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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 1
Paul Sandy
September 6, 2005

Some leagues do not allow roster transactions until after Week 1. Others open the free agent market immediately following the draft. In either case, it pays to know who’s available. Here are a handful of players that have value today or could emerge as soon as this week. Make a push to acquire them now or, at the very least, monitor their performances this weekend.

QUARTERBACKS

1. Joey Harrington, Lions

With Jeff Garcia (leg) expected to miss the first half of season and no veteran depth on the bench, Joey Harrington suddenly is no longer on the hot seat. Despite a mostly disappointing first three years in the league, there is hope for the former Oregon Duck. By all accounts, the Lions have their strongest offensive team since Harrington has been with the club. Also, Harrington is entering his fourth year in the league. He’s adjusted to the speed of the game. He understands the offensive system. Plus, after a similar up-and-down start to his career, Drew Brees finally figured things out last year – his fourth season. Could Harrington follow in Brees’ footsteps? A match-up this week against the depleted Packers secondary will certainly get him started in the right direction.

2. J.P. Losman, Bills

Many football fans were surprised this offseason when the Bills cut Drew Bledsoe. The general feeling was that J.P. Losman was too raw to be thrust into a starting role. While Losman will make his share of mistakes, he may become a factor in fantasy football sooner than some owners think. Losman’s mobility and tendency to scramble should add some rushing yardage that will boost his fantasy production. Plus, with wideouts Lee Evans and Eric Moulds, and running back Willis McGahee, Losman has plenty of talent surrounding him. He could be a popular free agent acquisition as early as next week. On Sunday, he’ll square off against a Texans defense that gave up 32 passing touchdowns last season, an average of two per game.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Willie Parker, Steelers

If your league drafted before August 26, Willie Parker’s name probably wasn’t called. But with Jerome Bettis (calf) and Duce Staley (knee) sidelined, Parker will get the starting nod this week. Some leagues allow roster moves before the season starts. If yours falls into that category and Parker is still available, consider clearing a spot for him. If transactions aren’t allowed until next week, keep a close eye on Parker’s productivity this week against the Titans. The Steelers led the AFC in rushing last season, and that makes Parker and instant factor in fantasy football. He could turn out to be the top free agent acquisition of 2005. Get him now before it’s too late.

2. William Green, Browns

The regular season hasn’t even started yet and Lee Suggs has already suffered his first injury. Suggs went down with a high ankle sprain a couple weeks ago. It doesn’t bode well for the third-year running back because this type of injury can linger for six weeks. The Browns have two viable ball carriers still in the stable: Reuben Droughns and William Green. Of the two, Green is most likely on your league’s free agent list. Although he has a troubled past, Green also has a new head coach this season and, therefore, a clean slate. The Browns will likely list Droughns as their starter this week, but it’s going to be a committee situation until someone separates himself or Suggs returns to action. Green is definitely worth a spot on the end of your bench until the situation clears up.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Kevin Curtis, Rams

Every season, a handful of unsung wide receivers emerge as viable fantasy starters. My top sleeper wideout entering 2005 is Kevin Curtis. While teammates Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce have been the mainstays of the St. Louis offensive juggernaut, Curtis is poised to become the next great Rams receiver. Head coach Mike Martz suggested this preseason that Curtis is in the same class as Bruce and Holt. "I think he's on a par … I really do,” said Martz. “I think those three are very comparable receivers. I think right now, he's at that level." Curtis led all receivers this preseason with three touchdowns and ranked near the top in receptions and yardage. With early games against San Francisco and Tennessee, I anticipate Curtis will get off to a fast start. Get him now while the getting’s good.

2. Michael Jenkins, Falcons

When the axe fell on Peerless Price, all eyes turned to second-year wideout Michael Jenkins. Jenkins had himself a decent preseason, snagging two touchdowns in one game. He would be an even more promising fantasy receiver were it not for issues at the quarterback position. Michael Vick has been painfully slow to pick up with west coast offense. He will need to leverage his receivers much more this season if Jenkins is to emerge as a decent fantasy player. It’s worth noting that Jenkins hails from Ohio State, a school known for producing wideouts who produce big numbers early in their careers—Terry Glenn, Joey Galloway, and David Boston to name a few.

TIGHT ENDS

Marcus Pollard, Lions

When you think of Detroit pass catchers, guys like Roy Williams and Charles Rodgers come to mind. However, don’t overlook Marcus Pollard. The former Indianapolis Colt could prove to be Motown’s key free agent acquisition. Pollard dropped below 40 receptions for the first time in a few seasons last year, but still managed six touchdowns. That’s solid for a tight end. He should get into the action this week against the Packers, who figure to have one of the league’s worst defenses. If you can spare a roster spot for a backup tight end, consider jumping on Pollard before the rush.