It’s draft season, which means that, in addition to all of the mundane things we do every day, we now get to research and study football again. But this offseason has been a big one for changes of scenery, injuries, and, yes, even criminal proceedings. So what are the implications? Who will fill those roles? Will they be able to actually provide value? Time to once again ponder, what did we learn?
The summer is starting to cool off, and we’re more than half way through the preseason. There are the guys who are just going through the motions, just getting their reps; and they’ll have little to worry about. There are the rookies and younger guys, trying to make an impact, trying to make that leap to the next level. And there are the guys in the middle that are typically fighting for a job. (Note: Typically, the guys in this last group don’t make very interesting fantasy targets.)
This past offseason, there weren’t many newsworthy retirements, at least not on the offensive side of the ball. But we did have a number of high-profile players changing teams, and we’ve had a number of guys already suffer significant injuries. So let’s discuss some of those players, their role on their new teams, and who can possibly fill their shoes with their old teams.
Kansas City: While I don’t know how well he’ll do throwing the ball as often as he’ll be asked to, Smith does figure to benefit from the West Coast offense Reid brings with him, a system that emphasizes short, precise routes and accuracy, which Smith has in bunches. While I wouldn’t be comfortable with him as my starter, he’s an interesting backup option.
San Francisco: I don’t think Jim Harbaugh will lose any sleep over this one. He needs to find a capable backup since Colin Kaepernick runs so much, but there’s no fantasy relevance.
Arizona: Palmer represents a massive upgrade over the Kevin Kolb/John Skelton/Brian Hoyer/Ryan Lindley committee. Even if those four guys could somehow morph into some kind of Quarterback Voltron, that thing would still suck. Expect a better season from Larry Fitzgerald, who may wind up a top-10 fantasy receiver again, and solid production from Andre Roberts. Palmer is an interesting QB2.
Oakland: Let’s just move on…
Atlanta: Jackson will be a massive upgrade over Michael Turner from last year’s Falcons backfield. Not only can he tie his shoes without getting out of breath, he also still runs very hard, even at 30 years old. In standard leagues last year, Turner ran for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns, finishing as the 17th ranked back. That was better than LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, and Darren McFadden. And Michael Turner is terrible. I bring all this up because that Atlanta offense is good, and this will be the first time Jackson will not face seven or eight defenders in the box.
St. Louis: He leaves St. Louis in a committee situation, but it appears that Daryl Richardson has won that starting job in the Rams’ backfield, and he makes for an interesting middle round pick.
Detroit: Bush is still a game-changing talent. He spent the first five seasons of his career in a high-powered, pass-heavy offense in New Orleans. Then he decided to go to Miami to try to become a feature back. After two years, he’s now headed for the Motor City, where he’ll be in a high-powered, pass-heavy offense. He’s perfectly suited to handle draw plays, sweeps, and screens in the Detroit offense. And when Matthew Stafford doesn’t want to throw to Calvin Johnson in triple coverage, Bush is a talented pass-catcher in his own right.
Miami: I actually think his loss is a bigger deal in Miami than most. Lamar Miller might be a decent back, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable counting on him for anything more than a RB3 or Flex guy. And I think Daniel Thomas stinks.
Indianapolis: Bradshaw still hasn’t played in the preseason as he recovers from a foot injury. The Colts know that he’s a proven commodity when healthy, so they are focusing on getting him there. New Colts OC Pep Hamilton will run the ball more than Bruce Arians did last year, so Bradshaw may provide some solid value in the fifth or sixth round. He is also one of the top pass-blocking backs in the league, so he figures to get significant time in the Indy backfield, regardless.
New York Giants: David Wilson is the bigger name in New York, but I actually like Andre Brown more. Though he lacks the big play ability that Wilson clearly has, he is a more physical runner and is much better in pass protection. Brown is a sleeper of mine.
Arizona: Mendenhall will be the lead back for an Arizona offense that should be vastly improved. We’ve already discussed Carson Palmer, and that should help to open up running lanes for Mendenhall, but given what I know of the offenses Bruce Arians has run in the past, I don’t know that he actually gets enough carries to provide any value. And that’s assuming he stays healthy.
Pittsburgh: Le’Veon Bell will be a solid RB2 in Pittsburgh. Mendenhall will not be missed.
San Diego: Woodhead arrived in sunny San Diego to presumably back up Ryan Mathews. Instead, he may have played himself into a committee in the Chargers’ backfield. He’ll be a back to target in PPR leagues when you’re adding depth at running back.
New England: The Patriots have something with Stevan Ridley, and Shane Vereen can catch balls out of the backfield and even out wide. Brandon Bolden provides added depth.
Denver: Welker was one of the bigger free agent departures, going from New England to AFC rival Denver. He’ll now catch passes from Peyton Manning, but he’ll have plenty of competition for targets. Demaryius Thomas is an emerging star, Eric Decker is a capable number two on the outside, and then there’s Welker. Plus, Peyton knows the value of a balanced offense, so he’ll look to use Knowhon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball. In the end, I think Welker winds up with around 70-80 catches for 800 yards and 8 touchdowns, but I fear he’s being over-drafted at this point.
New England: With Rob Gronkowski injured, Aaron Hernandez in prison, and Welker in Denver, New England’s receiving corps is kind of a mess. The Patriots have a few young guys like Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson that they’re trying to groom, and they still have Julian Edelman, who is basically a Welker clone, but I don’t know that there’s anyone that can do it the way Welker did. But they do have…
New England: Amendola was a talented receiver in St. Louis, becoming a favorite target of Sam Bradford almost overnight. However, Amendola’s issue is not talent; it’s health. Can he stay on the football field? He’s missed 20 games in the past two seasons, and while he’s looked great in the preseason, I doubt he’ll be on many of my teams due to the injury risk.
St. Louis: Amendola was easily the most talented wideout on the Rams roster, but that talent only means something if you can suit up. Between Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, I think the Rams may actually be better off.
Miami: Wallace has blinding speed, but he’s a confusing fit for the offense in Miami. The West Coast offense that the Dolphins run emphasizes shorter routes and accurate passes. It might not be the best use of his vertical speed. That said, he’ll still catch 60 balls for around 1,000 yards, which certainly has value, but not where he’s being drafted.
Pittsburgh: The Steelers will really miss Wallace as a vertical threat. With Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Markus Wheaton, they have three capable options, but they no longer have that guy taking two guys deep to create space for the others.
Minnesota: Jennings will start for the Vikings, but has yet to suit up this preseason. He still has talent, but since he only played in eight games last season, I don’t trust him. Then again, it might not matter since his quarterback is Christian Ponder. Is it possible that he’s left-handed and doesn’t know it? Anyway, the biggest thing Jennings has done lately is complain about Aaron Rodgers. If he was annoyed with a guy many regard as the top quarterback in the league, this might get ugly.
Green Bay: The Packers have Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones. Why would they have re-signed Jennings?
San Francisco: Boldin won the Super Bowl with Baltimore and was promptly traded to San Francisco. He goes to what is now a better offense with a better quarterback. Reports have indicated that both Boldin and Vernon Davis have had great chemistry with Colin Kaepernick. With Michael Crabtree expected to miss significant time, I think both of those guys are worth targeting, especially in PPR leagues.
Baltimore: Baltimore chose to give Joe Flacco a massive contract, and it cost them Boldin, Paul Kruger on defense, and a few others. Now Torrey Smith will need to step up, especially with Dennis Pitta out. Jacoby Jones, who couldn’t pass his initial conditioning test, is pressed into the starting lineup. Smith can be targeted, but leave Jones alone.
Kansas City: Dwayne Bowe will be the number 1, but Avery will start opposite him and will most likely get single coverage. Jon Baldwin has been shipped to San Francisco, leaving no one to challenge Avery for snaps. He won’t blow the doors off, but in deeper leagues, he’s worth a flier.
Indianapolis: The Colts will roll with Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. Darrius Heyward-Bey is fast, but, unfortunately, he can’t catch. Look for Wayne and Hilton to have solid years, although the Colts will probably run a bit more.
St. Louis: Cook is reunited with former Head Coach Jeff Fisher in St. Louis. Drafted for his speed and athleticism in Tennessee, he’s always flown under the radar. He’s looked good all offseason, and Sam Bradford has talked him up quite a bit. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s used once the season gets started. He’s an interesting low-end TE1.
Tennessee: Tennessee went out and got Delanie Walker from San Francisco. He’s been more of a blocking tight end, which actually fits their offensive scheme, but he also has some athleticism. While his arrival is probably good news for Chris Johnson, Walker shouldn’t really be on your fantasy radar.
Good luck in your drafts.