Fantasy Football draft week is finally upon us! This means the endless wait is over and it’s only a matter of time until you can draft the team you have spent countless hours preparing for…. or if you’re like many others and treat your fantasy football team like a University exam, it’s time for some last minute cramming. It’s time to cram as much knowledge related to football in the shortest amount of time as you attempt to build the knowledge to help you draft a championship team. If you plan to win a championship you will need to start by knowing which player saw their fantasy value raise and which saw a drop-off in their value due to off-season moves.
We all know that the NFL offseason is filled with players changing teams as managers tinker with their lineups in order to get the best team on the field come time for the season, much the same way you will tinker with your lineup all week in attempt to field the best team come Sunday. As is the case every year, these moves have created opportunities for some, whereas it has greatly diminished the fantasy value of others.
Here in fantasy land all we care about is the affect that these moves will have on our fantasy team and this list will breakdown the major offseason acquisitions and the impact that these moves will have on your fantasy team and the draft value of the player in question.
20 Matt Schaub – Oakland Raiders
It’s been quite some time since Matt Schaub was considered fantasy relevant, so long that many have forgotten that he ranked the 9th among QBs in 2010 and 3rd in 2009. Last year was a season to forget for Matt Schaub who struggled mighty. His lackluster play had him looking for a new job this offseason. However, it didn’t take long for this wily veteran to find a new place to call home as he joined the Oakland Raiders and has been named their starting QB.
Fantasy Outlook: Not worth a pick - don’t waste a roster spot on Schaub, he’s with a new team and has a new offense but expect more of the same from Schaub as his glory days are in the rear-view mirror. Don’t expect a career revival in Oakland.
19 Miles Austin - Cleveland Browns
Miles Austin was a stud in the ’09 and ’10 seasons finishing 2nd and 11th respectively among WRs. However, after several injury plagued seasons and the emergence of Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams in the Big D, Austin no longer had a spot in this offense and joined the Cleveland Browns this offseason.
Fantasy Outlook: Late Round Flyer –Austin has gone from top tier WR to late round flier in a matter of years. Given the looming Josh Gordon suspension, Austin may be a sneaky good late round pick. There is not much risk here as he can be dropped to the waiver wire if he can’t find his game in the early stages of the season.
18 Dexter McCluster – Tennessee Titans
Dexter McCluster left the talented Kansas City Chiefs backfield to join the crowded Tennessee Titans backfield during the offseason. McCluster currently ranks 2nd on the Titans depth chart, behind Shonn Greene but ahead of the highly touted rookie Bishop Sankey.
Fantasy Outlook: Waiver Wire Pickup – He won’t be drafted in most leagues. However, be sure to keep an eye on him as he will likely play the Darren Sproles role for the Titans. He will have value in this backfield if he is included in the game plan, so our advice would be to keep an eye on how he is used in the first few weeks of the season before committing a roster spot to McCluster.
17 Knowshon Moreno – Miami Dolphins
In one of the biggest moves this offseason, one of last year’s breakout starts took his talents to South Beach as Moreno left the high-flying Denver Broncos offense to join the Miami Dolphins where it was assumed he would be given the starting job. Given the fact that Moreno had arthroscopic knee surgery in June, he currently finds himself in a timeshare with Lamar Miller.
Fantasy Outlook: Mid-Late Round Pick – Moreno picked up right he left off in his first preseason game as he racked up 64 yards on 10 carries. However, it should be noted that Lamar Miller also had 7 carries and it looks like they will start the season splitting carries.
16 16. LeGarrette Blount – Pittsburgh Steelers
Blount regained some fantasy value last year as he found the end-zone 7 times as a member of the Patriots. Blount didn’t re-sign with the Pats, and instead opted to move to Steeltown. Much like when he started his stint with the Patriots, he will not be the featured back in Pittsburgh as Blount currently sits behind Le’Veon Bell on the depth chart.
Fantasy Outlook: Handcuff with upside – If you draft Le’Veon Bell it would be wise to target Blount in the late rounds as he will have fantasy value, as he's in line to get the goal-line work. Also, if Bell goes down with an injury, Blount will become a featured back. Additionally, if the third preseason game is any indication of what is to be expected of the Steelers backfield, it looks like Blount will be playing a bigger role than originally expected as he had 7 carries and Bell had 9.
15 Hakeem Nicks – Indianapolis Colts
Nicks had a disappointing season per his standards as he failed to reach the 1,000 yard mark for the second straight season (896 yards in 2013) and failed to find the end-zone at all. This is a trend Nicks will hope to break as he has seen his TD totals drop in each of his last 3 seasons. Nicks joined the up and coming Colts offense which now features a receiving core of T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks.
Fantasy Outlook: Late Round Pick – Nicks will have some sleeper appeal as Reggie Wayne is coming into the season at 35 years of age and coming off an ACL injury sustained in week 7 of the 2013 season. This implies that even though Nicks enters the season as the third option behind Wayne and Hilton, he has the potential to be the #2 WR in this high flying aerial offense.
14 Brandon LaFell – New England Patriots
LaFell will no longer be catching passes from Superman (Cam Newton). This season he will be catching passes from Brady, who is a sure fire future hall of famer. LaFell adds some much needed size to the Patriots receiving core and it will be exciting to see if Brady will use him in the red-zone if Gronkowski misses any time.
Fantasy Outlook: Late Round flyer – LaFell’s value is lower than it was last year and will remain that way until there is an indication that he will be worked into the Patriots game plan.
13 James Jones - Oakland Raiders
James Jones joins Matt Schaub as the 2nd Raider to make this list. Jones left the Packers where Nelson and Cobb eat up most of the targets. Jones is currently ranked behind Andre Holmes and Rod Streater on the Raiders WR depth chart, which puts him in a situation very similar to the one he was in while in Green Bay.
Fantasy Outlook: Deep Sleeper – James Jones should not be drafted in most standard leagues; he should be considered a deep sleeper in larger leagues as he has the talent to become one of Schaub’s top targets.
12 Steve Smith – Baltimore Ravens
Steve Smith is an ageless wonder. If you haven’t seen it yet, take 2 minutes once you finish reading this article and to watch Steve Smith’s highlights from the Ravens week 3 preseason game against the Redskins. The long-time Panther made the move to the Ravens this offseason and is projected to be the starter opposite Torrey Smith.
Fantasy Outlook: Late Round Pick – Expect to see Smith drafted as a WR5/6 with the potential to greatly outplay his draft spot. Given his bounce back season last year, expect to see a drop-off in his production as he is no longer the number 1 receiving option on his team.
11 Darren Sproles – Philadelphia Eagles
Sproles moved from the potent Saints offense to the high flying Eagles offense led by Head Coach Chip Kelly and his fast paced offense. Sproles currently sits behind McCoy on the depth chart but with DeSean Jackson now playing for the rival Redskins, there will be additional targets to be shared among the member of this offense. Additionally, there is a high likelihood that Chip Kelly will find a way to use both of his quick, speedy backs in a way that will give opposing defenses headaches.
Fantasy Outlook: Mid-Round Pick – Sporles isn’t expected to be a featured back this season. He will still play a similar role to the one he played with the Saints. Given the speed of which the Eagles play, he will get his opportunities and should be considered a RB3/4.
10 Michael Vick – New York Jets
Michael Vick is one of three Jets to make this list, as the Jets had a busy offseason acquiring talented players at the skill positions. Vick is currently pegged to be Geno Smith’s backup. However, if Geno Smith struggles early on, no one will be surprised to see Vick anointed the starter. Vick is an injury risk but there is no doubting his skill when he is on the field as he can make plays with his legs and his arm.
Fantasy Outlook: Not worth a pick – He is not worth a roster spot at this time, however if Geno struggles in the first few weeks, it would be wise to consider picking up Vick and stashing him.
9 Maurice Jones-Drew – Oakland Raiders
The long-time Jaguar opted to move to the silver and black this offseason. Maurice Jones-Drew finished 20th last season among RBs, however, it seems the move to the Raiders hurt his initial stock value as he currently has an ADP of 93 which translates to being the 29th overall RB taken. The Raiders backfield is now made up of the fragile Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew and the young Latavius Murrary. This implies that Maurice Jones-Drew should be in line for the bulk of the carries and will have the opportunity to succeed.
Fantasy Outlook: Mid/Late-Round Pick (RB3/RB4) – Given Maurice Jones-Drew’s past successm drafting him as a RB3/4 is a pick that limits your risk. He has the potential to perform at a starting RB level again this year, as he will be the go-to RB in the Oakland backfield.
8 DeSean Jackson – Washington Redskins
In one of the more shocking events that took place during the off season, DeSean Jackson was released by the Eagles. This was a surprise as Jackson posted career highs in yards, receptions and matched his career high for receiving TDs with 9. He found a new home with a formal rival as he signed with the Redskins to join Andre Roberts and Pierre Garcon, to make the Redskins receiving core one of the most skilled in the NFL.
Fantasy Outlook: Early/Mid Round Pick (Starting WR) – Though DeSean Jackson changed team, this didn’t affect his draft value too much, as he is still being drafted as a starting WRs in most leagues. DeSean Jackson is known for his ability to stretch the field with his speed and he will be a boom or bust candidate week in and week out.
7 Eric Decker – New York Jets
Eric Decker made the move from the Mile-High State to the Big Apple. He not only changed city, but also his QBs, as he went from catching balls from Peyton Manning to Geno Smith, which has greatly affected his draft value. However, it should be noted that he is the main receiver for the Jets and this is a positive.
Fantasy Outlook: Mid-round Pick – Eric Decker would have likely been a WR1 or WR2 had he remained with the Broncos, however, given the offseason move he will likely perform more like a WR3 or WR4 with the Jets this year and that is where he is currently being drafted.
6 Chris Johnson – New York Jets
Chris Johnson put together a nice season last year, finishing the year ranked 9th among RBs. The Jets pounced on CJ as they added a trio of players in the offseason to improve their offense. Jets have stated that Chris Johnson and Ivory are expected to be part of a Running Back Committee this season, which hurts Chris Johnson’s value.
Fantasy Outlook: Mid-round Pick – Gone are the days that Chris Johnson is considered an elite RB. He should be drafted as a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3. If you can grab CJ as a RB3, consider yourself lucky.
5 Golden Tate – Detroit Lions
Golden Tate won a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks this past year, but did not return and instead signed with the Detroit Lions. Tate finally gives the Detroit Lions a sure-fire WR2, which provides Matthew Stafford with a “Golden” opportunity to shine. Given that Calvin Johnson demands double coverage, Golden Tate will have a great opportunity to produce, as he went from the ground and pound Seahawks offense to the Lions who love to air it out.
Fantasy Outlook: Mid-Round Pick – Golden Tate’s fantasy value got a bump when he signed with the Lions and he is expected to be a low-end WR3 or high-end WR4.
4 Toby Gerhart – Jacksonville Jaguars
If you haven’t heard much about Gerhart in the past, that’s because he was Adrian Peterson’s backup. Given his offseason move, he has now been handed the keys to the starting role in the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield. Gerhart saw his fantasy value skyrocket as he is one of the few true feature backs in the NFL this season.
Fantasy Outlook: Early Round Pick – Gerhart will be a mid-tier RB2 with upside as he doesn’t really have any competition at the position and is in line to get 300+ touches this season.
3 Rashad Jennings – New York Giants
Rashad Jennings will be playing for his 3rd team in 3 years as he joined the New York Giants backfield. Jennings ranked 21st among RBs last season, a season in which he only started 8 games for the Oakland Raiders (he suited up for 15). Jennings value increased drastically when he joined the Giants as their starter and will have the opportunity to be a Fantasy Stud this year.
Fantasy Outlook: Early Round Pick – Jennings has a high ceiling this year and will be given the opportunity to reach it. If you can draft Jennings as a RB2 at the end of round 3-start of round 4 (in 12 team leagues), we recommend you jump all over it.
2 Ben Tate – Cleveland Browns
Tate, much like Gerhart and Jennings, will finally be given the opportunity to be a full-time starter. Ben Tate has been Foster’s backup for the last three seasons and even in the backup role has been unable to stay healthy for an entire season.. Ben Tate has missed a total of 8 games over this three year span. If he can stay healthy, Ben Tate is the guy in Cleveland and will finally have a chance to prove what he can do.
Fantasy Outlook: Early-Mid Round Pick – Tate will be drafted as a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3. If you pick Tate up as your RB2, it is recommended that you back him up with a quality RB3 as he is injury prone and unproven.
1 Emmanuel Sanders – Denver Broncos
Any receiver that is a starter in the Broncos offense has fantasy value. Emmanuel Sanders will be the beneficiary of this as he was signed by the Broncos to fill the void Eric Decker left. His value is significantly higher with the Broncos than it was with the Steelers. Throw in the fact that Wes Welker suffered a concussion in the Broncos 3rd preseason game and Sanders value is through the roof.
Fantasy Outlook: Early-Mid Round Pick – Sanders should be considered a high-end WR3 or a low-end WR2, however he has the potential to put up solid WR2 numbers. Expect for Sanders to have a season similar to Decker’s season last year.