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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 2
Paul Sandy
September 13, 2005

QUARTERBACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: None

1. Drew Bledsoe, Cowboys

In Drew Bledsoe’s best season under Bill Parcells (while the two were together in New England), Bledsoe threw for 25 touchdowns and 4,555 yards. Expecting Bledsoe to duplicate that effort would be asking a lot, but his Week 1 effort was a good step in the right direction. Bledsoe tossed three touchdowns and racked up 226 yards. With Julius Jones toting the rock, I don’t expect Bledsoe to provide those kinds of numbers week in week out. However, if you’re fantasy team is using a quarterback by committee approach, you could do worse than having the former Patriots and Bills QB on your bench. Next opponent: vs. Washington Redskins.

2. Gus Frerotte, Dolphins

Frerotte was one of my preseason sleepers. Entering the season, I thought he had a good group of wide receivers, a favorable offensive system, and an energetic new coach. In Week 1, Frerotte settled into the starting role nicely. He passed for 275 yards and two touchdowns. What’s most impressive about Miami’s win is that their offensive line didn’t surrender a single sack. If the offensive line can keep the pressure off Frerotte, he has the weapons to put up some solid fantasy numbers. Consider him the dark horse to be this year’s Drew Brees. Next opponent: @ New York Jets.

One Week Wonders: Byron Leftwich

RUNNING BACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Stephen Davis, Willie Parker

1. Brandon Jacobs, Giants

While Cadillac Williams was the weekend’s top rookie running back, New York’s hard-nosed freshman Brandon Jacobs also had a fine debut. Jacobs carried the ball just six times but managed 39 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown. The 256-lb. behemoth was less-touted this preseason than guys like Williams, Cedrick Benson, and Ronnie Brown, but he may merit a roster spot. Jacobs figures to be the Giants goal-line specialist and get some spot duty in relief of starter Tiki Barber. It’s worth noting that 10 of Barber’s 15 touchdowns last year came from within 10 yards. If Jacobs can vulture those scores, he could have similar value to that of Jerome Bettis in 2004. Next opponent: @ New Orleans Saints (in New Jersey).

2. Moe Williams, Vikings

After endless speculation about whether Michael Bennett or Mewelde Moore would earn the starting job, Mike Tice threw the entire fantasy world for a loop and he started Moe Williams. As it turned out the Vikings offense was anemic and Williams only managed 47 all-purpose yards. Still, Williams is floating around on most waiver wires and is an intriguing pickup. Bennett was a supreme disappointment during the preseason and finished Sunday’s contest with negative rushing yardage. For whatever reason, Moore has never managed to get out of Mike Tice’s doghouse. And both players can’t seem to stay healthy. These factors leave Williams as a serious contender for touches. At the very least, he will be the team’s pass-catching and goal line RB. Next opponent: @ Cincinnati Bengals.

3. Ron Dayne, Broncos

Dayne has been the punch-line of many fantasy football jokes since he was drafted in the first round by the Giants and failed to live up to lofty expectations. Before this season is over the former Heisman trophy winner could have the last laugh. The Broncos were thoroughly embarrassed by the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell posted a combined 52 yards rushing. Anderson left the game with a chest injury and fantasy darling Bell didn’t exactly enamor himself to head coach Mike Shanahan. He fumbled once and had four carries inside the 5-yard line and didn't score. If there’s one thing fantasy owners know about Shanahan it’s that he isn’t afraid to make a change at the running back position. By the end of the season, Dayne will get his shot. In fact, it could come as soon as this week should Anderson not be able to go. Next opponent: vs. San Diego Chargers.

One Week Wonders: None

WIDE RECEIVERS

Obvious Acquisitions: Keenan McCardell, Santana Moss, and Bobby Engram

1. Marty Booker, Dolphins

The outlook for the Dolphins entering this season was pretty bleak. A new coach. A journeyman quarterback. A doobie rolling running back. But things can change just that quickly in the NFL. The Dolphins look confident and moved the ball well through the air against a solid Denver Broncos secondary. Former Chicago Bears receiver Marty Booker led all Miami receivers with 104 yards and a touchdown. Booker is just 29 years old and is only four years removed from a 100-catch Pro Bowl season. If he’s lingering on your waiver wire, consider adding him as a #4 WR with the potential to become a frequent contributor to your starting lineup. Next opponent: @ New York Jets.

2. Michael Jenkins, Falcons

Maybe Michael Vick was tired of hearing about how inaccurate a passer he is. Perhaps he was sick of listening to the criticism about underutilizing his wide receivers. Whatever the case, Vick seemed committed to improving his passing performance last night. The key beneficiary was second-year WR Michael Jenkins, who was recommended by the Forecast last week. Jenkins was the recipient of a picture perfect 58-yard bomb that nearly went for a touchdown. He ended the night with 80 yards and can be trusted as a starter as soon as next week against a soft Seahawks defense. Next opponent: @ Seattle Seahawks.

3. Robert Ferguson, Packers

Green Bay Pro Bowl wideout Javon Walker tore up his knee on the turf of Ford Field on Sunday. Walker will miss the remainder of the 2005 season. Enter Robert Ferguson. The former second round pick has been angling the last few seasons for a larger role in the offense for the past few seasons. Unfortunately, he has never seemed to really earn the trust of QB Brett Favre. Many will consider Ferguson the “must-have” free agent WR this week. I suggest owners proceed with caution. He’s only had one career 100-yard game and couldn’t beat out guys like Terry Glenn and Bill Schroeder earlier in his career. Pick him up if you can spare a spot for a player with upside. Just don’t expect him to replace Walker as your every-week starter. In deeper leagues, consider adding Packer rookie WR Terrance Murphy as a sleeper who could overtake Ferguson as a starter by mid-season.

4. Arnaz Battle, 49ers

Battle didn’t lead the 49ers in receiving yardage. That honor went to Brandon Lloyd, who also deserves consideration for a roster spot. However, Battle was Mr. Versatility. He caught five passes, threw two passes, and even had one rushing attempt. All told, Battle ended the day with five receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown plus two pass completions for 27 yards. Needless to say, new head coach Mike Nolan appears to be a big proponent of gadget plays, and Battle is the focus of Nolan’s trickery. While I wouldn’t trust Battle in my starting lineup at this point, the fact that he can score points in so many different ways is attractive. If you’re a believer in the third-year wide receiver theory, Battle deserves extra consideration. Acquire him now and give it a few weeks to see how Battle’s role in the offense evolves. Next opponent: @ Philadelphia Eagles.

One Week Wonders: Frisman Jackson

TIGHT ENDS

Obvious Acquisitions: Jermaine Wiggins

1. Chris Baker, Jets

The Jets brought in Doug Jolley to be their starting tight end, but Chris Baker must’ve missed the memo. Baker beat out Jolley during the preseason and opened the season with a huge game. He caught seven passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. Baker is in his fourth year with the team and is comfortable with QB Chad Pennington. Judging by the dropped passes from the Jets receivers in Week 1, Baker might be Pennington’s most reliable target. A match-up this week against the Dolphins, who gave up 75 receiving yards to the Broncos' tight ends on Sunday, looks solid. If your tight end let you down last week, Baker could be worth a shot. Next opponent: vs. Miami Dolphins.

2. Marcus Pollard, Lions

Pollard was listed here last week as a sleeper. While he didn’t put up the stats of other TEs like Courtney Anderson and Alex Smith, Pollard might have more long-term potential. Why? First, Pollard is proven. He’s in his 11th year in the NFL and recently strung together three seasons with 40+ receptions. Second, Pollard, not Roy Williams or Charles Rodgers, is QB Joey Harrington’s favorite target at this point. Harrington hooked up with Pollard five times for 58 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Better still, those receptions came all over the field, not just in the red zone like some of the other free agents who had good games. Next opponent: @ Chicago Bears.

One Week Wonders: Alex Smith and Courtney Anderson