This article is the counterpart to my NFL Free Agents Fantasy Stock Increases article and sheds some light on some notable free agents whose fantasy stock is decreasing after they put ink to pen this March.
Chris Ivory, RB (Jets to Jags)
Off to a hot start in 2015, Ivory gained an average of 115 yards over his first 4 games including 3 TDs, but never seemed to get back a full head of steam after that. There were glimpses and he finished the year with 1000+ yards, but left owners frustrated with his inconsistency and watching as Bilal Powell, instead of Ivory, ended the season with the momentum on the Jets. In a move that surprised many, the Jaguars obtained Ivory this season after investing in young buck TJ Yeldon just last year in the second round of NFL draft. Clearly, they have brought in veteran Ivory while Yeldon develops and have stated that they will “split” carries. What every fantasy owner wants to hear right?
Jags offense heavily favored the pass last season since they were down often, throwing the ball almost 300 more times that they ran it and then there was Yeldon’s lack of ability to convert in the red zone. Yeldon received 24 red zone carries during the regular season and was trusted with carries inside the 5-yard line only 22.2% of the time. This calculated to 4 attempts, with one TD. Jets trusted Ivory a whopping 85% of the time with these carries, of which he converted 5 of 17 attempts for TDs. Ivory, a downhill runner, is the favorite to continue to see these red zone touches for the Jags and both have been utilized similarly in pass-catching (37 targets for Ivory, 46 for Yeldon in 2015), so these opportunities may be even distributed, or Yeldon may be designated for these moving forward. Either way, this situation is a messy one for both runners. I would pick Ivory over Yeldon to have a better fantasy year, but the opposite is happening in mocks right now (ADP 4th round Yeldon, 5th Ivory). Yeldon’s “upside” and youth might still have owners overvaluing him, so don’t ride that wave.
Brock Osweiler, QB (Denver to Texas)
Now, let me get this straight up front. Osweiler is a winner and on the “up” in life with a big stack of money, but not in fantasy football. Ok, good. Glad we straightened that out. The most grossly overpaid QB I’ve seen in a while (4 years for 72 million), Osweiler pocketed a deal so sweet from the Texans that I puckered my face across the country. Osweiler will be a fine QB, but I wouldn’t pay a backup quality or “OK” QB a franchise QB salary, but I’m also not the desperate Texans who have notoriously struggled with finding “their” QB. In the 7 games, he started in 2015, Brock averaged a passer rating of 88.6 and a pass completion % of 62.8. It is a smaller sample, but if we compare with the final stats of all QBs in 2015, these stats would have Osweiler falling as the #23 QB in Pass Rating and the #18 in Pass Completion %. He only threw more than one TD in 2 out of 7 of his starts and had 6 interceptions. He had a good thing going in Denver for a while and showed up for them when Manning couldn’t during season, but was ultimately benched. Kelly wasn’t willing to pay more than 16 million a year for him, so off he went to Texas. I don’t have high expectations, but he did have a few games with 100+ rating and so could be a streamer if desperate. No way I’m drafting him as anything more than that.
The one bright spot that might help save him from obscurity is Hopkins, who proved in his last few years in Texas that he is match-up and quarterback-proof (poor guy has to be to have any success). This helps Hopkins value much more than it will help this back-up turned starter QB, but we are still waiting to see what other weapons Texas secures. Already in hand is versatile back Lamar Miller, who will hopefully help keep defenses honest with his running, passing, and blocking skills. Success in their running game will only help Osweiler, but I wouldn’t have too high of expectations for this former free agent turned Texan in 2016.
Ben Watson, TE (Saints to Ravens)
Great football/franchise move for Baltimore, in snagging this TE veteran to help mold its young and/or injury ridden TE corp. However, fantasy stock on this 35-year-old tight end is down overall. Going from a pass-first offense like New Orleans and a QB like Drew Brees to Joe Flacco and the crowded Baltimore receiving roster definitely deflates his fantasy balloon for this season. As the offense that had the most passing attempts out of any NFL team last season (New Orleans was #2), Baltimore will most likely have enough passes to go around, but not enough for Watson to be a consistent TE1 for fantasy owners. Flacco targeted his TEs (Crockett Gilmore and Maxx Williams) a total of 95 times in 2015 and Gilmore continues to struggle with a shoulder injury. The pick-up of Ben Watson given the Raven’s existing depth and youth at the position points to their doubts about the health and/or readiness of their current roster and most likely indicates hope that the 35-year-old veteran can help anchor the group. He was a TE1 last year with a 74-825-6 TD line tbut he won’t maintain this kind of production in 2016. Watson was targeted a huge 109 times (#7 of all TE last year)and was the #2 in overall targets and #1 in red zone targets for the Saints. If he would’ve stayed in New Orleans he would be in my stock up article or, at least, be in line for similar targets; however, the move to the Ravens will limit his upside. I would rank him around TE15 right now, so still some value in bigger leagues or for streaming but not TE1. Drafters beware.
Mohammad Sanu, WR (Bengals to Falcons)
I know the Falcons really want him to be a consistent WR2, but we could say the same for Roddy White and Leonard Hankerson too. Sometimes what we want, just isn’t the reality. This is the case with Sanu. He already had a prime opportunity to step up and be a WR1/WR2 when both Marvin Jones and AJ Green missed time with injuries in 2014. Instead, Sanu fell flat and finished with a 56-790-5 stat line. In 2015, he saw opportunities dry up, going from 98 targets to 50 and snagging just 33 receptions for 394 yards and zero touchdowns. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great underdog story (and I love those), but I just can’t get on board with the notion that his new situation across from great athlete Julio Jones will automatically translate into fantasy relevance and WR2 status. Been there, done that. Julio Jones received a league-leading insane 204 targets in 2015, no doubt the result of him being that good, but also for lack of anyone else making plays for Matt Ryan. Sanu is a mediocre talent with past drop issues that will help keep Julio out of double coverage if they’re lucky and is worth a late-round bench snag, but not even close to WR2 for drafters. Falcons released Roddy White earlier this year and he caught 43 passes for 506 yards and 1 TD in 2015. We could see Sanu best this output by a few touchdowns and perhaps slightly more yardage, but he stands firmly on WR3 ground for me. At his current rock-bottom ADP, Sanu is a low-risk grab at the later end of drafts.
Alfred Morris, RB (Washington to Dallas)
I don’t fall into the camp that thinks “anyone” can do well behind Dallas’ offensive line AND this situation is also more complicated than it might look to some fantasy owners who think his move means RB1 status. Morris isn’t guaranteed a starting role on his new team. Matter of fact, Jerry Jones’ latest remarks are that Morris’ pick-up was merely to add depth behind McFadden, the I-can’t-stay-healthy-for-the-life-of-me-until-2015 running back. The reality is that the two will likely share early down work, with McFadden getting the receiving targets until Dunbar returns. Dallas may even add to the backfield during the NFL draft this year, which I wouldn’t put past them. Do I fully believe what coaches say to the press? No, especially in March when the depth chart is merely a formality, but…Morris’ trend has been heading downward way before Dallas. His pass-catching abilities leave a lot to be desired, so McFadden/Dunbar will steal those touches and his productivity and efficiency have declined every year since he’s been in the NFL. Though he has played all 16 games for 4 seasons (a strength), Morris’ yardage and YPC have plummeted. He gained 1610 yards (on 335 carries) and had 4.8 YPC in 2012 to 751 yards on 202 carries with a YPC of 3.7 in 2015. Yikes. My advice would be to hold off and draft Morris late as a handcuff that will get some touches, but don’t overspend. If you’re dynasty owner with him, I would find someone that thinks he’ll be the RB1 and sell high.
Other notable free agent with possible downswing in 2016:
Doug Martin, RB (resigned with the TB Bucs)
I didn’t include a larger write up on Martin because I do think he remains a top RB1 for 2016, but he falls in the “down” category because his production will most likely return to earth after his rookie-like resurgence in 2015. Martin carried the ball 288 times for 1402 yards and 6 TDs. Winston will continue to improve which will help Martin, but also keep in mind that Charlie Sims is an adept pass-catcher and will continue to see touches in TB. Sims quietly had a 1000+ yard season as well, with 529 rushing and 561 receiving. He’ll be a good PPR flex play.
Still on the wire: Arian Foster, Ronnie Hillman, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Anquan Boldin, James Jones