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   2001 Sneak Peek: NFC analysis:  Jan. 31, 2001
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2001 Sneak Peek: NFC analysis
By Adam Caplan
The Guru Report

 

The following article is simply an early reference point for the 2001 season, which is obviously in its preliminary stage. Each team's plans for the coming season depend heavily on free agency and the NFL draft.

NFC EAST
Arizona Cardinals
Jake Plummer
Quarterback
Arizona Cardinals

 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMCOMPATTYDSTDSINT
1627047529461321
QB - Jake Plummer is the starter and has a hefty contract to boot. New offensive coordinator Rich Olson promises a run-orientated attack, which should cut down on Plummer's interceptions. Geep Chryst will be back as the team's QB coach, a job that he held with the Cardinals back in 1998 when the team reached the playoffs. All things point to an improvement in Plummer's numbers next season, but probably not enough to be a fantasy starter just yet. Dave Brown remains the backup.

RB - Starting RB Michael Pittman is a restricted free agent and the team wants him back. It's expected that the team will match just about any offer he receives this off-season. In fact, the word is they want Pittman to be a workhorse back who gets around 20 carries a game. Of course Pittman will have to play through his injury-prone tag once again in 2001. Backup RB Thomas Jones figures to have the third down and change of pace roles.

WR - Rob Moore is coming off reconstructive knee surgery, but should be ready for training camp this July. With the development of David Boston last season, however, it's going to be hard for Moore to get his starting job back. Nevertheless, with the Cardinals expected to be a run-first, pass-second team, the WRs may not produce great fantasy numbers.

TE - Chris Gedney was told he wouldn't be back, so Terry Hardy is the incumbent at the position and not a great fantasy prospect.

Dallas Cowboys
QB - Starter Troy Aikman is due a $7 million roster bonus, and his status for returning to the team for the 2001 season is questionable, at best. If Aikman is released without restructuring his deal, he'll cost the team $10 million against the cap. Look for something to be worked out. Either a new deal or a settlement that won't hurt the team and would give him the ability to look for a new job. Aikman is rumored to be going to San Diego as a one to two year starter, and mentor of sorts to Michael Vick, if the Chargers draft him. Backup Randall Cunningham says he wants to come back only if the team isn't in the rebuilding mode. Anthony Wright would move up if Cunningham doesn't come back.

Emmitt Smith
Running Back
Dallas Cowboys
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMATTYDSAVGTDS
162941203709
RB - Starter Emmitt Smith is still a solid No. 2 fantasy back at this point in his career. With three years left on his contact, Smith is worthy of keeping around for at least another year. Fantasy owners who wrote him off a few years ago turned out to be wrong. The club continues to search for his eventual successor or even a decent backup. For now, Michael Wiley appears to be his backup and the third-down back.

WR - The club's two starters (Joey Galloway and Rocket Ismail) are on the mend with torn ACLs. Both are expected to be ready by July, but nothing is certain at this point. Backups Jason Tucker and Wayne McGarity did little to establish themselves. Fellow backup James McKnight did a decent job but is an unrestricted free agent. Deep backup Damon Hodge had a decent game late in the season, but his fantasy prospects are remote at this point.

TE - Starter David LaFleur was limited almost all season by a groin injury, but should return to 100 percent by this off-season. His backup, Jackie Harris, had a good early run but tailed off significantly.

New York Giants
QB - Starter Kerry Collins had his best season (21 TDs) but still is a marginal fantasy starter. The problem is that the team wants to run first and pass second, which limits his numbers a bit. Jason Garrett remains the backup.

Tiki Barber
Running Back
New York Giants
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMATTYDSAVGTDS
162131006598
RB - Tiki Barber won the starting job in training camp and kept the job all season over rookie Ron Dayne. Barber showed the ability to be a solid No. 2 fantasy back, especially so in yardage leagues. Dayne looked to be a plodding type of back all season, and not much will change in 2001 unless he changes his style of running a bit.

WR - Both starters (Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer) had uneven types of seasons in 2000. Both were a bit streaky, and they remain No. 2 or No. 3 fantasy WRs for 2001. Joe Jurevicius won't challenge for a starting job anytime soon.

TE - After starter Pete Mitchell overcame his early season knee injury, fantasy owners must have figured he would become a bigger part of the offense. As it turned out, it never happened. For whatever reason, offensive coordinator Sean Payton phased out the tight ends and got the ball more to Barber and the WRs. Look for Mitchell to touch the ball more in 2001, but he's not worthy of being a fantasy starter at this point.

Philadelphia Eagles
QB - Donovan McNabb will be the starter for at least the next ten seasons. Koy Detmer is the backup and signed an extension before last season.

RB - The starter will be Duce Staley, provided he fully recovers from his broken foot. Head coach Andy Reid said that Staley had the cast off late in December, and everything looked okay so far. Chris Warren, who signed late in the season, is a free agent. The team may have interest in Ravens' RB Priest Holmes, who will be a free agent. Reid said late last month that getting another running back in the fold is a priority during the off-season.

Charles Johnson
Wide Receiver
Philadelphia Eagles
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMRECYDS AVGTDS
1656642377
WR - As of today, the starters are Charles Johnson and Torrance Small. But we all know that isn't likely to stay that way until opening day. Look for the club to go after WRs Eric Moulds, Derrick Mason, or Keenan McCardell in free agency. Moulds and Mason will be free agents come March 2nd, unless they are re-signed, and McCardell's expected to be cut loose in order for the Jaguars to get under the salary cap. So what happens to Johnson and Small if one of them signs? Johnson would be an excellent No. 2 receiver, and Small would either be cut loose or would become the third receiver. Small did very well in New Orleans and Indianapolis as the third receiver. Todd Pinkston and Na Brown are considered projects at this point. Brown could sneak in as the third receiver if Small were to be let go.

TE - All-Pro Chad Lewis is the starter and should continue to be for some time. He's a perfect West Coast Offense tight end. The backup will probably be Jeff "five touchdowns on nine catches" Thomason.

Washington Redskins
QB - The incumbent is Jeff George, with Brad Johnson as an unrestricted free agent who is not coming back. Todd Husak becomes the backup unless a veteran is brought in. With Marty Schottenheimer as head coach and Jimmy Raye calling the plays, the offense will likely be a run-orientated attack, which will limit the number of balls thrown downfield.

Stephen Davis
Running Back
Washington Redskins
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMATTYDSAVGTDS
1633213187711
RB - Starter Stephen Davis is coming off of an injury-plagued 2000, season but he figures to be the focal point of the offense in 2001. If he stays healthy, he'll approach 400 carries for the season and be a solid number one fantasy running back. Both backups (Adrian Murrell and Skip Hicks) are free agents.

WR - The only receiver expected back for sure is Michael Westbrook. He's coming off of a serious knee injury but said he will be ready for training camp in July. Veteran Irving Fryar is signed, but may retire. James Thrash comes off a breakout year of sorts but is unsigned, as is former starter Albert Connell and backup Andre Reed. With the offense likely to be conservative, none of the Redskin receivers, other than a healthy Westbrook, will be anything more than No. 2 or No. 3 fantasy receivers.

TE: Starter Stephen Alexander has improved over the last two years and with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye (who helped make Tony Gonzalez a star) in the fold, Alexander's role on the team could increase. There's a very good chance that Alexander could compete for a Pro Bowl spot in '01.

NFC CENTRAL
Chicago Bears
QB - It's anyone's guess regarding who will be the starter next season. Cade McNown is coming off of a bad season, and his teammates aren't exactly happy with him. Jim Miller is coming off of a torn Achilles, and his status for next season is up in the air. It's best to stay clear of any of the Bear QBs at this point.

James Allen
Running Back
Chicago Bears
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMATTYDSAVGTDS
162901120652
RB - James Allen was a major surprise last season, but the team is expected to take a running back early in this year's draft. If that happens, Allen's value would be almost nil. If, for some reason, the Bears pass on drafting a running back who would challenge for a starting job, look for them to bring in a veteran to compete with Allen.

WR - Certainly, starter Marcus Robinson had a disappointing season, but it was mostly not his fault. With the QB situation a mess and teams double-teaming him most of the time, Robinson had trouble adjusting and then was knocked out for the season. This season, new offensive coordinator John Shoop will run a normal type of offense, a far cry from the man who had his job previously, Gary Crowton. Fellow starter Bobby Engram is coming off of a serious knee injury but is expected to be ready at some point this summer. Backup Marty Booker, who filled in for Robinson and Engram last season, was a disappointment. Backup Eddie Kennison did a decent job after Engram went down but is best used in a backup role. The team is expected to address the receiver situation in the draft.

TE - The Bears hardly used the tight end under Crowton, but figure to with Shoop. Kaseem Sinceno and John Allred are free agents and are a 50-50 shot to return. Last year's third-round pick Dustin Lyman could see significant time if both don't return.

Detroit Lions
QB - No one can doubt starter Charlie Batch's talent but he's yet to stay healthy. With new head coach Marty Mornhinweg installing his version of the West Coast Offense, Batch, if healthy, could produce better than average fantasy numbers. Backup Stoney Case is an unrestricted free agent.

RB - Starter James Stewart should catch more balls in Mornhinweg's offense and should be a better fantasy back, but he's still a marginal No. 1 fantasy back. Backup Mario Bates is a free agent while Sedrick Irvin will challenge second-year back Reuben Droughns for playing time.

Germane Crowell
Wide Receiver
Detroit Lions
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMRECYDS AVGTDS
1634430253
WR - This is the position that should be the beneficiary of the new offensive philosophy. The numbers of starters Germane Crowell and Johnnie Morton should improve. Crowell should be the Terrell Owens in this offense. With the team likely to use more three-receiver sets than in the past, Herman Moore figures to have a better year than last season.

TE - Some could argue that Marty Mornhinweg phased out the tight ends in San Francisco. While that may be true, Lion starter David Sloan is a better and more polished player than the 49ers' Greg Clark. Sloan should post numbers similar to those he put up in the past.

Green Bay Packers
QB - Brett Favre will remain the starter for as long as he wants, but he's no longer a top fantasy quarterback. He's still worthy of starting, but 30 touchdown seasons may be a thing of the past. Backup Matt Hasselbeck is the subject of trade rumors and could be gone by draft day.

Ahman Green
Running Back
Green Bay Packers
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMATTYDSAVGTDS
1626311756910
RB - Ahman Green, who is a restricted free agent, proved to be one of the best fantasy stories in 2000. In fact, can you name a bigger surprise than he, other than Mike Anderson? Of course, it helped that starter Dorsey Levens was hurt for most of the season. Head coach Mike Sherman hedged when asked who his starter would be for 2001. Right now, the Packers will probably match any offer that Green receives. Levens said he's open for his contract to be restructured, but he may not get the chance to do that. The team isn't in great cap shape, so Levens may be a casualty.

WR - Starter Antonio Freeman is no longer a solid fantasy receiver, and you could probably call him a bust in 2000. It seems that once he got the big contract a few years ago, he has never been the same. The club was happy with Bill Schroeder opposite him but still hasn't had a solid starter opposite Freeman since Robert Brooks left. Corey Bradford and Donald Driver will challenge for playing time.

TE - Neither Bubba Franks nor Tyrone Davis entrenched themselves as a starter during 2000. Davis is a free agent and may not be back. Franks should start in 2001, but he's a marginal fantasy starter until proven otherwise, which, of course, could happen this year, making him a solid reach in TE leagues.

Minnesota Vikings
QB - Can Daunte Culpepper repeat his numbers from 2000? Cris Carter said this month that he will be back, and with the defense likely not to improve, Culpepper should have another huge season.

Robert Smith
Running Back
Minnesota Vikings
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMATTYDSAVGTDS
162951521897
RB - Starter Robert Smith is a free agent and is now talking retirement, so keep an eye on Doug Chapman. If Smith doesn't re-sign, or retires, Chapman will likely be the front runner for the starting job.

WR - Carter and Randy Moss remain the starters, with Matthew Hatchette as the third receiver assuming he re-signs with the team. Carter came on after a very slow start to produce good fantasy numbers.

TE - All three tight ends are free agents (Johnny McWilliams, Andrew Jordan, and John Davis). McWilliams put up a few decent games but still is a marginal fantasy starter if he re-signs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB - Starter Shaun King got off to a great start but faded down the stretch and remains a fantasy backup. Eric Zeier is the backup.

Warrick Dunn
Running Back
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMATTYDSAVGTDS
162481133668
RB - Starter Warrick Dunn is a decent No. 2 fantasy back, with added value in yardage leagues. Not much will change in 2001. Starting FB Mike Alstott remains valuable in TD-only leagues and is a marginal No. 3 fantasy back.

WR - Starter Keyshawn Johnson should improve on his 2000 campaign with a new offensive coordinator in the fold. Fellow starter Jacquez Green did a solid job for yardage league owners. His numbers for 2001, though, are up in the air until a new offensive coordinator is named. The leading candidate is quarterback coach Clyde Christensen.

TE - The starter remains Dave Moore, and he's always been a marginal starting fantasy tight end.

NFC WEST
Atlanta Falcons
QB - Unbelievably, head coach Dan Reeves said recently that Chris Chandler would return as the starter for next season. Fantasy owners were hoping that they would cut him loose, but it appears to be another year of Chandler. Rookie Doug Johnson proved to be another Tommy Maddox, and Danny Kanell is an unrestricted free agent.

Jamal Anderson
Running Back
Atlanta Falcons
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMATTYDSAVGTDS
162821024606
RB - It usually takes at least two seasons for a player to recover from ACL surgery, and it showed with starter Jamal Anderson. Anderson should put up better numbers but may not ever become a No. 1 fantasy back again. The team is high on Maurice Smith, and he figures to be Jamal's backup with Ron Rivers as an unrestricted free agent.

WR - Shawn Jefferson did little in 2000 to dispel his tag as just a deep threat, and not much is going to change in 2001 unless Chandler can stay healthy. Terrance Mathis had one of his worst years of his career, and thinking he will rebound may be too much to ask. Tim Dwight is a restricted free agent but is expected to return.

TE - Starter Reggie Kelly didn't do much, but should improve over time. His backup, Brian Kozlowski, is an unrestricted free agent.

Carolina Panthers
QB - Steve Beuerlein remains the starter, but he will be 36 this season and is wearing down. He got sacked more than any other QB last season, and he won't be around much longer if he takes another beating like that. Backups Jeff Lewis and Dameyune Craig had poor training camps in 2000. Look for the Panthers to let one or both go and draft a QB this year.

RB - Starter Tim Biakabutuka did little to dispel his injury-prone tag last season and probably won't be back. The club is expected to draft a RB early and could sign a free agent (Ricky Watters?) to compete for the starting job. Look for Brad Hoover to move back to fullback.

WR - Starter Muhsin Muhammad had another big-catch season and is a solid No. 2 fantasy receiver. Donald Hayes didn't quite put up the numbers that most expected he would, but he has potential. Hayes is a restricted free agent, and his return is contingent upon several factors, the biggest being the return of a healthy Patrick Jeffers. The Eagles reportedly have interest in Hayes. Backup Isaac Byrd is an unrestricted fee agent.

Wesley Walls
Tight End
Carolina Panthers
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMRECYDS AVGTDS
1631422242
TE - Starter Wesley Walls is coming off ACL surgery, but is expected to be ready by training camp. If he returns healthy, he should be a solid No. 1 fantasy TE.

New Orleans Saints
QB - This is certainly a position of strength for the team. If you were one of the fortunate owners to pick up Aaron Brooks, you may have a future starter in a keeper league. Even if Jeff Blake recovers fully from his leg injury, Brooks has the inside track on the starting job. The only negatives here would be the salary cap implications of cutting Blake and if offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy was hired away.

RB - Starter Ricky Williams was headed for a monster year before he got hurt. He proved to be a solid No. 1 fantasy back in 2000. If he's your number one fantasy back, however, you'd be wise to pick up his backup. Backups Jerald Moore and Terry Allen are unrestricted free agents, so Chad Morton, as of now, is Williams' backup.

Joe Horn
Wide Receiver
New Orleans Saints
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMRECYDS AVGTDS
16941332788
WR - Joe Horn was one of the best fantasy stories of the 2000 season, and he should be a solid fantasy receiver for years to come. Willie Jackson did a solid job once Jake Reed got hurt. Reed is expected to be released to make room under the salary cap. Jackson is an unrestricted free agent. But, if he re-signs, he should start opening day. Keith Poole and Robert Wilson will compete for playing time, but that's all.

TE - Andrew Glover is still a fantasy backup at this point. Cam Cleeland is a restricted free agent and may not be back. He's still rehabbing from Achilles tendon surgery. Austin Wheatley, Dave Stachelski and Lamont Hall are nothing more than roster fodder until proven otherwise.

San Francisco 49ers
QB - Starter Jeff Garcia was one of the biggest surprises of 2000, especially when you consider he almost lost his job after Week One. He may have a hard time repeating his success with starting WR Jerry Rice not expected back. Backup Rick Mirer is an unrestricted free agent, and the club has expressed interest in bringing him back. Tim Rattay and Gio Carmazzi are projects. QB coach Greg Knapp is expected to be the new offensive coordinator now that Marty Mornhinweg moved on to become the head coach of the Lions.

RB - Starter Charlie Garner became an unrestricted free agent because he met certain incentives in his contract. The team hasn't exactly made him a strong offer so far. If he doesn't return, it's not out of the question that Paul Smith starts opening day. The club is high on him. Garrison Hearst is likely to be a cap casualty.

Terrell Owens
Wide Receiver
San Francisco 49ers
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMRECYDS AVGTDS
169714518513
WR - With Jerry Rice expected to be gone June 1, either Tai Streets or J.J, Stokes will start on opening day. Streets is rehabbing a broken leg but is expected to be ready for training camp and may participate in the May minicamps. Terrell Owens is arguably the best fantasy WR in the NFL.

TE - Starter Greg Clark has been a disappointment. The hope is that Knapp will use the tight ends more than Mornhinweg. Don't be surprised to see the team sign or draft a TE who could challenge for playing time.

St. Louis Rams
QB - Starter Kurt Warner is still suffering from the effects of the concussion he suffered late in the season, but he should be fine for off-season workouts. Warner remains a lock for 30 touchdowns a season. Backup Trent Green is expected to be traded because of the team's needs on defense. Green should yield a high pick.

RB - Marshall Faulk proved in 2000 that he's the best fantasy player in the NFL. However, he's expected to have knee surgery, which could sideline him until training camp. Justin Watson and Trung Canidate will compete to be Faulk's backup in training camp.

Isaac Bruce
Wide Receiver
St. Louis Rams
 
2000 SEASON STATISTICS
GMRECYDS AVGTDS
16871471869
WR - The starters, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, are worthy of a high pick in any draft for years to come. Backup Az-Zahir Hakim is a restricted free agent, but the team wants to re-sign him. However, he should get plenty of attention in a weak free agent market.

TE - Roland Williams is a restricted free agent, and Ernie Conwell could start opening day. However, the Rams didn't use their TE's much in 2000.

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Also See
• 2001 Sneak Peek: AFC analysis

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