With the dust settled on the first wave of NFL free agency, a group of our staffers got together to discuss the most pressing topics. In this third installment, they highlight players changing teams who may have a greater-than-expected fantasy impact in 2017.
Are any transactions over the last few weeks flying under-the-radar for fantasy purposes?
Jeff Haseley: No one’s talking about Andre Holmes, who flashed potential in his time with the Raiders, but never solidified himself as a consistent threat in the starting lineup. He has the opportunity to elevate his game with Buffalo and could wind up the starting receiver opposite Sammy Watkins.
Jason Wood: Danny Woodhead -- a PPR-league special -- signed with Baltimore and steps into the safety-valve role immediately. Add the 4-game suspension for Kenneth Dixon and Woodhead could be an RB1 in PPR formats, at least for the early part of the season.
David Dodds: Dwayne Allen is currently being drafted as TE26. He hasn't ever been able to stay healthy, but if he does, he could have tremendous value on the Patriots (who love to run two tight end formations and have had a problem keeping Rob Gronkowski on the field).
Chad Parsons: One transaction being swept under the rug is Darren McFadden returning to Dallas. While the backup to Ezekiel Elliott will be minimally involved on a typical week, an injury to Elliott paves the way to a top-10 weekly projection for McFadden if the depth chart holds. As the phrase goes 'tell the story of a player's path to success.' For McFadden, a single event - Ezekiel Elliott missing time - turns a near-free asset into an impactful weekly auto-start. Outside of Dallas bringing in a premium rookie, McFadden is on my highlighted short list of final roster spot stashes for 2017.
Phil Alexander: Just when I thought this would finally be the year people would stop writing Darren McFadden’s name in fantasy football articles, Chad goes and makes a salient point. I’m on board with McFadden as an end game stash based on his logic.
How about Ted Ginn Jr to New Orleans for an under-the-radar signing? He's obviously not Brandin Cooks, but is he 75% of Cooks? If so, Ginn becomes a top-30 fantasy wide receiver who I can't imagine will be drafted as one, regardless of what happens between now and August. Owning Ginn will be a roller coaster, but Cooks was far from a model of consistency. Remember the donut he put up in Week 12 against the Rams last year? My DFS bankroll does.
At the very least, I'm not willing to dismiss the possibility of a top-30 season for Ginn. An appealing late round best ball pick even as a Panther, Ginn now has huge weekly upside playing with Drew Brees on the fast track in the Superdome.
Andy Hicks: The under the radar moves haven't happened yet at the running back position, but they will over the next six weeks. I can’t recall so much being unsettled at the position at this time of year. The following teams have major question marks at the running back position heading into phase two of free agency and the draft:
Baltimore, Carolina, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, NY Giants, NY Jets, Oakland, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.
Houston, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, New England, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Washington also could draft another back in the first four rounds, or add one in free agency. Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, both LA teams, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Tennessee are the only teams that seem settled at the position.
As teams fill their running back depth charts (or perhaps don’t add to them at all), fantasy owners would be wise to analyze all situations carefully. In a deep class of rookie running backs, the David Johnson of 2015 and the Jordan Howard of 2016 should be available to help win fantasy drafts in 2017.
Devin Knotts: Robert Woods is a sneaky player who is likely going to stay under-the-radar for fantasy owners this year, since he’s done very little in his career. This was a player who coming out of college had tremendous upside, but has not been in a passing focused offense. Woods is still just 24 years old, and the Rams made a significant investment in him with a 5-year, $39M deal. They also chose him over Kenny Britt, who had one of the best years of his career in Los Angeles last season.
Woods will be looked upon to create a chemistry with Jared Goff, alongside Tavon Austin. Currently the 94th wide receiver being drafted, Woods is more talented and should have more of a role than other wide receivers with similar ADPs, such as Ted Ginn Jr, Eli Rogers, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Michael Floyd.
Justin Howe: Pierre Garcon is going underappreciated. Since signing in San Francisco, he's only the WR51 in MFL10s, which is insanely low. I don't see the logic in those who prefer the likes of Jordan Matthews and Sterling Shepard right now; both are No. 2 or 3 wideouts with limited upside, but name value that's pushing owners to take 6th and 7th-round dives.
Garcon has some 49ers stink on him, but he's poised to absolutely dominate targets for Kyle Shanahan. He's done it before, after all, drawing 249 over their 26 games together in Washington. That resulted in 6.0 catches and 76.1 yards per game - and that came in a low-volume offense. Shanahan's system is traditionally run heavily through the X-receiver. Besides Garcon, he's also given career-high target seasons to Julio Jones (203), Andre Johnson (171, twice) and Jabar Gaffney (114).
I haven't run any in-depth projections yet, but I've got a pre-draft floor expectation around 80 catches and 6-8 scores for Garcon. Those are huge numbers to pull from the WR51.
Chris Feery: Although they are not totally under the radar, I’m quite intrigued by a pair of moves at the tight end position. Martellus Bennett should be a fruitful addition to the Packers passing attack. We all saw what Jared Cook was able to do with a nice amount of volume towards the end of the season in that offense. Assuming we can extend that to Bennett seeing some solid volume over 16 games, we have ourselves a Packers offense that’s all the more potent.
Speaking of Cook, he’s also in line for a nice 2017 now that he’s taken his talents to Oakland. He’ll be the clear third option behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, but in a potentially pass happy offense with a stellar young signal caller at the helm, we should still be looking at some fantasy goodness.
Will Grant: Latavius Murray should be getting more love than he is. The Vikings love to run the ball, Jerick McKinnon and Mike Asiata both averaged under 3.5 YPC. Murray could step in and push for 1200 yards from scrimmage and 8 TDs this season. Asiata hasn't been resigned and if McKinnon is the primary backup, Murray will have some nice upside.
Phil Alexander: It’s interesting Will brings up Murray because I spilled a bunch of digital ink about a week ago, bemoaning what his arrival in Minnesota means for the fantasy value of McKinnon, who I was hoping would get an opportunity to carry the mail following the departure of Adrian Peterson.
To summarize, my assumption was that Murray would find the sledding tough behind the Vikings’ dismal offensive line, and his week-to-week value would be largely determined by whether or not he’s able to fall forward into the end zone on his goal line runs. Still, Murray’s presence -- and likely 15-17 touch per game workload -- would render McKinnon an injury stash for fantasy purposes.
I’ll take this opportunity to back peddle on that take after only nine days. It was revealed Murray underwent ankle surgery last Wednesday, which changes everything. Murray is an upright runner who presents an enormous target to would-be-tacklers. Since entering the league, he’s dealt with multiple head and foot injuries. Predicting injuries is often a fool’s errand, but my spidey sense is tingling on this one.
McKinnon saw a substantial increase in production when Pat Shurmur took over play calling for Norv Turner in the middle of last season. With Murray already hurt, Shurmur’s interim tag removed, and some short passing game action opening up after Cordarrelle Patterson’s free agent defection, McKinnon’s arrow is suddenly pointing up.
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