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Post Lockout: Day 2

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Everybody was predicting that this week was going to be bursting with news.  Tuesday didn’t disappoint there. Since most trades and free agency signings can’t occur until the end of the week, most of the news this week has been rumors. Let’s take a look at the rumors which could have the biggest impact in fantasy football.

Orton on the Move

The biggest story of the day has to be the distinct possibility that Kyle Orton will be traded from the Denver Broncos. The two most likely teams to acquire Orton are the Miami Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans (although the Titans are less likely now that they’ve agreed to terms with Matt Hasselbeck). If Orton moved to either of these teams it would have a monumental fantasy impact.

Don’t think of this as me endorsing Kyle Orton as a starting fantasy quarterback. Orton is a great bye week replacement and he’s been fantastic in stretches over the last couple years in fantasy football. Still, he’s a journeyman quarterback who is a great fallback option as a backup if things go wrong, but not someone you’d necessarily want to build a fantasy football team around.

An Orton trade would be monumental not because it would raise Orton’s value but because it would raise the value of nearly everyone around him. Let’s take a look at Miami for a brief moment. If Orton goes to Miami he would be a huge upgrade from the massively mediocre Chad Henne. This, of course, would significantly raise the value of Brandon Marshall, an elite fantasy stud who already has experience playing with Orton.

Currently, Marshall isn’t even in the Top 10 receivers being drafted this year. He’s getting passed over by guys like Dwayne Bowe, Miles Austin and Mike Williams. I refuse to believe any of the receivers I’ve just mentioned are as talented as Marshall. Marshall’s low average draft position (ADP) has everything to do with the incompetent Henne. If you put Orton in Miami, I’m putting Marshall back in the Top 10 and I’m strongly considering drafting him before Reggie Wayne, who will again have to contend with Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon for catches.

If Orton goes to Tennessee his impact will be even bigger. The first thing Orton would do his raise the value of Chris Johnson. Prospective Johnson owners have been worried about the quarterback situation in Tennessee for months now, and with a reliable quarterback like Orton at the helm those worries can be put the rest. Similar to Miami, this would be a big upgrade for the Titans from an unreliable Vince Young and an aging Kerry Collins.

As long as Chris Johnson’s holdout doesn’t last too long, the adding of Orton to the Titans would definitely vault Johnson to No. 2, past Arian Foster in the Top 3 running backs rankings. Johnson has a far superior track record than Foster and will finally be in a situation where he won't be hampered by an inconsistent quarterback. With Orton as the quarterback, throwing bombs to Kenny Britt, defenses will be forced to respect the pass and give Johnson the running lanes he was lacking last season.

Kenny Britt’s value would also go up with Orton as the quarterback. Britt’s now being drafted in the eighth round and we should get some additional clarity in the coming days over the extent of his looming suspension. If the suspension is less than four games, Britt will move up draft boards quickly. There’s a ton of receivers being drafted ahead of him now that aren’t even close to his talent level and potential.

The Coming Fall of Steven Jackson

There’s been rumors all offseason that the St. Louis Rams we’re going to sign a complementary back for Steven Jackson. ESPN is now reporting that Reggie Bush is “high on the Rams’ wish list.” This would be absolutely catastrophic to Jackson’s fantasy value.

One of the biggest criticisms of Jackson over the last couple years has been his lack of touchdowns. He’s averaged five touchdowns over the last two years. For a supposedly elite fantasy running back drafted in the opening rounds, five touchdowns a year just doesn’t cut it. The one saving grace of Jackson has always been his huge amount of receptions and receiving yards.

In his last two seasons, Jackson has more than 96 receptions and 704 receiving yards. We’re talking about an average of nearly 50 receptions and 350 receiving yards a season. Even if you aren’t playing in a points per reception league, those yards still make the lack of touchdowns an easier pill to swallow. In the twilight of his career, Jackson has still managed to score loads of points for owners but adding a pass catching runner like Bush into the mix will ruin everything.

Bush has already said recently that he wants about 15 touches a game. You can bet that any team he signs with is going to know that demand up front. Teams might not be able to reach that magic number every game but Bush is definitely going to get his touches. In a Rams uniform, Bush would steal receptions and touchdowns from Jackson. Without his receptions and receiving yards, Jackson’s value takes a long nose dive and owners should think twice about drafting him as their No. 2 back.

The $5 Million Dollar Man

Just want to take this time to share my utter disbelief at the fact that the San Francisco 49ers just gave Alex Smith $5 million for one more mediocre year. The 49ers are giving the Washington Redskins a run for the money for the title of the worst run team in football. You don’t pay someone $5 million to sit on the bench, so we can presume that Smith has a very good chance of being the starter Week 1.

This doesn’t really downgrade any of the values of the few fantasy players worth drafting on the 49ers. Instead, it just leaves studs like Vernon Davis and potential stars like Michael Crabtree in stasis. Both players could improve dramatically with the right quarterback but the 49ers don’t seem interested in ending their epically weird obsession with Alex Smith.

Good Hunting!

Ed Bonfanti

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