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Free Agent Forecast - Week 9
By Paul Sandy
October 28, 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

Jon Kitna has proven he is a top 10 fantasy quarterback and should be on a fantasy roster in your league by now, if not a starting lineup. Steve Smith continues his climb among the ranks of fantasy receivers and is a candidate for sleeper of the year. If Santana Moss can keep himself healthy, it looks like he will be the top receiver for the Jets. Josh Reed seems to have regained the trust of quarterback Drew Bledsoe. All players were recommended last week and should be considered top acquisitions if they haven’t already been claimed.

Correll Buckhalter, RB, Eagles
Upcoming Opponents: @ATL, @GB, NYG
Just when Philadelphia’s running back situation was beginning to stabilize, starter Brian Westbrook suffered an ankle injury that will cause him to miss significant playing time. Expect Correll Buckhalter to see the majority of carries in Westbrook’s absence. Last Sunday against the Jets, Buckhalter carried the ball 20 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns. The third-year back is this week’s top recommendation. If an impatient owner in your league gave up on him, acquire Buckhalter and use him this week against an Atlanta defense that’s given up a league-leading 12 rushing touchdowns.

Arlen Harris, RB, Rams
Upcoming Schedule: @SF, BAL, @CHI
Another Elite recommendation last week, Harris scored three touchdowns in his first NFL start as a replacement for Marshall Faulk and Lamar Gordon. Many fantasy owners may be quick to write off Harris since Faulk is likely to return to action next week. However, Gordon has a high ankle sprain that could keep him sidelined for a few more weeks. As Faulk’s current backup, Harris should remain on fantasy rosters in most leagues.

Marques Tuiasosopo, QB, Raiders
Upcoming Schedule: @DET, NYJ, MIN
Rich Gannon suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder during Monday Night Football in Week 7. He is expected to miss at least a couple weeks. After last year’s MVP went down, backup Marques Tuiasosopo looked uncomfortable but eventually settled down and led the Raiders on a couple scoring drives. On the evening, Tuiasosopo completed 16 of 28 passes for 224 yards and added 20 yards on the ground. With Trent Green, Steve McNair and Drew Bledsoe on bye, Tuiasosopo is a legitimate fantasy starter in Week 9. The Raiders travel to Detroit to face a Lions defense that is giving up an average of two passing touchdowns per game.

Itula Mili, TE, Seahawks
Upcoming Schedule: PIT, @WAS, DET
After a slow start to the season, Mili has been one of the NFL’s hottest tight ends in recent weeks. The seven-year veteran has caught three touchdowns in the last three games, including a two-touchdown, 80-yard performance Sunday against the Bengals. Don’t count on Mili to finish the season ranked among the top five tight ends, but he is worthy of a roster spot if you’ve been struggling to get points from your tight end.

Chad Pennington, QB, Jets
Upcoming Schedule: NYG, @OAK, @IND
Pennington will regain his starting spot this week. The fourth-year quarterback had a chance to knock off the rust last weekend against the Eagles, completing 14 of 24 passes for 154 yards in limited duty. While I think he will have a difficult time duplicating last year’s heroics (especially without Laveranues Coles), Pennington is worth acquiring and could re-establish himself as a consistent starter if he can get on the same page as Santana Moss and Curtis Conway.

Rock Cartwright, RB, Redskins
Sultan McCullough, RB, Redskins
Chad Morton, RB, Redskins
Upcoming Schedule: @DAL, SEA, @CAR
In his weekly press conference, head coach Steve Spurrier suggested Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts will likely miss this week’s game against Dallas. That means the Redskins will are left with Chad Morton, Sultan McCullough and Rock Cartwright. Spurrier had some interesting things to say about how he would use his running backs versus the Cowboys. When asked about Morton, Spurrier said, “He’s probably not big enough to play every down. Blocking those 250-pound linebackers is not his cup of tea. So we have to use him sparingly, here or there.” About McCullough, Spurrier said, “Sultan is a 200-pound running back. He needs to play a little bit. There’s a good chance he’ll be suited up and ready to go.” With regard to Rock Cartwright, Spurrier indicated, “He’s more of a sturdier guy—about a 240-pound fullback who can play tailback. So that would be an option.” On who will start, Spurrier was even more non-committal, telling the reporters that he would rotate his backs in and out. Navigating this running back by committee approach is going to be a risky proposition for owners seeking a one-week replacement. As the closest thing to a prototypical back they have left, McCullough is likely going to be the most popular acquisition of the three. However, I am going out on a limb and recommending Cartwright above the other two backs. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey has been bruised and battered over the past few weeks. With Rob Johnson being cut and Danny Wuerffel refusing to re-sign, the Redskins are dangerously thin at quarterback. They must protect Ramsey. That’s why Cartwright will see more playing time than the smallish Morton and the inexperienced McCullough.

Brock Forsey, RB, Bears
Upcoming Schedule: SD, @DET, STL
With starter Anthony Thomas and backup Adrian Peterson sidelined with injuries, rookie Brock Forsey got his first NFL start Sunday. Forsey rushed 19 times for 56 yards and a touchdown. Most Thomas owners probably expected the bruising back to have returned to the field by now, but that hasn’t materialized. If his ankle injury continues to plague him, look for Forsey to get another start this week.

Upside Free Agents

Rudi Johnson, RB, Bengals
Upcoming Schedule: @ARZ, HOU, KC
While Cincinnati’s linemen didn’t carry Rudi Johnson off the field on their shoulders after the team’s upset win over Seattle, the chants of “Rudi, Rudi, Rudi” were enough to stir up memories of Sean Astin in his pre-Samwise Gamgee role. Johnson got the unexpected start after Corey Dillon was in a minor car accident before Sunday’s game. He carried the ball 27 times for 101 yards and a touchdown in a performance that inspired the crowd – quite a contrast to Dillon’s now infamous “trade me” blather. While Dillon is expected to return to his starting role this week, Johnson has proven he’s more than capable of being a starter. If you currently own Dillon or if you have a roster spot, acquire Johnson this week. We may not have heard the last of the “Rudi” chants. If you play in a keeper or dynasty league, move this third-year tailback up a notch.

Brian Griese, QB, Dolphins
Upcoming Opponents: IND, @TEN, BAL
Monday night against the Chargers, Brian Griese passed for more touchdowns in the first half than Jay Fiedler threw in his last four starts combined. Griese looked cool, calm and collected as he completed 20 of 29 passes with three touchdowns no interceptions. Look for Jay Fiedler’s phantom knee sprain to experience lingering soreness this week, giving head coach Dave Wannstedt a reason to start Griese again. Wannstedt is feeling the pressure to get his team deep into the playoffs this year and will go with the hot hand in order to keep his job. If you need a starter this week, Griese is probably a better option than some of the other guys on your waiver wire like Jeff Blake or Kyle Boller.

Bobby Engram, WR, Seahawks
Upcoming Schedule: PIT, @WAS, DET
Admittedly, I had Engram pegged as a One-Week Wonder last week after his 73-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 7. But Engram backed it up with another 73 yards Sunday against the Bengals. In Seattle’s last four games, Engram has 16 receptions, equaling preseason darling Koren Robinson’s statistics over the same period. While I think Robinson will eventually break out of his slump, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t seem to be looking his way frequently enough. Until he does, grab Engram and use him as a bye-week replacement or as an occasional starter against favorable opponents.

Long-Shot Free Agents

Richie Anderson, RB, Cowboys
Upcoming Schedule: WAS, BUF, @NE
In his last four starts, running back Troy Hambrick is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. It’s not exactly the type of power running game that will bring back memories of OJ Anderson and Curtis Martin for Bill Parcells. If the team’s ground game continues to stall, look for Richie Anderson to see his workload increased. During Sunday’s shutout loss to the Buccaneers, Anderson had a season-high 11 touches.

Wait-and-See Free Agents


One Week Wonders

Daniel Graham, TE, Patriots
Upcoming Schedule: @DEN, BYE, DAL
Prior to last week’s 110-yard performance, Graham had gone three games without scoring a single fantasy point. Look elsewhere if you need wide receiver help. Graham isn’t expected to emerge as a major contributor as long as Christian Fauria is healthy.

Dante Hall, WR, Chiefs
Upcoming Schedule: BYE, CLE, @CIN
Unless your league gives points for return yardage, it’s probably best to ignore Hall, despite his long touchdown reception on Sunday.

Kelley Washington, WR, Bengals
Upcoming Schedule: @ARZ, HOU, KC
Washington grabbed his first career touchdown Sunday. He may eventually emerge as a more reliable scoring threat, but right now Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick are Cincinnati’s only receivers worth starting.

Justin Gage, WR, Bears
Upcoming Schedule: SD, @DET, STL
Gage caught a touchdown pass Sunday but what wide receiver hasn’t scored against the Lions this year?