There might not be any football played during the offseason, but that does not mean the fantasy value of NFL players just stays the same until Week 1.
While the offseason has been kind to rookies drafted in April and free agents who were lavished with millions by new teams, the offseason has not been nice for everyone.
Some players have watched their roles and playing time possibly get reduced thanks to new additions to their teams, and this will likely lead to their stats being adversely affected this upcoming season.
So here are three players whose fantasy values got tackled this offseason:
Eric Decker, Denver Broncos (WR)
Even in today’s pass-heavy NFL, and even on a team with a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback like Peyton Manning throwing pinpoint passes 40 times per game, there are only so many balls to go around, and Decker is going to find that out in 2013.
Decker and Demaryius Thomas formed a superb one-two receiving punch last season and both posted fantastic fantasy seasons. Thomas finished with 1,434 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, while Decker ended up with 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns, making their fantasy owners happier than Jacoby Jones on a dance floor.
But what happens this year when the receptions, yards and touchdowns have to get split three ways now that the best slot receiver in the NFL, Wes Welker, has joined the receiving corps? Welker might not catch 100 passes like he has in five of the past six seasons, but even if he catches 80 to 90 that could mean Decker catches 15 to 20 fewer passes than he did in 2012.
The only saving grace here could be if Denver passes 50 times per game and totally ignores rookie running back Montee Ball. But that likely will not happen. And while Thomas’s totals could suffer as well, they likely will not suffer as much as Decker’s since Thomas is the No. 1 receiver.
It is not like Decker could be looking at a Rod Streater-like season in 2013. He should still put up 900 yards and eight touchdowns at worst. But Welker’s presence in the passing attack will definitely harm, not help, Decker’s fantasy worth this year.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks (WR)
Being the best receiver in Seattle the past couple years has been about as wonderful as being the guy with the lowest cholesterol in a hot dog eating contest.
Rice has been hampered by everything from shoulder surgeries to concussions to inconsistent quarterbacks to run-first offenses to constant rain during his time in Seattle. Only Pearl Jam and Starbucks cannot be blamed for Rice’s fantasy failures.
Rice had 83 receptions for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings in 2009, but he has come nowhere near those numbers with Seattle, having 82 catches for 1,232 yards and nine touchdowns between 2011 and 2012 combined.
But Rice still could have been a late-round, low-risk fantasy gamble worth taking this season. He still has size and speed and still scores some touchdowns. If he stayed healthy, maybe getting 900 yards and eight touchdowns from him could have been a possibility.
Forget that now. Seattle traded draft picks to Minnesota this offseason to acquire versatile game-breaker Percy Harvin. As long as Harvin’s legs and migraine headaches do not keep him off the field for extended stretches, Rice will now be the second option in Seattle’s passing game.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Whether Harvin stayed in Minnesota or was moved somewhere else, it does not mean Rice would have reclaimed his 1,000-yard glory. But if quarterback Russell Wilson keeps improving and Rice comes close to being the receiver he was back in 2009, he could have had a fantasy impact. But with Harvin around catching all the passes now, Rice’s fantasy value probably just got sacked.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons (RB)
After watching Michael Turner turtle-run and tippy-toe his way to his worst season in a long time last year, fantasy owners knew that Turner was not going to be Atlanta’s top tailback heading into the 2013 campaign.
Rodgers was impressive at times last season, adding fresh legs to an Atlanta ground game that Turner had grounded and that the Falcons had almost ignored because their proficient passing attack was so powerful. Rodgers rushed for 362 yards and caught 53 passes for another 402 yards while being Turner’s backup, and he received a few more touches per game down the stretch.
After Turner was released, there was a thought that the door had been opened for Rodgers to become the starting tailback, or at least split time with another player. But former St. Louis Rams workhorse Steven Jackson signed with Atlanta, and as soon as the ink dried on the contract, Rodgers’ fantasy value dried up, too.
Rodgers will have as much fantasy value, if not less, in 2013 than he did in 2012. Atlanta did not bring Jackson in to be a 10-touch-per-game back. Jackson is not around to share the carries. He has rushed for 1,000 yards for eight straight seasons and is just as good of a receiver out of the backfield as Rodgers is.
Feel free to draft the 5'6" Rodgers as a handcuff if you also draft Jackson, but do not take him thinking he will improve greatly on the numbers he posted last season. With Jackson on the team, Rodgers’s fantasy worth remains minimal.