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2011 Draft Prep: Early value propositions

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Once the NFL lockout ended Monday and teams were allowed to discuss potential moves, the news of impending transactions took off like a tornado. It was fast and full of twists.

The trades and signings won't become official until Friday, but that hasn't stopped us from breaking down all the changes. There have been expected transactions that were reportedly in the works for weeks (Kevin Kolb to Arizona and Santana Moss staying in Washington) and some that took us by complete surprise (Sidney Rice to Seattle and DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith staying in Carolina).

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Here is a look at a handful of players who have been impacted -- both positively and negatively -- based on moves made by their respective teams. Keep in mind that more transactions are likely to happen through Friday evening and even well into the start of training camp.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos
Moreno is still expected to get competition for carries, but with Williams staying in Carolina he dodged a bullet. The prevailing thought this offseason was Williams would follow coach John Fox to Denver and knock Moreno out of the starting spot in the backfield. Now, the Broncos might not have a choice but to start Moreno since he will likely remain the most talented running back on their roster. Had Williams signed with the Broncos we would have been looking at Moreno as a No. 3 Fantasy running back, but he remains a No. 2 option now that he should continue to start. Moreno is worth drafting in Round 3 in standard leagues and in Round 2 in leagues where receptions count.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
The second part to Williams remaining in Carolina is that he kills the value for Stewart, who was expected to start and get the majority of carries if Williams left. But with Williams back for the Panthers, he will likely remain the starter, with Stewart again in a secondary role. Williams should still be considered a No. 2 Fantasy running back worth drafting in Round 3 and the better option on Draft Day compared to Stewart. And Stewart now goes from a potential Top 15 Fantasy running back had Williams left to more of a No. 3 option worth a pick beginning in Round 6. Also, Mike Goodson is now not worth drafting in the majority of leagues since he will remain No. 3 on the depth chart.

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Here's what Fitzgerald did last year with a quarterback carousel of Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton: 90 catches, 1,137 yards and six touchdowns. While those stats look good on paper, we know Fitzgerald is capable of more since he had double digits in touchdowns in his three previous seasons. Now that he's getting a significant upgrade at quarterback with Kolb, Fitzgerald's stats should improve in 2011. He continues to climb in my rankings to No. 6 overall, but you can argue that he's No. 4 behind Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Roddy White based on the potential Kolb brings to the Cardinals. Fitzgerald is worth drafting as early as Round 2. As for Kolb, he remains a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback with upside. Plan on drafting him with a mid-round pick.

Steve Smith, Panthers
Smith should easily improve on last year's dismal season when he had 46 catches for 554 yards and two touchdowns. Even if rookie quarterback Cam Newton struggles, he has to be better than the combination of Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen since each looked awful in trying to connect with Smith in 2010. But had Smith left the Panthers to play in say San Diego, which was rumored to be interested in trading for him, his outlook would have improved dramatically. We would have loved to see Smith catching passes from Philip Rivers in the AFC West and getting single coverage opposite Vincent Jackson and alongside Antonio Gates. That won't happen with Smith staying in Carolina, so he remains a No. 3 Fantasy wide receiver worth only a mid-round pick.

Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
Two different moves happened that should allow Thomas to be a solid Fantasy running back as a rookie in 2011. The first was Williams staying in Carolina. That took him out of play for the Dolphins and will also likely keep Ahmad Bradshaw with the Giants since they had Williams on their radar as well. The other move was the Dolphins trading for Reggie Bush from the Saints. If the Dolphins go with a tandem of Thomas and Bush then that would allow Thomas to start, get the majority of carries and work at the goal line. He would have the chance to be a No. 2 Fantasy running back and most likely the No. 1 overall rookie in standard leagues. Miami will still likely add a veteran backup to go with Thomas and Bush, but Thomas appears headed toward the starting job. As for Bush, he is still only worth drafting with a late-round pick as a No. 4 Fantasy running back in standard leagues and a low-end No. 3 option in leagues where receptions count.

Joe Flacco, Ravens
We remain hopeful that the Ravens will bring back Derrick Mason and/or Todd Heap after they are released for salary-cap reasons, but if they move on to other teams then Flacco will suffer. Mason and Heap have been excellent security blankets and solid playmakers for Flacco in his career. While Mason leaving should help Anquan Boldin (who is worth drafting as a No. 2 Fantasy wide receiver), we'd rather see him stay for Flacco. He should still be considered a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback and is worth drafting with a mid-round pick, but he'd be better off if he still has Mason and Heap on the field with him in 2011.

Donovan McNabb, Vikings and Matt Hasselbeck, Titans
Both quarterbacks landed in situations where they can remain starters, which is positive, even though they are still No. 2 Fantasy options. But at least now they are worth drafting again. For McNabb, his outlook in Minnesota is promising since he has some talented weapons in Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, who is also a winner with this trade. The Vikings will likely land another receiver to replace Rice, and McNabb is worth drafting with a late-round pick. For Hasselbeck, he leaves the friendly confines of the NFC West for an even better place in the AFC South, where playing defense is optional. He also has quality talent around him in Chris Johnson (barring a holdout), Kenny Britt (barring a suspension) and Jared Cook. Like McNabb, Hasselbeck is worth drafting with a late-round pick.

Sidney Rice and Mike Williams, Seahawks
Rice made the right move for his bank account to sign with the Seahawks and cash in on a five-year contract worth $44 million with $18.5 million guaranteed, but his Fantasy value takes a significant hit being reunited with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who also signed in Seattle. Rice went from a potential No. 2 Fantasy wide receiver worth drafting in Round 5 to a No. 3 option who should be drafted after Round 6. And his signing in Seattle, along with Jackson taking over as the starter, lowers the value for Williams, who was a No. 3 Fantasy receiver prior to these transactions. Williams is now a No. 4 Fantasy option at best worth only a late-round pick.

Chad Ochocinco, Patriots
Ochocinco finally gets his wish to leave Cincinnati and play for coach Bill Belichick. But what's better for Ochocinco is he gets to play with Tom Brady instead of rookie Andy Dalton. We don't expect Ochocinco to return as an elite Fantasy wide receiver (this isn't Randy Moss going from Oakland to New England in 2007), but his value does improve with the upgrade at quarterback. Ochocinco might not start for the Patriots ahead of Wes Welker and Deion Branch, who both lose value in this trade, but New England runs plenty of three-receiver sets that he will be on the field enough to matter. He is worth drafting as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with a mid-round pick, and we hope he takes advantage of this opportunity and performs at a high level.

Santana Moss, Redskins
Moss decided to stay with the Redskins instead of exploring other options, and that lowers his Fantasy value for 2011. If he had gone elsewhere he could have been able to play with a better quarterback since the Redskins are looking at John Beck, Rex Grossman or Kellen Clemens as their potential starter. Now, Moss did play well with Grossman as his starter for three games last year (22 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas, Jacksonville and the Giants), but the thought of him catching passes from Beck makes me nauseous. You still have to consider Moss a No. 3 Fantasy receiver worth a mid-round pick, but if he had gone to a new team then his value could have improved if he had a better quarterback.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Chiefs have no plans to cut ties with ILB Derrick Johnson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:18 pm ET) The Chiefs have just $2.8 million of cap space with the NFL draft less than one month away, and while the team needs to find a way to make more room beneath the camp, the Chiefs will not part ways with inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, the Kansas City Star reports.

"Derrick is obviously one of the greatest inside linebackers to ever play for the club and there are some pretty good ones, if you go back in time," team chairman Clark Hunt said. "In terms of the modern era of the Chiefs, it’s hard to think about the club without thinking about Derrick at inside linebacker. He’s a great leader, he’s a tremendous person, represents the club well on and off the field. We’re looking forward to having him back this year, hopefully good as new. You mentioned that his contract is up this year. There will be a point in time where we address that. But it just hasn’t been germane to this point."

Johnson missed last season due to a torn Achilles tendon and has a cap number of $5.2 million this season.


Report: 49ers to sign LB Desmond Bishop
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:12 pm ET) The 49ers will sign inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Bishop joined the 49ers last December and recorded two tackles in two games. He emerged as a starter with the Packers in 2010 and racked up more than 100 tackles for two straight seasons before missing the 2012 season and becoming a free agent. He could win significant playing time in the 49ers' base set after the retirements of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland.


Eagles announce one-year deal with WR Miles Austin
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:08 pm ET) The Eagles announced Tuesday that they have signed wide receiver Miles Austin to a one-year contract. The deal was reported Monday and became official Tuesday after Austin, who caught 47 passes for 568 yards with two touchdowns in 2014, passed his physical.

Ravens sign QB Matt Schaub to one-year deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:01 pm ET) The Ravens have signed quarterback Matt Schaub to a one-year deal, the team announced.

Schaub threw just 10 passes after joining the Raiders before last season but has extensive experience as an NFL starter, having made 90 starts, mostly with the Texans. He's completed 63.9 percent of his passes in his career while racking up 130 touchdowns and 86 interceptions. Schaub will serve as a backup to starter Joe Flacco next season.


Report: Seahawks' Russell Wilson won't land fully-guaranteed deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:40 pm ET) Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been in talks to land a contract extension this offseason, and while a large portion of the deal will be guaranteed, the quarterback will not receive a fully-guaranteed contract, NFL.com reports.

CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported on March 21 that Wilson and the Seahawks were not close to an agreement. La Canfora also said during the NFL combine that it's possible Wilson plays out his rookie deal with the team. He has a cap hit a little less than $1.7 million in the last year of his rookie contract.


Report: Stevan Ridley visiting Dolphins Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:57 pm ET) Free-agent running back Stevan Ridley is visiting the Dolphins Tuesday, the Miami Herald reports.

Ridley spent his first four seasons with the Patriots but struggled in 2014, rushing for just 340 yards and two touchdowns on 94 carries. He did rack up a career-high 1,263 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. The running back underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL in November.


Pagano: Andre Johnson brings a 'big, physical presence' to Colts
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:43 pm ET) Colts coach Chuck Pagano sees wide receiver Andre Johnson as a big presence underneath for the team's offense, adding a complementary piece to the speed of T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, ESPN.com reports.

"He's a big body guy that can still separate, create separation," Pagano said. "He's got a big catch radius. But again, the contested catches that you see on tape. It's very difficult to match up. There are few corners in the league that have length and size to match up but most are aren't on that size and they get pushed around a little bit. He's going to be able to bring that big, physical presence to us."

Johnson managed just 936 yards and three touchdowns on 85 receptions in 15 games in 2014, marking the first time he's played at least 10 games but not reached 1,000 yards since 2005. However, Pagano doesn't think Johnson has taken a step back.

"You don't see a huge dropoff numbers-wise," Pagano said. "Maybe in touchdowns. But you still see a guy who is more than capable of stretching the defense. Certainly somebody who an opponent can't just line up and say, 'Don't worry about Andre Johnson.' They're still going to have to tend to him if you will. If they choose to double [Hilton] and take him out of the game, you have another guy on the other side, along with the rest of the guys on the roster who can still stretch the defense. He's a big, possession type guy. He makes contested catches in traffic. He's got a big catch radius. A big body. Those guys are hard to defend."


Report: Ravens interested in TE Rob Housler
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:34 pm ET) The Ravens and tight end Rob Housler have mutual interest, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The two sides have held contract discussions and while a deal has yet to be reached, both the Ravens and Housler will continue working toward a compromise. He could serve as an athletic pass-catching tight end in new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman's offense if signed.

Housler posted career lows in 2014, grabbing just nine passes for 129 yards.


Saints to start Jahri Evans, Tim Lelito at guard in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:29 pm ET) Saints coach Sean Payton said at the annual NFL meeting that he doesn't think the moves the team has made this offseason have opened any holes in the starting lineup, indicating specifically that Tim Lelito would join Jahri Evans as the team's starting guards after the departure of Ben Grubbs, Saints.com reports.

"Those aren’t holes," Payton said about losing Grubbs and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton. "We’re not moving a player if we feel like there’s no…we feel like we have a pretty good idea of how everything is lining up. We’ve got a center we know that starts in this NFL, we’ve got a guard, (Tim) Lelito will play left guard, Jahri Evans is the right guard. The same way at receiver. So we weren’t looking to make a move that created another 'must'."

Lelito played 294 snaps on offense last season, per Pro Football Focus, and graded out positively as a run blocker and negatively as a pass blocker.  He was an undrafted free agent out of Grand Valley State in 2013.


Lions' Caldwell expects Theo Riddick to have large role in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:19 pm ET) Lions coach Jim Caldwell expects running back Theo Riddick to help boost a rushing attack that ranked 28th in 2014 and cut Reggie Bush after the season, MLive.com reports.

"We try and give (the ball) to the guys who are going to do something with it, and I think he's going to be one of those guys who's going to force us to give him the ball more," Caldwell said last week at the NFL owners meetings. "I think you're really going to see him come along."

Riddick rushed for 51 yards on 20 carries in 2014 and added 316 yards and four touchdowns on 34 catches.

"I can't tell you he's going to carry the ball 50 more times, or I can't tell you he's going to get the ball thrown to him 30 more times, until we have a chance to work through this gauntlet. Know what I mean?" Caldwell said. "When we get to the end of the gauntlet, then maybe I can give you a little more of a view. But I'm never going to tell you, 'Hey, we expect this guy to do this or that.' What role he plays, how much he's going to get it, kind of depends on how well we move the ball and how many opportunities we get, what kind of game it is, are we playing great defense, that kind of thing.

"But I will say that he's going to improve. He has all the qualities. Here's the thing -- if you're smart, if you're tough, if you're disciplined, if you have a great work ethic, there's improvement ahead. And he has all those things. So I think he's going to improve, and I think he's going to force us to get him the ball a little bit more in some situations."


 
 
 
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