Fantasy Free Agency Q&A

Fantasy Free Agency Q&A

By John Paulsen (Senior Editor), last update Jun 1, 2012

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in both 2012 and 2015 for a total of five Top 5 seasons in the last six years. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-15 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

Follow John Paulsen on Twitter: @4for4_John.

The first week of the NFL free agency period has come and gone and several major chips have fallen. Peyton Manning chose the Broncos, the Buccaneers signed Vincent Jackson, the Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall, Matt Flynn signed with the Seahawks, the Patriots inked Brandon Lloyd, and the Jets have (possibly) traded for Tim Tebow. And those are just the big headlines.

In an effort to engage social media, I took to Twitter to solicit questions for this Q&A in the hopes that my followers might spark a few ideas that I hadn't yet considered. Let's see what they came up with...
What impact does Mike Tolbert's exit from San Diego have on Ryan Mathews? Is he a stud in the making?
Definitely. There are plenty of reasons to be excited about Mathews heading into 2012. He finished the season as RB8 with 187 fantasy points and had the 11th-highest average (13.3) amongst those players who scored at least 100 FP. With Tolbert gone, his workload should increase, though he did see an average of 20.3 touches over his final six games and saw at least 15 touches in 12 of his 14 games, so it's not like his workload can increase exponentially. Considering that he has had a tough time staying healthy, the Chargers will likely use another RB to keep him fresh, though his goal line carries should increase with Tolbert gone.
Could you address the RB situation in Carolina?
The Carolina RB situation for fantasy purposes has been a mess for several years, but barring a trade, it's going to be an even bigger mess in 2012. The Panthers introduced Tolbert as a fullback, so he'll be used as a blocker, rusher and receiver out of the backfield. That means DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are likely to give up a few touches, and that's going to hurt their value. Stewart becomes a free agent in 2013 (at the age of 26) and has a ton of trade value, but so far the Panthers have said they're going to hold onto him. Steer clear of this situation until the middle rounds.
Is it just GM Jeff Ireland or do the Dolphins have major issues and no one wants to play for them?
So far, they've been spurned by only two QBs: Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn. That said, other than the weather, there isn't a lot to attract a QB to South Florida. With the Brandon Marshall trade, there isn't a bona fide WR1 on the roster and Ireland's reputation around the league isn't very good. When Flynn was asked why he chose the Seahawks over the Dolphins, he said that Seattle is "doing the right thing, is being led by the right type of people." This, despite the fact that Joe Philbin, his offensive coordinator in Green Bay, is now the head coach in Miami. Until there's a change of leadership at the GM position, the Dolphins seem doomed.
With the addition of Brandon Marshall and the Bears probably drafting a WR....should Jay Cutler be placed in top 10 fantasy QB relevance?
In standard scoring formats, Cutler finished QB11 in 2007 (DEN), QB3 in 2008 (DEN), QB11 in 2009 (CHI), and QB15 in 2010 (CHI). In 2011, he finished QB25 in only 10 games, but his average (13.6 FPPG) was #16 amongst QBs that scored at least 100 fantasy points during the season. The last time he had a bona fide WR1 was in Denver, with Marshall, who now joins him in Chicago. In his two full seasons with Marshall, he averaged 251 yards, 1.4 TDs and 1.0 INTs. If he can match those numbers and rush for another 100 yards and a TD, he'll score about 250 fantasy points, which would have been good enough to finish #10 at the position in 2011. Now, to throw some cold water on the situation. Brandon Marshall may miss some time after allegedly punching a woman outside a NYC nightclub. If he's suspended, that hurts Cutler. Also, Cutler will be dealing with a new offensive coordinator in Mike Tice and it may take some time for him to click in Tice's system. Assuming the news is good throughout the summer, Cutler looks like a middle round pick best suited for QBBC duty.
Will Peyton Manning put up top 5 numbers in 2012?
In his last four years with the Colts, Manning finished QB3, QB7, QB4 and QB4 so even when he was healthy and in the groove, he still wasn't a shoo-in for top 5 numbers. Considering he's coming off an injury, has been out of football for a season, and is no longer playing indoors with Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, it seems likely that his number are going to slip. It's certainly possible that Manning will develop a rapport quickly with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker (and whomever else the Broncos bring in), but he's competing with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees (with or without Sean Payton), Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Michael Vick and Philip Rivers, he's going to have a tough time cracking the top 5. At this point, I'm guessing that he'll finish in the #8-#10 range if he can stay healthy.
Is Norv Turner crazy when he says Robert Meachem can be a WR1?
I don't think we can call Turner crazy at this point, though the conventional wisdom is that Meachem is more of a complementary receiver than a true WR1. Here's the good: He has finished in the top 10 in fantasy points per target (FP/target) in each of the last three years. That indicates that he may have been underutilized in the Saints' spread-the-wealth offensive attack. He never saw more than 66 targets in any given season, so it's understandable that he hasn't caught more than 45 passes in any given season. However, his catch rate over the last three years (67.5%) is well ahead of the league average (57.2%) and the average of the top 10 WRs in each season (61.0%). It's also quite high for a guy who has a reputation for being one-dimensional (in that he runs mainly "go" routes). As a comparison, speedster Mike Wallace hasn't topped a catch rate of 64% in his career. 
Unlike the guy he's replacing (Vincent Jackson), Meachem won't experience a major downgrade in terms of offensive talent around him. Philip Rivers is a very good QB, and while Meachem will have to fight with Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown for targets, there are indications that Turner intends to use his new toy early and often. Turner said that Meachem is "a No. 1 receiver" and that "he can be a complete receiver." Jackson saw 114 targets in 2011 as the WR1. Prorating Meachem's 1.61 FP/target yields 183 FP, which would have been enough to finish WR7 in 2011. Even if he can only produce 80% of those numbers, he's still looking at at a top 20 finish. So, yes, I'm excited about Robert Meachem in the middle rounds.
That's it for now. Hit me up on Twitter (@4for4_John) with any more fantasy free agency questions.
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