Plaxico Burress left prison with two important items on Monday morning – a red retro Philadelphia Phillies baseball hat and a pair of hands that haven’t caught a meaningful pass in more than two seasons. If fantasy owners decide to draft Burress in the mid-to-late rounds this summer, don’t expect to come away with much. Here are three reasons why Burress doesn’t belong on your fantasy team in 2011.
1. Competition – Give agent Drew Rosenhaus credit. He made Plaxico Burress walk out of jail in a Philadelphia Phillies hat in an attempt to build a market for his 34-year-old client. But can we expect an emerging market for a 6-foot-5 wideout that hasn’t played in more than two seasons? I just don’t see it. The potential free agent wide receiver class features two players (Randy Moss and Terrell Owens) who not only possess big red zone targets, but more importantly, played last season. Teams are likely to give either Moss or Owens a chance before they consider Burress.
2. The Michael Vick Case Study – As soon as Burress emerged from jail wearing his red Phillies hat, rumors began to swirl about a possible marriage in Philadelphia. However, few remember that Vick’s first season in the “City of Brotherly Love” wasn’t so lovely. In 2009, Vick was used solely as the team’s Wildcat quarterback where he only rushed for 95 yards on 24 carries. Additionally, Vick only attempted 13 passes in 12 games. The Philadelphia Eagles knew that Vick needed time to adapt to his environment while the fans and media needed time to accept him. After both sides felt comfortable, Vick won over the hearts of Eagles fans and fantasy football owners alike with 30 total touchdowns (nine rushing) in 2010. I can see a similar situation unfolding for Burress.
Regardless of the team that signs him, Burress will need time to learn the playbook and get back into game shape, just like Vick did. However, Burress will give his team a big red zone threat with great leaping ability right off the bat. Unfortunately for most fantasy owners, red zone threats don’t score consistently enough to warrant a week-to-week starting slot. If he grabs 30 balls for 350 yards and five touchdowns, that’ll be a big help to any NFL team. It just won’t help fantasy owners.
3. Potential Suitors – NFL franchises care about three things – winning, making money and their team image. There are countless examples of talented players with big time character issues that most teams won’t even consider. Some teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles are willing to give second chances, but most won’t even entertain the idea. Burress will have obvious baggage from his stint in prison and that will easily deter two-thirds of the league. Add in the fact that he’s 34 years old and hasn’t played in two seasons and the black marks continue to add up against Burress. Will anyone take a chance?
The Eagles have been linked to Plaxico, but with a dynamic passing game that features DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, is there even room? Avant was solid on third down for the birds and Riley Cooper showed toughness over the middle. The Ravens are a Super Bowl-caliber team needing a big red-zone target, but they also have two dynamic receivers in Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason. Forget about a possible reunion with the New York Giants as the team already dismissed speculation. Another team that comes to mind is the New York Jets, but there is already so much uncertainty with their impending free agent receivers (Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Brad Smith). There’s just not a clear fit.
There’s no disputing Burress’ past impact on the NFL. He is a Super Bowl champion, owner of four 1,000-yard seasons in nine seasons, and can use his tall frame to overmatch smallish defensive backs in the red zone. However, expecting him to regain his Pro Bowl prowess ever again is comical. Don’t expect anything more than 400 yards and 5-6 touchdowns from Burress this season. The NFL is league built on second chances, but let another owner take a chance on Burress’ second time around the league.