The Footballguys staff was asked to mention their most significant veteran wide receiver who changed teams over the offseason. Most significant can have a lot of meaning, but - in this case - it means we just asked our guys to pick the wide receiver they most wanted to write about. Here are the results.
Jeremy Maclin - 5 mentions
Sigmund Bloom - Kansas City is where wide receiver fantasy value goes to die. Maclin landed in the pass offense that had zero wide receiver touchdowns last year with a quarterback who is not inclined to make bold throws downfield. Perhaps we may find out that it was Dwayne Bowe to blame for the desert of wide receiver fantasy value and not Alex Smith, but Travis Kelce is on schedule to break out this year and Jamaal Charles will remain the focus of the offense. Maclin has also had durability issues heading into last year. Unless you can you can draft Maclin as a WR3/WR4 that you can pick and choose your spots with, he's a tough wide receiver to want to invest in this season.
James Brimacombe - After five seasons with the Eagles, Jeremy Maclin parted ways and landed with the wide receiver deprived Kansas City Chiefs. We all know the story that not a single wide receiver on the Chiefs roster last year caught a touchdown pass, so to help solve that problem the Chiefs put up some big money to bring in an Andy Reid player to help open up the field for Alex Smith. Maclin thrived in Chip Kelly's offense last season catching 86 passes for 1,329 yards and 10 touchdowns and got paid in a big way because of his production. Although not the best landing spot for Maclin as far as fantasy purposes go, it is a step in the right direction for the Chiefs to bring in some speed and some sure hands for a passing attack that had zero help last season.
Christopher Feery - Maclin reunites with his former Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid and immediately gives Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs something they were sorely lacking last year – a threat at wide receiver. Maclin is a Missouri native and will also be reunited with several former Eagles coaches who made the trek to Kansas City with Reid. Expect Maclin to make a smooth transition to the AFC and thrive in his new surroundings.
Ryan Hester - There were multiple receivers on the move this offseason. Brandon Marshall was traded to the New York Jets, and Andre Johnson signed with Indianapolis, to name a couple. One of the more intriguing, though, was Jeremy Maclin signing a big contract in Kansas City. The Chiefs famously threw zero touchdown passes to wide receivers last season. Maclin brings game-breaking speed that can turn a short Alex Smith pass into a touchdown from anywhere on the field. He also reunites with Head Coach Andy Reid. A ripple effect of this move is Dwayne Bowe moving on to sign with Cleveland. Bowe was the leader of the zero-touchdown receiving corps in Kansas City and is now the top option in Cleveland – a team with an uncertain quarterback situation led by journeyman Josh McCown. Bowe could underwhelm once again.
Jason Wood - While there were very notable wide receivers who were traded, the most significant free agent wide receiver signing this year has to be Jeremy Maclin, who re-unites with Andy Reid thanks to a 5-year, $55 million deal with $23 million guaranteed. Maclin is coming off his best season (85 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns) and joins a Chiefs team in desperate need of downfield firepower. He'll immediately become the top target in Reid's West Coast offense and will make Alex Smith's life infinitely easier. The Chiefs somehow went an entire season without throwing a touchdown pass to a receiver. AN ENTIRE SEASON. That most certainly won't happen in 2015. While Maclin is a long shot to match last year's numbers, he's going to be an impact player and allow Travis Kelce more room to work the middle of the field, and Jamaal Charles more room to run as opposing defenses won't be able to stack the box.
Andre Johnson - 3 mentions
Jeff Haseley - Johnson will be 34 when he laces up his cleats in Week 1, but in my opinion, I don't expect to see a drop off in ability and definitely not desire. Looking back at Andre Johnson's career with Houston, he found consistent, arguably Hall of Fame worthy success with B-level quarterbacks. He waited for an opportunity to better his legacy with a more prolific offense and quarterback, which he now has with Indianapolis and Andrew Luck. Johnson has always been one of the hardest working players in the league, not just his position. His opportunity to earn a ring is within reach and he won't get there without hard work and above all, execution. The end product is a still capable receiver on a high scoring offense, with Hall of Fame credentials. Andre Johnson will be on several of my teams this year.
Jeff Tefertiller - The addition of future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson in the Indianapolis Colts offense should be huge for both the receiver and quarterback Andrew Luck. Johnson is still a difference-maker and able to get open with his strong, physical presence. He will be able to find plenty of space in the middle of the field while opposing defenses are focused on stopping the speedster receivers (Hilton, Moncrief, and Dorsett). It remains to be seen whether Luck will throw the ball enough to keep all of the pass-catchers happy. But, one thing is for sure, Johnson will get his targets. He is the most reliable of the receivers and will be the go-to target on third downs. The veteran has not lost a step and still can play at a high level. The huge upgrade at quarterback will only boost Johnson's fantasy appeal.
B.J. VanderWoude - The Indianapolis Colts looked to upgrade their 22nd ranked running game with the signing of veteran Frank Gore. The biggest addition to their short yardage attack came with the signing of future Hall of Fame wide receiver, Andre Johnson. Johnson has made his living in the short passing game, so it only makes sense that the Colts would look to replace Reggie Wayne with another player capable of matching his efficiency. With their most recent addition, the Colts have now employed the #3 (Marvin Harrison), #7 (Reggie Wayne) and #9 (Andre Johnson) all time leaders in receptions. The argument against Johnson is that he is starting to slow down at 33 years old, but a closer look reveals he still has quite a bit left in the tank. The 2014 season was a down year for Johnson, totaling 85 catches for 936 yards, however he was coming off consecutive 100+ catch, 1400+ yard seasons in 2012 and 2013.
Johnson has never played with an elite signal caller, but despite the deficiency at the quarterback position, he has managed seven 1000 yard seasons and five 100 catch campaigns. Additionally, since the NFL started keeping track of targets in 2006, Johnson has caught 63% of the passes thrown his way. Andrew Luck is not a minor upgrade over Johnson’s previous quarterbacks, so it is not hard to envision a scenario where he reaches 90 catches and 1000+ yards. The Colts found an elite deep threat in T.Y. Hilton, and the emergence of Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen and Colby Fleener has solidified the intermediate passing game. It would be next to impossible to replace Reggie Wayne’s veteran presence and efficiency in moving the chains, but the Colts managed to do just that. Johnson has a lot to offer a team looking for a championship run, and after spending his whole career on some awful teams, it seems fitting that he will get a crack at a Super Bowl appearance.
Torrey Smith - 3 mentions
Jeff Pasquino - In a strange twist of fate, both former Baltimore Raven wide receivers have moved on to the team that they beat in Super Bowl XLVII as Torrey Smith joins Anquan Boldin in San Francisco. Colin Kaepernick now has a legitimate deep threat, but Smith will likely miss the strong and accurate arm of Joe Flacco. The interesting twist is Frank Gore is also gone and the 49ers are hinting of letting Kaepernick improvise and play to his strengths, which could dramatically increase the performance of the passing game. Smith and Boldin will boost the offense and create the “one burner, one possession receiver” duo that helped the Ravens in 2013.
Daniel Simpkins - Smith’s move to the 49ers is clearly a downgrade. It makes little sense when you consider Smith’s game and Kaepernick’s skillset. Smith can run other routes well now (that wasn’t always the case - see his Maryland tape), but no one will contest the fact that his blazing speed on vertical routes is his centerpiece strength. Conversely, Kaepernick’s biggest limitation is poor pocket management, which causes him to miss receivers who are wide open down the field. Unless Kaepernick’s work with Warner improves his decision-making in the pocket under pressure, don’t expect Smith to outproduce the fantasy numbers he put up in Baltimore.
Mark Wimer - The signing of Torrey Smith by the 49ers will turn out to be the most significant relocation of a veteran player at the wide receiver position during 2015. The 49ers have an excellent possession receiver in Anquan Boldin, and between Colin Kaepernick and Carlos Hyde a threatening running attack which should combine to keep defenses focused on events behind/near the line of scrimmage. Smith should find plentiful soft spots and seams to exploit down the field. Smith will have some game-breaking performances for the 49ers this year - he'll win games for his fantasy owners.
Mike Wallace - 2 mentions
Andy Hicks - After a couple of disappointing seasons in Miami Mike Wallace heads to Minnesota. The Dolphins get his salary off their books and the Vikings only needed a fifth rounder to get him. As long as his attitude has improved following several public issues during his tenure with Miami, Wallace is almost a can’t miss prospect this year. His ADP won’t get anywhere near the elite, yet he can deliver that upside should he click with the Viking offense. He won’t be without risk given his age, personality issues and the relative youth of his quarterback. On balance though the Vikings need a receiver like Wallace to open up the offense and he needs a career resurrection. If training camp reports are positive then I would be very happy with Wallace as my third or if I was stacked elsewhere, second receiver.
Steve Holloway - Mike Wallace’s production with the Dolphins did not match the high expectations brought on by the 5-year, $60 million contract that he signed in 2013. However, he averaged 70 receptions per year, which was slightly more than his best three years with the Steelers. His touchdowns slipped a little, but he tied his career high with 10 touchdowns last season and finished as WR18 in non-ppr scoring. Wallace’s trade to the Vikings gives the team a great fit for offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s vertical passing attack. The opinion that Wallace underperformed in Miami is exaggerated due to his reduced yards per catch and his poor attitude toward the end of 2014 likely added to that perception. He gets a new start with the Vikings and should contend for be Bridgewater’s top target. Wallace has always scored touchdowns, never scoring fewer than five touchdowns and averaging eight per year over his career.
Steve Johnson - 1 mention
Phil Alexander - After he failed to top 600 receiving yards for the second consecutive season, and finished last year as the PPR WR78, it's understandable if you glossed over Steve Johnson signing with the San Diego Chargers. Despite the dismal counting stats he posted in his only year as a 49er, Johnson was actually San Francisco's most efficient wide receiver last season, leading the team in both catch rate (70%) and yards per route run (2.13). The main problem for Johnson in San Fran was playing time, which won't be an issue in San Diego. Departed 2014 slot receiver Eddie Royal played on about two thirds of the Chargers' offensive snaps last year, and leaves behind 91 targets. Royal's 62-778-7 line (WR31 in PPR leagues) is more than attainable for Johnson, and there's clear upside for more. We're talking about a receiver who went over 1,000 receiving yards, with at least six touchdowns for three straight seasons catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Expect him to make sweet music with Philip Rivers, who knows how to take advantage of receivers who can gain separation. Johnson is a no doubt fantasy WR3 in San Diego, and a Top 25 finish wouldn't come as a complete shock.
Brandon Marshall - 1 mention
Chad Parsons - While going to one of the worst quarterback situations in the NFL, Brandon Marshall has rarely seen strong play under center in his NFL career. Marshall will be a consistent chain-mover for the Jets, which Eric Decker operates more downfield. Even average play from Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick will elevate the Jets passing game considering their budding collection of pass targets.
Kenny Stills - 1 mention
Justin Howe - This was one of the most puzzling trades in years. It’s perfectly understandable for a team to shed pricey veterans, but how does that apply to Stills? He just turned 23, possesses a very intriguing athletic profile, and is still playing under his fifth-round rookie contract. So why didn’t the Saints value him in their rebuild for a measly $585K cap hit? Barring some unforeseen development, it seems safe to chalk this up to a massive coup for new Dolphins GM Mike Tannenbaum. In his two years of extensive play in New Orleans, Stills finished first and 10th in passer rating when targeted, first and third in yards per target, and 14th and first in deep ball catch rate. Simply put, he’s played the role of an ultra-efficient deep threat who produces as much on each target as just about anyone. The Dolphins’ wide receiver stable is fairly crowded, but Stills could well be the true athlete who unlocks Ryan Tannehill’s scattershot deep ball. And if his history is any indication, he’ll squeeze maximum production from the other levels of the field as well.
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