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.
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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.
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.