Here’s the reality. We draft fantasy players based mostly on what happened the previous year. But – if there is one area where conventional wisdom falls short it is with players that change teams. They are no longer in the same situation nor with the same teammates. And often, they are downgraded too much in their new home by the fantasy public as there’s nothing to go on when a fantasy star is traded or gets signed elsewhere. It means there is a good chance that there is an unrecognized opportunity since while the risk goes up, their fantasy draft slot falls.
Just as significant is when a star player leaves a team, how are they replaced? There is an opening for someone else to fill, an opportunity that they didn’t have last year. And with that, a chance they are not yet valued as high as they should be given their new and improved situation. Always embrace the unknown and consider the top player movements.
Antonio Brown (Oakland Raiders) – He hasn’t been worse than the No. 5 best fantasy wideout for the last five years and that included being the No. 1 guy three times. He lands on a Raiders team that has been rebuilt by head coach Jon Gruden. He traded Ben Roethlisberger for Derek Carr but there is no question where the most pass targets will go in Oakland. Brown usually ends up as the No. 8 wideout in fantasy drafts – and that could be a steal.
Pittsburgh Steelers – That’s a major hole to fill for the starting split end and the stated plan is to divide up Brown’s 168 pass targets among several receivers. Training camp will decide if Donte Moncrief, James Washington or even the rookie Diontae Johnson gets the biggest boost. The more veteran Moncrief leads going into the preseason but second-year Washington will compete. The No. 2 wideout on the team that threw the most passes in 2018 will be a fantasy factor.
Odell Beckham (Cleveland Browns) – The ex-Giant has been a lock for 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns when healthy. He leaves the aging Eli Manning who hasn’t posted an above-average season since 2015. He lands in Cleveland where Baker Mayfield finished his rookie season with 27 touchdowns over 13 starts with a far lesser cast of receivers. This is an elite wideout playing with a quarterback coming off one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history.
New York Giants – They opted to sign Golden Tate to a four-year deal worth $37.5 million to take Beckham’s place. The 31-year-old wideout turned in four straight 90+ catch seasons for the Lions before being sent to the Eagles for half of 2018. Sterling Shepard is the most likely to benefit from Beckham’s departure. He is a lock to improve on the career-best 66 receptions for 872 yards of last season and stands a nice shot at a 1,000-yard year with the Giants likely to be in passing mode in most games. Shepard averages as the No. 33 fantasy wideout drafted this summer while Tate ends up No. 40. Saquon Barkley cannot do it all for the Giants.
Mark Ingram (Baltimore Ravens) – After eight years with the best passing team in the league, the ex-Saint joins the best rushing team. While quarterback Lamar Jackson takes up his share of carries, there were still 382 rushes by their running backs in 2018. The only returning starter is Gus Edwards who takes a back seat now that Ingram is there. The Ravens have one of the best offensive lines and rushing schedules in the league and a rushing quarterback prevents the defense from solely focusing on the running back on any play. The Ravens totaled 17 touchdowns from their backfield last season and Ingram also brings a capable set of hands if Jackson does throw. Ingram was already top-12 among fantasy backs in three of the last four years playing for an offense that preferred to pass.
New Orleans Saints – This is the first time since 2011 that the Saints are without Ingram. While they are a great passing offense, these later years of Drew Brees witnessed a new commitment to running the ball. The Saints 428 rushes ranked No. 4 in the NFL last year. Alvin Kamara ran 194 times and won’t see much more given his workload as a receiver. There were nine non-Kamara scores in 2018 and 18 other touchdowns in 2017. Murray scored as many as 12 times in a season in the past and now offers the power rusher in the backfield at 6-3″ and 230 pounds. He replaces Ingram who regularly turned in Top-12 seasons while Murray is being drafted around the No. 39 for fantasy running backs. That sounds.. advantageous.