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Free Agent Forecast - Keeper/Dynasty Edition
By Paul Sandy
November 25, 2003
 

The season is never over for fantasy owners participating in keeper or dynasty leagues. While their teams may have been eliminated from playoff contention, it’s never too early to begin preparing for 2004. A few well-timed acquisitions now could pay huge dividends come next year. Scour your waiver wire for long-term prospects and unload players whose future might not be as bright. Here are a few names to get you started on your quest for keeper or dynasty league gems.

QUARTERBACKS

Kurt Warner – Rams
By now we all know who wears the pants in the Warner family. Kurt Warner’s wife Brenda has made numerous statements through various media outlets that she and her husband want to be in a new NFL city by this time next year. Look for Mrs. Warner to get her wish. Kurt Warner will enter the 2004 season as a starter.

Mark Brunell – Jaguars
I really think Brunell has some good years ahead of him. He won’t be with the Jaguars next season but if he lands in the right situation, he could resurrect his career (ala Rich Gannon). I expect teams like San Diego, Oakland and Miami to take a good hard look at Brunell.

Drew Henson – Texans
Henson was drafted by the Texans this spring, so technically he’s fair game in your league. He’s currently a New York Yankee, but if baseball doesn’t pan out, rumor has it he’ll be traded by Houston to either Green Bay or Pittsburgh. He’s an excellent long-term prospect for dynasty leagues.

Charlie Batch – Steelers
Batch is another decent dynasty player. The Steelers aren’t likely to make the playoffs this season and that means we can expect some significant changes to an offense that sputtered its way through 2004. Tommy Maddox isn’t the future, so look for the Steelers to give Batch a chance to compete for the starting job in 2004. If he wins the job, he could come up big with Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress as his targets.

RUNNING BACKS

Lee Suggs – Browns
Considering all the troubles surrounding William Green, Lee Suggs has a decent shot becoming a starter in 2004. While I expect Green will be back with the team next season, his future doesn’t look quite as bright as it did three months ago.

Justin Fargas – Raiders
Look for a major youth movement this offseason in Oakland. Starting running back Charlie Garner is in the third year of a four-year contract. However, the final year can be voided either by the Raiders or by Garner himself. Fargas could be starting for the Raiders in 2004.

Willis McGahee – Bills
McGahee will probably only see a few carries before the season is over. However, he should be fully healed by preseason 2004. It will be very interesting to see how the Bills handle their backfield with Travis Henry and McGahee both angling for playing time.

Najeh Davenport – Packers
Tony Fisher – Packers
As of Week 12, the Packers have three running backs averaging five or more yards per carry. Don’t be surprised if the Packers use one of their backups as trade bait this offseason. If Davenport or Fisher ends up in a city like Detroit or Pittsburgh, either back could be starting in 2004.

Chris Brown – Titans
If the Titans don’t make it to the Super Bowl this year, count on the team making some significant changes in 2004. That could mean Eddie George taking on a lesser role. Acquire Brown as a potential successor to George.

Arlen Harris – Rams
Marshall Faulk’s career seems to be winding down. He’s suffered one injury after another. While Faulk will certainly be back with the Rams in 2004, his injury history always raises the possibility of him being sidelined before the 2004 season even starts. Pick up Harris now and hold him in case Faulk succumbs to injury.

Ladell Betts – Redskins
The trade for Trung Canidate hasn’t worked out like Dan Snyder and Steve Spurrier had hoped. Ladell Betts appears to be the best running back this team has. Betts has been hurt for the past month, so he may have been dropped in your league. If so, acquire him. The Redskins may start him in 2004 if they can’t find a better option through the draft or free agency.

Thomas Jones – Buccaneers
Thomas Jones seems to be running with more authority and zip than he did during his entire stint in Arizona. His improved play could have him starting in Tampa or another NFL city in 2004. Hop on the Jones bandwagon before it’s too late.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Tyrone Calico – Titans
Even though he is still raw, Tyrone Calico is putting together a fine fantasy football season. If he doesn’t suffer through a sophomore slump in 2004, he could become one of the stars of the NFL.

David Terrell – Bears
Terrell has made no secret that he thinks he deserves more playing time. In mid-November, Terrell was quoted saying, “In the offseason, I’ll do what I have to do to help myself.” Likewise, Chicago’s management has hinted that they haven’t been happy with Terrell’s play. Look for the former first-round draft pick to have a new home in 2004.

Cedrick Wilson – 49ers
With Terrell Owens scheduled to become a free agent, Cedrick Wilson could find himself starting for the 49ers in 2004. The third-year receiver is an excellent prospect in dynasty leagues.

Javon Walker –Packers
If you count yourself among the disciples of the theory that suggests wide receivers breakout in their third year in the NFL, be sure to add Javon Walker to you roster. Walker has shown flashes of skill but tends to drop passes. Even so, with Brett Favre expected to return in 2004, Walker could finally reach his potential.

Donte Stallworth – Saints
After a solid rookie campaign, Stallworth has flopped in his second season. Like Javon Walker, the third-year could be a charm. Acquire him now before his stock skyrockets in 2004.

Brian Finneran – Falcons
Michael Vick’s broken leg put Atlanta’s high-octane offense on hiatus for a year. Rumors are starting to surface that Dennis Green might be coaching this team in 2004. If so, the passing offense could be ignited. Acquire Finneran as a dynasty sleeper if he’s available.

Bobby Engram – Seahawks
Engram’s strong play of late has likely landed him on a fantasy squad in your league. If not, don’t hesitate to acquire him. While it may seem odd to see a veteran like Engram named on a keeper or dynasty list, starter Darrell Jackson will be a free agent in 2004. If the Seahawks don’t offer him a big-time contract, he’s as good as gone. That could open up a starting spot for Engram in Seattle’s high-powered offense.