Fantasy Football: Familiar Faces in New Places
Fantasy Football, as we often like to say, is all about opportunity. Yes, talent matters, and so does health and luck, but just about anyone can put up useful fantasy numbers with 20 carries or 12 targets.
When a major player changes locations via free agency or a trade, it should sound some fantasy alarm bells in your head. In most cases, the acquiring team intends to give that player a major role. Otherwise, signing him to a big contract or trading for him wouldn't make much sense. These familiar faces in new places should be given every chance early on to be major contributors.
Let's take a look at some of the bigger names who changed zip codes this offseason:
As they often tend to do, most quarterbacks stayed put this offseason. The only two notable changes -- Brock Osweiler to Houston and Robert Griffin III to Cleveland -- likely won't have an impact on your fantasy draft.
Maybe Osweiler can flirt with fantasy relevance, as he does have one of the most talented receivers in the game to utilize in DeAndre Hopkins. Even a middling talent like Brian Hoyer put up some big games last season, so Osweiler will at least be on the streaming radar, even if his performances last year didn't inspire a whole lot of hope for major fantasy production.
Can you trust RGIII again? I wouldn't, especially given the situation he's in. While it's possible that Hue Jackson can coach him up and squeeze some of the rookie year magic out of him, Griffin never will be the runner he once was thanks to all those injuries. I'd look elsewhere, barring a great preseason.
Now we're talking. Multiple big name running backs switched teams this past season, including a few veterans with a lot of miles on the odometer.
Lamar Miller will be the highest drafted player to move teams this offseason. Miller was criminally under-utilized in his four seasons in Miami, as he averaged 4.6 yards a carry, caught the ball out of the backfield and performed well in the red zone over the past two years. Miller is capable of doing it all and being a workhorse back, and it's no wonder he's being drafted toward the top of the second round in current drafts now that he's with a Houston team that was fifth in rushing attempts last year, despite not having a real running back and often being down in games.
DeMarco Murray is a little trickier to get a handle on. The Titans did the RBBC (running back by committee) thing fantasy players have grown to loathe last year under Mike Mularkey, and he's back as head coach. The team also used a second-round pick on giant human Derrick Henry, who could potentially steal some goalline and early-down work.
It's safe to say Murray will never even approach his magical 2014 season (392 carries, 1,845 yards, 13 TD), but I don't think he's the 3.6 YPC guy we saw in Philadelphia last year, either. The Titans didn't burn $25 million over four years not to use Murray, so he'll at least be given the chance to fail early on. He's currently the 18th RB off the board according to Fantasy Pros ADP, which sounds about right.
Matt Forte is 30 years old with over 2,000 career carries, which will be enough to scare lots of players away on draft day. Forte battled injuries last year as well, but after the Jets lost Chris Ivory to Jacksonville, there's plenty of early down work on tap for him to take. The Jets have a murky QB situation that doesn't inspire confidence, though, and Forte hasn't scored over six rushing touchdowns in six of his past seven seasons, so he's not a red zone monster by any means. With Bilal Powell still around to steal some third-down work, it's a little difficult to justify Forte being RB15 in drafts, despite his past performance.
Speaking of Chris Ivory, he heads to Jacksonville to team up with returning rookie T.J. Yeldon to form what's likely to be a committee. Yeldon wasn't bad in his rookie year (4.1 YPC, 36 receptions), but he clearly wasn't good enough to convince Jacksonville's brass that he's a three-down, workhorse style of back.
While Jacksonville's offense is definitely on the upswing, it seems unlikely that Ivory will log enough carries or stay healthy enough to be a major fantasy contributor. Ivory runs violently and breaks a ton of tackles, but it takes a toll on his body. He did catch 30 passes last year, so he's not quite as one-dimensional as he used to be, but he has a history of missing games dating back to his time with the Saints. He's a more exciting pick in standard leagues than PPR, as per usual.
There aren't a lot of huge changes here, but a few injuries or surprises could thrust a few names into bigger roles.
With Calvin Johnson retired, the Lions went out and grabbed Marvin Jones to help replace some of his production. Jones should help in the red zone more than anything, as Golden Tate will still be the preferred PPR option. Jones does have some sneaky appeal and has scored 10 touchdowns in a season before, and the Lions showed some life under Jim Bob Cooter's guidance last year. At WR39, you could do much worse.
Travis Benjamin comes to San Diego from Cleveland, where he was coming off a career year. Benjamin's big season might have been inflated by an unusually high catch rate compared to prior years, and he did most of his damage off the deep ball. Philip Rivers likes to test defenses deep, but he's getting older and has never had the strongest arm. Benjamin won't cost you much with a WR50 ADP, however, and the Chargers should be playing from behind a lot again.
Ladarius Green is going to be a popular tight end in drafts, mainly because he's moving into a dynamic Steelers offense and will finally have a starting job all to his own. Green has spent all of his career behind Antonio Gates, and has never had the chance to break out. With Heath Miller retired, Green's athleticism over the middle of the field could help him become a factor, even though he's failed to register a season with over 500 receiving yards on his career.
Ben Watson had a career revival with Drew Brees in New Orleans (74-825-6), but it's tough to tell how much of that was Brees and the high volume passing game and how much of it was Watson's talent. We'll find out more in Baltimore, where Watson will start over a few young tight ends and help solidify a passing attack that may be without Breshad Perriman for an extended period of time.
Taking Coby Fleener in the top 10 is pretty simple to understand. If Watson could do it at his age, Fleener should be able to step in and put up similar numbers in New Orleans. Fleener did have 8 scores in 2014, so there's some talent there. As we've seen, Brees does like his tight ends quite a bit, and the Saints paid up to get him. Maybe this is the year it all comes together.