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Free Agent Forecast - Week 10
By Paul Sandy
November 4, 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

Chad Pennington, QB, Jets
Upcoming Opponents: @OAK, @IND, JAC
In his first start of the season, Pennington showed no signs of rust. He threw four touchdowns on 281 yards passing. If Pennington hasn’t been acquired in your league yet, he certainly will be this week. The former Marshall quarterback makes everyone around him better and rarely has a poor game. He is the type of player who will make an immediate impact on your fantasy team. Get him in your lineup this week when he faces the feeble Oakland Raiders.

James Jackson, RB, Browns
Upcoming Opponents: @KC, ARZ, PIT
Jackson was recommended here a couple weeks ago when starter William Green went down with an injury. This time, Jackson’s worth isn’t injury related. Green was arrested early last week for drunken driving and possession of marijuana. The Browns have suspended last year’s first round draft pick for their Week 10 game against Kansas City. If you need a one-week replacement, Jackson is worth a shot. In Week 8 against the Patriots, Jackson carried the ball 15 times for 71 yards, an average of 4.7 yards per carry.

Tyrone Calico, WR, Titans
Upcoming Opponents: MIA, JAC, @ATL
Drew Bennett has a severe calf strain that includes damage to the muscle. He is expected to miss at least three weeks. The injury takes one receiver out of Tennessee’s outstanding four-headed receiving mix, which is made up of Bennett, Derrick Mason, Tyrone Calico and Justin McCareins. While Mason is a mainstay on a fantasy squad in your league, Calico and McCareins may be available. If so, make acquiring Calico a priority. With 6-4 height, Calico is a serious goal line threat. Three of his 13 receptions have gone for touchdowns this year. Expect more contributions in the next few weeks while Bennett is sidelined.

L.J. Smith, TE, Eagles
Upcoming Opponents: @GB, NYG, NO
Despite not having a single reception in Weeks 1 or 2, L.J. Smith is Philadelphia’s second leading receiver with 215 yards. This surprising statistic can likely be attributed as much to Donovan McNabb’s struggles to utilize his wide receivers as it can to L.J. Smith’s skills. Even so, the rookie tight end could shape up to be a productive player during the second half of the season. Smith caught six passes for 97 yards Sunday against the Falcons. While Billy Miller (see below) is a more proven player, Smith has a chance to become one of the leagues top tight ends and should higher on your acquisition list. The Eagles are desperate for a reliable receiving target and will continue to utilize Smith’s skills.

Upside Free Agents

Javon Walker, WR, Packers
Upcoming Schedule: PHI, @TB, SF
Javon Walker’s inconsistent play over the first half of the season likely has him floating around in your league’s free agent pool. If he’s available, he could be worth a shot. Sunday night against the arch rival Minnesota Vikings, Walker caught two impressive touchdown passes in a Packers victory. My feeling is that more often than not those redzone touchdowns have gone to tight end Bubba Franks. Therefore, if Walker hopes to become an every-week fantasy contributor, he will need to improve his yardage production. He only had 42 receiving yards Sunday. Acquire the sophomore receiver this week, but keep him out of your lineup until he proves that he can duplicate his efforts.

Andre Davis, WR, Browns
Upcoming Opponents: @KC, ARZ, PIT
Starter Kevin Johnson has been benched by head coach Butch Davis because Davis was dissatisfied with Johnson’s blocking. When the Browns travel to Kansas City this week to face the Chiefs, Andre Davis will start opposite Quincy Morgan. If you normally start Terrell Owens, Rod Smith or Joe Horn and need a replacement, Davis could put up the stats you’d normally expect from Johnson – about 60-70 yards with a possible score.

Tim Rattay, QB, 49ers
Upcoming Opponents: BYE, PIT, @GB
The 49ers are the NFL’s most baffling team. One week after losing to the Arizona Cardinals with Jeff Garcia as their starting quarterback, they upend one of the league’s hottest teams, the Rams, with their backup quarterback under center. Tim Rattay threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns in their upset over St. Louis. Rattay and the 49ers are on bye in Week 10, but looking ahead, San Francisco will play Pittsburgh in Week 11 on Monday night. Head coach Dennis Erickson has indicated Jeff Garcia will be the starting quarterback once he’s healthy; however, it looks like he might sit another game out. The Steelers have been highly susceptible to giving up touchdowns and Rattay could be worth a start if your quarterback play has been lacking lately.

Billy Miller, TE, Texans
Upcoming Opponents: @CIN, @BUF, NE
Miller has scored a touchdown in two straight games and appears to be regaining the form that he showcased last year when he caught 51 passes in his first year with the Texans. In Week 9, Miller caught four passes for 58 yards. It was his most productive game so far in 2003 and only the fifth time in his career that he’s finished a game with more than 50 yards receiving. I think Miller can be a weekly fantasy contributor, but his lack of yardage will likely have owners hoping and praying for a touchdown. He’s not unlike a lot of other tight ends.

Long-Shot Free Agents

Doug Flutie, QB, Chargers
Upcoming Opponents: MIN, @DEN, CIN
Drew Brees doesn’t look like a starting quarterback in the NFL right now. In eight games this season, Brees has a 63.3 quarterback rating. And while it has little to do with fantasy football, Brees has only led his team to one victory this season. After struggling mightily Sunday, Brees was benched in favor of Doug Flutie. The fan favorite quickly led the Chargers on a scoring drive. If Flutie doesn’t start this week’s game against the Vikings, look for him to relieve Brees by the third quarter. Flutie isn’t the type of quarterback that will lead your team to a championship, but if your starter gets injured, he is a guy who always seems to score at least 15 fantasy points.

Wait-and-See Free Agents

Deion Branch, WR, Patriots
Upcoming Opponents: BYE, DAL, HOU
According to Al Michaels and John Madden, Tom Brady has been asking coach Bill Belichick to throw the ball deep more frequently. The coach must’ve been listening. Brady attempted several long passes, connecting with Deion Branch on a 66-yard touchdown. Branch has had some good games in the past, including a one-touchdown, 89-yard performance Week 2 against the Eagles. I’m listing Branch as a Wait-and-See Free Agent because he’s on bye this week and faces some tough defenses in the coming weeks, including Dallas, Indianapolis and Miami.

One Week Wonders

Cory Schlesinger, RB, Lions
Upcoming Opponents: CHI, @SEA, @MIN
Schlesinger, a 250 lb. fullback, did something that receivers Az-Zahir Hakim and Bill Schroeder have failed to do all year – beat a cornerback for a long touchdown. Schlesinger outraced an Oakland Raiders cornerback down the sideline for a 33-yard touchdown reception Sunday. Despite the score, Schlesinger doesn’t’ deserve a roster spot.

Taylor Jacobs, WR, Redskins
Upcoming Opponents: SEA, @CAR, @MIA
The rookie receiver scored his first career touchdown Sunday, but the Redskins are a mess right now. Laveranues Coles is the only Washington receiver worth owning.

Michael Lewis, WR, Saints
Upcoming Opponents: BYE, ATL, @PHI
With starter Donte Stallworth on the bench due to an injury, Lewis stepped up his game, catching three passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. When Stallworth returns, Lewis will once again be relegated to kick returning duties.