Offseason Extra: The biggest free agency moves
With free agency in full swing, players changing teams are making an impact. Who's going where and how will it affect your Fantasy drafts? Our Dave Richard covers the big names.
When the NFL business season begins, the best Fantasy Football owners know to begin making their preparations for the upcoming year. Drafts are months away from going down and rookies will further change the landscape of rankings and big boards, but the first big puzzle pieces in figuring out what teams are trying to improve upon are being put in place.
Just keep in mind that one guy signing in one place has an impact on not only the team he's joining, but the team he's leaving behind. Here's the impact of the big-ticket Fantasy players you need to know about. If anything, this should get the ball rolling on your prep work for the summer.
Steven Jackson , Falcons
2012 Average Draft Position: 22.29
2012 stats: 1,042 rush yards, 4 rush touchdowns; 38 catches, 321 receiving yards
The job left behind by Michael Turner will go to Jackson, who is not only on a mission to play on a team with a winning record but also reach the Super Bowl. The Falcons should be able to oblige on at least the winning record as well as giving Jackson a chance to be a difference-maker in that offense. Though Atlanta moved toward being more pass-happy in 2012, they still ran the ball 378 times, including 222 carries for Turner. Of those 222 carries for Turner, 26 came from inside the opponents' 10-yard line and eight went for touchdowns, numbers that were on the low side for Turner over his last three seasons. It's been a while since Jackson had those kinds of opportunities with the Rams -- he had 15 carries inside the opponents' 10-yard line last year and seven (!!) in 2011. Jackson's basically going from a team that had a hard time finding opportunities for their running back to score to a team that's excelled at it. One last point: Jackson will turn 30 in late July and has over 2,400 career carries, but the sentiment is that he's in good enough shape to churn ahead for at least one more year. If you're nervous, draft Jacquizz Rodgers to go with him. But the Falcons obviously think Jackson has something left to give and they surely don't want to go through another season with a plodding running back.
Early 2013 projection: 1,170 rush yards, 9 rush TDs; 235 receiving yards
Expected Draft Average: 20th to 30th overall in all leagues
Jackson fallout: Rodgers will probably keep his role as a change-of-pace back with a good dose of third-down work. He had his chance to impress last season and couldn't take advantage. He's a good handcuff in case Jackson does indeed decline. ... In St. Louis, keep your eyes on Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson , two second-year running backs with a lot of potential. There's a pretty good chance they'll split reps close to 50-50 so long as neither stinks in training camp and the preseason. Pead was a total-yardage beast in college and has really good quickness while Richardson shined in limited reps last season playing behind S-Jax. Both will come with picks after Round 7 and both have really nice potential.
Reggie Bush , Lions
2012 Average Draft Position: 56.17
2012 stats: 986 rush yards, 6 rush touchdowns; 292 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
The Lions were desperate for a playmaker in their backfield and they got one in Bush. Last year Mikel Leshoure was the only Detroit running back to have carries for 20-plus yards; he had three over 215 tries. Bush had six. The Lions also had interest in upgrading their receiving production out of their backs, something Bush has a lot of experience with going back to his days in New Orleans. In the four years Scott Linehan has been installed as offensive coordinator, Lions running backs have caught 89, 110, 86 and 103 balls. This is a team unafraid to throw a ton and getting a receptions generator like Bush, who has caught 73.4 percent of his targets over his career, will only make the offense more dangerous. Bush has been promised the starting job and should find his way to 200 carries and well over 50 catches with the Lions.
Early 2013 projection: 885 rush yards, 4 rush TDs; 375 receiving yards, three TDs
Expected Draft Average: 30th to 40th overall in standard leagues; 25th to 35th in PPR leagues
Bush fallout: Mikel Leshoure will see his carries dry up with the commitment given to Bush. He'll work the goal line and potentially kill the clock at the end of games but he might struggle for a consistent dozen touches per week. Joique Bell is also bench-bound with Bush basically doing his old job and more. On the plus side, Matthew Stafford potential for a second 5,000-yard season is a little brighter now. ... In Miami, Lamar Miller looks like the Dolphins' new running back. He'll work with Daniel Thomas , but the current coaching regime drafted Miller and has long been impressed with his skills as a rusher and a receiver. Miller will be one of the trendy breakout rushers in drafts this fall.
Wes Welker , Broncos
2012 Average Draft Position: 29.00
2012 stats: 118 catches for 1,354 yards and 6 TDs
As stunning as it was to see the Patriots let Welker go, it's even more stunning that Welker landed on a team with the opportunity to put up almost as many stats as he would have with his old team. The Broncos' decision to land the league's most accomplished slot receiver should pay off in a big way for their offense, though for Welker questions about just how much work he'll get remain unanswered. As a byproduct of how much the Patriots threw the ball, Welker had at least 123 targets in each of his six years in New England and averaged 154.7 targets per season and 9.9 per game. Last year Demaryius Thomas led all Broncos with 148 targets but had more than 10 in just six games. Eric Decker had 133 targets but only three games with over 10. Jacob Tamme had 88 targets and also had over 10 in a game three times. Point is, Manning did a pretty good job spreading the ball around while averaging 36.5 pass attempts per game. But 65.1 percent of those pass attempts went 10 yards or less, and that's Welker's wheelhouse. We know what Welker can do as his quickness and ability to make crafty moves in tight spaces have made him a productive staple in Fantasy play. We're probably looking at a dip in his targets, which means a dip in his receptions, but he should still put up numbers close to what we saw before he was chasing a huge contract. Welker's motivation has changed a bit but he still has a role as a No. 2 receiver in Fantasy leagues.
Early 2013 projection: 87 catches, 1,080 yards, 7 TDs
Expected Draft Average: 40th to 50th overall in standard leagues; 30th to 40th in PPR leagues
Welker fallout: If we're expecting Welker to start hogging targets, that has to mean something for the other Broncos receivers. The tight ends could see their work severely crippled compared to what they had in 2012. The receivers not named Thomas and Decker will also see their chances to shine dwindle. Thomas remains such a dynamic threat that he'll probably see a smaller dip in targets lost than Decker, who could make up for his lack of catches with work in the red zone. Eleven of his 13 touchdowns came inside the 20. Of course, no one benefits more than Peyton Manning , who had the second-best completion percentage of his career with the Broncos last season. It wouldn't be a shock to see all of his stats take a bump forward, making him a better Fantasy option than the quarterback Welker used to catch passes from.
Danny Amendola , Patriots
2012 Average Draft Position: 133.79
2012 stats: 63 catches for 666 yards and 3 TDs
Let the Amendola/Welker comparisons begin. The new Patriots slot receiver seemingly has better speed than the old slot man even though Welker has dwarfed Amendola's production when it comes to catches for 20-plus yards. Amendola's done better with the drops compared to Welker. Welker's receiving average has also been better than Amendola's over their careers. In his time with the Patriots, Welker also averaged 8.8 games per season with at least seven catches. Amendola has nine career games with at least seven catches. Now, comparing their numbers as they stand now isn't exactly fair because Amendola has played in St. Louis' lousy offense while Welker has been part of the Patriots' Ferrari-style system. But there's something to be said for overall averages, opportunity and most certainly experience. The other factor when comparing the two is that Amendola has not been the picture of health. Shoulder, knee and foot injuries sidelined him last year alone, and in 2011 Amendola injured his elbow and triceps in Week 1 and missed the rest of the season. Of course, the Patriots were just as familiar with Amendola's injury history and still felt comfortable giving him $10 million guaranteed. So here's the deal: Amendola will see a lot of playing time in New England and while he might not get exactly the same amount of targets Welker would have, he'll still be very involved. Amendola should clear 1,000 yards -- assuming he stays healthy -- but expecting him to put up numbers like Welker has the last two years is just too much to ask for.
Early 2013 projection: 84 catches, 1,020 yards, 6 TDs
Expected Draft Average: 70th to 80th overall in standard leagues; 65th to 75th in PPR leagues
Amendola fallout: There shouldn't be much difference between Amendola and Welker in terms of the other Patriots receivers. If anything, more targets might be in store for Aaron Hernandez , Rob Gronkowski and assuming he's still there Brandon Lloyd . The sooner Tom Brady gets over Welker moving on to Denver, the better his chemistry with Amendola will be, and that's an absolutely crucial for the entire Patriots offense. Brady is too diligent to write off. We could also see the Patriots lean on their running backs a little more, particularly when they decide to gash tired defenses with inside run after run after run like we saw in 2012. ... Back in St. Louis the hope is that Jared Cook and a group of young receivers pick up the slack left behind by Amendola. Cook's arrival in St. Louis is noteworthy mainly because of the amount of guaranteed money he's going to get. He's never been a stat machine but the Rams will have to try to round him into such form in order to get their money's worth. Young receivers like Austin Pettis , Chris Givens and Brian Quick all will have to step up to make Amendola forgettable. There's still no reason to trust Sam Bradford in Fantasy.
Mike Wallace , Dolphins
2012 Average Draft Position: 53.99
2012 stats: 64 catches for 836 yards and 8 TDs
Wallace is the Dolphins' deep-speed savior, the wideout to help their young quarterback develop into a productive player. But he also might be the more-common-than-not receiver who whines about his contract then gets paid handsomely when he signs with another team. Either way, the one thing Fantasy owners know is that Wallace is as boom-or-bust as it gets from week to week. A particularly disturbing trend has seen his 10-point Fantasy games dip from nine in 2010 to eight in 2011 to just five in 2012. This past season was rough on Wallace because opponents seemed to have an answer to bottling him up by the midway point in the season (dropped passes didn't help his cause either). Wallace has been at his best when he's not the De facto No. 1 receiver and his offense has a myriad of other threats. The Dolphins don't quite have the cadre of talent to set Wallace free but he'll still have his moments getting behind defenses and making plays. He's safest as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver.
Early 2013 projection: 68 catches, 926 yards, 6 TDs
Expected Draft Average: 75th to 85th overall in all leagues
Wallace fallout: In the past, Wallace's ability to take the top off the defense has opened things up for his teammates, but it's hard to get behind Brian Hartline or Davone Bess as Fantasy options. The same goes for Ryan Tannehill , who could hit 4,000 yards passing and 22 touchdowns with Wallace in tow. But that's just not good enough for Fantasy owners these days. ... Losing Wallace in Pittsburgh will be tough all the way around. Defenses will be able to key in on Antonio Brown , and the rest of the Steelers' receiving corps is either old, injured or underachieving. This does not bode well for Ben Roethlisberger , who has always had at least a few playmakers to throw to.
Shonn Greene , Titans
2012 Average Draft Position: 60.04
2012 stats: 1,063 rush yards, 8 rush touchdowns; 151 receiving yards
It's kind of amazing that the only job open to a running back with back-to-back 1,200 total-yard seasons with at least six touchdowns in each year is a backup one behind Chris Johnson . But Greene got paid well and gives the Titans a physical inside rusher who can hammer opponents in short-yardage/goal-line situations as well as take a little bit of work off of Johnson's plate. But the coaches also might view Greene as a legitimate threat to Johnson's workload in the event 'CJ2k' comes out of the gate weak like he has the last two years. The Titans had no choice but to roll with Johnson even when he stunk last season. This year they could conceivably turn to Greene and let him get more work. This somehow sounds good to the Titans coaching staff but to Fantasy owners who have been frustrated with Greene's recent efforts it sounds like a joke. It'll take some serious creativity or a loss of playing time for Johnson for Greene to have an impact.
Early 2013 projection: 135 carries, 535 rush yards, 6 TDs; 20 catches, 95 receiving yards
Expected Draft Average: 115th to 125th overall in all leagues
Greene fallout: Fantasy owners think the sky is falling for Johnson because Greene is coming in to sweep up the goal-line carries. Calm down -- that part of Johnson's workload has been pretty much absent for the past two years anyway. Johnson had all of nine carries inside the opponents' 10-yard line last year, and he had minus-8 yards with one touchdown (a two-yard job in Week 17). In 2011 he had three touchdowns from the same short distance (two were legit goal-line touchdowns) but still had just nine carries total. Expect Johnson's workload to be the same as it was last year provided he doesn't run like a scared chicken to begin the season. And with Greene in town the Titans might have a decidedly run-first approach, which could stunt the numbers of Jake Locker and the rest of his passing attack. ... Back in New York the Jets have filled Greene's spot with free agent Mike Goodson , who is a good candidate for the Philly-style West Coast offense the team is installing this year with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Goodson has speed, hands and low mileage, so there's some potential for him to put up some good numbers. The Jets could add another back to their group of Goodson, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight .
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