It’s nearly impossible to wrap your mind around the player movement that took place over just a few days in March. Thankfully, fantasy football gives us an angle to break this cacophony of change into micro movement on our dynasty rankings board. When we isolate the net effect of the plate tectonic movement around the league on one player, we can make some sense out of it, or at least what we expect to come of it. Let’s start with quarterbacks…
Russell Wilson, Seattle - There’s no subtlety here. Wilson gains one of the best weapons in the middle of the field and red zone in the NFL. Wilson added lethal running ability last year to basically cement top five status for 2015 going into this offseason, with Jimmy Graham in the mix, it’s fair to ask if he can rival Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck for “elite” fantasy QB status. If the Seahawks start to open up the passing game as the Steelers did for Ben Roethlisberger as his career progressed, that might answer the question for us.
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota - Bridgewater lost Greg Jennings, but added Mike Wallace, who at the very least should loosen up defenses. At this moment it appears that Adrian Peterson will remain a Viking in 2015, which should also make Bridgewater’s job easier, even if it does tilt the run/pass split away more towards run. The buzz around Bridgewater has also only been positive this offseason.
Eli Manning, New York Giants - Even with Victor Cruz’s status for Week 1 (and really 2015 as a whole) in doubt, Manning gained Shane Vereen in free agency, which would seem to signal Manning being more central in the weekly game plan. The emergence of Odell Beckham put Manning in the low QB1 conversation, the addition of Vereen only increases the volume of that talk.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco - Torrey Smith and Reggie Bush give the passing game in San Francisco a boost, and indications that Kaepernick will run more often should only help his fantasy bottom line. From a long-term perspective, Kaepernick might just be a QB who treads water for his whole career, but for the short-term he is looking like a better weekly play in 2015.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville - The Jags added Julius Thomas to up the chances of pass play calls in red zone, and also improved the right tackle position with the addition of Jermey Parnell. Bortles is nothing but a streamer for 2015, but his weekly upside ticked up a bit.
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia - IF Bradford is the Eagles starter opening day, he could have a renaissance, even with Riley Cooper as his most experienced downfield target. Chip seems to see Bradford as the type of QB who can faithfully execute his system, and if he’s right, the paucity of skill position talent might not matter that much from a fantasy perspective, assuming Demarco Murray makes the defense focus on stopping him. Good health from the offensive line can only help.
Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets - Don’t laugh. Brandon Marshall is a big upgrade to the wide receiver corps, and new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey isn’t shy about passing. He also guided Kordell Stewart and Fitzpatrick to the best years of their careers. The identity of the Jets starting QB should be of great interest to streamers.
MAYBE UP, MAYBE DOWN
Ryan Tannehill, Miami - Goodbye Charles Clay, Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson. Enter Jordan Cameron and Kenny Stills. Cameron is a better downfield threat than Clay, and Stills could be an upgrade from Wallace, who never seemed to riff with Tannehill. Cameron could also resume injury report tango and we could learn that the problem really was Tannehill more than Wallace in the deep passing game. In the background is the second year in Bill Lazor’s system and an offensive line that is still under construction, but trending in the right direction. Tannehill’s value is unlikely to hold steady, but the direction it will go is hard to gauge.
Drew Brees, New Orleans - Brees lost his best red zone/between the hashes weapon and one of his best deep threats. CJ Spiller was added and Josh Hill can take up some of the slack, but the Saints couldn’t have been more clear about wanting to reduce Brees’ role in the offense and overall weekly fate of the team. Aspirations are one thing and we could easily see the equilibrium reassert itself back at Brees throwing the ball 40 times a game, but there’s no way to read these developments as good for Brees in a fantasy way.
Jay Cutler, Chicago - The more that Chicago tries to convince us and themselves that Cutler is really going to work out this time, the harder it is to believe it. From a fantasy perspective, going from Brandon Marshall to Eddie Royal isn’t a good development, even if Cutler was the QB for the best year of Royal’s career (coincidentally, his rookie year). While Cutler could level off as a good streamer and safer weekly play than he was last year, it is just as likely that the Bears turn to a different quarterback by the end of the season for the second straight year.
Robert Griffin III, Washington - To say Jay Gruden seems reluctant to have Griffin as the starter in 2015 is an understatement. Griffin has all the tools to be a strong QB1, but appears to lack the will and confidence to follow through at this point in his career. He’s just a flyer in deep leagues right now, and by the end of the year he could be a persona non grata in fantasy leagues. There’s also the possibility that Marcus Mariota is drafted at #5 to replace him.
Nick Foles, St. Louis - It’s hard to read going to St. Louis as a good thing for Foles’ fantasy stock. The team will remain committed to running the ball and continue to lack imagination on the offensive side of the ball, and the offensive line is deteriorating after a big investment over the last few years. Perhaps Foles will surprise us and show us that there was more going on than Chip Kelly’s system, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it.
Derek Carr, Oakland - The Raiders made plays for any number of elite offensive skill players to help Carr. They ended with Trent Richardson and Roy Helu. Disappointing to say the least.