With the free-agency period set to commence in just about a month, several players' fantasy value could be impacted by the decisions they make in the coming weeks. If some noted free agents do end up leaving their current teams, it could open a whole new set of opportunities for several key players like Montee Ball at Denver if Knowshon Moreno leaves.
In this slideshow will be eight players (ranked in order of fantasy relevance) whose value could be on the upswing if certain dominoes fall as expected in the free-agency period.
So, keep these names in mind, as they can see their stock rise tenfold heading into the 2014 season.
With Brandon Pettigrew a free agent, Detroit has a tough decision to make if it wants to bring him back or not, as ESPN’s Michael Rothstein reports here. If the Lions decide to let Pettigrew walk, it could clear a path for Joseph Fauria grabbing hold of the job as starting tight end.
With seven of his 18 receptions going for touchdowns last season in his rookie year, Fauria provided Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford with a big-bodied target in the red zone. Although not as complete a tight end as Pettigrew is, Fauria is a great route-runner who fits in great in the Lions offense.
While the receptions and yardage will still probably be relatively low with Fauria, the uptick in time and chances for touchdowns would increase significantly. If Pettigrew does leave, Fauria could make for a low-end starter at tight end.
A lot can happen this offseason that could benefit Andrew Quarless (who is a free agent himself) and his fantasy value.
First, the Packers starting tight end Jermichael Finley is also a free agent, and although he is coming off a major injury scare (spinal fusion surgery), he may or not stick around in Green Bay. So, any way you slice it, the chances of the Packers retaining both tight ends seem slim.
Complicating things, or perhaps making things cut and dry, is the fact that the Giants are in need of a big-bodied tight end and either Quarless or Finley could be the ideal fit in New York with the Giants hiring ex-Packers QB and tight ends coach Ben McAdoo, as Dave Hutchinson of The Star Ledger reports.
Either way, the chances of Quarless becoming a starter next year appear to be strong—either with the Giants or the Packers. In his time filling in for Finley, Quarless proved he was an adequate replacement. Certainly not great but good, as Quarless recorded 28 receptions for 284 yards and two touchdowns filling in for Finely in the last 10 games of the season. You also have to realize that came without Aaron Rodgers there for most of the time.
Quarless will have some sleeper appeal, but he is likely nothing better than a No. 2 tight end.
Seattle, fresh off of its first Super Bowl title, has some critical decisions to make in the quest to repeat in 2014. One of those key decisions is whether to re-sign Golden Tate. If the Seahawks decide to not bring back the inconsistent, albeit talented Tate, it could open the door for Doug Baldwin to make a name for himself in fantasy circles.
While Tate is willing to sign for less money, as per ESPN, Seattle might view Baldwin and the return of Percy Harvin as all the firepower it needs from its receivers. We will see, but Baldwin could be in line for a boost in playing time nevertheless. Baldwin finished the regular season with a respectable 50 receptions for 778 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He followed that up with 13 receptions for 202 yards and a touchdown in the postseason.
It’s obvious Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson trusts Baldwin, and Baldwin has the talent to break out in 2014 and be a high-end No. 3 WR or excellent flex play.
Enter Latavius Murray.
Murray, who sat out all of last year on the IR with an ankle injury, was Oakland's sixth-round pick in 2013, and the Raiders apparently love his promise. Murray possesses great speed and burst and would add a major dimension to the Raiders offense.
The chances are Murray will have to fight to become starter, as the Raiders may want to add a veteran back or look to upgrade come draft day, although that’s just speculation. Don’t overlook Murray, though, as he has great sleeper appeal in the late rounds of drafts.
From all indications, it appears Hakeem Nicks’ playing days are over in New York as NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported the news on NFL GameDay Morning (via Marc Sessler of NFL.com). If that holds up, expect the value of third-year receiver Rueben Randle to rise dramatically.
Randle had a very productive second season in New York, and his six touchdowns led all Giants receivers in 2013. He ended the season with 41 receptions for 611 yards while showing glimpses of potential all year long.
Now that he has two full years under his belt, expect Randle to take the next step in his progression and break out in his third year in the league. He should complement No. 1 receiver Victor Cruz very nicely. Randle has a lot of upside and can be considered a great No. 3 WR on draft day with potential for much more.
This coming free-agency period could be feast or famine for Jaguars back Jordan Todman.
It appears that incumbent back Maurice Jones-Drew is not coming back, as Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times Union reports, and thus it will leave a void in Jacksonville’s backfield. Hence, the Jaguars will need a new primary ball-carrier. But will that be Todman?
There’s always a chance that the Jaguars might sign another running back or pick one or two up in the upcoming NFL draft. When given the chance last season, though, Todman showed he was more than capable of carrying the ball.
In Week 15 against the Buffalo Bills with Jones-Drew on the sidelines, Todman rushed for 109 yards and caught four passes for 44 yards. Will that performance be enough to convince Jacksonville’s brass that he is the man for the job?
Well, that remains to be seen, but in the case they do allow Todman to be the primary back, Todman will see his value rise exponentially. He could potentially be thought of as a low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 back or flex play.
After averaging just 3.2 yards per carry last season, Arizona will likely say goodbye to free agent Rashard Mendenhall and finally unleash Andre Ellington, as CBSSports.com and Fox 910 (via Kerry Capps of the Anderson Independent Mail) report.
Ellington dazzled when given the chance to showcase his skills. He averaged a healthy 5.5 yards per carry, but as the report suggests, the Cardinals still want Ellington to add some bulk so he can hold up a whole year and be their every-down back.
With the chance to get close to 20 touches a game and the training wheels fully coming off, Ellington will be a very appealing back on draft day. As such, view him as a low-end No. 2 running back to target in the middle rounds of drafts.
Seeing as though Moreno has one foot out the door, as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport suggests, the Broncos seem willing to hand the reins over as lead back to Ball this season.
If that’s the case, expect Ball’s fantasy stock to skyrocket. After some early-season struggles, Ball looked like a confident back to end the season. He wrapped up his rookie campaign by rushing for 297 yards and one touchdown in his last five games.
In Denver’s loaded offense, Ball could be looked at as a high-end No. 2 running back heading into 2014. Ball should be in a line for a breakout season next year.
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