The hardest fantasy players to gauge are the ones who have changed teams and have no previous track record that you can pretend will repeat in 2008. While this season did not hold any Randy Moss or Terrell Owens changing addresses, there still have been many receivers jumping ship that fantasy owners can benefit from drafting. And of course, there’s even more you’ll want to avoid.
Bryant Johnson, San Francisco 49ers – After five years of not being Anquan Boldin in Arizona, Johnson makes what should be a very positive move by joining the 49ers in their first season installing a Mike Martz offense. Johnson is already anointed as the starting split end and has an outstanding chance to surpass his career best 49 catches in a season. His main limitation will be the quality of his quarterback. Johnson is going a bit high this summer from optimistic fans of Mike Martz.
Keary Colbert, Denver Broncos – After four seasons in Carolina where he never caught on as Steve Smith’s sidekick, Colbert moves to Denver where he’ll get young gun Jay Cutler as his quarterback and amazingly, head coach Mike Shanahan has already projected him as a starter. Colbert never had more than 32 catches per season over the last three years and he gets an excellent chance to remake himself. The Broncos brought in a lot of receiver help and Shanahan has liked Colbert the most. Colbert is falling in every draft because it is just so hard to believe.
Ernest Wilford, Miami Dolphins – Another wideout moving on after his rookie contract expired, Wilford heads to Miami where he finds himself the starting flanker. While the rebuilding offense will be predicated on establishing the run, Wilford leaves Jacksonville where he never had more than 45 catches in a season and should become the lead receiver for the Dolphins. Bill Parcells loves a possession wideout who likes to block. Wilford comes cheaply and should be rock solid with catches each week even if he never has a truly big game.
Jerry Porter, Jacksonville Jaguars – After nine years in Oakland, Porter heads to the Jaguars with a six-year, $30 million contract. That’s a lot of dough for a player with nary a 1000 yard season during his eight years in the league. But that is plenty of money to assure he gets to be the #1 wideout for David Garrard. That is at least when his torn hamstring heals which could be by the start of the season. If you take Porter, expect some rust for the first few weeks of the season.
D.J. Hackett, Carolina Panthers – After four years in Seattle, Hackett once again reprises the slot receiver role in Carolina that he has held for much of his career. But this time he’ll have Steve Smith to terrify the secondary and the returning Muhsin Muhammad is playing out his career back where he will primarily be a blocker. Hackett could see more success in this offense than the west coast scheme in Seattle could offer.
Justin McCareins, Tennessee Titans – After spending four years with the Jets, McCareins comes back to the Titans as has Offensive Coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. The last time these two were together, McCareins had a career best 799 yards and seven touchdowns. But Steve McNair is gone and Vince Young has never thrown more than 12 touchdowns in season. On the plus side, he knows the offense and the Titans are light on wideout talent anyway.
No Better, Probably Worse
Javon Walker, Oakland Raiders – Walker had a big year in Green Bay followed by a season lost to injury and ended up in Denver. There he had a big year which was followed by a season lost to injury and he landed in Oakland. He signed an amazing six-year contract for $55 million but then was mugged in Vegas. He remains a #1 wideout again, but he’s traded Brett Favre for Jay Cutler for first-year starter JaMarcus Russell. His situation only gets worse.
Bernard Berrian, Minnesota Vikings - Changing teams within the division is unusual but Berrian bounces between two of the worst passing attacks in the NFL. Berrian still produced five touchdowns on 71 catches for 951 yards last year and should maintain that level in Minnesota if only because there are so few other receivers of note there. The reality is that Berrian only gets work once that dominating rushing game is finished and that'll be a big difference from playing in Chicago.
Donte Stallworth, Cleveland Browns – After leaving the Saints for the Eagles in 2005, Stallworth played with Donovan McNabb but only gained 725 yards and three scores and missed four games. Last year, Stallworth played all 16 games in the most prolific passing offense in NFL history but only had 697 yards and three touchdowns. Back on the road again, his third new team in the last three years already has Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow so Stallworth once again gets to witness big fantasy points happening around him.
Muhsin Muhammad, Carolina Panthers – The Bears pretended that Muhammad was a #1 wideout for three years but he’s back in Carolina to wrap up his career. Already 36 years of age and among the oldest wideouts in the NFL, Muhammad is still valued for his blocking skills and can add a bit of possession catches when needed. Steve Smith and even D.J. Hackett will see more action than the old man.
Marty Booker, Chicago Bears – Like Muhammad, Booker returns to his original team after four mediocre seasons in Miami. He is assured a starting spot because the Bears allowed Muhammad and Bernard Berrian to leave in the offseason and only he was signed to replace them. The Bears have one of the easiest passing schedules in the NFL and that is a positive. But there’s a quarterback competition going on and at the age of 32 on a bad offense, there’s no reason to expect any improvement from Booker.
Darrell Jackson, Denver Broncos – A few years ago this would have been cause for fantasy notice since Jackson was cranking out the 1000 yard season in Seattle but the fanfare has definitely died down. Jackson has been a injury problem for the last three seasons and his knees are not improving with age. This could be a great situation for the 30-year old receiver to renew his career but health concerns have really decreased his value.
Isaac Bruce, San Francisco 49ers – When Mike Martz became the 49ers offensive coordinator, he noticed the absence of wideout talent and brought over Bruce. At the age of 36, this is the last stop for the ex-Rams star and likely his final season. He’s mainly there to mentor the receivers in the complicated Martz scheme and help the coaching staff determine if there actually is a quarterback on the roster.
It usually takes a season for a player to learn a new offense and mesh with his quarterback but there’s often hidden fantasy value when a player moves to an improved situation or is assuming a starting role with his new team. But for all those ex-stars winding down their career, their new team is buying leadership and wisdom but rarely better statistics.