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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 7
Paul Sandy
October 18, 2005

QUARTERBACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Mark Brunell and Jake Plummer

1. Aaron Brooks, Saints

It’s perhaps a bit unexpected to see Brooks listed on a free agent list, but after two straight games with zero touchdowns and fewer than 175 yards passing, many owners gave up on the Saints QB. He’s available in nearly 30 percent of leagues on a popular Internet hosting site. It turns out people gave up on him a week too soon. Brooks put up 259 yards and two scores against a respectable Falcons defense. This week Brooks and the Saints should see continued success when they face the Rams. Next opponent: @ St. Louis.

2. Kelly Holcomb, Bills

Holcomb hasn’t been flashy in his first two starts with the Bills, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t worthy of a roster spot. Since taking over for J.P. Losman, Holcomb has put up three touchdowns in two games. While the yardage is less than stellar, I expect it to start increasing as the Bills coaching staff becomes more comfortable and confident with their QB. Upcoming games against the Raiders, Patriots, and Chiefs will also help. If you have a reliable, every-week starter at QB and just need a decent backup or fill-in, give Holcomb a look. Next opponent: @ Oakland.

One Week Wonders: Chris Weinke

RUNNING BACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Antowain Smith and Michael Pittman

1. Aaron Stecker, Saints

Last week when it was announced that Deuce McAllister would miss the season with a knee injury, Antowain Smith was the hot acquisition. Smith had a solid game and scored two touchdowns. But don’t overlook the contribution of Aaron Stecker, who actually had more carries than Smith. Stecker put up 86 yards on 16 rushes. If he went through last week untouched in your league, consider opening up a roster spot for Stecker. He will most likely be a major factor in the Saints gameplan for the rest of the season. Next opponent: @ St. Louis.

2. Tony Fisher, Packers

Fisher was listed here a couple weeks ago, but he was on a bye last week and may not have been snatched up. If he’s available, he’s probably worth a roster slot. To refresh your memory, Najeh Davenport broke his ankle while filling in for the injured Ahman Green. Davenport will miss the rest of the season. While Green is expected to return to action this week, he has been struggling and the Packers like to give their backup around 8-10 carries per game. Add those touches to Fisher’s normal third-down receptions and he could provide nice production (especially this week against the stumbling Vikings). Next opponent: @ Minnesota.

3. Patrick Pass, Patriots

Were he not on a bye this week, Pass would be the top recommended running back. Since being touted here a couple weeks ago, Pass has surpassed all expectations. With Corey Dillon sidelined due to an ankle injury on Sunday, Pass put up 153 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. This follows a 40-yard, 1-touchdown game in Week 5. Even when Dillon returns, Pass will continue to make a solid bye week or injury stop gap. Next opponent: Bye.

4. Maurice Morris, Seahawks

Despite being the backup to a healthy Shaun Alexander, Maurice Morris finished with the eighth most rushing yards in the NFL this week. He scorched the Texans defense for 104 yards on just eight carries. Morris is a good insurance policy if you’re an Alexander owner, but he has value for other owners, as well. In particular, he is a great player to have on your roster if you’re in a keeper or dynansty league. Alexander will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of year. If he isn’t signed to a new contract, Morris would likely become the starter on one of the better offenses in the NFL. Next opponent: versus Dallas.

One Week Wonders: Greg Jones and Earnest Graham

WIDE RECEIVERS

Obvious Acquisitions: Kevin Curtis

1. Doug Gabriel, Raiders

His uniform is silver and black, but Oakland receiver Randy Moss came out of Sunday’s game against the Chargers black and blue. Moss sustained bruised ribs, a strained groin, and a bone bruise. With this mix of injuries, the probability that Moss will play next week doesn’t seem great. If he misses time, Doug Gabriel figures to see a spike in production. Gabriel led all Raiders receivers with five receptions for 84 yards against San Diego. If you’re desperate for WR help, Gabriel deserves consideration this week—even against the top ranked Bills passing defense. Next opponent: versus Bills.

2. Az-Zahir Hakim, Saints

Joe Horn aggravated his hamstring injury on Sunday. If he continues to miss games, Az-Zahir Hakim will likely continue to put up respectable numbers. Hakim has led the Saints in receiving each of the last two weeks with 108 and 85 yards respectively. A game this week against his former team, the Rams, provides another opportunity for Hakim to make a fantasy impact. The last three meetings between New Orleans and St. Louis have seen 53+ total points scored. Monitor Horn’s status. If he can’t go, Hakim will make a solid plug and play option. Next opponent: @ St. Louis.

3. Jabar Gaffney, Texans

Another player who’s seen his stock rise because his team’s top receiver is hurt, Jabar Gaffney has become a major factor in the Houston passing attack. Gaffney had 10 receptions for 87 yards on Sunday with Andre Johnson sidelined. A couple games ago he had 88 yards receiving. Not a lot of things are going right for the Texans right now, but landing a #1 receiver at this point in the season—especially one who can catch 10 passes in a game—might be too good to pass up. Gaffney deserves a roster spot as long as Johnson is out. Next opponent: versus Indianapolis.

4. Brandon Jones, Titans

Tennessee’s top receiver Drew Bennett broke his thumb and is expected to miss some time. In fact, he’s already been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. While Jeff Fisher’s wideouts haven’t put up huge numbers through the air, Brandon Jones has plenty of upside. The rookie from Oklahoma beat out veteran Tyrone Calico for a spot in the starting lineup. On Sunday, he caught five passes for 82 yards. As Jones continues to build a rapport with QB Steve McNair, his value could steadily climb. Next opponent: @ Arizona.

5. Justin McCareins, Jets

After Chad Pennington re-injured his rotator cuff, the value of receivers Laveranues Coles and Justin McCareins plummeted. But the insertion of Vinny Testaverde into the offense has given a boost to the Jets passing attack. Two weeks ago, Coles caught six passes for 89 yards. On Sunday, it was McCareins who was the primary target. He hauled in five passes for 116 yards. While Coles is already on a roster in most leagues, McCareins is probably available. Next opponent: @ Atlanta.

One Week Wonders: Wes Welker and Kevin Walter

TIGHT ENDS

Obvious Acquisitions: Todd Heap and Jermaine Wiggins

1. Heath Miller, Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers attempt fewer passes per game than any team in the NFL (22.8). There just aren’t a lot of balls to go around. With that in mind, it’s pretty amazing what rookie TE Heath Miller has been able to do with so few looks. Miller has three touchdowns in five games this season. While he wasn’t catching many passes at the beginning of the year, he has come on of late. Miller has four catches in each of the last two weeks. To what can his touchdown productivity be attributed? The offseason departure of Plaxico Burress has left the Steelers short in the wide receiver position … literally. Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El, and Cedrick Wilson are very smurf-like. All are six feet or shorter. On the other hand, at 6-5, 256-lbs., Miller is a great red zone target. If he’s still available in your league, take a look at his stats and consider adding him to your team. Next opponent: @ Cincinnati.

One Week Wonder: Justin Peele

TEAM DEFENSE

Obvious Acquisitions: None

1. Green Bay Packers

After their much-publicized boat excursion and a shellacking at the hands of the Chicago Bears, the Minnesota Vikings are completely shell-shocked. Daunte Culpepper is in an incredible funk; to date, he’s thrown 12 interceptions and lost three fumbles. The team’s stagnant offense has scored fewer than 10 points in four out of five games this season. While the Packers were predicted to have one of the worst defenses entering the season, they haven’t been nearly as bad as forecasted. In fact, Green Bay allows fewer than 20 points per game—top 15 in the NFL. They’re coming off a momentum-building 52-3 performance against the Saints and have had a bye week to prepare for their division rival. More offensive woes are in Minnesota’s future. Next opponent: @ Minnesota.

One Week Wonders: None