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Free Agent Forecast - Week 16
By Paul Sandy
December 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

Thomas Jones, RB, Buccaneers
Upcoming Opponents: ATL, @TEN
Jones is a three-time Forecast recommendation. If owners in your league continue to write him off as the bust from Arizona, don’t make the same mistake. Jones has shown a lot of explosiveness and seems to break a tackle every time he touches the ball. He rushed 34 times for 134 yards and a touchdown Sunday. Acquire him and try to make some room in your starting lineup for Jones. This week he’ll face an Atlanta Falcons defense that has surrendered a league-leading 20 rushing touchdowns.

Mike Anderson, RB, Broncos
Upcoming Opponents: @IND, @GB
Anderson was suspended several weeks ago for a substance abuse violation. As a result, he was very likely released in your league. If that’s the case, acquire him this week. He’s back on the active roster and Denver starter Clinton Portis suffered sprains to his ankle and knee at the end of Sunday’s game against the Browns. Even though it’s a must-win situation for the Broncos, Portis seems very unlikely to play – especially since this game will be played on the turf in the RCA Dome, one of the hardest surfaces in the NFL. Grab Anderson and start him this week against the Colts, a team that gives up 118.1 yards per game on the ground.

Donald Driver, WR, Packers
Upcoming Opponents: @OAK, DEN
Driver tops my list of the biggest wide receiver busts of 2003. However, he finally posted a good game last week, catching eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Driver saw increased opportunities because Javon Walker was limited due to a knee injury. Even if Walker doesn’t play, I think Driver is unlikely to repeat last week’s performance. The Raiders are worst in the league against the run, so the Packers will likely pound Ahman Green. Acquire Driver and start him if you can live with 60-70 yards receiving.

Robert Ferguson, WR, Packers
Upcoming Opponents: @OAK, DEN
The Free Agent Forecast suggested readers acquire Ferguson last week for their playoff run. The third-year receiver delivered, catching two touchdowns and gaining 56 yards. The Packers face an average Oakland Raiders defense next week, so like Driver, Ferguson can again be used as a number three or number four wideout.

Jerome Pathon, WR, Saints
Upcoming Opponents: @JAC, DAL
The word out of New Orleans is that Joe Horn might be suspended for a game as a result of his outlandish touchdown celebration this weekend. In the event that Horn is suspended, Jerome Pathon would likely step in as quarterback Aaron Brooks’ primary passing target. If you rely on Horn, Pathon could be a solid option. He had three receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Giants.

Onterrio Smith, RB, Vikings
Upcoming Opponents: KC, @ARZ
With Michael Bennett sidelined due to an ankle injury, rookie Onterrio Smith carried the bulk of the load Sunday. All he did was rack up 148 yards on 27 carries. This week the Vikings face the Chiefs, a team that gives up 145.5 rushing yards per game. Monitor the updates on Bennett this week. If he can’t play, Onterrio Smith is certainly worth starting against Kansas City.

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers
Upcoming Opponents: @PIT, OAK
Gates has had two solid fantasy performances in his last three games, including a five-catch 117-yard effort Sunday against the Packers. Quarterback Drew Brees honed in on Gates all game, throwing his way 11 times. With David Boston feeling the effects off a shoulder injury, Gates could once again be a key player in San Diego’s offense this week.

One Week Wonders

Brandon Stokley, WR, Colts
Upcoming Opponents: DEN, @HOU
In a huge performance, Stokley caught seven passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. While impressive, there’s no way you can count on Stokley in a championship or playoff game with so many targets in the Colts passing game.

Derrick Blaylock, RB, Chiefs
Upcoming Opponents: @MIN, CHI
Backup running back Derrick Blaylock racked up more than 100 yards of total offense against the Lions. He can’t be relied on for a repeat performance this week against the Vikings.