Every time a player changes teams, he brings along his unique set of skills and talent which is applied to the current team dynamics. In the end, we hope to grab any of these players which may be undervalued because entering a new situation always is risky. Some players will see a marked increase in their production if not suddenly become a stud. Others may fall short of expectations all the way to being a rather expensive bust. Most roughly remain the same if not decline a bit – many are getting older but not getting any better.
Taking a look at the most recent players of fantasy interest to change teams:
Peyton Manning (IND to DEN) – What is possibly left to say that has not been said? Apparently his determining factors other than the wheelbarrow of gold bars was that he could play against his brother in a Superbowl. He remains in the AFC and plays in a weaker division than most. And he doesn’t have to learn anything since the Broncos will just turn their entire offense into Manning-speak and let him run things on the field. This is a major change from last year since the Broncos were one of the worst passing teams and yet one of the very best rushing teams every week. No more of that – the pass will be returning and it remains to be seen how many ex-Colts they can get to sign on for Manning’s newest and likely last gig. In fantasy terms, that means that most people in your league will consider Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker as the younger versions of Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie and will likely over pay for them in a draft. It is Manning though and quarterbacks certainly can “make the receiver”. And the difference between Manning and Tim Tebow is a chasm very wide and deep. But his neck will be a concern from here on out and that makes all the Broncos to be the most over-hyped, high upside and high downside players in your draft. Yes, the Broncos just signed him for $96 million. And the Colts signed him for $90 million last year. And I still say in fantasy terms, San Francisco would have been a dream destination.
Tim Tebow (DEN to NYJ) – This is pretty much the worst case scenario. First off the Jets are already legendary for locker room dissension and the fan base has all the patience of a guy who just drank a 12 pack and finds the men’s room crowded (which actually may literally describe a few). Mark Sanchez is not going to be happy with this and you have to know that the fans will start calling for Tebow maybe as early as the gates opening in week one. Tebow literally devalues every player’s fantasy potential. Sanchez? Not a great option and could be replaced during any game for a few plays or just the entire game. The passing game was never much anyway and now introducing the specter of Tebow completing five passes per game ruins it all. Even the rushing attack which was never impressive could lose out to Tebow. Bottom line, Tebow may be an afterthought in the offense but his presence makes everyone there a big risk in a fantasy draft.
Matt Flynn (GB to SEA) – The 26 year-old Flynn has signed for a three-year, $19 million contract which is how the NFL says “we think we like you a lot but no need to affect the future too much”. Flynn gets $10 million guaranteed and enters training camp as a competitor to Tarvaris Jackson. But that is only to be polite because anything short of Flynn taking over sooner than later would be a major disappointment and there’s even a chance that Jackson doesn’t make it through training camp since releasing him would save $4 million and Jackson has never been anything more than the average back-up that he ever was. The wideout crew that awaits is nothing special though Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate still have room to improve. Almost no chance that Flynn ends up worthy of being a fantasy starter but the Seahawks are still young and could be on an upswing.
Mike Tolbert (SD to CAR) – This trade immediately set off rumors of a Jonathan Stewart trade now or a DeAngelo Williams trade next year but the reality is that the 27 year-old Tolbert only signed for $8.4 million over four years and only $2.7 million was guaranteed. No reason why the run-heavy Panthers cannot accommodate them all on the roster. It does spell the end of drafting Tolbert barring anything happening to Williams and/or Stewart. There is no reason to hope for much here with Cam Newton siphoning off all the goal line touchdowns anyway.
Peyton Hillis (CLE to KC) – This is a move that will seem better than it is, at least for the league member who owned Hillis in 2010. He was only signed for one year for $3 million as a backup to the returning Jamal Charles. Hillis had some nice efforts in 2010 but slowed down at the end of the season and then was sluggish at best even when healthy last year. Unless Charles is slow to return, this move probably has only marginal fantasy value. Outside of Charles, the Chiefs have used a heavy committee scheme anyway. This is less likely to make any fantasy splash.
Michael Bush (OAK to CHI) – The 28 year-old Bush signed a four-year deal worth just $14 million but that does have $7 million in guarantees. This is as much about covering for Matt Forte as anything else since the Bears primary runner has been franchised and has not agreed to any previous contract offers. Bush will once again figure into a committee that will mostly just reduce the value of Forte who had been one of the rare runners with minimal sharing. In Oakland, it was sure that Darren McFadden would miss games and Bush would get the reins temporarily but that may never happen in Chicago. Tough signing from a fantasy perspective since it lowers the value of both Bush and Forte.
Brandon Marshall (MIA to CHI) – This may be the most anticipated free agent move outside of the Peyton Manning Circus. Marshall gets reunited with Jay Cutler who had two good seasons with Marshall in Denver. Marshall was a top wideout in the NFL with 100+ catches from 2007 to 2009 but fell back to around 85 catches for 1100 yards in Miami. Marshall’s long history with off-the-field problems has not stopped but at least it was his wife getting hit in the face with a beer bottle this last time (apologies to Mrs. Marshall). The Bears sent a third round pick for Marshall so the cost was more than reasonable. Mike Tice is the offensive coordinator in Chicago now and that won’t hurt since OC Mike Martz never employed any primary wideout in Chicago. Hard to expect Marshall to return to his Denver level of production when the Bears have never had any receiver exceed 100 catches in franchise history. This still could be one of the better bets for an improved season from 2011.
Laurent Robinson (DAL to JAC) – Here is a surprise and likely a disappointment. Robinson went from Atlanta to St. Louis and finally ended up in Dallas where he finally exploded for 11 touchdowns and three efforts over 100 yards. Working with Tony Romo helped along with not being the only decent wideout on the field. Robinson’s move to Jacksonville is not likely to see him improve though he’ll become an every game starter along with Mike Thomas. This was a horrible passing offense in 2011 and Blaine Gabbert ranked at the bottom of virtually every passing category for a starter. That’s not likely to make dynasty owners happy this year – be glad you had one of the skyrockets of 2011. No other team had fewer than the 136 passing yards per game that the Jags turned in and that means that Robinson probably could not have ended up in a worse place than Jacksonville.
Brandon Lloyd (STL to NE) – There is some optimism here. Lloyd had a breakout season in 2010 with 1448 yards and 11 touchdowns in Denver playing in the exact same offense. The Pats paid $12 million for three years from the 31 year-old who reunites with Josh McDaniels. You could make the argument that perhaps Lloyd could become the next Randy Moss in New England but that’s optimistic since the Pats offense not only has Wes Welker but has turned into more of a tight end attack with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combining for 169 catches, 2237 yards and 24 touchdowns. Great quarterback and offensive system plus an offensive coordinator who loves him but he’ll likely never be more than the #3 receiver in New England if that.
Robert Meachem (NO to SD) – On the face of it, this seems like a great move. The Chargers are led by pass-happy Philip Rivers and with Vincent Jackson leaving there is a major void in the wideouts. But the 28-year old Meachem has never caught more than 45 passes in any season and was stuck around 600 yards and six scores per year in New Orleans. Meachem has been a long-baller so far and the Chargers want him to continue to stretch the field. With an aging Antonio Gates and no Vincent Jackson, there will be opportunities for Meachem to deliver better stats but so far he has never been up to that even playing with Drew Brees in the best passing offense in the NFL. Meachem has more upside this year but he’ll need to show up big in training camp before you can have much confidence in him being more than a deep catch every three games.
Eddie Royal (DEN to SD) – The early plan is for Royal to spend more time as a return man in the offense that will be starting Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem and Antonio Brown. If the Chargers incur more wideout injuries as they have in the past, Royal may have fantasy value but as a potential draft this summer he’s not shaping up to be worth picking even in a deep league.
Randy Moss (RET to SF) – In the “Hope Springs Eternal” camp we find Randy Moss fresh off his season spent at home. The 35 year-old Moss apparently lost all interest in 2010 when he was released from the Patriots and ended up doing nothing in Minnesota and Tennessee. Moss signed a one-year contract worth $2.5 million with $1.5 million more available in incentives. This is a no-risk proposition for the 49ers who can release him at any time since no money is guaranteed. Alex Smith has re-signed with the 49ers which means the outlook for Moss is lower than if Peyton Manning had signed there. The 49ers also have Mario Manningham, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree so Moss is not expected to be any savior nor even necessarily the primary receiver. The 49ers are not about to turn in a pass-heavy scheme so Moss is unlikely to return to his glory days. But he did turn in a 4.39 40-yard dash before signing with the 49ers and he is serious about staging a comeback. He’ll be drafted by the optimist in every league but is definitely worth watching. What if he was anywhere close to his old form AND he wanted to play? If Manning with four neck surgeries is worth $96 million, have to think that Moss will be worth $2.5 million. If he does matter in San Francisco, then pretty much no other receiver will. But there is an excellent chance that the 49ers will not have any stud receivers this year because they cancel each other out in a mediocre passing attack.
Mario Manningham (NYG to SF) – The 26 year-old Manningham finds a new home and it could be a nice landing going to a young team that is a playoff contender. This season the passing game is already full with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss. And this is an offense that has not passed for more than 3400 yards since 2003. Manningham could find a nice niche long-term but for this season is not likely to offer much fantasy value.
Vincent Jackson (SD to TB) – Oddly the worst passing teams opted to improve by adding receivers instead of a new quarterback. The 29 year-old Jackson signed a five-year contract worth $55.55 million that had $26 million in guaranteed money. The Buccaneers coughed up the cash. This is interesting though and could be much better than first glance suggests. Last year the Buccaneers only had Josh Freeman with 3592 yards and 16 touchdowns while he disappointed and failed to meet expectations. But Freeman threw for 3451 yards and 26 touchdowns against only six interceptions in 2010 and was helped by Mike Williams breakout season that year. Now with Jackson, Freeman has two viable wideouts and a new coaching staff and offense this season. Jackson steps in at a good time and automatically becomes the #1 wideout. There is upside here to be sure but it will be a work in progress. Jackson stands a good chance of repeating his normal season of around 1100 yards and eight scores. Maybe more.
Pierre Garcon (IND to WAS) – Nothing like swapping one of the best quarterbacks of all time for a rookie but the Redskins intend to bring in Robert Griffin III. Chances are that Garcon won’t produce fantasy relevant stats with Santana Moss and Fred Davis already there to take most the work (if not also Jabar Gaffney who may be re-signed). The Skins also have brought in Josh Morgan so the fantasy prospects of all but probably Davis will be hard to rely on in this first season for Griffin.