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tiggerpolice 06-07-2005 10:40 AM

Around the NFC By Gregg Rosenthal
Around the NFC
By Gregg Rosenthal
Senior Editor,
June 6, 2005

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Offseason Low Down Archives

Could the Rams backfield be, “A 50-50 deal throughout the season,� like Mike Martz mentioned this weekend? With Koren Robinson finally dumped, is Joe Jurevicius draftable in all leagues? Why does Charles Rogers suddenly look like a safer bet in 2005? In July, there are plenty of questions affecting fantasy value on every roster. We dug for the answers this week in our look around the NFC.

Arizona Cardinals

At least coach Dennis Green is consistent: the man consistently loves change. Asked if he would name his starters before training camp like last year, Green said, "Everything I do is spur of the moment. I haven't thought about it."

We love the guy, but that quote is important to remember for Kurt Warner and JJ Arrington owners this season. Both look like attractive fantasy values this season, but each player will remain a mini-slump away from losing their jobs. That’s just how Green operates; he’s not changing now… Warner was officially named the team’s starting quarterback to the surprise of … no one. He has the weapons available to make a return to fantasy relevance… Marcel Shipp is finally 100% and practicing with the team. The former UMass star broke his leg and dislocated his ankle last August, sidelining him for ten months. While Shipp is a heavy underdog to Arrington to win the starting job, he’s worth drafting in all leagues… One final item from the ‘spur of the moment’ department. Last year’s leading tackler, linebacker James Darling is now lining up with the second team. Orlando Huff is playing the middle, while Gerald Hayes is on the outside.

St. Louis Rams

Mike Martz says a lot of wacky things, but one comment he made about the Rams backfield this weekend piqued our interest. After talking about why Steven Jackson will be the starter, Martz said, “And yet, this could be a 50-50 deal throughout the season.� Martz clearly still has a soft spot for future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk. Faulk is going to be a big part of the offense and could be undervalued this season, especially in points-per-reception leagues. There are few backup running backs we’d rather own… Isaac Bruce’s heart abnormality was the story of Rams mini-camp this week. For now, the team does not believe the issue is serious. We’ll know more later this week… Bruce’s problems are a good reminder why Kevin Curtis is such an attractive pick this season. The clear No. 3 receiver on an explosive passing attack, Curtis could be an every-week fantasy starter if Bruce or Torry Holt is injured. With Bruce possibly in his last season as a Ram, Curtis has major value in deep keeper leagues… There were a few good signs for IDP owners from Rams mini-camp last week. Pisa Tinoisamoa (shoulder) and Adam Archuletta (back) both appear to be over their chronic injury problems.

San Francisco 49ers

With expected third receiver Derrick Hamilton out for the season, look for the 49ers to pick up a veteran wideout. Johnnie Morton, Freddie Mitchell, Koren Robinson, and Az-Zahir Hakim are all possibilities… The new coaching staff dislikes wide receiver Rashaun Woods as much as the old staff. He’s buried on the depth chart, well behind Arnaz Battle and Brandon Lloyd… Tight end Eric Johnson is struggling with a knee injury. He’s only worth a late-round pick despite his big 2004 season. He’s an injury risk who is likely to see a decline in production… We’ve read positive reports so far about Andre Carter’s conversion to rush linebacker. The former top ten pick at DE could be an IDP sleeper this season.

Seattle Seahawks

Does the release of Koren Robinson make Joe Jurevicius draftable? At this point, we say yes. Jurevicius is highly injury-prone, but he’s the favorite to start opposite Darrell Jackson. Former Saint Jerome Pathon is the other candidate. Expect Bobby Engram to remain the No. 3 option. Whoever wins the starting job is worth grabbing - Seattle’s offense is made for receivers… Speaking of K-Rob, don’t expect any NFL team to sign him until his legal problems shake out. That could take months and Robinson faces a lengthy suspension when he returns to the NFL. 2005 could be a wash… For the second straight offseason, tight end Jerramy Stevens is getting a lot of positive press. Bump him up a few spots on your draft lists, but the man simply hasn’t produced as a pro yet…The Seattle secondary could be in trouble. Losing Ken Lucas hurts, while Marcus Trufant (shoulder) and Ken Hamlin (shoulder) have been sidelined all summer. Coordinator Ray Rhodes has his work cut out for him this season.

NFC North

Chicago Bears

There is one person in Chicago who believes Thomas Jones will start over Cedric Benson this season: Thomas Jones. Jones thinks he fits Chicago’s new West Coast offense perfectly. He’s wrong. The Bears are looking for a bruiser. Jones is only likely to be a factor on passing downs… Here’s a quick recap about the flexible Bears receiver corps behind Muhsin Muhammad. Justin Gage enters camp as the team’s starter. A redzone threat, he’s worth a look in deep leagues. Speedster Bernard Berrian is likely to play out of the slot, although he could pass Gage in time. Bobby Wade is in danger of being released. We’d stay away from all Bears wideouts in most leagues.

Detroit Lions

Charles Rogers is expected to line up at the prolific flanker spot in Steve Mariucci’s offense. This move should increase his touches this season and makes him a decent risk/reward pick as a WR 3/4. Mariucci plans to take the red “non-contact� jersey off Rogers for their upcoming mini-camp. We’re more worried about Rogers’ confidence than his healthy… Mike Williams will play the slot, but he will be on the field most downs… For what it’s worth, Joey Harrington reportedly had a strong week of organized team activities with the Lions last week… Detroit is still looking for veteran help in the secondary. They have recently met with Ty Law and R.W. McQuarters.

Green Bay Packers

Brett Favre continues to hammer away at Javon Walker for his holdout. Of all the current holdouts in the NFL, Walker’s dispute has the biggest potential to change fantasy value. He looks likely to miss a big part of training camp and could lose playing time… Najeh Davenport is nearly recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. In anticipation of his impending free agency, the former Miami running back has hired agent Drew Rosenhaus. While he’s not holding out (yet), this could affect Davenport’s chances of re-signing with the Packers. Rosenhaus is also Walker’s agent… Al Harris, the best player in Green Bay’s secondary, still could face sexual assault charges this offseason. Ahman Green’s legal problems don’t appear serious.

Minnesota Vikings

The effect of Onterrio Smith’s suspension was felt in my “Expert� Mock Drafts thus far. In my last one, Michael Bennett was taken at 4.06, the 29th running back drafted. Mewelde Moore’s stock has really skyrocketed: he was taken at 6.02, the 34th running back drafted. Despite my love for all things Tulane, including our No. 1 ranked baseball team, that pick may be a tad high for Moore… Aaron Elling may officially be the starter, but kicker Paul Edinger is the favorite to open the season with the Vikings. Elling has been highly inconsistent since joining the league. Whoever wins the job is a fine last-round pick at kicker.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Peerless Price is dealing with a retinal condition that is either no big deal or career-threatening, depending on the source. This much seems clear - the Falcons aren’t releasing him. It doesn’t make salary cap sense. To that end, the Falcons have started negotiations to restructure Price’s deal … The Falcons say they plan to use T.J. Duckett more in the passing game this season. After three receptions last season, they can’t use him less. Duckett’s touches were nearly cut in half by the new coaching staff, from 208 to 107 last season. If Warrick Dunn stays healthy, we don’t expect Duckett to go above 140.

Carolina Panthers

Stephen Davis is on track in his rehab, but he hasn’t started cutting on his surgically repaired knee. He could make it back, but a heavy volume of carries this season looks unlikely… We’re surprised how much Davis and Eric Shelton are being ignored in re-drafts. Meanwhile, Deshaun Foster is being drafted like a primary running back, usually in the fourth or fifth round. Foster is likely to split carries with either Davis or Shelton… While deep at running back, most of the Carolina offense is thin. Chris Weinke is trying to make the leap to backup quarterback, although there are rumors the team could be interested in Vinny Testaverde… Steve Smith and Keary Colbert are solid starters, but Ricky Proehl and Drew Carter are weak options off the bench. That’s why it’s surprising the Panthers have not bitten on the free agent wideouts available. One Carolina paper opines that John Fox is waiting for Rod Gardner to be released by the Redskins.

New Orleans Saints

As usual, the Saints look like world beaters in the offseason. The team is simplifying the offense to make Aaron Brooks more comfortable. Every Saints reporter says it’s been the best offseason of A.B.’s career. We love the kid, but we hear this every year. Still, fantasy owners seem unnecessarily down on the consistent producer. We picked him up as a QB2 in one league, the 14th QB drafted. Still a productive runner, Brooks has finished among the top eight fantasy scorers at his position for four straight seasons… One story we believe coming out of Saints camp: they will feature Deuce McAllister more this season. 400 touches and 2,000 total yards are reasonable goals. He beat those totals in 2003… Look for New Orleans to pick up a veteran wideout shortly. They have offered Az-Zahir Hakim a contract. That’s rough news for Devery Henderson owners in dynasty leagues.

Tampa Bay Buccanneers

We’re not sure how he fits in, but the Bucs aren’t releasing Charlie Garner yet. After restructuring his contract, Garner will get a chance to prove he’s healthy in training camp. While Garner is likely the odd man out, it’s also possible Michael Pittman could be released. The Bucs are in such deep trouble with the salary cap, we can’t imagine they’d keep two expensive veterans with similar skill sets… The Bucs are the most likely team to make a big transaction over the next two months. Whether it’s a release or a trade, they need to shed payroll. The move will likely come on defense. Simeon Rice, Brian Kelly, Anthony McFarland, and Derrick Brooks are all rumored to be at risk… Despite their financial troubles, Tampa will reportedly go after Rod Gardner if he’s released.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have been impressed with Julius Jones’ receiving skills this offseason. They say they will throw the ball more to him this year, which would justify our top ten overall ranking … Anthony Thomas only figures to have value if Jones is injured…Coach Bill Parcells hasn’t given up on Quincy Morgan, so we won’t either. Yet. Parcells has been quick to compliment Morgan’s toughness this offseason, not a word usually associated with Morgan. It’s do-or-die time for his career. While he’s not an option on Draft Day, Morgan is only a Keyshawn Johnson or Terry Glenn injury away from starting… Tony Romo currently has the slight edge over Drew Henson in the battle for the backup quarterback job. Dynasty league owners hoping for Henson to pan out can’t be happy, especially after Romo’s recent two-year deal.

New York Giants

Jeremy Shockey is making it clear he doesn’t want to block this season. He also complained about the lack of slant routes he saw last year. We understand Shockey’s frustrations, but we look at this way – if he gains 666 yards with six scores under last year’s terrible conditions, he’s only going to improve. With right tackle Kareem McKenzie in the fold and Eli Manning improving, Shockey should return to an elite fantasy asset… A couple defensive stories unfolded in New York’s recent mini-camp for IDP owners. Michael Strahan is practicing with no restrictions after his pectoral muscle injury. Barrett Green remains the team’s weak-side linebacker. Most importantly, rookie sensation Gibril Wilson was playing with the first team at strong safety, while veteran Shaun Williams has been demoted. Wilson should be one of the first ten DBs off the board in IDP leagues.

Philadelphia Eagles

Brian Westbrook appears genuine in his desire to get a long-term deal done in Philadelphia. He would lose a ton of value in keeper leagues if he left that system. Just be careful about the amount of touches you project for Westbrook this year. With Correll Buckhalter and Ryan Moats in the mix, the “three-headed monster� may be back... The longer T.O. holds out, the better it is long-term for Greg Lewis and rookie Reggie Brown. Lewis remains one of our favorite sleepers, especially if he can steal Todd Pinkston’s starting job… L.J. Smith (back) and Correll Buckhalter (knee) are both fully practicing again with no restrictions.

Washington Redskins

IDP league owners of safety Sean Taylor should be very concerned. His recent arrest for a felony count of aggravated assault with a firearm is not a problem that will go away. If convicted, Taylor faces a minimum of three years in jail because of Florida’s tough gun laws… We’re not sure why Washington hasn’t released Rod Gardner yet. Perhaps they are holding out for a seventh-round pick. Perhaps they were waiting to complete another receiver downgrade, like Laveranues Coles to Santana Moss, by signing another re-tread… To that end, the Kevin Dyson signing Monday has little fantasy impact. He’s far from guaranteed to make the team.

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Gregg Rosenthal runs the football coverage at He currently holds titles as the NL Tout Wars champ and was a league champion in the 2004 National Fantasy Football Championship.

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