Thursday, March 13, 2014

Don't Swallow the (Salary) Cap

If you read my "Way Too Early" rankings article at the end of January, you may recall a few key dates I put in there.
(If you didn't read it, then shame on you.)

February 18th: Draft Combine starts.  I didn't get too excited about this one.  Some people like to watch guys run the 40 on NFL Network all day.  I'm not one of them.

March 11: Free agency begins.  NOW we're talking!  We're only a mere 48 hours into free agency, and the NFL is already stealing all of the headlines away from college basketball.  Isn't it March Madness time?  Well the National Football League has their own version of madness, and I'm going to get into some of the fantasy implications of these moves in just a second.

May 8: NFL Draft starts in NYC.  Don't forget about this date, which is now only 8 weeks away.  Teams are putting some pieces together now with free agency, but building for the future starts with the draft.

OK.  Let's talk about guys who are moving around early on in free agency and what that could mean for their fantasy value.  Not only that, but with someone leaving a team or joining a new one, we need to consider the impact to other players on both of those teams.  It's still early in the game, but let's speculate, shall we?

STOCK UP Golden Tate to Detroit
The Seahawks have a much more balanced offense than the Lions, but it's definitely more run-heavy (who wouldn't be with Beast Mode?).  And Seattle WRs have been inconsistent from a fantasy perspective with Russell Wilson behind center.  Meanwhile, Detroit hasn't had a solid #2 WR in forever, and Matthew Stafford loves to sling it around 50 times a game.  I think Golden Tate gets a nice fantasy bump moving to a city that can't pay its city workers but apparently can support an NFL team.  Obviously what little value Nate Burleson still had would have taken a hit, but he was cut anyway.  As for the impact to who's left in Seattle, Harvin is the clear #1 (when healthy), but look for Jermaine Kearse to potentially have that breakout 3rd year.  It'll be interesting to see if Seattle re-signs Doug Baldwin or not.  Either way, I like the potential of Kearse.

STOCK DOWN Eric Decker to the Jets
You'll be even happier with him gone, Andre..
No surprise here.  When you leave Peyton Manning for any other QB, you're going to take a fantasy hit.  When you go to the Jets?  You take an even bigger one.  I'm sure Decker will be a big part of his new offense, but don't expect the TDs to be there.  Meanwhile, Denver re-signed Andre Caldwell, who could be an interested mid-to-late round fantasy gem if he can make the move out wide from slot.

STOCK UP Toby Gerhart to Jacksonville
We still don't know what the Jags are going to do with Maurice Jones-Drew, but they've been very active early on in this free agency period.  With MJD turning 29 soon, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jacksonville letting him go.  If that's the case, I see the RB job as Gerhart's to lose.  Of course, they could be looking to draft a RB in a couple of months too.  Either way, Gerhart's stock goes up by default because he's no longer behind arguably the best running back in the league anymore.

STOCK DOWN Donald Brown to San Diego
See also Mathews, Ryan and Woodhead, Danny.  In my opinion, all of these guys take a fantasy hit here because I think the situation becomes a three-headed monster.  In case you didn't notice, Donald Brown was the best running back in Indy over the second half of 2013.  He scored 7 TDs in his last 8 regular season games, and he had a pair of scores in the first round of the playoffs against the Chiefs.  So don't think for a second that the Chargers signed him just to be a backup to Mathews.  I think both RBs will have some kind of value, but what about little Danny Woodhead?  I'll most likely be lowering all of these RBs in my next ranking update.  As for the Colts RBs that are left?  They re-signed Ahmad Bradshaw, but if Trent Richardson can get his act together, I feel like his stock could be back on the rise.

STOCK UP Rashad Jennings to the Giants
Yes, the backfield for the G-Men currently looks like a bit of a mess.  As of right now, Andre Brown is still an unrestricted free agent, but they did re-sign Peyton Hillis (go figure!).  Personally, I don't believe in David Wilson returning or being effective if he does.  But believe me, I'm rooting for the former Hokie to make it back and do his thing in the NFL.  All of that being said, I think Rashad Jennings could win out in all of this.  And if Brown ends up on another team (coincidentally, he was visiting Oakland yesterday), then Jennings could even find himself as a fantasy RB1.  Speaking of Oakland, they re-signed McFadden to just a 1 year deal.  I think his stock stays about the same.  If you want to roll the dice on him, go for it.  Personally, I don't want to pay a high price tag for someone who can't stay on the field.  Someone who wasn't on the field at all for the Raiders last year due to injury was rookie Latavius Murray.  If he can get himself healthy, I think he's more likely to run away with the starting gig...and I bet you'll be able to land him several rounds after McFadden.
Flex with upside?!?  I'm thinking Jennings has RB1 potential for the Giants!

STOCK UP Denver Defense
This seems like an obvious one to me, but people don't tend to think too much about defenses during their fantasy drafts.  Last year I reached a little in mine to get the Bengals, and I was quite happy to have that defense all season.  After you get past Seattle (and to a lesser extent the 49ers), there's not a ton of consistency for fantasy defenses.  Yes, the Panthers look like they're trending in the right direction.  The Chiefs?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I like what I'm seeing in Denver.  Adding the best available corner on the market in Aqib Talib was huge.  I'm sure Rodgers-Cromartie will now be on the way out the door, but they also added Demarcus Ware & T.J. Ward to go along with big names already on the team like Von Miller and some massive dude named "Pot Roast".  It looks like the Broncos are going all-in, thinking they probably only have another year or two out of Peyton Manning.  I think they'll be making another run at the Super Bowl, especially the way they're retooling on the defensive side of the ball.

STOCK DOWN Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay
The Bucs got a new QB to go along with their new uniforms, as they signed Josh McCown to a 2-year deal the other day.  Their new coach, Lovie Smith, proceeded to basically declare the newly acquired 34-year-old journeyman the starter.  Of course, we could be seeing a Matt Flynn/Russell Wilson situation here, but we'll see how much of a competition there is in training camp.  Either way, I think Glennon's stock definitely took a huge hit.  At the same time, McCown's stock obviously went up...but I'm not as ready as Lovie to declare him the starter just yet.

STOCK UP Nick Foles, Philadelphia
I almost just put Darren Sproles here because I think his stock might be a little higher, but I think it's mostly unchanged.  He'll cut into McCoy's snaps a little bit, but Shady is still the man.  In case you missed it though, the Eagles also re-signed WRs Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.  So I feel like the person who is benefiting the most here is Foles.  He's already going to be high on people's radars going into the 2014 season, but all of these weapons makes me like him even more.  He already looked comfortable in Chip Kelly's offense, and I think he'll only get better in it.

STOCK UP Andre Roberts to Washington
My Redskins signed Andre Roberts to a reported 4-year deal worth $16 million.  We also re-signed Santana Moss to a 1-year contract, but that might be to groom Roberts more than anything.  There's probably only room for one good fantasy WR in DC, and we all know that's Pierre Garcon.  But Roberts at least has a shot to be the #2 WR, whereas he was easily behind Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd in Arizona.  So I call that an upgrade for his fantasy value.  And as a Redskins fan, I'm just glad we're getting some much-needed help in the special teams department.  Roberts has been a decent return man for the Cardinals, and we can use all the help we can get there.

STOCK DOWN Stepfan Taylor, Arizona  
Speaking of the Cardinals, they actually signed Jonathan Dwyer this week.  With Rashard Mendenhall retiring, Bruce Arians replaced him with another Steeler who knows his offense.  Everyone is assuming that Andre Ellington will get the most touches in 2014, and I think that assumption is correct.  If that's the case, then that leaves Taylor and Dwyer to fight over some third down touches.  Maybe Taylor wins out and Dwyer gets totally lost in the shuffle, but I feel like this move potentially hurts Taylor's fantasy value ever so slightly.

STOCK UP Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville
If Henne is his QB again, I'm moving Shorts up my list.
The Jags re-signed Chad Henne to a 2-year deal, and they actually got a 6th round pick in return when they shipped Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco.  Good for them!  Also potentially good for Cecil Shorts owners.  I had him last year, and I'll tell you from experience...Henne to Shorts = good, Gabbert to Shorts = bad.  That's all you need to know.  Well, almost all you need to know.  With Gabbert gone, the writing could be on the wall that the Jags will take a QB with the #3 overall pick in the draft.  If that happens, then all bets are off.  I mean, Shorts could still have plenty of value, but this argument becomes irrelevant.  If Henne is under center in 2014 though, I like Shorts even more.

UNCHANGED Joique Bell re-signed with Detroit.  Dennis Pitta and Jacoby Jones re-signed with Baltimore.
I don't think any of these signings have much fantasy relevance.  All of these guys are staying with the same teams they were on in 2013.  If anything, Jacoby Jones could lose value if newly-released Steve Smith comes to town (that's the rumor).  Speaking of other notable free agents who are still on the market as of this writing...

Knowshon Moreno
Ben Tate
Maurice Jones-Drew
LeGarrette Blount

Hakeem Nicks
Julian Edelman
James Jones
Emmanuel Sanders
Lance Moore
Doug Baldwin

Michael Vick

I'm sure in the time it takes me to proofread and click "Publish", someone else will get signed.  I'll try to have another update when all of the dust settles.  Until next time!