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Insider

Palmer preserves value of new teammates

10/18/2011

New Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer is certainly more viable to fantasy owners than the franchise's alternatives, which appeared to be below-average veteran Kyle Boller and raw rookie Terrelle Pryor. For all the controversy Palmer has been through since the end of the 2010 season, refusing to suit up for the Cincinnati Bengals and demanding a trade or threatening to retire, he did finish last season as the No. 13 quarterback for standard scoring in ESPN leagues.

The Raiders play the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7 and then enjoy their bye week, and it would certainly make sense that Palmer would make his Raiders debut in Week 9 against the Denver Broncos (who allow the most fantasy points to quarterbacks!). Palmer, who has a strong relationship with Raiders head coach Hue Jackson from Jackson's days as the Bengals' receivers coach, has been working out in Southern California and should be ready to play by then. The question for fantasy owners is whether he can really help us?

Jason Campbell, the Oakland starter until breaking his collarbone Sunday, entered Week 6 a solid yet surprising 12th among quarterbacks in standard scoring. The Raiders have the NFL's leading rusher in Darren McFadden and enough young, speedy wide receivers to make any quarterback not named Boller relatively interesting. Campbell was middle of the pack in throwing the ball downfield, a key factor in evaluating passing offenses; Palmer's arm strength has been questioned since he suffered a torn ligament and tendon in his throwing elbow in 2008. He hasn't averaged better than 6.8 yards per attempt since 2007.

Then again, thanks to a career-high 586 pass attempts, Palmer managed to throw for 3,970 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. The Raiders are not likely to throw nearly as much. As a team, they are tied with Washington for 22nd in pass attempts. I wouldn't call Palmer necessarily an upgrade over Campbell, but I also didn't expect Campbell to remain fantasy's No. 12 quarterback. In my end-of-season rankings leading into Week 6 I ranked Campbell 23rd at quarterback. This week, heading into Week 7, I have Palmer ranked 22nd in those same rankings. For Week 9 against the Broncos, I doubt he'll make my top 20, but in future weeks I could see him rising. Ultimately, he's still not a fantasy starter to me. I'd rather pick up Tim Tebow or Matt Cassel as free agents first, and once the six-team bye weeks end chances are you won't be messing with Tebow, Cassel or Palmer in standard leagues.

What this major trade -- a first-round pick in 2012 and potentially another in 2013 -- does do, in addition to adding Palmer as a factor in deeper leagues, is make Darrius Heyward-Bey owners feel a bit better. Heyward-Bey has thrived for three consecutive weeks, averaging 99 receiving yards and nine targets per contest. Palmer might not get the ball downfield quite like Campbell did, but he's an upgrade on Boller, this week's presumed starter against the Chiefs. I'd still keep an eye on Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, as well, for deeper leagues, but Heyward-Bey is the one to own here. Still, he doesn't crack my top 40 wide receivers yet. This is a deep fantasy position and there remains competition at wide receiver on what is a running team.

As for the Bengals' side of this, rookie Andy Dalton has done reasonably well so far, tied for 17th with Alex Smith and Philip Rivers with 75 standard fantasy points. I rank Dalton worse than that, as rookies tend to be inconsistent, but it was clear Palmer wasn't a part of Cincinnati's future. Instead, two high draft picks are. A young running back for the future or offensive line help would make Dalton even better in future seasons.