||Rock Star Free Agent
||Worth a Look
||1 Week Plug & Play
Welcome to another season of the Free Agent Forecast. This weekly column is published every Tuesday morning and aims to identify free agents who will improve your chances of hoisting your league’s trophy at year end.
Given the diverse scoring systems and sizes of fantasy leagues, producing a weekly list of free agents that satisfies the masses can be challenging. For the most part, the column will hone in on players who are available in about 35-40% or more of all fantasy leagues. If you play in a small league (8 teams), chances are there may be better players to pick up than you see listed here. If you play in a large league (16 teams), the majority of the players highlighted may already be on a squad; however, expect to find hidden gems, as well. In addition to scouting rock star free agents who had breakout performances in the previous week, the Forecast will dig deep to identify players who may surface as relevant fantasy players a week or two down the line because of injuries, favorable matchups or other factors.
Kyle Orton, Broncos
Denver QB Kyle Orton may not be flashy but he’s sneaky effective. Orton threw nine touchdowns in his last five starts of 2009. He also amassed 3,800+ yards—one of just 11 QBs to acheive that benchmark last season. While he may not have the upside to ever reach 30 TDs or 4,000 yards, Orton is more than capable of helping fantasy teams. With Denver’s backfield nicked up plus a favorable matchup against the Jaguars this week, I like Orton’s chances of posting a couple touchdowns with decent yardage. If your QB situation is looking iffy, Orton could be the insurance you need.
Availability: Owned in ~55% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Orton to be a capable backup QB who is worth a look in deep leagues.
Derek Anderson, Cardinals
Most fantasy analysts aren’t giving Anderson much of a chance to succeed this year. It’s true he looked out of sorts in 2008-2009 in Cleveland, but let’s not forget this is a guy who threw for 3,700+ yards and 29 touchdowns just three seasons ago. Don’t flatly dismiss Anderson because a WR like Larry Fitzgerald can be a difference maker for a QB. Just look at Daunte Culpepper, who was a fantasy force with Randy Moss and a bust without him. Anderson faces a weak St. Louis pass defense this week. If you’re in a deep league and like to live on the wild side, don’t be afraid to use him as a plug and play.
Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Look for Anderson to put up a pair of TDs this week against the Rams.
Kareem Huggins, Buccaneers
The Bucs released free agent bust Derrick Ward last week, which means Kareem Huggins, who spent time on the practice squad last year, has ascended into the backup role. Considering starter Cadillac Williams has had multiple knee surgeries, Huggins will likely receive a decent share of carries each week as a change-of-pace back. More importantly, he could stand to become a valuable fantasy contributor should Cadillac throw a rod. Huggins averaged 6.2 yards per carry during the preseason. If he went undrafted in your league, target him as a top pickup option.
Availability: Owned in ~17% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Huggins is worthy of sleeper consideration in all leagues.
Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
I was surprised to learn that Buckhalter was drafted in just 34% of fantasy leagues. Denver starter Knowshon Moreno missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury and still isn’t completely healed. Look for the Broncos to ease Moreno back in by splitting the carries 50/50 between he and Buckhalter over the first few weeks. Keep in mind, Buckhalter is a guy who put up nearly 900 total yards last season in this offense. He’s a versatile player capable of scoring fantasy points on the ground and through the air. If there’s more to Moreno’s injury than we’ve been told, Buckhalter could be elevated to fantasy starter status by this time next week.
Availability: Owned in ~34% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Look for Buckhalter to produce like a RB3 over the first month of the season.
Peyton Hillis and James Davis, Browns
I’m a Jerome Harrison fan. He helped me in a couple leagues last season. But even I have to admit his late season production came against some pretty questionable competition (KC and OAK). With the ACL injury to Montario Hardesty, Harrison will have the chance to prove he’s for real. Until he does, Harrison’s backups are worth a closer look. Second year RB James Davis figures to be the guy the Browns turn to if Harrison gets hurt or is ineffective. Hillis will get some work as a change of pace and situational RB regardless of who’s starting. Both names are worth remembering as they could be hot commodities later in the season. Hillis should be your first choice off the waiver wire unless you’re in a dynasty league
Availability: Owned in ~17 and 2% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Hillis and Davis are worth a look as sleepers with potential that could materialize as the weeks go by.
Larry Johnson, Redskins
Many reports from local DC and national media sources suggested that Clinton Portis showed up to training camp in the best shape of his life. I’m not buying it. The proverbial “best shape of his life” label might be the kiss of death for a 29-year old running back that’s seen so much punishment over the last several years. I don’t like Portis’ chances of staying off the injury report this year at all. He’s battled leg injuries in previous years and those have taken a toll. But it’s the concussion that ended his season in 2009 that should have owners leery. Another head injury would likely end Portis’ career. Even if he doesn’t actually sustain a concussion, you have to wonder whether he’ll be so willing to lower his shoulder and deliver the blows necessary to be a lead back in the NFL. Grab Larry Johnson and hang onto him because the Portis show is entering its final act. In deeper leagues, take a look at Ryan Torrain.
Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Johnson will get his shot sooner or later; he’s worth a look in all leagues.
Chris Chambers, Chiefs
Chambers was traded to the Chiefs midway through the 2009 campaign and took his game to another level, posting a handful of quality performances from November –January. Despite his success, fantasy owners haven’t bought into Chambers as a legitimate fantasy wideout so far. He was drafted in only 62% of fantasy leagues. Look for a spike in ownership next week. Chambers will look for revenge on his former team the Chargers. In last year’s only meeting against San Diego, Chambers asserted himself with seven receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Availability: Owned in ~62% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Chambers is worth a roster spot and a match-up based start this week against San Diego.
Mike Williams, Seahawks
If not for the hiring of Pete Carroll in Seattle, Williams would likely be trying out for teams in the United Football League rather than entering the free agent discussion here. With the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Williams is indeed worth a look for fantasy purposes. The former first round pick reported to camp in great shape and has drawn rave reviews. He will start opposite Deion Branch and has a chance to finally live up to his potential. At 6’5” tall and 235 lbs., Williams should provide an excellent red zone target for QB Matt Hasselbeck.
Availability: Owned in ~22% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams is worth a look in all leagues as a prospect with upside.
Greg Camarillo, Vikings
Minnesota acquired Camarillo via trade from the Dolphins in late August after Sidney Rice underwent hip surgery. Fantasy owners raced to acquire Camarillo with the urgency of a arthritic turtle. He is currently only owned in just 11% of fantasy leagues. That will change. The Stanford product reportedly learned the Vikings playbook in a couple days and he’s already shown excellent hands and precise route running. In fact, Camarillo’s play has been so promising that the Vikings opted to keep just four WRs on their 53-man roster. Look for Camarillo to develop into a trustworthy target for Brett Favre. If Favre latches onto him like he has done with so many other wideouts throughout his career, Camarillo’s stock could surge. Consider him a darkhorse candidate to catch 90 balls and become a PPR powerhouse.
Availability: Owned in ~11% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Snag Camarillo as a PPR sleeper before his Vikings debut on Thursday against the Saints.
Louis Murphy, Raiders
By midseason, Murphy might be one of those guys who many fantasy owners look at and say, “Why, oh why, didn’t I see him as a breakout player in the preseason?” Murphy stands to benefit greatly from competence at the QB position, which he’s never had. Jason Campbell might not be the second coming of Rich Gannon, but he can sling the ball around. With Chaz Schilens (knee) laid up for up to six weeks, Murphy figures to be the team’s leading wide receiver. I like his chances of putting up over 900 yards in 2010.
Availability: Owned in ~25% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Murphy is a good grab-and-stash candidate in deeper leagues.
Anthony Fasano, Dolphins
The TE position is deep this season so it’s no surprise Anthony Fasano didn’t get much attention in fantasy drafts. However, look for him to make an impact as a spot starter you can use when the matchup is right. After all, this is a guy who posted seven touchdowns just two seasons ago. I like his chances of delivering a relevant stat line this week at Buffalo. Last season in Miami’s final meeting against the Bills, Fasano and QB Chad Henne connected on five receptions for 74 yards.
Availability: Owned in ~16% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Fasano is a TE worth monitoring as the season progresses and can be used by desperate owners in deep leagues this week.
Robbie Gould, Bears
The Lions defense should be improved from the 2009 squad that allowed the most fantasy points to kickers. However, they will still likely rate in the bottom half of the NFL in scoring defense. If you need a kicker this week, go ahead and grab Chicago’s Robbie Gould. Gould has scored nine or more points against Detroit in four straight games and he hung 25 combined points on them in two meetings last year. Sure it’s cliché but Gould will be as good as gold this week.
Availability: Owned in ~65% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Gould merits a spot start this week against the Lions.
DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS
The Cardinals defense is the only unit in the NFL that will face a rookie QB this week. They’ve got that going for them, which is nice. For fantasy owners, this is an opportunity worth exploiting. As good as Rams rookie Sam Bradford has looked so far, history tells us rookie QBs are generally prone to mistakes. The Cards ranked seventh in the NFL last year in interceptions and sixth in sacks. I love their chances this week to rack up a few sacks and at least one turnover.
Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Arizona is an ideal plug-and-play defense this week and don’t dismiss them as a weekly option.