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Fantasy Football Free-agent Focus: Part II

By Cory J. Bonini

... Continued from Part I

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.

Delanie Walker, tight end, San Francisco 49ers: A stat line of 21-344-3 is not particularly impressive, but that shouldn't be the center of his positives. Walker, an extremely athletic playmaker, as evidenced by a 16.4 yards-per-reception average last season, forces defenses to account for him down the seam. This frees up wide receivers on the outside to see single coverage or opens a checkdown lane for a running back. I think there is a strong chance he returns to the 49ers, because they know his truth worth, but other key free agents to retain could prevent them from paying Walker what he deserves. He could excel in Oakland or with the New York Jets, and don't rule out the Tennessee Titans or Green Bay Packers, either. Walker, in the right situation, would be a low-end No. 1 fantasy tight end.

Brandon Myers, TE, Oakland Raiders
A deep FA tight end class

Ramses Barden, wide receiver, New York Giants: I like Barden to land with the New England Patriots. He has excellent size (6-foot-6, 224 pounds) to give the Pats another target in jump-ball situations and in the red zone. Expect New York to make a push to re-sign him, although Barden would remain buried on their depth chart. The Patriots could lose five of their top six wide receivers this offseason. The inexperienced Barden comes with injury baggage. The Patriots' way of life could help mold him into a capable weapon for Tom Brady. Barden is probably a long shot to be a fantasy contributor on any kind of regular basis, but if the stars align....

Austin Collie, wide receivers, Indianapolis Colts: Remember this guy? Concussions and a ruptured patella tendon have robbed him of significant action. Don't be surprised if he winds up playing with Peyton Manning once again. The Denver Broncos may not re-sign a 36-year-old Brandon Stokley, which could open the door for Collie to come into play. He has talent and a rapport with Manning. Playing behind Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker removes any pressure on him, meaning he would enter the situation with very low expectations. That is good for buying on the cheap in fantasy leagues. All of that sounds great, of course only if he lands with the Broncs.

Brandon Myers, tight end, Oakland Raiders: Myers' breakout season in 2012 came in Greg Knapp's tight end-friendly system. The OC has been relieved of his duties, which could pave the way for Oakland to look elsewhere at the position. Under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, the only tight end to post strong numbers was Kellen Winslow, because he was pretty much the only weapon on the team in Tampa Bay. Myers may return, although with 19 free agents to tend to, Oakland has plenty of money to be spent elsewhere. Keep a close eye on this situation; he is a mid to low TE1 in most formats, regardless of where he lands.


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