How Free Agency Could Affect These 5 Fantasy Stars in 2014

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IFebruary 4, 2014

How Free Agency Could Affect These 5 Fantasy Stars in 2014

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    With the Super Bowl behind us, the focus now moves fully to the NFL offseason and the potential free-agent market for this summer.

    Most of the biggest names who are expected to be available are defensive players, but there are still a few key offensive players who may switch teams.

    Fantasy owners need to take a critical view of free agency. While the destination is important, it's also beneficial to look at the team that player left behind and how they may be impacted.

    Here are five free agents who could end up affecting fantasy football in 2014.

Eric Decker Testing the Market

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    Eric Decker has been one of the sneakiest fantasy players in the past couple years. He's been overshadowed by teammates Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker, but his production is stellar.

    He has been remarkably consistent with Manning as his quarterback. Last season, he finished 11th and 12th in receptions and receiving yards, respectively. In 2012, he finished 13th and 17th in those same categories.

    On top of that, only Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson have more than Decker's 32 touchdown receptions over the past three seasons among wide receivers.

    Yet he's gotten minimal attention, and he is still flying under the radar despite announcing that he intends to test the free-agent market this summer. The Broncos fear they may lose him, per the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

    This will affect fantasy owners in two ways—the most obvious being that Decker's future impact in a new town will be highly scrutinized. But you also have to take into consideration how losing a major part of the offense will affect his Broncos teammates as well.

Jimmy Graham Situation

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    Jimmy Graham is arguably the most important non-quarterback in all of fantasy football right now because of his dominance at the tight end position.

    He finished this year with 86 catches, 1,215 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns and was by far the best tight end this year. Keep in mind, he's still only 27 years old.

    There's been a lot of talk recently about Graham's future in New Orleans. The Saints have expressed their desire to slap the franchise tag on him as a tight end, which he said he's not "keen on," according to (via ESPN). He would make much more money being tagged as a wide receiver.

    For the immediate future, Graham is best off staying with the Saints, but Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Darren Sproles are all on the wrong side of 30, and he might think his long-term future is brighter elsewhere.

    Whatever the case may be, fantasy owners will need to pay close attention to his relationship with the Saints and obviously whether or not he ends up with another franchise, although I think that's unlikely.

Impact of Michael Vick

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    This may not be a top headline this offseason, but Michael Vick is eligible for free agency, and multiple teams already have interest in his services, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Vick is getting older, is still turnover-prone and surely has his share of naysayers. But he has still been rather effective over the past couple seasons when he's gotten chances.

    His ability to run is still valuable in fantasy football, and there are certainly other teams where Vick could compete for the starting job.

    But fantasy owners also have to monitor how his leaving (or staying) in Philadelphia could potentially impact Nick Foles. An article by Michael Bamberger of Sports Illustrated explained just how much Vick was helping Foles along in the offense, and therefore, a potential breakup could have some negative ramifications.

Will Julian Edelman Be Next to Leave New England?

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    The New England Patriots have seen their offense essentially deteriorate over the past year or so. Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd left, and we all know what happened with Aaron Hernandez.

    Add those losses to the injury woes of Rob Gronkowski, and it's no wonder the Patriots offense sputtered at times in 2013.

    Tom Brady's statistics suffered nearly across the board, and they were really only saved by the outstanding play of Julian Edelman who is now an unrestricted free agent after his career year.

    Greg Knopping compiled a nice breakdown of the situation over at Pats Pulpit, so be sure to check that out, but essentially, Brady needs Edelman to come back.

    If he chooses to test the market and signs elsewhere, his own fantasy value will likely decline along with the rest of the top players in the Patriots offense.

Ben Tate a Backup No More

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    Ben Tate was a second-round pick back in 2010 by the Texans, but he ended up getting stuck behind out-of-nowhere talent Arian Foster.

    He's been Foster's primary backup for his three-year career, but he has gotten the chance to showcase his ability because of Foster's injury woes.

    Tate is the most interesting and possibly the most talented back on the market, and it's almost a guarantee that he'll go somewhere with the intention of starting.

    He has a career yards per carry average of 4.7, caught 34 passes this season and has had multiple huge games when he did get the chance to start. He'll be hotly pursued by multiple teams, and his destination should be monitored closely by fantasy owners.

    With Foster's penchant for injuries, fantasy owners should also be cognizant of who ends up as his next backup.