sims-Walker signs with Rams.
News: James Jones re-signs with Packers
The following players rankings, projections and/or profiles have been updated:
Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst (Jackson named starter); Michael Jenkins, Bernard Berrian and Devin Aromashodu (Jenkins signs with Vikings); Philadelphia Eagles D/ST, Oakland Raiders D/ST (Nnamdi Asomugha signing); Mike Nugent (cleared for camp); Matt Prater (reassessment of Broncos' offense); Trent Edwards and Kyle Boller (Edwards signs as Raiders backup); Mark Clayton (knee isn't ready yet); Brandon Coutu (Seahawks new kicker); San Francisco 49ers D/ST (reassessment); Ed Dickson (Heap signs with Cardinals); Shayne Graham and Graham Gano (Graham signs with Redskins) Jeff Reed, Joe Nedney and John Kasay reranked below players who are signed or restricted FA and projections zeroed.
The following player profiles have been updated:
Joseph Addai , Donald Brown and Delone Carter (Addai re-signs); Antonio Gates (continued foot trouble); Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter (Orlovsky signs to be Colts' backup); Billy Volek (Chargers backup); Todd Heap, Jeff King, Rob Housler, , Dennis Pitta (Heap signs with Cardinals); Daniel Graham (signs with Titans).
The following defense/special teams (D/ST) profiles have been updated:
News: Darren Sproles signs with Saints.
News: Willis McGahee signs with Broncos
News: Roy Williams signs with Bears
News: Greg Olsen traded to Panthers
News: Vince Young signs with Eagles
Action: Vince Young assigned rank QB 33, the official "most valuable backup QB in fantasy" role. Projection and profile updated.
The following players' rank, projection and profile have been updated.
DeMarco Murray (hamstring injury); Michael Crabtree (foot injury); Terrell Owens (Assigned rank WR 80); Carson Palmer (Retirement); David Akers, Alex Henery and Joe Nedney (Akers signing with 49ers, Nedney retiring); Brandon Jackson (signing with Browns); Chris Chambers (released by Chiefs); Michael Jenkins (cut by Falcons); Kris Wilson (cut by Chargers).
The following player profiles have been updated:Wes Welker, A.J. Green, Brandon Tate, (Ochocinco trade); Brian Leonard (re-signing with Bengals); Alex Green (Jakson signing with Browns); Matt Bryant (re-signing with Falcons); Algee Crumpler (released by Patriots); Brett Swenson (cut by Colts).
Note: All D/ST profiles have been added to database and updated through Friday's transactions.
News: Chad Ochocinco to be traded to the Patriots.
News: Kevin Kolb traded to Cardinals
News: Reggie Bush traded to Dolphins
Action: Bush upgraded to RB 44 and projection updated, Lynell Hamilton added to running back rankings at RB 110. (No projection for now, but gets on the radar due to injury history of Saints running backs). Christopher Harris tasked with fantasy spin.
News: Sidney Rice signs with Seahawks
Action: Downgrade Rice to WR 28. Percy Harvin upgraded to WR 22. Mike Williams to WR 46. Bernard Berrian to WR 77. Devin Aromashodu to WR 90. Golden Tate to WR 97. Updated projections and profiles. Christopher Harris tasked with fantasy spin.
News: Steve Breaston signs with the Chiefs.
News: Jabbar Gaffney traded to Redskins.
The following players' ranking, projection and/or profile have been adjusted.
The following players' profiles have been updated but no adjustment was required to rankings or projections.
Daniel Thomas, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Lousaka Polite (Bush trade); Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, David Gettis (Smith will not ask to be traded); Tarvaris Jackson (Rice signing); Andre Roberts and Rob Housler (Kolb trade); Early Doucet (Breaston leaves), Marshawn Lynch (Robert Gallery signs); Brad Smith (singing with Bills); Nick Folk (re-signing with Jets); Adam Vinatieri (re-signing with Colts); Ryan Longwell (re-signing with Vikings).
So Boldin, long rumored to be upset with his contract situation as an Arizona Cardinal, will move to the AFC North to be Joe Flacco's No. 1 receiver. The nitty gritty: The Cardinals get Baltimore's third- and fourth-rounders in April's draft in exchange for Boldin and Arizona's fifth-rounder.
What does this do to Boldin's fantasy value? Well, on the one hand, he's now the favorite to lead his team in receptions; he's an undisputed No. 1 receiver, out from under the shadow of Larry Fitzgerald. But on the other hand, he leaves the Cardinals' high-flying passing attack for a squad that prefers to run. How stark was the contrast between these teams in 2009? On average, Arizona threw it 37 times per game for 262.5 yards, while Baltimore threw it 32 times per game for 227.3 yards. In terms of play calling, that translated to a 1.62 pass-play-to-run-play ratio for the Cardinals, second-highest in the league behind only the Colts, and a 1.09 ratio for the Ravens, eighth-lowest in the league. While it's not outside the realm of possibility that as Flacco matures and Boldin comes on board, the Ravens could throw more, I feel safe in saying Baltimore will have a more run-heavy attack in '10 than Boldin is used to.
Also realize that Boldin is nobody's idea of a deep threat. He's a strong route-runner and a very tough player, but he's not suddenly going to assume Fitzgerald's all-around upside now that he's elsewhere. He'll get a ton of looks, but not that many of them will be bombs. Now this is a receiver who's really good in the red zone. He might have caught only four touchdown passes in '09, but he scored 20 in '07 and '08 combined, and 16 of those came from in the opponent's red zone. (Whether or not he'll steal those red zone scores from runners such as Ray Rice or Willis McGahee is an interesting question, but I'm not going to downgrade Rice on this news.) I can't view Boldin as a No. 1 fantasy receiver in a 10-team league, but I can easily see slotting him in the 15 to 20 area. Remember also that Boldin has missed time in each of the past three seasons because of injury.
Does Flacco see a significant bump? I don't think so. Before this signing, I had Flacco rated No. 14 among quarterbacks, and I still think that's the correct neighborhood for him. Yes, he played hurt in the second half last season, and yes, he made the most out of a thin receiving corps when he was healthy, scoring double-digit fantasy points in six of the Ravens' first seven games. The fact remains, though, that he finished 18th in fantasy points among signal-callers for the season, and there are an awful lot of good quarterbacks in the league. Could I see maybe bumping Flacco above Jay Cutler, whom I currently have a couple of spots higher? Maybe. But I find it tough to believe I could justify Flacco in the top 10. Also, this move does leave Derrick Mason's future in question. With Donte' Stallworth also recently signed by the Ravens, Mason might be moving on.
Finally, there's what's left in Arizona. Fitzgerald already sees near-constant double-teams, so I don't anticipate that the Boldin trade changes his value. His biggest variable is whether Matt Leinart (or a veteran that the Cardinals sign to compete with Leinart) can get him the ball. But Steve Breaston and Early Doucet figure to get a crack at Boldin's No. 2 receiving spot. Breaston's is the name you know after he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in '08, but Doucet seemed ready to break out after two big playoff games this January. For the moment, I give the nod between those two guys to Breaston, but if the Cardinals get good quarterback play next season, each of those guys are going to be owned in most fantasy leagues.
Raider Nation and fantasy owners all over the world can rest easy. JaMarcus Russell has been named the starting quarterback for Oakland.
While it's easy to mock a franchise that hasn't won more than five games in a season since 2002, and has been among the worst offensive teams for much of that span, the fact remains Russell does possess significant upside, and the Oakland Raiders have to give him the opportunity to succeed. Jeff Garcia, picked up in the offseason after periods of production for Tampa Bay, has been able to move an offense the past few seasons, but doesn't throw nearly the same deep ball and can't stay healthy. And he wasn't the first overall pick of the 2007 draft.
Russell isn't going to be picked in many 10-team fantasy leagues, but to some he's an interesting backup option because he finished strong in 2008. He threw two touchdown passes in each of the final three games in December, actually winning two of them. Certainly the Philadelphia Eagles are convinced; the Raiders' win over the Buccaneers on the final day allowed the Eagles to make the playoffs. Russell threw two touchdown passes on the opening weekend and six the final three games, but in between he managed five in 11 games. He has to get better, right?
Raiders coach Tom Cable noted that Russell has improved over the summer, and Garcia really hadn't been able to push him due to a calf strain. Cable needs Russell to make strides during the regular season. Fantasy owners are currently drafting Russell as the No. 30 quarterback, after Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Michael Vick, among others. We project Russell for 2,641 yards and 14 touchdown passes, and the No. 26 spot among quarterbacks.
(Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz also discuss Russell's fantasy value in Monday's Fantasy Focus podcast. )
• Speaking of the Raiders, running back Darren McFadden shows up on many sleeper lists, and that might seem wise since "starter" Justin Fargas has carried the ball three times in two preseason games, and might be limited again this coming weekend due to a hamstring injury. Don't let the preseason or potential sway you too much. Fargas remains a Raider and will get chances to run once the season starts, no matter his preseason performance. Michael Bush is scheduled to get the start against the Saints this weekend, and it's still possible he gains a significant role this season if he plays well. Any of the top three running backs could start for Oakland in Week 1, which is another reason why McFadden is probably being overdrafted.
• Speaking of quarterback situations that should have been settled by now, Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris expects to name his choice later this week between Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich. McCown played well over the weekend, and that's likely the reason the decision hasn't been made. Neither quarterback appears appealing in fantasy at this point.
• Don't get too worried about Carson Palmer being ruled out for this week's preseason game against the Rams. You don't want Palmer playing and risking more injury to his sprained left ankle. With veteran quarterbacks who have proven themselves, there's really no reason for them to play in the preseason anyway. Palmer isn't a safe fantasy starter, but I am seeing him on many sleeper lists.
• Speaking of quarterbacks, the Eagles likely will announce in the next day or so that Vick will be active Thursday night against the Jaguars. In this case it's nice for Vick to get out there and play, but don't read into the performance no matter what happens. He could go 10-for-10 with three touchdowns and Donovan McNabb remains the starter. He could go 0-for-10 and it wouldn't change his pending role.
• Rams wide receiver Donnie Avery was expected to miss four to six weeks after breaking a bone in his foot in early August, and certainly that might have affected his availability for the start of the regular season. Now Avery is a possibility to play in this week's game against the Bengals, as he's already running at full speed. Avery should be a sleeper to many, as he's the No. 1 wide receiver for the Rams. If injury isn't an issue, he has breakout possibility.
• Sometimes preseason numbers can matter. Former Denver Bronco Mike Bell stands to be next in line for backup running back attention in New Orleans should something happen to Reggie Bush, and as we all know too well, something will probably happen to Bush. Bell gained 100 yards on 10 carries against the Texans this weekend, including a 46-yard scamper, and he was relevant in fantasy back in 2006. Sometimes that's enough.
Moreno, who's on average the 29th running back being selected in ESPN.com fantasy live drafts and the 64th player overall, suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee in Friday night's preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers. A weekend MRI showed a mild sprain, and the University of Georgia product is expected to miss two weeks. He might be back for the final preseason game, or he might not.
For now, Correll Buckhalter remains atop the team's running back depth chart, but who are we kidding? A healthy Moreno was going to zoom past Buckhalter at some point anyway, but now fantasy owners might want to pause a bit before using a sixth-round pick on Moreno. The Broncos placed pretty much all their top running back options on injured reserve a season ago, one in which Peyton Hillis led the team with 343 rushing yards. Moreno gained 18 yards on three carries Friday, while Buckhalter gained 4 yards on four rushes.
As for Marshall, the good news came in the form of a positive legal ruling, as a Fulton County, Ga., jury declared him not guilty of a misdemeanor battery charge. Marshall has had numerous off-the-field issues in the past, but this result officially puts the remaining list of criminal charges behind him. The wide receiver is being selected as one of the top 10 wide receivers in some leagues, and he is a terrific fantasy option when on the field. This favorable ruling is one less factor pulling him from that goal. Had Marshall been found guilty, it's likely the NFL would have suspended him. Now Marshall just has to deal with offseason hip surgery and a contract he allegedly is unhappy with.
• Sticking with the AFC West, former Bronco Ashley Lelie signed with the Kansas City Chiefs this past weekend, making them the latest team to believe that he can help out the receiving corps. Since catching 54 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns with Denver in 2004, Lelie hasn't been the most productive receiver. He has been with the Falcons, 49ers and Raiders and now joins a crowded crew in Kansas City that includes Amani Toomer, Bobby Engram and, oh, that Dwayne Bowe fellow, too. I happen to be a believer that Matt Cassel will put up decent numbers, but there are no guarantees any other wide receiver on the team besides Bowe will be fantasy-worthy, especially Lelie. He's more of a downfield threat than Toomer or Engram, but still, he's Ashley Lelie.
• I'm not sure in which kind of league setup Rex Grossman would be drafted -- maybe an AFC South-only league? -- but the former Chicago Bears quarterback is expected to miss a month because of a hamstring injury he suffered in Saturday's preseason game. The backup quarterback for the Houston Texans is more relevant than most, because enticing starter Matt Schaub has missed five games each of the past two seasons. But look for Dan Orlovsky to fill the role that Sage Rosenfels filled last season. We mock, but people looking for bye-week help did own Rosenfels in 2008. I saw it with my own eyes.
• Speaking of durability questions, Brandon Jacobs is a second-round pick in most leagues, but with Derrick Ward now in Tampa Bay, a coveted spot is open in the Giants' backfield for someone to get backup carries. Ward managed to rush for more than 1,000 yards last season. Everyone assumes Ahmad Bradshaw will be the next guy in, and now that interesting rookie Andre Brown has a torn Achilles tendon and will miss the season, it certainly helps Bradshaw's cause. Danny Ware has carried the ball twice in two seasons and looks like the only competition for Bradshaw.
• LaDainian Tomlinson played this past weekend. You might think that means nothing, but the great LT hadn't played in any preseason games since 2005. And you know what? He's expected to play this weekend, too, marking the first time he will play in multiple games during the same preseason. Does this matter? Well, the Chargers have been noted slow starters the past few seasons, so why not get the star running back some August reps? I still think he's in for another big season.
I've been on vacation for the past week. Good to see that the Brett Favre talk still hasn't stopped.
For the Eagles, Donovan McNabb needn't worry about losing his starting job after going 11-of-18 for 100 yards. Brent Celek, who caught two passes for 30 yards early in the game, suffered a partially separated shoulder in the contest, but coach Andy Reid told the Philadelphia Enquirer he thought his tight end would be fine "in a couple of days." Rookies LeSean McCoy (10 carries, 55 yards) and Jeremy Maclin (2 catches for 44 yards, 121 return yards) were impressive in their NFL debuts.
• Justin Harper has the leg up on the Ravens' No. 3 receiver job after his four-catch, 57-yard outing Thursday, which included a 19-yard touchdown grab of a Troy Smith pass. While 15 different Baltimore players caught passes in the win over Washington, Harper made the most noise, and with Marcus Smith on crutches after the game because of a possible ACL tear, Harper should be first in line right now to back up veterans Mark Clayton and the unretired Derrick Mason. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of things, the Ravens held the Redskins to only 196 yards and forced two turnovers in a 23-0 shutout. Looks like rumors of their demise without Rex Ryan are greatly exaggerated.
• Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl rematch with the Arizona Cardinals 20-10, but more importantly, Rashard Mendenhall made it through the game in one piece. After missing the last 12 games of the 2008 season because of a shoulder injury, it was good to see Mendenhall on the field taking hits. Mendenhall rushed nine times for 26 yards as a starter -- Willie Parker didn't suit up for the game -- and fantasy owners can expect him to share some of the rushing load this season to keep Parker fresh. As for the passing game, Limas Sweed stepped up in a big way, catching two balls for 56 yards and making his case to grab the No. 3 receiver job left open when Nate Washington left the team via free agency. For Arizona, rookie Beanie Wells did not play in the contest, sitting out because of a sprained ankle.
• Could JaMarcus Russell-to-Chaz Schilens become a fantasy factor in 2009? It's only the first preseason game, but Russell targeted Schilens four times on the Raiders' opening drive, and Schilens ended the game with five catches for 52 yards. Combine that with a healthy Darren McFadden, who had five carries for 63 yards, and this Oakland team might not be the offensive wasteland it was last season when it finished 29th overall in both total yards and points scored. For Dallas, Sam Hurd caught five balls for 79 yards, while Miles Austin dropped the only ball thrown his way, giving Hurd the clear decision in Round 1 of the competition to be Dallas' No. 3 wideout.
• Steve Smith is one tough cookie. After it looked like the Carolina receiver would be out for several weeks, if not more, the Rock Hill Herald is reporting that Smith was in full pads and took part in practice Friday morning. Feel free to reinstate Smith to whatever position he was at on your draft lists before he suffered what appeared to be a significant shoulder injury Monday.
• One final note, from the department of discipline: The NFL has officially suspended wide receiver Donte' Stallworth without pay for the entire 2009 season. Therefore, if you hadn't already removed him from your draft lists, feel free to do so immediately.
The Charlotte Observer reports that X-rays on Smith's right shoulder were negative and that there was no structural damage after he got "tangled up" with cornerback Chris Gamble during a passing drill and landed hard on the shoulder. Still, Smith is in a lot of pain and might be headed for an MRI to make sure there's nothing more serious going on there. The Panthers have said they are definitely shelving Smith for the first two games of the preseason, but it seems unlikely that he will play at all in these essentially meaningless contests.
However, those games will not be meaningless to Dwayne Jarrett, who will get a chance to prove his ability to start while Smith is out. He's not nearly as quick as Smith, but if he outperforms veteran Muhsin Muhammad with the first-team offense, he could well find himself in the starting lineup come Week 1, Smith or no Smith. Jarrett is pretty much secure as the No. 3 wide receiver on the Panthers, with only Ryne Robinson and Kenny Moore even remotely under consideration for a job with the team, but if Jarrett is able to impress over the next few weeks, expect his stock to rise.
Morris' optimism at a quick and complete recovery for Bryant is based on past experience: The coach pointed out that Ronde Barber had the same procedure a few years ago just before a Bucs bye week and didn't miss a single game.
• Most teams have released their first "official depth charts," but don't put much stock in them. Some coaches are clearly using the lists as a motivational tool for players who they feel need a little kick in the rear: For example, Brandon Marshall is listed as a second-stringer on the Broncos' depth chart, behind Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokley. Marshall's talent certainly is still at a Pro Bowl level when he's healthy. To me, it seems new coach Josh McDaniels is frustrated with Marshall's contract complaints and trade demands, and perhaps might not feel the hamstring injury the receiver suffered on Aug. 2 is really severe enough to have kept Marshall out of practice ever since. Message delivered now let's see how it is received.
• Dwayne Bowe has been replaced in the starting lineup. New coach Todd Haley has the receiver working out with the second-stringers in practice. Haley told the Kansas City Star, "We're going to do everything we can to find players that do it our way. Each day that may change but we'll find guys that do it our way and do it the way we feel gives us the best chance to win, period." While it seems highly unlikely that Terrance Copper will be in the huddle for the opening snap instead of Bowe come Week 1 against the Ravens, clearly Bowe is in his new boss's doghouse. He has a month to dig his way out, and likely will, in my mind.
• Not all the depth chart rankings are irrelevant, though. The rankings of several receivers might come without any ulterior motive and might indeed signify the true feelings of the coaches. Receivers we fit into this category include Cleveland's Mohamed Massaquoi, who has been excelling opposite Braylon Edwards in the Browns' offense. Massaquoi clearly has a leg up on fellow rookie Brian Robiskie. Miami's Davone Bess is getting many more reps than Greg Camarillo, who is completely recovered from his torn ACL. Bess is well on his way to being the team's top option at flanker. In Seattle, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burleson look to have the top two receiving spots locked up. That means Deion Branch will be relegated to situational play at best and be of little value to fantasy owners.
• The Jets look to have decided on Jerricho Cotchery's complement in their starting lineup. Chansi Stuckey has impressed Rex Ryan to the point where Ryan has already declared him the clear favorite for the No. 2 job. "Stuckey is the guy who really stood out," Ryan told the New York Post after Monday's team workout. "He made some great catches, got open a lot and has been having a great camp." Looks like it's time to remove David Clowney and Brad Smith from draft lists in all but the deepest of deep leagues.