Free Agency: A Story of Fear and Wonder
My stomach hurts. I’m lost at sea, in nothing but a life raft. I haven’t eaten in days, and my water supply is quickly running out. Desperation and hopelessness are settling in. The ocean steadily grows more restless, and the waves that my raft climbs and slides down are getting steeper. If only I could find some clarity. Some calm seas that I could sail with command. I could ride the current to land and victory.
Fantasy football usually makes me feel this way, and the recurring dream I’m describing to you usually visits my thoughts on Saturday nights in the fall, during football season. Though just the other night, a random night in March, I was back in the stormy sea, alone and afraid. I only have this dream during the fantasy football season, so my uncharacteristic presence in the briny deep worried me more than usual. What I didn’t realize, was that the NFL Free Agency period…is hurricane season.
I awake in my raft and look to the east, keeping a keen eye out for land. Ominous dark clouds are headed my way and the circling sharks seem to be getting impatient. If I don’t find refuge soon, the sea will claim me as an ignorant fantasy football player, a most dishonorable death. As hope runs out, and I prepare for my impending doom, I see something in the distance. It appears to be a ship! I fire my last flare (which magically appears because it’s dream world) and scream out cries of joy. “I will be saved! Oh Joy!”
As the boat approaches my fears are eviscerated, I am to be saved just in time! The little fat captain of the boat is wearing a visor and a Philadelphia Eagles windbreaker. “Come about!” He yells to his crew as he tosses me the tube that will reel me in to safety.
“Chip Kelly?” I say, “Is that you?”
“Yes Matt, I’m here to give you fantasy clarity and insight!” Chip responds.
As I dive out of my raft for Chip’s tube he yanks it back just out of my reach.
“Coach Kelly! I can’t reach the tube! Stop pulling it away!” I scream out, mustering the last bit of energy I have as I flounder in the ocean.
“This is the most fast paced rescue effort in all the NFL! Ya gotta keep up Matt! There’s fantasy gold in my offense!” He begins to laugh maniacally.
“Chip Kelly Why?!?! Why are you doing this to me!” I scream as I take what seems to be my last breath. I’ve lost the energy to go on. Chip Kelly has stolen my will to fight. As I slowly start to sink to the bottom of the deep blue sea, I can still hear Chip Kelly’s laughter, fading slowly, as the sea claims me and my fantasy football mistakes.
I wake up in my bed in a cold sweat, still hearing the laugh of Chip ringing in my head. Confused I roll over and check my phone, which has been ringing off the hook. Fellow analysts Nick, Vinny, and Walsh have informed me: The Eagles just signed DeMarco Murray.
This is the craziest free agency period in the NFL that I can remember. As of March 14th, 11 fantasy players with Average Draft Positions in the first five rounds of drafts have found new homes: Jimmy Graham (SEA), Brandon Marshall (NYJ), CJ Spiller (NO), Julius Thomas (JAC), Demarco Murray (PHI), Ryan Mathews (PHI), Frank Gore (IND), Andre Johnson (IND), LeSean McCoy (BUF), Percy Harvin (BUF), Jeremy Maclin (KC).
It’s a lot to take in. So many question marks surround these guys and it’s hard to determine if these guy players’ fantasy values will be helped or hurt by wherever they end up this off-season. A handful of these guys were their past team’s best offensive weapon! It’s anarchy!
Curing the Hangover
It’s obviously too early to determine which of these moves will work and which of these will go down as some of the dumbest moves in history (Colts giving up a first round pick for Trent Richardson).
We still have the draft and training camp at least to give us a better idea of these players’ roles on their new squads, but I’m going to tell you some of the moves that I like, and some of the moves that confuse the shit out of me as far as determining fantasy value and impact.
Moves That Make Me Feel Good
CJ Spiller (New Orleans Saints): I’ve always been an outspoken Spiller hater. The talent is there, but rarely has there been fantasy production that you can completely trust.
Mark Ingram was also re-signed by the Saints and is clearly the start, but Sean Payton has proven in the past that multiple running backs can have success in their system.
Drew Brees loves the check down and with Pierre Thomas gone, I expect his 90 touches (45 catches) from last season to go directly to Spiller, and then some.
We’ve seen Sproles, Thomas, and even Travaris Cadet recently have success in that “change of pace” role. The future seems bright for CJ Spiller in 2015.
Andre Johnson (Indianapolis Colts): Johnson has made it no secret that he wanted out of Houston, and the pass heavy Colts offense is probably the best destination you could have picked for him.
With Reggie Wayne leaving Indy, the Colts needed a threat opposite TY Hilton. Luck targeted Wayne last year 116 times and you know he hated throwing it Hakeem Nicks’ way 70 times.
Although Andre Johnson is probably past his prime, I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if he reached the 1,000 yard mark with Luck chucking him those deep balls he loves to throw.
If Andre Johnson made due with the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, and Case Keenum, I don’t see how a move to Indy can do anything but help his value.
Moves That Confuse the Shit Out of Me
All of the Eagle’s RBs: When I heard that Frank Gore wasn’t going to actually sign with Philadelphia after McCoy was released, I laughed and said: “Eagles are screwed at RB. I’m jumping on the Chris Polk bandwagon.”
A few days later, mad scientist Chip Kelly orchestrated two of the craziest signings of this turbulent offseason: Ryan Mathews, and former divisional rival DeMarco Murray. The Eagles are obviously going to run the shit out of the ball, and Murray has to be #1 on the depth chart after his career year of over 1,800 yds and 13 TDs, taking the fantasy world by storm, but don’t forget, they still have Sproles!
After McCoy came off a very disappointing season for fantasy owners that drafted him first overall in drafts, I have no idea where to value the very tempting Murray, Sproles or Mathews.
This backfield’s individual values will be heavily debated leading up to August drafts, but I have to still say DeMarco Murray is probably a first rounder. Then again, Murray’s production last year required 392 carries. The whole Eagles backfield last year only ran the ball 474 times!
I expect Mathews and Sproles to steal a lot of work from him. Regardless, this all makes me nauseous and nervous.
Jimmy Graham (Seattle Seahawks): People who love Jimmy Graham’s fantasy value had to hate this move. You go from New Orleans, the team that ranked second in pass attempts, to Seattle who ranked last in that category.
Jimmy Graham didn’t exactly have first round fantasy production last season, and his health became concerning. In my opinion, he is absolutely not in the top tight end tier with Gronk, and I might even like Greg Olsen and Travis Kelce more. Be careful with valuing Graham this offseason.
Brandon Marshall (New York Jets): I never know what the hell to think about the Jets. When Decker went there last offseason, he was the big fish in a small pond, and being the only star receiver in the Jets’ offense, his fantasy value was quite tempting.
Flash forward to the end of the season and Decker did pretty well, almost hitting the thousand yard mark and pulling in 5 TDs in a terrible passing year for Geno and Vick and whoever else threw passes for the Jets.
With the Jets bringing in a new coach and QB in Fitzpatrick, you’d imagine Decker could be nice top 25 WR. You feel comfortable with that. You like that, no. Enter Brandon Marshall. Marshall’s talent is obvious but the hangover from the Bears’ and Jay Cutler’s collapse could be devastating. Where the hell are the touchdowns going to go?
I could see Decker having a big game and Marshall doing nothing, then vice versa the next week. This will be the ultimate fantasy roulette and honestly, I probably won’t own either of these guys.
How could you ever feel confident playing Marshall or Decker in the first few weeks of the season? Marshall’s arrival hurts the value of every pass catcher in the Jets offense, including his own.
2015 Free Agency and It's Fantasy Football Impact
Well there ya have it folks. Some vague and early insight into some very controversial football moves and their effect on fantasy.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know. I'd love to talk some fantasy football!