This was a busy pre-season for the NFL. You had players with high potential going to teams where they will get more playing time. A pretty solid draft mainly adding a few quarterbacks to the picture. Late trades and free agent pick-ups that will have direct fantasy impact. And lastly, preseason injuries that altered teams entire drafts or sent owners who already drafted running to the bathroom. I love fantasy football. Let the games begin.
Kyle Boller, Byron Leftwich, and Charles Rogers could be huge fantasy contributors in the 2003 season. Kyle Boller has been announced the starter in Baltimore. Despite holding out of camp for a week, he beat out 4 year veteran Chris Redman. Billick has been very impressed with not only Boller’s natural talent, but at how fast Kyle absorbed the team’s offense. Boller clinched the starting job going 7-9 for 99 yards and two touchdowns against the New York Giants this past Thursday.
Fantasy owners of Byron Leftwich were disappointed that Mark Brunnell was named the starter in Jacksonville. However, it will only be a matter of time before Byron gets his chance. He has a great arm and has looked awesome in the preseason. Jacksonville placed Brunnell on the trading block for about a week, but never pulled any deals. Once Leftwich gets his chance, Mark will be forgotten in Jacksonville. Leftwich will prove to National Football League owners that he should have been the number 1 player taken in the draft.
Charles Rogers will be the go to guy on an up and coming offense. Detroit has a young talented quarterback in Joey Harrington and the Harrington to Rogers hook-up could be in full flight this season. Rogers has good speed and great hands. Mariucci will definitely turn the offense around in Detroit. And the late addition of Olandis Gary only helps.
Now let’s get into a confusing off-season of trades and free-agent moves. We’ll start first with the quarterbacks. Kordell Stewart signed in Chicago, hoping that a change of scenery will bring back his “Slash”. Brian Griese hoped to win a starting job in Miami, but is already out 6-8 weeks with a toe injury. Jake Delhoume went to Carolina hoping to land a starting job, but is riding the pine to start the season. The biggest quarterback acquisition will be Jake Plummer signing in Denver. He comes into a great situation. He has four solid targets to throw at in Rod Smith, Ed McCaffery, Ashlie Lelie, and Shannon Sharpe. He also has one of the up and coming stars behind him in Clinton Portis. Denver has a great offensive line that should give him plenty of protection. Now can Jake shake the interception bug? For those that don’t know Jake Plummer can spread the ball around the field. He once had three pretty good targets in Arizona with Frank Sanders, Rob Moore, and David Boston. He was able to get them plenty of balls. Blame was placed on the running back and offensive line problems in Arizona for his bad play at times. He has no excuses now. I definitely think that he will be a much improved quarterback and should throw for over 3500yds and at least 22 touchdowns.
There weren’t too many major running back moves this off-season. We have Stacey Mack getting a chance to start in Houston. Trung Candidate is getting his chance in Washington. With the late injury to James Stewart, Olandis Gary will get his shot in Detroit. Emmitt Smith chose to end his career in Arizona, giving Troy Hambrick a chance to back up his mouth in Dallas. The biggest running back move of the off-season was Stephen Davis going to Carolina. Davis will get a ton of carries and will now have to carry the offense for the Panthers. Carolina has a solid offensive line, and Stephen Davis should return to the man he was during his first three starting years in Washington. He should easily run for over 1,000 yards and end up with double digit touchdowns.
Plenty of big name wide receivers changed teams this off-season. We start out with the Falcons adding Peerless Price to Michael Vicks offense. Then we have Laverneous Coles going to Washington, Curtis Conway taking his place with the Jets, and David Boston taking Conway’s place with the Chargers. Wide Receivers in their first year with new teams usually don’t do that well. However, I look for Coles to be the exception. He has a solid number two man in Rod Garner, who will help take some pressure off of Coles. The best thing going for Coles is Spurrier’s style of offense. Spurrier will throw at least 30 times a game, giving Coles every chance to earn his money. Plus the strong arm of Patrick Ramsey should lead to a few long touchdowns.
No pre-season is complete without major injuries and benchings. We have Amos Zeroue finally getting his shot in Pittsburgh, when the Steelers decided to start Bettis out as the number two back. In Chicago we are still in the air on who will get the majority of carries between Adrian Peterson and Anthony Thomas. Duce Staley’s hold out is giving Correll Buckhalter his chance to shine in Philly. Michael Vick is definitely the biggest name to go down this pre-season. At least he will be back by week 5. The same can’t be said for Chad Pennington who is out for most or all of the season. As well as James Stewart whose injury was thought to only keep him out for 4 weeks, but has just recently found out that he will be gone for the year. And then we have Jimmy Smith whose run in with the law will keep him out the first 4 games of the season.
Whew, finally, are you ready for some football!!!!