In fantasy football you have to take some risks. No one ever won their league championship without gambling on one or even a few questionable players. The epitome of a questionable player is realized in the form of a stud free agent that has been signed to a new team.
Everyone knows that this guy can get it done on the field but the questions begin to pile up. Does his new environment fit his skill set? Will he be used properly in the new system? How much playing time will he actually see? The list goes on.
The only thing that is certain about these free agent studs is the fact that you can’t bank on their previous success being duplicated. This is the absolute worst because there are no indicators of what to expect from them during this upcoming season. Which is exactly why they are RISKS, never forget that.
Now, let’s examine the top free agents that have taken their talents to other cities and will have an immediate impact in fantasy football.
Ranking the 2014 Free Agents and Their Fantasy Value
DeSean Jackson - Wide Receiver - Washington Redskins
In perhaps the biggest free agent signing this offseason, long time Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver Desean Jackson has jumped ship to the NFC East enemy Washington Redskins. Jackson has always been known as an incredible deep threat with unfathomable breakaway speed. I do believe that the wideout is entering an environment that suits his particular skill set.
The Skins will certainly be looking to stretch the field with Jackson in order to open up other opportunities for the likes of RGIII, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed. This makes DeSean a huge homerun hitter in the passing game but also limits his potential during games as his value will most likely be either all or nothing. He will also lose some looks to the other offensive weapons that the Redskins have at their disposal.
The Redskins will have a lot of mouths to feed on offense and this could be a bad thing for Jackson since he may be used as a decoy often. All in all Jackson is what he always has been, a boom or bust kind of fantasy player. If he doesn’t catch the 40+ yard bomb for a touchdown then he probably isn’t going to rake in the points for you that week.
Is the deep threat worth a high draft pick or are you willing to wait and see if he’ll fall to you in the late middle rounds? Here’s what I've got.
Acceptable Draft Position:
Late Third Round or Early Fourth Round
-Just know that you're putting a lot of faith in Jackson taking him around this point as a number one receiver or a high number two.
-If he falls to you at this point you have to pull the trigger on him due to his potential.
-Just don’t man…just don’t.
Maurice Jones-Drew - Running Back - Oakland Raiders
Veteran running back MJD has found a new home this year on the Oakland Raiders. Jones-Drew has been with the Jacksonville Jaguars since 2006 and has been very solid for them when he wasn’t sidelined with an injury. MJD has proven to be one of the toughest running backs in the NFL but over the last two seasons hasn’t been able to return to form.
Last season Jones-Drew was an extreme disappointment as he was only able to find the end zone 5 times while managing 803 rushing yards. It is important to note that the Jaguars were completely abysmal last year and had to constantly play from behind in nearly every game. Playing catch-up in the NFL does not yield positive results for the man in the backfield.
The Raiders are undergoing a serious identity change in their backfield this offseason. The resigning of Darren McFadden came as a bit of a shock as McFadden hasn’t really been able to sustain his health for more than a season. The Raiders signing of MJD still shows their lack of faith in McFadden but the two backs will most likely split carries.
One plus side that a fantasy owner of Jones-Drew could look forward to is the probability that the Raiders will utilize him has their goal line back, which should result in big time touchdowns and a big time payoff for drafting him. The Oakland backfield situation should become more clear come training camp, but until then here is my speculation
Acceptable Draft Position:
Anywhere in the Fourth Round
-This is the prime location to grab another running back that may have the potential to be in your starting lineup a few weeks into the season. Third round is taking a huge gamble on him but in all likelihood MJD won’t see the fifth round if you don’t take him.
-Have to take him here considering his upside for touchdowns and the fact that running backs will be scarce in the later rounds.
-Maybe in 2009.
Eric Decker - Wide Receiver - New York Jets
Another hot name in free agency this year has been Eric Decker. The previous Denver Bronco receiver found the best success of his career with Peyton Manning at the helm during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. In both those seasons Decker racked up over 1,000 yards and 10 plus touchdowns. So why is everyone so skeptical when Decker got signed by the Jets?
Peyton Manning. This year will determine whether or not Decker was a product of his environment or if he really is, in fact, that good. Unfortunately the latter does not seem like it is going to prove true for Decker’s 2014 season with the Jets. You can still hold out for him this season but there are too many questions clouding Decker’s fantasy worth.
Will Decker be able to step into a number one receiver role with a poor supporting cast? Who will the Jets even have a quarterback? Geno or Vick? One thing that you can bet on for Decker this season is that he will not find the success he had with Peyton Manning in the Big Apple. At this point I am considering Eric Decker a low wide receiver two or a high end three.
I would advise anyone drafting Decker to do so with the mindset that he will be a strong flex player for you or a potential trade chip.
Acceptable Draft Position:
Sixth or Seventh Round
-Decker will most likely be floating around this area for most drafts. If you have faith in him, grab him in the sixth. If you want to wait it out, play it out and see if he falls to you in the seventh.
Eighth or Ninth Round
-Coming off his recent success it is doubtful that Decker falls this low in drafts but if he does you might as well take him and see if he comes into his role in New York.
-This was Decker’s ADP in last year’s fantasy drafts…last year’s…with Peyton Manning.
Hakeem Nicks - Wide Receiver - Indianapolis Colts
Former lead man of the Giants receivers has landed on the Indianapolis Colts after signing a one year contract. Nicks has got to be one of the most intriguing offseason acquisitions as I believe he has been placed into a great situation in Indianapolis. The five year pro had been able to find success in the NFL but his production has tailed off in the last two years.
In fact, in 2013 Nicks failed to reach the end zone…even once. The Giants offense as a whole was incredibly mediocre and ranked 28th in the NFL in points and yards per game. They also finished 19th in passing yards per game. The entire offense struggled all season and is most likely the reason Nicks had such a pedestrian outing in 2013. This won’t be the case in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck at the helm.
Luck is entering his third year in the league and should be hitting his stride big time this season. Adding Nicks to the depth chart gives Luck that safety net he previously had in Reggie Wayne. Wayne is apparently ahead of schedule on his road to recovery from his ACL injury he suffered last year. If he does return healthy the Colts would have Nicks, Wayne and Hilton as their main starters.
I expect T.Y. Hilton to take the number one role as he has really came into his own last year. Wayne and Nicks will most likely alternate between the number two spot and or the slot. There is a lot of opportunity for Nicks to become a low end one or a high end two option on the Colts.
His maximum potential in fantasy is dependent on if Wayne returns 100% or not at the start of the season. If not, I believe Nicks will play his heart out in order to cement himself in the Colts offensive system as a ‘go to’ kind of guy.
Acceptable Draft Position:
-You can afford to wait for Nicks so target him around this round and expect to use him as a number two or flex.
Seventh or Eighth
-Draft are won during these rounds, take some dudes who will give you a nice surprise as the season progresses.
-Wide receiver is incredibly deep and you can’t afford to go this early on a guy like Nicks; no matter how enticing his situation is.
Knowshon Moreno - Running Back - Miami Dolphins
Knowshon Moreno absolutely exploded in 2013 for the Denver Broncos while accumulating 13 total touchdowns and over 1,500 total yards. This came as a complete surprise as Moreno has only been a decent player throughout his career. In 2013 he was a beast. The question for Moreno (much like Eric Decker) was his success completely correlated to Peyton Manning? My assumption is: probably.
The Broncos offense demanded so much attention that whenever they ran the ball it was a surprise to the defense. This allowed Moreno to carve up the unsuspecting defensive as he pleased. Now, is the dude talented? Yes. Moreno worked hard all season and is obviously one competitive player who fought back from injury and depth chart placing to have the type of season he did last year.
He will be given the chance to get it done as the number one running back on the Miami Dolphins in 2014 as Lamar Miller wasn’t able to. Moreno carries two big questions with him going into this year. One, can he stay healthy for a full season? And two, can he be a proficient runner when the defense is looking to play the run?
I value Moreno strictly as a number two running back and wouldn’t necessarily be looking to invest a high round pick on him since the magical season he had last year is doubtful to be repeated.
Acceptable Draft Position:
-When it boils down to it, there aren’t many running backs that will be set to take over a starting role like Moreno is in Miami. He’s a low end two with a high ceiling if he stays healthy.
-A starting running back this late? Please and thank you.
-Placing a lot of faith in him repeating his number from last year…which probably won’t happen. Stop living in the past.
Free Agents Can Make An Impact
This is part one of my free agent analysis. These guys clearly offer different values at different points in the draft. Look for the part two of the series soon.