NFL Free Agency Fantasy Impact
March 12, 2014 | Jeff
NFL free agency officially kicked off Tuesday in all its crazy, rumor-filled glory. Weeks and weeks of speculation and day dreaming among fake footballers has finally begun to take shape as our NFL news has sprouted from tiny rumor seedlings into fully blossomed Adam Schefter tweets. Can you feel the excitement? Good! The fine folks here at The Fake Football will be keeping you updated on the most important fantasy football related free agency news over the entire offseason, so don’t change that dial. Let’s begin with what was a much quieter than anticipated first day of NFL free agency. Most of the impact signings so far have been on the defensive side of the football, as big ticket fake football items like Ben Tate, Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno, and Hakeem Nicks remain on the shelf as NFL teams browse the aisles. Here are the most noteworthy signings from Tuesday’s action, as the NFL free agency pinata was struck its first blow:
Darren McFadden: In a move that made all former fantasy owners of Darren McFadden roll their eyes, the Oakland Raiders decided to re-sign their often/mostly/always injured running back to a one-year contract. This signing coincided with Rashad Jennings moving from Oakland to the New York Giants, so the Raiders are left with just Run DMC and 2013 rookie mystery Latavius Murray at running back. With McFadden missing 19 games over the last three seasons and sporting a crusty 3.3 ypc average over his last 330 carries, expect the Raiders to take a long look at the young Murray and our own @PhilTWR thinks they will like what they see. This backfield situation has the appearance of a Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller type of split. Just make sure you avoid the old/brittle half of the duo when drafting this summer.
Rashad Jennings: As Darren McFadden was welcomed back to RaiderLand (don’t take your kids there on vacation), Rashad Jennings was headed the opposite direction. Jennings agreed to a contract with the New York Giants after what turned out to be a career best season in 2013 for the nearly 29-year-old. Jennings filled in for the perennially injured McFadden and took a career high 163 carries and turned them into 733 yards (4.5 ypc) while chipping in with another 292 receiving yards. Jennings had a terrible 2012 season in Jacksonville, but he hasn’t turned in less than 4.5 yards per carry in his other three NFL seasons and has proven to be an efficient pass catcher to boot. The newest Giant now joins 2013 fantasy draft bust David Wilson, Peyton Hillis (slug special), and Michael Cox in the New York Giants backfield. Depending on the health of David Wilson’s neck, Jennings could be entering the 2014 NFL season with a lead role which will certainly make him worthy of a middle round fantasy selection.
Blaine Gabbert: Traded to the San Francisco 49ers. No word if Jim Harbaugh has sent Gabbert any khakis just yet.
Ahmad Bradshaw: The Indianapolis Colts re-signed running back Ahmad Bradshaw on Tuesday, to join fantasy football’s favorite punching bag, Trent Richardson, in their backfield. Donald Brown has skipped town to learn how to surf (signed with San Diego), so Richardson, Bradshaw, and Vick Ballard are all that remain in Indy. The main issue here is Bradshaw’s health, as he has had neck issues and has a foot currently held together with Elmer’s Glue and leftover pieces from his childhood Erector Set. However, when you are running alongside the wonder that is Trent Richardson, you are worth a late round fantasy selection at the very least. The entire running back situation in Indianapolis will be worth monitoring this summer from top to bottom, if you can consider any of these running backs near the “top” of anything.
Brandon Myers: After a breakout 2012 season in Oakland, Brandon Myers made his 2013 home with the New York Giants and turned in an incredibly forgettable season. The lackluster play of the entire Giants offensive unit didn’t help his cause, and quarterback Eli Manning’s interception binge was detrimental as well. Despite the poor showing in the Big Apple, Myers landed himself a two-year deal in Tampa Bay. Myers will reside in TE2 territory next season, but this also crushes the 2014 fantasy hopes of young tight end Tim Wright, who showed glimpses of promise during his rookie season. A new coaching staff always brings personnel changes, and Wright’s value (especially in the dynasty world) appears to be toast.
Dexter McCluster: The Tennessee Titans got their mitts on a new weapon in Dexter McCluster, who spent the first four years of his NFL career catching passes in Kansas City. Even with the Tennessee backfield currently in limbo, don’t expect McCluster to help out much in that department, as he has only carried the ball 20 times since 2011. McCluster’s biggest fantasy impact will likely be his offensive usage in relation to Kendall Wright. According to our good pals at Pro Football Focus, Kendall Wright ran 369 routes from the slot in 2013 (68.5% of his total routes), and McCluster ran 341 routes from the slot in 2013 (79.5% of his total routes). Something has got to give. Wright’s impressive 94 reception total from last season could be in serious trouble if he is forced away from slot duties in 2014, as his allure is primarily PPR driven at this point in his career with only six total touchdowns in two seasons.
Detroit Lions WR2: This blurb is a place holder for future news. One of the most highly coveted fantasy spots available this offseason is in the Motor City, opposite the great Megatron. Calvin Johnson needs a partner in crime in Detroit’s high powered offense, and whoever lands this role will immediately become a PPR target of every air breathing fake footballer under the sun. Just think of the fantasy draft season stock of Danny Amendola last summer and it’s ascent into the stratosphere after he landed in New England. This signing, no matter who it turns out to be, will have the same impact. Remember Ryan Broyles? Titus Young? Eventually Detroit will find a fit next to big Calvin and we could see this development in the very near future. Also, in case you feel like asking, Kevin Ogletree (recently signed by the Lions) is not the answer. Keep tabs on this situation over the next week to see which fantasy football target emerges.