Fantasy Football 2012: NFL Free Agent Blog

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Fantasy Football 2012: NFL Free Agent Blog
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Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson had just six games of six catches and/or one TD last season.

Here's Part II of my NFL free-agent blog for Wednesday...and how these changes specifically affect the scope of fantasy football:  

News: The Eagles re-sign DeSean Jackson to a five-year pact.

Views: There's a reason why DeSean Jackson and Vincent Jackson, the newly-minted member of the Buccaneers, signed comparable deals just hours apart. In each player's last three full seasons (or close to it anyway), DeSean tallied 168 catches, 3,184 yards, 19 receiving TDs and 318 targets, while V-Jax collected 187 catches, 3,371 yards, 25 receiving TDs and 332 targets.

But what does that portend for the future? Can D-Jax recapture his target dominance of 2008-09 (239 combined), or should fantasy fans just expect a good, but-less-than-elite 100 targets per season? And how does QB Michael Vick factor into any prophecies? Surely, a guy who averages 34.8 passes per game can prioritize D-Jax eight or nine times per outing...with five 10-plus target games sprinkled into the mix, right?

Bottom line: While D-Jax brings a lot to the table every Sunday—receiving, rushing, kick returns—the Eagles are undoubtedly the best fit for his pass-catching needs. Now that he's healthy and happy (two aspects that will never go unchecked), he should produce once again at a top-15 level.

Jackson projections: 63 catches, 1,179 yards, nine total TDs

News: The Redskins land wideouts Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan.

Views: I fully support the acquisition of Garcon (70 catches, 947 yards, six TDs last year with Indy)—as a WR2 for the Redskins. On appearances alone, Garcon seemingly has everything you'd want from a downfield receiver: young legs, decent size, good hands, great speed and the capacity to carry his teammates for short bursts. But he's just not a No. 1 wideout. You'll probably never see him flirt with 90 catches in a season—even if future QB Robert Griffin III converts water into wine sooner than expected.

Speaking of which, the Griffin-led passing game should feature TE Fred Davis (59 catches, 796 yards, three TDs in 12 games last season) and WR Leonard Hankerson (eight catches for 106 yards in his final game)—two burgeoning stars whose seasons were cut short for vastly different reasons. Yes, the 6'2" Hankerson only has 13 career catches and one NFL season under his belt. But his proverbial upside appears to be greater than any other receiver currently with the squad. Call it an educated leap of faith in March...or the Road Apple Assessment Of The Year come October, if Hankerson posts three or four games of one or two receptions in the first six weeks.

If Washington keeps a clear, cool head about its rebuilding, the franchise will find a way to implement Garcon, Morgan (a serviceable WR4 and kick returner) and anybody else (Eddie Royal?) as complementary assets to Davis, Hankerson and running backs Roy Helu (four games of 100-plus total yards in 2011) and Evan Royster. (It would have been nice if Tim Hightower had finished the 2011 campaign injury-free.)

It's a potentially dynamic foundation for a club that isn't too far from making a sustained run at the playoffs.

Fun Fact Of The day: Of the three times Pierre Garcon notched 100-plus receiving yards in 2011, he scored two TDs on each occasion.

Garcon projections: 62 catches, 813 yards, six TDs 

News: TE Martellus Bennett bolts the Cowboys, signs with Giants

Views: On paper, this seems like a win-win for both parties. But it could get tricky. Bennett, who toiled for four seasons behind Jason Witten in Dallas, gets a chance to win the TE1 job for the world champions while gambling that he'll be a more coveted free agent next March.

The Giants, in turn, create positional flexibility with Bennett, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, while buying time to research the tight end class of 2013 in greater detail.

In 2011, Ballard (38 catches, 604 yards, four TDs) drew five or more receiving targets eight times in 16 games with New York—but with none occurring before Week 6. From Weeks 1-5 last year, QB Eli Manning averaged 33 pass attempts, and from Weeks 6-17, he averaged 38.6 attempts per game. In other words, when New York started expanding Ballard's role in the passing game, it didn't come at the expense of receivers Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz or Mario Manningham; it was just part of a renewed commitment to attacking downfield.

As for Bennett's role, I sincerely doubt he was given any assurances of targets or red-zone commitments. Bottom line: If the Giants favor one main tight end, he'll have to earn his spot over Ballard and Beckum, and if that happens, Bennett can expect five or six targets per outing as the season rolls on. It could be an all-or-nothing payoff.

Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.

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