Quick: Where will Reggie Bush be taking handoffs this season? Whose uniform is Mike Wallace now wearing? Which city’s fans will Percy Harvin disappoint this year? Can you name the new starting cast in Philadelphia?
Once again, before we can get serious about another year of fantasy draft prep, we must pause to examine the NFL’s shifted landscape. Heck, I’ve been tracking all the offseason moves on the Fantasy Fools blog since February, and I’m a lifelong Dolphins fan. But until I started writing this week’s column, I had forgotten that my hometown team had acquired once-and-hopefully future fantasy stud Jordan Cameron to upgrade their tight end position.
That said, history shows that Cameron must defy some pretty long odds if he is to prosper with his new team. Simply put, it just doesn’t happen very often.
In 2014, only five of the 30-plus marquee names that swapped uniforms in the previous offseason appreciably improved their fantasy fortunes with their new teams. Emmanuel Sanders was the most obvious, and predictable, beneficiary of his improved scenery. Steve Smith and Golden Tate also fared better, Brandon LaFell found favor in Tom Brady’s eyes, and Justin Forsett turned Ray Rice’s implosion into a Cinderella season in Baltimore.
But the list of players who crashed and burned in their new cities was much more exhaustive, headlined by once-proud fantasy stars like Chris Johnson, Knowshon Moreno, Maurice Jones-Drew and Stevie Johnson. And in a result that should have surprised no one, Eric Decker lost all radar contact when he left the Broncos for the Jets. Are you listening, Brandon Marshall?
Will this year’s carpetbagger class fare any better? Don’t count on it. Here’s our quick look at the most significant offseason moves of 2015, categorized by the projected year-over-year impact on each player’s fantasy value.
Movin’ on up
Look for improved production from these four:
▪ Sam Bradford, QB, Eagles: If he can simply manage to play the whole season, he’ll improve upon last year’s abbreviated stats. But Bradford has yet to put up QB1 numbers in any of his first four campaigns, and I don’t see that changing now.
▪ Nick Foles, QB, Rams: Like Bradford, his season was cut short by injury (before it was cut short by poor play). His magical 2013 run seems like ancient history.
▪ Jordan Cameron, TE, Dolphins: The gifted receiver has been plagued by concussions, and another one could doom his career in Miami. But if he manages to stay healthy, Cameron could return to Pro Bowl form.
▪ Owen Daniels, TE, Broncos: Daniels has never performed up to expectations; but when you step into a plum job like this, magic can happen. He won’t be the next Julius Thomas, but he should be a mid-level fantasy starter.
Look out below
These players will be hard-pressed to match last year’s results:
▪ DeMarco Murray, RB, Eagles: There’s only one direction for the 2014 rushing champ to go, and it’s not up. Philly emptied the vault for a good back one year too late.
▪ LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: Despite what felt like a bust season, Shady finished just outside the Top 10 fantasy ranks in 2014. But while Buffalo’s offensive line has made lesser talents like C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson look very good at times, the low-scoring offense won’t be kind to McCoy.
▪ Frank Gore, RB, Colts: He certainly improved his chances of hoisting a Lombardi Trophy, but the perennially underrated back will be hard-pressed to put up another 1,000-yard season in Indy.
▪ DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers: Give him the first two weeks while Le’Veon Bell is suspended, then say farewell.
▪ Chris Johnson, RB, F/A: It seems likely that some team (Dallas, perhaps) will take a flier on CJ.6K before or during the season. But like Steven Jackson, Pierre Thomas and Ahmad Bradshaw, his career may be over sooner than he hoped.
▪ Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets: See Decker, Eric, 2014 season.
▪ Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs: He caught 10 TD passes with the Eagles last year. That’s 10 more than any receiver in Kansas City. So which direction do you think Maclin’s arrow is pointing?
▪ Mike Wallace, WR, Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater will need to have a breakout season for Wallace to be anything more than a week-to-week fantasy starter.
▪ Torrey Smith, WR, 49ers: Joe Flacco tried to make him a star, but that never materialized. He’ll take a step back in the 49ers’ retooled offense.
▪ Percy Harvin, WR, Bills: If an overrated receiver moves from one lackluster offense to another, does he make a sound?
▪ Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks: If you think Graham will score double-digit TDs in Seattle this year, I’ve got some prime real estate in the Big Easy I’d like to offer you.
▪ Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars: Let’s hope he invests his money well, because we may never hear the words “Touchdown, Julius Thomas!” again.
Call it a wash
For better or worse — mostly worse — these players should post comparable results to last season.
▪ Josh McCown, QB, Browns: Remember when McCown put up those impressive numbers in relief of Jay Cutler? No, I don’t either.
▪ Brian Hoyer, QB, Texans: Will he win Houston’s starting gig? Will anyone care?
▪ Reggie Bush, RB, 49ers: He’s probably best utilized as a change-of-pace back now, and that’s what he’ll do with Carlos Hyde carrying the load in San Francisco.
▪ Stevan Ridley, RB, Jets: He’s attempting to return from a knee injury that cost him the majority of his 2014 season. With only Chris Ivory above him on the depth chart, a healthy Ridley offers upside. But don’t bet on it.
▪ Ryan Mathews, RB, Eagles: At least this year when he succumbs to injury, you won’t curse him.
▪ Trent Richardson, RB, Raiders: Indy dropped him the day after Gore arrived. Gee, I never saw that coming. The incredible, shrinking Richardson may not even make Oakland’s final roster.
▪ C.J. Spiller, RB, Saints: He’s had trouble staying healthy, and New Orleans’ offense doesn’t exactly showcase the run.
▪ Darren McFadden, RB, Cowboys: Now that he’s out of Oakland, surely Run-DMC will escape the injury bug that has plagued his career. Wait, what’s that you say? Hurt already? Never mind.
▪ Andre Johnson, WR, Colts: If only he had made this move a few years ago. Indy is the right place at the wrong time for the future Hall of Famer.
▪ Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins: He rarely made an impact with Drew Brees as his quarterback. Even with a bigger role in Miami, Stills is an unlikely breakout candidate.
▪ Dwayne Bowe, WR, Browns: I’ll bet he finds the end zone this year. Once or twice.
▪ Greg Jennings, WR, Dolphins: There won’t be enough balls to go around to everyone in Miami’s revamped receiving corps. Jennings looks like the odd man out.
Off the radar
We expect to refer to these players strictly in the past tense from now on:
▪ QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick (Giants), Matt Cassel (Bills), Christian Ponder (Raiders), Matt Schaub (Ravens)
▪ RBs: Steven Jackson (F/A), Ahmad Bradshaw (F/A), Pierre Thomas (F/A), Shane Vereen (Giants), Bernard Pierce (Jaguars), Travaris Cadet (Patriots), Jacquizz Rodgers (Bears), Shonn Greene (F/A)
▪ WRs: Wes Welker (F/A), James Jones (Giants), Stevie Johnson (Chargers), Hakeem Nicks (Titans), Nate Washington (Texans), Lance Moore (Lions), Harry Douglas (Titans), Jarrett Boykin (Panthers), Cecil Shorts (Texans), Miles Austin (Eagles), Brian Hartline (Browns), Brandon Gibson (Patriots), Eddie Royal (Bears), Denarius Moore (Bengals)
Next week: A look at the 2015 rookie class.