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).
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.
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