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Free Agent Forecast - Week 3
By Paul Sandy
September 16, 2003

Value Scale

Elite Free Agents These players will provide immediate production and have excellent long-term potential.
Upside Free Agents Could emerge as every-week contributors in 1-2 weeks.
Long-Shot Free Agents Could emerge as every-week contributors in 3-4 weeks.
Wait-and-See Free Agents They have the potential to repeat their breakout performance, but hold off on acquiring them for now.
One Week Wonders Others may be singing their praise, but don’t buy into the hype.

Elite Free Agents

Previous Elite Free Agents, including Moe Williams, Ladell Betts and Marc Bulger, have proven their worth and deserve a roster spot in all leagues.

Darrell Jackson, WR, Seahawks
Upcoming Games: STL, BYE, @GB
With Koren Robinson on the sidelines for disciplinary reasons, Jackson stepped up his game, catching three passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns. In smaller leagues, Jackson may be available. Pick him up this week and don’t hesitate to plug him into your lineup. Although Robinson will return in Week 3, Seattle’s offense is rolling right now. There is room for both receivers to have outstanding years.

Tai Streets, WR, 49ers
Upcoming Games: CLE, @MIN, DET
Streets opened the season with four catches and one touchdown in each of his first two games. Terrell Owens is still the focal point of the San Francisco passing game, but Streets figures to play an important role. New head coach Dennis Erickson likes to test opposing defenses deep, a trademark of Streets. Owners in large leagues or leagues that start three wide receivers should consider Streets a weekly starter. Based on his favorable schedule, pick up him before any of the “Upside” receivers listed below.

Upside Free Agents

Patrick Ramsey, QB, Redskins
Upcoming Opponents: NYG, NE, @PHI
So far in 2003, Ramsey has out-scored early-round quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Rich Gannon, Kurt Warner and Donovan McNabb. Ramsey tossed two touchdowns Sunday against Atlanta and continues to gain confidence in Steve Spurrier’s Fun and Gun offense. While his schedule in the next few weeks is reasonably difficult, Ramsey is a solid backup quarterback and could even win games for your team as a starter. The strong-armed passer should consistently approach 300 yards per game. Plus, with the speedy Laveraneus Coles in the fold, Ramsey will score plenty of long touchdowns in 2003.

Shawn Bryson, RB, Lions
Upcoming Games: MIN, @DEN, @SF
The season-ending injury to James Stewart left a hodgepodge of ball carriers in Detroit’s backfield. Head coach Steve Mariucci likes to use a committee approach when it comes to the running game, so expect Olandis Gary and Shawn Bryson to split carries for the duration of the season with Cory Schlesinger seeing goal line carries. The situation is best avoided; however, running backs are hard to come by, so Bryson deserves a roster spot.

Deion Branch, WR, Patriots
Upcoming Games: NYJ, @WAS, TEN
New England pulled off an upset win over the Eagles in convincing fashion. While the team’s running game continues to sputter, Tom Brady seems to be finding his rhythm. Last year, his favorite target was Troy Brown. But in 2003, the two don’t seem to be on the same page. Instead, Deion Branch may have emerged as New England’s most dangerous receiver. Give Branch a couple weeks before inserting him into you lineup, but he could prove to be a consistent point scorer by Week 5.

Santana Moss, WR, Jets
Upcoming Games: @NE, DAL, BYE
After failing to move the ball in Week 1, the New York Jets offense showed marked improvement Sunday against the rival Dolphins. Santana Moss led all New York receivers with five receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown. Curtis Martin is struggling right now and if the team continues to abandon the running game early, Moss will see plenty of passes. He’s not a bad receiver to have on your squad as you enter the bye week stretch.

Bobby Shaw, WR, Bills
Upcoming Opponents: @MIA, PHI, CIN
A week before the season started, rumors began swirling that Bobby Shaw had supplanted second-year receiver Josh Reed as Buffalo’s number two receiver. Reed ended up starting, but so far Shaw has been the stronger receiver, catching three passes for 51 yards in Week 1 and exploding with three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown last week. In 2002, the Bills offense spawned two fantasy stud receivers – Eric Moulds and Peerless Price. Now, with Price gone, Shaw and Reed will battle to become Drew Bledsoe’s number two target. At this point, Shaw is the better option. While he doesn’t have Price’s speed, he’s an intelligent receiver who can find holes in opposing defenses. Acquire him this week and look for more good things to come.

Eric Parker, WR, Chargers
Upcoming Games: BAL, @OAK, @JAX
Parker, whose primary role is kick returning, has seen time as a receiver in the first two weeks. Injuries to David Boston and Reche Caldwell, have forced the second-year wideout into action. Parker hasn’t disappointed. In fact, he has scored one touchdown in each of the first two games. Look for more from Parker in the coming weeks, as Caldwell is out for at least six weeks. While his yardage statistics are a bit below what you want from a starting fantasy receiver, Parker is a worthwhile acquisition considering the state of San Diego’s receiving corps.

Erron Kinney, TE, Titans
Upcoming Games: NO, @PIT, @NE
If you’ve been struggling to get any consistency out of your tight ends, consider acquiring Erron Kinney. Tennessee’s starting tight end Frank Wycheck suffered a concussion in Week1 and is out indefinitely. While he’s not flashy, Kinney will get you four or five receptions per game.

Long-Shot Free Agents

Keenan McCardell, WR, Buccaneers
Upcoming Opponents: @ATL, BYE, IND
Last week, I recommended owners acquire Tampa receiver Joe Jurevicius. While Jurevicius started out Sunday’s game with four catches against a tough Carolina defense, he finished riding off the field on a cart. The rangy receiver suffered a torn MCL ligament and will likely miss the next four to six weeks of action. As a result, Keenan McCardell will assume a more significant role in the Buccaneer offense – an offense that has attempted more passes than any other team so far in 2003. During his time with Jacksonville, McCardell was a 1,000-yard receiver and every-week fantasy starter. Now in his second year with Tampa, he could experience a surge in productivity.

Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders
Upcoming Games: @DEN, SDG, @CHI
If Weeks 1 and 2 are any indication, the Oakland offense is in desperate need of youth and speed. Last season, the Raiders could count on Jerry Porter to provide the big-play threat. Now with Porter out due to a hernia operation, Justin Fargas is arguably Oakland’s most explosive player. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Fargas isn’t getting enough playing time to merit a spot in the starting lineup. However, Fargas is making the most of his limited opportunities. He carried the ball twice on Sunday and gained 56 yards. Charlie Garner is the best thing the team has going right now, but if Oakland’s offensive shortcomings continue, don’t be surprised if head coach Bill Callahan looks to Fargas for more than the occasional spot carry.

Robert Holcombe, RB, Titans
Upcoming Games: NO, @PIT, @NE
After Sunday’s disappointing 33-7 loss to the Colts, Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher used the term “awful” to describe his team. While Fisher’s frustration obviously doesn’t originate from any one player, he can’t be happy with Eddie George’s paltry 2.5 yards per carry average. When you have a former all-pro who has been entrenched as your starting running back, it’s difficult to make the switch to a younger player. But that’s just what the Titans may be forced to do as the season progresses.

Wait-and-See Free Agents

Peter Warrick, WR, Bengals
Upcoming Games: PIT, @CLE, @BUF
Forgive me if Peter Warrick’s eight catches for 109 yards and a touchdown on Sunday don’t have me ready to pounce on the free agent receiver. Warrick is a fantasy enigma. Throughout his career he has had big performances that caught the attention of the fantasy community. Then, in the following week, he disappears. In Warrick’s defense, he has played on a crummy team for his entire career. And it’s worth noting that Warrick had a team-leading 13 passes thrown in his direction Sunday. If the fourth-year wideout can become a consistent target for quarterback Jon Kitna, he definitely has some value. Grab him if you have room. Otherwise, see how he performs against Pittsburgh.

Terry Glenn, WR, Cowboys
Upcoming Games: BYE, @NYJ, ARZ
Like Warrick, Terry Glenn has a habit of following up good games with disappointing games. Glenn was money on Monday night against the Giants. He led all Dallas receivers with eight receptions for 113 yards. Plus, he was the target of five additional Quincy Carter passes. Judging by their first two games, it looks like the Cowboys aren’t afraid to pass the football. Passing plays out-numbered rushes by more than a 2:1 margin Monday night, atypical for a Bill Parcells-led team. While this works in Glenn’s favor, Joey Galloway and Antonio Bryant are the better fantasy receivers to own at this point.

One Week Wonders

Dane Looker, WR, Rams
Upcoming Games: @SEA, ARZ, BYE
The return of Marc Bulger brought the Rams back into the victory column. While Bulger didn’t pass for as many yards in Week 2 as Kurt Warner did in Week 1, the offense looks primed for big things for the remainder of the season. One surprise Sunday was rookie receiver Dane Looker. The second-year receiver grabbed five receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, with Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce in the mix, Looker will struggle to repeat his Week 2 performance.

Jim Kleinsasser, TE, Vikings
Upcoming Games: @DET, SF, @ATL
The Bears managed to handcuff Randy Moss for most of the game in Week 2. As a result, quarterback Daunte Culpepper was forced to spread the ball around more than he normally would. On two goal line series, the Vikings ran plays designed to go to Moss. Both times the plays failed and Culpepper eventually found Kleinsasser for touchdowns. Kleinsasser likely isn’t the long-term solution to your tight end woes, as Byron Chamberlain will be returning from suspension in Week 5.