A free agent who signs a multimillion-dollar contract with a different team does not always see his fantasy value rise as high as his bank account.
For every Golden Tate, Emmanuel Sanders and Justin Forsett who signed with a new team and had the best year of his career in 2014, there were other players whose fantasy values were impacted negatively after signing with different teams.
Eric Decker’s fantasy worth suffered when he went from having Peyton Manning throwing pinpoint passes to his hands to having Geno Smith tossing wobbly ducks at his feet. Chris Johnson failed to rush for 1,000 yards for the first time in his career after signing with Decker’s New York Jets.
James Jones went from being a decent fantasy receiver when he was Aaron Rodgers’ third or fourth option in Green Bay to averaging a pathetic 9.1 yards per catch when he was supposed to be Oakland’s No. 1 receiver.
So changing teams is not always a boon to a player’s fantasy worth. Here are three players whose fantasy values are going to drop in 2015 if they leave the teams they were with in 2014.
DeMarco Murray (RB)
If there is any player who would be a prime candidate to take a hometown discount, it is Murray.
The guy has everything a running back would want in Dallas. Murray has the best offensive line in the business pulverizing defenses and opening up gaping holes for him. He has quarterback Tony Romo and the passing attack preventing safeties from sneaking up to the line of scrimmage and stacking the box. And he has nobody behind him on the depth chart who can steal his starting spot or vulture his touchdowns.
There is no other team in the NFL where Murray can be the 1,800-yard rusher he is with Dallas. Sure, he can be a top-10 fantasy back if he joined the Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons or Baltimore Ravens, and maybe even if he signed with lowly teams like the Tennessee Titans or Jacksonville Jaguars.
But no team is going to have the combination of offensive line, quarterback, receivers, offensive scheme and workload that Dallas can afford Murray. Different teams may want to utilize Murray just as much in their game plans, but they do not have all the offensive talent that the Cowboys possess.
Murray should make more than any other running back on the free-agent market, but his fantasy stock will take a bone-crushing hit if he signs with anybody else but Dallas. The problem is Murray would have to give Dallas a discount so the Cowboys could fit both him and top target Dez Bryant under the salary cap. The chances of that happening are as slim as the chances that Guy Fieri stops eating brisket.
So look for Murray to have 1,300 rushing yards and nine touchdowns for another team in 2015. Well, if he stays healthy, which is never a guarantee considering his brittle body. Maybe with a weaker offensive line he will take such a pounding that he will be on the field long enough to muster just 800 yards and six touchdowns.
The bottom line is Murray had the best season of his career and arguably the best season in fantasy football in 2014, and the only way he will have any way of coming close to duplicating those numbers is if he re-signs with Dallas.
Randall Cobb (WR)
Cobb should research how leaving Green Bay and Rodgers went for his aforementioned former teammate, Jones. Jones was normally never better than the No. 3 wideout for the Packers, yet thanks to Rodgers’ perfect passes and Jordy Nelson and Cobb affording him one-on-one matchups with backup cornerbacks, Jones was able to score 14 touchdowns in 2012.
Jones then signed for more money in Oakland and is now a fantasy afterthought. His 666 receiving yards and six touchdowns did fantasy owners little favors except in 20-team leagues or Satanic leagues where the more sixes the better.
Cobb could not have it any better than he has it in Green Bay. He has arguably the best quarterback in the NFL throwing to him, he has Nelson commanding more of the coverage and double teams, and he is given ample opportunities to touch the ball whether it is receiving, running or returning kicks.
Cobb’s 91 receptions, 1,287 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014 were all career highs across the board. But can he post those numbers on another team when he may be the one getting double covered and he has to make an average quarterback look good rather than have Rodgers make him look good? The jury is definitely out on that.
Cobb is going to command millions from somebody. He is a multitalented threat who can not only catch passes both short and long and turn them into huge plays but can also run reverses and be on special teams. Green Bay would be wise to hold onto him, and Cobb would be wise to stay where the cheese is good, the Lambeau leaps are legal and Rodgers is the quarterback.
Torrey Smith (WR)
Say what you want about Joe Flacco’s inconsistency or inaccuracy. But the guy throws the long ball just as well as Russell Wilson runs the read-option, and the person who has been on the other end of the majority of Flacco’s rainbows has been Smith.
Smith has been Flacco’s long-range top target for several seasons now, and he has been a fine fantasy find thanks to all of their 50-yard hookups, especially in fantasy leagues where you get bonus points for longer touchdowns.
And while Smith had been criticized in fantasy circles in the past for just being a one-trick pony who could run fly and post patterns deep downfield but not catch short passes over the middle or in the red zone, Smith scored a career-high 11 touchdowns this season and seemed to have improved his route running when it came to intermediate routes.
Smith is a free agent and will command millions with NFL teams always searching for receivers who can stretch the field and make big plays. He is no Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green, but Smith is a bona fide No. 1 receiver on a squad with a weak receiving corps and an above-average No. 2 on a team with a superstar pass-catcher.
Smith and his fast feet should stay right where he is and right on Flacco’s flank. Unless New Orleans comes calling and asks him to be Drew Brees’ best friend or he ends up taking Demaryius Thomas’ spot in Denver as Peyton Manning’s favorite target, it is hard to imagine Smith doing better anywhere else but Baltimore.