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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
Report: Wes Welker may play Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:48 pm ET) Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker may play Week 1 against the Colts, according to the Denver Post

Welker is expected to be suspended for four games after reportedly testing positive for amphetamines. The league, however, has not officially announced the suspension. Suspensions are typically announced by Tuesday, according to Pro Football Talk. Since the NFL has yet to announce the move, it's thought Welker could be available for Week 1, but would serve his suspension once the NFL announced the move. 

There are a lot of uncertainties regarding the situation at this time. The club expects Welker to be available, provided he passes concussion protocal, but it remains to be seen how the NFL will handle this suspension. 


Randall Cobb to be tested Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:36 pm ET) Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb should be in for a tough test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Cobb caught just three passes during the preseason, picking up 34 yards and a score. His lack of work shouldn’t be a huge concern, as the Packers offense doesn’t need any fine-tuning. The main thing here is that Cobb is 100 percent healthy after playing in just six games last season due to a leg injury.

His Week 1 production could be dampened by a strong Seahawks DST. Seattle was exceptional against the pass last season, holding opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game. That figure was the second-lowest rate in the league. On top of that, Cobb may have to deal with Richard Sherman, who is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Sherman may spend the majority of the game stopping Jordy Nelson, but he could find his way over to Cobb on a few occasions.

Cobb’s versatility makes him a strong candidate to be moved around the Packers’ offense. If Green Bay can create some nice matchups, and Sherman is preoccupied with Nelson, Cobb could be in for a better game than people might expect. 

Despite that, expectations should be tempered. Seattle’s DST was strong last season, and while Green Bay boasts a strong offense, things should be muted Week 1. Cobb is a fine start, considering his upside, but he carries more risk this week due to the matchup.


Jordy Nelson in for a tough test Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:25 pm ET) Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson should be in for a difficult test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Nelson had a quiet preseason, catching just two passes for 19 yards. One of those catches wound up being a touchdown. Despite the lack of action during the preseason, Nelson’s upside with a healthy Aaron Rodgers is well-known among Fantasy owners. That said, he’s going to have to work for everything he gets against Seattle.

The Seahawks rated as the best defense in the league last year. They were strong in every facet of the game. Seattle held opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game, the second-lowest figure in the league. To make things even more difficult for Nelson, he’ll likely be covered by Richard Sherman. Sherman, by many counts, is arguably the best corner in the game. 

Still, it’s tough to pass up Nelson’s upside with a healthy Rodgers. The Packers boast an overabundance of weapons, and it’s possible moving Nelson around before the play could put him in a more favorable matchup. Even if Sherman covers him the entire game, Nelson is a good enough receiver to make some noise. While he doesn’t have a great matchup, Week 1 is not the time to take a player as good as Nelson out of your Fantasy lineup. 


Eddie Lacy to have his hands full Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:17 pm ET) Packers running back Eddie Lacy will have his hands full Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Lacy is coming off a tremendous rookie season, in which he rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He didn’t get a ton of use during the preseason, but seemed to be in midseason form. Lacy rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries, good for a 5.5 average over two preseason games. He also managed to run in a touchdown.

Though he looked strong in the preseason, Lacy should have a tough time against the Seahawks Week 1. Seattle allowed just 12.32 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs last season. That was the second-lowest rate in the league. While the Seahawks lost three defensive linemen during the offseason, the club is thought to still have the top-rated Fantasy defense.

In many circles, Lacy was considered a strong Fantasy pick after the elite four running backs were off the board. With that in mind, it’s unlikely he’ll be benched in many leagues Week 1. There are better matchups out there, but Lacy is a tough player to sit. Given Green Bay’s offensive capabilities, he’s still a decent start even against the best Fantasy defenses. 


Aaron Rodgers taking on a tough task Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:02 pm ET) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has his work cut out for him Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Rodgers entered the season as one of the top Fantasy options at quarterback, but will take on the best defense in the league. Last season, Seattle held Fantasy quarterbacks to just 10.89 points per game. That was the lowest rate in the league. The Seahawks DST ranked tops in the league in limiting points and yards last year. On top of that, the team forced the most turnovers.

While Seattle lost three members of the defensive line during the offseason, the club is still expected to have one of NFL’s best defenses. If Seattle struggles to get to Rodgers, that could open things up for the Packers offense.

Given the cost to acquire Rodgers, in a snake or auction draft, he’s probably going to start for most Fantasy teams despite his tough Week 1 matchup. While there are better quarterback options for this week, Rodgers still has a strong potential for dominance. He’s healthy and still has a bevy of weapons at his disposal. It might not be Rodgers best game of the season, but he’s shown that he can put up numbers against even the best defensive clubs.


Percy Harvin looking to start the year on the right foot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:37 pm ET) Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin is looking at a strong matchup Week 1 against the Packers.

A quiet preseason was a good preseason for Harvin. After missing nearly all of last season due to a hip injury, Harvin was able to play in all but the final game of the preseason. He missed the fourth game due to a personal issue, and not because of an injury. Harvin caught seven balls for 92 yards in August.

The Packers didn’t boast a strong pass defense last season. The team allowed opposing wide receivers to average 22.94 Fantasy points per game. That wasn’t one of the worst rates in the league, but it was below-average. The team attempted to address this during the offseason, taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. Despite that, there’s no guarantee the team will perform better in the defensive backfield.

Despite the fact that Harvin is a five-year veteran, there are questions about how he’ll be used with the Seahawks. While Harvin was able to play during the club’s playoff run, it was unclear whether he was actually fully healthy last year. Harvin has shown the ability to be a game-changing wide receiver, so it’s assumed the Seahawks will find ways to get arguably their best playmaker the ball. The club has been been incredibly run-heavy over the past few seasons, but a healthy Harvin could make them more balanced. 


Marshawn Lynch ready to roll Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:35 pm ET) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is looking to get off to a good start Week 1 against the Packers.

Lynch had an abbreviated preseason, carrying the ball just three times for 16 yards. That’s probably not a bad thing considering his high workload over the past couple years. Lynch also had a brief holdout during the offseason, but reported to camp in shape, and should be ready to roll.

The Packers weren’t particularly strong against the run last season, giving up 19.18 Fantasy points per week to running backs. That was the eighth worst figure in the league. While the team tried to shore up things defensively during the offseason, the loss of B.J. Raji should make it easier for teams to gash the Packers up the middle. 

With that in mind, Lynch should be a strong start. The Seahawks modus operandi the past couple years has been the run game, and that probably won’t change now. There are concerns about Lynch’s workload and lack of preseason reps, but his pedigree and matchup make this a strong start Week 1. 


Russell Wilson ready to shine Week 1?
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:33 pm ET) Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson begins his post-Super Bowl year with a strong matchup against the Packers Week 1. 

Wilson performed well during the preseason, completing 78.6 percent of his passes. He threw for three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Wilson also managed three rushing touchdowns to cap off a strong preseason.

His ability to put up solid Fantasy numbers should be tested Week 1. The Packers did not boast a great defense against the pass last season. The team allowed quarterbacks to score 20.65 Fantasy points, which was the seventh worst clip in the league. Green Bay has been proactive in resolving the issue, drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round, but it’s unclear how much better the team’s defensive backs will perform. 

The bigger question will be whether the Seahawks open up the offense for Wilson this season. With Marshawn Lynch out for much of the preseason, Wilson showed the ability to carry the team with his arm. Now that Lynch is back, the team could opt to get back to conservative play-calling with the franchise quarterback. Wilson has all the makings of a strong matchup here, but could get the short end of the stick if the Seahawks pound Lynch.


Matt Forte should live up to billing in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:25 pm ET) Bears running back Matt Forte was ranked as a top five Fantasy running back going into the season, and he falls in the top five in both weekly running back rankings from CBSSports.com experts. After setting career highs in rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns, receptions and receiving yardage in 2013, will Forte get this season started off on the right foot in Week 1 against the Bills?

While Buffalo put together a strong defense last season, the team's particular strength was against the pass. Rushers were able to gain 4.4 yards per carry against the Bills, leaving them 23rd in the league in the category. While the Bills did a good job defending against pass-catching backs last season, they now have to play without linebackers Kiko Alonso (season-ending injury) and Nigel Bradham (suspended for Week 1) as well as safety Jairus Byrd (signed with New Orleans).

New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense was just average defending passes against running backs in Detroit last season. Forte has been excellent against Schwartz, who was the head coach of the Lions from 2009 through 2013. He has rushed for 1,005 yards and averaged 4.74 yards per carry while catching 38 passes for 360 yards in 12 career games against the Lions. Ten of those contests came with Schwartz at the helm, and Forte should be able to continue giving the Bills defensive coordinator nightmares this Sunday.


Martellus Bennett worth starting in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:09 pm ET) Bears tight end Martellus Bennett posted career-best numbers in 2013, catching 65 passes for 759 yards while matching his career high of five touchdowns. Three of those five scores came in the first two weeks of the season, and he could be on the verge of starting off hot for the third straight season.

Bennett is in danger of getting lost offensively on a week-to-week basis, as there are only so many opportunities to go around for Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and the tight end. He faces a plus matchup in Week 1, with the Bills dealing with a depleted linebacker corps and the loss of free safety Jairus Byrd. While the one thing new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense did well in Detroit last year was defend the tight end, the Bills don't appear to have the personnel to match up with the imposing Bennett.

Bennett falls inside the top 12 in the weekly rankings of both CBSSports.con Fantasy experts, designating him as starter material in standard leagues. We could see a similar line to his opener against the Bengals last season: three receptions, 49 yards and one touchdown.


 
 
 
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