15 Important Offseason Takeaways for the 2013 Fantasy Football Season
We are through the turbulent and busy times of the NFL offseason, and there has been plenty to write home about.
Free agency has altered the landscape, the coaching carousel has all but finished spinning and the NFL draft has infused teams with youth and promise. How has this affected the fantasy football realm?
Here are 15 takeaways from this offseason for the fantasy football year.
An Arms Race out West
Just a few years ago, the Seahawks made the playoffs with a 7-9 record. My, how things have changed.
Jim Harbaugh turned the 49ers around faster than a politician shifts positions, nearly leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl in his rookie season before narrowly losing the championship game in his second.
Pete Carroll took a bit longer, but the Seahawks nearly reached those same heights last season after inserting a 5'11" quarterback as their starter.
This offseason has seen both teams make bold moves, seemingly countering each other like a brilliant game of offseason chess. Seattle landed Percy Harvin, giving Russell Wilson a major weapon at receiver. San Francisco countered that by landing Anquan Boldin, who came up huge for the Ravens in the playoffs.
Then there are the Rams, who have also made big strides over the past year. St. Louis was 4-1-1 against the NFC West last season.
Not Everyone Is Adrian Peterson
Last year, we witnessed a miracle.
Adrian Peterson returned from a shredded knee just nine months after he injured it and nearly broke the NFL rushing record. He led all running backs in fantasy scoring. Modern medicine is certainly a marvel, but it is dangerous to think Peterson has ushered in a new era of recovery.
Just take Pittsburgh linebacker Sean Spence, for example. His career might be over after a nasty knee injury of his own. Hopefully, he can make it back to the field, but it is clear not everyone has Peterson's Wolverine recovery gene.
Derrick Rose is catching flak over in the professional basketball world for sitting out when he is seemingly healthy. No two injuries are the same, and the same goes with players.
Robert Griffin III is the most prominent name trying to make it back from injury. He could be back for the season's start, or he could be out half the year.
Tread with caution.
Chip Kelly's Scorched Earth Goes Pro
The Eagles were highly dysfunctional last season, finally going down the drain after circling it for some time.
Andy Reid was flushed out of Philadelphia as a result, and a new regime is in town.
The Chip Kelly era began, and with it comes the promise of offensive fireworks we have been hoping for out of Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and Co.
Jamaal Charles Gets Some Stability
It wasn't long before Andy Reid got to his feet.
Instead of taking some time off from football, the formerly embattled coach of the Eagles took his talents to Kansas City. Perhaps the incredible barbecue had something to do with it.
Aside from great food, Kansas City might finally have a good offense once more. Trading for Alex Smith has given them a solid starter, even if the upside is minimal. The Chiefs also have one of the better offensive lines in the league—at least on paper—particularly now that they have retained Branden Albert and drafted Eric Fisher.
More importantly for Jamaal Charles, he is free from coaches who would utilize the dynamic back erratically. Reid might not give his running backs workhorse carries, but he used his running backs regularly enough to have big fantasy years, for the most part.
Charles won't need to be a workhorse to have a big year, just some consistency.
The Miami Shuffle
Jeff Ireland spent a lot of Stephen Ross' money trying to improve the Dolphins, particularly on offense.
Reggie Bush is gone, presumably replaced by second-year running back Lamar Miller. The former Hurricane represents the most upside in the Dolphins backfield, mitigated by the presence of Daniel Thomas and rookie Mike Gillislee.
Of course, the big splash was $60 million man Mike Wallace, who comes over from Pittsburgh to lead Miami's wide receiving corps. He brings the deep threat Miami has lacked.
Then there are fellow newcomers Dustin Keller and Brandon Gibson, who should help Ryan Tannehill.
The Glass Offense
New England boasts one of the league's best offenses, but it is starting to resemble the stemware section of a china shop.
Danny Amendola came over to replace the departed Wes Welker. The former Ram certainly has the upside to be a big producer in that offense, but he has not exactly been the healthiest player in the league over the years.
Then there is Rob Gronkowski and his perpetually injured forearm. It seems as if every month we get news he will be out longer.
Aaron Hernandez seems to get dinged up at least a couple of times a year as well. Like Gronkowski, he will be missing time this offseason while recovering from surgery.
Stevan Ridley was solid until he was concussed by Patriot killer Bernard Pollard in the playoffs. Hopefully, that was a one-time ordeal, but you never know with concussions.
Injuries are unpredictable—it very well could be that all of these players play out the year without a hitch—but it could be a long season for fantasy owners if the injury bug rears its ugly head in the Patriots locker room.
The Rookie Quarterback Cliff
Rookie quarterbacks have had quite a run in recent years. It is coming to an end.
Cam Newton lit up the league in 2011 while Andy Dalton had a solid season thanks to A.J. Green. That led to some inflation when it came to the 2012 rookies, but few expected the monstrous season from rookie quarterbacks as a whole.
Robert Griffin III led the charge with a fantastic fantasy season, but it was an unprecedented season by rookie quarterbacks as a whole. Russell Wilson wound up lighting the league on fire during the second half of the season, while Andrew Luck had a great year overall.
Even Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden had decent fantasy seasons relative to rookie history.
This year, there is no guarantee that any rookie quarterbacks will win the starting gig heading into Week 1. E.J. Manuel is the best bet, and he is a far cry from Griffin or Newton heading into the NFL.
Geno Smith is the other with a solid chance at starting, but the Jets might not have enough offensively for any quarterback to be effective.
Same as It Ever Was
With the multitude of changes thanks to free agency and the draft, it is easy to forget what stays consistent.
Aaron Rodgers is just one example. He will be one of the league's top fantasy quarterbacks this year, barring injury, of course. The Packers are going to be fantastic on offense.
The same can be said about Drew Brees and the Saints. New Orleans just keeps reloading at wide receiver, and Brees is one of those quarterbacks that can make anyone look good.
Many things change, but some things never do. Or at least they stay the same for a few years.
The Sophomore Slump
The Sophomore Slump. Is there such a thing?
Perhaps it is overblown, but clichés exist for a reason. In the case of many of the rookie successes of a year ago, it is a specter worth minding.
Defenses were caught off guard by the rise of the read-option. They will be ready this year, even if it is still difficult to stop. Even if it is used with success, it is difficult to believe there won't be a bit of a falloff of varying decrees.
Then there is Trent Richardson and his abhorrent 3.6 YPC average. The Cleveland running back had a fine fantasy season, but it was touchdown-dependent. If the touchdowns dry up, he could be in for a long year.
Reloading in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has fallen off from its perennial dominance in recent years, with injuries and age taking their toll.
Offensively, the Steelers were bereft of skill players, to the point where they opted to match New England's one-year offer sheet for Emmanuel Sanders instead of take a third-round pick. Mike Wallace was too rich for their blood, and the running back corps was down to Jonathan Dwyer.
They no longer have that problem.
Pittsburgh netted Le'Veon Bell and Markus Wheaton during the draft, and they could be playing big roles as rookies for the Steelers. Wheaton is an excellent replacement for Wallace, and Bell is a typical Pittsburgh running back.
If they can keep Ben Roethlisberger upright, he has a pretty good arsenal to work with.
Two seasons ago, Jordy Nelson scored 15 touchdowns and was a fantasy football darling. Injuries short-circuited his 2012 campaign.
James Jones was also a part of Nelson's falloff. The Packers receiver seemed to score touchdowns in bunches during the season. He wound up leading the league in touchdown receptions with 14. Do you expect him to repeat that feat?
We have already mentioned Adrian Peterson and his mind-bending return from injury. He vows to surpass even that this season, but no other 2,000-yard rusher has come close to matching that success the following year.
Nelson, meanwhile, could bounce back to have a fantastic year if he can stay healthy.
Finally, a Running Mate
Andre Johnson has had a long, productive career in Houston, and he has done it largely without help at receiver.
Well, the wait is finally over.
Houston drafted DeAndre Hopkins with their first-round pick, one of the best receivers in the draft. Hopkins is well-rounded and capable of coming in and making an immediate impact.
This should take some pressure off Johnson as the top receiver. Either team will be forced to reckon with Hopkins or get burned by him.
The Bills have not exactly been an offensive powerhouse over the years, but if that continues, it won't be for lack of trying.
Buddy Nix has overhauled that unit over the years, particularly this offseason. Gone is Harvard product Ryan Fitzpatrick, replaced with Kevin Kolb and now rookie E.J. Manuel.
Buffalo already had C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson and T.J. Graham in the fold as offensive weapons for whoever wins the starting gig. Spiller should be one of the best backs in the league if he can stay healthy, and Johnson is a solid if unspectacular receiver.
Nix wasn't done when he took Manuel, however. He took the most complete receiver in the draft in Robert Woods, then took burner Marquise Goodwin, a Mike Wallace lookalike. He also added speedy seam threat Chris Gragg in later rounds.
It might take a season or two for it to all gel in Buffalo, but the Bills can no longer say they are devoid of speed and talent at skill positions. Spiller should be a fantastic fantasy back this year, but one or more of those newcomers could emerge as solid fantasy options sooner than later.
Chris Ivory Freed
For years the Saints have employed a multi-headed Hydra in the backfield, to the detriment of Christopher Ivory, who was stuck behind three players for playing time.
Well, that is no longer the case. Ivory is now free to fly with the Jets.
New York traded a fourth-round pick to the Saints for Ivory and immediately gave him an extension, all but assuring he will start for the Jets going forward. Ivory's peripherals are drool-inducing.
In limited duty over the years, Ivory has managed to average 5.1 YPC, more than every other running back on the New Orleans roster. Thanks to some Marshawn Lynch-like running, he averaged 5.4 yards per carry after contact last season, a ridiculous number even if it was on few carries.
He goes to a New York team that has been starved of that kind of quality at the position, sticking with the ever-plodding Shonn Greene over the years. It should be a breath of fresh air for Jets fans and fantasy football owners alike.
Incidentally, Ivory's departure opens up the possibilities for second-year back Travaris Cadet in New Orleans. He is still behind Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram, but he was a pass-catching fiend in last year's preseason—he could have a huge impact if Sproles goes down.
A Renaissance in Arizona?
How long has it been for Larry Fitzgerald?
A while, that is for sure. Not since Kurt Warner's late-career resurgence has Fitzgerald had a viable quarterback to get him the ball. Warner retired after the 2009 season.
Since then it has been a parade of sadness at quarterback for Arizona. Derek Anderson, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Lindley have all tried their hand and experienced different levels of failure at doing so.
This has been an incredible drag on Fitzgerald's fantasy value.
Well, he might have new life thanks to a trade. Carson Palmer heads south from Oakland to spearhead Arizona's passing attack this offseason.
Granted, Palmer isn't exactly Warner, but he is a marked improvement over the failure stew the Cardinals have force-fed their fans over the years.