It is never too early to hand out grades, whether it is in school or in fantasy football.
Many skill-position players switched teams during the offseason thanks to trades or free agency. My fantasy rule is that a player who has changed teams has a better chance of his fantasy value going up and then tumbling down. But that has hardly been the case after three weeks for a couple high-profile players who went to different organizations.
So here are four players who changed teams during the offseason and their early-season grades:
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (QB)
Smith has not changed a bit even though he is donning a different uniform. He is still the same low-risk, low-reward quarterback he has always been. While he has thrown for a mediocre 669 yards and four touchdowns so far, he has not thrown an interception as of yet.
Smith is still killing the fantasy values of his best receivers, too. Just like he limited Michael Crabtree’s stats in San Francisco, Smith is doing the same to Dwayne Bowe in Kansas City. Bowe has nine receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown in three games. He should be posting those numbers weekly, not monthly.
While Smith’s passing numbers are not Drew Brees-like and probably never will be, he still is quietly running for enough yards to give fantasy owners an extra couple points per week. He has scrambled for 114 rushing yards, which is more than fellow quarterbacks Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III and only one yard less than 2011 rushing champ Maurice Jones-Drew.
Smith will continue to be a No. 2 or No. 3 QB for fantasy squads throughout the season. He should only be used if your starter is injured or on bye, or if he has a really easy matchup against a poor pass defense like San Diego’s or Florida A&M’s.
Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins (WR)
Wallace’s fantasy value has yo-yoed over the opening three weeks. His first game with the Dolphins was a fantasy nightmare, as he caught one lone pass for 15 yards in a performance that had both fantasy owners and Wallace himself loudly complaining.
But Wallace bounced back nicely in Week 2 with nine receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts, so it appeared that everything was fine and dandy. Fantasy owners breathed a sigh of relief thinking that Week 1 was just a one-week blunder.
The yo-yo went back down in Wallace’s latest outing, however. He only mustered two catches for 22 yards against an Atlanta Falcons secondary that is not loaded with four Darrelle Revis clones. He was playing with a groin injury, so it is unknown what role that had in his subpar stats.
So, $60-million-man Wallace is currently fourth on Miami in receptions behind Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Charles Clay. He has had one catch of over 20 yards and has not vaulted among the elite at the wide receiver position like many had hoped. Those who drafted Wallace ahead of Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson or the aforementioned Brown cannot be happy.
It is unknown if Wallace would have fared better if he stayed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, although former teammate Antonio Brown sure did not have any problems padding his stats this past Sunday (196 yards and two touchdowns).
But with Wallace seeing more double-coverage, having Ryan Tannehill as his quarterback and playing in an offense where the passes get spread around, his having 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns with Miami this year—like he did in 2010—might be asking too much.
Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings (WR)
Going from having Aaron Rodgers to Christian Ponder as your quarterback is like going from having Minka Kelly to Joan Rivers as your girlfriend.
Jennings’ fantasy worth has taken the hit many people thought it would. He has struggled in the early going, catching 11 passes for 160 yards and no touchdown trips. To make matters worse, he is only getting targeted six times per game despite signing a multi-million-dollar contract in the offseason to come and beef up the Vikings woeful receiving group.
Meanwhile, he might be seething if he checks out Green Bay’s team stats, because his former WR allies, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb, are all putting up superior numbers with Rodgers throwing to them. Each has over 200 receiving yards and has scored at least once.
If Ponder eventually gets replaced by veteran backup Matt Cassel, it could bode well for Jennings. But Cassel still is not Rodgers and Minnesota’s offense revolves around a running back, not a passing attack. Jennings finishing with 900 yards and five touchdowns this season is a decent assumption.
Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears (TE)
Bennett has shown flashes of brilliance and has had moments where fantasy owners had the notion that he could turn out to be a dominating tight end if he wanted to. Coming off a career year where Bennett set new personal bests in receptions, yards and touchdowns, it looked like another solid or superb season was around the corner when he signed with Chicago.
The towering tight end has found a quick chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler. Bennett has a dozen receptions for 135 yards and three touchdowns already. Considering his career high for touchdowns is five, Bennett should have that topped by the halfway point of the season, unless Cutler decides to be a full-time cast member of The League after his guest-star appearance last week.
Bennett could become a top-10 fantasy tight end this year, especially since the tight end ranks have been thinned due to injuries and arrests. 62 receptions for 700 yards and seven touchdowns—numbers that would rank as new career highs across the board—is where I have him pegged by season’s end.
Just don’t go trading New England’s Rob Gronkowski or New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham for Bennett. For as improved as Bennett has been, there will be weeks where WR Brandon Marshall gets all the targets, bad weather contests where Cutler cannot hit the broad side of a barn or games like last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers where Bennett never gets on track (two receptions for 10 yards).
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