Usually a dull point in the sports calendar, the month of July got a turbo-boost of excitement this week when the NFL lockout finally came to an end, initiating a wave of free agent signings and trades that just-so-happened to coincide with the week leading to MLB's trade deadline. My brother and I, unabashed athlete-transaction addicts, nicknamed the hectic period as "Sports Overload."
Creative nicknames withstanding, all this NFL wheeling and dealing has turned months of speculation into a week of scrutinizing analysis and team grading, while several other signings and trades are still on the table. For the sake of this list, I will review the biggest moves so far from a fantasy football perspective and how the transactions shake out the current landscape of the imaginary game.
Before I get to the top 10, here's some bullets on transactions that didn't make the cut, which I have dubbed "bubble moves."
-WR Mike Sims-Walker signs with Rams for one year. Sims-Walkers has serious sleeper potential following this trade. He's joining the friendly confines of the NFC West, pairing up with the NFL's emerging second year QB in Sam Bradford. Sims-Walker doesn't have the greatest rep in the league, and despite only missing three games over the last two years, is a bit of an injury risk. Nonetheless, he possesses great athletic ability and is getting a career restart in a very favorable fantasy climate. Mark Clayton is likely out in St. Louis, while Mike Thomas gets a value bump in Jacksonville.
- WR Roy Williams signs with Bears for one year. This is a great scenario for Williams and his fantasy value. He enters a very pass-happy system in Chicago where he will have every chance to start and rejoins Mike Martz, who he had his best seasons with in Detroit. Draft Williams for WR3 value with WR2 upside, especially if he becomes Cutler's top red-zone target.
- WR Steve Breaston signs with Chiefs for five years. Breaston's value could take a hit with this move, as he leaves what intends to be a pass-happy system in Arizona for one of the run-heaviest teams in the league in Kansas City. Still, his success was far from guaranteed with the Cardinals, and it's not like Matt Cassel didn't throw 27 touchdowns last year (he did). Bust candidate Dwayne Bowe could benefit from having a legit receiver lining up across the field, but overall, the Chiefs offense is a tough one to predict right now.
- TE Greg Olsen traded to Panthers. I'm skeptical on calling Olsen a borderline TE1 despite all the good vibes surrounding this move. Yes, he joins a team that was "seeking" a pass catching TE, and yes, Carolina's offensive coordinator is a former TE at the U, like Olsen. Still, we're talking about a player who's put up way too many goose eggs (or close to) over the past few years, and Carolina's passing game isn't very inspiring. He's an intriguing pick, but not a player worth reaching for, and should be paired with another TE if you draft him.
- RB Willis McGahee signs with Broncons for three years. As for McGahee's fantasy value, he is only draftable in TD-based scoring leagues, which suck and should be abolished. The move does have serious implications for Knowshon Moreno and Tim Tebow, as McGahee was brought in to be a short-yardage back, ie: someone who may vulture touchdowns from his more fantasy-relevant teammates. I still like Knowshon for his ability to rack up yards, but Tebow's QB2 buzz can take a serious hit if McGahee steals a mere five TD's from him inside the 5.
- RB Marion Barber signs with the Bears for two years. The Bears get their replacement for Chester Taylor, who failed miserably as Chicago's backup last year. Barber will get opportunities, simply because Forte isn't looked at as an every-down back. Still, the "former" Barbarian is coming off a season where he averaged a putrid 3.3 YPC. He's appeared to have lost all burst and isn't joining a better situation at all when you consider Chicago's shotty offensive line and the tough atmosphere of the NFC North. Barber may be worth your last pick in the draft, but expectations have to be really low at this point.