With NFL Free Agency in full effect and a lot of teams taking shape, it’s never too early to start planning on fantasy football targets and busts. Below I will detail the Winners and Losers of Free Agency (thus far) from a Fantasy Football perspective. I’m sure that there are a few that I’ve forgotten, so chime in with comments and we’ll update content throughout the offseason.
- Demaryius Thomas – Thomas will be the top riser on draft boards after Peyton Manning’s decision to join the Denver Broncos. Thomas is a special combination of size, speed, and talent. In just 5 games last season, Thomas had over 500 yards and 5TDs in just 5 games. Now with an all-time great slinging the ball, Thomas could slip into #1 fantasy WR status.
- Brandon Lloyd – Another WR that will benefit from this year’s free agency period is Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd took 8 years to show the NFL what he could do. Now he enters an offense with Tom Brady throwing the pigskin. Lloyd has the separation ability that Brady loves and with the other weapons on that offense will not be double covered. Look for Lloyd to repeat his 2010 numbers.
- Brandon Marshall – Remember the numbers that Marshall put up with Jay Cutler throwing him the ball in Denver? Well that combination is reunited in Chicago where Cutler has been in dire need of a real weapon to throw the ball too, and Marshall is just that. I’ve always thought he was one of the most skilled WRs in the game but has not been in positions to excel. If the OL can keep Cutler, upright… he should put up nice numbers again this year.
- Jay Cutler – See Brandon Marshall. Cutler spent much of 2011 on the grass and with a big target in Marshall joining the team, will have a safety net for when the pocket collapses… which is will.
- Eric Decker – Similar to my points on Demaryius Thomas, Decker will also see increased action due to Peyton’s arrival. Depending on whether Dallas Clark decides to join his former QB in Denver, Decker could quickly become Peyton’s favorite possession receiver and rack up a lot of catches. Look for Decker in PPR leagues.
- Bills Defense – Mario Williams getting after the QB will result in more sacks and turnovers for the Bills defense. Williams also gets to play against the Jets and Mark Sanchez twice a year, which should be good for multiple sacks given the current state of that RT position.
- Tampa Bay RB – LeGarrette Blount (or Richardson) – I really like what Tampa Bay has done in free agency. The signing of Nicks at Guard will open up lanes for their RB and Vincent Jackson will stretch field and keep defenses honest. I expect that TB will draft Trent Richardson… who will quickly become a target of mine in all keeper leagues.
- Josh Freeman – Freeman gets to throw to Vincent Jackson now and should have better protection with Nicks on the OL. This should help his fantasy value. However, I don’t see him as anything but a sleeper at this point.
- Sidney Rice – Matt Flynn has to be better than the alternative, right?
- Vernon Davis – Randy Moss and Mario Manningham should stretch the field and take pressure off Davis, who faced constant double teams in the past. I hesitated on this one considering the Alex Smith situation being up in the air… but then decided that it didn’t really matter who was throwing the ball, the same logic applies. Look for Davis to have one of his best seasons.
- Malcom Floyd – With VJax out in San Diego and Philip Rivers in dire need of a rebound season… he will need to find a new go-to target. Meachem should help keep defenses from double teaming Floyd, who I expect to rack up yards and TDs in a year where Rivers acts more like his normal self. Note: Meachem is a nice sleeper in deeper leagues.
- Darren McFadden – Departure of Michael Bush can only help McFadden.
- Montario Hardesty – With Hillis out of the picture, Cleveland is left with former second round pick Montario Hardesty as their top RB on the roster. I’m not saying Hardesty will put up monster numbers… but he becomes someone to watch on draft day if he has the starting gig. Of course, I could see Cleveland making a trade for someone like Ben Tate or Jonathan Stewart, in which case… Hardesty becomes irrelevant again.
- Jets Defense – Once a top fantasy defense, Rex Ryan’s scheme depends on covering targets down the field and getting to the QB. The Jets still didn’t address the pass rush situation and possibly more importantly, The Jets signed often injured Laron Landry (cough. HGH. cough) to play SS, while leaving a gaping hole at FS. Gronk and Hernandez twice a year. Enough said.
- Reggie Wayne – Should have waited for Peyton to sign somewhere, Reggie… Better hope this Andrew Luck kid is as good as advertised (even Peyton had a somewhat rough rookie season btw)
- Vincent Jackson – Josh Freeman is not Philip Rivers
- RGIII – I feel bad for Robert Griffin III. Washington is maybe the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL. They went out and signed a bunch of #2 and #3 WRs and got disciplined by the NFL for cap violations. Now RGIII is expected to go in and save the nation’s capital (insert Obama joke here). Shades of what happened to the #2 pick the last time Indy took a QB #1 here?
- Andrew Luck – Poor kid just lost his #2 WR, possibly his TE, and likely his starting Center. The owner admitted that they are a couple years away and our rebuilding. Not the ideal scenario to be thrown into.
- Mike Tolbert – I really think Tolbert could have found a situation that would have resulted in more time on the field. Instead, he joins an already crowded backfield and his top skill, catching the ball, won’t be used as well with this QB situation.
- Santana Moss – Addition of more WRs and still just one football to go around.
- Matt Forte/Michael Bush – Addition of Michael Bush in Chicago takes what would be two top RBs (if Bush signed elsewhere) and puts them into a RBBC situation with only one ball to go around.
- All NO Saints – The suspensions will hurt the entire team. I don’t trust anyone with a high draft pick.
- Jonathan Stewart – I want to wait and see what happens here. I have a feeling he will get traded and possibly to a pretty good situation.
- Willis McGahee – Common sense says he will be hurt by Peyton’s arrival. Sure, he won’t get as many carries/yards. But I think Fox will still run the ball a lot, especially in the red zone and Peyton should have them inside the twenty quite often. I think McGahee could see an uptick in TDs. I want to think on this one a bit longer before declaring winner or loser.