Fantasy Football 2011: 8 Players Who Will Stand out Because of Free Agency

Kraig LundbergAnalyst IIIAugust 3, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011: 8 Players Who Will Stand out Because of Free Agency

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    With the 2011 NFL season just around the corner, it's time to start getting excited about fantasy football. The free agency period has all but ended, and there are a few players who could reap tremendous statistical rewards because of their teams' moves.

    Consequently, these players could provide inflated numbers for fantasy footballers.

    For anyone who's serious about the game, the athletes on this list could be high value selections that produce better than expected.

    With great new situations based on 2011 moves in free agency, here are eight players who could be productive standouts in new and improved situations.


8. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

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    Greg Olsen is a young and talented tight end who was never utilized to a full extent with the Chicago Bears. His 41 catches for 405 yards and five touchdowns in 2010 were respectable, but he's capable of more.

    2011 might be the year Olsen reaches his potential.

    The Bears traded Olsen to the Panthers for a third-round pick this offseason, and while the Panthers' long list of inadequacies might make it seem like a poor situation, the Miami product could end up having a breakout fantasy season.

    The Panthers have very little at the wideout position outside of an aging Steve Smith, so Olsen could end up being Cam Newton's top target.

    For that simple reason, Olsen's targets (and, consequently, stats) could really take off.  

7. Chad Ochocinco, WR, New England Patriots

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    Chad Ochocinco is a former elite receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals whose production has dropped off over the past few seasons. Among other things, the cause of his decline seems to have largely to do with his lack of focus.

    But after being traded to the New England Patriots, Ochocinco might be in the best place possible if he wants to resurrect his career.

    Randy Moss is one player who benefited from a trade to the Patriots, and Ochocinco could benefit similarly. Another former Bengal, Corey Dillon, even had a few good seasons in New England.

    Now that Ochocinco will be participating on a team with a legitimate chance at a Super Bowl, his motivation should be renewed. And with Tom Brady throwing to him, he could be primed for a return to statistical domination. 

6. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Philadelphia Eagles put on a clinic in free agency and will be a Super Bowl contender in 2011 as a result.

    One individual who could benefit the most from the Eagles' signing spree is starting running back LeSean McCoy.

    McCoy had a phenomenal season in 2010, rushing for 1,080 yards and seven touchdowns on just 207 carries while catching 78 passes for 592 yards and two more touchdowns out of the backfield. He could be even better in 2011, though.

    The Eagles signed offensive guard Evan Mathis, offensive tackle Ryan Harris and running back Ronnie Brown, all signings that should help McCoy.

    Mathis is a beastly run blocker while Harris is capable of being a solid starter. Both will help pave the way for McCoy. And while Brown's signing might seem like a detriment to McCoy, the fact is he needs to have some of the load taken off of him, and Brown can do that.

    However, because the former Pittsburgh product is a three down back, Brown will be nothing more than a back-up and won't take a large percentage of the carries.

    McCoy's touch total should rise, and based on the offensive line's improvement, so will the rest of his numbers.

5. Kevin Kolb, QB, Arizona Cardinals

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    Many people believe the Arizona Cardinals got ripped off when they traded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles' back-up quarterback Kevin Kolb.

    However, I think the Cardinals may end up being the winners of the trade.

    Kolb does not have great numbers, but he's also had limited opportunities, and I think he's better than people think.

    The weapons Kolb will have in Arizona just got more enticing, as well. On top of established starter Larry Fitzgerald and a solid cast of secondary wideouts, the Cards added veteran tight end Todd Heap in free agency,

    Kolb loves utilizing tight ends, as he showed in Philly with Brent Celek, and Heap should be a reliable target.

    If Kolb is worth his marbles like the Cardinals think he is, he'll have a fantastic statistical season (the prospects for Fitzgerald's season just got better, too).

4. Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings

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    Percy Harvin is a very young and vastly improving receiver who exhibits exceptional speed and explosiveness for the Minnesota Vikings.

    Despite declining quarterback play, Harvin's stats rose in his second season and should make another significant jump in 2011.

    The Vikings were able to pick up Donovan McNabb this offseason and also lost star wideout Sidney Rice, paving the way for Harvin to be the main man at receiver this season. While McNabb is just a shell of what he once was, he's still a big upgrade over first-round reach Christian Ponder and can't be worse than Brett Favre was last season.

    The passing game will be aided by the always-dominant Adrian Peterson at running back. Look for big numbers from Harvin. 

3. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams

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    While many people were already expecting a big season from Sam Bradford, the St. Louis Rams' free agent acquisitions could easily mean even better numbers.

    The Rams picked up Mike Sims-Walker from the Jacksonville Jaguars and signed offensive guard Harvey Dahl.

    Mike Sims-Walker has had an inconsistent career, but his quarterbacks haven't been of much help and he could really take off with a young stud like Bradford. Sims-Walker and Danario Alexander could form a strong one-two punch at wideout.

    With Dahl at guard, Bradford's protection should only improve. Look for the second-year Oklahoma product to greatly increase on his rookie numbers of 3,512 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

2. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

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    Dez Bryant is another sophomore who had a stellar rookie season, but is in store for greatly improved numbers with the Dallas Cowboys in 2010.

    Bryant showed incredible ability as Dallas' third receiver and seemed to be better than Roy Williams in all respects.

    Now that Roy Williams has moved on to Chicago and tight end Greg Olsen has left for the Panthers, Bryant looks to have a starting position locked up and a ton of passes coming his way.

    Bryant and Miles Austin should form one of the best duos in the league, and with Tony Romo throwing to them, expect the Oklahoma State product to truly break out in 2011. He'll be a dangerous punt returner, too, and could get a touchdown or two on special teams.

1. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens

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    Ray Rice broke out in his second year with the Baltimore Ravens and has established himself as one of the best running backs in the NFL.

    In Rice's fourth season, he's primed to have his best year yet because of Baltimore's moves in free agency.

    After re-signing Marshal Yanda to bolster the offensive line, the Ravens let Willis McGahee go to the Broncos and then proceeded to sign the top fullback in the league, Vonta Leach.

    Yanda's presence on Baltimore's line will keep the running game strong. McGahee's absence will allow for Rice to receive more carries, especially at the goal line, which will increase his touchdown total. 

    His biggest advantage is Leach, though, who paved Arian Foster's path at Houston in 2010. Foster was the league leader in rushing.

    Behind Leach, Rice very well could have the same success.