Fantasy Clicks: The Buc Runs Here
Earnest Graham: AP
Few teams made as many offseason changes in the NFL than the Bucs. Chucky's gone and was replaced by new head coach Raheem Morris. Wide receivers Joe Galloway and Ike Hilliard also were let go, while TE Kellen Winslow, Jr. and RB Derrick Ward were brought into the fold.
Ward joining Earnest Graham in the backfield, with a zone-blocking system installed by new OC Jeff Jagodzinski, leads to the most intriguing situation in fantasy terms. Jagodzinski was quoted in the St. Petersburg Times recently saying that he believes the Bucs' rushing game will take off this year.
"We will be a successful team running the ball -- I promise you that," said Jagodzinski, " That's one of my strong suits, my knowledge of the running game."
Since the Bucs usually were, at best, average at rushing the ball each season, it's good news for the backs that their OC expects to build a power running game. The catch, though, is exactly how Ward and Graham will split the backfield touches.
Technically, either could handle a full load or they could be in a fantasy-kryptonite committee. In points-per-reception leagues, I'll be very interested in Ward, because even if he doesn't get the bulk of carries, he's going to catch a lot of passes out of the backfield. That'll give him some value, regardless, and huge value if he gets most of the carries.
The real value, though, will come down to who gets the goal-line touches. Both are slammers, capable of handling the job. However, I fear that Ward might see three-down duties, while Graham slips in at the goal line to steal the glory, sapping both backs of their max fantasy value. Regardless, barring an injury, both backs are going to see a lot of game action.
Yao Ming has decided to undergo surgeries on his ailing left foot. One procedure will use a bone graft to help repair the hairline fracture, and the other will realign the bones in his foot in an attempt to reduce stress on the area that has repeatedly fractured.
The good news is that Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a similar procedure done in 2001, when his career was in jeopardy, and he's been fine and sturdy since.
The bad news comes on many levels. First, you can all but count him out for this entire season. The NBA already gave the Rockets a disabled-player roster exception, so the writing is on the wall. Plus, you can expect the club to baby their superstar with the hope that he'll recover and fill seats for the long term, so they should want him to take a full year and get as healthy as possible before hitting the hardwood again.
The bigger bad news is that even if he does manage to return to action, he may never be as good as he was before the procedure. Good centers are hard to find in fantasy, but he was really the only one who always tossed up 20 points, 10 boards, two blocks and great percentages from the field and the charity stripe.
He'll be 30 at the start of next season, so while I'm holding out hope, I'm assuming we've seen the last of Yao at his fantasy best.
There are some GMs who just seem to know the right players and how to get them. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo is one of these guys. After picking up Hedo Turkoglu and keeping Andrea Bargnani in the fold at a pretty reasonable price (five years, $50 million), he went out and swiped restricted free agent Jarrett Jack away from the Pacers (four years, $16 million).
Regular readers here know that I love Jack's potential as a guy who can do a bit of everything when given the chance. He proved my feelings correct in the second half of last season, when he averaged 37 minutes, 17.3 points, 4.9 assists, 1.1 treys, 1.4 steals and shot 48 percent from the field and 85.6 percent from the line.
Since he's really a point guard who can swing to the off-guard when matchups suit him well, Jack's probably pegged as the backup PG to Jose Calderon. Obviously, his fantasy value won't flourish in that role. But things are unsettled at the two, where rookie DeMar DeRozan, Antoine Wright and forward Turkoglu are the only other options.
Look for Jack to get enough minutes between the two guard spots to give some value in deeper leagues and for Jack to have more upside when he gets hot than most other players of similar value.
Michael Vick: AP
I think I've only done one other Retro Roto about a player who was coming back after a long hiatus, and that was when Michael Jordan came out of retirement to join the Wiz back in '02.
Of course, Vick was released from his government-imposed hiatus yesterday. He hasn't played a game since Dec. 31, 2006, when he completed 8-of-14 passes for 81 yards and a TD. He threw no interceptions in that contest, but he rushed only three times for 17 yards.
Throughout his career, Vick was tantalizing and frustrating at the same time.
Take, for example, Week 12 of his last season when he completed a hideous 9-of-24 passes for 84 yards and no TDs but rushed for 166 yards. In that last season, Vick rushed for more than 1,000 yards, but he averaged just 154.6 yards passing (41st in the NFL).
Assessing his abilities right now is pretty simple: We all know he has amazing physical skills, and at age 29, he should still have a few more years to display them, but his history of poor passing skills (75.7 career QB rating, 6.7 career yards per attempt) is his Achilles heel.
It's hard to believe that a guy who had trouble with accuracy is going to take two seasons (or more) off and suddenly discover that ability now. I'd be more interested in seeing him in the Wildcat set or as a receiver out of the backfield. To be honest, though, I'm probably going to avoid him, unless he ends up in the perfect situation -- though I can't think of a perfect situation in the NFL for Vick right now.