NFL Offseason Moves: Fantasy Breakdown Part II

In Part I of this series, I went through all of the major quarterback and running back offseason moves. Today I would like to cover the receivers and tight ends. There are plenty of changes to discuss, so let’s get started!

Wide Receiver

Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs
Old Team: Eagles
Fantasy Value: Way Down

I hate to start on such a depressing note, but it looks as though Maclin will have very little chance to reach the low-end WR1 value he had last season. In Kansas City, he will be going to a team that failed to target any player even 100 times, and recorded ZERO touchdowns by receivers. Maclin will be a field stretching wide receiver for a quarterback whose average depth of target last season was 6 yards. I’m sure that some of that stems from the Chiefs not having quality receiver talent, but Maclin may see one of the biggest drop offs of any player changing teams this season. He may struggle to reach even 1,000 yards. This signing will be good, however, for Alex Smith and the K.C. running game, as there will now be a legitimate receiving threat outside.

Mike Wallace, Vikings
Old Team: Dolphins
Fantasy Value: Up

Wallace has struggled mightily the last three seasons, but the 28 year old still has some juice in his legs. His biggest issue has been getting along with the people around him. Thankfully, Wallace will get a fresh start with one of the most aggressive offensive coordinators in football. Norv Turner loves to throw the ball vertically down the field, and the former Dolphin and Steeler is a great fit. His presence will also greatly help the growth of Teddy Bridgewater. If the Vikings draft a receiver to compliment Wallace and last year’s breakout Charles Johnson, this could be the makings of a very talented offense.

Torrey Smith, 49ers
Old Team: Ravens
Fantasy Value: Up

If I told you that Smith finished this past season as WR32 in PPR leagues you’d probably believe me. What may surprise you is that is the worst finish of his career, and it coincidentally came with his lowest career target total (93). Back with Anquan Boldin in San Fran, Torrey should be able to rise up the board a little bit. The 49ers lost 158 targets from last year when Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson walked out the door, and Boldin probably can’t get too many more than the 130 he received last season. Smith has a shot to get back into that 110+ range, which could pay major dividends for fantasy owners. This will also be a nice upgrade for Colin Kaepernick, who was wasting his time throwing to the Ghost of Michael Crabtree (still unsigned).

Andre Johnson, Colts
Old Team: Texans
Fantasy Value: Slightly Up

I’m not sure I would pay the WR2 price it would seem people are willing to on fantasy football calculator, but it is pretty hard to argue that the veteran will benefit from catching passes from Andrew Luck. Johnson’s catch rate from 2006-2013 was 64%. Last season? 58%. Now, you could believe that he suffered a precipitous dropoff in his ability to catch the football, but I think it is much more reasonable to assume it was mostly due to him catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, and Ryan Mallett. In Indianapolis, the veteran will struggle to match the 147 targets he received last year, but should have a decent chance to match his 936 yards playing in a far superior offense. He is also a near lock to exceed his 3 2014 touchdowns. The signing also dampens the expectations for second year receiver Donte Moncrief, who will be stuck at number 3 on the depth chart.

Brandon Marshall, Jets
Old Team: Bears
Fantasy Value: Neutral

There isn’t too much for me to make of this move. Marshall was probably not going to have as big of an impact in Chicago once John Fox came to town, so leaving there in general is probably a good thing. As I mentioned in my writeup of Amari Cooper (prior to the Marshall move), Chan Gailey has been excellent for fantasy receivers in the past. However, I think that there is a very real chance that Eric Decker is better than Brandon Marshall, something that is not currently factored into their ADP’s. Marshall is currently going as WR18 and Decker WR43. That gap is absurd, and almost guarantees that I will look to own Decker on all of my teams this year if it continues. Regardless, this can only be good for Ryan Fitzpatrick (or whoever ends up being the Jets QB).

Kenny Stills, Dolphins
Old Team: Saints
Fantasy Value: Way Up (For Now)

I know what you’re thinking: How could Kenny Stills’ value go up going from Drew Brees to Ryan Tannehill? I firmly believe that the Mike Wallace trade was a matter of personalities, not personnel. That is to say, the Mike Wallace role can be a productive one in Miami. Stills has been an elite downfield threat the last 2 seasons, averaging 16.5 yards per reception. Wallace was WR20 last season despite all of the issues he was having with the team, and Stills will have that kind of upside if the depth chart stays like it is now. That is the major caveat right now for Stills: if the Dolphins invest a high draft pick on a receiver, it could alter the amount of targets he sees. Keep track of the Draft (obviously) and be ready to pounce on Stills if Miami looks ready to commit to him having a major role.

Percy Harvin, Bills
Old Team: Jets
Fantasy Value: Up

Harvin’s value couldn’t really get much worse than it was in 2014. In Buffalo, he will face stiff competition for touches between the run game and second year dynamo Sammy Watkins, but almost 700 yards and 2 touchdowns isn’t that high of a bar to be set. He has succeeded with weak armed quarterbacks before (I’m looking at you Christian Ponder), so it isn’t completely outlandish to suggest that Matt Cassel isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Harvin. I’m still not sure that I would go out of my way to draft him, but he isn’t without upside. The Harvin signing does make me feel a little worse about Watkins though.

Dwayne Bowe, Browns
Old Team: Chiefs
Fantasy Value: Why Bother?

Just when it seemed that Dwayne Bowe would get out of the purgatory that is Kansas City, he signs with the biggest disaster in the league. Rather than waste your time forcing you to read about how bad this is, I’ll just leave you with this graph representing presumed starter Josh McCown’s adjusted yards per attempt by location (courtesy of the RotoViz AYA App). You can call the big green area “Mike Evans”:



Tight End

Jimmy Graham, Seahawks
Old Team: Saints
Fantasy Value: Way Down

This is the classic NFL move that is great for the team, but horrible for fantasy. Jimmy Graham goes from a team that was targeting him 138 times on average over the last 4 seasons, to one that only passed it 454 times in 2014. Even if Seattle threw the ball 3 more times per game (502 times total), Russell Wilson would need to target Graham over 27% of the time to keep his 138 target total. As efficient as Wilson is, it is going to be really difficult to make up for the expected loss in usage, meaning Graham is no longer in the elite tier of tight ends. On the flip side of this, it locks Wilson in as a top 3 QB for me in 2015.

Julius Thomas, Jaguars
Old Team: Broncos
Fantasy Value: Way Down

It’s been a rough offseason for tight ends. Julius Thomas goes from perhaps the best quarterback of all time to a second year signal caller in Blake Bortles. He has never been a particularly high usage player, scoring most of his points on touchdowns (24 on just 149 targets the last 2 seasons). It is rather hard for me to believe that his touchdown rate will come anywhere near to what it was in Denver. Even if Thomas hits career highs in targets, receptions, and possibly yards, he probably won’t match his fantasy production of the last 2 seasons. It is also rather important to note the checkered injury history that Orange Julius will bring with him to Jacksonville, missing 21 games over the past 3 seasons (and all of 2012).

Jordan Cameron, Dolphins
Old Team: Browns
Fantasy Value: Way Up

Finally a tight end move I can get behind. Cameron gets out of the burning building that is Cleveland, and makes his way over to a very solid offense in Miami. He will be replacing Charles Clay, who finished as TE13 last season in PPR leagues in fantasy points per game. I am of the belief that Cameron is more talented than Clay, meaning that he could easily be a middle of the pack TE1 with upside for more. Brian Hartline is also gone from the Dolphins, so Cameron should have even more possession over the middle of the field targets. I’m buying here.

Charles Clay, Bills
Old Team: Dolphins
Fantasy Value: Down

The Bills paid top dollar for Clay this offseason (5 years, $38 million, $20 million guaranteed), but I’m not sure it is going to correlate to his fantasy value. The Bills expect to be very run heavy, and Clay will have to compete for targets with both Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin. It is hard to see his usage being anything to write home about, keeping Clay at the TE2 level.

Owen Daniels, Broncos
Old Team: Ravens
Fantasy Value: Way Up

Daniels follows offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak to Denver, where he will get the chance to replace Julius Thomas in Peyton Manning’s offense. The veteran did very well last year on limited targets from an average quarterback in Joe Flacco, and should at least see a touchdown spike with the Broncos. I can easily envision Daniels being the kind of player that is overdrafted, but he will definitely have stable value this season, something that could not have been said in 2014.



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