The annual turnover that comes with free agency, coaching changes, scheme updates, rookie classes and veteran player ability fluctuations from year to year guarantees that nothing in the NFL is static or certain. As we all know from angrily yelling at or privately stewing over fantasy players that have been consistently productive only to completely crap the bed the one year you finally get to draft them - I’m looking at you, Drew Brees of 2013 - we all know very well that it’s extremely difficult to predict what players will be productive from one year to the next. However, by looking at exactly those changes that take place from one year to the next - whether they be in the front office or down to, say, a running back passing a certain benchmark age - we can analyze some of the possibilities for player performance in 2015.
Sometimes this has to do with a player getting a big money contract and moving to a sexy new city where the distractions are numerous and difficult to navigate around. Other times it takes the form of a player that directly impacted another player’s performance leaving via free agency. Many times it’s just that a player was able to stay healthy and functioned well in a particular scheme that was suited to his talents.
There’s a myriad of ways in which a player’s productivity can be affected from one season to the next. Here’s a list of players we feel will drop off in production from 2014 for the upcoming season:
15 Colin Kaepernick
The Rams look better, the Cardinals look better, heck the Seahawks somehow look even better than they did last year. The 49ers are the only team in the NFC West that looks worse, given the numerous retirements to some star players, departures in free agency and of course the loss of Jim Harbaugh to Michigan. This will all fall downhill on Colin Kaepernick who will be in tough without Harbaugh, a guy who always firmly stood behind Kaep. After all, it was Harbaugh's call to go to him in the first place.
14 Tony Romo
What Tony Romo did in 2014 was remarkable in Dallas. Battling a bad back, Romo set many Cowboys passing records and many were even lobbying for him to be MVP. However, losing DeMarco Murray, combined with the hard miles on Romo's body and it all points to a down year. This won't be any fault of Romo's, as all the events of the Cowboys' offseason points to a down year.
13 Jeremy Maclin
Jeremy Maclin may be going to familiar territory as he's now reuniting with coach Andy Reid in Kansas City, but he's also going to a team whose wide receivers didn't record a single touchdown in 2014. While that's unlikely to happen again, it's going to be hard for Maclin to replicate the 85 catches, 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns he had last year. Coming in on a five year deal worth $55 million, and the expectations will just be too high for Maclin in KC. While he is familiar with Reid, Maclin enjoyed his best statistical seasons in Chip Kelly's scheme.
12 Golden Tate
Golden Tate was just what the doctor ordered for the Detroit Lions last year. He was the answer to their need of someone to be a threat on the opposite side of Calvin Johnson. With the arrival of another running back via the draft in Ameer Abdullah and Eric Ebron expected to play a bigger role this year, Tate's production will dip. Assuming Megatron stays healthy this year, that will also eat into Tate's touches.
11 Justin Forsett
When a running back enjoys a breakout year of sorts at 29 years old, odds are it's an anomaly rather than the norm. While nobody would root against a guy like Justin Forsett, the odds are stacked against him repeating what he did in 2014. Add to that, Marc Trestman is now running the offense rather than Gary Kubiak. Trestman is expected to deploy an offense heavy on the passing game, rather than Kubiak's which is friendlier to running backs.
10 DeAndre Levy
9 Lamar Miller
8 Julius Thomas
7 Drew Brees
6 Rolando McClain
McClain was a revelation for Cowboys fans after their starting ILB Sean Lee went down with a torn left ACL during OTAs last May. McClain, often troubled during his brief NFL career to the point of retiring at the age of 23 after the 2013 season, was picked up by the Cowboys in a trade with the Ravens for a 6th round pick (as well as a 7th round pick compensation in return). McClain proved to be a wise investment as he notched 81 total tackles, two INT and one forced fumble in 13 games for the Cowboys.
5 Darrelle Revis
4 DeMarco Murray
Let’s face it: the Eagles looks like a total madhouse right now. Former players are accusing ex-coaches of racism, practices are being questioned, everyone seems to be expendable and a quarterback depth chart that includes Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow is not very exciting. Adding to this is that the Eagles have just released Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis (who fit perfectly with their zone blocking scheme) and Murray had the benefit of playing behind an insanely good line in Dallas. While the Eagles also feature a very good O-line, it will be hard to envision Murray having as good a 2015 as he had a 2014 season.
3 Tom Brady
2 Ndamukong Suh
The Dolphins made what is likely the biggest splash of the 2015 free agency period by signing Suh to a whopping 6-year, $114 million dollar contract that made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. While Suh is no doubt a dominant force up the middle in both the run game and with his pass rush, the rest of the Dolphins defense run by Kevin Coyle has issues at linebacker and has some untested corners (aside from Pro Bowler, Brent Grimes) that will put more pressure on Suh to get to the quarterback along with Cam Wake and Olivier Vernon, an up and coming player in his own right.
1 Randall Cobb
Randall Cobb exploded for a career year las season with 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 TDs. It will be difficult for Cobb to eclipse those numbers with the continuing emergence of Davante Adams, whose 6-foot-1, 215 pound frame allows him to post up in red zone situations as a better target for Aaron Rodgers. This will likely cut into Cobb’s TD numbers for 2015 season despite what, barring injury, will be a still very dangerous Packers receiving corps.
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