Three and out: Rice could return to stardom

Time for our fantasy takes on the NFL news of the day …

Ray Rice on the rise in 2011: In 2009, Rice emerged into one of the most valuable running backs in fantasy football. He finished fourth in points (246.10) at his position and led countless owners to a championship. He saw his fantasy value drop a bit last season, however, scoring 32.5 fewer points while also being far less reliable — in fact, almost 30 percent of all his fantasy points came in just two games. But with the expected release of Willis McGahee, Rice’s stock could be back on the rise. The Baltimore Sun reports the team needs to save cap space, and cutting ties with McGahee is one way to help that cause. That means more work for Rice, especially near the goal line, and more value as a first-round option. If McGahee is released and the Raven’s don’t add another back, Jalen Parmele would be the front runner to become Rice’s main handcuff.

Will Sidney Rice be a bust?: Clearly, Rice will be one of the most coveted wide receivers on the free-agent market once player movement is allowed. But is he a lock to make a major impact, both on the field and in fantasy land? Remember, Rice has had knee issues in the past and also missed most of the 2010 campaign while recovering from hip surgery. While he will be back at 100 percent this season and possesses a ton of upside, Rice has only had one truly productive season at the NFL level — that came in 2009 with Brett Favre under center. In 20 career games in which Favre wasn’t with the Vikings or didn’t play the majority of the team’s snaps, Rice has averaged 2.9 receptions for 37 yards. Those are ugly numbers. So if Rice stays with the Vikings and has Christian Ponder throwing him the football, he becomes an instant bust candidate. But if he winds up with the Bears and is catching passes from Jay Cutler, for example, Rice will be a much more attractive choice.

Hasselbeck could be a Titan: One of the more prominent free-agent quarterbacks on the market this summer is Matt Hasselbeck, and where he lands will help determine the value of several players. The most popular choice for his next destination might be Tennessee, where the Titans could use a veteran signal-caller to start and mentor rookie Jake Locker. In fact, Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean seems convinced that Hasselbeck will be wearing a Titans uniform in 2011. Wyatt also suggests that if Hasselbeck doesn’t land with the team, Donovan McNabb would be another option. Either way, fantasy owners should welcome the addition of either of these quarterbacks — someone has to throw the ball to troublesome (but talented) receiver Kenny Britt and super sleeper Jared Cook. It would also be nice to have some semblance of a pass attack to keep defenses from stacking the box to stop Chris Johnson. Let’s just hope CJ2K’s expected holdout doesn’t last too long…

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