Regular season baseball games are about a week away (the Mariners and A's open in Tokyo next Wednesday) but the opening of football free agency has been making big fantasy news as the quarterback carousel continued and everyone awaits Peyton Manning's final decision. With the NFL on the mind we decided to lead off this week with a question about the new home for one of fantasy's most coveted receivers.
(Please send your fantasy football, baseball and basketball questions and comments to me on Twitter @SI_DavidSabino for your chance to have an expanded response each week in this space)
Is Vincent Jackson's value lower or higher after signing with the Bucs?-- John Geneta? (@jageneta)
It's hard to imagine V-Jax's value growing after spending three of the past four seasons as one of the AFC's most productive receivers, playing in a pass-first, Norv Turner-designed offense with one of the game's best passers, Philip Rivers. Jackson thrives downfield, ranking third in yards at the point of reception (a.k.a. Y@C) with 14.6 last season and second only to former teammate Malcom Floyd in Y@C over the past four seasons, averaging 14.4 yards at the spot.
Getting the ball down field accurately, however, was not a strength of Bucs' quarterback Josh Freeman, and it showed as no Bucs receiver averaged more than 8.1 yards at the point of reception. And though Jackson's new head coach, Greg Schiano, is no stranger when it comes to explosive skill-position talents, as he helped develop Kenny Britt and Ray Rice at Rutgers, he's shown a preference to pound the ball on the ground. Still, he hired Kevin Sullivan, Eli Manning's former QB coach, as offensive coordinator. With new QB coach Ron Turner (who signed on as Peyton Manning's QB coach with the Colts last year only to see the job devolve into the nightmare of trying to get Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky ready week in and week out), Sullivan has been tasked with tapping into the vast potential of Josh Freeman. That may take some work after a season that saw Freeman post 16 TDs and 22 interceptions following a sophomore campaign in which he threw 25 touchdown passes and was picked off just six times (Note: The Bucs also signed Orlovsky as Freeman's backup).
Simply put, I don't see Jackson approaching the fantasy numbers he got in San Diego until Freeman takes a big step forward in his development. Until then, V-Jax is not a Top 10 receiver option. On the bright side, his presence could turn around another major disappointment, third-year receiver Mike Williams.
Here are my early rankings of the wideouts with new teams.
Brandon Lloyd, Patriots: Just because Tom Brady barely utilized his non-Welker wideouts doesn't mean he didn't want to. Lloyd is in for a big year after being reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He'll be the downfield threat on the outside that the Pats offense has sorely lacked since the departure of Randy Moss.
Brandon Marshall, Bears: Legal issues and a lack of quality quarterbacking doomed Marshall in Miami. Now he'll be playing catch with Jay Cutler, who hasn't had a receiver of this caliber since ... combining for 104 completions and 1,265 yards with Marshall in 2008 with Denver.
Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers: He'll miss Philip Rivers, but Tampa provides Josh Freeman with the most reliable target he's ever played with.
Robert Meachem, Chargers: Expected to replace V-Jax, he's a tantalizing talent who could never seem to put all of the pieces together to become a fantasy force despite being given every opportunity to succeed in New Orleans. He will likely be off the board way too early in fantasy drafts.
Mario Manningham, 49ers">49ers: The Super Bowl hero moves up a notch or three if Candlestick becomes Peyton's Park. Whoever QBs the Niners will have to endure a lot of poor route-running from Manningham, just like little bro' Eli did for four years.
Laurent Robinson, Jaguars: The journeyman parlayed a few big games and the misfortune of the Cowboys' top receivers into a big money deal in Jacksonville. However, with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne his likely lifelines, don't put much stock in a repeat performance.
Pierre Garçon, Redskins: Take away his best three games against some of the league's worst defensive backfields and Garçon would've been left with 40.5 yards per game and no touchdowns last year. At least Robert Griffin III, even as a rookie, will be better than the lame trio he played with last year in Indy.
Chaz Schilens, Jets: Chased gold to leave the Silver and Black to replace Plaxico Burress for Gang Green, but a history checkered in black and blue will have Rex Ryan seeing red before long and waving a yellow flag for fantasy owners.
Anthony Gonzalez, Patriots: A low-risk, high-reward signing for Belichick's Bunch. If the always-injured ex-Colt manages to crack New England's receiver rotation, he'll become one of the team's best deep threats. Or he may not play a snap.
Eddie Royal, Chargers: Usurped in Denver's offense by Matt Willis, Royal has little chance to become a viable fantasy player in San Diego with Meachem, Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown ahead of him in the pecking order.
Tim Hudson is a can't miss pitcher. Why?-- Dan ?(@hungrysteak)
You're right; Hudson should not have been on the can't-miss list. The 36-year-old right-hander is recovering from back surgery to repair a herniated disc but has been progressing well all spring. Although he's expected to miss most, if not all, of April, the veteran has been through the rehabilitation process before, most notably in 2008-09, when he missed more than a season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Although his back procedure, which fused two vertebrae together, is a different situation, Hudson reportedly has been pain free in his comeback attempt and is on track to take his spot atop the Braves rotation. It's there that he's had tremendous fantasy value, with the third most wins in the NL (33) and sixth best ERA (3.02) over the past two seasons. And although he's not a can't-miss starter, he does have great potential to be a five-month ace at a bargain basement price.