Offseason Extra: All the right moves
Who's on the move via free agency this offseason? Our Dave Richard surveys the landscape and speculates on some landing spots and the Fantasy implications.
Free agency has gone through its annual binge and teams have begun making big moves. Keeping track of it all is vital for success in Fantasy Football. We're tracking the players who have changed teams and filling you in on what role they'll have in Fantasy, what the early projection is for them and where you might be able to find them on Draft Day.
Note: We do not consider franchise-tagged players as "on the move." Click on a player's name to get the latest info on the following franchised players: Drew Brees (Saints), Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs), Matt Forte (Bears), Ray Rice (Ravens), Wes Welker (Patriots).
Matt Flynn, QB, Seahawks
The move: Left the Packers as a free agent, signed by the Seahawks
The Seahawks will say that Flynn was inked to compete for the starting job with Tarvaris Jackson, but a $10 million guarantee suggests that he'll start so long as he doesn't get hurt or struggle mightily. Flynn made the most out of two career starts in 2010 and 2011, totaling nine touchdowns, 731 passing yards and two interceptions. But that wasn't enough to sell the Seahawks on him. Instead, they probably like his understanding of basic West Coast offense principles, his mobility and his good-but-not-great arm. Pairing Flynn with their underrated receiving corps and offensive line could equate to some quality wins for the Seahawks, who will still primarily be a running team with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield.
Early 2012 projection: 3,300 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 17 interceptions (No. 2 Fantasy QB)
Draft value: Late-round pick. He'll get chosen if only to be a one-week backup and a potential lottery ticket in the event he plays beyond expectations, but hotter No. 2 choices including both rookie quarterbacks will be selected before him.
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
The move: Released by the Colts, signed by the Broncos
Manning isn't all the way back from neck surgeries that cost him the entire 2011 season, but he's getting there and claims he'll make enough progress to be ready for the start of this season. We should all take a very cautious approach with him -- unless you're drafting real soon, there's no reason whatsoever to commit a Fantasy value to him. Though he's not quite as safe of an investment as he once was, he's still going to be a popular pick and potentially a steal on Draft Day. Here's an in-depth breakdown on Manning and his teammates.
Early 2012 projection: 4,400 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, 16 interceptions (Top 10 Fantasy QB)
Draft value: If he proves he's healthy and has meshed with his new team, he'll be a third- or fourth-round pick. If he doesn't prove he's healthy but is expected to be ready to play by Week 1, he'll be a sixth- or seventh-round pick.
Tim Tebow, QB, Jets
The move: Traded from the Broncos to the Jets
The Broncos had no use for Tebow after acquiring Peyton Manning, so they put him up for grabs and the Jets came down with him. It's expected that Tebow will primarily back up Jets starter Mark Sanchez but also work in a package, perhaps the Wildcat, to keep defenses off balance. With that being the case, odds are that Tebow won't play much unless Sanchez struggles or gets hurt. That would end any relevance for him in Fantasy.
Early projection: 365 passing yards, 120 rushing yards, six total touchdowns (No. 3 Fantasy QB)
Draft value: In standard formats, even deeper formats, Tebow won't be worth a pick. In leagues that start multiple quarterbacks, he's worth a late-round pick.
Michael Bush, RB, Bears
The move: Left the Raiders as a free agent, signed by the Bears
When free agency began, we thought Bush had the potential to get signed by a team willing to let him start. After all, he displayed the ability to play well when given starting opportunities (740 rush yards, 308 receiving yards, five total touchdowns, no fumbles in nine 2011 starts). But Bush only got a few sniffs from teams with starting job openings and ended up taking a four-year deal with the Bears, who have one of the top running backs in the league in Matt Forte. So why would the Bears want Bush? Excellent depth for one thing, plus he's a quality running back the Bears could lean on in case Forte holds out, or gets hurt, or is moved to another team. While Forte's future in Chicago might be up in the air (he's lost his leverage for a rich long-term deal), Bush is locked into the Bears. That's great for his future and for the Bears, but Fantasy owners are left with two great running backs that will now eat at each other's stats.
Early 2012 projection: 750 rush yards, 300 receiving yards, six total touchdowns (low-end No. 3 Fantasy RB)
Draft value: Bush will be the first handcuff running back picked in drafts, probably in Round 8. He's an absolute must for those owners who take Forte, who is now more of a second-round pick in standard drafts and a late first-round pick in PPR leagues.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals
The move: Left the Patriots as a free agent, signed by the Bengals
Green-Ellis had his moments as the primary running back for the Patriots, but he was largely compartmentalized as an early downs and goal-line type of rusher. With the Bengals, 'The Law Firm' should be able to spread his wings and play more frequently -- although not as a full-time back -- as Cincy aims to use more than one guy over the course of the year (they could still add another back). But the days of him being totally limited seem behind us; in two years with the Patriots he had 27 games with fewer than 20 carries and 10 games with fewer than 10 carries. The Bengals will use their new running back frequently, especially at the goal line. Green-Ellis has scored 24 times over the last two years, even with the limited playing time in New England.
Early 2012 projection: 850 rush yards, 250 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns (middle- to low-end No. 2 Fantasy RB)
Draft value: You're either a believer in Green-Ellis or you're not, but with the number of running backs with reliable playing time and goal-line potential shrinking, he'll be a player someone will draft in every single league by Round 5.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Chiefs
The move: Left the Browns as a free agent, signed by the Chiefs
We've seen two sides to Hillis over the last two seasons: The bruising down-hill runner with a ton of touchdowns (1,600 total yards, 13 total touchdowns) and the injury-prone slowpoke who scored occasionally (700 total yards, three touchdowns in 10 games). We'll probably see a third kind of Hillis in 2012: Change-of-pace contributor. Kansas City needed to solidify their ground game with a big, physical back to go along with Jamaal Charles, who is coming off a torn ACL, and Dexter McCluster, who hasn't produced much in two seasons. A reunion with Brian Daboll, the coach who helped him put up career-best numbers in 2010, will help Hillis, and it's conceivable that he'll end up with five-to-10 touches per game with goal-line duties.
Early 2012 projection: 700 rush yards, 350 receiving yards, seven touchdowns (No. 3 Fantasy RB)
Draft value: Hillis was a steal off waivers in 2010 and a mistake as an early-round pick in 2011. It's pretty clear this season that he'll be a good value starting in Round 7 as a No. 3 or reserve Fantasy rusher, and that's a safe time for him. If he strikes out with the Chiefs, it won't hurt owners much. If he strikes it big with the Chiefs he'll be a tremendous bargain.
Mike Tolbert, RB, Panthers
The move: Left the Chargers as a free agent, signed by the Panthers
Arguably the most perplexing signing of the season, the Panthers picked up Tolbert for a relative bargain and added him to their already-strong stable of running backs. When the team announced the move, they referred to Tolbert as a fullback, suggesting that he'll play in that role instead of the running back role we're accustomed to seeing him as in San Diego. We don't buy that, though, and believe that Tolbert will have some carries and catches from week to week. But unless the Panthers move one of their other backs (Jonathan Stewart is in a contract year; DeAngelo Williams has a very high cap number), Tolbert's touches are expected to be way down from 2010 and 2011.
Early 2012 projection: 500 rush yards, 200 receiving yards, five touchdowns (reserve Fantasy RB)
Draft value: Probably worth nothing more than a late-round pick unless developments in Carolina change his potential for playing time.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins
The move: Left the Colts as a free agent, signed by the Redskins
The Redskins are betting on Garcon taking the next step in his career and post his best reception, yardage numbers and touchdowns for the third season in a row (his stats have steadily increased annually). Not only should he fit in with what the Redskins do, but if you project him catching passes from Robert Griffin III, he could come down with lots of long receptions. The Redskins are loaded with receiving targets, but Garcon showing up as the new guy -- not to mention the highest-paid guy -- should translate into lots of playing time.
Early 2012 projection: 900 receiving yards, seven touchdowns (middle- to low-end No. 3 Fantasy WR)
Draft value: Garcon's safe with a selection in Round 8 or so. That's a pretty good price for him considering that he is more likely to blow away our projection than fall way short of it.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers
The move: Left the Chargers as a free agent, signed by the Buccaneers
Jackson goes from being the prime target of Philip Rivers to the prime target of Josh Freeman. He goes from sharing the field with Ryan Mathews, Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd to sharing with LeGarrette Blount, Kellen Winslow and Mike Williams. And he goes from facing the defenses in the AFC West to the defenses of the NFC South. It doesn't sound so great, does it? But Jackson's happy because he just got paid a ton of dough after fighting for years with the Chargers for a big pay day. Granted, Jackson's arrival is big for Freeman and the rest of the Bucs offense, but Jackson might not deliver the huge numbers you might think. Over his last three full seasons (we're throwing out 2010 because he held out and missed a ton of games) he averaged 1,123 yards and 8.3 touchdowns per. But he's also been inconsistent: Jackson hasn't posted back-to-back 100-yard games since December of 2009 and hasn't scored in back-to-back games since November of 2009. And while he finished with 1,106 yards and nine scores last season, he had eight or fewer Fantasy points (standard scoring) in 10 of 16 games. He's also been injured a bunch, though nothing too serious, but it has affected his play. He'll be the main man in Tampa's passing attack, but the production might not translate -- a problem common with receivers getting paid big while switching teams.
Early 2012 projection: 1,050 receiving yards, seven touchdowns (No. 2 Fantasy WR)
Draft value: Many people will eyeball drafting the 29-year-old with an early round pick but we wouldn't do it. Round 5 is the safer place for him.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, Patriots
The move: Left the Rams as a free agent, signed by the Patriots
Just as we expected, Lloyd followed offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to New England so he could be used in his offense for what will be the third season in a row. Lloyd had 51 catches for 683 yards and five scores last year in 11 games in St. Louis when McDaniels was the Rams' offensive coordinator, and that came on the heels of a 77-catch, 1,448-yard, 11-touchdown season with McDaniels in Denver. In both of those places Lloyd was considered the No. 1 receiver, something that isn't expected to be the case in New England. Lloyd is now more like a piece of the puzzle instead of the main man in the passing game; sharing targets with Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and others might mean fewer stats. But it will also mean single coverage, and with the Patriots passing aplenty as it is, there's some potential for Lloyd to do much better than last year but fall short of his career totals in 2010.
Early 2012 projection: 825 receiving yards, seven touchdowns (No. 3 Fantasy WR)
Draft value: Probably one of the most perfect mid-round picks you can make in drafts: He's shown consistency working with McDaniels and he'll work with the best quarterback he's ever had in Tom Brady. The only downside is who he'll compete with for Brady's attention.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears
The move: Traded from the Dolphins to the Bears
It's been a while since the Bears had a 1,000-yard receiver much less a big-play receiver. Maybe part of that had to do with the Bears not having a strong-armed quarterback. Not only do they now have both, but they're a package deal that's worked wonders together in the past. Marshall reunites with Jay Cutler in Chi-town just a few years after both were traded from Denver. In their last two years together Cutler connected with Marshall 206 times for 2,590 yards (12.57 avg.) and 13 touchdowns. That beats the numbers Marshall had in two years in Miami with lesser-armed passers (167 catches for 2,228 yards and nine touchdowns). If that's not enough, Marshall has at least been consistent: He has at least 83 catches for at least 1,000 yards in each of his last four seasons with at least six scores in three of four seasons. Getting back together with Cutler should ignite Marshall and make him a stronger Fantasy option than he's been over the past couple of years.
Early 2012 projection: 1,200 receiving yards, nine touchdowns (No. 1 Fantasy WR)
Draft value: Definitely in the mix to be one of the first 10 receivers drafted, but probably closer to 10th than first. Round 4 is likely when Marshall will get picked.
Robert Meachem, WR, Chargers
The move: Left the Saints as a free agent, signed by the Chargers
The Chargers replaced a big-play, deep-threat receiver in Vincent Jackson with Meachem, who is a deep-threat receiver but not a consistent big-play guy like Jackson can be. Meachem has averaged 660 yards over his last three years in the league and nearly 25 percent of his catches have gone for at least 20 yards, so while he hasn't been amazing yet, the potential is there. What's more, he doesn't have quite as many teammates to battle with for targets, and he'll still catch those targets from a great passer in Philip Rivers. With playing time and targets on the rise, Meachem has a lot of potential.
Early 2012 projection: 1,000 receiving yards, four touchdowns (sleeper Fantasy WR)
Draft value: No one should draft Meachem to start, save for owners in deep leagues. Instead, consider him a solid breakout candidate worth the gamble starting in Round 9.
Randy Moss, WR, 49ers
The move: Unretired after sitting out in 2010, signed by the 49ers
Moss' gaudy career totals aren't lost on anyone, but neither is how he left the league in 2010. A stinker of a season that saw him play on three teams over the span of 16 games, Moss claimed he had personal issues that held him back. Moss had two workouts this spring: One with the Saints and one with the 49ers, and the 49ers didn't let him leave after their time with him. Sources say that Moss looks good and can be a contributor for the 49ers. We've seen him play before with lesser quarterbacks and still put up some nice stats, but can Fantasy owners trust a 38-year-old with baggage, namely one who will share the field with several other notable receivers?
Early 2012 projection: 750 receiving yards, five touchdowns (reserve Fantasy WR)
Draft value: There might be an owner in every league who reaches for Moss expecting him to come up with a monster season. Don't be that guy. Be the guy willing to take a gamble on Moss as early as Round 9 but probably a round later. He's just not worth the risk to be taken any earlier. If we see a new Moss in training camp and the preseason, we'll adjust accordingly.
Laurent Robinson, WR, Jaguars
The move: Left the Cowboys as a free agent, signed by the Jaguars
Jacksonville was desperate for receiving help after their leading wideout last year tallied 415 yards and one touchdown. They still might be desperate after signing Robinson. We love that he broke out last season with 11 touchdowns on 54 catches, but that came in Dallas with a pass-happy offense loaded with receivers. Jacksonville's cupboard is bare when it comes to the pass attack, and they'll be run focused so long as Maurice Jones-Drew is in town. It's nice that he's being given this opportunity after earning it last year, but it's another case of a receiver getting big bucks from another team, which means he's a candidate to disappoint.
Early 2012 projection: 900 receiving yards, five touchdowns (low-end No. 3 Fantasy WR)
Draft value: Mid-round pick, and one that others in your league might reach for at that. He might be better suited for PPR leagues.
Jacob Tamme, TE, Broncos
The move: Left the Colts as a free agent, signed by the Broncos
Figure that Peyton Manning played a teeny-tiny role in this deal. Tamme is obviously familiar with Manning as the two have been teammates since Tamme entered the league. But the two only played together regularly in 2010, when Dallas Clark missed 10 games and Tamme came up with 67 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns. That's very Dallas Clark-like. Even with Joel Dreessen coming along in Denver, Tamme has already meshed with Manning, making him a good target in the early going this season.
Early 2012 projection: 850 receiving yards, six touchdowns (No. 1 Fantasy TE)
Draft value: Middle- to late-round gamble, well worth gunning for if you can't stomach taking a tight end between Rounds 2 and 5. He could deliver big.
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