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Free Agent Forecast - Week 4
By Paul Sandy
September 23, 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

Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts
Upcoming Opponents: NO, @TAM, CAR
Only four Indianapolis players caught passes in Week 3 (Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, Dallas Clark and Wayne). Of those, Wayne led the way with a breakout 10-catch, 141-yard, two-touchdown performance. With defenses keying on Harrison, Wayne should continue to see single coverage and more big weeks on the horizon. It is worth noting that Wayne has some of the league’s more difficult defenses on the schedule in the coming weeks. While he offers excellent long-term value, consider acquiring a player like Andre Johnson or Kelley Washington if you need a one-week replacement in the short term.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans
Upcoming Opponents: JAX, BYE, @TEN
Johnson threw his hat into the Rookie of the Year ring this week, catching seven passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He is now averaging 83.0 yards per game and deserves to be on a roster in almost any-sized league. The Texans are a pretty solid squad for having only been in the league two years. Look for Johnson and Arizona’s Anquan Boldin to put together seasons that will have fantasy owners revisiting the theory that rookie receivers rarely produce.

Lamar Gordon, RB, Rams
Upcoming Opponents: ARZ, BYE, ATL
Marshall Faulk is expected to be sidelined at least four weeks with a broken hand. As Faulk’s primary backup, Lamar Gordon will get the bulk of the carries. If he’s available, Gordon should be a top priority. The Rams play Arizona this week, so he could provide immediate points.

Bobby Shaw, WR, Bills
Upcoming Opponents: @PHI, CIN, @NYJ
An Upside recommendation last week, Shaw continues to see more passes than second-year wideout Josh Reed. Although Shaw only caught three passes against the stingy Miami secondary, he led the team in yardage and was the target of eight Drew Bledsoe passes. After they face the Eagles this week, the schedule lightens up quite a bit for Buffalo. Don’t hesitate to acquire Shaw and start him as needed.

Owen Pochman, PK, 49ers
Upcoming Opponents: @MIN, DET, @SEA
San Francisco released kicker Jeff Chandler late last week. His replacement, Owen Pochman, connected on four field goals, never missing. Pochman should be considered an every-week starter, as the 49ers score plenty of points and seem to be struggling a bit in the redzone, which should lead to plenty more three and four field goal games for Pochman.

Upside Free Agents

Drew Bennett, WR, Titans
Upcoming Opponents: @PIT, @NE, HOU
Bennett was listed in my preseason 10 Players to Watch article. While it looked like that prediction wasn’t going to pan out, Bennett surfaced in Week 3, catching eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. The 6’5” wideout is a big goal-line target for quarterback Steve McNair, and the combo hooked up for a five-yard touchdown on Sunday. With Frank Wycheck’s career seemingly over, Bennett should continue to be the primary redzone target.

Brandon Bennett, RB, Bengals
Upcoming Opponents: @CLE, @PIT, BYE
Corey Dillon blames his strained groin muscle on the turf at Paul Brown Stadium. Whether you believe that tale or not, Dillon will be listed as questionable in Week 4. If he’s not able to go, Brandon Bennett would be his replacement. Bennett was unable to get much going last week after he stepped in for Dillon. He carried the ball six times for just 12 yards. Even so, several starting running backs are out this week with injuries and byes, so Bennett clearly has some upside. Monitor the media for updates on Dillon’s injury status, and acquire Bennett if it looks like he’ll sit this week’s game out.

Gus Frerotte, QB, Vikings
Upcoming Opponents: SF, @ATL, BYE
Beyond Matt Hasslebeck, none of the top drafted quarterbacks are on bye. However, if you are in need of a replacement or are desperate for more production out of your quarterback, Gus Frerotte is a solid option. Like so many before him (Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, etc.), Frerotte looks comfortable in a Vikings uniform. The 10-year veteran stepped in and threw for 184 yards and a touchdown after starter Daunte Culpepper suffered a back injury. Although Culpepper has publicly stated that he’ll be ready, head coach Mike Tice will list his as doubtful for this weekend’s contest against San Francisco. Keep an eye on the situation.

Dallas Clark, TE, Colts
Upcoming Opponents: NO, @TAM, CAR
With Jeremy Shockey and Randy McMichael on bye, many fantasy owners will be scouring the free agent pool for a one-week fill in. While a touchdown threat like Jay Riemersma is an option, I prefer tight ends who catch a lot of passes and get consistent yardage. So far in 2003, Clark ranks seventh in the league with nine receptions. Plug him into your lineup this week and count on another four catches and 50 yards.

Kelly Campbell, WR, Vikings
Upcoming Opponents: SF, @ATL, BYE
Campbell has caught long passes each of the past two weeks, including a 72-yard touchdown in Week 3. With Randy Moss experiencing nagging back spasms and D’Wayne Bates battling an ankle injury, Campbell could play an increased role in Sunday’s game against the 49ers. He definitely deserves roster consideration if you need a replacement for any of your bye week receivers.

Bryant Johnson, WR, Cardinals
Upcoming Opponents: STL, DAL, BAL
While Anquan Boldin is the receiver of choice for Cardinals quarterback Jeff Blake, Bryan Johnson is providing decent production as the team’s number two pass catcher. Johnson turned in a nice performance Sunday, grabbing six receptions for 86 yards. I wouldn’t want to start Johnson every week, but he could be a decent replacement for Chris Chambers or Amani Toomer this week, as the opposing Rams give up plenty of passing yards and touchdowns.

Long-Shot Free Agents

Mike Cloud, RB, Patriots
Upcoming Opponents: @WAS, TEN, NYG
Cloud is scheduled to return from a four-game banned substance suspension in Week 5. Although Kevin Faulk had a respectable 17-carry 79-yard performance Sunday, he is not considered an every-down back. Meanwhile, last year’s starter Antowain Smith has been a huge disappointment, averaging less than three yards per carry. After an uneventful stint in Kansas City, Cloud is still unproven. However, the Patriots thought enough of him to keep him on their roster despite his suspension and a preseason calf injury. Look for Cloud to begin seeing the occasional carry right away as New England continues to search for a running game.

Byron Leftwich, QB, Jaguars
Upcoming Opponents: @HOU, SAN, MIA
For two consecutive weeks now, Jacksonville games have ended the same way. Byron Leftwich has entered the game late and directed a late touchdown drive. Although head coach Jack Del Rio has indicated Mark Brunell will once again get the start, don’t expect it to last more than two or three more weeks. The Jags are already 0-3 and as they continue to fall further out of the playoff race, Del Rio will begin looking ahead to the future. And the future isn’t Brunell.

Wait-and-See Free Agents

Jerome Pathon, WR, Saints
Upcoming Opponents: IND, @CAR, CHI
Pathon has had some big games in his career, including Sunday’s 89-yard, one-touchdown effort. However, with Joe Horn and Dante Stallworth ahead of him on the depth chart, it is unlikely fantasy owners will be able to count on Pathon to put up great fantasy numbers on a consistent basis. Monitor Pathon’s progress, but he likely won’t have much value unless one of the starters suffers a major injury.

Darnerian McCants, WR, Redskins
Upcoming Opponents: NE, @PHI, TAM
Like Pathon, McCants is a number three wideout. Starters Rod Gardner and Laveraneus Coles will be the better receivers on most weeks, with McCants occasionally turning in a solid game. The third-year receiver already has two touchdowns in 2003, but those scores came despite McCants only having six receptions on the year. Also note that the Redskins have a series of tough pass defenses on the schedule in the coming weeks. There are probably more consistent and multidimensional receivers in your free agent pool than McCants.

One Week Wonders

Andre Davis, WR, Browns
Upcoming Opponents: CIN, @PIT, OAK
Trying to predict which Cleveland wide receiver will score touchdowns and catch passes is more difficult than interpreting a Mike Shanahan injury report. On Sunday, Andre Davis caught five passes for 43 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t be lulled into acquiring Davis at this point. He had similar games last year, but also disappeared for five-week stretches. Kevin Johnson looks like the best Browns receiver at this point.

Warrnen Sapp, TE, Buccaneers
Upcoming Opponents: BYE, IND, @WAS
Please, please don’t make us see the dance again.