Jay Cutler: Getty Images
I've had a fantasy crush on Jay Cutler since he came into the league. In fact, it was before he actually started a game when I drafted him as my keeper-league franchise quarterback. I saw a supremely talented, focused and smart prospect who was going to step into Mike Shanahan's potent offense and sling balls all over the field. I saw a fantasy superstar. I saw Cutler leading me to championships.
By his second season, Cutler was fulfilling most of my prophecies, as he racked up 3,497 yards passing, 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, while leading me to my first title in that league. While I didn't pull off a repeat last year, Cutler continued to perform well in fantasy terms, setting a franchise record with 4,526 yards and adding 27 TDs and 18 INTs.
But since the season ended, everything has changed. Shanahan was fired, and over the weekend, the Bears acquired Cutler for Kyle Orton and a slew of draft picks.
Unfortunately, the deep fantasy talent of the first Cutler -- the one on the potent offense with a top-end receiver in Brandon Marshall -- is gone, and the second phase of Cutler's career is unlikely to live up to those expectations in Chicago.
The Bears are virtually devoid of quality receivers; return-man Devin Hester led the team with 665 yards receiving last season, tight end Greg Olsen was second and running back Matt Forte was third. Olsen has plenty of upside, but without a top-end deep threat like Marshall, Cutler's going to take a fantasy hit.
Also, Chicago has used a conservative, run-based offensive attack predicated on their defense keeping the score low. Certainly, part of the reasoning behind that was having the likes of pedestrian quarterbacks Orton and Rex Grossman tossing the rock. We may see them loosen the reigns some with Cutler in the mix, but don't expect things to change enough that Cutler will be able to max out his fantasy game in '09.
This trade was great news for Bears fans, as they'll be legit Super Bowl contenders. But nothing good came from this deal for fantasy folks.
As if hearing that his Pro Bowl QB Cutler was replaced by Bears castoff Orton didn't make for a bad enough week for Brandon Marshall, the wide receiver underwent surgery on his hip last Tuesday to fix a problem that limited his ability to separate last season, according to the Denver Post. The Post also reported that although the procedure wasn't as serious as the one that ended Rod Smith's career, it will cost Marshall the rest of the offseason.
A very large part of Marshall's fantasy success was having arguably the best young quarterback in the NFL throwing rockets to him. With Cutler gone, Marshall will see far fewer quality balls coming his way and will have far fewer big plays as a result.
That's not all that's going against Marshall in fantasy terms. He's also almost certainly facing another suspension for a game or two following his arrest for disorderly conduct last month. Add it all up and you are looking at a player who is going to have a hard time living up to what surely will be a high draft pick or auction price come September.
I'd shy away if I drafted a team now. Come September, though, I'll keep an open mind to see how quickly he recovers and for how long he's suspended. But I'm certain his name recognition will pull him off the board before he should be taken anyway.
Gilbert Arenas. Agent Zero. The Hibachi. We haven't seen any of these characters on the hardwood since the 2006-07 campaign. Truth is, without seeing the 28-29 points and close to three treys and two steals a game, Arenas is more like Agent 86 or the Walk-In Freezer.
But even if it's been several years and several knee surgeries since he was on top of his game, you can't help but take a look at a guy like Arenas when he's sitting on waivers and finally ready to lace up again. That he scored 15 points with two treys and hit only three of his 12 shot attempts in his first game back is no surprise; you knew he was going to chuck and have no legs.
However, Arenas hit seven of eight free throws and dished out 10 dimes in that contest and another 10 in his next run, which means he's definitely worth using in fantasy terms.
The catch, of course, is that he's seeing limited usage and that any flare-up or ding could end his season. After playing Thursday, Arenas skipped Saturday's run with the Heat. He should play Wednesday versus the Cavs and at least one of the two games next week. But whether he can actually suit up for all four of the Wizards' final contests is anyone's guess.
I certainly wouldn't recommend using him in weekly transaction leagues, though I would roll the dice on him on a game-by-game basis if you need dimes and can stand the poor field-goal percentage.
Troy Murphy: Getty Images
Sometimes it's just plain impossible to read the tea leaves when it comes to interpreting a player, his coach and an injury. For instance, Troy Murphy sprained his knee on Mar. 21 and soon had an MRI. Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said the test revealed no major damage but that the sprained was "very painful," though he was "optimistic" that Murphy would return before season's end.
With that less-than-encouraging news, plenty of people quickly gave up on Murphy and cut him -- only to be duped when the big man hit the floor last Tuesday for a full 36 minutes, racking up a typical 15 points, 12 rebounds and a triple.
He followed that up with 19-13 and three triples and 22-9 and six bombs.
Forget the tea leaves here -- barring a setback, you can expect Murphy to continue to churn out his double-double/triple action over the Pacers' final seven games.