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Offseason Frenzy-NFC Recap

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The 2011 NFL off season has been one of the strangest offseasons in history and the repercussions have trickled over in to the world of fantasy football. With free agency and trades taking place on the heels of training camp and even spilling over in to the start of camp, keeping up with all the movement can be challenging. Here is a division-by-division rundown of all the notable player moves with fantasy football relevance and how the moves affect the player’s value.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals’ accelerated offseason saw many fantasy noteworthy players come and go. Arizona hopes to have Kevin Kolb under center and consistently tossing touchdowns to Larry Fitzgerald for years to come. Kolb is an upgrade for the Cardinals and is a fringe fantasy starter or high-end quality backup. I would approach him with caution and hope to land him as my QB2 and use him as trade bait if he performs up to expectations. 

The trade of Tim Hightower thins out a crowded backfield and leaves Chris “Beanie” Wells as the undisputed starter. Or is he? The Cardinals drafted Ryan Williams with the intentions of giving him the opportunity to carry the load. Wells is known to get dinged up and any extended stretch of missed time could mean that he finds himself as Williams’ backup. Avoid Wells and consider Williams as a late-round flier who could be a solid contributor if he claims the starting role. Arizona’s backfield has the looks of a running back by committee and you should temper your expectations for either player barring an injury. 

Todd Heap is looking to end his career closer to home and joins the Cardinals as their starting tight end. Heap is a reliable, but unspectacular option. At this stage in this career he is nothing more than a fantasy reserve, but you aren’t carrying two tight ends on your roster, are you?

San Francisco 49ers Braylon Edwards joins a team who has several questions with their receivers. Will Michael Crabtree mature and take advantage of all the talent that he possesses? Can Ted Ginn contribute as a wide receiver? Edwards signed a one-year deal and will be playing this year for his next contract. Expect him to put up decent WR3 numbers. His background, work ethic and new surroundings will probably result in him being slightly undervalued. If you grab two dependable wideouts early don’t feel bad about adding Edwards to round out your starters in later rounds.

St. Louis Rams – The Rams’ only notable addition this offseason was wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker. Sims-Walker has hauled in seven touchdowns in each of the last two years and should be a valuable red zone target for Sam Bradford. Consider Sims-Walker a quality backup, but with the Rams’ muddled receiver situation he may have an increased role and value.

Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks added a couple of quality pass catchers and Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. Zach Miller is a talented tight end but his fantasy value will take a hit now that he has left the Oakland tight end-friendly passing game. Miller has the look of a fringe starter or quality backup now that he is in Seattle.

Sidney Rice flourished with Brett Favre at quarterback after suffering through forgettable seasons with Jackson at quarterback. But for some reason Rice followed his former Vikings teammate to the Pacific Northwest. Rice’s value stands to be as a low-end WR2 given his talent, but he could have some disappointing stretches given the possibility of the Seahawks’ shaky quarterback play. 

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys – America’s team was quiet on the acquisition front during the offseason. The departure of Roy Williams to Chicaago just solidifies Dez Bryant‘s role as the second receiver alongside Miles Austin. Bryant was clearly more talented than Williams but Williams’ contract kept him on the field. Bryant finds himself with one less receiver with whom to compete for targets.

New York Giants – The Giants also did not make any notable acquisitions. Two departures will open up the door for existing players to step up and have a bigger role. Steve Smith was allowed to sign with Philadelphia, and with his injury would likely not have been available to contribute early in the season anyway. Mario Manningham expects to have a more prominent role and could eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. Manningham will be a value as your WR3. 

The departure of Kevin Boss thrusts Travis Beckum in as the starting Giants’ tight end. Beckum is not the receiver that Kevin Boss was but he will get the opportunity to step in as the starter this year. Unless he is a real surprise early in the year and proves to be a viable receiver Beckhum doesn’t belong on your team. 

Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles have made quite a splash in free agency, signing several players and bolstering their chances at making a deep playoff and Super Bowl run. Nnamdi Asomugha was the big free agent prize and his presence propels the Eagles defense in to a Top 5 fantasy defense. 

The other signings look to have far less fantasy repercussions. Ronnie Brown signed and is a capable backup for LeSean McCoy. McCoy has only missed one game in his first two seasons, but Brown could be a valuable handcuff pick should McCoy suffer an injury.

The Steve Smith signing will likely have no bearing on your fantasy roster. Even if Smith can recover and get healthy he will have a hard time finding his way on to the field. He finds himself behind DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and possibly Riley Cooper. Should Maclin’s mystery illness be serious and the Eagles suffer another injury then Smith may warrant waiver wire consideration, but otherwise let someone else take the chance. 

Washington Redskins – The team once recognized for treating free agency as if it were fantasy football was unusually reasonable this offseason. Tim Hightower was acquired and is competing for the starting running back job. He has had a good camp and performed well in the team’s first preseason game. If Hightower continues to impress in the preseason games his stock will likely rise beyond a draft position of value for a guy who could lose his starting position at any point. Hightower’s history of fumbles and Mike Shanahan’s history of turning relative unknowns into 1,000-yard rushers could spell trouble. However, if Hightower can keep a grasp on the starting job, the Redskins’ quarterback play is not intimidating and they may rely on the running game to maintain ball control and stay in games this year. 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons are looking to make a Super Bowl this year after a playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers to end their 2010 season. Few changes were made as the Falcons looked to keep their solid nucleus in place. The only notable addition for the Falcons came via the draft when they traded up to select Julio Jones. Jones should step right in and claim a starting job opposite Roddy White. The Falcons use a balanced attack but they have the ability to air it out with a smart signal caller in Matt Ryan. Look for Jones to post 65 receptions, 750 yards and four touchdowns, which will make him worthy of a reserve receiver slot on your team. 

Carolina Panthers – The overhaul of the Panthers included some major attention to the tight end position. The Panthers haven’t had a receiving threat at tight end since Wesley Walls, but now have two possible targets in Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen. Olsen looks like the better option early in training camp and he should get plenty of targets for whichever young quarterback ends up under center. Olsen is a quality option for an owner who elects to pass on the top tier of tight ends. 

New Orleans Saints – The former No. 2 overall draft selection Reggie Bush departed for Miami. Bush’s talent never translated in to him being a feature back in the NFL, but his versatility allowed him to contribute in a variety of ways. Darren Sproles steps in and should have a similar role to Bush. Sproles is not worth fantasy consideration except in deep, points per reception leagues. 

The Saints also used the draft to address their revolving door running back situation by adding Mark Ingram late in the first round. Ingram has the build to be a feature back, but history suggests he is more likely to share the load. Ingram is regularly being drafted in the third round of drafts and will likely not match that value on the field this season. I have Ingram slated as a quality RB3 with high upside if he earns the majority of the carries, but with Pierre Thomas, Christopher Ivory and Sproles in the mix that is an unlikely scenario. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers The Buccaneers did not make any fantasy football significant moves this offseason. However, by allowing Carnell “Cadillac” Williams to leave, they demonstrated their commitment to LeGarrette Blount as their primary running back. Blount had a surprising 1,000-yard, six-touchdown rookie campaign and will look to build on that this year. He will no longer fly under the radar, but Blount would make a reliable RB2. Another 1,000-yard season should be attainable. Also, expect him to flirt with double-digit touchdowns. 

NFC North

Chicago Bears –The Bears were able to add former Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber in free agency. Barber could have value in deep, scoring leagues as he may steal some red zone carries from Matt Forte. His days as an everyday back are past but should Forte go down, you could do worse than an experienced player like Barber. 

In recent years the Bears have struggled to field a strong team of wide receivers.  They attempted to bolster their depth this year by adding Roy Williams.  Williams is currently listed as the third receiver on the depth chart, but he has the talent to work his way in to the starting lineup.  He hasn't had a significant fantasy football season since 2006 when he managed to pile up over 1,300 yards.  The move to Dallas didn't seem to motivate him, but keep an eye on him early in the season to see if he plays with a new passion in Chicago and proves to be worthy of a roster spot on your team. 

Detroit Lions-No transactions relevant to fantasy football.

Green Bay Packers No transactions relevant to fantasy football

Minnesota Vikings- Donovan McNabb finds himself on his third team in three years. The Vikings game plan will be to rely on Adrian Peterson and the running game, but McNabb will have to be an effective passer to keep defenses honest. His receivers aren’t very impressive, but when has McNabb ever had above average receivers? McNabb is a dependable backup, but don’t expect great results.

Check back for a look at the moves in the AFC and what it all means for your projections as you get close to your draft day!