2014 NFL free agency fantasy impact - NFC
APR 03, 2014 4:30p ET
The 2014 NFL Draft is still five weeks away, but the majority of the league has been busy acquiring new assets. This winter and early spring free agency has been as hectic, if not more, than most recent offseasons.
Per the norm, with NFL free agent frenzy comes fantasy football impact. Below are the top NFC free agent signings that will impact owners heading into the 2014 season.
2013 Stats: 898 receiving yards and five touchdowns
WRBC: Calvin Johnson, Kris Durham, Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew
Analysis: If not for a couple blown out knees, Ryan Broyles would be the assumed incumbent No. 2 WR heading into his third professional season. Nate Burleson gave the Lions about three seasons of production despite the fact he was on the team the last four. Damn pizza, so delicious, but so dangerous.
Matthew Stafford’s weekly eye-humping of Calvin Johnson – average 173 targets per season over the last three – needed to be addressed and Tate becomes a viable WR2 to keep an eye on in 2014. Make no mistake, the offense is crowded with Joique Bell, Reggie Bush, Brandon Pettigrew and tight end vulture Joseph Fauria, but Tate receives a nice bump on his 14th-round average draft position. Depending on which Matthew Stafford shows up on Sunday (and Thursdays and Mondays), Tate would possess a higher WR2/3 ceiling than most.
2013 Stats: 1,025 total yards with six touchdowns in 15 games
RBBC: David Wilson* and Peyton Hillis
Analysis: Let’s not mince words. David Wilson’s spine injury and subsequent neck surgery was uber-serious. He may play in 2014, he may not or he may see his role in the rushing game remixed.
At the moment, Jennings is the primary option in a Giants’ backfield that ranked 29th in rushing yards per game in 2013 (83.3). Jennings ranked 21st in scoring among fantasy football running backs on FOXSports.com and averaged over nine fantasy points per game for owners. Because he played behind Maurice Jones-Drew his first three seasons and split time with Darren McFadden for a minute in Oakland, Jennings has fresher legs with only 387 carries in four seasons (missed 2011 with knee injury). As a bonus and to continue the trend of hybrid running backs, Jennings caught a career-high 36 passes for a career-high 292 yards last season.
He has all the makings of a high-end RB2 ranked between RB13-16. It’s up to Eli Manning and company to hold onto the ball and give him ample opportunity to shine.
2010 Stats: 944 receiving yards with nine touchdowns
WRBC: Victor Cruz and Reuben Randle
Analysis: After a two-year, injury-plagued stint with the 49ers, Manningham returns to Big Blue. Notice I quoted his career-best 2010 stats. It was the last and only season in his seven-year career that he played in all 16 games. However, he was the No. 2 option behind Hakeem Nicks back then. Now, Victor Cruz, Reuben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan have priority in Eli Manning’s pecking order. There’s no guarantee Manningham even makes the team by the time September rolls around. It could be a great comeback narrative, but I’m not holding my breath.
2013 Stats: 824 total yards with four touchdowns in 15 games
RRBC: LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown
Analysis: It may not have been a free-agent signing, but the trade that sent Sproles to the Eagles was one of the more fantasy relevant transactions this past winter. With LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown active in Chip Kelly’s offense last season, I still believe Sproles is better suited for PPR leagues. Sproles ranked 35th in standard scoring fantasy leagues last season. In that same breath, McCoy fantasy owners in PPR leagues may feel the brunt of the signing as swing passes out of the backfield once targeted for Shady could now fall into the hands of the 31-year-old speedster out of Kansas State.
2013 Stats: 1,332 receiving yards and nine touchdowns
WRBC: Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed
Analysis: Naturally, D-Jax wants (hopes?) Robert Griffin III to change his number from No. 10 to No. 3 because, well, that’s Jackson’s number. When I learned about this, my mind wandered and heard skipper Jimmy Dugan “Oh, let's not go to the World Series without Stilwell's toys!”
That distraction aside, the Redskins’ fantasy passing/receiving game joined elite company whether RG3 or Kirk Cousins is behind center. Sorry, Colt. Profound I know, but Griffin and Cousins combined to lead Washington to the 16th-best passing offense (234 PYPG) last season, while their rushing offense, led by Alfred Morris, ranked fifth (135.3 RYPG). With Santana Moss turning 35 year old this summer, Jackson (10th in fantasy points scored last season among WR), will slide into the WR1 role, move Garcon (13th in fantasy points scored last season among WR) to WR2, Roberts could be WR3 and tight end Jordan Reed ready to break out in 2014 IF, and that’s a BIG IF, he can stay healthy.
I may be in the minority here, but I would rather see Cousins behind center to truly maximize the fantasy value of Jackson, Garcon and company in 2014. It’s not that I don’t trust RG3’s arm and knees, but threat of mobile quarterback – whether they want Griffin to be more of a pocket passer or not – really hedges the true fantasy potential of the receiving corps.
2013 Stats: 471 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 16 games
WRBC: Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson
Analysis: Will rank outside the Top 36 wide receivers to begin the 2014 season.
2013 Stats: 522 yards with four touchdowns in 16 games
TEBC: Tim Wright
Analysis: Pop quiz: which tight end ranked 14th in scoring among fantasy players at his position last season?
The answer: Tim Wright
His fantasy value for 2014 takes a slight hit only because the tight end plays more like a wide receiver and Brandon Myers could be used more often because he’s a better blocker – an attribute Love Smith seeked out in his tight end. With Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams (when healthy) locking down WR1 and WR2, Wright will feel the brunt of the Myers signing. However, because he was so efficient last season (571 yards with five touchdowns), we may see the rare tight end by committee in the Buccaneers passing game.
2013 Stats: 1,829 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception in eight games (five starts)
QBBC: Mike Glennon
Analysis: Lovie brings in a quarterback he knows to create a quarterback competition in camp with the 24-year-old Glennon. The rookie quarterback finished with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 games last season. So, I wouldn’t assume McCown has any type of inside track besides familiarity with coach Smith.
2013 Stats: 602 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns
WRBC: Tiquan Underwood and Greg Olson
Analysis: Cotchery replaces Steve Smith in the Panthers’ rush-first offense. Over the last three season, Carolina’s WR1 has averaged 1,104 with five touchdowns per campaign. He’ll flirt with WR20-24 status with Cam Newton calling the shots.