2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Kirk Cousins, Jerick McKinnon, Allen Robinson among best old faces in new places
Jamey Eisenberg looks at all the major transactions this offseason and the impact on their Fantasy value this year.
What sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And what big-name running back could ruin your season? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Alvin Kamara's huge breakout last season and find out.
Go back in time and look at the players who switched teams prior to the 2017 season. In fact,to make it easy.
Those are the players we highlighted in last year's old faces in new places column, and once again Fantasy owners were disappointed by most of the guys who joined new rosters. Sure, there were some positive outcomes with Brandin Cooks, Marshawn Lynch, Latavius Murray, Robert Woods and Alshon Jeffery.
But there were definitely more flops than fortunes, including Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy, Terrelle Pryor, Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett. The list could go on and on. The point is don't get overexcited just because a player has a new address.
This season, there are several players poised for success with their new teams, including Kirk Cousins, Tyrod Taylor, Jerick McKinnon, Isaiah Crowell, Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Michael Crabtree, Allen Hurns, Trey Burton and Jimmy Graham. But the track record suggests there will likely be plenty of failures, so be careful when targeting players on the move.
Here, we've highlighted the top old faces in new places for 2018, and you'll see there's one prominent name missing in Dez Bryant. At the time of publication, he remains a free agent, but hopefully he'll find a good landing spot to enhance his Fantasy value.
Cousins has been a top 10 Fantasy quarterback each of the past three seasons, so it's hard to expect a dramatic leap in production going from Washington to Minnesota. But he does get an upgrade in receiving corps with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph, and that should allow Cousins to continue playing at a high level. He remains a solid No. 1 quarterback in all leagues and should be drafted with a mid-round pick.
Smith was a star in 2017 with the Chiefs, setting career highs in passing yards and passing touchdowns en route to finishing as the No. 5 Fantasy quarterback. It's doubtful he will repeat that performance in Washington, and he gets a significant downgrade in his receiving corps, especially with Jordan Reed (toe) and Chris Thompson (leg) coming off injuries. Smith can still be a safe No. 2 Fantasy quarterback, but he's only worth drafting with a late-round pick.
Taylor is stepping into an unbelievable situation going from Buffalo to Cleveland, except there's only one problem: At some point, Baker Mayfield could take over as the starter, and there's no telling when that could happen. If Taylor starts at least 10 games for the Browns, he could be a standout Fantasy quarterback because of the receiving corps he'll play with, which is led by Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and Duke Johnson. Taylor is worth a late-round flier in all leagues.
Keenum was great in 2017 with the Vikings, and he finished as the No. 14 Fantasy quarterback. But that is likely his ceiling, even though his situation in Denver is good since he gets to play with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. It's best to treat Keenum as a streaming option because he'll have some good moments, but he'll also be inconsistent. That was the case in 2017 as well when he had seven games with at least 20 Fantasy points and seven games with 14 points or less.
McKinnon is my favorite offseason transaction this year because I expect him to have a breakout campaign with the 49ers. Coach Kyle Shanahan has a great track record with running backs as an offensive coordinator, including the past three seasons with Carlos Hyde and Devonta Freeman (twice) finishing as a No. 1 option, and McKinnon should follow suit. The 49ers offense is on the rise, and McKinnon can be a catalyst for their run game. He's worth drafting as early as Round 3 in most leagues.
Lewis has a chance to be good with the Titans, but I don't expect him to perform at the level he showed last year with the Patriots. His best games for New England came when Rex Burkhead was battling injuries, and Lewis could struggle in a shared role with Derrick Henry. While Lewis should have the edge in the passing game over Henry, he will likely lose rushing yards and, more importantly, touchdowns to the bigger back. Lewis is only worth drafting as a No. 3 option with a mid-round pick.
Aside from McKinnon, most of the running backs on this list lose value with their new teams, including Hyde. He's going from a featured role with the 49ers to a committee backfield with the Browns. Hyde will share work with Duke Johnson and rookie Nick Chubb, and it will be hard for Hyde to remain a reliable Fantasy option. Johnson will dominate work on passing downs, and Chubb will hurt Hyde from being a consistent producer. Hyde is only worth drafting as a No. 3 option with a mid-round pick.
Anderson could be Fantasy relevant with his move to the Panthers since he will be replacing Jonathan Stewart, who had 198 carries last season and scored six touchdowns. If Anderson stays at 4.1 yards per carry with that same workload, that would give him 811 rushing yards, and hopefully he can score at least six touchdowns as well. Given that Anderson is being drafted with a mid- to late-round pick, that's excellent potential for that value. He should work well with Christian McCaffrey in Carolina.
It seems like the Jets don't yet have a clear-cut plan for their backfield with Crowell, Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire all expected to get touches. Another newcomer, Thomas Rawls, who came from Seattle, could also be in the mix, and all these mouths to feed could be problematic. We expect Crowell to be the best of the bunch, but it's hard to count on the Jets being a strong running team this year. Crowell is at best a No. 3 Fantasy running back worth drafting with a mid- to late-round pick.
The Lions are re-tooling their backfield this season with Blount and rookie Kerryon Johnson expected to handle the bulk of the work. While Johnson has the most upside, don't discount Blount as being a factor, and he has at least 165 carries in three seasons in a row. He also has 28 total touchdowns over that span, so he could be a factor at the goal line, and the Lions offensive line could be among the best in the NFL. Take Blount after Johnson, but Blount is definitely worth a late-round pick.
Hill isn't guaranteed to make the final roster for the Patriots, and he will be competing with Mike Gillislee for the last running back spot behind Sony Michel, Burkhead and James White. Hill could end up getting work in short-yardage situations if he makes the team, and Gillislee had four touchdowns in the first two games for New England last year. He also had at least 12 carries in each of the first five games, so Hill could have more of an expanded role than you think. He's worth a flier in deeper leagues.
Martin could end up as a potential sleeper once training camp starts if he's able to push Lynch for the starting job in Oakland. Martin struggled in his final season with Tampa Bay in 2017, but when he's been healthy and motivated (see 2012 and 2015) he's produced at a high level. He's going to share playing time with Lynch, and he's the handcuff to the 32-year-old starter. Martin is worth a late-round pick in deeper leagues, and he could see his value rise with a strong preseason.
Gore goes from the starter in Indianapolis to a backup in Miami, and he might not even be No. 2 on the depth chart behind Kenyan Drake if rookie Kalen Ballage has a strong training camp. Gore is also 35 this year, and at some point he's going to break down, even in a limited role. If he does end up as the handcuff to Drake, he's worth a late-round pick in most leagues, but I'd rather gamble on Ballage with a late-round pick instead of Gore.
Stewart may get the chance to work at the goal line and in short-yardage situations, but he loses a ton of value going from the Panthers to the Giants this year. He's not going to get much work if rookie Saquon Barkley is healthy because the rookie should dominate touches, and Stewart led Carolina in carries last season. Stewart could have increased value if Barkley gets hurt, but no one wants to see that happen. Stewart is only worth drafting in the deepest of leagues.
Robinson is hopefully back at 100 percent after last year's torn ACL, and he will be part of Chicago's revamped receiving corps with another newcomer in Taylor Gabriel, who is joining the Bears from the Falcons. Along with rookie receiver Anthony Miller and free agent tight end Trey Burton, this could be an explosive group if Mitchell Trubisky improves in his sophomore campaign. Robinson should be the best of the bunch if he's healthy as expected, and he's worth drafting in Round 4. Gabriel is just a late-round flier.
Landry, despite his disdain for Ryan Tannehill, had a pretty good run in Miami, and he set the NFL record for most receptions in the first four years of a career with 400. He should continue to be a standout Fantasy option in PPR leagues with the Browns, and hopefully he'll get along with Taylor or Mayfield this year. Landry is more of a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in non-PPR leagues worth only a mid-round pick, but he remains a solid starter in PPR. Take him in Round 4 or 5 in those formats
Watkins has failed to be the difference-maker many projected when he was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was OK with the Rams in one season, but it's hard to be a star when you're only getting 70 targets. We hope the Chiefs plan to give him 100-plus targets as the starter opposite Tyreek Hill, but he also has to share the field with Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt. Watkins should be a solid No. 3 Fantasy receiver, but he's only worth drafting with a mid-round pick.
Cooks had a solid season in his one-year stint with the Patriots, but he's joining a new team for the second-year in a row. And it should be hard for Cooks to perform at a high level based on his role. Cooks will likely replace the departed Watkins, who we noted had just 70 targets in 2017. Cooks should get more passes in his direction, but he's had at least 114 targets in each of the past three years. With a decline in targets coming, you should expect a decline in production. I would only draft Cooks with a mid-round pick as a No. 3 receiver in all formats.
The Ravens have a new receiving corps with Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown, but Crabtree is the only one who will be drafted in most leagues. Snead and Brown might be late-round fliers in deeper formats, but Crabtree has the potential to be a weekly starter. He has at least eight touchdowns in three years in a row, and before last season had at least 85 catches and 900 yards in consecutive years. He will be Joe Flacco's No. 1 target, and Crabtree should be drafted by Round 6 in all formats.
The Raiders added two prominent receivers with Nelson and Martavis Bryant, but we don't know the status for Bryant, who could be facing another suspension. As for Nelson, he looked lost last season, especially when Aaron Rodgers went down with a collarbone injury. Age is also catching up with Nelson, who will be 33 this year. It would be nice to see him revive his career with Derek Carr and the Raiders, but he's just a reserve option at best. Only draft Nelson with a late-round pick.
With Bryant and tight end Jason Witten (retired) gone, the Cowboys have to replace 132 catches for 1,398 yards and 11 touchdowns on 240 targets. Hurns, fellow newcomer Deonte Thompson and rookie Michael Gallup will handle most of that work, and Hurns is worth a mid- to late-round pick in all formats. Thompson is just a late-round flier, but Gallup is my favorite Dallas receiver this year. That said, I'd still take a flier on Hurns around Round 9.
The Dolphins added two receivers with Amendola and Albert Wilson to join Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker, and these four will work to replace the departed Landry, who had 160 targets for 112 catches, 987 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Amendola should man the slot for the Dolphins, and the Miami Herald predicted Amendola could have 80-85 catches. He might not do much in non-PPR leagues, but Amendola should be drafted in all PPR formats with a late-round pick. Wilson is also worth a late-round pick all formats.
Meredith will hopefully return to his form prior to the torn ACL, because he was a solid Fantasy receiver with the Bears in 2016. He gets a tremendous upgrade at quarterback going to play with Drew Brees, but Meredith could be the fourth or fifth option in this passing game when you factor in Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Ted Ginn and Benjamin Watson -- and that's before Mark Ingram returns from his four-game suspension. Meredith has upside, but he's only worth a late-round flier,
The Redskins tried to bring in a receiver last season as a starter with Terrelle Pryor, but he was a complete bust. Richardson will be better than Pryor by default if he just stays healthy, but it would be nice to see Richardson expand his role from his time in Seattle. Jamison Crowder should be the No. 1 receiver in Washington, and Reed will hopefully get healthy. But Richardson could slide in as the No. 3 option in the passing game, and he's worth a late-round pick in all leagues.
Between last year and this offseason, the Patriots have acquired Matthews, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson and Philip Dorsett, but Matthews is likely the only one who will be drafted, even if it's just in deeper leagues. He has the chance to be helpful for Fantasy owners to open the season if Julian Edelman's four-game suspension holds up, and Matthews could be the starting slot receiver until Edelman returns. Matthews will hopefully play like he did in Philadelphia to start his career and not his one-year stint in Buffalo.
Marshall was a flop with the Giants last year, and he appeared in just five games before going on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He's 34 now, and we'll see if he can turn back the clock and play at a high level. But Seattle was a good landing spot for him given the uncertainty at receiver behind Doug Baldwin, and the Seahawks have to replace 101 catches for 1,223 yards and 16 touchdowns on 178 targets from last year with Jimmy Graham and Richardson gone. Marshall is worth a late-round pick.
Moncrief and Andrew Luck were rarely healthy at the same time over the past three seasons, so we never got the chance to see what Moncrief was fully capable of with a great quarterback. Cue the quarterback jokes now because Moncrief is going from Luck to Blake Bortles with the Jaguars. In Jacksonville, Moncrief could emerge as the No. 1 receiver ahead of guys like Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole and rookie D.J. Chark, or he could fall behind all of them. He's only worth a late-round flier.
Wallace never lived up to the potential he showed during his time with the Steelers, but he hasn't exactly been a complete failure either. He scored 10 touchdowns in one season in Miami in 2014, and he had a 1,000-yard campaign in Baltimore in 2016. Getting to play with Carson Wentz will be his best quarterback since Ben Roethlisberger, and Wallace could be in line for more work than expected if Jeffery (shoulder) is hurt early in the season. Wallace is worth a late-round pick in deeper leagues.
Pryor had plenty of hype going to the Redskins last season, but he was a total flop. Injuries played a part, but he never looked like the player on the verge of a breakout with the Browns from 2016. With the Jets, there is no fanfare surrounding Pryor this year, and he's still battling foot and ankle problems. He might not be healthy to start the season, and he's not worth drafting in most leagues. Hopefully, Pryor can get back on track from what he showed in 2016 and become a solid waiver wire addition during the year.
Smith will likely play a similar role with the Panthers that he had with the Eagles, where he'll be used as a deep threat but not much more. The Panthers will likely feature Greg Olsen, Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Devin Funchess ahead of Smith, and he should be limited to fewer than 80 targets again. Hopefully, he'll find the end zone more than just two times, but his Fantasy value is limited in Carolina. He should only be drafted in the deepest of leagues.
Since 2011, Graham has played at least 15 games six times. He's scored at least nine touchdowns in five of those seven seasons, including last year. And now he gets to play with Rodgers. Now, Rodgers hasn't exactly played with great tight ends during his career, with Jermichael Finley in 2011 and Richard Rodgers in 2015 having the best performances. Graham might be past his prime at 31, but he's still worth betting on as a No. 1 tight end, and he should be drafted with a mid-round pick.
Along with McKinnon, this is one of my favorite free-agent signings because Burton has the chance to be a star with the Bears. He's going to play in the same system that helped Kelce flourish under coach Matt Nagy when he was with the Chiefs, and Burton has been a solid Fantasy tight end for the Eagles every time Zach Ertz missed time the past two seasons. Hoepfully, Trubisky can help Burton play at a high level, and he's worth drafting as a No. 1 tight end with a mid-round pick.
Seferian-Jenkins has some sleeper appear going from the Jets to the Jaguars since the receiving corps in Jacksonville is unproven. Lee is the No. 1 option followed by a bunch of question marks in Cole, Westbrook, Moncrief and Chark. It would not be a surprise to see Seferian-Jenkins quickly become a favorite target for Bortles, especially in the red zone. But the problem is Jacksonville isn't going to be a high-volume passing attack, and Seferian-Jenkins is only worth trusting with a late-round flier.
This is a reunion for Watson and the Saints since he played in New Orleans from 2013-15, and he was a quality Fantasy option in that 2015 campaign. That was the first year for the Saints without Graham, and Watson had 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns on 109 targets. He should have the chance for a prominent role, and New Orleans struggled to replace Watson with Coby Fleener the past two years. Watson is worth drafting with a late-round flier in deeper leagues.
It will be interesting to see how the Colts use Ebron since he profiles as the better receiving tight end than Jack Doyle. But Ebron struggled as the featured tight end in Detroit for most of his career, although Luck has a good track record of leaning on his tight ends. That is if Luck is healthy to open the season after missing 2017 with a shoulder injury. Ebron is worth a late-round flier in deeper leagues, and he could be a solid streaming option during the year.
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