The dust has settled leaving football fans aching for the NFL draft coming in early May. Free agency has now come and left – for the most part – so we can now effectively reflect on what this free agency moves mean, not only for your favorite teams, but more importantly… what they mean for the fantasy football gurus out there.
The players mentioned below are merely players who actually, at this point, have fantasy value or there is a discussion to be had about their potential fantasy value. Obviously, the NFL draft could potentially shift anything I have written below as a player may go from a solid contributor to backup with one draft pick. Things, as always, can change quickly, but we might as well throw around some names to keep an eye on in fantasy land.
Player – New Team (Previous Team)
Michael Vick – New York Jets (Philadelphia Eagles)
– Vick maybe still has a couple good years left, but his reemergence with the Jets shouldn’t come as an exciting consideration for fantasy football owners. While I see Vick earning early season playing time over the second-year Geno Smith, neither have the ceiling to warrant serious fantasy considerations. While New York’s offense is slowly becoming more potent, it isn’t enough to turn back the clock for Vick, who has enough trouble staying healthy and keeping the ball out of the defense’s hands (which oddly enough is what Smith struggled with last season).
Josh McCown – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Chicago Bears)
– McCown was a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners while Chicago Bears starter Jay Cutler was injured. McCown played exceptionally well and put up very nice point totals as he finished the season with 13 touchdowns and one interception. Now, he gets his final go at potentially a starting gig in Tampa Bay under new Bucs coach Lovie Smith. Another second-year quarterback in Mike Glennon will look to retain his starting spot heading into next season, but with Smith’s experience around McCown (when Smith coached in Chicago), I wouldn’t be surprised to see McCown taking starting snaps at the beginning of the season. I personally don’t see McCown suddenly channeling his success from last season into a top-flight fantasy season. Chicago’s offense was/is coordinated by head coach and offensive genius Marc Trestman making me think McCown can be a successful quarterback in Tampa Bay, but not one you would want facing down Aaron Rodgers in your fantasy matchups.
Chris Johnson – Unknown (Tennessee Titans)
– For Johnson, I’ll just mention that the teams considered to still be in the running for Johnson are: the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. While Dallas and Buffalo seem a little less likely (or rational), New York and Atlanta makes some sense. Either way, Johnson isn’t going to be a workhorse back, but Atlanta seems to project the greatest fantasy value. Steven Jackson stills remains the starter in Atlanta, but with the treads on his tires wearing thin, Johnson would be more featured in Atlanta than in New York where Chris Ivory figures to still be heavily featured with wrinkles of Bilal Powell and Mike Goodson. Johnson, if in Atlanta, isn’t an early running back pickup anymore, but could be, potentially, a steal in the third-round or later. He doesn’t figure to ever return to “CJ2K” as he is probably more likely going to put up numbers like C.J. Spiller did last season with occasional big games.
Knowshon Moreno – Miami Dolphins (Denver Broncos)
– Moreno had a great season as he was surprisingly healthy throughout the season for Denver as a solid receiving back. He was also very effective between the tackles and finished fifth in fantasy points amongst running backs on NFL.com. Moreno is still below the 30-year old (27 in July) and is on his way to Miami. Miami still features Lamar Miller, who let down fantasy owners in a big way last season, and Daniel Thomas. Second-year back Mike Gillislee also remains in Miami after showing well in his limited rookie playing time. What’s the point of all these names? Moreno is splitting carries. There is a good chance Miami becomes a team to avoid entirely for fantasy running backs.
Ben Tate – Cleveland Browns (Houston Texans)
– This is a guy to monitor. Tate has always been one of the most talented backup running backs in the game, showing off in multiple games when Arian Foster was injured or otherwise not playing. Tate has the experience and hasn’t taken the hits, which is a combination for success. Well… that and talent, which Tate has plenty of. The Browns aren’t exactly “dynamic” on offense, but the running game could become the center piece, especially if a rookie quarterback is taken early by Cleveland. Tate could be another “high-risk/high-reward” pick. I personally see the latter.
Rashad Jennings – New York Giants (Oakland Raiders)
– Jennings was great in Oakland, eventually earning the starting spot outright. The Giants still have David Wilson, but with Andre Brown moving to Houston, there is an opening for Jennings. Wilson’s season clearly didn’t play out the way he wanted it to, which makes Jennings an intriguing pickup heading into this next season. He could end up being a high-scoring featured back for the Giants.
LeGarrette Blount – Pittsburgh Steelers (New England Patriots)
– This just seems like a Pittsburgh pickup, right? A big, bruising back who should help Pittsburgh’s poor rushing attack. That said, I don’t think Blount plays a huge role in the world of fantasy. He is a valuable asset for the “real world” of football, but I don’t expect much in fantasy.
Maurice Jones-Drew – Oakland Raiders (Jacksonville Jaguars)
– He is 29-years old and has been struggling with injuries for the last year or so. His best seasons are clearly behind him and I honestly can’t say if playing behind Oakland’s offensive line is an improvement over Jacksonville’s. Oh, and there’s Darren McFadden. Then again…
Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders (Oakland)
– McFadden is one of the most annoying players to own in fantasy. Anyone who has tried vows to never take a chance again and this season should follow suit with those sentiments. He will probably miss a handful of games, which might give Jones-Drew some fantasy value, but I’m probably not messing with Oakland running backs unless the value is fantastic.
Owen Daniels – Baltimore Ravens (Houston Texans)
– Just another guy to watch. For the past couple years Owens has been a guy who could make a big impact in fantasy football, but hasn’t done so thus far. Perhaps a season with Joe Flacco and company will help?
DeSean Jackson – Washington Redskins (Philadelphia Eagles)
– Jackson is supremely talented and I have to imagine that his fantasy value increases with his signing to Washington. His isn’t an elite option, but should put up WR1 numbers. It just may be a little inconsistent.
Steve Smith – Baltimore Ravens (Carolina Panthers)
– Smith goes from being “the man” and top receiver in Carolina to the number two behind Torrey Smith in Baltimore. Smith helps Baltimore, but I don’t see him having much value in fantasy land. For some reason, I can’t help but think of the last big-name wide-receiver signing Baltimore had… Derrick Mason. Mason always was more of a WR3, maybe WR2 – on a good day – and I see Smith following suit.
Eric Decker – New York Jets (Denver Broncos)
– Big money was shelled out to Decker to be the number one receiver in New York. While Decker is a great player, I don’t think he has enough to be considered a number one receiver in the NFL, much less in fantasy football. More of a WR2 in fantasy.
James Jones – Oakland Raiders (Green Bay Packers)
– I know Matt Schaub is there now and Johnny Manziel could be there soon, so does Jones have a high ceiling? Jones is talented and worth monitoring, but he needs someone to throw to him and, frankly, anyone Oakland fields won’t be as good as Aaron Rodgers.
Golden Tate – Detroit Lions (Seattle Seahawks)
– Tate could be a steal in fantasy drafts. With Calvin Johnson being so… “Calvin Johnson-ny”, Detroit has functioned offensively because of his dominance. Now, Tate provides a wonderful compliment at receiver. Tate could be a wonderful WR2 because… well… if you were a defensive coordinator, would you rather stop Johnson and force the ball to someone else (Tate), or would you rather take you chances with Johnson single-handedly controlling a game? Most will try to stop the All-Pro, which means Tate could be a beneficiary. Also, keep in mind how Nate Burleson (now with Cleveland) was always being talked about as a potential fantasy breakout because he was the second option in Detroit. That’s Tate now… who is better.
Hakeem Nicks – Indianapolis Colts (New York Giants)
– This might be a signing that actually positively affects his new teammates more than him. Nicks probably remains as an inconsistent fantasy play, but his presence could take eyes off of guys like T.Y. Hilton.
Emmanuel Sanders – Denver Broncos (Pittsburgh Steelers)
– Sanders will probably put up similar numbers to Eric Decker from a year ago. Decker is a strong, physical receiver who should play well in New York in the coming season, but Sanders has a high-ceiling of his own. He could explode in this offense.
Kenny Britt – St. Louis Rams (Tennessee Titans)
– I’m throwing Britt in here as a reminder. I don’t see anyone picking him too early come draft day, but he is worth a low-risk pick. If he has a chance to focus and succeed in the NFL, it is probably with head coach Jeff Fisher and a Rams offense that is still looking for those elusive “offensive weapons”.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense/Special Teams
– Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner, Clinton McDonald… Tampa Bay did a lot in an attempt to shore up their 17th ranked defense from a year ago. They lost Darrelle Revis, who maybe didn’t really fit their defensive style anyway, but Verner is a solid corner who should only improve with Leslie Frazier coaching the defense. Johnson and McDonald have question marks, but I have seen a lot of Johnson and know he can impact games in a multitude of ways. Tampa Bay should not only be improved defensively, but they could turn into a solid fantasy play if the turnovers start flowing (as Chicago was known for with Smith coaching there).
Denver Broncos Defense/Special Teams
– DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward… These are the big three names for Denver defensively. Ware paired with Von Miller should make fantasy football owners salivate a little when looking at Denver’s defense. Talib is legitimately one of the best corners in the game and Ward is a fantastic addition to a defense lacking a playmaker at safety since Brian Dawkins. Watch out for Denver in fantasy, especially since you would expect teams to be playing from behind making sacks and interceptions much more likely.
Chicago Bears Defense/Special Teams
– Lamarr Houston, Willie Young… Houston and Young were added to replace Julius Peppers, but both could keep Chicago in consideration with fantasy owners. They can rush the passer.