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Fantasy Football Free-agent Focus

By Cory J. Bonini

March 12 is a key NFL date to mark down. Free agency begins, and the landscape of teams' draft needs will become clearer ... so will early fantasy football targets.

The three days leading up to the doors being blown off the market could be very telling. For the first time in NFL history, teams will be permitted to negotiate with unrestricted free agents of other clubs.

Several notable names are impactful options for NFL squads to target, many of them already household names within the fantasy community. Those players will not be the focus of my favorite free agents to watch.

Even though their impact may not be immediately felt, and perhaps their fantasy value cannot be found in the early rounds, it still doesn't mean these players don't warrant fantasy footballers' attention.

Alex Smith, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers: While not technically a free agent yet, he will find a starting job somewhere, and my guess is the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith has shown to be more decisive and display better accuracy over the past two seasons - both necessary components for a West Coast quarterback. I can see him going to the Arizona Cardinals, as well, and Bruce Arians' coaching could do positive things for Smith's game. In KC, however, he would immediately take some pressure of Jamaal Charles (scary, huh?) and keep their running game in more contests. He has viable QB2 worth to take advantage of.

Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets
Should be sought after

Dustin Keller, tight end, New York Jets: The athletic line extension is hardly a blocker and would be served best in a fast-break offense. A playing style similar to New England's Aaron Hernandez, and a league coveting such weapons, could lead to Keller receiving considerable attention on the market. Don't be entirely shocked if he winds up with the New York Giants, but I could see an interdivisional signing with the Buffalo Bills, whose new offense will be more aggressive. The Green Bay Packers may be a landing spot for him, too. Keller, when healthy and used properly, is a top-10 fantasy weapon at his position.

Jared Cook, tight end, Tennessee Titans: Cook has flashed signs of potential in his career, although he has yet to live up to what he can be. Part of me sees his situation as a player in need of a new home. While that isn't much more than a gut feeling, I cannot help but think he would drastically benefit from being in a new city. Cook also could land with the Packers, if they release Jermichael Finley. I have yet to see enough from Cook that suggests he will be a consistent performer, regardless of where he ends up. He will prove me wrong, with any luck. Fantasy owners may be low on him after a disappointing 2012 showing.

Mike Goodson, running back, Oakland Raiders: When healthy, Goodson is a dynamic back. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry last season, even if it came on just 35 totes. He is a much better fit for a zone-blocking system than Darren McFadden and it showed. Goodson could get a crack at sharing time or as a change-of-pace role player. The latter doesn't mean he would be void of fantasy worth. Goodson is a soon-to-be 26-year-old with considerable tread left on his tires. I like him to land with the Tennessee Titans or Kansas City Chiefs, although I wouldn't rule out Detroit or even a return visit to Carolina, depending on how they address their respective backfields. Goodson is an awesome low-risk, high-reward target if he lands in the right situation.

... To be continued. Return tomorrow for more of my Fantasy Football Free Agent Focus!


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