The T.O. Effect

Well, it finally happened. Terrell Owens found a team willing to sign him — the Bengals — and fantasy owners are abuzz with the possibilities.

T.O., of course, becomes much more valuable now that he finally has a job. Being in an offense directed by Carson Palmer doesn’t hurt, either. But the fantasy impact is spread around, from Owens to Palmer to fellow receivers Antonio Bryant and even, yes, Chad Ochocinco.

Here are this week’s risers and fallers, all but one courtesy of one simple signing in Cincinnati on the eve of the opening of training camps.

RISING

Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals

The hype of the week is Owens, 36, signing a one-year deal worth $2 million plus performance-based incentives. We all know that T.O. is still in great shape and is capable of making big plays. The Bengals plan to use him on the outside and figure to take at least one or two deep shots per game with him to stretch the field. He has scored double-digit TDs in eight of 14 NFL seasons and in three straight seasons prior to spending last year in the fantasy wasteland that is Buffalo. Even with the revolving door at QB last year, he still managed 55 catches for 829 yards and five TDs with the Bills. Owens will add another dimension to Cincy’s attack and make the offense infinitely better, but don’t let your fantasy expectations for him rise too high. Dynasty owners should consider him a bye-week fill-in, while seasonal owners can take him in Round 8 or later as a solid WR3. Anything earlier than that is simply overpaying for him.

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals

Palmer didn’t light up the stat column last year, but his prospects for a return to fantasy form are looking up. With Owens aboard a team that previously had added wide receiver Antonio Bryant, rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham and a couple more rookie options, the Bengals now have probably the deepest WR corps in the league (at least outside of Indy). On top of that, the Bengals have a very fine running game to take the pressure off. Look for Palmer to return to his 4,000-yard, 25-TD level this year.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

The fact that Bryant, a standout at Oklahoma State in 2007 and 2008, signed a five-year, $11 million deal before the start of training camp speaks volumes about his true character. It’s a great sign that he told his agent, Eugene Parker, to just get a deal done so he could get to work. He might not want to carry Roy Williams’ shoulder pads, but he wants to be on the field and the Cowboys really want to get him the ball. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be the starter opposite Miles Austin by midseason and will eventually blossom into a top-tier fantasy WR1. Major kudos to Bryant for getting into camp on time.

 

FALLING

Antonio Bryant, WR, Bengals

While one Mr. Bryant is rising, another is falling. With T.O. in town, speculation is running rampant that Bryant’s knee isn’t holding up. I believe Bryant, 29, will be on the field, and the Bengals need him to be on the field after he signed a four-year, $28 million contract this offseason. Look for him to contribute here and there from the slot as a third WR, but he’ll no longer start, and he’s no longer a consistent fantasy option. Basically, that’s a nice way of saying to avoid him in your drafts.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals

Sorry, folks, but I just can’t see a scenario in which Ocho’s numbers go up with T.O. around. Palmer was absolutely zeroed in on him last year, and that just won’t be the case in 2010. There will be several plays designed to go to T.O., and the ball will be spread around a lot more with several more capable targets around him. Laveranues Coles couldn’t get open last season, and there was no receiving TE option, so Chad saw the ball all the time. That won’t be the case in 2010. Look for around 70 catches for 1,000 yards and eight scores.

Paul Hickey is the lead contributor for Athlon Fantasy Football and operates the website NoOffseason.com, a 365-day resource for obsessive fantasy owners who eat, breathe and sleep fantasy football. While the site appeals to all fantasy heads, there is a special emphasis on dynasty formats and IDP leagues.

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