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Free Agent Forecast - Week 17
By Paul Sandy
December 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

Quentin Griffin, RB, Broncos
Upcoming Opponents: @GB
Griffin led all Denver running backs with 136 yards rushing Sunday against the Colts. With starter Clinton Portis still ailing from knee and ankle injuries, Griffin will likely once again see the bulk of the carries this week. The Packers field an above-average run defense, but Denver’s offensive line is playing with authority. Acquire Griffin and start him for your championship.

Drew Bennett, WR, Titans
Upcoming Opponents: TAM
There are two reasons to make Drew Bennett your top wide receiver acquisition this week: 1) he had a great game Sunday, catching five passes for 84 yards and a touchdown; 2) starting wideout Derrick Mason suffered a cracked rib against the Texans. While Mason will likely be fit enough to play, the Titans may not want to risk further injury to their star wideout, especially with the playoffs so near. Acquire Bennett and use him this week against the floundering Buccaneers.

Jerome Pathon, WR, Saints
Upcoming Opponents: DAL
Karma came back and bit Joe Horn in the you know what. After his highly-criticized cell phone celebration, Horn returned to the field this week only to suffer a season-ending shoulder injury. In his place, veteran Jerome Pathon put together some nice statistics – four receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. Pathon should continue to see plenty of looks this week against the Cowboys.

Derrick Blaylock, RB, Chiefs
Upcoming Opponents: CHI
By the time their game kicks off Sunday afternoon, Kansas City’s playoff fate may very well already been decided. If New England wins Saturday, the Chiefs will have no chance of earning a better playoff seed. Likewise, they can’t drop down a spot either. Therefore, there’s a very good chance that the team will rest its MVP Priest Holmes. Blaylock brings a lofty 4.9 yards per carry average to the table. Acquire the second-year back now and consider using him Sunday if the stars align for him to see the bulk of Kansas City’s carries.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, 49ers
Upcoming Opponents: SEA
With Terrell Owens out for the season and their playoff dreams shattered, the 49ers will take a good, long, hard look at rookie wide receiver Brandon Lloyd this week. Lloyd is the heir apparent to Owens, who has likely played his last game in San Francisco. He has been praised for his leaping ability and was seen Sunday elevating over defenders and grabbing a 33-yard touchdown reception. While there’s certainly some risk involved in starting Lloyd this week, he should match up well against the Seahawks. Start him if you need a number three or four receiver.

Ashley Lelie, WR, Broncos
Upcoming Opponents: @GB
Quentin Griffin isn’t the only Broncos player who as seen a boost in production since the injury to Clinton Portis. Receiver Ashley Lelie, who has been a colossal fantasy bust in 2003, had a breakout game Sunday. He caught everything that was thrown his way, five passes for 115 yards. He has now posted two solid games in a row. It’s worth noting that he suffered a shoulder sprain Sunday. However, if he plays, don’t be afraid to acquire Lelie and use him as a third wide receiver this week against the Packers.

Todd Pinkston, WR, Eagles
Upcoming Opponents: @WAS
Like Lelie, Pinkston has re-emerged as a serviceable receiver late in the season. Pinkston posted 78 yards receiving in Week 15 and followed it up with 115 yard and a touchdown Sunday. This week the Eagles face a Washington defense that, despite having some big-play cornerbacks, is merely average. Pick up Pinkston and start him if you’re desperate for a number three or number four receiver.

One Week Wonders

Corey Bradford, WR, Texans
Upcoming Opponents: IND
It’s kind of an oxymoron to list a player three or four times in the One Week Wonder category, but here I am advising owners to stay away from Bradford again. He caught a touchdown Sunday, but isn’t a good bet to see the endzone again this season.

Kassim Osgood, WR, Chargers
Upcoming Opponents: OAK
This rookie may have a very bright future in the NFL. But despite his 102-yard, one-touchdown performance Sunday, he remains too risky a play at this point.