Branch remains a question

Deion Branch was once considered an attractive option in fantasy football. But ever since his holdout in New England and eventual trade to Seattle, Branch has seen a decided decrease in value.

His first season with the Seahawks was a disappointment, as he missed time with injuries and finished with 53 receptions, 725 yards and four touchdowns. The trade of Darrell Jackson heading into last season made Branch more valuable in 2007 fantasy drafts, but injuries limited his level of statistical success. He finished with an unimpressive 49 receptions, 661 yards and four touchdowns in 11 contests.

Deion Branch, WR
Seattle Seahawks

2007 statistics
Games: 11
Rec: 49
Yards: 661
TDs: 4

If that weren’t enough for him to tumble down rank lists, Branch then tore his ACL in a postseason loss to the Green Bay Packers. The ailment required a surgical procedure that could keep Branch out for part of the 2008 season. In fact, head coach Mike Holmgren does not expect Branch to be available for his team’s regular-season opener in Buffalo. The veteran wideout has been doing agility drills on the side during OTAs, but a timetable for his return to action remains in limbo.

With Branch’s status in doubt, the value of Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson has risen across the board. Engram recorded the first 1,000-yard season of his career in 2007 and become a favorite target for Matt Hasselbeck. But reports now indicate that Engram is frustrated with his contract and has threatened to hold out of training camp. Because of his age (he turned 35 in January), the team is hesitant to extend his contract. The former Penn State standout should be seen as a high-end No. 3 wideout in fantasy land, but owners should monitor his contract situation.

Burleson, who scored tied a career high with nine touchdowns last season, could become a solid sleeper in drafts. He’s slated to start alongside Engram until (and if) Branch returns to action. Should Engram’s holdout come to fruition, the names Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu (no, not the democratic candidate for president) could be mentioned in fantasy land. The team will also look to incorporate rookie John Carlson into the pass attack. However, the Notre Dame product shouldn’t be seen as more than a No. 2 fantasy tight end.

Another reason to keep tabs on Branch and Engram surrounds the value of Hasselbeck. If he loses two of his top three receivers, Hasselbeck could struggle to reach the 3,996 passing yards and 28 touchdowns he recorded last season. In fact, based on the questions surrounding Branch and Engram and an expected increase in the ground attack with Julius Jones, Maurice Morris and T.J. Duckett, Hasselbeck’s numbers could slide a bit in 2008.

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