Fantasy Football 2014: Free-Agent Destinations with Major Fantasy Implications
Depending on where our favorite fantasy football stars end up in the upcoming free-agency period, it could prove to be of critical importance to you and your fantasy squad. The potential landing spots for these talented players could have major fantasy ramifications and thus have various rippling effects.
Listed in this slideshow will be the top eight free agents (ranked in order of fantasy relevance) and where their ideal landing spot should be. Hope and actuality are two different things, but just as we’re days away from the free-agency bonanza, let’s see where the best free agents should head if we had our druthers.
We have already seen some major free agents sign with their current teams, like Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. Will others follow suit, or will they make a name for themselves in a new destination?
Some other notable free agents who could make some headway in fantasy circles next year include:
Michael Vick, Josh McCown, Rashad Jennings, Donald Brown, Rashard Mendenhall, Ahmad Bradshaw, James Starks, LeGarrette Blount, Toby Gerhart, Golden Tate, James Jones, Emmanuel Sanders, Jermichael Finley, Brandon Pettigrew and Garrett Graham.
8. Andre Brown, New York Giants
Like most of the free agents who will be listed in this slideshow, Andre Brown is a player who is likely best suited to stay with his current team.
Amid all the uncertainty the Giants have at the running back position, Brown will not likely have it anywhere better on the free-agent market.
Brown could remain a low-end No. 2 running back with Giants but, if he lands with another team, his role could lessen and his fantasy value could fluctuate as a result.
7. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots would like to re-sign Julian Edelman, according to the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe (subscription required), but financial restraints may put a crimp into those plans. Edelman is set to earn a significant raise and the Patriots have to think long and hard if they want to keep him.
Edelman will be the Patriots first "key domino" (as Howe theorizes) and what they decide to do with him will determine how they spend their money this free-agent season. Coming off a terrific season in which he had career highs in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,056) and touchdowns (six), Edelman couldn’t have timed it any better as he approaches free agency.
Edelman would be best served by remaining Tom Brady’s possession receiver, but his mind might be set on the money (if New England doesn’t pony up the dough). If that’s the case, he could land up in a place like Baltimore.
If Edelman leaves New England, he could he see his value diminish, as we just don’t know what he could do in a new offense. Edelman is likely somewhere between a No. 3 WR (if he stays in New England) and No. 4 WR (elsewhere) for fantasy purposes.
6. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
Regardless of where he ends up, Darren McFadden will still be a huge risk on draft day.
When you factor in his injury past, McFadden will be a gamble on the free-agent market and on draft day as well. That said, McFadden could use a fresh start somewhere new.
Whoever signs him will most likely use him in a timeshare, as he has not proven to be durable in his six years in Oakland. Oakland could re-sign him, according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt (h/t Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com) and, if that’s the case, McFadden’s fantasy value would plateau.
For fantasy purposes, his best bet is to try to rejuvenate his career, in say Miami, as ESPN’s John Clayton surmises. If he ended up there, he would only have to beat out the unheralded duo of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.
When you add up all the injuries and the uncertainty regarding his future role, McFadden is nothing more than a late-round flier on draft day.
5. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
For whatever reason it was, Nicks had an absolute dismal season while recording no touchdown catches in 2013. He and Eli Manning could never connect, even though Nicks had a respectable 56 receptions for 896 yards. Perhaps a change of scenery could do him well.
Nicks has been notably linked with two clubs and depending on what transpires on the free-agent market, it could drastically alter his fantasy value.
First, Nicks could actually stay in New York and join the Jets, as Seth Walder of the Daily News reports. If that came to fruition, Nicks’ value would take a major hit. Playing with either Geno Smith or a new quarterback—if the Jets go that route—would only negatively affect Nicks’ fantasy relevance.
The Jets have not been known to be an offensive juggernaut (especially in the passing game) and Nicks would only be a marginal fantasy contributor if he did wind up there.
Conversely, Nicks could see his fantasy stock soar through the roof if he connects with another team he has been linked with and that is Detroit, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Playing opposite Calvin Johnson and hooking up with Matthew Stafford in the Lions’ high-octane offense could get Nicks back on course in an instant.
So, for fantasy purposes, let’s hope Nicks joins Detroit. If he does, he could once again become a high-end No. 2 WR. However, if he signs with the Jets, he would be at best a low-end No. 3 WR or perhaps even a No. 4 WR for fantasy purposes.
4. Ben Tate, Houston Texans
Considering he is not likely to return to Houston, Ben Tate might be one of the more-prized running backs on the market this spring.
Filling in for Arian Foster for seven games as a starter in 2013, Tate rushed for 771 yards on 181 carries with four touchdowns. He has proven he could excel if given the chance. So what team might give him that chance? Well, it could be the New York Giants.
Although Andre Brown is a good bet to re-sign with the Giants, the Giants could also look to bolster their running back corps by adding someone from outside their organization, as Ebenezer Samuel of the Daily News suggests.
Tate could do well in the Giants offense, especially under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s tutelage, and this may be the spot where Tate can shine. Consider Tate a low-end No. 2 running back or high-end No. 3 RB on draft day. Whatever team he signs with, he should get a good deal of carries to make an impact.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
After a sensational run with the Jaguars for the better part of a decade, Maurice-Jones Drew appears all set to move on from Jacksonville.
After years of losing, Jones-Drew could perhaps revitalize his career in someplace new. While there is some tread on the tires, Jones-Drew should have some gas left in his tank.
Some places being bandied about him joining include Arizona, San Francisco and Miami. Out of those three—and purely from a fantasy standpoint—San Francisco would be the worst destination, as Jones-Drew would have to share carries with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and perhaps Marcus Lattimore.
Jones-Drew would be best suited by going to Arizona or Miami, as he would have less competition for carries. At this point of his career, and regardless of where he signs, Jones-Drew is nothing better than a low-end No. 2 running back, who is probably better served as a No. 3 RB or high-end flex play. Just remember this past year he posted an all-time low of 3.4 yards per carry—almost a full yard below his career average (4.5).
2. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
Ideally, Eric Decker would like to stay with the Broncos, but as a player who will likely command an $8 to $9 million per year contract, as reported by Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the chances of him re-signing in Denver seem slim.
Decker’s fantasy value could take a hit if he ends up elsewhere since he won’t have Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. Still, Decker should excel as the “main guy” in another team’s offense. Even playing on a team with other major targets (Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker), Decker still put up some eye-popping numbers, as he had career highs in receptions (87) and receiving yards (1,288) while putting up double digits in touchdowns (11) in 2013.
If it can’t be Denver, Decker’s optimal landing spot could be Indianapolis, which WCNC-TV's Vic Lombardi suggests (h/t NFL.com’s Kevin Patra). Playing with the emerging Andrew Luck could help Decker maintain his high-end No. 2 WR status. If he does sign with Indianapolis, Decker will still make for a reliable fantasy option to target in the middle rounds of drafts.
1. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
So where does that leave Moreno and his fantasy value? Well, after the season he just had (1,038 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns—both career highs), some team will be certain to make a run for his services.
Perhaps the best team he can latch onto could be the aforementioned Giants, as Conor Orr of the Star-Leger proposes. Just like Tate is a good choice to land in New York, Moreno could also be a high-end back the Giants could target.
With New York having a good passing game, Moreno could add some balance to the Giants offense and, seeing as though he is from the area, Moreno would love nothing more than to come back home.
Irrespective of where of Moreno lands up, he should be in line to receive a good dose of carries and likely become the featured back of the team that ultimately signs him.
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