Biggest Fantasy Football Winners and Losers of NFL Free Agency So Far
Tectonic plates have shifted quickly in the NFL, as they do every year during free agency. The results mean a dramatically altered landscape, especially in the fantasy football realm.
Some players moved to new teams that will maximize their fantasy potentials. Others abandoned teammates, thrusting them into quarterback purgatory or worse.
Who are the biggest fantasy winners and losers of free agency? Let's find out.
Winner: Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
What will happen when Lamar Miller gets more than a handful of touches per game? We are going to find out this fall.
Miller signed on with the Houston Texans after his hometown Miami Dolphins declined to offer him a big extension. All is well that ends well in the fantasy football realm, though—Miller is better off in Houston.
That's because the Texans actually utilize their running backs. The 24-year-old Miller must have known that.
"I just wanted a new start," Miller said, according to ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli. "I want to be a featured back. With this organization, I know they get their running backs involved. I just wanted to be a part of it."
The former Miami Hurricane averages 4.6 yards per carry and has steadily improved his pass-catching and pass-blocking ability throughout his career. Despite his success, though, the Dolphins only gave him an average of 196 carries a season over the past three years as a starter.
That number should increase quite a bit in Houston, where Miller will have a chance to thrive and put up top fantasy numbers if he can stay healthy.
Loser: Denver Broncos Receivers
Spin it any way you want, but losing two starting quarterbacks and replacing them with Mark Sanchez isn't good for business.
Broncos pass-catchers weren't exactly lighting up the NFL last season with either rapidly declining Peyton Manning or slowly progressing Brock Osweiler at the helm. But both of those guys look like Joe Montana when compared to Sanchez.
Granted, Sanchez has had his moments, but there is a reason he was benched in favor of Tim Tebow at one point in his career.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders caught eight fewer touchdowns combined in 2015 than 2014, but they both topped 1,100 yards. Those numbers might dip even lower in 2016 if the quarterback situation doesn't improve between now and August.
Winner: Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
You know it's been a good offseason when you are Derek Carr and read the headline "Carr Insurance."
The Oakland Raiders have been building slowly out of the rubble previous regimes left behind. Their third-year quarterback has been better than expected in his first couple of seasons in the league, and his team has done a fantastic job of getting him protection.
Free agency's biggest prize along the offensive line flew due west from Baltimore, as Kelechi Osemele signed a huge deal with the Raiders. He may be just one player, but he joins a pretty good line—one that includes Rodney Hudson, a big-money center from last year, and re-signed tackle Donald Penn—that could be one of the best in the league going forward.
Having some of the best protection money can buy is a great thing for Carr's potential to produce big in a nascent offense.
Loser: Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets
Things were looking up for Bilal Powell in New York when Chris Ivory bolted for much greener pastures in Jacksonville. Granted, the former was a free agent himself, but he would have the job to himself had he re-signed at that point.
It would have only lasted a couple of days, though, as the Jets pounced on Chicago Bears castoff Matt Forte.
While he may not be in his prime, Forte is an every-down back with relatively rare injury woes. The Jets might choose to ease his workload from years past, but the outlook isn't great for Powell's fantasy production.
What was once an opportunity to start and amass 15-20 touches a game has been reduced to a likely third-down role in the same vein as last season for Powell. Granted, he did a pretty good job as a pass-catcher, but Forte is no slouch in that department, either, and he could eat into Powell's target count as well.
Winner: Alfred Morris, RB, Dallas Cowboys
There weren't many great landing spots for Alfred Morris in free agency, but he just happened to find the best one.
The Dallas Cowboys represent a massive upgrade in offensive line play from what Morris was used to back in Washington. Darren McFadden, whose career was all but dead in Oakland, went from averaging 3.3 yards per carry over the previous three seasons to 4.6 running behind that vaunted Cowboys line last year.
Not only is the line great, but the Cowboys run a zone-blocking scheme like the one Morris thrived in with Washington when he came into the league. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry as a rookie—a number that steadily declined as the offense flailed and ultimately moved away from the ZBS last year.
Depending on what else the Cowboys do at the position, the 27-year-old Morris should be in line for much of the early and goal-line work. He might not have huge upside, but Morris should be a solid No. 2 running back in fantasy leagues next season.
Loser: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts have had a devil of a time protecting franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. He was pummeled enough to miss nine games last season, and he wasn't particularly good when he was on the field in part because of constant pressure.
Naturally, Indianapolis went out and got a ton of help along the offensive line. Luck has nothing to worry about now—the Colts have one of the best lines in the league.
If only that were true.
Outside of a post-retirement ceremony hosted for Peyton Manning and a huge contract for an oft-injured tight end, little has happened in Indianapolis thus far in the new league year. The Colts have done nothing to address their glaring needs along the offensive line, which will potentially leave Luck out to dry yet again.
Then there is the fact the Colts couldn't reasonably keep both Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, so they let the latter go while giving the former $29 million despite his inability to stay healthy. Allen does help as a blocker when he's healthy, but Fleener was a pretty good pass-catcher who could line up anywhere on the field.
Winner: Travis Benjamin, WR, San Diego Chargers
Any exit from Cleveland is a good thing for a player's fantasy stock.
Travis Benjamin had himself a fabulous start to the 2015 campaign. His production trailed off as the season wore on, as teams caught on that he was the top Dawg at receiver, so to speak. Defenses were able to key in on him—not to mention he didn't exactly have a good quarterback trying to get him the ball.
All that has changed for Benjamin going forward, as the speedy 26-year-old wideout took a new deal in San Diego to join forces with quarterback Philip Rivers.
Not only is Rivers a great quarterback compared to what Benjamin has seen in Cleveland, but opposing defenses will have plenty of other options to worry about on that offense. Fellow receiver Keenan Allen is the obvious No. 1 there, and tight end Antonio Gates is back for one last rodeo.
Loser: Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
That's because he lost his Nos. 2 and 3 receivers on top of his starting right tackle.
Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu got some sweet deals from the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, respectively. Who could blame them for leaving?
Without any direct replacements in free agency, however, Dalton is going to have to develop some quick chemistry with either bench players or draftees.
Winner: Ladarius Green, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Philip Rivers is an excellent quarterback with a borderline Hall of Fame pedigree. But is he better than Ben Roethlisberger?
More to the point, will Ladarius Green fare better as the clear starter in a more potent passing offense than he did as second banana on a team that didn't trust him?
Green couldn't have asked for a better situation with Heath Miller retiring in Pittsburgh. The 25-year-old has been inconsistent thus far in his career, but the Steelers can help him realize his potential more than most teams. Just look at what they've unlocked in their receivers over the years.
Loser: Jacksonville Running Backs
Who is going to get the rock in Jacksonville on a consistent basis?
Like Lamar Miller, Chris Ivory has suffered from criminal underuse throughout his career. Despite boasting a career 4.6 yards-per-carry average and putting out some Marshawn Lynch-level highlights in his six NFL seasons, Ivory has only cracked 200 carries once—last year.
Granted, injuries have plagued him in that span—he has been dinged up or worse at some point every season—but he has been able to carry the load to great effect when healthy.
Unfortunately, he signed on with a team that drafted T.J. Yeldon in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft. While underwhelming as a rookie, Yeldon figured to have a bigger role as he developed at the next level.
Both will probably have big roles in that offense, but splitting time will short-circuit their fantasy values altogether. Unless the Jaguars run the ball 40 times a game, at any rate.