Eric Decker

Free agency is always fun, especially the fantasy implications that come with it. If you don’t realize that it has fantasy implications, let me refresh your memory.

Last year, here is what we saw:

  • Stephen Jackson signed with the Atlanta Falcons (fantasy bust)
  • Mike Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins. (solid fantasy year)
  • Danny Amendola signed with the New England Patriots (fantasy bust)
  • Wes Welker signed with the Denver Broncos (fantasy stud)
  • Martellus Bennett signed with the Chicago Bears (fantasy sleeper)
  • Reggie Bush signed with the Detroit Lions (fantasy sleeper)
  • Rashard Mendenhall signed with the Arizona Cardinals (bust)
  • Percy Harvin signed with the Seattle Seahawks (injuries made him a total bust)

See what I mean? Clearly, free agency impacts our fantasy squads. That was last year, though. So let’s take a look at just some of the many moves thus far for 2014, as many teams wasted no time signing big names.

Knownshon Moreno

(Denver Broncos -> Miami Dolphins)

From Super Bowl contender to a locker room full of bullies, Moreno is joining the tandem of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas in South Beach. This is not promising for Moreno’s fantasy value. With Peyton Manning, he finished fifth last year in total yards and topped it off with 13 touchdowns. Now, he goes to a Dolphins team with two other running backs that will get significant playing time, limiting his rush attempts. However, this could give Montee Ball a boost in Denver and make him a sleeper in 2014.

Maurice Jones-Drew

(Jacksonville Jaguars -> Oakland Raiders)

Jones-Drew will join Darren McFadden, an all-time fantasy bust, in the Raiders backfield. It looks nice on paper, but Jones-Drew is not the same running back he once was. In Oakland, he will likely enter the season as the starter and be solid. He won’t be the Jones-Drew we used to know, but he should improve over his past two years.

Emmanuel Sanders

(Pittsburgh Steelers -> Denver Broncos)

It doesn’t get much better than catching balls from Peyton Manning. Sanders’ fantasy value is definitely up, and I expect a big year out of him. He will replace Eric Decker, who left for the New York Jets.

Eric Decker

(Denver Broncos -> New York Jets)

Decker is now the number one option for the Jets, and he is going to have a solid fantasy year. However, his value is definitely down from last year. Simply put, Decker just left Peyton Manning for Geno Smith and Michael Vick.

Ben Tate

(Houston Texans -> Cleveland Browns)

Tate’s value has skyrocketed. I am a fan of what Tate did in Houston when he got his carries, averaging 4.7 yards per touch over his career. He will be the starting running back, and I am boldly predicting he’ll finish as a top-12 fantasy back.

Hakeem Nicks

(New York Giants -> Indianapolis Colts)

Nicks signed a one-year deal, meaning he will have to prove he can still be a stud wide receiver after a disappointing year last year. Nicks, who failed to score a touchdown last season, is going to be playing with Andrew Luck and I expect his fantasy value will increase as a result.

Steve Smith

(Carolina Panthers -> Baltimore Ravens)

It is going to be weird not seeing him in a Panthers uniform, but Smith should step into a starting role with the Ravens and do what he does. Count on Smith, and don’t be afraid to draft him.

Darren Sproles

(New Orleans Saints -> Philadelphia Eagles)

The combination of Chip Kelly and Darren Sproles is a fantasy football dream. I expect Sproles to explode this year. I suspect Chip Kelly to use him in a variety of ways and gain a ton of yards with some scores here and there.

LeGarrette Blount

(New England Patriots -> Pittsburgh Steelers)

This is the perfect type of running back for the Steelers. A guy that can ground and pound the football, Blount is going to be a factor on the Steelers. Blount will be a goal-line back at the least, and he will be among the league leaders in touchdowns.

Golden Tate

(Seattle Seahawks -> Detroit Lions)

This definitely helps Tate because the Lions aren’t afraid to throw the ball, and Calvin Johnson will take away a lot of the coverage. If Matthew Stafford looks to his left, Tate should be open. His stock is up.

James Jones

(Green Bay Packers -> Oakland Raiders)

Jones is in a similar situation to Decker, except worse. Not only does he not have Aaron Rodgers anymore, he is going to the Raiders who haven’t had a successful passing season in a long time. His stock is down.

Photo Credit: Cody Bubenik | Daily Texan Staff

Like great hitters in baseball and sharp shooters in basketball, many fantasy football players go through rough patches and slumps. Although some struggle for extended periods, players tend to have breakout games when you least expect it. With fantasy football playoffs beginning this week and a lot on the line, here are a few names whose unlikely performances could propel you to a big victory:

START

1) Jake Locker, QB
Tennessee Titans
Locker looked dreadful against the Texans last week, throwing three interceptions and fumbling twice. However, much of his poor performance can be attributed to Houston’s ability to get out in front of opponents early and force them into mistakes. There was also a silver lining in Locker’s poor outing: his lone touchdown pass Sunday made it his second consecutive week with only one. I like Locker’s odds this week against a weaker Indianapolis defense.

 

2) Eric Decker, WR
Denver Broncos
Over the past four games, Peyton Manning has tossed nine touchdowns. The problem for Decker is, he’s only been on the receiving end of one of them. Though he has failed to reach 50 yards receiving or catching a touchdown in three of his last four games, nothing revives a player’s fantasy production like a trip to Oakland. Expect Decker to break out this week against an awful Raiders’ secondary.

3) DeMarco Murray, RB
Dallas Cowboys
Murray’s problem this year hasn’t been a lack of production so much as it has been unreliability, as he missed six games after going down with a foot injury against Baltimore during Week 6. While he looked a little rusty, Murray was still able to rack up 83 yards and a touchdown in his return last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and can be expected to perform similarly Sunday against Cincinnati.

 

SIT

1) Philip Rivers, QB
San Diego Chargers
One of the year’s biggest fantasy disappointments, Rivers has registered three multi-turnover games in his last four outings. Things don’t get any easier for him this week either, as he and the Chargers travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers’ vicious pass rush.

2) Vernon Davis, TE
San Francisco 49ers
It’s no wonder Davis has come out and publicly supported recently-benched quarterback Alex Smith:
Colin Kaepernick rarely throws him the ball. Davis has largely been ignored since Kaepernick took over as the team’s starting quarterback, catching only two passes for 15 yards in the past two games. Things could change this week against the Dolphins, but I wouldn’t count on it.

 

3) Miles Austin, WR
Dallas Cowboys
While he did score a touchdown against Philadelphia on Sunday night, Austin has been quiet over the past couple weeks thanks to Dez Bryant’s recent resurgence. Considering the fact that he’s going up against a Bengals defense that has yielded only one touchdown reception to an opposing wide receiver over the past four games, odds are Austin won’t reach the end zone this week.

Printed on Friday, December 6, 2012 as: Playoffs begin, stakes rise