Adam Levitan

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Fallout: Ocho is a Patriot

Friday, July 29, 2011

This week is different than any the NFL has ever seen, or likely will ever see again. It's not just that months of free agency are getting crammed into a tiny window. It's that all the trades teams have had bottled up all summer are going down too. Rookie signings have to be done. Undrafted free agents need to find a home. And, of course, training camps are opening simultaneously. That means we're finding out about injuries we only had hazy details on earlier.

We're three days into this beast and still feeling strong. The Rotoworld News Page isn't going to slow down (ever?) and the Draft Guide is up and running.

Let's quickly dive into the fantasy impact of Thursday's big stories:

There's no doubt that Chad Ochocinco is a clown off the field. But on it, he still projects as a force at age 33. If he didn't, Bill Belichick wouldn't be taking a chance here. Ocho immediately becomes the No. 1 target for Tom Brady on all intermediate routes while Wes Welker pounds the underneath patterns. Deion Branch slides off the fantasy radar.

Meanwhile, the Bengals are going to roll just how we thought they would. Rookie A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson are locked in as the starters, with Jordan Shipley working the slot. If their quarterback wasn't the two-headed monster of Bruce Gradkowski and Andy Dalton, maybe we could get excited.

Editor's Note: For exclusive columns from the Rotoworld Staff, projections, rankings, target reports and much more, get the 2011 Draft Guide!

As if the tight end position needed to get any deeper. Olsen goes from one of the worst situations in the league for a pass-catching tight end to one of the best. Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is a former tight end that is notorious for getting production out of the position. He worked with Antonio Gates in San Diego and we all saw how that has turned out.

Head coach Ron Rivera is also on the record saying he wants to develop his tight ends to be a big part of the passing game, which makes perfect sense when your quarterback is a rookie. Olsen will quickly kick Jeremy Shockey to the curb, become the No. 2 option for Cam Newton and be a viable TE1.

The Dolphins finally decided that they drafted Daniel Thomas for a reason and blowing a wad of cash on Ahmad Bradshaw wasn't worth it. So they turned to Bush as a versatile complement to the rookie. Bush is expecting around 15 touches per game in Miami, but make no mistake here: Thomas is the feature back and will push for 250 carries. Bush's name will still carry more weight than his game, even in PPR circles.

The deal that had been talked about all lockout long finally went down just as expected. The biggest winner is Larry Fitzgerald, who is now a top-5 fantasy receiver with ease. Personally, I would rank him third behind Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson.

As for Kolb, he'll find that putting up numbers outside of the Eagles' explosive offense is harder than it seems. While he was throwing to a multitude of weapons in Philly, he only has Fitzgerald now. Consider Kolb a QB2.

We knew this was coming, but the real news here is that he is reportedly on the verge of a deal with the Eagles to be Michael Vick's backup. From a fantasy perspective, this makes Vick an even safer pick. Vick owners can handcuff Young with their final pick and then if Vick gets hurt, we still have a QB1 in Young. Yes, with VY's skills, legs and weapons, he'd be a QB1 anytime he starts in Philly.

Michael Crabtree is expected to be out at least a month due to a foot injury. He's basically undraftable. ... Steve Smith changed his tune Thursday, saying he wants to be a Panther for life. His upside is capped by rookie quarterback Cam Newton. ... Darren Sproles signed on with the Saints to replace Reggie Bush. He'll be the passing-down back, leaving Pierre Thomas without a role. ... Chris Ivory (foot) is still two weeks away from practicing. Mark Ingram is the early-down man here. ... The Packers paid Ryan Grant his bonus, meaning he's going to be on the team and will likely be the starter. James Starks is headed for a complementary role.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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