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[media-credit name=”Ian Sander” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]ws boys and girls: I’m back. I know you’ve been confused without me. You’ve been biting your fingernails wondering just what to do with your fantasy team. Well fret no more, for I am here to help, and just in time too. In case you weren’t paying attention, there is a new collective bargaining agreement, and football is back. Yet it is a different league than it was, as the aftermath of the new collective bargaining agreements saw players who had been cornerstones of their teams for years cut and traded.
One such player is Chad Ochocinco, the wide receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson, who is now with the New England Patriots after spending the previous 10 years with the Bengals. Now I know some of you saw that and decided to draft him for your fantasy team, believing that he’d come in and immediately take over the role that Randy Moss once played. I understand why you would think that, but it’s completely stupid.
Ocho, while speedy, was never a deep threat on the level of Moss, and the Patriots run arguably the most complex offense in the league. Expecting him to come in and pick it up immediately after a shortened offseason and after spending the previous 10 years working in a much simpler offense is expecting a miracle. There was absolutely no way it was going to happen.
However, I do believe it will be sooner rather than later that Ochocinco will start to step up. Yes, he hasn’t done much through the first three weeks of the season and yes, he did drop an easy pass from Tom Brady that would have gone for a touchdown against the Bills, but he has a lot of things going for him right now. First of all, he no longer has the stupidest, most self-indulgent name in sports. That dubious honor now belongs to Ron Artest, otherwise known as Metta World Peace.
Secondly, the Patriots’ offense, while complex, requires hard work and promotes constant improvement in those willing to put in the work. Talented players like Ochocinco can thrive in that offense if they work hard — and Ocho does want to work, if only to prove that he’s still one of the best. He is learning the offense, slowly but surely. The mere fact that he was targeted on that long pass against Buffalo is evidence of that, as in the previous two games he had only been targeted on short passes. He will, eventually, be the deep threat for New England.
Finally, the Patriots have a lot of weapons. While that does mean that Ochocinco will see fewer targets than he would on a team where he was the featured weapon, it also means that defenses can’t focus on him alone. They also have to watch out for Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and the myriad of other receivers that the Patriots roll out each week, all of whom are capable and dangerous. As an added bonus, the Patriots have a respectable ground game. The Law Firm named BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a 1000 yard rusher a year ago and Danny Woodhead is quick and a good receiver out of the backfield. Additionally, rookie Stevan Ridley looked good against the Bills.
I don’t mean to overly praise the Patriots. My point is simply that most teams can’t afford to double team Ochocinco because of all the weapons Tom Brady has at his disposal. Once Ocho learns the offense, and he will, he will be able to break that single coverage for long scores. He still has that ability, so don’t be discouraged by his early season struggles. New England will be good for him in the end, and he will produce. If you drafted him thinking he’d immediately be a major contributor…well, you shouldn’t have. But don’t give up on him just yet. If I’m right, and I usually am, those who are patient will be rewarded.
Pick Up of the Week: Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Tennessee Titans. Thus far Hasselbeck seems rejuvenated. He’s thrown for over 300 yards in two of his first three games with the Titans to go along with seven touchdowns. He’s developed a good rapport with receiver Kenny Britt, and with the exception of this week the two have been torching defenses, including the stout Baltimore Ravens. With running back Chris Johnson still struggling to get going, Hasselbeck is going to be asked to shoulder more of the load, and so far that doesn’t seem like a bad thing. If you are in need of a starting quarterback or a capable backup, Hasselbeck is available in 81.5 percent of ESPN leagues.