Maurice Jones-Drew

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.

Rising:

Brandon Jacobs:

Old reliable, Brandon Jacobs, seems to have re-emerged as a serviceable fantasy running back after not even having a contract a few weeks ago. This week he totaled over 100 yards rushing, with two touchdowns, in place of the oft-injured and perpetually disappointing David Wilson. I don’t expect Wilson to get much better this year, which makes Jacobs a solid flex play for the foreseeable future.

Joseph Fauria:

Three receptions, three touchdowns — don’t expect Joseph Fauria to repeat this stat line next week, or possibly ever again. That being said, the Lions don’t like to run the ball in the red zone, and Matthew Stafford only had eyes for Fauria this week. This six-foot-seven-inch tight end won’t be a stud, but he is worth owning on your team for bye-week sub-ins or if you mistakenly drafted his Lions’ counterpart, Brandon Pettigrew.

Maurice Jones-Drew:

Maurice Jones-Drew seems to have lost a step in the last year after claiming the rushing title in 2011. But he is still Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars’ offense is rapidly improving — note Justin Blackmon’s 326 yards receiving in the last two weeks — and they even put up a fight against the Broncos this week. As Jacksonville improves, so will Jones-Drew, so buy low on him while you still can.

 

Falling:

Calvin Johnson:

Don’t worry if you didn’t take my advice and drafted Calvin Johnson in the first round of your draft — he is still a top 10 receiver. But you didn’t draft Calvin Johnson to be a top 10 receiver, you drafted him to be the top receiver. It looks to be a down year for Johnson as he battles nagging injuries and catches a disproportionately low number of balls thrown his way — only 38 percent this week. Don’t trade him, but don’t count on him being the foundation of your team.

Marques Colston:

Speaking of traditionally strong receivers who are having down years, meet Marques Colston. Colston is typically a lock for 1,000 yards and around seven to 10 touchdowns. This year, he is on pace to be just shy of 1,000 yards and only three touchdowns. Jimmy Graham has completely taken over the passing game in New Orleans, leaving Colston to be an average WR2/flex option, but not much else.

Anquan Boldin:

Anquan Boldin had one of the best games of his career in Week 1 — totaling 208 yards and a touchdown. It seems as though defenses took notice, since he has only gained 213 yards and another touchdown in Weeks 2 through 6, combined. Teams are tasking their best cornerbacks with covering Boldin, and Boldin simply does not have the speed to beat them. Expect around 50 yards per week from Boldin, which makes him a weak starter in most formats.

Deangelo Williams had 100 yards from scrimmage against a very strong Seahawks defense last week. He is running well, and will be a low-end RB2 or strong flex option at least until Jonathan Stewart returns.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Start:

DeAngelo Williams:

Williams had 100 yards from scrimmage against a very strong Seahawks defense last week. He is running well, and will be a low-end RB2 or strong flex option, at least until Jonathan Stewart returns.

Miles Austin:

Dez Bryant will improve. I have no doubts about this; but that doesn’t mean that Miles Austin won’t also play a large role in the Cowboy’s offense moving forward. In Week One, Romo seemed to only have eyes for Jason Witten and Austin, so I would plan on starting both of them until further notice.

Torrey Smith:

The Ravens were very thin at receiver coming into this season – then Jacoby Jones got injured on a fluke play in week one. Someone needs to catch balls in this offense, and even if Smith is doubled on a large portion of snaps, he should get 8-10 targets per game until a more viable number two receiver can be found.  

Maurice Jones-Drew:

Maurice Jones-Drew was one of several star running backs to flop in Week One, but this wasn’t at all his fault. An impotent passing attack, led by Blaine Gabbert, led to the Jaguars posting only two points against a surprisingly solid Kansas City Chiefs team. This week, Gabbert will be replaced by Chad Henne due to a laceration on Gabbert’s hand, against a perennially weak Oakland Raiders. Expect the offense to improve greatly, and Jones-Drew to have a strong stat-line.

 

Sit:

Daryl Richardson:

Richardson was good, not great, in Week One against Arizona. The Rams play against a very strong Falcons defense this week, and Isaiah Pead returns from suspension. I don’t expect Pead to make an impact immediately, but expect him to take some touches from Richardson, making Richardson all but a possible flex option in a deep league.

Cecil Shorts:

Chad Henne will replace Blaine Gabbert at quarterback this week, and the Jaguars offense will improve from their abysmal Week One performance. But this offense is still one of the weakest in the league, and I’m still not sold on Shorts’ physical abilities. Leave him on the bench until he has a breakout week.

Joique Bell:

Despite Bell’s phenomenal Week One stat-line – especially for a back-up – he is unlikely to have a repeat performance. Don’t buy the hype. Reggie Bush is the feature back in this offense, and unless he goes down with an injury, leave Bell on your bench, because Jim Schwartz will be doing the same.