For those of us who work in the football business, the last week has been like Christmas. The NFL has been a virtual fantasy league, with players changing teams faster than Paris Hilton changes boyfriends. In an effort to get you updated on all the gridiron happenings, here's our look at who's value is on the rise and who's stock is sinking like the Titanic.
Plaxico Burress, WR, Jets: Burress hasn't played in an NFL game since 2008, so he's certain to have some rust coming out of the gate. He couldn't have landed in a better spot, however, as a starting spot opposite Santonio Holmes is imminent. The athletic veteran out of Michigan State won't remerge into one of the top wideouts in fantasy land, but he can he a viable No. 3 or 4 option. Burress will be worth a look in the middle to late rounds in most drafts.
Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings: Harvin didn't switch teams, but the fact that he'll be catching passes from Donovan McNabb -- not rookie Christian Ponder -- is a positive. Remember, Santana Moss posted a career best in receptions while McNabb at the helm in Washington, and the absence of Sidney Rice makes Harvin the top option in the Vikings pass attack. McNabb's presence in the offense is also good news for Visanthe Shiancoe, who is back on the radar.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: Reports were rampant during the lockout about the Broncos adding DeAngelo Williams, who played under coach Jon Fox in Carolina. That didn't happen, though, as the team landed the aging Willis McGahee instead. Sure, McGahee will see short-yardage and some goal-line work, but he has little chance to unseat Moreno on the depth chart. If he can avoid injuries, which has been an issue, Moreno should post career numbers in 2011.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots: Over the last three years, Ochocinco was a mediocre fantasy wideout at best. But now that he's a member of the Patriots, his stock is back on the rise. I wouldn't expect him to be the next Randy Moss, but Ochocinco is once again a threat to be a 1,000-yard receiver with a stud like Tom Brady throwing him the football. I'd target the never outspoken veteran in the middle to late rounds as a potential No. 3 fantasy option.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens: Rice couldn't be in a better position to succeed this season, as the Ravens passed on McGahee and signed fullback Vonta Leach as a free agent. Leach, a Pro Bowler, blocked for last year's breakout fantasy stud, Arian Foster, and will no doubt help pave the way for Rice to pile up the yardage. One of the fewer featured running backs left in the league, Rice is now worth as much as a top-five fantasy pick in most drafts.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Rams: Sims-Walker turned into waiver-wire fodder in a lot of leagues last season, but his stock is back on the rise as a member of the Rams. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is going to throw the football a ton, and Sims-Walker looks like the favorite to be the top option in the offense for Sam Bradford. Sims-Walker won't turn into Brandon Lloyd, but he is clearly now on the radar as a fantasy sleeper.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins: When reports that the Fins were close to adding Ahmad Bradshaw, it looked like Thomas' value was going up in smoke. But the Fins passes on the Giants runner and instead traded for Reggie Bush. That leaves Thomas to be the workhorse for coach Tony Sparano -- that makes him a potential No. 2 fantasy runner in drafts. Bush's stock also rises, though his lack of durability makes him a risk-reward option in drafts.
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals: If there is ever a year where Wells will meet his statistical expectations, it's 2011. With the trade of Tom Hightower, the Ohio State product looks like the new starter for coach Ken Whisenhunt. If he can avoid the injuries that have plagued him in the past, Wells could turn into a great sleeper. Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald, who should form a nice combination, were also big winners for the Cardinals.
Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers: Crabtree hasn't had his value change due to player movement. Instead, an injured foot that will cost him his third preseason in three years has owners wondering if Crabtree will ever reach his potential. If he can get back on the field in time for Week 1, Crabtree will be worth a middle-round look. But if there are questions about his status once we get into late August, he'll be more of a risk-reward pick.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: As if being on the cover the Madden '12 weren't enough to make Hillis a potential disappointment, now he'll have to share at least some of the workload with Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson. That doesn't mean Hillis won't lead the Browns in carries or put up decent numbers, but it's hard to seeing him finishing in the top 10 in fantasy points at his position in what is now a more crowded backfield.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers: The second James Jones re-signed with the Packers, it all but ended any hope Nelson had at having a breakout season. With Donald Driver still in the mix and Jermichael Finley back from a knee injury, Nelson will be hard pressed to see consistent targets. In fact, he shouldn't be drafted as more than a No. 4 or 5 fantasy wideout. The Packer who wins here is Aaron Rodgers, who gets all of his weapons back for 2011.
Sidney Rice, WR, Seahawks: Rice has a lot of talent, but I have some real reservations about him now that he's in the Great Northwest. The last three big-name receivers to go to Seattle (Nate Burleson, Deion Branch, T.J. Houshmandzadeh) all failed to produce good numbers, and Rice has never produced good numbers without Brett Favre. In fact, he's averaged just 2.9 receptions in 20 career games where Favre wasn't under center.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: Smith wasn't traded after the lockout, and will instead remain in Carolina for another year. That's bad news for the veteran wideout, who posted terrible numbers in 2011 and will either have a rookie (Cam Newton) or Jimmy Clausen under center this season. His past success makes him worth a middle- to late-round selection as a potential No. 4 fantasy wideout, but a return to his salad days isn't likely.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: When it was rumored that Williams would leave the Panthers and sign with the Broncos, fantasy owners couldn't help but love Stewart as a potential breakout candidate for 2011. But now that he'll remain second on the depth chart, the Oregon product has little chance to make a significant impact. So despite his talent, Stewart can't be drafted as more than a flex starter or No. 4 runner in drafts.
Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos: Tebow had sleeper written all over him this season, especially after he performed so well in the last three games of 2010. But when the Broncos failed to trade Kyle Orton, it left Tebow to compete for the starting job rather than having it placed in his lap. What's more, Orton has seen all of the first-team snaps in camp and looks like the current favorite to start. If that continues, Tebow's stock will sink.
Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins: A talented runner out of Arizona State, Torain looked like the surefire starter for coach Mike Shanahan. But with Hightower now in the mix, fantasy owners could be dealing with another backfield committee. In fact, Shanahan has already said that the starting role is up for grabs. When you also consider that Torain is very brittle, it's going to be tough to draft him as more than a flex starter this season.