2013 Free Agency: Nine Burning Questions
Free agency is about a week old and most of the big names are off the market. Player movement will alter the fantasy landscape, and every major (and moderate) signing needs to be examined, not only for its impact on the team signing the player, but also for those teams that lost the player(s) in free agency.
#1: Is Steven Jackson a RB1 now that he's joined the Falcons?
This looks like a great signing by the Falcons and Jackson has a chance to have fantasy success in Atlanta's high-octane offense. Jackson will benefit from extra red zone touches -- Michael Turner had almost twice as many red zone carries as Jackson did in 2012. He'll also enjoy running against defenses that will have to respect Matt Ryan and the Falcons' potent passing game. He has a chance to be a three-down back, but the Falcons may continue to use Jacquizz Rodgers in the passing game in an effort to keep the aging Jackson fresh. S-Jax looks like a low-end RB1 in his new situation. As for the Rams, it appears (at this point) that they are going to move forward with Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead in some sort of a RBBC. Richardson was clearly ahead of Pead for most of the season, but Pead started seeing an increase in playing time down the stretch.
#2: Where to draft Percy Harvin?
Harvin joins a WR corps of Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin and figures to lead the group in targets in 2013. This is great news for QB Russell Wilson, who is getting a big boost at WR. In standard formats, Harvin finished in the top 11 in the last two years in fantasy PPG, and will once again be a fringe WR1, especially if he can stay healthy. Harvin's usage may drop a bit in Seattle, but this should be offset by additional red zone opportunities. Seattle's OC, Darrell Bevell, was the Vikings OC in 2010. That year, Harvin averaged 7.7 targets per game. (He saw 9.4 TPG in 2012 and 7.5 TPG in 2011.) He will likely hold third round value in most formats.
#3: How does the move to Minnesota impact the fantasy value of Greg Jennings? What is its impact in Green Bay?
Jennings has missed 11 games in the last two seasons, but if he can stay healthy, he should be able to post nice numbers as the Vikings' main weapon (along with Kyle Rudolph) in the passing game. He'll benefit from playing against defenses that will be focused on stopping Adrian Peterson, but he won't enjoy the benefit of playing in the Packers' potent passing attack with Aaron Rodgers. So expect more targets and lower efficiency. He looks like a low-end WR2 at this point, as he's not a plug-and-play for Percy Harvin. Losing Harvin but gaining Jennings is a slight downgrade for Christian Ponder. In Green Bay, Jennings' departure means that Jermichael Finley will likely be around another season. Expect good numbers from Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones. All four players should be startable in most formats. Rodgers loses a weapon but it shouldn't impact him drastically unless the Packers' receiving corps spends a lot of time in the training room.
This is a very interesting question given the recent movement of the two players. Welker will take over for Brandon Stokley (45-544-5) in the slot, and will surely siphon some targets off of Eric Decker, Jacob Tamme and perhaps Demaryius Thomas, who has a downfield skill set that might protect his targets more than the other Bronco receivers. Still, Welker should be heavily targeted. As for Amendola, he's taking over Welker's role in the Patriots offense, which features the slot receiver. If he can stay healthy, he's a good bet for 100+ catches, which will make him a force in PPR formats. The two players should finish with similar numbers, but Welker figures to be drafted first due to his reputation.
#5: Reggie Bush to Detroit -- good or bad for his value?
Looking good. Bush will reportedly be given the opportunity to be the "feature back," which could mean big things for him in Detroit. Keep in mind that Mikel Leshoure is a very capable goal line back, so he is likely to vulture some red zone touches, limiting Bush's upside. Bush should be especially good in PPR formats as the Lions tend to throw the ball a ton. In PPR, he looks like a high-end RB2 and in standard formats, he is likely to be a mid- to low-end RB2 due to Leshoure's likely goal line carries.
#6: Will Mike Wallace be a fantasy WR1 in Miami?
No. Wallace has the #17 PPG average (in standard formats) over the last two seasons, and if he's able to develop a rapport with QB Ryan Tannehill this offseason, he should be a capable fantasy WR2 in 2013. His YPC (13.1) and Catch % (55%) dropped, but that was partly due to Ben Roethlisberger missing three games during the season. Even though he had a down year in 2012, he averaged 4.5-63-.67 in 12 games with Roethlisberger, which are similar to his 4.5-75-.50 averages in 2011. We typically prefer receivers whose situations are obviously improved (or at least relatively unchanged), but Wallace should be able to make some noise in South Beach.
#7: Who benefits in Pittsburgh?
Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders get a boost in Pittsburgh. Brown figures to be a fantasy WR2, and Sanders should be a WR3 if he plays for the Steelers. (He's a restricted free agent, so he could still change teams.) Both players should be better in PPR formats than in standard formats. Wallace's departure is not good news for Ben Roethlisberger for obvious reasons. The Steelers may look to add a rookie WR in the draft.
Vereen gained at least 38 total yards in six of his last nine games and scored three TDs in that span. If he gets all of Woodhead's touches (not a crazy proposition if you split Brandon Bolden's 58 touches in 2012 between Bolden and Leon Washington) Vereen would be looking at around 135 carries (540 yards at 4.0 YPC) and 45 catches (468 yards at 10.4 YPC -- Woodhead's average over the last two seasons). With an estimated six TDs (one less than Woodhead in 2012), Vereen is looking at around 137 fantasy points in standard formats, which would have been good for a #23 RB ranking in 2012. Vereen appears to have fringe RB2 value heading into 2013 in standard formats. His value will be a bit higher in PPR formats if he gets most of the passing down work. Bottom line: Woodhead finished as the #25 RB in standard formats in 2012 even with Vereen getting some work and we see no reason that Vereen can't finish with similar (or better) numbers.
#9: Did any good sleepers emerge during free agency?
Yes, there are several players on the rise that we haven't already discussed...
Mike Goodson, Jets
It appears that Goodson will compete with Bilal Powell for the RB1 job, though the duo could very well split the workload. Goodson has a career 4.5 YPC, but has averaged nearly 4.9 YPC in the last three seasons. He has proven to be adept in the passing game, catching 40 passes for the Panthers in 2010. He also caught a 64-yard TD against the Dolphins in Week 2 of 2012. At just 26 years old, he's still in his prime. Consider him a RB sleeper until the Jets' depth chart shakes out.
Donald Jones, Patriots
Jones showed some flashes in Buffalo -- four TDs in his first nine games -- but struggled with injuries down the stretch. With Brandon Lloyd gone, Jones may get a chance to start and should give the Patriots the deep threat they've been looking for. The Patriots are still actively looking for a WR, so this is a situation to monitor.
Brandon Myers, Giants
Add Myers to the long list of semi-reliable TEs that will be available in the middle or late rounds. He was 9th in standard formats (6th in PPR) in 2012 and is heading to a good situation in New York. In the last five seasons, the top Giants tight end has averaged 2.7-36-.33, which isn't bad considering that we're talking about Kevin Boss (2008-2010), Jake Ballard (2011) and Martellus Bennett (2012). That works out to 5.6 fantasy PPG, which would have equated to #14 TE numbers in 2012. Myers is a better receiver than any of those players and his weakness (only 4 TD catches in 2012) should be offset by Eli Manning's propensity to throw to his tight end in the redzone. Giants TEs have averaged 5.0 TDs per season, so Myers should be able to build on that given his skill set. He looks like an upside TE2 in standard formats and a low-end TE1 in PPR formats.
Donnie Avery, Chiefs
Avery brings speed to the Chiefs' receiving corps. He may not be terribly efficient with his targets, but if Andy Reid uses him like he did DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia, then Avery will be fantasy relevant in 2013.
Jarrett Boykin, Packers
With Donald Driver's retirement and Greg Jennings' defection, Boykin figures to move up a couple of spots on the Green Bay depth chart and stands to see significant snaps if one of the team's starters misses time with an injury. In big leagues, he would be a solid handcuff for Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson or James Jones.