Apr 24, 2012
- Written by Ryan Czopek
Vincent Jackson signing with Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mario Manningham becoming a San Francisco 49er and Michael Bush becoming a Chicago Bear were some of the prime free agent signings that could make the NFC the more dominant conference this season. How will these signings affect the fantasy football landscape in 2012? It’s difficult to know for sure given the many variables available, but it is exciting to speculate.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jackson was linked to several wide receiver hungry teams including the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins, but he surprisingly signed a five year 55.5 million dollar deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the offseason. Jackson will give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the deep threat they desperately need. He averaged 18.4 yards per catch in 2011, which was good enough for sixth best in the league. The acquisition of Jackson could mean a big season for third year receiver Mike Williams and may aid in the development of the underachieving Arrelious Benn. Jackson allows the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to spread the field freeing up short-range receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams more often. What can be expected of Vincent Jackson this season? Jackson’s performance this season rests in the rocket arm of Josh Freeman, who appeared to take a step back after an outstanding rookie season. However, Freeman was also the second most sacked quarterback in the league last season. The addition of Pro-Bowl guard Carl Nicks will help Freeman get the protection he needs to help open up the passing game. If Freeman can rebound, Jackson has the talent to be a solid No. 1 fantasy receiver this season.
Michael Bush, RB, Chicago Bears
Chester Taylor and Marion Barber failed to be productive backups for Matt Forte, but Michael Bush has proven in recent years that he’s more than capable of carrying the load. In his four-year career, Bush has 632 rushing attempts, 2,632 yards and 21 touchdowns despite being Darren McFadden’s backup in Oakland. Bush’s rough running style will be used to compliment Forte’s elusive running style. Like his role in Oakland, Bush will undoubtedly be the guy running the ball in short yardage situations, because of his solid frame. He should also receive plenty of goal line opportunities, improving a Chicago Bears’ team that has struggled to score touchdowns inside the 10-yard line in recent years. What can be expected of Bush this season? There has been talk of a 50/50 split of carries between Forte and Bush, which could mean Bush may have a season comparable to his 2011 season in Oakland. However, if Matt Forte, who isn’t happy with his contract situation, holds out or is even traded before the season Bush could be in line for his first 1,000 yard rushing season and score double digit touchdowns.
Alex Smith. QB, San Francisco 49ers
Despite a roller coaster offseason that included the San Francisco 49ers pursuit of another quarterback (Peyton Manning, *cough*) Smith decided to resign with the club for another three seasons. Alex Smith had his best season as a pro in 2011 completing 273 passes for 3,144 yards and had a 90.7 quarterback rating, which was ninth best in the NFL. It is especially impressive that Smith was able to put up these solid numbers despite having a sketchy receiving core. The San Francisco 49ers ranked No. 30 in the league last season, averaging 199.6 receiving yards per game. However, during the offseason the San Francisco 49ers upgraded their receiving core adding Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to the mix. The addition of Manningham gives Smith a reliable deep threat that should mix well with the already solid running game of the San Francisco 49ers. What can be expected of Smith this season? Smith has a fair chance of topping his solid 2011 season, especially because he has better red zone options this season. The San Francisco 49ers were arguably the worst team in the NFL in red zone last season. If all goes well for Smith, he could crack the top 15 of fantasy quarterbacks this season.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins
Is there any happier person than Pierre Garcon right now? Well, maybe his agent. The former Indianapolis Colts’ receiver signed with the Washington Redskins during the offseason for five years and 42.5 million with 21.5 million dollars guaranteed. Garcon had his best professional season in 2011, catching 70 passes for 947 yards and six touchdowns. He was able to accomplish those solid numbers despite a disastrous quarterback situation in Indianapolis last season. Garcon will be the starting split end for the Washington Redskins and will have the opportunity to grow with the presumed No. 2 pick in the draft, quarterback Robert Griffin III. What can be expected from Garcon this season? Considering how well Garcon produced last season with a combination of Kerry Collins, Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter throwing to him, he’s shown that he’s quite capable of turning lemons into lemonade. A Pro Bowl type season from Garcon strongly depends on how well Griffin can adjust to the NFL. If Griffin can follow in Cam Newton and Andy Dalton’s footsteps, a terrific season for Garcon maybe on the horizon.
Randy Moss, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Moss doesn’t want to leave the NFL behind him just yet. The troubled receiver signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers this offseason. The 35 year old, seven-time Pro Bowler will help fit the San Francisco 49ers need to stretch the field. If Moss is healthy he is more than capable of doing just that with his 6’4 frame. What can be expected from Moss this season? It’s difficult to tell how serious Moss is about the game. How well he performs during training camp will provide fantasy owners a better barometer of what his value is. However, it’s likely that Moss is healthier and has fresher legs after sitting out the 2011 season. There have been many reports that Moss has looked like his old self, while trying out for the New Orleans Saints. If Moss is serious about the game again and is healthy, it’s not a stretch that he could be a solid No. 2/3 receiver on a fantasy team.
Mario Manningham, WR. San Francisco 49ers
Parlaying an impressive postseason and fourth quarter performance in the Super Bowl, Manningham signed a two-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers in the offseason. Over his last three seasons as a member of the New York Giants, Manningham had 156 receptions, 2,289 yards and 18 touchdowns. What can be expected from Manningham this season? The San Francisco 49ers offense will likely remain a run first offense considering how effective they moved the chains last season. The San Francisco 49ers averaged 127.8 rushing yards per game last season, which was good enough for eighth best in the league. Manningham will likely receive more opportunities to make an impact in San Francisco then he did in New York, since he doesn’t have to compete with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz for targets anymore. Much like Randy Moss, Manningham will be a deep threat that gives the San Francisco 49ers the ability to stretch the field. Assuming Alex Smith doesn’t regress this season, Manningham has the ability to be a solid No. 2/3 fantasy receiver this season.
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints
Before he could officially enter free agency, Colston signed a five year, $40=million dollar deal to remain with the New Orleans Saints. Colston has been one of the most consistent receivers upon entering the NFL in 2006, producing five years of 1,000 plus receiving yards and at least seven touchdowns. Despite having multiple knee surgeries and issues with his wrist and thumb in the past, Colston has proven to be an incredibly durable receiver in his tenure with the New Orleans Saints. He has missed only 10 games in his six professional seasons. What can be expected of Marques Colston this season? Given his remarkable consistency and durability another 1,000 yard receiving season seems likely. The departure of Robert Meachem may focus a little more attention on Colston, but the New Orleans Saints still have so many weapons (Lance Moore, Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, etc…), it’s likely to make little difference. Colston should remain a high-end WR2 in all fantasy football formats in 2012.