Every offseason, each NFL team makes dozens of player moves with the hopes that their next year will be “the year.” Most of these moves are irrelevant to us as fantasy gamers, but there are some that are not only worth noting, but keeping in mind when drafting your fantasy teams this coming year. Today we’ll go over ten of the biggest offseason moves that are most likely to impact your fantasy draft for the 2013 season.
Note: For fantasy purposes, we’re going to skip Percy Harvin’s movement from Minnesota to Seattle, as his hip surgery will have him sidelined for 2/3 of the season, if not more.
After carrying the Rams woebegone offense for many years, Jackson finally ditched St. Louis for much greener pastures in Atlanta. Atlanta may therefore be the most improved team in the league at running back for it, as they were forced to rely on burn-less Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers for an ineffective running game in 2012. The Falcons passing game will remain explosive, and Jackson will therefore have to face far fewer stacked boxes than he ever did in his time in St. Louis. He will also catch his share of passes, and I’m expecting a re-invigorated S-Jax performance for a playoff team in 2013. Pencil him in as a top 10 RB for draft purposes, and look for him in the late first / early second round.
Any running game relying on the likes of Mikel LeShoure and Joique Bell for an explosive attack should have been on the hunt for an upgrade, and the Lions did just that in the offseason, signing Reggie Bush to jumpstart their running game. Matthew Stafford attempted 727 pass attempts last season, so we can safely assume with Calvin Johnson in the prime of his career that Detroit will still be a high octane passing offense. This should not only open up running room for Bush, but also feed him passes out of the backfield, where he has proven to be dangerous throughout his career. His durability will always be something of a question mark, but I’m expecting big things from Bush this year. I think he’s a steal this year – he’s coming off the board as about the 16th or so RB in most drafts. I’m expecting 1200+ total yards and 8+ TD’s, which makes for an excellent RB2 investment.
Mendenhall demolished his ACL two years ago in week 17, and still hasn’t returned to form. However, his track record, previous relationship with head coach (former Steelers OC) Bruce Arians, and complete lack of better in-house options lead him to sign with Arizona in the offseason. The Cardinals won’t be great this year, but with new QB Carson Palmer, the ageless Larry Fitzgerald, and a bit of luck, their offense should be much improved. Mendenhall is no elite talent, but it appears that he will be a true three-down back in Arizona, which accounts for much of his appeal now that many teams have gone to RBBC. If he plays 16 games, expect solid, but not spectacular RB2 numbers.
Let me make one thing clear before we discuss Ivory: I have no illusions about the Jets prospects this season. They’re bad regardless of who wins their “QB” competition. But we’re in this for the numbers. Ivory signed with the Jets this offseason after several years of being buried on the Saints depth chart. His overall numbers during those seasons are uninspiring, but if you’ve watched him play, you know he’s capable of runs like this. One would think that the clear path to being a feature back had to play a part in his decision to sign with the Jets – they literally have almost nobody else.
Barring injury (which is a large, and relevant question with Ivory) he will be a true 3-down back, which is becoming more rare each year. He’s had his share of bumps and bruises, and his hamstring is already acting up in camp – be aware there is an injury history there, and on top of that Ivory is a brutally hard runner that looks to create contact rather than avoid it. Because of the injury history, and the Jets situation in general, Ivory is currently around the 25th RB off the board in most drafts. At this price, owners that take the risk earn themselves huge upside, but it comes with high risk. Buyer beware.
This is one of those signings that will impact the fantasy fortunes of the players attached more than the actual player himself. Specifically, Carson Palmer signing with the Arizona Cardinals had to be music to Larry Fitzgerald’s ears. After suffering through the likes of John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, Larry Fitz will now have the fantasy “King of Garbage Time” throwing to him. Carson may be old, but he can still chuck it downfield, which immediately provides a massive upgrade to expectations for Fitzgerald in 2013. As for Palmer’s prospects for 2013, he isn’t a fantasy relevant QB outside of very deep leagues or 2 QB leagues. If you’re in either of those, he’s a solid play. Outside of said leagues, you don’t want to be relying on Palmer as your QB1.
Expected to be released by the Ravens for his high salary cap number, Boldin was instead traded for a sixth rounder to the 49ers. At the time, it looked like an excellent pickup for the 49ers, and an instant upgrade for Colin Kaepernick. When Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles in late May, it instantly became critical. Boldin is currently slotted in as the 49ers WR1, and has shown excellent rapport with his new QB at camp. When healthy, he’s always been an excellent red-zone threat and possession receiver, and now that he’ll receive a large portion of the targets that previously went to Crabtree, Boldin is set up for a monster year. You can draft him at a WR2 price, but I feel like he has WR1 upside for 2013.
For Jennings, 2013 must feel like getting out of a Porsche and into a Kia. No slam on Kia, but Jennings has gone from consensus #1 QB Aaron Rodgers throwing to him to the likes of either Christian Ponder or Matt Cassell. With those quarterbacking option, and Adrian Peterson entrenched at RB, it’s no wonder the Vikes offense is extremely run heavy. Jennings will attempt to replace the departed Percy Harvin, but isn’t the same after-the-catch, explosive player that Harvin was, nor is he as young. The threat of Peterson should open up some vertical possibilities for Jennings, but ineffective quarterback play will most likely nullify most of them. Jennings is being taken in the late WR2 / WR3 rounds in drafts, but will struggle to justify that draft position statistically in 2013. Avoid.
Wallace represents a serious upgrade to a Miami receiving corps that in 2012 featured slot receiver Brian Hartline and little else. Ryan Tannehill’s value as a QB2 should spike as a result, but the move from Pittsburgh OC Todd Haleys dink-and-dunk offense to the more vertically minded Miami attack should do wonders for Wallace’s final stat line. Add new feature back Lamar Miller, Hartline, and reclamation project Dustin Keller to the mix, and we just might be looking at a Miami offense that can put points on the board. Wallace is locked in as the WR1 for the new-look Dolphins, and should definitely be able to regain his status as one of the better deep-ball threats in the NFL. He’s currently being taken in the same tier as Pierre Garcon, Steve Smith, and Antonio Brown, but arguably possesses the most 2013 potential of the group. Target him as a WR2 with WR1 upside.
After rejecting a “take it or leave it” contract offer with the Patriots, Welker made one of the best publicized offseason team moves and signed with the Denver Broncos. You have to think with the events of this offseason that New England is going to regret this move sooner or later. Not a single player caught more balls over the last 6 years than Welker, who will now be integrated into the stacked Bronco’s offense. The excellent part of the move is that he’ll continue working with an elite QB in a high-powered offense. The downgrade to his fantasy value is that there are so many mouths to feed in Denver that Welkers’s catch and yardage totals are almost certain to decrease. Overall, his draft day price has decreased, and you can snag him in the middle rounds as a WR2 with upside.
With Wes Welker departed to Denver, the Pats attempted to replace his role as closely as possible, and so they signed Amendola. Both players are slot receivers who rack up the catches and yards underneath. Amendola comes off an injury plagued 2012 which saw him miss five games, but still flash dominance at times en route to 66 catches. With few other established receiving options on the Patriots and a solid showing in camp, there is little doubt that Amendola should challenge the 100-catch and 1000 yards barriers if he can remain healthy. He’s missed 20 games over the last two years, so that’s a big “If”. Draft him as a WR2 in the middle rounds at your own risk.