It is not unusual that when a receiver changes teams that he’ll produce even better. With careers that span two or three contracts, anyone swapping teams at less than 30 years or so are still in their prime and their success becomes mostly contingent on where they land and who their quarterback is going to be. Receivers cannot throw passes to themselves, so always factor in where they are as your primary consideration.
Buffalo Bills – Percy Harvin (1 Year / $6 million)
|Bills||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|P. Harvin||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
Rex Ryan comes to New York to head up the Jets and Greg Roman from the 49ers will run the offense. This is yet another chance for Percy Harvin who is in his sixth year,on his third team and still searching for a 1000 receiving yard season. The Bills were only average when passing last season and bringing in Ryan and company won’t likely change anything since the Jets wideouts ranked 30th for the last two years. The quarterback spot most likely ends up with Matt Cassel but this offense is not going to be airing it out much. The amazing thing about the “speedy and dangerous” Harvin is that he has a career average of only 11.8 yards per catch and just last year in New York only sported a 6.0 yards per catch on his 22 receptions.
Fantasy Outlook: Marginal. Like every year and every team, there is talk about using Harvin more as an every down receiver and less as a gimmick but his lengthy injury history, locker room issues and general track record makes him far more risk than likely reward.
Chicago Bears – Eddie Royal (3 years / $15 million)
|Bears||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|E. Royal||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
The Bears dumped Marc Trestman and brought in HC John Fox and OC Adam Gase from the Broncos. Notable too is that Brandon Marshall is gone and the next best remaining wide to Alshon Jeffrey was Marquess Wilson and his 17 catches who will take over the outside from Marshall. Royal will become the slot receiver and already has ties to both Fox and Gase having played in Denver for the first four years of his career and with the two in 2011 before leaving for San Diego. The Denver offense is imported only without Peyton Manning but the need to throw remains and Royal already has some familiarity with the scheme and at $5 million per year he’s already considered a starter.
Fantasy Outlook: Improved. Royal won’t be the #1 in Chicago and the team will be disappointed if he becomes the #2 since they have higher hopes for Marquess Wilson. But Royal should offer some consistent yardage and catches if only moderately each week. He’s scored 15 times over the last two years – Royal is definitely worthy of fantasy depth.
Cleveland Browns – Brian Hartline ( 2 years / $6 million)
|Browns||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|B. Hartline||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
The Browns offense looks like a big mess so far with a new offensive coordinator John DeFlippo who was the quarterbacks coach in Oakland last year. He’ll be working with Johnny Rehab, Josh McCown and anyone else who might find themselves under center for the Browns. Jordan Cameron is gone and the best non-suspended wideout is only Andrew Hawkins who ended with 63-824-2 last season. Hartline has been allergic to the endzone his entire career with an average of just two scores per year but he did top 1000 yards for the Dolphins in 2012 and 2013.
Fantasy Outlook: Still marginal. Hartline has little competition in Cleveland currently but he’s never been more than an average player. His production fell off last year in a big way which led to his leaving. The Browns offense is new-ish, yet again, with all new players, yet again. Hartline is unlikely to become a fantasy starter again.
Green Bay Packers – Randall Cobb (Re-signed 4 years / $40 million)
|Packers||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|R. Cobb||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
Cobb reportedly accepted less money to remain in Green Bay and why not? He’s part of the #1 set of wideouts in the NFL and no where he was likely to end up would have been even average. Along with Jordy Nelson, he makes for a 1-2 punch that has been deadly. Cobb comes off a career best season and is only 25 years old. He has plenty of big seasons left to play.
Fantasy Outlook: Still a top fantasy wideout for years to come.
Indianapolis Colts – Andre Johnson (3 years / $21 million)
|Colts||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|A. Johnson||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
The Colts have become a force with Andrew Luck at the helm and they are already the favorites to win the next Super Bowl. Losing Reggie Wayne is the final piece that erases what Peyton Manning left behind and this team is now all Luck. T.Y. Hilton broke out last year with 82-1345-7 but with Wayne gone, the remaining receivers never had more than 444 yards in 2014. Enter the need for another viable target.
At 34, Andre Johnson is hardly a youngster and only five other wideouts in the NFL are older than him. His same age contemporaries (Wes Welker, Roddy White, Anquan Boldin) are playing out their final seasons as well. Johnson fell below 1000 yards for the first time (in a non-injured year) since his rookie season. But as recently as 2013 he turned in 109-1407-5. Notable too was that Ryan Fitzpatrick hardly did any receivers many favors along with Case Keenum and Ryan Mallett. It was also a season when the Texans installed an entirely new offense. Johnson’s age has an effect but there were extenuating circumstances as well.
Fantasy Outlook: Improved with upside. Johnson is 34 but this will be his best quarterback by a big margin. When Reggie Wayne was 34, he turned in 106-1355-5 during Andrew Luck’s rookie season. It is a stretch to expect elite numbers from Johnson but he’s in an ideal situation and coming off a bad season holds plenty of upside here. Want to play out the final year or two of a career? Maybe no better situation than here.
Kansas City Chiefs – Jeremy Maclin (5 years / $22.5 million)
|Chiefs||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|J. Maclin||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
The Chiefs under Andy Reid have sported the worst wide receiver production for three straight years – #32 each time. That’s kind of hard to do and it happened when the Chiefs were at least competitive and not turning in 1-15 seasons. So long as Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis are healthy, the offense can still move the ball. But the addition of Alex Smith did nothing to help out the receivers and they ended 2014 with zero touchdowns among the wideouts.
Jeremy Maclin blew out his ACL in 2013 and missed the first year of Chip Kelly’s offense. But he came back with a vengeance the next season and produced a career best 85-1318-10 – good enough to sneak into the top ten for all wide receivers in 2014. Maclin cashed in by moving to the talent starved Chiefs and replaces Dwayne Bowe.
Fantasy Outlook: Bad. The only question is how bad? The Chiefs with Alex Smith are unable to get throws downfield even when they have to throw every down in a losing effort. Dwayne Bowe turned in 81-1159-5 in the final season before Andy Reid and later Alex Smith depressed all receiver stats. The challenge is determining just how bad it will be for Maclin who did play for Reid in the past. But this is situation with a poor passing offense and a quarterback who has been just a game manager and rarely looks down field.
Miami Dolphins – Kenny Stills (Traded)
|Dolphins||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|K. Stills||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
The Dolphins set of wideouts have collectively turned in decent stats the last couple of years though without anyone being much more than fantasy filler. Phil Lazor came over from the Eagles to help run the offense last year but the talent level remains uncertain in Miami where Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson are now gone. That leaves second-year player Jarvis Landry and … and … Kenny Stills. Ryan Tannehill finished with 4045 passing yards and 27 touchdowns so the production was above average. The new offense aims to improve upon those marks.
Stills was a surprise when he was traded but the Saints certainly needed defensive help (LB Dannell Ellerbe) and received a third round pick as well. Stills was a previous fifth-round pick in 2013 who almost broke the 1000 yard mark last year and should pair with Landry as a starter barring a top rookie wideout getting in the way (not expected). Stills offers a deep threat and averaged 20 yards per catch as a rookie.
Fantasy Outlook: Improved. The Fins have quietly been getting more out of Ryan Tannehill who has shown progress every year. Stills won’t end up as a top receiver and he may not be an every week fantasy starter but the situation is right for him to continue to improve.
Minnesota Vikings – Mike Wallace (Traded)
|Vikings||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|M. Wallace||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
The Vikings went to Teddy Bridgewater as the starter by week four last year and the results were at least encouraging in a season where they suddenly were missing Adrian Peterson. Greg Jennings was let go after two ho-hum seasons in Minnesota with around 750 yards in each. Mike Wallace (29) is three years younger than Jennings and the Vikings receivers need help with only Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson remaining. Johnson was picked off waivers last year and Patterson continues to be a first round bust.
Wallace enjoyed solid seasons while in Pittsburgh where he had two 1000 yard seasons and he’s scored at least eight touchdowns in four of his last five years. Even in Miami where he was held to no more than 67 catches, he turned in ten scores just last season. Wallace was never a great fit in Miami where he became one of the highest paid receivers. Trading him away and having the Vikings accept his salary saves the Dolphins $9 million this year.
Fantasy Outlook: About the same. Wallace will provide a needed level of talent to the Vikings and OC Norv Turner’s vertical scheme knows how to employ deep threats. But Wallace has already been around 1000 yards and eight or so scores per year anyway and that’s not likely to improve much with second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater still acclimating to the NFL.
New York Jets – Brandon Marshall (Traded)
|Jets||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|B. Marshall||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
The Jets have moved on from Rex Ryan and company this year and opted for the Cardinals DC Todd Bowles to be the head coach. The offense has been turned over to Chan Gailey and no longer will the ground-and-pound approach rule the play calling. Gailey has seen success in PIT, DAL, DEN, MIA, KC and BUF. The Jets already had Eric Decker from last year so the addition of Marshall vastly upgrades the wide receivers.
Marshall wore out his welcome in Chicago after three seasons though he accounted for 100+ catches in 2012 and 2013 along with 11 and 12 touchdowns respectively. The 31-year-old Marshall still has gas in the tank despite a sub par 2014 when he ended the year early with broken ribs. Marshall was on an eight season streak of over 1000 yards.
Fantasy Outlook: Downgrade. It may not be as bad as it would have under Rex Ryan when they did not pass and did not care. The offense will improve. But the limitation here remains at quarterback with Geno Smith still there and the addition of Ryan Fitzpatrick who is fresh off killing Andre Johnson’s production last year. There is a chance for another top rookie quarterback. Regardless, the offense still looks much shakier than what Marshall left and has to depress what Marshall has normally been able to accomplish.
San Francisco 49ers – Torrey Smith (5 years / $40 million)
|49ers||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|T. Smith||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
Consider the 49ers as the Ravens West with both Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith as starters. The 49ers have changed coaches but it was only promoting up to fill head coach and offensive coordinator. The same offense is expected to remain though without Frank Gore. Last year the 49ers relied more heavily on their wide receivers and overall produced average stats from the group. That reflects how Vernon Davis’ 2013 season was just an uncharacteristic good season and 2014 saw him with his worst year since joining the league. Michael Crabtree is highly unlikely to return to the 49ers given that his agent listed them as his #33 ranked place to play this year. At best so far the passing stats have only been average in San Francisco.
Smith played out his rookie contract with the Ravens and left after a 2014 season which was his career worst. Smith’s issue has been that he’s been more of a deep threat and efforts to make him into a possession receiver have been only marginally successful. He had a career best in 2012 but then flopped again last year when the team needed him more. To his credit, he posted a career best 11 scores but had just 49 catches and only gained 15.7 yards per catch.
Fantasy Outlook: About the same. He’ll be a starter in San Francisco to be sure with a $40 million contract but he remains a lower tier fantasy wideout because he’s never been a high volume receiver and the 49ers will rely on the same run-first offense as last year.