2014 NFL free agency fantasy impact - AFC
APR 01, 2014 2:45p ET
The 2014 NFL Draft is still five weeks away, but the majority of the league has been busy acquiring new assets. This winter's and early-spring's free agency has been hectic with dozens of new faces in new places.
Per the norm, with NFL free agent frenzy comes fantasy football impact. Below are the top AFC free agent signings that will impact owners heading into the 2014 season. I will cover the NFC free agent signings later this week.
MUST READ: 2014 NFC Free Agent Frenzy Fantasy Impact
2013 Stats: 1,586 total yards and 13 TDs
RBBC: Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas
Analysis: After fighting off Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball for the starting gig, Moreno finished 12th in the league in rushing yards and tied for fourth with 10 rushing touchdowns last season for the Broncos. It’s also worth noting he played in 16 games for the first time since his rookie season.
He joined a Dolphins’ offense that finished 26th in rushing at 90 RYPG. Moreno managed to score more rushing touchdowns than the eight the Dolphins’ tailbacks recorded last season. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas combined for only two games with more than 75 rushing yards last season. But when you are rushing behind an offensive line that allowed a league-high 58 sacks, the bulk of the blame does not fall on the running back’s effort.
Adding Moreno to the fold is a nice upgrade, but I’m not sure it addresses the main issue behind the Dolphins’ rushing woes and definitely hurts Moreno’s fantasy stock heading into 2014.
2013 Stats: 1,215 passing yards, five TDs, three INTs, three fumbles in seven games – rush for 306 yards with two touchdowns and a fumble
QBBC: Geno Smith
Analysis: Rex Ryan says Vick and second-year quarterback Geno Smith will compete in camp, but that Smith has the one-year system advantage. With that said, Smith’s freshman season in the NFL didn’t wow fantasy owners. Come to think of it, the entire Jets’ offense did no favors for fantasy owners looking to gamble. Smith led an offense that finished dead last in completion percentage (55.4) and second-worst 183 passing yards per game. His 21 interceptions were fourth-most among starting quarterbacks and three of his 12 touchdown passes came in one game (vs. ATL in Week 5).
My early bet is that Vick starts for the Jets Week 1 of the 2014 season. As always Vick’s fantasy value will come down durability, or lack thereof. He played in 54 of the 80 games during his time in Philadelphia. While not all those games were when he was considered the starter, the uber-red flag is that Vick has only managed to complete a 16-game season once in his 13-year career – 2006 with the Falcons.
2013 Stats: 1,288 receiving yards with 11 touchdowns in 16 games
WRBC: Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson
Analysis: Decker took tight end teammate Jeff Cumberland out for a steak dinner and paid him $25K for the rights to his No. 87 Jets’ jersey. I will never understand this practice.
However, the price of remaining No. 87, but No. 1 in our hearts will pale in comparison to Decker’s fantasy stock price falling at least a few rounds in 2014. When you are relying on either Smith in his sophomore season (Note: 55.4 completion percentage) or Vick’s often beat up torso to feed you the ball, statistical regression must be assumed – even if you are the top option in the pecking order. If Decker finished with 800 receiving yards and five touchdowns this season, I would call that a win, but a lofty gamble in leagues where you start two wide receivers.
2013 Stats: 627 receiving yards with five touchdowns in 16 games
WRBC: Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, and Danny Amendola
Analysis: Would it be fair to say I don’t know what type of fantasy numbers LaFell will post for the Patriots in 2014?
When it comes to “The Hoodie,” Tom Brady and currently crowded receiving corps, all bets are off at this moment. What I do know is that at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, LaFell is the second-tallest receiver currently healthy behind Aaron Dobson (no Gronk). Plus, coming from a run-first offense in Carolina that stunted and skewed the true fantasy potential of LaFell, I don’t believe his fantasy ceiling has been set. Proceed with caution.
2013 Stats: 772 rush yards with seven touchdowns and two fumbles
RBBC: Le’Veon Bell
Analysis: That cry you hear is Le’Veon Bell dynasty owners praying he doesn’t completely lose his stranglehold on red zone rushes. Bell accounted for nearly 65 percent of all red zone rushes for the Steelers last season. Meanwhile, Blount – in a crowded Patriots’ offense – stood out with a 5.0 YPR average – sixth-best in the NFL last season among running backs. The five yards per rush were his best since his rookie season with the Buccaneers.
He’s going to vulture. Bell owners need to embrace and adapt.
2013 Stats: 457 receiving yards with two touchdowns in 13 games
WRBC: Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton
Analysis: The Steelers lost Emmanuel Sanders to the Broncos and Jerricho Cotchery to the Panthers. So, the Steelers’ current WR corps stands 5-foot-10 (Brown), 5-foot-11 (Wheaton) and 5-foot-9 (Moore). Sanders and Cotchery flew under the fantasy radar for most last season, but combined for 1,342 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
Moore’s role with the Saints shifted drastically last season. He missed three games with a wrist injury and lost playing time to rookie Kenny Stills a season after racking up a career-best 1,041 yards for New Orleans.
2013 Stats: 911 total yards with four touchdowns and two fumbles in 14 games
RBBC: Chris Ogbonnaya and Edwin Baker
Analysis: Home team bias aside, Tate signing with the Browns was one of my favorite offseason signings to-date. Why? Well, for one it provides balance to the offense no matter who becomes the franchise's next starting quarterback. If it's Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel or TBD, a Browns offense that features a talented pass-catching running back atop the depth chart along with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron is noteworthy to fantasy owners. Plus, because he played behind Arian Foster the majority of his career, Tate has less miles and more potential in a backfield that can be all his. Chris Ogbonnaya and Edwin Baker purists (if they exist, which they probably do) can save their breath. I'm investing in Tate - when healthy - as a RB2-to-watch in 2014. Yes, even as a member of the Cleveland Browns.
2012 Stats: 533 receiving yards with four touchdowns in 14 games
WRBC: Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron
Analysis: Hawkins’ fantasy draft stock with depend on which direction the Browns go with their first-round draft picks. He did display “hmm, maybe I’ll add him” moments with the Bengals, but nothing to completely sell owners on his week-to-week value.
2013 Stats: 745 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 15 games
WRBC: Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones
Analysis: For the record (again), I’m not a fan of Joe Flacco as a fantasy quarterback option. So, in turn, I tend to overlook and devalue his wide receivers. Yes, I know you love Torrey Smith to finally break out this year. I actually like Smith as a fantasy commodity – just not with Flacco as his QB.
It only took one season for the Ravens to realize they needed Anquan Boldin 2.0. However, there are a couple questions I need answers to before I draft Smith in 2014:
2) Will Dennis Pitta’s role in 2014 be as it was in 2012?
Desperate for a balanced attack that doesn’t rely too heavily on Ray Rice and too heavily on Flacco’s arm, Smith is only a part of the puzzle – not the main cog.
2013 Stats: averaged 7.9 YPR on 36 carries with two touchdowns
RBBC: Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson
Analysis: Gus Bradley told reporters Gerhart could carry the ball 16-18 times a game in 2014. In a league where RBBC confuse and frustrates the masses, this is awesome news, right?!
Well, a season removed from the Bills’ offensive coordinator suggesting C.J. Spiller would carry the ball so much he would vomit on the field only to be greatly disappointed, you’ll have to excuse my cautious optimism when speaking of the Jags’ 31st-ranked rushing offense from a season ago.
While I do not fear Denard Robinson and Jordan Todman, the Jaguars’ offense still has to produce touchdowns on a consistent basis. That’s not ALL on Gerhart’s large, bruising shoulders. I do like that he picks up nearly three yards after contact (average) and that Justin Blackmon’s future as the main offensive option is TBD, but for Gerhart to leap up into the back-end of the first round, early second round (where Maurice Jones-Drew was often taken) because he is an assumed No. 1 back would be a bold statement by the owner gutsy enough to roll the dice.
2013 Stats: 2,454 passing yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games
QBBC: TBD, Case Keenum
Analysis: Depends on 2014 NFL Draft
2013 Stats: 511 receiving yards with two touchdowns and two punt return touchdowns
RBBC: TBD, Shonn Greene
Analysis: Even with a new zip code and Chris Johnson (most likely) on his way out, I don’t see McCluster impacting standard 12-team, standard scoring fantasy leagues this season. Shonn Greene would become the lead back with an ever-improving receiving corps of Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Delanie Walker.
If Dexter replaced Darren Sproles in New Orleans, perhaps my answer would be different.
2013 Stats: 896 receiving yards with no touchdowns in 15 games
WRBC: Reggie Wayne (ACL), T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen
Analysis: Welp, Darrius Heyward-Bey did not work out. Despite his (and the Giants’) subpar 2013 campaign, Nicks does improve the Colts’ receiving corps and provides Andrew Luck a WR2 not yanked off the practice squad (Rogers, Brazill and Whalen did all improve) as was the case at the second half of 2013.
Without Wayne out for more than half the season, Luck passed for 500 fewer yards in 2013 compared to his freshman campaign. While Nicks may fail to participate in 16 games in 2014, I would think his 2013 average draft position of the sixth round would be a tad high for a WR2/3. I do believe Nicks has the potential – repeat “potential” - to compete for Comeback Player of the Year within the offense. In a 2013 season-to-forget, Nicks nearly amassed 900 receiving yards. So, as a WR2, 850 yards and four-to-five touchdowns isn’t out of the question for a Top 36 WR with a stable QB.
Note: all this assumes Reggie Wayne starts Week 1.
2013 Stats: 751 total yards with eight touchdowns and no fumbles (129 touches)
RBBC: Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead
Analysis: The Colts were committed to Trent Richardson, Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw and allowed Brown to walk. Unfortunately, for those owners who saw the flashes of fantasy brilliance by Brown last season, they won’t carry over with the Chargers. Mathews and Woodhead are a nasty 1-2 punch that racked up over 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Being the next Ronnie Brown in San Diego is not a compliment.
2013 Stats: 1,117 with five touchdowns and a fumble
RBBC: Darren McFadden
Analysis: This has all the makings of the greatest fantasy ulcer since DeAngelo Willims and Jonathan Stewart were both 100 percent healthy and splitting carries. Granted, McFadden has only played in 22 of 32 games the last two seasons and in 29 of 48 the last three. So, there’s a good chance Jones-Drew becomes the de facto lead back.
The Raiders did rank 12th in rushing offense last season, but remember Terrelle Pryor accounted for 576 of their 2000 team rushing yards. The two tailbacks will run behind a line that allowed the 10th-most sacks last season, while Matt Schaub looks to bury the demons of 2013 and move the chains with his arms and young receiving corps.
The Raiders’ red flags are numerous when it comes to fantasy football, but in this RBBC world we compete it, I would have to think Jones-Drew is the running back to covet in the second round with DMC a necessary handcuff.
2013 Stats: 817 yards with three touchdowns in 14 games
WRBC: Denarius Moore, Rod Streater
Analysis: If you remove his league-leading 14-touchdown campaign, when Aaron Rodgers targeted him 20 times inside the red zone (9th-most among WR), Jones has averaged less than four touchdowns per season during his seven-year career.
He will compete with Denarius Moore for Matt Schaub's targets and Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden for play calls his direction. It’s an uphill climb and I don’t see J.J. ranking inside the Top 24 fantasy wide receivers in 2014 at the moment.
2013 Stats: 740 receiving yards with six touchdowns
WBBC: Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Andrew Caldwell
Analysis: Coming off a career-best fantasy season that saw his fantasy stock rise, it’s scary to think what Sanders can accomplish for owners in 2014 with Peyton Manning.
I could stress, “It’s a crowded receiving corps and who knows what type of numbers Sanders can post this season,” but let’s get real and embrace the fact Manning spreads the wealth and every receiver has the ability to post double-digit fantasy points on a weekly basis.
Check out last year’s Broncos WR fantasy numbers (FOXSports.com standard scoring):
- Demaryius Thomas – Ranked 2nd WR – (14.18 FPPG)
- Eric Decker – Ranked 9th WR – (12.05 FPPG)
- Wes Welker – Ranked 21st WR – (10.6 FPPG – 13 games)
- Julius Thomas – Ranked 3rd TE – (10.77 FPPG – 14 games)
Sanders will do some damage in 2014. He’s not a WR1, but could flirt with Top 24 WR status on a weekly basis.
MUST READ: 2014 NFC Free Agent Frenzy Fantasy Impact