NFL fantasy football: Jay Cutler to run read option?

Bears will add read option to offense: Color us surprised. New Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman plans to add some read option to the team’s offense for 2013. Jay Cutler doesn’t immediately come to mind as a quarterback who’s going to beat you with his legs, which is likely why the Bears will run it only sparingly. If the offense truly is “the flavor of the day” as Mike Tomlin surmises, it might not live long in Chicago. But anything that could freeze defenses — even for a split-second — is good new for Cutler’s production.

Amendola could line up in multiple spots: Ever since Danny Amendola signed with the New England Patriots, he’s been continually described as a slot receiver. But it appears the Patriots may have more in mind for the wideout. Coach Bill Belichick mentioned Amendola’s work both “on the inside, on the outside” with the Rams. The former Texas Tech standout was already seeing a boost in fantasy value simply by moving to New England. If the plans is to have him line up in multiple positions, his value increases even more.

Reid seeking new fits for Charles: In 2010, Jamaal Charles caught a career-high 45 passes. If Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has his way, Charles could reach or surpass that number in 2013. Kansas City’s new head man has been studying tapes of Charles from that 2010 season and likes what the running back can do as a receiver. While plenty of fantasy owners have a bad taste in their mouths over how Reid used LeSean McCoy, it’s worth giving the coach another shot with a versatile running back who could finish the season among the top five at his position.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


NFL fantasy football: Redskins won’t rush RG3

Griffin remains on cautious schedule: Ever since suffering a major knee injury in the Washington Redskins playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, quarterback Robert Griffin III has not been shy in proclaiming that he will be ready to go for Week 1. His employer, however, is taking a more cautious bent. Head coach Mike Shanahan told NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones that RG3 “will not come back until he’s 100 percent.” In the meantime, Kirk Cousins will take the reps during the offseason. Make no mistake, once Griffin is back, he will once again be the unquestioned starter. This will likely knock his draft position down a touch, but there’s no reason the reigning Rookie of the Year can’t be a top 10 fantasy quarterback again in 2013 — as long as he stays healthy.

Avery set to be Chiefs No. 2 WR: There will be a lot that’s new about the Kansas City Chiefs offense in 2013 — including their No. 2 wideout. According to the Kansas City Star, Donnie Avery is likely to be the starter alongside Dwayne Bowe. That gives Alex Smith a speedster to stretch the field on the outside, which could be a great weapon — if Avery can curb some of the drops that plagued him in 2012. Nonetheless, the young wideout projects as a No. 3 fantasy WR option in most formats.

Fitzgerald staying put: With a number of teams searching for wide receivers, there was speculation that Larry Fitzgerald could be traded. Don’t count on it. It always seemed a longshot that the Cardinals would part with their only bona fide playmaker. Now if only they could find a solid quarterback to get Fitzgerald the ball consistently, although new coach Bruce Arians thinks Drew Stanton could possibly be that guy. Maybe. But until he proves it, doubt is going to depress Fitz’s fantasy value for 2013.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


NFL fantasy football: Vikings are Christian Ponder’s team

Cassel says Ponder is starting QB: When the Minnesota Vikings signed Matt Cassel to a two-year contract, many people believed the veteran was brought in to compete with Christian Ponder for the starting quarterback job. That’s not so, says Cassel. The starting job belongs to Ponder for 2013, which hopefully gives the young QB a shot of confidence. What should also give Ponder some confidence is the addition of former Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings. While he’s not a one-to-one replacement for the departed Percy Harvin, it’s an upgrade from a possible starting WR duo of Jerome Simpson and Michael Jenkins. The news does solidify Ponder’s fantasy value for next season … and that value is as a lower-end No. 2 QB option.

Johnson and Johnson in Houston?: Since the Houston Texans released Kevin Walter, the team could use another receiver to line up opposite Andre Johnson. Seems like Dre has someone in mind – Chad Johnson. The latter Johnson had a disappointing 2011 with the New England Patriots, then missed all of 2012 after being cut by the Miami Dolphins. The veteran, who turned 35 in January, was wildly inconsistent on the field in his last few seasons and was increasingly becoming a headache off of it. If there’s any fantasy value, it would be a late-round risk/reward option. But he needs to draw interest from an actual team first and that seems like a longshot.

Best still wants to play: Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best hasn’t had a carry in an NFL game since October 2011 due to suffering multiple concussions. Yet the versatile rusher says he is still holding out hope that he can continue his NFL career. What’s standing in the way of that is clearance from doctors. While Best has been symptom-free for more than a year, he has yet to find a medical professional who will give him the go-ahead. If he is able to return, it could take time for him to re-establish any fantasy value after having been away from the field for so long. And it would likely happen in a new place since the Lions have added Reggie Bush.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


NFL fantasy football: David Garrard eyes starting job

Garrard believes he can win job: David Garrard was brought in to compete with Mark Sanchez for the New York Jets starting quarterback job. It’s a competition the veteran believes he can win — he said as much in a radio interview Thursday. That competition could get tougher if the Jets bring in the recently-released Kevin Kolb as many anticipate. Of that trio, Garrard is the most accomplished … but he’s also gone the longest without taking a starting snap. It’s a mystery as to exactly what the Jets are doing — but it’s kind of amusing amazing to watch.

Latest Cruz news is no news: The New York Giants and Victor Cruz remain at a standstill on the receiver’s contract status. The team offered the wideout a first-round tender, but Cruz could still negotiate a long-term deal with the team. Either way, with the number of top-level free agent receivers on the free agent market dwindling, teams could turn their attention to the man from UMass. It would be a bit of a surprise if he’s not back with Big Blue next season, but stranger things have happened.

Packers could consider RB rotation: After missing out on Steven Jackson in free agency, the Green Bay Packers still have questions to answer at running back. However, DuJuan Harris could be one piece of the puzzle. The young back became a larger part of Green Bay’s offense late in the 2012 season, peaking with a 70-yard performance against the Vikings in the regular-season finale. There’s no doubt that Harris would have help, whether it’s by a free agent like Ahmad Bradshaw or Michael Turner or if it comes through the draft. Regardless, if Harris is truly in the mix to see significant carries in 2013, he has deep sleeper potential.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


This or That: Danny Amendola vs. Wes Welker

If somehow you haven’t heard … today is Pi Day! It’s one of those days when nerds unite to point out that the date on the calendar (3/14) is the same as that irrational number that describes the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

(Although we secretly hoped today would be a day-long celebration of the intricacies of the pass interference rule. What? It’s not PI Day?)

While we could regale you with a recitation of an infinitely long number or point out all the improbabilities of a 16-year old boy making a trans-ocean voyage while trapped on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, there are other forms of nerdism that we prefer to engage in here on “This or That.”

Namely, we want to figure out who will have a larger slice of the fantasy football pie (see what we did there?) in 2013 — Danny Amendola or Wes Welker? It’s a Red Raider Rivalry … a Slot Receiver Showdown. Lubbock might not be big enough for the both of them. Time to go to the tape!

This or That: Danny Amendola or Wes Welker?

Age: I’d like to give Welker a bonus point for sharing a birthday with me, but that that point gets taken away since he’ll be 32 before the 2013 season kicks off. That fact probably had a lot to do with why he’ll play his home games much further above sea level this year. Similarly, I can give Amendola kudos for sharing a birthday with my beloved mom. Even better for Amendola, we’ll be about midway through the season before he turns 28. Two is better than none!

Advantage: Amendola

Rankings history: In the past four seasons, Welker has finished in the top 12 among receivers three times. The only time he missed the mark was 2010 which turned out to be a down season as he recovered from major knee reconstruction. Even then, he ended the season ranked 23rd at the position — which is better than anything Amendola has ever accomplished.

Advantage: Welker

Injury: What good is a fantasy receiver if he can’t stay on the field? That was the biggest caveat about Amendola among the fantasy staff when we took up the question in Thursday’s Instant Debate. For all of his talent, he’s missed 20 games over the past two seasons. Welker has missed just four games over an entire nine-year career. No one ever earned fantasy points from the bench.

Advantage: Welker

Beefs: As well as being physically tough, you want a player on your fantasy roster that can stand up to the mental rigors of an NFL season — namely, can they handle a little beef? We all know that Welker can handle a little criticism. He took a Twitter lickin’ from Gisele Bundchen and kept on tickin’, catching 118 passes the following season. On the other hand, it seems like Amendola has taken to starting beef with unsuspecting ushers. I kid, especially since Amendola later apologized to the man. Although, does that somehow make him less tough? Let me think on that one.

Advantage: Welker

Supporting cast: Amendola walks into a situation where the top two targets on the roster are tight ends — more proof that this isn’t your big brother’s NFL. But there should be opportunities abounding for him to catch passes since the Patriots are expected to part ways with Brandon Lloyd and are fairly bereft of proven receivers. Meanwhile, Welker goes to a team that already has two quality wideouts in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and has a pretty good tight end in Jacob Tamme. There’s a great chef under center serving up meals, but even for Peyton Manning, that’s a lot of mouths to feed.

Advantage: Amendola

Schedule: The Broncos gallop away with this one. When it comes to overall strength of schedule for 2013, Denver is tops — they face teams that posted a combined winning percentage of .430 in 2012. The Pats rank in the bottom half of the league with the 14th-toughest schedule. Likewise, the Broncos have the fourth-most forgiving schedule for fantasy wideouts in 2013. The Patriots? Dead last.

Advantage: Welker

Follicle follies: At first I was fully prepared to award this round to Welker. After all, he spent some time rocking this glorious mustache during his time in New England. Then I was reminded of this. Dirty pool, Mr. Welker. While Danny Amendola hasn’t treated us to any particularly over-the-top styles, it seems safe to say that all of his hair is his own.

Advantage: Amendola

There you have it. The tête-à-tête was expected to be close … and it was. And by a nose, Wes Welker is your winner. Looks like the veteran gets to own bragging rights around Texas Tech for the time being.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


NFL fantasy football: Chris Johnson still No. 1 in Tennessee

CJ to remain lead RB: When the Tennessee Titans announced the signing of Shonn Greene to help with their running game, there were immediately questions about the distribution of touches. Head coach Mike Munchak cleared that up by saying Chris Johnson “is our main back and will continue to be.” The duo will likely be used as a thunder and lightning combination — a situation that would seem to point toward Greene seeing the goal-line touches, which would give him a little more value. Still, sharing carries makes both players low-end No. 2 or high-end No. 3 RB options.

Chiefs remaking passing game: First, they hired Andy Reid. Then they traded for Alex Smith. Next they signed Anthony Fasano. The Kansas City Chiefs offense is getting a full makeover. That could continue with Reid’s supposed new plans for Dexter McCluster. The Chiefs new chief could come up with something creative for the speedy slot receiver who had sleeper potential in 2012 but never lived up to it. Add that to the potential for two tight ends to be on the field as well as Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles and you start to wonder if touches and targets are going to be spread thin next season.

Stanton to get shot at Cardinals QB job: Still in search of a quarterback, the Arizona Cardinals will give Drew Stanton an opportunity and the journeyman says he believes he can be the answer to Arizona’s problems. It would be hard for him to be much worse than what the Redbirds put together at the position last season. A quartet of quarterbacks combined to throw 11 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Of course, it remains to be seen if a signal caller who’s had just four starts in five NFL seasons can lift Arizona’s passing game out of its doldrums. Seems like another tough year is in the offing for Larry Fitzgerald.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


NFL fantasy football: Fitzpatrick release opens QB job

Jackson penciled in as starter: The surprising release of Ryan Fitzpatrick means there is a job opening at the quarterback position in Buffalo. At the moment, Tarvaris Jackson is the leading candidate to take over as the Bills’ No. 1 signal-caller. Of course, we’re just one day of the free agent signing period and there are still plenty of options available to compete for the job. Plus, there’s always the chance that Buffalo believes its QB of the future can be found in the draft. The bottomline is that the job is far from secure — although there’s not a ton of value immediately to be found.

Bears want to keep Bennett busy: It’s been awhile since the Chicago Bears have had a truly productive tight end. Now they hope newly-signed Martellus Bennett can be that player. The former Giant started last season as a big part of Big Blue’s attack, but his impact waned as the year went on. Chicago tight ends coach Andy Bischoff says the team plans to line the tight end up in multiple spots this season, meaning Bennett could create matchup problems. For the time being, he’s still a low-end No. 1 fantasy option.

Jaguars targeting Geno Smith?: Maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff really is fed up with Blaine Gabbert. There is speculation that the team could target West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith with the No. 2 pick in April’s draft. That would certainly put in crimp in any ideas the Buffalo Bills might have about a QB. But it could also create an interesting camp competition between the rookie and the third-year signal-caller.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


Fantasy football free agency tracker

Colts sign deal with Heyward-Bey

Released by the Oakland Raiders earlier in the offseason, Darrius Heyward-Bey has found a new home in Indianapolis. The Maryland product will compete with LaVon Brazil for the third spot on the team’s depth chart behind Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton.

DHB, considered a bust on the gridiron based on where he was taken in the 2009 NFL Draft, still has yet to post his first 1,000-yard season at the pro level. Chances are he won’t do it with the Colts either, so fantasy leaguers shouldn’t expect a spike in value – even with a talented quarterback like Andrew Luck under center.

In fact, Heyward-Bey still isn’t worth more than a late-round look in most leagues.


Kolb, Bills agree to deal

Add one more name to the Buffalo Bills’ list of QB contenders for 2013 – Kevin Kolb. The former Arizona Cardinals signal-caller agreed to a two-year deal with the Bills Saturday and joins Tarvaris Jackson and Aaron Corp as competitors to begin the season as the No. 1 quarterback. While Kolb’s on-field performance hasn’t been particularly scintillating, the bigger issue has been his health — or lack of it. During his two seasons in the desert, Kolb played just 15 total games. His move to western New York doesn’t move the needle much on his fantasy value … if anything, it’s good for C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, who could be leaned upon more heavily.

- MG

Washington retains TE Fred Davis

The tight end position should be a little deeper from a fantasy perspective in 2013, and we now know where one of the position’s young playmakers will suit up. Fred Davis, a sleeper in the past, has decided to remain with the Washington Redskins after signing a one-year deal.

Davis, who continues to recover from a torn Achilles’ tendon, allows himself a chance to prove he’s 100 percent this season in order to earn a bigger, long-term deal in 2014. That motivation will add to his value in fantasy drafts. What’s more, he would be the favorite to serve as the No. 2 option in the pass attack (behind Pierre Garcon) for Robert Griffin III in a best-case scenario.

Barring setbacks, Davis should be back in time for the start of training camp. He’ll be worth a late-round look as a No. 2 tight end with No. 1 potential in fantasy land.

- MF

Fitzpatrick, Titans agree to deal

Not long after cutting ties with Matt Hasselbeck, the Tennessee Titans agreed to a two-year deal with former Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Amish Rifle never came close to duplicating the success that led the Bills to giving him a big contract extension early in the 2011 season.

Now he lands in Tennessee as the No. 2 quarterback behind Jake Locker, where he’ll have no fantasy draft value.

- MG

Hasselbeck signs with Colts

Wanting to add a veteran presence, the Indianapolis Colts signed Matt Hasselbeck to a two-year contract. Now at the end of his career, there’s little doubt that his only role is to be injury insurance for Andrew Luck.

Last season, Hasselbeck played in eight games (five starts) — mostly in place of the injured Jake Locker — and acquitted himself fairly well when he was on the field. But with Luck locked in as the unquestioned No. 1, the veteran signal-caller isn’t likely to be drafted in any fantasy leagues in 2013.

- MG

Brandon Lloyd released by Patriots

It took just one season for Brandon Lloyd to apparently come and go in New England. The Patriots released the wideout over the weekend after one mediocre campaign with the squad in which he posted 911 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

This move solidifies Danny Amendola’s place in the pecking order as the No. 3 option in the passing game — at least for now. New England added Donald Jones last week and there’s a chance the team could still chase another receiving option to try and stretch defenses on the outside. There’s also a good chance the Patriots could re-sign Julian Edelman, but it wouldn’t have a major impact on Amendola’s targets.

As for Lloyd, the market for receivers isn’t great so he will likely have to take a pay cut — he could even return to New England. However, it would be a major upset if he didn’t land with one team or another next season. Yet right now, he appears to be slotted as a mid-round option as a No. 2 fantasy pass-catcher.

- MG

Brandon Myers lands in the Big Apple

I think I feel another Fantasy Man Crush coming on …

This time it’s for Brandon Myers, who signed with the New York Giants over the weekend. Myers, who is coming off a season with 79 catches, 806 yards and four touchdowns as a member of the Oakland Raiders, is now in great position to be a No. 1 fantasy tight end.

The position has done well over the years in New York’s system, as players like Jeremy Shockey, Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss have all found some level of statistical success. Last season, Martellus Bennett (now with the Chicago Bears) had his best pro season for Big Blue.

Myers, a tremendous pass catcher, could turn into one of Eli Manning’s most popular red-zone targets in 2013. He’s not an elite fantasy tight end like Rob Gronkowski, but Myers is definitely a No. 1 option and worth a look in the middle to late rounds.


Minnesota lands Greg Jennings

After a lengthy visit with the team, Greg Jennings has finally agreed to terms with his one-time NFC North rival, the Minnesota Vikings. A fantasy star during most of his time with the Green Bay Packers, Jennings is now in a less favorable situation from a statistical perspective.

First, the downgrade at quarterback is enormous from Aaron Rodgers to Christian Ponder. Second, the Vikes don’t have a single wideout to take defensive pressure off Jennings – unless you consider Jerome Simpson a threat (maybe Kyle Rudolph?) Finally, Jennings is joining the team he made the most hay against as a member of the Packers.

In fact, he had more receptions (65) receiving yards (964) and touchdowns (10) against Minnesota during the regular season than any other opponent.

Jennings, 29, has also missed a combined 11 games over the last two seasons so clearly, durability is at least a slight cause for concern. Overall, I see him as a borderline No. 2 or 3 fantasy wideout somewhere in the middle rounds.

The real winner as a result of this signing is Randall Cobb, who is guaranteed to retain a major role in the Packers offense moving forward. He’s a definite breakout candidate and could come off the board as soon as the third or fourth round in standard formats.

Jordy Nelson and James Jones will also see a bump in appeal with Jennings out of the mix.


Dolphins nab Brandon Gibson

The Miami makeover continues with the addition of former St. Louis Rams receiver Brandon Gibson.

2012 was a banner year for Gibson, setting career highs in receiving yards (691) and touchdowns (5) while working as the de facto No. 1 receiver in St. Louis while Danny Amendola was out of action. That’s not likely to be the case in Miami, where the recieving corps is getting awfully crowded with Mike WallaceBrian Hartline and Dustin Keller already in town. Right now, Gibson is checking in as the No. 3 receiving option in the offense. And unless there’s major improvement from Ryan Tannehill in his second season, Gibson’s production could see a dip.

As for the Rams, with Amendola and Gibson now gone, Chris Givens and Brian Quick are the top two WR options. Both should be looked at as No. 3 or 4-type fantasy receivers.

Woodhead heads west to San Diego

With the addition of Leon Washington in New England, Danny Woodhead quickly became expendable — now he’s a member of the San Diego Chargers after signing a two-year deal with the team.

While I don’t think he’ll become the next Darren Sproles, Woodhead does offer an upgrade over Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle as a change-of-pace option. When you also consider Ryan Mathews’ proneness to injuries, Woodhead should see more than his share of opportunities.

Not the biggest runner in the world, Woodhead has still averaged a very respectable 4.8 yards on 265 career carries. He’s also coming off his best season as a receiver with 40 receptions and 446 yards, so he will clearly be on the PPR radar in 2013.

With Woodhead in the mix, Mathews will have a tougher time establishing himself as a third-down option for new coach Mike McCoy. Remember, he saw just five touches on third downs last season — don’t look for an enormous increase in that stat.

Looking back to New England, Shane Vereen is now second on the depth chart and will be the favored fantasy handcuff for Stevan Ridley.


Cardinals release Kolb

The Kevin Kolb experiment is over in Arizona. The Cardinals announced the release of the star-crossed quarterback Friday morning. Kolb’s biggest problem was staying on the field in Arizona, playing just 15 games in two seasons. When he was on the field, his performance left a lot to be desired. He eventually lost his job in 2012 to John Skelton.

However, there is reportedly already interest in Kolb. Not surprisingly, it’s from the New York Jets. If Kolb lands in the Big Apple, he would be in the midst of a three-way competition with David Garrard and Mark Sanchez. Not a particularly appealing fantasy prospect.

Back in the desert, the Cardinals are currently looking at a QB depth chart of Skelton, Ryan LindleyDrew Stanton and restricted free agent Brian Hoyer – which is equally unappealing. 

- MG

Keller taking talents to South Beach

With Anthony Fasano collecting mail in Kansas City, the Miami Dolphins have found his replacement at tight end, agreeing to a one-year deal with Dustin Keller.

Keller has been a fantasy enigma throughout his career — a tight end who (until 2012, at least) was always healthy and fairly reliable. However, he was never a huge part of the Jets offense and remained in the middle of the pack at his position.

That seems unlikely to change in South Florida with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline battling for targets. Until further notice, Keller remains a No. 2 fantasy tight end option who can stay on the board until the late rounds.

- MG

Jones joins Patriots

The Patriots are rebuilding their receiver corps. They’ve already added Danny Amendola. Now they’ve agreed to a three-year deal with Donald Jones, a move that could signal the end of Brandon Lloyd’s stay in New England.

Jones wasn’t on many fantasy radars last season, catching just 41 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns with the Buffalo Bills. But depending on how things shake out, he could be the No. 2 receiver in New England’s offense. Of course, it likely means he’s fourth in the target order behind Gronk, Hernandez and Amendola. Jones has deep sleeper value, but he’s best left alone until the late rounds.

- MG

Goodson heading to the Big Apple

The New York Jets added a running back to their backfield mix on Friday, signing veteran Mike Goodson to a three-year deal. Goodson hasn’t made much of an impact in fantasy land, as he’s spent much of his career buried on depth charts in Carolina and Oakland. Now with the Jets, though, Goodson could have some deep sleeper appeal.

Currently, the Jets have Bilal Powell listed atop their depth chart among runners. And while he did show signs of potential last season, he’s far from a lock to be a featured back. In fact, Goodson and his career 4.51 yards-per-carry average will be a threat to him during training camp. This is one of those fantasy situations owners need to watch in the months to come.


Steven Jackson agrees with Atlanta

After weeks of speculation, it’s finally official — Steven Jackson will be running the football for the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. Despite the fact that he’ll be 30 in July, the move still makes him a more attractive option in fantasy football drafts next season.

Jackson, who has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of his last eight seasons, will take over the top spot on the depth chart that was left vacant when the team released Michael Turner. If fantasy owners had one complaint about Jackson during his time with the St. Louis Rams, it was his lack of touchdowns.

Well, that shouldn’t be an issue with the Falcons.

Keep in mind, Turner rushed for no fewer than 10 touchdowns in his five years in Atlanta — a big part of that success is the fact that he had more than his share of opportunities — that’s something Jackson missed out on in what was typically a far less explosive Rams offense.

While he will lose some time to Jacquizz Rodgers in passing situations, I expect Jackson to be the bell cow for coach Mike Smith, which includes seeing goal-line work. When you also consider that he has one of the easiest schedules among running backs based on fantasy points, Jackson should be considered a very solid No. 2 fantasy runner in 2013.

The Rams are now left with the combination of Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead in their backfield, so that’s a competition to keep tabs on during preseason as long as the team doesn’t add another veteran into the mix.

- MF

Matt Cassel heading to Minnesota

It appears Matt Cassel is heading north for the winter. The quarterback was released this morning by the Kansas City Chiefs. Several hours later, NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer reported that Cassel was joining the Vikes.

During his four year stint with the Chiefs, the USC product never found the same level of success he had during his one season as a starter with the New England Patriots. More recently, Cassel has been a target of the injury bug, playing just nine games in each of the past two campaigns.

Cassel, who turns 31 in May, is ostensibly being brought in as the backup to Christian Ponder. That means the veteran’s fantasy value is nearly nil unless Ponder suffers an injury or is beyond ineffective. Neither signal caller will have much value if the Vikings don’t do anything to shore up its weak wide receiver corps.

- MG

Patriots agree to deal with Danny Amendola

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after losing Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots find his replacement, agreeing to a five-year deal with Danny Amendola. Amendola was an effective slot receiver for the Rams over the past few seasons … when healthy. That’s been the problem. In the past two campaigns, the Texas Tech product has missed 20 games due to injury, something that will keep his fantasy value depressed.

What else will keep his value down? The rest of the Patriots offense. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will likely be the first two options for Tom Brady in the passing game. Even still, it’s hard to imagine Amendola being a one-to-one replacement for Welker — especially since it appeared the Pats were lessening the veteran’s role in the offense last season before injuries to their two tight ends forced him to regain his previous stature. Add to it, New England might not be finished when it comes to adding another pass catcher with the likelihood that Brandon Lloyd won’t be back.

The bottomline: Amendola will see a boost in value simply by joining a more productive offense and playing with a better QB. He was on track to enter 2013 as a borderline No. 2 or 3 receiver, and probably lands solidly as a No. 2 option now — even with so many outlets for Brady to throw to (don’t forget Julian Edelman).

As for the Rams, with Amendola gone and Brandon Gibson likely leaving, it opens the door for Brian Quick and Chris Givens to start earning more targets in the offense. But before you overinflate their value, keep in mind that newly-signed Jared Cook is likely to be a larger part of the offense than Lance Kendricks ever was, meaning that Sam Bradford’s two WR targets are slated to come off the board in the later rounds in most fantasy drafts.

- MG

Wes Welker heading to the Mile High City

According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, Wes Welker and the Denver Broncos have agreed to a two-year deal. This move has enormous fantasy implications, but not all of them are good.

First, this deal is going to hurt the value of both Welker and Eric Decker. In an offense loaded with talent, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Welker catches 100-plus passes like he did in all but one of his six seasons with the Patriots. On the flip side, Decker now has virtually no chance to even come close to the 13 touchdowns he scored in 2012.

So instead of both Welker and Decker being considered borderline No. 1 fantasy options in drafts, this duo will have to settle for being ranked as twos. As for Demaryius Thomas, he’s going to be on the field regardless and shouldn’t see a decline in fantasy draft value.

Clearly, the big winner here is Peyton Manning.

Still one of the top five quarterbacks in fantasy football at the age of 36, Manning now has the best corps of receivers he’s ever had in his career. Also keep in mind that in 2004, he had three wide receivers (Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley) with 1,000-plus yards and 10 or more touchdowns — yes, Manning knows how to spread the football around.

As for the New England Patriots, well, I would be shocked if Danny Amendola’s name didn’t start rolling around. If he ends up signing with the P-Men, Amendola’s value would soar.

Stay tuned…


Shonn Greene joins the Titans

Backfield assistance, thy name is Shonn Greene.

The Tennessee Titans had been angling to find help in their running back rotation for Chris Johnson and it comes in the form of a deal with the former New York Jets rusher. The duo now team up to form a committee similar to that of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina. Expect there’s one big difference — the Titans don’t have a quarterback like Cam Newton to steal any carries from them.

Nonetheless, it’s yet another timeshare for fantasy owners to be aware of. That’s disappointing when you consider both Greene and Johnson were top-15 fantasy backs in 2012. Having them in the same backfield will knock them down a couple of pegs in the pre-draft rankings. CJ2K will enter the 2013 campaign as a low-end No. 2 fantasy back.

As for what happens with the Jets’ running game … well, who knows exactly what their plans are offensively at the moment. There is still much to be sorted out with Gang Green.

- MG

Rashard Mendenhall flies to Arizona

On a very busy day for running backs, Rashard Mendenhall has reunited with coach Bruce Arians (former coordinator in Pittsburgh) and signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. This is good news for his fantasy value, but there are some question marks heading into 2013.

The Illinois product is an upgrade over the recently released Beanie Wells, but he’ll need to beat Ryan Williams in training camp for the top spot on the depth chart. Considering Williams’ proneness to injuries, I would give the edge to Mendenhall. The Cardinals also need to shore up their offensive line, which was dreadful for most of 2012.

On a positive note, Arians isn’t a fan of backfield committees and will prefer one main runner. Mendenhall, who received around 20 carries per game in Arians’ offense in 2010, is still a young player at 25 — he’s also now one full season removed from major knee reconstruction.

While a return to his enormous 2010 totals is unlikely, Mendenhall will now warrant middle-round consideration as a flex starter in standard leagues. As for Williams, he’ll be more of a late-rounder unless he makes some serious noise in the preseason.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers are currently looking at Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman in their backfield, though I’m guessing the team will be looking for an upgrade either via free agency or the draft.


Reggie Bush, Lions agree to contract

One of the big free-agent running back names is off the board. Reggie Bush has reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with the Detroit Lions. The multi-talented rusher is taking his talents away from South Beach where he will find himself splitting carries with Mikel Leshoure.

The good news is that Bush’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield should earn him extra snaps in the Motor City. It also gives Detroit the back they were hoping they had in Jahvid Bell, whose slow recovery from concussion symptoms will likely force him out of football. Bush’s past two seasons in Miami were his most productive as a runner in the NFL, combining for more than 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns — he should be a great fit for that offense.

Meanwhile, the move officially clears the way for the Dolphins to turn their running game over to Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas. With the Fish beefing up their passing attack, it will take some of the pressure off those young RBs to produce right away. Consider both of them to be late round reserve options.

- MG

Donnie Avery agrees to deal with Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are re-making their offense piece by piece. The latest addition is wide reciever Donnie Avery, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts.

Avery had his best year as a pro in 2012, logging 60 receptions for 781 yards, but there’s little doubt that he’s no one’s No. 1 receiver. It’s a worry he won’t have lining up opposite Dwayne Bowe in KC. It will hurt his value somewhat that he’s going from Andrew Luck to Alex Smith, but Avery was best viewed as a No. 3 fantasy wideout anyway. Very little has changed with a change of scenery.

- MG

Raiders release Darrius Heyward-Bey

So … do you think the Oakland Raiders regret passing on Michael Crabtree in the 2009 NFL Draft?

The team released the player it took ahead of Crabtree, Darrius Heyward-Bey, after just four years with the team. While he did show some potential at times, he will be remembered in the Bay Area for his limited route-running skills and inability to be a playmaker in the pass attack. He averaged just 37.8 yards per game in his short tenure with the team.

With DHB no longer in the mix, the Silver & Black will move forward with Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Jacoby Ford and Juron Criner at wide receiver. Moore has the most fantasy appeal and could be a sleeper in his third pro season. You also have to keep an eye out on Streater, who had some nice stat lines in 2012 and will be the favorite to start opposite Moore.


Anthony Fasano signs with Kansas City

The Chiefs have had the “Tight End Wanted” sign out ever since Tony Gonzalez packed up his tent at the end of the 2008 season. They hope they’ve found their guy after signing Anthony Fasano to a multiyear deal, where he’ll be paired with Tony Moeaki.

Don’t expect this to be a Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez redux. The bigger danger is that two already-No. 2 tight ends will cut into each other’s production. Moeaki should remain the primary target at TE, but with Dwayne Bowe back as the No. 1 target in the offense and Jamaal Charles expected to catch quite a few balls, that could leave slim pickings two tight ends in the offense.

- MG

Jared Cook heading to St. Louis

NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington is reporting that Jared Cook is “heading to the Rams” via his Twitter account. The talented tight end will have a chance to meet the statistical expectations he’s had (and failed to accomplish) the last two seasons as a member of the Tennessee Titans.

Cook, seemingly always listed among the top sleepers at his position, has finished no better than 15th in fantasy points since 2011. He’s also never found the end zone more than four times in a season. So while his talent between the white lines is intriguing, I’d hold off on drafting Cook as a No. 1 tight end. Instead, go after him in the later rounds as a No. 2 option with upside.

With Cook now in the mix, the seasonal and dynasty appeal of Lance Kendricks takes a major blow. He won’t even be drafted in most traditional formats in 2013.

- MF

Bears add veteran TE Martellus Bennett

A five-year veteran out of Texas A&M, Martellus Bennett made a nice impact with the New York Giants last season — his 55 receptions, 626 yards and five touchdowns were all career bests, as were his 92.60 fantasy points (13th among tight ends).

Now in the Windy City, Bennett will have to break the trend of Bears tight ends who have failed to make a consistent or significant fantasy impact. If new coach Marc Trestman opens up the pass attack with Jay Cutler, Bennett could turn into a nice No. 2 option or matchup-based starter.

His fantasy value is limited to the late rounds.

- MF

Delanie Walker agrees with Titans

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Delanie Walker has agreed to a four-year deal with the Tennessee Titans. The move signals that the Titans are willing to let Jared Cook walk. But it would seem to be a downgrade for a team looking to build around Jake Locker. What Walker adds as a blocker, he lacks as a pass catcher. Last season, Walker had nine drops in just 37 targets with the 49ers — nearly a 25 percent drop rate — making him less than reliable. He’s little more than a low-end No. 2 tight end option in most leagues.

- MG

Bills release Ryan Fitzpatrick

It’s easy to joke that after the ill-fated Deadspin release of Buddy Nix’s phone conversation that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s release had to happen, but it is a little surprising. Sorta the way it was surprising that the Bills dump-trucked a huge contract on a player that had produced just one good (but not great) season. Why the two sides couldn’t have tried to re-structure the deal is still a mystery. But what’s done is done.

Add Fitzpatrick’s name to a list of free agent quarterbacks that isn’t much to write home about. He immediately jumps to the top of the list, but that’s not saying much in a group that includes Jason CampbellChase Daniel and Brady Quinn. Over the past three seasons, Fitzpatrick has averaged 24 touchdowns, but 18 interceptions — a ratio that won’t do much for the confidence of fantasy owners. Yet he could end up on the radar of a team like the Arizona Cardinals, who are also in desperate need of a quarterback.

For Buffalo, the move could point toward the team targeting Geno Smith with its first round pick. And if the Amish Rifle decides to ply his trade in the desert next season, the Bills could possibly get their man without having to trade up. That’s especially good news for a franchise that has just six picks in this year’s draft and would prefer to acquire more (as we all learned from Nix himself). If, for some reason, Smith doesn’t fall all the way to the No. 8 spot, the Bills could wait and reunite Ryan Nassib with his former college coach Doug Marrone with the No. 41 overall selection.

- Marcas Grant

Mike Wallace agrees with Miami Dolphins

NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington is reporting that Mike Wallace has reached an agreement with the Dolphins. This move was expected, as Wallace has been linked to the Fins for weeks now.

A top-10 fantasy wide receiver based on points in 2009-2010, the Mississippi product slipped in the stat sheets last season with a 25th-place finish at his position. He did find the end zone eight times, though, and missed a game due to an injured hip.

So where will he rank as a member of the Dolphins?

Well, I don’t see Wallace as a top-10 fantasy receiver with Ryan Tannehill throwing him the football. Instead, I like him as a No. 2 fantasy option who will be worth a look in the middle rounds. The addition of Wallace is clearly good for Tannehill, but he’s still just a late-round reserve.

In Pittsburgh, the value of Antonio Brown is on the rise. He’ll take over as the new No. 1 option in the pass attack for Ben Roethlisberger and is now a borderline No. 2 or 3 wideout in fantasy land. Emmanuel Sanders is also in line to see more targets and will be worth a late-round look.

-Michael Fabiano


NFL fantasy football: Tony Gonzalez back for 2013

In the world of fantasy football, there hasn’t been a more consistent point producer at the tight end position than Tony Gonzalez. He has finished among the top five players at his position (based on fantasy points) in five of the last seven seasons, including each of the last two.

The veteran has also missed the top 10 just once in that time.

So, when word came down that Gonzalez was leaning toward retirement, it was expected to be a major loss in fantasy land. Luckily, the future Hall of Famer had a change of heart — on Tuesday, he told NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer that he will return for the 2013 campaign.

That helps a position that took a statistical nose dive this past season, as finding a relatively reliable starter was almost impossible. Aside from Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, who are the two unquestioned top tight ends, Gonzalez should be drafted as a top-five option.

He’s fourth on my current board and could move up to third — and ahead of Aaron Hernandez — once we get closer to the summer months and training camp.

Gonzalez’s return is also good news for Matt Ryan, who will continue to have a reliable target in the middle of the field. His presence in the pass attack is also great for Julio Jones and Roddy White, who will continue to see similar coverages from opposing defenses.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!


NFL fantasy football: David Garrard signs with Jets

Garrard to compete for QB job: The New York Jets management made it clear that Mark Sanchez would have competition for the starting quarterback job in 2013. Now we know who at least one of the contestants will be. The team signed David Garrard to a free agent deal Monday.  The veteran QB hasn’t taken a snap since late in the 2010 season and has missed the past two campaigns with back and knee issues. However, you can expect that he will certainly push Sanchez for the gig, though it should be little surprise that the incumbent is considered the early favorite.

Cruz not likely to act soon: While Victor Cruz waits for someone to offer him a No. 1 WR-type contract, he will get to contemplate the first-round tender that the Giants are set to give him as a restricted free agent. It’s not very often that other teams make a play for RFAs, since the compensation of giving up a first- or second-round draft pick is often too great. Cruz is reportedly drawing plenty of interest, but it remains to be seen whether the loss of a high draft pick and the wideout’s salary demands will be too much for some clubs. Either way, it’s not likely that anything will happen with the playmaker until we’re well into the free agent period.

Dwyer signs tender: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer signed his sixth-round tender Monday evening, removing him from the free agent market. Last season, Dwyer was the best of a scattered RB bunch in the Steel City, leading the team in carries (156) and rushing yards (623). With Rashard Mendenhall expected to move on, it opens the door for Dwyer to be more of a workhorse in 2013. In 2012, he struggled with a quad injury that kept him on the weekly injury report. If he can stay healthy and maintain last season’s 4.0 yard per carry average, we endorse any situation that will get him more touches.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


NFL fantasy football: A new star in Arizona?

The Arizona Cardinals have decided to part ways with oft-injured veteran running back Beanie Wells after four seasons. A former star at Ohio State, he has missed a combined 13 games over the last three years – including eight last season – due to an assortment of ailments.

This move opens a chance for Ryan Williams to take over the top spot on the depth chart, at least for now. But when you consider that he’s missed most of his first two pro seasons due to injuries, well, I can’t see the Virginia Tech product suddenly making a big fantasy impact.

In fact, I would be shocked if the Cardinals didn’t make a move to add a runner either via free agency or the NFL Draft. Rashard Mendenhall, who has ties to coach Bruce Arians from their time in Pittsburgh, and Reggie Bush, have both been linked to the team.

Regardless, I’m guessing the Cardinals starting running back for 2013 isn’t on their current roster. That might not be what Williams owners in dynasty leagues want to hear, but his lack of durability is a major issue. Look for the team to make a move sooner than later.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!


NFL fantasy football: Boldin’s value declines in SF

The NFL’s free-agent period hasn’t even started, but the transaction wire is already ablaze with player movement. First, the Seattle Seahawks acquired Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings. Next, the Arizona Cardinals cut ties with Beanie Wells.

Now comes a report from the Baltimore Sun that the Ravens have traded Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round pick. The veteran was a star for the Ravens during their run to a Super Bowl title, but is he still a legitimate fantasy starter as a member of the Niners?

I’m not so sure.

Keep in mind, Boldin has finished no better than 25th in fantasy points among wide receivers over the last three seasons. In that time, he’s averaged 62 catches and a mediocre 882 yards. Now with San Francisco, the veteran figures to be the third option in the pass attack behind Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Second-year wideout A.J. Jenkins is expected to see an increase in playing time as well.

While the addition of Boldin is good news for Colin Kaepernick, who now has another weapon at his arsenal, the veteran wideout isn’t someone to target until the late rounds as a fantasy reserve.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!


NFL fantasy football: Harvin’s value in Seattle

In the first major move of the offseason, the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings have agreed to a trade that will send Percy Harvin to the Great Northwest. The move, which is pending a physical, has major implications in fantasy circles.

Harvin, who missed just about half of the 2012 campaign with an ankle ailment, is one of the better playmakers in the National Football League. In fact, he ranked among the 10-best wide receivers based on fantasy points in his last full season (2011). A potential draft bargain because of his lack of overall production last year — he finished outside of the top 40 players at his position — Harvin should be considered a No. 1 wideout in a Seahawks offense that is now absolutely loaded with weapons.

Sure, some would argue that Seattle is the place where good wideouts have gone to die — just look at the numbers of players like Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. But I’m hear to tell you, that’s well into the past now — this is a more explosive offense.

The addition of Harvin is great news for the value of Russell Wilson, who finished his rookie campaign as one of the hottest quarterbacks in fantasy football. He’s locked in as a top-10 option at the position and will no doubt be drafted within the first five rounds. This move isn’t as fruitful for the likes of Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, though, as their targets and opportunities are likely to see at least a slight decrease with Harvin in the mix. Neither should be considered more than a No. 4 or 5 fantasy wideout.

Overall, this is a great move for the Seahawks — both on the field and in fantasy land.

Switching gears to the Vikings, the loss of Harvin opens up cap room and should make it a lot easier for the team to go after a free-agent wide receiver like Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings. Their two starting wideouts as of right now are Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, so the Vikes will clearly be in the market for a top-notch wideout.

Stay tuned…

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!


NFL fantasy football: Dolphins locked on Mike Wallace

Dolphins upgrading at WRAs many have surmised for the past month or more, Mike Wallace appears headed to the Miami Dolphins. What is a little more surprising is that the ‘Fins are reportedly Wallace’s only suitor. The free agent-to-be is expected to ask for a hefty salary and concerns about his route-running ability and consistency have likely conspired to keep the market down for his services. Yet it appears Miami isn’t finished since the team is said to be pursuing St. Louis Rams receiver Brandon Gibson. Add that duo to Brian Hartline who was re-signed last week, and the Dolphins will have completely revamped a previously lackluster receiving corps. It also removes another excuse for Ryan Tannehill not to be better in 2013.

Welker likely returning to Patriots: While the feelings between Wes Welker and the New England Patriots haven’t exactly been harmonious this offseason, it appears likely that the wideout will be back with the team when the 2013 season begins. It was believed that Welker was hoping to swing a monster contract, in the neighborhood of $11 million per year. Welker, however, has a very particular set of skills — mostly suited to the intricacies of the the Patriots offense. While it probably won’t bring him the most money, it is the best fit for his talents … and his fantasy value.

Eagles pursuing Amendola … or not: If Welker is going back to New England, it would take Danny Amendola off their radar. However, there are reports that the Eagles could come after the Rams playmaker. However, that report is contradicted by others in Philadelphia reporting that there is no interest in the veteran. All of this could be a smokescreen to give the Eagles an advantage when the free agent market opens on Tuesday, but there’s little doubt that Amendola could have a notable boost in fantasy draft value if he lands in Chip Kelly’s uptempo offense next season.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


NFL fantasy football: Vikings could pursue Mike Wallace

Vikes added to list of Wallace suitors: Mike Wallace has shot to the top of the list of coveted free agents in 2013. The Miami Dolphins are said to be targeting the speedy wide receiver and now there’s another team that could be seeking Wallace’s services — the Minnesota Vikings. Last season, the Vikes passing game was the second-worst in the league, throwing for 2,751 yards. That number was certainly limited by Percy Harvin’s injury. The problem is that it could become an either/or situation for Minnesota. Wallace will command a high price while Harvin reportedly wants a Calvin Johnson-like contract. Regardless of which wideout ends up in the Twin Cities, the lack of a playmaking quarterback under center will leave their fantasy value depressed for next season.

Hartline, Dolphins agree to deal: The free agent market for receivers got a little smaller Friday when Brian Hartline signed a five-year deal to stay with the Dolphins. Hartline turned the heads of fantasy enthusiasts with a 12-catch, 253-yard, one touchdown performance against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4. The downside is that game encompassed nearly one-quarter of his production (and all of his TDs) for the season. Right now, Hartline projects as a No. 3 wideout in most fantasy leagues.

Giants want to re-sign Bennett: The New York Giants reportedly want to lock up tight end Martellus Bennett before free agency begins next week. In his first season with Big Blue, Bennett made an immediate splash, catching a touchdown in each of his first three games. However, he was an afterthought in the offense for much of the season — he only made two more visits to the end zone in 2012. You can add Bennett to the list of an underwhelming 2012 tight end class. He’s projecting as a No. 2 option in 2013.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

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