Have you been paying attention this offseason? Quick, where will Rashard Mendenhall be running this year? How about Shonn Greene? Whose uniform will Greg Jennings be wearing? Who’s the new starting tight end in Tennessee? Who’s kicking in San Francisco?
By LADD BIRO
Special to The Star
Once again, the roster of fantasy-relevant players changing ZIP codes this season is extensive. I counted more than 60, and that doesn’t include guys like Michael Turner, Beanie Wells and Brandon Lloyd, who are still looking for work.
And while this year’s merry-go-round spun no more quickly than in recent years, the ride always ends the same: with precious few players boosting their fantasy stock in new jerseys.
Last year, only Peyton Manning (coming off a season lost to injury) and Brandon Marshall measurably improved their fortunes with new teams. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Vincent Jackson got modest bumps, and Danario Alexander emerged in mid-season after the Chargers plucked him off the scrap heap. But that’s it, sports fans.
Meanwhile, following the historic trend, the list of team-swapping duds was exhaustive. Tim Tebow, Brandon Jacobs, Peyton Hillis and Laurent Robinson vanished from the fantasy landscape, and several other stars with great expectations mostly labored in vain.
So, as we survey the NFL’s continuously shifting landscape, we are justifiably pessimistic about most of the carpetbaggers’ prospects. Here’s a quick look at the most significant offseason moves of 2013, broken down by the projected impact on each player’s fantasy value.
Movin’ on up
Look for improved production from these five.
• Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Cardinals: There’s nowhere to go but up for Mendy after last year’s season of discontent. But is he the solution to Arizona’s perennial rushing woes? Don’t bank on it.
• Chris Ivory, RB, Jets: He’ll get his shot to start for a team in desperate need of a reliable bell cow. The oft-injured former Saint has no competition to speak of, but will the Jets ever penetrate the red zone?
• Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots: Wes Welker Lite may be Tom Brady’s only reliable receiver when the season begins. Amendola will be featured on every (other) fantasy expert’s sleeper list; which means, by definition, he’s no sleeper.
• Jared Cook, TE, Rams: The underachieving former Titan has developed an instant rapport with Sam Bradford in training camp. He’s worth a late-round flier.
• Phil Dawson, K, 49ers: The sure-footed former Brown will finally get a chance to mop up for a prolific offense.
Comin’ back down
These players will be hard-pressed to match last year’s results.
• Reggie Bush, RB, Lions: He had a good run in Miami, but he’s joining a pass-first offense in Motown. I just can’t see Bush cracking the Top 20 this season.
• Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts: He’ll begin his tenure in Indy nursing yet another foot injury. The old Bradshaw was more talented than Vick Ballard and Donald Brown put together, but injuries and shared carries may conspire against him.
• Shonn Greene, RB, Titans: Instead of two-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust in the Jets offense, he’ll now underachieve as Chris Johnson’s backup.
• Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings: He walked out of Green Bay and, pfffttttt … just like that … his elite status is history.
• Percy Harvin, WR, Seahawks: Hip surgery will cost him most, if not all, of his first season in Seattle.
• Brandon Myers, TE, Giants: He benefited from the dearth of talent around him in Oakland; but he’ll be the third option, at best, in New York.
Call it a wash
For better or worse, these players should post comparable results to last season.
• Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals: Arizona’s offensive line is a sieve, and he’s years past his prime. Even Larry Fitzgerald won’t be enough to salvage his fantasy value.
• Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs: Little more than a fantasy backup as a 49er, Smith will be an afterthought in KC.
• Matt Flynn, QB, Raiders: Even if he wins the starting job, Flynn won’t be roster-worthy in most leagues.
• Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons: Now on the wrong side of 30, the hard-charging workhorse will celebrate more wins in Atlanta; but his second-tier status will likely hold steady.
• Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers: Moves from one crowded backfield to another.
• Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins: His production slipped last year in Pittsburgh, and he hasn’t gotten off to a promising start with Ryan Tannehill.
• Wes Welker, WR, Broncos: If only he could find a decent quarterback to get him the ball, Welker might make a name for himself.
• Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers: It’s been a while since Boldin has been an every-week fantasy starter; but he’ll still have his moments on the left coast.
• Martellus Bennett, TE, Bears: He finally emerged in 2012 and Jay Cutler will welcome a reliable safety valve.
• Delanie Walker, TE, Titans: Walker has upside now that he’s out of Vernon Davis’ shadow; but his ceiling is low in Tennessee.
• David Akers, K, Lions: Kicked to the curb after an erratic season in San Francisco, Akers will be roster-worthy again in Detroit.
• Josh Brown, K, Giants: Should have more opportunities now that he’s in New York, but Brown is still far from elite.
• Lawrence Tynes, K, Buccaneers: With Connor Barth (ACL) sidelined for the season, Tynes will remain a borderline fantasy starter.
Off the radar
These players are likely to be written about only in the past tense from now on.
• QBs: Jason Campbell (Browns), Matt Cassel (Vikings), Ryan Fitzpatrick (Titans), Matt Hasselbeck (Colts), Kevin Kolb (Bills), Colt McCoy (49ers)
• RBs: LeGarrette Blount (Patriots), Mike Goodson (Jets), Peyton Hillis (Bucs), Felix Jones (Eagles), Willis McGahee (FA), Michael Turner (FA), Leon Washington (Patriots), Beanie Wells (FA)
• WRs: Davone Bess (Browns), Austin Collie (49ers), Josh Cribbs (Raiders), Brandon Gibson (Dolphins), Devery Henderson (Washington), Darrius Heyward-Bey (Colts), Domenik Hixon (Panthers), Brandon Lloyd (FA), Laurent Robinson (FA), Kevin Walter (Titans), Titus Young (FA)
• TEs: Anthony Fasano (Chiefs), Kellen Winslow, Jr. (Jets)
• Ks: Billy Cundiff (Jets), Shayne Graham (Browns)