Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life
Imagine you worked all night on a project and a coworker swooped in and submitted the final product, vulturing praise around the office. Imagine an overbearing manager pulling you off a presentation right as you showed up to the big meeting (your manager’s name is Mike McCarthy). Imagine that your company failed to throw a touchdown to a wide receiver for nineteen consecutive games. All of these situations are reasons why you might want to consider a change in scenery. You may be languishing in the same job for years, but moving to a new location or company can do wonders for your professional and mental health. And while you may not find all of the answers you’re looking for, a little shake up can give you a new lease on life.
It’s no different in the NFL, and by extension, fantasy football. Sometimes, a franchise change can be the blessing in disguise that revitalizes a career (Marshawn Lynch leaving Buffalo), or it can turn out to be nothing more than a failed experiment (Randy Moss joining the Raiders). In fantasy, you won’t know which category your guy will fall into on draft night, but we’ll do our best to help you out find out. Here are the top ten free agent acquisitions for 2017.
10. Desean Jackson – Buccaneers
While Desean went from being a borderline WR1 during his Philly days to a somewhat boom/bust WR3 throughout his tenure in Washington, his primary skillset of blowing the top off of a defense remains intact. Even though he’s no longer a threat to see more than 5-6 targets per game, Jackson’s new designation as a straight-line burner should fit in perfectly with Jameis Winston and the suddenly dangerous Buccaneers. Mike Evans is coming off an all-world season as one of the true WR1’s in fantasy, but a closer examination of the game tape shows a receiver who struggled to get decent looks downfield due to double coverage, inaccurate passes, or both. Desean Jackson solves at least one of those issues, as teams can no longer blanket Mike Evans without getting burned by a patented 68 yard touchdown bomb to “Jaccpot”. Overall, this is a better fit for the team than it is for Jackson’s fantasy value, but there’s always room for a couple of 3 catch, 117 yard performances from Desean. Long term, however, it would be wise to temper expectations.
9. Marshawn Lynch – Raiders
You might look at Latavius Murray’s 2016 and be tricked into being impressed by the touchdown total. If you owned him, though, then you know the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze on Sundays. His usage was utterly maddening due to a frustrating commitment to the RBBC, and although some games were salvaged by goal line plunges, it became clear towards the end of the season that owning Latavius Murray should have come with a surgeon general’s warning.
Marshawn Lynch is coming out of a skittle-packed retirement and into a Latavius-Free Raiders backfield, but guess who is still there? That’s right – Jamize Olawale, Deandre Washington, and Jaylen Richard. Or, as Murray owners referred to them, “those three sons of bitches.” It’s entirely possible that beast mode will resume the Latavius role and settle into a Sunday diet of 11-49-1 rushing lines, but the RBBC from hell isn’t going away for a 31-year-old former pro bowler fresh off the bread line. Now for the good news – The Raiders are a well-oiled machine on offense, and the scoring opportunities should be plentiful. Also, this is Marshawn Lynch we’re talking about, and there’s an outside chance he can recapture some of his Seattle glory if he stayed in decent shape. The reality could lie somewhere in the middle. Think Marion Barber III with less carries, and then decide if that’s worth it to you.
8. Jeremy Maclin – Ravens
This is perhaps the most intriguing change of scenery on the list. At face value, Jeremy Maclin provides the Ravens with a go-to option between the 20s, a realm he is immensely familiar with from his time with the wide receiver-averse Alex Smith and the Chiefs. Much like in Kansas City, the difficulty for Maclin will lie in converting some of those receptions into scores. The primary cause for the murky outlook is the fact that there are a lot of mouths to feed in Baltimore. Mike Wallace was a popular sleeper pick among numerous fantasy circles prior to the Maclin acquisition, and Breshad Perriman is primed for a breakout season with his injury woes (presumably) behind him. There’s also the addition of Danny Woodhood, who is no stranger to doing most of his damage out of the backfield. Throw in dual-threat running back Kenneth Dixon and a typically strong contribution from the tight end position, and you can see the targets drying up quickly. While Delco Joe and the Ravens air the ball out a TON – they ranked 1st in the league in passing attempts in 2016 with 679 attempts – they converted a mere 20 of those into scoring strikes. Even with the voluminous potential of the Ravens passing game, the crowded situation makes Maclin a tough sell at his current price. The return of the Mac will have to wait for another season.
7. Eddie Lacy – Seahawks
You would be forgiven for rolling your eyes. After all, Fat Ed didn’t exactly inspire confidence as the bellcow running back in a prolific, Aaron Rodgers–led offense. Was he truly a “bellcow” over the past couple of seasons, though? While the weight issues certainly didn’t aid his checkered injury history, Lacy had other factors conspiring against him to tarnish his output. Case in point: when the man responsible for calling the plays doesn’t like the cut of your jib, chances are you’re not going to be put into a position to succeed. From subbing in James Starks for consecutive series to unannounced healthy scratches just before game time (thanks a lot!), Packers head coach Mike McCarthy clearly had an ax to grind with the former ‘Bama bruiser. That’s all out the window now, as Lacy goes from grudge-holding MacCarthy in Green Bay to player’s coach Pete Carroll in Seattle. While there are some obstacles to hurdle – Thomas Rawls eating up carries, CJ Prosise’s role as a change of pace back, and the general inconsistency of the Seattle offense – a (allegedly) slimmed down Lacy should be able to clear them by midseason. Of all the players on the list, Ed Lacy is the most boom/bust candidate. But just remember, this isn’t the first time a disgruntled, dreadlocked running back relocated to Seattle in his prime…
6. Eric Decker – Titans
There’s no two ways to slice it – Eric Decker knows how to score touchdowns. While his yardage totals rarely eclipse the 80-yard mark these days, the former Jet still crossed the goal line at an impressive clip prior to his essentially redshirted 2016 season. With a full year of rehabilitation under his belt and something to prove, Decker heads to Tennessee to waltz with the 2016’s most efficient red zone quarterback in the league, Marcus Mariota. The Titans lacked the prototypical WR1 last season, but thanks to the “exotic smashmouth” run game and Delanie Walker’s consistency, they found themselves with scoring opportunities early and often. It remains to be seen how healthy Decker will be, but at least on paper, Decker stands to be the primary beneficiary of Mariota’s frequent sojourns inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. A season stat line of 72-850-10 is well within the realms of possibility.
5. Legarrette Blount – Eagles
Fresh off a season in which he punched in 18 touchdowns, the Patriots let go of Legarrette Blount this offseason in favor of a RBBC. While he recently hit the dreaded age 30 mark for running backs, Blount carried the ball 299 times last year and looked spry while handling lead back duties. Contrast this with his new team, the Philadelphia Eagles, who treated diminutive Darren Sproles as their goal line back to round out a pu pu platter platoon of Wendell Smallwood, Kenjon Barner, and an inconsistent Ryan Mathews. With Mathews and Barner no longer on the team, however, Blount should step right into that former mess and effortlessly assume the “Big Back” role that the Eagles have been sorely lacking for years. While there is some concern about the tread on the tires after his monster 2016 campaign, it’s not unreasonable to expect Blount to simply fall forward to double digit scores this season. Few matches are made in heaven, but this one is perfect for a low risk, high reward play on draft night.
4. Mike Gilislee – Patriots
Don’t be fooled by his diminutive stature – Ol’ Gill is a power back, through and through. Showcasing impressive footwork, quick decision making, and downright surprising burst, Mike Gillislee has all of the skills required of an excellent goal line back. He was used in this capacity to frustrating lengths for Lesean McCoy owners over the past two seasons, but now he gets a crack at the lead gig in New England. It’s a salivating proposition. With Legarrette Blount taking his right hook to Philadelphia, the goal line role should be up for grabs, and while James White, Dion Lewis, and Rex Burkhead will get their touches, none of them embody the one-cut, downhill style that Gillislee possesses. It may be a crowded situation in training camp, but one of these guys are going to reveal themselves as solid fantasy contributor. Gillislee is definitely worth a shot at his current price, and I like his potential as a league-winner in the later rounds.
3. Adrian Peterson – Saints
Look, we all know why we’re here. If we were talking about any other 32 year-old running back coming off a meniscus tear and he was approaching your draft position, you would pass that down to the next guy like you were at an outdoor music festival. But this is Adrian Peterson we’re talking about here. There isn’t anyone not named Mark Ingram who isn’t at least somewhat intrigued by the offensive potential of the future hall of famer joining the saints.
Peterson’s, ahem, somewhat stilted potential as a pass catcher might limit his upside in a pass happy offense, but there’s no question that he will have a chance to silence the critics down in the Bayou. While All Day is looking at a likely 50-50 split with the aforementioned Ingram, there should be plenty of love to go around with a Saints team that loves to pound it in the red zone. You’d be forgiven for not buying into the hype, as the myriad of mitigating factors is enough to scare off all but the loosest investors. When the fantasy playoffs roll around, however, there’s a good chance a lot of teams will have gotten there on the back of a discounted Purple (Golden?) Jesus.
2. Brandon Marshall – Giants
While Brandon Marshall isn’t technically leaving the state of New York (or New Jersey, if we’re being technical here), he still qualifies as a guy looking for a fresh start. He’ll certainly get one after signing on with the G-Men. After leaving a borderline toxic Jets situation that featured the very real possibility of Christian Hackenberg taking snaps, Marshall dramatically upgraded this offseason by signing on to have two-time Superbowl MVP Eli Manning throw him the ball on Sundays. To be fair, lining up opposite of the most dangerous weapon in the game in Odell Beckham Jr. certainly makes life easier, too. But will playing for the Giants really move the needle for Marshall, who seems to running out of steam at this stage in his career? It’s a safe bet that it will, for the simple reason that he fills a role that the Giants have been sorely lacking. Beckham is the go-to guy, Sterling Shepherd is the slot guy, and now, with Brandon Marshall, the Giants have a no bullshit guy. 50-50 balls and tough 3rd down conversation are what made Marshall one of the top WR1s in fantasy during his prime, and he should still be involved in a steady diet of those situations going forward. Even at age 33, Marshall is a good candidate to bring home the bacon in the red zone. With defenses keying in Odell, there should be plenty of 1-on-1 opportunities in the back of the end zone. The Giants will be happy to have him, and so would you.
1. Alshon Jeffery – Eagles
While it wasn’t exactly greeted with the same ‘Days of Our Lives’ intrigue as when the Terrell Owens saga ended with him signing with Philadelphia, the Eagles’ acquisition of Alshon Jeffrey gives the Eagles their first true alpha wide receiver since the Mcnabb-TO days. The situation is prime for an explosive season reminiscent of TO’s 2004 campaign, as well. The team’s leading wideout from the past two seasons, Jordan Matthews, is more of a slot threat, and Nelson Algholor can’t catch the batteries that he deserves to have hurled at him on Sundays. Add in the fact that an aging Darren Sproles was the Eagles’ most dangerous offensive weapon in 2016, and the targets should be there for Alshon this season. While it’s true that Jeffery hasn’t exactly been Mr. Consistency over the past couple of seasons, his one-year “prove it” contract should be all the motivation he needs for a career year. Look for Alshon to push Carson Wentz to next level, and possibly lead your team to a fantasy championship.