Fantasy Football Stock Report, Early Free-Agency Addition

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMarch 16, 2013

Fantasy Football Stock Report, Early Free-Agency Addition

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    The first week of free agency in the National Football League is just about in the books, and any number of prominent players will be donning new helmets in 2013.

    Those changes will no doubt have a big impact across the NFL landscape in the upcoming season, but all the player movement has also had a significant impact on the world of fantasy football.

    As the first wave of free agency winds down, let's take a look at some NFL players who have seen their fantasy stock rise over the past several days, as well as a handful who haven't been so lucky.

Stock Up: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

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    This one borders on unfair.

    The Denver Broncos, in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, already had one of the better one-two punches at wide receiver in the NFL.

    Now, the team has added Wes Welker, arguably the NFL's all-time best slot wideout.

    Peyton Manning has made a career out of carving up defenses over the middle. This is a quarterback that made Dallas Clark a 100-catch player in 2009.

    In 2012, Manning threw for over 4,600 yards and finished fourth among fantasy quarterbacks.

    Now—5,000 yards is well within reach, and the argument can be made that Manning is now the top fantasy option at his position for 2013.

Stock Down: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

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    Might as well beat the Christmas rush and start making people mad now.

    Listen, I'm not saying that the departure of Wes Welker means that the bottom will fall out of Tom Brady's fantasy production.

    It's possible that Danny Amendola will slide right into Welker's role in the slot and thrive with the Patriots.

    It's also not like Brady's at a loss for targets in the passing game, not with star tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez still in the fold.

    Still, you don't take away an elite quarterback's favorite target and just assume that everything is going to be rainbows and gummi bears.

    Tom Brady is probably still a top-five fantasy quarterback, but he just got closer to the bottom of that top five.

Stock Up: Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions

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    Running back Reggie Bush got off to a torrid start last year for the Miami Dolphins, but the eighth-year pro cooled considerably as the season wore on, finishing the year 14th among running backs in leagues that award a point for receptions.

    With Bush now in Detroit, there's reason to believe that that may represent his floor in PPR leagues in 2013.

    Granted, much of Bush's value will lie in that format, where fantasy owners can take advantage of the receiving ability that potentially makes Bush such a good fit with the Lions.

    With that said, it's worth noting that Jahvid Best, a back with a very similar skill set to Bush's, was on pace to rack up over 1,800 total yards before getting hurt in 2011.

Stock Down: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

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    Despite a miserable start to the season, running back Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans still enjoyed a fairly successful 2012, rushing for over 1,200 yards and finishing as a fantasy RB1 in 12-team leagues.

    The sixth-year pro made some waves a couple of weeks ago, when ESPN reported that he claimed he would out-rush Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings in 2013.

    However, the odds that Johnson will outscore Peterson in fantasy points just went from slim to none.

    The Titans signed free agent Shonn Greene this week to a three-year deal, and while Greene would hardly seem a threat to Johnson's starting job, he's very much a threat to steal short-yardage and goal-line carries.

    In other words, Greene has figured out an entirely new way to torment fantasy owners.

Stock Up: Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons

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    Before the 2012 season, many fantasy pundits predicted that age and wear and tear were finally going to catch up to running back Steven Jackson.

    Of course, they also said that before the 2011 season.

    Now the 29-year-old Jackson has taken his talents to Atlanta, joining the Falcons on a three-year deal.

    Granted, no active running back has more career carries than Steven Jackson, so there is a measure of risk in drafting him.

    However, Jackson also has eight straight 1,000-yard seasons, finished as a solid fantasy RB2 in 2012, and in Atlanta he won't constantly be facing eight-man fronts for the first time since...

    Well, since...

    Since ever.

Stock Down: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Settle Seahawks

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    Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch had a phenomenal 2012 campaign, finishing third in the league in rushing, scoring 11 touchdowns and finishing as a top-five performer at his position.

    It's no knock on Lynch, but the 26-year-old is going to have a hard time backing those numbers up this season.

    Head coach Pete Carroll can tell ESPN Radio all he wants that the Seahawks are still going to run the offense through Lynch, and to an extent that's no doubt true.

    However, the fact remains that the Seahawks traded for Percy Harvin to put the ball in his hands, and some of those touches are going to come at Lynch's expense.

    That may actually be a good thing in terms of Lynch's long-term health, but that doesn't mean there won't be a dip in his short-term fantasy production.

Stock Up: Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks

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    That brings up to the aforementioned Percy Harvin.

    Granted, Harvin wasn't exactly a free-agent acquisition per se, having been acquired by the Seahawks in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings prior to free agency kicking off.

    However, if we're going to talk about fantasy players whose stock is on the rise we'd be remiss in not including the fifth-year pro.

    Harvin adds a frightening new dimension to the Seattle offense, and given the numerous ways he's capable of hurting opposing defenses, there's fantasy WR1 upside to be had here if Harvin can stay healthy.

    Add in his return ability (if your fantasy league awards points for that), and the scary possibilities of what the team can do with Harvin out of read-option sets, and there may well be no bigger risk/reward play at the wideout position this season than Percy Harvin.

Stock Down: Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins

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    Wide receiver Mike Wallace was the big winner of free agency from a financial standpoint, inking a deal with the Miami Dolphins that will pay him in excess of $12 million a season.

    That's great for his checkbook, but not so much for his fantasy production.

    First, there's the matter of the fact that while Ryan Tannehill may be a promising young quarterback, he's no Ben Roethlisberger, and the change in signal-callers is bound to affect Wallace's fantasy production.

    Also, when the Pittsburgh Steelers allow a free agent to walk, that free agent more often than not doesn't have nearly success in his new home that he did in Pittsburgh.

    One has to wonder why the Steelers chose to extend Antonio Brown's deal while bidding adieu to Wallace.

Stock Up: Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams

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    The St. Louis Rams badly needed to improve the weapons in their passing game this offseason, especially with the loss of wide receivers Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola in free agency.

    The Rams took steps to do so, inking tight end Jared Cook to a five-year deal.

    The Rams made a significant financial investment in a tight end who has never topped 50 catches in a season, but 6'5" tight ends who run like a wide receiver don't exactly grow on trees.

    The fifth-year pro should see plenty of targets this year in the Gateway City, and if Cook realizes his considerable potential this season, he could put up elite tight end numbers at a much lower price tag than the more established fantasy options at the position.

Stock Down: Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos

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    I like this pickup for the Denver Broncos, and I like it from a fantasy football perspective for Peyton Manning

    However, Wes Welker traveling west isn't going to help his fantasy value one bit. Or Eric Decker's, for that matter.

    This is a player who has topped 100 catches and 1,000 yards in five of the last six seasons, making him about as consistent an option in point-per-reception fantasy leagues as you could ask for.

    With that said, Welker was also targeted a ton in New England, and there are just too many mouths to feed in the Denver passing game to count on that to continue.

    Welker will still have value, but the top-10 PPR option we've come to know and love is probably a thing of the past.