|Offense 2003 Additions
| OL Kevin Dogins
WR MarTay Jenkins
WR Peerless Price
FB Justin Griffin 4th Round
WR Jon Olinger 5th Round
WR LaTarence Dunbar 6th Round
Offensive Line: Not a dominating unit, especially when
run-blocking, that benefits from playing in front of
the electric QB Michael Vick. The tackles are average
and the interior of the line is weak. RT Todd Weiner
and LT Bob Whitfield are serviceable and struggle with
speed rushers. They lack pop at the point of the attack,
but they’re a grade better than G Kynan Forney,
G Travis Claridge, and C Roberto Gaza. Forney and Claridge
don’t have great footwork and struggle with defenders
jumping into the gap and getting out on linebackers.
Gaza is a project that has some athleticism but will
battle last year’s starting C Todd McClure for
starting time. Having Michael Vick means the Falcons
offensive linemen don’t have to hold their blocks
as long, and that’s a good thing. Then again, Vick’s
not exactly the prototypical sized NFL quarterback either
and he’s shown that he doesn’t react well
to taking a hard shot. Atlanta’s worst-case scenario
is that someone gets a clean lick on Vick and he misses
half the season. The Falcons offensive line needs to
improve for Atlanta to make a run deep into the playoffs.
TE: Alge Crumpler will not have to share time
with Reggie Kelly this year. A former number one pick,
took the money and moved on to Cincinnati leaving Crumpler
the starter. Not exactly a punishing blocker, nevertheless
Crumpler is an intriguing fantasy player that could blossom
RB: In 2002, the Falcons brought in RB T.J. Duckett
with the though of using RB Warrick Dunn as the speed/receiving
back and Duckett as the sledgehammer. Unfortunately,
both were injured (Dunn-ankle, Duckett-foot) during the
campaign. Nevertheless, Dunn managed nearly 1,000 yards
and seven touchdowns and Duckett (when healthy) showed
some of that punishing style of running and suprizing
quickness. If both players stay healthy, both players
have some fantasy potential. Dunn will get more yardage
but Duckett should score more touchdowns.
WR: Without your typical number one type of receiver,
the Falcons sprayed the football around the field in
2002. None of Atlanta’s receivers made much of
a fantasy impact last year.
To address this area of need, the Falcons got the Bills
number two receiver Peerless Price via trade. The biggest
question in Atlanta, and among many fantasy owners, is
can Price make the transition from being the second option
to being the number one. Don’t kid yourself, being
the go-to-guy is different. Price is likely to get more
double coverage this year and when he’s not double
covered he’ll be matched up against the opposition’s
best cover corner. In large part, how he makes that transition
will determine how far this team will go in the playoffs.
The signing of MarTay Jenkins is also intriguing. A
frightening special teams return man, Jenkins has speed
to burn but isn’t a disciplined rout runner. On
the other hand, last year’s number one receiver
(Brian Finneran) isn’t going to make anyone miss,
but runs his routes (especially short patterns) to perfection.
You could see some interesting sets from Atlanta. I wouldn’t
be surprised if they had a number of plays designed to
have Jenkins and Price run off the defensive backs with
Crumpler or Finneran running a drag rout over the middle
or have every receiver go deep on a designed run play
QB: In 2002, Michael Vick emerged as one of the
most electric, and most dangerous players. In leagues
that score quarterback rushing yardage and touchdowns,
Vick was solid gold last year. His sprinter’s speed
and rocket arm forced defenses into zone coverage in
an attempt to keep Vick in front of them. When he does
escape containment, watch out! He hits another gear and,
combined with Barry Sanders moves, tears his way though
opposing defenses. The sheer number of quality quarterbacks
in the league discounts his fantasy value, but someone
in your league is going to take an early flier and take
him in the late first, early second round of your draft.
|Defense 2003 Additions
|S Cory Hall
CB Tod McBride
LB Keith Newman
LB Twan Russell
CB Tyrone Williams
CB Bryan Scott-2nd Round
S Wayne Bacon-6th Round
DE Demetrin Veal-7th Round
Defense: The Falcons finished 19th in total defense
due largely to the play LB Keith Brooking who seemed
team on his very substantial shoulders at times last
year. Then again, you can’t expect him to do that
every season. Atlanta recognized their weaknesses, the
secondary in particular, and took steps to address the
situation during the spring.
The defensive line isn’t physical but they are
quick off the ball. DE Patrick Kerney is the best of
the bunch and has some value in leagues that use IDPs.
Kerney recorded 10 ½ sacks last year. What the
Falcons lack is the big run stopper in the middle, forcing
the defensive front to play in the gaps, which is unusual
for a 3-4 defense.
Not having a big man in front meant that opposing guards
could come right off the ball and get a helmet on the
Falcons linebackers without having to chip on a defensive
tackle, which makes the numbers put up by Brooking all
that more impressive. One of the leagues’ biggest
hitters, Brooking has excellent feet and can pursue sideline-to-sideline
and cover backs and tight ends. Last year biggest surprise
was the play of Chris Draft, who is undersized but plays
much bigger than his stature. The other OLB spot will
be decided in camp where Will Overstreet and Sam Rodgers
will battle it out.
And now the ugly….the Falcons defensive backs
were, and I say this kindly, consistently inconsistent.
Atlanta gave up way too many big plays including over
600 yards to the Steelers. CB Ray Buchanan struggled
on the field and with injuries off the field and Ashley
Ambrose played poorly enough to find a new employer in
New Orleans. Newcomers Tod McBride and Tyrone Williams
will battle it out to fill Ambrose’s starting position.
Neither are particularly aggressive defensive backs that
should cut down on the number of big play the team gives
up this season. S Cory Hall will have to step right in
and start. He’s a natural run-stopper but a questionable
converman. FS Keion Carpenter is the opposite, more of
a natural cornerback than a safety.
|Offense 2003 Additions
| RB Stephen Davis
OG Doug Brzezinski
QB Jake Delhomme
WR Ken Dyson (ah, maybe not)
WR Ricky Proehl
OT Jordan Gross-1st Round
C Bruce Nelson-2nd Round
TE Mike Seidman-3rd Round
WR Walter Young-7th Round
FB Casey Moore-7th Round
Offensive Line: The Panthers were simply dreadful running
the ball last season. If you’re the pointing finger’s
type, you need go no further than the knee injury to
RB DeShaun Foster and the suspension of RB Lamar Smith.
The offensive line wasn’t the league’s best,
but it wasn’t that bad either.
The undisputed leader of this bunch is T Todd Steussie.
Big, physical, and smart the former Viking has a nasty
reputation and isn’t above a cheap shot when the
officials are occupied elsewhere. Steussie’s physical
style must have rubbed off on C Jeff Mitchell and T Melvin
Tuten who seem to relish a good brawl. Guards Doug Brzezinski,
signed as a free agent this spring, and Kevin Donnalley
are more technique players with good feet that use leverage
and angles to their advantage. It will be interesting
to see if this mix of styles will work for the Panthers.
TE: It’s hard to imagine the Panthers without
TE Wesley Walls. A liability as a blocker, Walls was
a fantasy favorite who, when healthy, was a lock to produce
fantasy points when younger, more talented players would
give you little or nothing on a Sunday.
Unfortunately, the Panthers don’t have an heir
in place at the tight end position. Kris Mangum is a
good as it gets. So don’t look for fantasy production
WR: Now that Kevin Dyson has nothing better to do than
rehab and blow smoke that he can come back and play this
year in a lame attempt to avoid being put on season-ending
injured reserve so he can get a roster bonus, the Panthers
are right back where they started from. This season,
Muhsin Muhannad and Steve Smith will have to do the job
they didn’t do in 2002. Smith is the faster of
the two but they both run routes and drop passes like
Helen Keller, come to think about it, their about a physical
off the line as an old, dead lady too. Needing at least
one receiver that can be called on to catch the ball,
Carolina signed Ricky Proehl who may play a bigger part
in the offense than anyone planned this year. I’m
not sure if he was signed to catch the ball or as a role-model,
but Proehl runs better routes and works harder than any
other receiver on Carolina’s roster.
RB: Coming off a disappointing season where he struggled
in Washington’s Fun-and-Gun offense, Stephen Davis
signed with a team dedicated to playing tough defense
and pounding the football. Davis is one of those big
runners that gets better with more carries, a perfect
fit for a John Fox coached football team. He should get
plenty of touches in Carolina’s system and, with
a little better blocking, improve on his 820 yards and
seven touchdowns of a year ago.
I’m not sure anyone knows were DeShaun Foster
is with his injury. Foster was looking like a fantasy
steal last summer when he suffered a terrible injury.
Recovering from micro fracture surgery (which is normally
reserved for injuries that aren’t recovering well)
his recovery has been slow at best. My best guess is
that he’ll end up sitting out most of the season.
QB: Your guess is as good as mine here. The incumbent
(Rodney Peete) is two days older than dirt, can’t
throw the ball with any force, gets hurt a lot, and can’t
move in the pocket. On the other hand, he doesn’t
make bad decisions either. Chris Weinke is a former starter
off one of the worst football teams in recent memory
and hasn’t proven he can make plays or avoid mistakes.
Jake Delhomme has only started two regular NFL games
in five seasons, but was brought in to win the quarterback
job. Is none-of-the-above an option?
|Defense 2003 Additions
|CB Ricky Manning, Jr.-3rd
S Colin Branch-4th Round
DE Kindel Moorehead-5th Round
Defense: Taking DE Julius Peppers with the second pick
in the 2002 draft made team ownership look like geniuses.
aside the suspension that sidelined him for the final
four games to the season, Peppers had 12 sacks in 12
games. On the side of the formation, DE Mike Rucker had
10 sacks making the Panther defensive pair one of the
more lethal combinations in the league last year. Led
by their ends, the Panther finished with 52 sacks last
year, second in the league. Both Peppers and Rucker will
be high fantasy picks in fantasy leagues that use IDPs
this season. Just on sack totals alone, the Panthers
team defense will be drafted early.
The most significant change in the linebacking corps
was the loss of Hannibal Navies to free agency. Navies
moved on to play for the Packers this season and will
be replace by Will Weatherspoon. MLB Dan Morgan is a
risky fantasy selection. Capable of big numbers when
healthy, Morgan always seems to be nicked up. Perhaps
the team’s most consistent linebacker is Mark Fields.
An unknown, Fields led the team in tackles last year.
If the Panthers had a weakness on defense last year,
it was in there secondary. Both cornerbacks, Terry Cousin
and Reggie Howard are raw athletes that seemed to lose
focus or tried too hard to make the big play last year.
That’s unfortunate as neither of their safeties
(Mike Minter and Deon Grant) are physical specimens.
Minter is small for a safety, but is a better tackler
than a coverman. Grant isn’t the intimidating safety
that makes teams fear throwing down the middle of the
field. This squad my be the team’s weakness again
this year unless the Panthers young corners make strides
during the summer.
|Offense 2003 Additions
| QB Todd Bouman
TE Ernie Conwell
TE Walter Rasby
OT Wayne Gandy
OT Jonathan Stinchcomb-2nd Round
OG Montrae Holland-4th Round
WR Kareem Kelly-6th Round
WR Talman Grandner-7th Round
Offensive Line: If this high-powered offense has a question
mark, it is the offensive line. The Saints traded T Kyle
Turley leaving a hole in QB Aaron Brooks’ blind-side.
New Orleans signed former Steelers tackle Wayne Gandy
to fill that spot in the line-up. Gandy is a solid, experienced
veteran that’s in the later stages of his career.
That doesn’t seen to be as big a deal as it used
to be and long as Gandy keeps his weight down he should
be mobile enough to get the job done this year. Victor
Riley will man the other tackle spot. Another veteran,
Riley has the size and quickness to be a dominating blocker,
but he also struggles with conditioning. Among the interior
linemen, LeCharles Bently is the most talented. A versatile
player, he can play any of the three interior positions.
The other guard, Spencer Folau is an overachiever that
isn’t a natural athlete, but has grit and determination
to spare. The starting center will likely be determined
in camp. Bentley may move to center if an answer doesn’t
TE: Too many players on the roster at the tight end
position means someone is getting cut. David Sloan is
the returning starter with Boo Williams as the back up.
The Saints added Ernie Conwell and Walter Rasby via free
agency. Doubtful this team will keep four tight ends
on the roster. Frankly, I’m not sure how this one
will come out in the end although my guess is that Conwell
will be the run blocker and Sloan will be the receiver.
Williams needs to be more consistent or he needs to learn
to be a long snapper if he’s going to make this
RB: Deuce McAllister will be a first round pick in nearly
every fantasy draft. He showed both speed and toughness
last season, almost enough for Saints fans to forget
that Rickey Williams used to play in a New Orleans uniform.
WR: Speed, speed, and more speed, the Saints are just
loaded with weapons. Besides Joe Horn who had 88 catches
for 1,312 yards and seven touchdowns in 2002, the Saints
can call on Donte Stallworth, Jerome Pathon and Michael
Lewis. Stallworth is a big, incredibly fast receiver
that looks like a fantasy stud for years to come if he
can get over his reoccurring hamstring problems. Injured,
he broke the fantasy rookie receiver stereotype by catching
eight touchdown passes last year. Personally, I wouldn’t
be surprised if this guy develops into the next Terrell
Owens one day, he’s that fast, that big, that good,
and seems to have his head on straight. Pathon may finally
produce now that the pressure of starting in Indianapolis
is gone. Pathon has enough speed to challenge defenders
but doesn’t run great routes and drops too may
passes. Lewis is a fearsome kick returner that scares
the begeebers out of defenses and may contribute to the
track team at wide receiver the Saints have assembled.
QB: When Aaron Brooks is hot, the Saints offense
is nearly unstoppable. Unfortunately, he’s has too
many days when he struggles and leaves fantasy owners
pulling their hair out. Even playing with a shoulder
injury during the end of the 2002 campaign, Brook threw
27 touchdown passes opposed to 15 interceptions. Now,
if he would only throw two touchdown for every interception
every game he’d move up the fantasy rankings. But
with Brooks, you never know what you get. You might get
three touchdowns and you might get three interceptions
on any given Sunday.
|Defense 2003 Additions
|CB Ashley Ambrose
S Tebucky Jones
LB Orlando Ruff
DT Johnathon Sullivan-1st Round
LB William Grant-3rd Round
DE Melvin Williams-5th Round
Defense: The Saints always seems to get off to a good
start and then collapse during the second half of the
was no different as he defense finished 27th in the league.
The fallout from another disappointing season where the
team missed the playoff despite finishing third in total
offense was immediate. DT Norman Hand is no longer with
the squad after the Saints played soft against the rush
last season. DT Grady Jackson may also pay the price
for the team’s failure to stop opposing rushers.
Jackson’s weight problems continue to be an issue
and the team wants more mobility from their tackles.
Kenny Smith and first round pick Johnathon Sullivan will
compete for a starting spot. DEs Charles Grant and Darren
Howard will start again this year.
Again, the need to find player that can stop the opposition’s
running game was foremost in the team’s mind when
they signed LB Orland Ruff from the Chargers. A big guy
that couldn’t cover his own shadow, Ruff has the
size to take on guards in the middle of the line of scrimmage.
The rest of the linebacking corps is a big question mark.
Charlie Clemons was lost to free agency and no obvious
replacement is available. Sedrick Hodge and James Allen
will get the first crack in camp, but neither is a sure
thing to start the season. The Saints may be looking
at the waiver wire in August for help.
More questions in the secondary. Adding Ashley Ambrose
into the mix gives the team at least one dependable cornerback.
No longer able to keep pace with speedy wideouts, Abrose
is a patch for the last one or two years of his career.
Dale Carter can be a Pro Bowl player when his head is
on straight, but off the field problems have placed him
in the league’s sin bin in the past making him
a gamble for the team and for fantasy owners. The loss
of fantasy favorite Sammy Knight will be substantial.
Fantasy owners loved his daredevil style that produced
interceptions and big hits, but the team felt the pain
when he gambled and lost. Tebucky Jones is more of a “keep
the play in front of you” kind of player and should
give up less big plays than Knight did. The other safeties
have very limited physical skills.
|Offense 2003 Additions
| WR Jacquez Green
RB Thomas Jones
QB Jim Miller
OB Chris Simms-3rd Round
T Lance Nimmo-4th Round
C Austin King-4th Round
C John Wade
G Sean Mahen-5th Round
G Jason Whittle
Offensive Line: If the Bucs had a weakness in 2002 this
was the unit. Not surprising that they threw five new
players into the mix in order to repeat their championship
run of last season.
John Wade replaces C Jeff Christy in the starting line
up. Wade is a scrappy veteran that brings the team a
toughness that was lacking at the position last year.
He’ll line up next to a new starting guard, either
Jason Whittle or Cosey Coleman should win the job in
camp. My bet is on Whittle who is the kind of fighter
head coach Jon Gruden loves. The other guard position
(Kerry Jenkins) and both starting tackle positions (Kenyatta
Walker and Roman Oben) should be holdovers from 2002.
Not a spectacular unit, but the offensive line has more
depth than last year.
RB: Okay, now who gets the ball? After beating up the
Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl, Tampa’s backfield
combination of Mike Alstott and Michael Pittman looked
like a lock to grind and punish NFL defenders this year.
That was before Pittman decided to use his car as a weapon
during a dispute with his wife. Pittman already had one
domestic assault on the league’s books and will
certainly face a considerable suspension this season.
To plug the gap, the Buc’s signed former Cardinal
number one pick Thomas Jones to the roster. Jones will
compete with Alstott, Aaron Stecker and Jameel Cook for
carries. No sure bet out of this bunch.
WR: No changes here. Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell,
and Joe Jurevicius are locks to start.
|Defense 2003 Additions
|LB Dwayne Rudd
DE Dewayne White-2nd Round
CB Torrie Cox-6th Round
Defense: It wasn’t like this team needed help anyway.
The Buc’s were 2002’s top rated unit. Able to
get pressure from their front four without having to
blitz, Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice (15 ½ sacks
in 2002) were big time fantasy performers in 2002. Both
Rice and Sapp are cat quick and have a motor that never
seems to stop. Sapp forces the quarterback to bail out
of the pocket by driving up through the center and Rice
comes around the end to seal the deal.
Derrick Brooks is one of the best fantasy linebackers,
in fact, he’s one of the best linebackers in the
NFL period. He has the speed to play every down and cover
tight ends and backs in the open field and then comes
off his receiver and accelerates through the ball carrier
for the big hit. To top it off he contributed five interceptions,
three of which were returned for touchdowns. Rudd had
to find a new home after the helmet throwing mental breakdown
that cost the Browns a game last year. No better place
to land than Tampa were he’ll start along side
Brooks and the under rated Shelton Quarrels.
FS Dexter Jackson moved on in free agency opening up
a starting spot for Dwight Smith. Smith was being groomed
as a replacement for SS John Lynch but will get a chance
to start earlier than expected. Unfortunately for opponents,
that gives the Buc’s two big-hitting safeties in
the middle of the field. Rhonde Barber and Brian Kelly
are two of the better corners in the league. Kelly finished
tied for the league’s lead in interceptions in
2002 and Barber finished third on the team in tackles.
Without an apparent weakness, the Buc’s defense
should dominate again this season.
|Offense 2003 Additions
| QB Jeff Blake
WR Larry Foster
G Frank Garcia
FB James Hodgins
RB Emmitt Smith
OL Cameron Spikes
WR Bryant Johnson-1st Round
WR Anquan Boldin-2nd Round
Offensive Line: Undoubtedly, the strength of the Cardinals
squad is the offensive line. Big, young, and fast these
road graters will be asked to power the running game
while the team tries to put a passing game together.
Leonard Davis is an offensive line all by himself. Listed
at 6-6, 384 lb. (oh, and he might be a wee bit larger
than that) he’s just a monster at the guard position.
Drafted as a right tackle, Davis moved inside and simply
overpowers any opponent he can lock up with. Lining up
next to Davis is no finesse player either. RT Anthony
Clement tips the scale at 6-8 330 lb. The baby of the
group is LT L.J. Sheldon whose mass is in the neighborhood
of 6-6 330lb. Clement is coming off a triceps injury
that kept him off the field for almost the entire 2002
season should be ready to play this fall, baring a setback.
The other guard is Pete Kendall. The former Seahawk may
play guard and he may start at center this year. If Kendall
plays center than Chris Dishman will be the starting
TE: Freddy Jones has made a career of pissing-off fantasy
owners. Having all the talent in the world he has never
lived up to the huge expectations that dog him every
season. He caught 44 balls last year but never seem inspired
enough to battle his way into the end zone.
WR: Just two years ago the Cardinals looked like they
were finally on their way to the NFL’s upper division.
And now, after the team parted ways with their top three
wide receivers, they have to start all over again. Two
years ago, David Boston was the best receiver in football.
Two years later and a traffic stop were police found
evidence of cocaine in his car and Boston was traded
for a song to the Chargers. Surprise, surprise, the Cardinals
are once again odds-on favorites to finish last in the
Arizona’s best returning wide receiver is Brian
Gilmore. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s
coming off a fracture ankle. Ready or not rookie WR Bryant
Johnson will get all the OTJ experience he can handle
as he will likely start over former Lions reserve Larry
Foster. Second round pick Anquan Boldin will man the
slot and may return kicks this season. Oh, this is ugly.
RB: Just when the Cardinals found a serviceable fantasy
back (Marcell Shipp) they have to goof things up just
so they can sell a few season tickets. Shipp was a fantasy
find last year after Michael Pittman moved to Tampa Bay
and the team finally lost faith in former number one
pick Thomas Jones. Not a pretty runner Shipp is a hard
worker that hits the hole hard and grinds out yardage.
There was no reason to bring in Emmitt Smith other than
it’s the only reason any marginally sane individual
would have for watching this terrible football team.
Without Smith, you might have 20,000 fans at a home game.
With him, you might have an extra 20,000 fans per game.
QB: Jake Plummer got run out of town after finishing
yet another season with more interceptions than touchdowns.
Jeff Blake becomes the new starting quarterback. Blake
decided to move to Arizona and make starting quarterback
money rather than sit on the bench in Baltimore. He may
regret that decision. Blake’s upside is that he
throws a beautiful rainbow long ball. His downside is
that he makes questionable decisions and he has all the
heart of a former Bengal. When or if he can get on the
same page as his new receiving corps is anyone’s
guess. Its likely defenses will be putting eight and
nine men in the box until the Cardinals prove they can
pass the ball effectively.
|Defense 2003 Additions
|LB James Darling
S Dexter Jackson
DE Calvin Pace-1st Round
LB Gerald Hayes-3rd Round
DT Kenny King-5th Round
LB Tony Gilbert-6th Round.
Defense: Poor Head Coach Dave McGinnis. On Draft Day he’s
sitting with the opportunity to get the best defensive end
draft and the owner decides to tool on him like the last
inflatable sheep at a prison rodeo and he has to come out
and blow smoke at the press about how he got the player he
wanted. There is no doubt that McGinnis wanted a defensive
end. Finishing dead last in the league with 21 sacks, the
Cardinals desperately needed someone that could rush the
passer. The entire defensive line had only 13 ½ sacks
last year. Instead the team traded down to get two first
round picks, took a receiver with the first one and then
reached for DE Calvin Pace with the second. Not expected
to be taken in the first round, Pace will be the starter
on opening day. The other end, Fred Wakefield is tall and
rangy and couldn’t get to the quarterback if he signal-caller
was nailed to a tree. DT Kyle Vanden Bosh is a overachiever
and the team’s best lineman. Last season’s first-round
pick Wendell Bryant had the good sense not to sign until
the third week of 2002 and backed up that decision by being
ineffective for the final 13 games. Barron Tanner figures
to man the other tackle spot by default.
As if this team needed another weakness, the Cardinals
linebacking situation hovers somewhere between embarrassing
and putrid. Raynoch Thompson leads a bunch of over achievers
and typifies this group-too, small, too slow, cheap contract,
big heart. Most of them look like strong safeties. MLB
is an interesting fantasy player given that he’s likely to be on the
field for 40 minutes per game and there’s no one up front that’s
going to tackle a ball carrier before he gets past the line of scrimmage. The
other linebacker position is a complete crap shoot going into camp.
I hope Dexter Jackson enjoys his money. Imagine going
from the Buc’s huddle to this cluster. He has to
be the man in a secondary. The man last year was supposed
to be CB Duane Starks. Duane took the money and promptly
laid a dump right there on the field. Too injured to
play effectively, he spent most of 2002 in the team’s
whirlpool. The other corner, David Barrett, will play
hard every game, but lacks the speed to keep up with
receivers running down the field. SS Adrian Wilson is
a big hitter who has the physical talent to play, but
has mental breakdowns that result in too many big plays.
|Offense 2003 Additions
| TE Cam Cleeland
RB Leon Johnson
OG David Loverne
OT Kyle Turley
C Dave Wohlabaugh
WR Kevin Curtis-3rd Round
WR Shaun McDonald-4th Round
TE Dan Curley-5th Round
OG Scott Tercero-6th Round
TE Richard Angulo-7th Round
Offensive Line: The Rams offensive line was a disaster
in 2002. Former Pro Bowl LT Orlando Pace played only
ten games and when he got on the field he was slowed
by injuries to his calf, hamstring, and knee. Without
his usual mobility he wasn’t much more than a turnstile
when matched up against speed rushers. Speaking of not
being able to handle quick defensive ends, the Rams’ experiment
with John St. Clair, a natural center, at RT was an unqualified
disaster and lasted exactly one season. His bad habit
of whiffing on blocks contributed to the Rams sudden
offensive problems and eventually led to QB Kurt Warner
spending quality time with the hospital staff.
Give St. Louis credit for going out and making moves
to fix a weakness. St. Claire is back to being a reserve,
his starting spot filled by Kyle Turley. Turley comes
over from the Saints and will be moved back to right
tackle this year. Frankly, the Rams needed a mean-spirited,
helmet-chucking, troublemaker to bring more toughness
to this unit. Dave Wohlabaugh is younger and tougher
than last year’s starting center (McCollun) who
will play guard with Timmerman.
TE: The starting tight end job is up for grabs this
summer. Cam Cleeland was brought in to be the starter.
He has the size and speed to be every down player, but
he’s fought injuries throughout his career. Brandon
Manumaleuna will push him for playing time.
WR: Given that Bruce and Holt are Bruce and Holt, you
have to look at the Rams’ depth at the position.
Last year’s number three WR Terrence Wilkins and
former Steeler Troy Edwards were disappointments. Expect
rookies Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald to compete for
RB: Marshall Faulk had a un-Faulk like 2002. Turning
30 years old this year, Faulk’s reliability is
more of a question than ever. Then again, if he stays
healthy, Faulk’s still capable of putting up huge
fantasy numbers and may be one of your draft’s
best bargains. Lamar Gordon no longer has to compete
with Trung Candidate for the backup job. The Rams will
be breaking in a new fullback (Niklos) after their guard
in the backfield (Hodgins) has moved on.
QB: Warner and Bulger are such nice-guys it makes
me sick just thinking about it. It would be more interesting
to see their significant others have a cat fight to for
the starter’s paycheck, maybe in Jell-O…but
that’s just me. Warner doesn’t like getting
creamed and the pressure he was under last year seemed
to rattle him. He made too many mistakes with the football
as a result. Bulger came on when Warner got hurt and
looked great. Warner will be the starter this year, but
how long he stays as a the starter may depend on how
well the reworked offensive line performs.
|Defense 2003 Additions
|DB Jason Sehorn
DT Jimmy Kennedy-1st Round
LB Pisa Tinoisamoa-2nd Round
CB DeJauan Groce-4th Round
CB Shane Walton-5th Round
CB Kevin Garrett-5th Round
LB Scott Shanle-7th Round
Defense: The Rams defense was a huge disappointment last
year. DE Leonard Little was the only starter that had a Pro
Bowl-type of year. His 12 sacks and 9 forced fumbles
earned him a fat contract. On the other side, Grant Wistrom,
despite playing hard, did not live up to expectations.
Getting 4 ½ sacks out of an undersized speed rusher
coming off the corner isn’t going to cut it. The
Rams are going to need more out of him this year. The
St. Louis defensive tackle situation is more about promise
then performance. You have three current and former number
one picks in the rotation (Damione Lewis, Ryan Pickett,
and Jimmy Kennedy) an yet the defensive tackle position
has been a team weakness and not a strength. Two of the
three must prove their worth all the money sunk into
them this year.
The Rams linebacker situation was so bad last year that
the team was lining up S Adam Archuleta at linebacker
in a 4-1-6 defense. Pretty bad state of affairs when
your safety is the second best linebacker on the team.
Tommy Polley is the only consistent player in the group
and he missed four games in 2002. Another underachieving
first round pick (Robert Thomas) has speed but doesn’t
have the bulk at 229 lb. to take on the fullbacks, tight
ends, and guards coming at him. He has to get protection
form the defensive linemen (should I laugh now?) to be
effective. Jamie Duncan was signed as a free agent (Tampa)
and was miserable last season. No wonder the Rams drafted
two linebackers to compete this summer.
The secondary wasn’t as bad as the linebackers,
but it wasn’t great either. As a unit they had
a disappointing 12 interceptions in 2002. Adam Archuleta
was the best of the bunch and is a top fantasy prospect
this year. He has a nose for the ball and comes up to
the line of scrimmage and makes tackles. CB Aneneas Williams
was supposed to upgrade the Rams secondary last year,
but started more games on the bench than on the field
due to injury. He’s a crafty veteran that still
has something to give, but Williams is well past his
prime. CB Travis Fisher got OTJ training last year and
is still a work in progress as is S Kim Herring who will
have to fight off the rookies this summer to keep his
|Offense 2003 Additions
| TE Jed Weaver
T Kwame Harris-1st Round
WR Brandon Lloyd-4th Round
WR Arnaz Battle-6th Round
QB Ken Dorsey-7th Round
Offensive Line: Aside from the Detroit Lions, no team
gave up fewer sacks in 2002 than the San Francisco 49ers.
Having a mobile quarterback helped as did throwing short,
timing patterns that frustrated many 49ers faithful and
may have contributed to a coaching change during the
off-season. Regardless, all management’s moves
worked out well in 2002. These positive changes included
drafting G Eric Heitmann in the 7th round. Heitmann immediately
replaced Dave Fiore in the starting lineup and never
looked back. The other great move was signing G Ron Stone
who contributed immediately. Lining up between them is
Pro Bowl C Jeremy Newberry and the “Pro Bowl” tag
tells you all you need to know about how he played in
2002. Derrick Deese is a nasty SOB at one tackle and
Scott Gregg combine height (“officially” listed
at 6-8), long arms and good footwork. Together, these
five form one of the better units in the conference.
TE: Jed Weaver and incumbent starter Eric Johnson will
battle it out in camp. Johnson slipped as a fantasy player
last year. He bulked up to be a better blocker and looked
a step slower as a result.
WR: I could write a soap opera about Terrell Owens.
When motivated (meaning when he’s getting everything
he wants) he’s the best receiver in the league.
When he’s not (and it’s not always about
Terrell all the time) he’s throwing a temper tantrum
or sulking. His emotional states and drama-queen persona
put him at odds with his former head coach and eventually
one of them had to go, sorry Mooch. If that was the end
of it, 49ers fans would be grateful indeed. But no, now
Owens is unhappy with his contract and feuding with team
management and new head coach Dennis Erickson. More drama
Tai Streets made the underachieving J.J. Stokes expendable
once and for all. Streets really seemed to work on his
route running and you could see him grow in confidence
every week. He’s solid as the team’s number
two wide receiver.
The number three job is anyone’s guess. Cedrick
Wilson was on the roster last year, but hasn’t
played much. He’ll fight it out with the two rookies
(Battle and Lloyd) this summer.
RB: Hearst or Barlow? Fantasy owners are dying to know.
Barlow is younger and at 240 lb. much more physical than
Hearst and he’s a pretty good receiver to boot.
Picking up blitzers is another matter, something Hearst
is among the best at. My best guess is that if neither
gets hurt, Hearst gets traded somewhere and Barlow gets
the job if he’s a more disciplined blocker this
summer. Paul Smith is also a back to keep your eye on.
If Hearst stays, then Smith may go elsewhere this summer.
With the salary cap, it’s too expensive to keep
three good runningbacks on your team and you get zip
for them if they become free agents.
QB: Jeff Garcia is getting up there in years and
beginning to hear rumblings about his fading arm strength.
You won’t have to wait long to see if he’s
still got zip on the old bean because Erickson plans
to give the fans what they’ve been calling for
and throw it down the football field. Garcia isn’t
a big guy that can fake it and muscle the ball to a receiver.
He’s a technique thrower. A good sign for fantasy
owner will be if he can keep a tight spiral when he’s
putting maximum effort into the pass. If he’s throwing
rainbows, he should improve on 2002’s numbers.
It is quacks like a duck when it flies out of his hand,
he’s going to struggle in this new offense.
|Defense 2003 Additions
|DT Travis Kirschke
DT Ross Kolodziej
DT Anthony Adams-2nd Round
DE Andrew Williams-3rd Round
Defense: Guess where the 49ers needed improvement this year?
Bringing in three defensive tackles to compete is a sure
sign that management has issues with the team’s
run defense. Aside from DE Andre Carter and the aging
DT Bryant Young no one excelled on the defensive front
last year. Unfortunately, Carter isn’t big enough
to play tough against the run. The other defensive end,
John Engelberger is injured more often than not. Young
had a Pro Bowl season but is too old to keep it up for
very much longer and may be put into the rotation at
defensive tackle this season to squeeze out a couple
more productive years from his body. The other defensive
tackle spot is an open competition between the newcomers,
Josh Shaw and Jim Flanigan, Flanigan backed up Dana Stubblefield
last season but probably isn’t the long term answer
the team’s looking for. Management would like the
more physically gifted Adams to win the job, but it’s
too early to tell if the undersized tackle can put on
more weight and play effectively.
On paper, the 49ers have one of the conference’s
best linebacking groups. Of course, one or more of them
are always injured and that’s a problem. OLB Julian
Peterson was rough coming out of Michigan State, but
made huge strides last year. With speed to burn, he excels
in the open field and covering receivers. He isn’t
the most physical linebacker and he struggles to get
off blocks. Dereck Smith is as steady as you get in the
middle, and the 49ers are fortunate to have two players
at the other LB position. Jeff Ulbrich is a tough SOB
that can’t stay healthy and Jamie Winborn probably
has more god-given talent than any other player on the
defensive side of the ball, but suffered a knee injury
The 49ers secondary isn’t that good, particularly
at cornerback. S Tony Parrish made everyone forget about
Lance Schulters in a big hurry. He’s got cornerback
cover skills, makes big plays, and will come up and make
tackles on opposing ball carriers. The other safety,
Zach Bronson, is better than most at the position. On
the flip side, last year’s top draft pick CB Mike
Rumph was abused when inserted into the line up. As soon
as he went into the game, opposing teams found him and
went right after him. Let’s hope he has a short
memory or he may be scarred for life. CB Ahmed Plummer
is rehabbing a shoulder injury he picked up in last year’s
playoffs. He’s not that physical to begin with
and if he protects that injury when tackling, he’s
a liability on the field. The other cornerback, Jason
Webster, isn’t very tall and gets taken advantage
of when matched against bigger receivers.
|Offense 2003 Additions
| T Michael Thompson
T Wayne Hunter-3rd Round
QB Seneca Wallace-4th Round
FB Chris Davis-5th Round
WR Taco Wallace-7th Round
Offensive Line: When T Walter Jones made the Pro Bowl
in 2002. Not the biggest tackle at 6-5, 315 lb. he has
exceptional footwork and determination. The team had
a known commodity in Jones, the surprise of the 2002
season was the play of the other tackle Chris Terry.
Terry wasn’t the Seahawks starting tackle at the
begging of last season, he wasn’t even with the
team until he was picked up off the waiver wire around
Thanksgiving but this bruiser took the position from
Floyd “Pork Chop” Womack struggled and never
looked back. Womack gets moved to guard to compete with
Jerry Wunsch and Chris Gary-with no favorite going into
camp. Chris Hutchinson suffered a broken leg last season
and played only four games but seems to share Terry’s
TE: Jerramy Stevens has all the physical tools to be
an excellent fantasy tight end. The problem is that he’s
an idiot. Every time you turn around he’s in a
police line-up. The more jail time Stevens gets, the
more playing time Itula Mili gets…that’s
just how it seems to work out.
WR: The Seahawks are set at wide receiver. Koren Robinson
had a huge 2002 season for fantasy owners racking up
over twelve hundred yards and nearly eight catches. Darrell
Jackson is among the league’s best number two receivers
and Bobby Engram is a perfect number three. This unit
should be among the league’s best if they stay
RB: I really like the Seahawks runningback situation.
Shaun Alexander is a scoring machine. The former first
round pick out of Alabama is big, powerful and quick.
He excels at punching it in at the goal line and yet
he has the speed and quickness to make a cutback move,
accelerate though the hole, and mow down defensive backs.
As good as Alexander is, Maurice Morris may be better.
Morris is faster, yet hits the holes like a big back.
In addition, he has soft hands and is a better receiver
than Alexander at this point. So long as Alexander stays
healthy and puts the pigskin in the end zone, Morris
may never be a starter with this team, but he may get
more carries this year.
QB: Its Matt Hasselbeck’s show this year. After
replacing Trent Dilfer when Dilfer tore a Achilles tendon
tear, Hasselbeck suddenly developed a Zen-like understanding
with the offense and his receivers. The result was the
Seahawks went on a tear at the end of 2002. He isn’t
the league’s most gifted quarterback, but his “connection” with
his wide receivers resulted in four three hundred yard
games. Based on that production, Hasselbeck goes into
camp as the starter this season.
|Defense 2003 Additions
|DT Norman Hand
DE Chike Okeafor
S Damien Robinson
CB Marcus Trufant-1st Round
S Ken Hamilton-2nd Round
LB Solomon Bates-4th Round
DT Rashad Moore-6th Round
Defense: No team was worse against the rush in 2002 than
the Seattle Seahawks. It wasn’t even close. They game
up almost 16 yards per game more than the 31st ranked
team (New England). Naturally, they sacked their defensive
coordinator and brought in Ray Rhoads who has had a long
working relationship with head coach Mike Holmgren going
back to their 49ers days.
The biggest change up font (literally) is the addition
of DT Norman Hand. Hand is “officially” weighed
in at 326 this spring but that’s probably the best
shape he’ll be in all season. He’s supposed
to be the run stopper this team desperately needs. The
other tackles on the roster: John Randle, Chris Eaton,
Cederick Woodard, and Rocky Bernard are a combination
of unknowns and aging veterans. Not that long ago Randle
(when he played with the Vikings) was one of the league’s
most feared defensive tackles. But he’s 35 years
old now and coming off a knee injury. Both Randal and
Eaton are effort players and pass rush specialists that
should be in on passing downs.
Who will be playing defensive end is more of a mystery.
Lamar King has been an absolute bust and has a permanent
spot reserved for him in Holmgren’s doghouse. Antonio
Cochran beat him out of a starting spot in 2002 and has
played well enough to merit a starting spot this season.
Former 49er Chike Okeafor is the front runner for the
other starting end spot, but he’ll get a challenge
OLB Anthony Simmons is the only reliable linebacker
this team has and it took a lot to get him to sign this
year. Reliable may be too strong a word considering he
missed nine games last season, let’s just say he
has the most potential. The other OLB, Chris Brown, was
also MIA for much of the 2002 campaign with a broken
foot. Both middle linebackers (Orlando Huff and Isaiah
Kacyvenski) were injured. In short, the linebacking corps
needed its own M*A*S*H unit last season.
The Seattle secondary is filled with “what ifs”.
What if CB Shawn Springs wasn’t a head case? He
one of the league’s best cornerbacks when he isn’t
injured or doing something stupid off the field. What
if Ken Lucus improves on his 2002 performance?. A rookie
last season, Lucus was a pleasant surprise and if he
continues to develop he may be one of the better corners
in the not too distant future. What if Marcus Trufant
doesn’t struggle as a rookie? If the best corner
in this year’s draft comes around and Springs rebounds
now you’re looking at three good corners on the
field. What if the Seahawks can find a pair of safeties?
Tongue is a cover guy that can’t out wrestle a
cat two falls out of three and he had more tackles than
any other player on the team. The Seahawks signed Damien
Robinson just to give them one defensive back that will
step up and plant a ball carrier.