Chris Wesseling

Offseason Low Down

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Team Notes: NFC South, West

Friday, April 08, 2011


NFC South

Buccaneers: Backup QB Josh Johnson has been the subject of trade rumors that would reunite him with college coach Jim Harbaugh as the 49ers' stopgap starter. Thus far, the rumors have been comprised of little more than obvious dot connecting. … Josh Freeman earned a 2.2 "bad decision rate" in ESPN's K.C. Joyner's metrics, a sign that he's made excellent progress in reading NFL defenses. … LeGarrette Blount topped Pro Football Focus' "Elusive Rating" for running backs in 2010, leading the NFL in forced missed tackles. Blount's current 2.12 ADP is high for a player with no role in the passing game. … The Bucs are expected to re-sign Cadillac Williams rather than bringing in Tiki Barber as Blount's passing-down complement. … Still limping more than four months removed from major reconstructive surgery, Kareem Huggins' NFL future is now in doubt.

Arrelious Benn is "way ahead of schedule" in his recovery from a December torn ACL. While he should be ready for the start of training camp, Benn isn't draftable in standard-sized leagues. … Keep an eye on second-year WR Dez Briscoe as a potential depth-chart climber after posting a 4/65/1 line in the season finale. … Aqib Talib could see extended prison time after allegedly shooting at his sister's boyfriend in March. The Bucs are expected to seriously consider releasing the troubled shutdown corner once the lockout ends.

Falcons: Backup RB Jason Snelling was extended a second-round tender as a four-year veteran. Even if his free agency ends up unrestricted, he's not a good bet to land a starting job on the open market. … The Falcons are expected to move on from injury-prone five-year vet Jerious Norwood. … Wide receiver and tight end will be early-round priorities in this month's draft. With Tony Gonzalez in a steep decline, the Falcons desperately need a second playmaker to pair with Roddy White. Slot receiver Harry Douglas isn't the answer. … Jack-of-all-trades Kerry Meier, considered Brian Finneran's successor, is ahead of schedule in his return from last summer's ACL tear. He won't be a fantasy factor in 2011.

Panther: Auburn's Cam Newton is the current favorite to go to Carolina as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Coach Ron Rivera doesn't consider Jimmy Clausen the incumbent starter, and GM Marty Hurney is reportedly the only member of the front office or coaching staff still maintaining faith in last year's second-rounder. … DeAngelo Williams, a five-year veteran, was tendered at the first- and third-round level. If he ends up on the open market as the top back available, it's hard to believe the Panthers will compete with other offers. We see the Dolphins and Redskins as his most likely suitors. … In nine starts with Williams sidelined the past two seasons, Jonathan Stewart has averaged 111.3 yards on 19.8 carries (5.6 yards per attempt). Provided he stays healthy, Stewart would boast top-10 fantasy potential as a feature back. Mike Goodson would likely take over as the passing-down specialist in that scenario.

Unhappy with his quarterback situation, Steve Smith asked owner Jerry Richardson for a trade early last season. New coach Ron Rivera suggested that wish could be granted this offseason, but the lockout complicates matters. With a legit QB, Smith would regain WR1 potential. … Rivera wants new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to use Armanti Edwards like he used Josh Cribbs in Cleveland a few years ago. Still plenty raw, Edwards won't have fantasy value in 2011. … Jeremy Shockey was brought in as a key piece in Chud's tight-end friendly offense, though we'd advise steering clear considering the Panthers' QB woes.

Saints: Coach Sean Payton confirmed that Drew Brees played much of the 2010 season with a "low grade" MCL injury. Brees is expected to negotiate a long-term contract once the CBA is finalized, though he's not likely to sign until Peyton Manning sets the market. … Pierre Thomas is expected to be ready for training camp after undergoing an extensive arthroscopic procedure on his ankle. Armed with a new four-year contract, Thomas is a good bet to return to the lead-back role in 2011. His fantasy upside is capped by the presence of power back Chris Ivory, who is making impressive progress in his rehab from Lisfranc surgery. … Reggie Bush is expected to restructure his contract to stay in New Orleans as an offensive role player. He'll be over-drafted in fantasy leagues yet again.

Marques Colston underwent post-season scopes on his knee and his wrist, his fifth and sixth known surgeries since March of 2008. With five knee surgeries under his belt, Colston's Dynasty league outlook is shakier than the typical WR1. … Robert Meachem underwent an ankle procedure of his own, his third surgery in three years as a pro. He's entering a contract year in 2011. … Five-year vet Lance Moore drew a second-round tender, but could end up on the open market pending free agent rules. Reports out of New Orleans suggest Brees will pressure the team to bring Moore back. … Coach Sean Payton confirmed that freakishly talented TE Jimmy Graham's late-season emergence led directly to Jeremy Shockey's release. There's not a better breakout candidate at the position this year.


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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