Editor’s Note: Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be sharing multiple opinions on free agency landing spots, both good and bad. This particular article is submitted by a new Member Corner author, Kevin Merlet. We welcome Kevin to the Member Corner and look forward to seeing more of his work in the future!
Free agency is just around the corner, it’s the time of year when dynasty owners cross their fingers and hope for the best. For some, their player will end up on an elite NFL offense and join the next tier of fantasy superstars. For others, their player will slowly dissolve into the abyss of an NFL depth chart. Football is truly a team sport and one free agent signing can have a ripple effect on an entire offense. Below, we take a look at a few of the NFL’s top free agents and go through some of their rumored landing spots and which team will have the best and worst impact on their fantasy production. While you may not own one of the players listed below, where they land can have a serious effect on your roster.
Despite turning thirty years old and missing fourteen games over the past two years due to injury, Jennings is still the most talented wide receiver of this free agent class. He has great hands, can run almost any route and is able to line up on both the outside and slot positions. In addition, he has had no off-field issues – this makes him suitable for any team looking for a top receiver.
Best Scenario: Indianapolis Colts
Rumors have already begun with Jennings reuniting with his former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin in Miami. While this is his most likely landing spot, I’m not so sure it can provide him with the targets he needs to be the receiver we know and love. Just recently the Indianapolis Colts were mentioned as a possible destination. The Colts are a pass first offense. Andrew Luck ended last year with over 4,000 yards passing and ranked fifth in passing attempts. Reggie Wayne had a stellar year and was the second most targeted receiver in league. Wayne may only have one year in the tank, which will leave the Colts with a young up-and-coming offense featuring Luck, TY Hilton, Vick Ballard, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Adding Jennings would give the Colts a replacement for Wayne and consistency at receiver while their young players continue to develop. He has already stated he prefers playing in a dome rather than outdoors, and playing for the Colts means at least nine games a year on turf.
Worst Scenario: Minnesota Vikings
Last season Christian Ponder averaged only 183 passing yards per game, placing him at #31 among quarterbacks. Just to get an idea of how important Percy Harvin was to padding his stats; after only playing eight games last year, Harvin still finished third among receivers in yards after catch. The Vikings are a run first offense and don’t seem to have the quarterback play to make Jennings a reliable fantasy receiver. In Green Bay, Jennings had more touchdowns (ten), more receptions (65), and more yards (964) against the Vikings than any other opponent. Joining the Vikings means he’ll be playing for the team that accounts for about twenty percent of his career touchdowns and a little more than fifteen percent of his total yardage. Jennings had the same amount of touchdowns against the Vikings as he did against the Bears and Lions combined. Ask yourself, if Jennings had the least amount of success against the Bears and Lions with Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre passing him the ball, how much success will he have against division rivals with Ponder under center?
Welker has been an anchor, a rock, a machine and a constant for fantasy owners. As a Patriot, he has averaged 112 receptions a season…take a minute to digest that stat. Welker will be turning 32 this year and with younger options on the market, the only teams I see paying him the amount he’s due are teams ready to win a title now. For Welker owners, it’s a good situation to be in, but proceed with caution because leaving New England will inevitably result in a drop in his fantasy production.
Best Scenario: New England
There are no other teams in the league that will give you the fantasy production Welker has had in New England. Many will try, but they won’t have a Tom Brady under center. Welker re-signing with New England and continuing his streak as an elite fantasy receiver is the best scenario for Welker owners.
Worst Scenario: 49ers
Houston, Denver, Dallas and San Francisco have all been listed as possible landing spots for Welker. While all of them are creative enough to make the most of his talent, the 49ers may be the worst case scenario for owners. Last season, the 49ers were thirty-first in passing attempts – it’s is a scary stat considering Welker’s value has resulted from his reception total each season. In order for Welker to put up similar numbers as he did in 2012 he would have to be targeted on forty percent of all of Colin Kaepernick’s passing attempts. While the 49ers are an extremely talented team, they just don’t throw the ball enough to satisfy Welker owners.
It’s unfortunate Reggie Bush didn’t get healthy until he signed with Miami. Imagine what his numbers would be today had he been injury-free during his time as a Saint. I believe Bush’s best years are ahead of him. Since he was drafted in 2006, he’s been one of the best receiving backs in the NFL. Last season he averaged 8.3 yards per catch and it’s about time he lands on a team that utilizes him the way he’s meant to be.
Best: Detroit Lions
The Lions lost a really important player in Jahvid Best. Their offense had a dynamic threat that made them a headache to defend and they haven’t truly bounced back. Since losing Best, the Lions are 9-17. For the past two seasons, Matthew Stafford has led the league in passing attempts – that’s an amazing stat considering Calvin Johnson is their only legitimate receiving threat. In 2011, Best only played in six games and based on his averages he would have finished the season with roughly 70 receptions and over 750 receiving yards. I think it’s well known that Bush is not a workhorse back. The best option for his fantasy production is to sign with a team looking to pass the ball; and no team passes more than the Lions (set the NFL record in 2012 for attempts in a season). If the Lions can make Joique Bell a relevant receiving back, imagine what they could do with a player like Bush.
Worst: Miami Dolphins
Prior to the 2012 season, Daniel Thomas was rumored as the number one back in Miami. For most of the season Thomas had a lingering injury and many fantasy owners thought it would be a perfect opportunity for Bush to revive his career. He ended the season in the middle of the pack in attempts, yards, receptions and receiving yards. In eleven of sixteen games last year, Bush had two receptions or less. Miami isn’t built to use him like the Saints did (where he averaged five receptions and 35 receiving yards per game over 60 games). Bush re-signing with Miami seems unlikely at the moment, but if it happens, his numbers will only decrease. Lamar Miller seems to be the go-to back next year, Daniel Thomas should be healthy, and if the Dolphins add a top receiver there will be much less to go around.
Mike Wallace is fast. He can take the top off of any defense in the league, but he has yet to prove himself as a complete receiver. He has questionable hands and has been criticized for his route running. For fantasy owners, the best scenario for Wallace is to join a team that airs out the ball.
Best: Washington Redskins
The Redskins are an interesting fit for Wallace. Last season they didn’t pass very often, but when they did, they threw deep. They ended the season ranked thirtieth in passing attempts, yet they finished twentieth in passing yards and first overall in yards per attempts. Pierre Garcon was never fully healthy; however, over the final five weeks he played in he was eighth in yards. If the Redskins are looking to continue this current offense, they would benefit highly from a player like Wallace.
Worst: Cleveland Browns
Cleveland has a new owner, new VP of personnel, a new Offensive Coordinator, and a new Head Coach. At this moment, they don’t even know if the player they drafted in the first round last year will even start. In 2012 Josh Gordon’s stats weren’t that much different than Wallace had. Gordon finished the year with 800 receiving yards, 50 receptions and five touchdowns. Meanwhile, Wallace finished with 836 yards, 64 receptions and eight touchdowns. If you were frustrated as a Wallace owner last season, expect at best similar numbers at best if he ends up in Cleveland.
Since Tiki Barber, the Giants have successfully drafted and developed running backs. Unfortunately, Bradshaw is a casualty of a well ran organization. In 2012, Bradshaw ranked eighteenth in attempts (221), but ninth in yards per carry (4.6). The Giants were twenty-third in rushing attempts (409) and Bradshaw accounted for over fifty percent of them (221). Bradshaw is a complete back and while his health will scare owners, if he ends up on a team more dedicated to the run, he may have his highest productive season yet.
Best: New York Jets
The Jets are an offensive mess. However, it’s the perfect opportunity for a player like Bradshaw. Shonn Greene was asked to handle a lot last season and Bradshaw is twice as talented as Greene. Interesting stat: last year Greene rushed 276 times for 1,063 yards. This is the same number of attempts Bradshaw had in 2010, yet Bradshaw ran for 1,235 yards. The Jets have tried to be a “ground and pound” team since Rex Ryan arrived, but they just haven’t had the talent. Bradshaw is a workhorse, and if he ends up as a Jet he will be asked to do exactly what he did as a Giant, just more of it.
Worst: Green Bay Packers
The Packers signing Bradshaw will help the Packers, but it will not help your fantasy team. The Packers are constantly one of the lowest ranked teams in rushing attempts per season. In 2012, they were ranked sixteenth in attempts. However, if you take away the fifty four attempts by Aaron Rodgers and the four attempts by Graham Harrell, they finished the year ranked twenty-eighth. Last season, Bradshaw had one fewer touchdown than all of the Packers running backs combined. If Bradshaw signs in Green Bay it means splitting reps with some combination of Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, John Kuhn and James Starks while owners slowly watch him sink into the black hole known as the depth chart.