August 18, 2009

Brett Favre's belated signing with the Vikings may be the NFL story of the year -- this week, at least -- but it hardly qualifies as earth-shattering news in fantasyland circles.

Yes, Favre still has the potential to throw six touchdowns on any given Sunday -- a quality possessed by few quarterbacks. But taking away his all-world gem against Arizona in Week 4, he averaged only 0.83 TD passes in his final 12 games with the Jets in '08. We're also talking about someone who failed to eclipse 300 yards in any game last year, while registering 0-1 TD passes in only 10 of 16 contests.

Let's not forget the real-world aspect of why Favre shelved retirement (again): Assuming he's not solely consumed with revenge against Green Bay (although that has to be a contributing factor), he's coming to Minnesota for love of the game and a viable chance at winning a championship. And at Favre's age -- he turns 40 on Oct. 10 -- being a fantasy star likely wouldn't compare to the satisfaction of going 12-4 and amassing only 180 passing yards per game.

As for the rumors of rotator-cuff problems, do you really think Favre would tarnish his legacy and play with a bum shoulder? Enough said. As for Favre's new teammates, here's a breakdown of which players stand to benefit from Favre replacing Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson under center ... and which ones will likely see their fantasy stock plummet in the coming weeks:

Paired with Jackson, Rosenfels or Favre, Adrian Peterson would have been the preseason No. 1 pick in standard-scoring leagues. So, it's not like AP needs Favre to be a fantasy dynamo this season. But there's also no denying the symbiotic relationship between Favre and his No. 1 rushers in the last decade (Ahman Green, Ryan Grant and now Peterson) -- his presence subtly opens up running lanes for featured backs ... and their athletic gifts intimidate defenses from attempting all-out blitzes on old No. 4.

Peterson can now take comfort in knowing that he'll rarely see eight defenders in the proverbial "box" between the 20s, he likely won't be called upon for extra pass-blocking and he could possibly catch 35 balls this year, mostly from Favre check-downs. Obviously, backup RB Chester Taylor (a career-best 45 catches in '08) should benefit from this occurrence, as well.

Fantasy owners would also be wise to favor Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe come draft time. Even with instability at quarterback last season, Shiancoe posted top-10 fantasy numbers at his position, while displaying an athletic grace and uncanny nose for the end zone. And he'll appreciate the fact that Favre loves to invoke the tight end for safety-blanket purposes -- especially in the red zone. Need further proof? Check out Dustin Keller's stellar production from Weeks 8-11 with the Jets -- right before Favre got injured.

With Rosenfels at the helm, I had receiver Sidney Rice pegged for a 1,200-yard, 7-TD breakout season. The thinking here: Rice is a poor man's Andre Johnson, and he and Rosenfels would immediately shine as a passing combo. Well, Rice still has all the physical attributes of a potential star, but it probably won't come on Favre's watch. As I've stated before, Favre is no longer the Old West gunslinger that Green Bay fans came to know and love. Sure, he's prone to the occasional wayward pass, and he'll probably hit speedster Bernard Berrian for 3-5 bombs of 40-plus yards this season. But for the most part, he's a conservative passer who favors the tight end and running backs on check-downs. Unfortunately for Rice, he's just not a great fit in Favre's world.

Including Favre, the greatest fantasy intrigue from Vikings camp still lies with rookie receiver Percy Harvin. If any newbie has the capacity to repeat Reggie Bush's 88-catch rookie season from three years ago, it would be the lightning-fast, ultra-versatile Harvin. However, it's just too early in the preseason to speculate on how Harvin will be used in standard down-and-distance scenarios. Factoring in "Wildcat" rushes, bubble-screen catches, reverse runs and kick returns (for the fantasy leagues that reward this component), a healthy Harvin could potentially net 224 touches in 2009 (14 per game).

The TV networks are undoubtedly gearing up for Minnesota at Cleveland in Week 1, presumably pitting Favre against Brady Quinn. But from a fantasy standpoint, we'd be lucky to see Favre and Quinn account for three total touchdowns in the season opener. The Vikings, as long as Peterson graces the field in purple garb, will always be a run-first, run-second operation. And the Browns ... well, they're just a mess right now (unless you think going 45-plus possessions in the regular season/preseason without an offensive touchdown is no big deal).

Regarding the draft, Favre re-enters the fray at 19th in the preseason QB rankings -- just below Eli Manning, Matt Hasselbeck and Jason Campbell. The previous owner of the No. 19 slot: The Vikes' new Clipboard Guy, Sage Rosenfels.

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