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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: Andre Johnson not going anywhere
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:12 am ET) Disgruntled Texans receiver Andre Johnson will not be traded, according to the Houston Chronicle. Johnson will either report to the team or he'll sit out, the paper said.

"Johnson, one of the best receivers in NFL history, will not be traded for several reasons," the paper's John McClain wrote. "The Texans want him to finish his career in Houston. They know they are a better team with him. And they don't want to set a precedent for similar situations that might develop in the future."

Johnson wants a trade, NFL Network reported Thursday, and four teams have expressed interest in acquiring the 33-year-old. He's scheduled to make $21.5 million over the next two seasons.


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(10:09 am ET) Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III said recently that the most important player in the team's offense isn't him -- it's running back Alfred Morris

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Morris has done well in his first two seasons, averaging a steady 4.7 yards per carry with 20 touchdowns in 32 games. But he's also worked hard this offseason on becoming a better receiver out of the backfield. 

"I'm just building that trust with the quarterbacks and the coaches to get that confidence that I can catch it to be a viable option in the passing game," Morris said. "Even within myself, I'm building that confidence that I can handle the pressure of a 3rd and 5, and I'm running that choice route to win and catch the ball to keep us on the field. ... Just working hard, making sure I look the ball in before I catch it. I like to run before I secure the ball, but I just have to work on securing the ball before I run."


Panthers WRs set to catch Cam Newton's passes soon
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(9:57 am ET) The Panthers open training camp on July 26 but the receivers will begin working with quarterback Cam Newton next week in Charlotte, wideout Tiquan Underwood told USA Today on Thursday. 

"It's been more difficult because Cam's coming off an ankle injury and he had to get surgery, so we couldn't throw with him as much as we would like," Underwood said. " ... We're just going to try to speed up the process. We're all going to throw -- Derek Anderson, Cam Newton, Joe Webb, Matt Blanchard and all the receivers -- just to work on timing and get that down pat before camp."

Newton has barely practiced with his receivers this offseason as he's recovered from ankle surgery. Nearly all of his receivers are new to the Panthers -- Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Underwood all signed as free agents while Kelvin Benjamin was taken with the team's first-round pick.

Any chemistry Newton can develop with his receivers before camp starts would be considered a huge plus for the Panthers offense. 


A.J. Green staying loyal to Andy Dalton
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/10/2014) Bengals receiver A.J. Green told NFL Network he's hoping quarterback Andy Dalton receives a contract extension. "We came in together and that is the great thing for me and him," Green said. "I know he's my guy. I don't want any other quarterback throwing me the ball. I think he feels the same way about me."

Green said he's built chemistry with Dalton in their three years together.

"He feels confident that whether I'm double covered, triple covered, it don't matter I'm going to come down with the ball," Green said. "And I feel like we've grown over these last three years and I feel like this year is going to be another key year for us."


Derek Sherrod focusing on right tackle
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/10/2014) Former first-round pick Derek Sherrod broke both bones in his lower right leg in December 2011 and returned to the active roster only last year, playing six offensive snaps. But Packers offensive line coach James Campen said Sherrod "looks terrific" and will focus on playing right tackle behind starter Bryan Bulaga, reports ESPN.com.

"The next step for him is to get him into the daily grind, put the pads on and go pound it," Campen said of Sherrod. "That's his next step, but we've been very pleased with where he's come from."


Marion Grice to struggle for playing time
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(7/10/2014) Chargers rookie running back Marion Grice scored 39 touchdowns in 24 games at Arizona State, but he'll have a hard time cracking the lineup in San Diego, according to the team's website. The sixth-round pick finds himself behind Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown in the backfield and will need "a very special camp performance to earn playing time," the report said.


Chris Ivory's carries expected to drop
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(7/10/2014) With the Jets' addition of Chris Johnson, running back Chris Ivory most likely will get "a decent number of carries, but not as many as he did last year," reports the New York Post. Ivory averaged 12 carries per game last year while amassing 833 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

The paper said it will be interesting to see how Ivory reacts to a smaller workload. "One of the reasons he was unhappy in New Orleans was he was part of a crowded backfield and did not feel he was being used enough," the paper said. "Will he bite his tongue if he is riding the bench?"


Four draft picks unsigned as camp nears
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(7/10/2014) With training camp fast approaching, four of the NFL's 256 draft picks remain unsigned. They are Browns corner Justin Gilbert (first round, eighth overall), Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (first round, 11th overall), Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee (second round, 39th overall) and Dolphins offensive tackle Billy Turner (third round, 67th overall).

Getting rid of Andre Johnson would be costly
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(7/10/2014) The Texans would incur $12 million in dead money on their salary cap if they cut or trade receiver Andre Johnson, reports ESPN.com. Johnson has asked for a trade, but the Texans are resistant to the idea, according to NFL Network.

Johnson is owed $21.5 million over the next two seasons. He's unhappy with the direction of the team, which is rebuilding with a new coach and new quarterbacks.


Eddie Lacy not content
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/10/2014) Packers running back Eddie Lacy set a franchise rookie rushing record with 1,178 yards last season while scoring 11 touchdowns. He won't take anyone by surprise in 2014, a challenge he's preparing for.

"I just need to regain focus," he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "Don't let what I did last year flow over into this year. It's a new team, it's a new season and a new year pretty much."

"I know it's going to be a lot tougher than last season," Lacy added. "But we have the greatest quarterback in the NFL, and with him being back there, it's not just like they'll be able to stack the box and focus on me. They have to play him, because if not, he's just going to kill them through the air. So I still think I have a bit of breathing room.

"I think it will be tougher, because it's not like you're surprising everyone. When you first come in, people doubt you. They know what you did in college, but they don't know if it will translate to the next level. But once you get that year in and people see what you've done and it's no longer surprising, they're going to prepare for you the way they prepare for whoever else is good at that position."


 
 
 
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