Fantasy football: Most who changed teams likely won’t help value
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Quick: Where will DeMarco Murray be taking handoffs this season? Whose uniform is Travis Benjamin now sporting? Which city’s fans will Mike Wallace disappoint this year? Can you name the starting backfield in Houston?
Welcome back, fantasy fools! It’s time to hunker down and get serious about our fantasy drafts. But first, we need to pause and examine the NFL’s shifted landscape.
As usual, dozens of fantasy-relevant players — more than 50, by my count — were traded or signed free-agent deals with new teams this offseason. But if history is any guide, barely 10 percent of them will improve their fantasy fortunes. The vast majority will decline — even plummet — in value. (Just ask anyone who wasted a premium draft pick on DeMarco Murray last year.)
Last season, a larger group than normal appreciably boosted their production after swapping uniforms, though three of those players — Sam Bradford, DeAngelo Williams and Ryan Mathews — were returning from injury-shortened seasons. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall defied the skeptics to soar as Jets. Darren McFadden assumed the plum starting role that Murray vacated in Dallas and Frank Gore prospered in Indy.
But the list of players who crashed and burned in their new cities was much more exhaustive, headlined by once-proud fantasy stars such as Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, Andre Johnson, Jeremy Maclin and Torrey Smith.
Will this year’s carpetbagger class fare any better? Don’t count on it. Here’s our quick look at the most significant offseason moves of 2016, categorized by the projected year-over-year impact on each player’s fantasy value.
Movin’ on up
Look for improved production from these players:
Robert Griffin III, QB, Browns: He will scramble last season’s goose egg with his first completion. But that doesn’t mean RG3 will return to his promising rookie form.
Brock Osweiler, QB, Texans: A first-time starter, he will bear watching. But not drafting.
Arian Foster, RB, Dolphins: The risks are well-documented, but a healthy Foster should seize the starting role from the still-unproven Jay Ajayi. But if you take the plunge, handcuffing him with Ajayi is mandatory.
Travis Benjamin, WR, Chargers: Benjamin quietly cracked the top 30 ranks last season despite playing in Cleveland. Now paired with Philip Rivers, the playmaking speedster has legit upside.
Coby Fleener, TE, Saints: Fleener bears watching given the enviable position he has stepped into. Just ask Jimmy Graham and Ben Watson.
Look out below
These players will be hard-pressed to match last year’s results:
Matt Forte, RB, Jets: Now on the wrong side of 30, the versatile veteran likely left his elite days in the Windy City.
Alfred Morris, RB, Cowboys: After dazzling as a Redskins rookie, his stats have declined annually. The durable back now has the benefit of running behind Dallas’ offensive line, but the handicap of playing second fiddle to prized rookie Zeke Elliott.
Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars: Replicating his 2015 Top 10 finish while sharing carries with T.J. Yeldon is hard to foresee.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Lions: He’s expected to be Detroit’s No. 3 receiver, but his days as a fantasy force are surely over.
Rueben Randle, WR, Eagles: He failed to achieve consistency, or fantasy cred, as a Giant, but will have trouble even repeating his previous modest results as a backup in Philly.
Call it a wash
For better or worse — mostly worse — these players should post comparable results to last season:
Mark Sanchez, QB, Broncos: Fear not, Denver fans. Sanchez is here to lead you back to Super Bowl glory! Yeah, right. He’s just holding down the position until Paxton Lynch is ready.
Lamar Miller, RB, Texans: Miller has quietly finished in the Top 10 RB ranks for the last two seasons in Miami. The Texans hope he will keep up that pace, though the change of scenery presents real risk.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans: After being misused and given-up-on in Philly, Murray will try to rediscover his mojo in Nashville. But rookie Derrick Henry will keep the veteran’s ceiling low.
Khiry Robinson, RB, Jets: Look for the ex-Saint to be an occasional goal-line vulture behind Forte and Bilal Powell.
Reggie Bush, RB, Bills: The truth is a healthy Bush can’t help but out-perform his lost 2015 season. But he is unlikely to return to fantasy relevance as Buffalo’s return specialist and Shady McCoy’s backup.
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