1. Chad Ochocinco, WR (Patriots) – An afterthought just two weeks ago, Ochocinco has made the most dramatic climb up the fantasy ranks since being traded to New England. Having Tom Brady as his quarterback as opposed to Andy Dalton or Bruce Gradkowski in Cincy makes Ocho a legit WR2 and a steal as a WR3 in most fantasy formats. That said, be sure to keep tabs on how comfortable he looks in the Pats’ offense this preseason. Target anywhere from Rounds 6-8.
2. Reggie Bush, RB (Dolphins) - Let’s make one thing clear: Bush is not going to be an every-down back in Miami. The Dolphins drafted rookie Daniel Thomas to run between the tackles 12-15 times per game. While Bush’s role will be expanded from what it was in New Orleans, Drew Brees ain’t under center in South Beach. Target Bush as a flex in Round 10 or higher.
3. Darren Sproles, RB (Saints) – The Saints were able acquire Reggie Bush’s replacement at a discounted rate. With a log-jam at running back (Ingram, Ivory, Thomas), expect Sproles to be used heavily in the passing game and obviously as the punt returner. Fantasy owners should view Sproles as a reserve running back and a nice spot flex play. There are a lot of weapons for Drew Brees to appease in New Orleans, so don’t overreach — target in late rounds.
4. Sidney Rice, WR (Seahawks) – Well, he got paid. Elite fantasy production, however, is something I’m not willing to bet the house on. Injuries limited Rice to appearing in only six games last season and the last time I checked, new ‘Hawks quarterback Tavaris Jackson isn’t exactly Aaron Rodgers. Add to that the fact that Rice has only put together one eye-opening season (2009) in his four-year career. Target Rice in Rounds 6-8 as a low-end WR2 (though I’d be more comfortable having him as my WR3).
5. Kevin Kolb, QB (Cardinals) – Kolb gets his change of scenery, though outside of Larry Fitzgerald and possibly Todd Heap, there aren’t a ton of weapons that will help to elevate his fantasy stock. Kolb is the perfect QB2, especially if you have a Rodgers, Vick, Brady or Brees locked in as your QB1. He’s worth a late-round flier to fill out your roster, but is too much of an unknown commodity to be thought of as anything more.
6. Roy Williams, WR (Bears) – After being released by the Cowboys, Williams signed with the Bears and is now reunited with his former OC, Mike Martz . Williams posted his best season as a pro in 2006 with Martz running the offense in Detroit: 82 catches for 1,310 yards and 7 TD’s. Five seasons later, Williams will get his opportunity to duplicate that success as Jay Cutler’s go-to receiver. I really like him as a solid WR3 with upside — target in Rounds 9-11.
7. Tim Hightower, RB (Redskins) – Terrell Davis. Mike Anderson. Clinton Portis. Olandis Gary. Maurice Clarett (kidding). Could this be the makings of another Shanny running back success story? With Ryan Torain’s injury history, Hightower will have every opportunity to be the lead back in Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. Obviously monitor this situation during the preseason, but a late-round gamble may turn into the jolt that takes your fantasy team over the top.
8. Zach Miller, TE (Seahawks) - I can’t say that I’m a big fan of Miller’s move to the Pacific Northwest. For one, the quarterback play won’t be any better than it was in Oakland. Two, Sidney Rice is being paid big bucks to be Seattle’s top playmaker in the passing game. And three, John Carlson, the Seahawks’ starting tight end for the past three seasons, is still on the roster. There are a ton of tight ends that I’d rather have on my fantasy roster than Miller this season. Target late, if at all.
9. Mike Sims-Walker, WR (Rams) – Last season Sam Bradford threw the football a mind-boggling 590 times as a rookie. 590 times! Clearly there was no #1 receiver on the roster capable of making plays in 2010 (Danny Amendola and his 8.1 avg doesn’t count). Enter Mike Sims-Walker. While Sims-Walker isn’t elite, he instantly becomes Bradford’s most talented weapon in the passing game. And if Bradford is to take that next step in his sophomore season like everyone expects him to, someone needs to be catching his passes, right? Sims-Walker can be had in late rounds and should be viewed as a WR3.
10. Plaxico Burress, WR (Jets) – Plax is the perfect example of a player that someone in your fantasy league will select 2-3 rounds too early because of his past successes. Don’t fall into that trap. We have no idea what kind of shape he’ll be in or how productive he’ll be, especially at the begining of the season. If the opportunity presents itself to draft Burress as a reserve, go for it, but he shouldn’t be in your starting line-up Week 1.
Photo: Flickr/Keith Allison