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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
Bears sign DE Austen Lane
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:28 pm ET) The Bears have signed defensive end Austen Lane, Pro Football Talk reports.

Lane will fill the roster spot of defensive end Willie Young, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Lane was with the Bears during the preseason but didn't survive the final cuts. He's managed three sacks in 30 career games.


Cardinals' Thomas starts practice 'shaky,' finishes 'pretty strong'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:29 pm ET) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians indicated that Week 17 starting quarterback Logan Thomas was "shaky" at the beginning of Wednesday's practice but finished "pretty strong" as he developed an understanding of where to throw his passes, ESPN.com reports.

"He's worked, fundamentally, extremely hard and gotten much better," Arians said. "But putting those fundamentals to use in the offense, that's two totally different things."

Thomas has just three days of practice before facing the 49ers in a game that has the possibility of landing his team with a first-round bye with a win and help from other results.

"It wasn't the greatest, but as it went on, it got better and better," Thomas added. "It just comes with reps and comes with time."

The Cardinals are a 6-point underdog in San Francisco Sunday.


Seahawks' Russell Okung, Max Unger practice Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:07 pm ET) Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung (lung) practiced in full Wednesday, while center Max Unger (ankle) was able to return to practice in a limited fashion.

Okung is on track to return in Week 17 after missing last week's game with a bruised lung. Unger hasn't played in any of the team's last five game due to a high ankle sprain. The Seahawks will earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win Sunday, and it's possible Unger suits up for the crucial game.

The Seahawks are a 12 1/2-point favorite at home against the Rams in Week 17.


Raiders QB Derek Carr practices Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:39 pm ET) Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was able to practice Wednesday despite dealing with an illness.

"I got here early to work out and see how I would feel during that and after that and I felt pretty good," Carr said at a press conference Wednesday. "So, felt good at practice today, obviously not 100 percent but it felt good to practice and be out here."

Carr has been able to start every game for the Raiders this season, completing 58.6 percent of his passes while racking up 3,112 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Raiders are a 14-point underdog in Denver in Week 17.


Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman practices in full Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman was able to practice in full Wednesday for the first time since suffering a left foot injury on Nov. 9, ESPN.com reports.

"We've had a chance to watch him all week, participate and he's obviously further ahead than he was this time a week ago," head coach John Fox said after Wednesday's practice. "And the fact we're on grass, not on Astroturf, lot of variables, but I like what I see."

Hillman has been able to practice in a limited fashion during the last two weeks but hasn't been active on gameday since the injury occured. The Broncos are a 14-point favorite at home against the Raiders in Week 17.


Falcons RB Steven Jackson (quad) expected to miss Week 17
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:28 pm ET) Falcons running back Steven Jackson (quad) is not expected to play in Sunday's Week 17 matchup with the Panthers, ESPN.com reports.

Jackson missed practice Wednesday and the team promoted running back Jerome Smith from the practice squad. Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman are expected to share the workload in the critical regular-season finale if Jackson is indeed sidelined.

The Falcons are a 4-point favorite at home against the Panthers.


49ers RB Carlos Hyde still sidelined
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:45 pm ET) 49ers rookie running back Carlos Hyde missed practice again Wednesday with an ankle injury. He sat out Week 16 and appears likely to miss Sunday's game against Arizona, too.

With Hyde out, veteran Frank Gore went off for 158 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries against San Diego. Gore should see another big workload against the Cardinals.


Michael Crabtree doesn't sound eager to return to 49ers
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:35 pm ET) Impending free-agent receiver Michael Crabtree was asked Wednesday if he wants to return to the 49ers next season. "It depends," Crabtree said, per the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't even want to talk about it."

Crabtree is finishing up a disappointing season. He's played every game but has only 64 catches for 657 yards and four touchdowns, a far cry from the 85 grabs, 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns he put up in his last full season, 2012.


Ravens LT Eugene Monroe bothered by ankle injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:27 pm ET) Ravens starting left tackle Eugene Monroe, who hurt his ankle Week 16 against Houston, missed practice Wednesday, reports ESPN.com. His status is uncertain for the regular-season finale at Tennessee.

If Monroe can't play, undrafted rookie James Hurst likely would start, the website said.


Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (shoulder) unable to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:18 pm ET) Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe, who sprained his shoulder in last week's loss at Pittsburgh, was unable to practice Wednesday, reports ESPN.com. Bowe leads Chiefs wideouts with 57 catches for 724 yards.

Kansas City hosts San Diego on Sunday as a 3-point favorite.


 
 
 
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