Low Priority Free Agent Moves – Week 1
Jeff Ratcliffe assesses the fantasy impact of all of the lower profile offensive transactions from Week 1 of NFL free agency.
Low Priority Free Agent Moves – Week 1
The dust is starting to settle after a busy first week of free agency. We’ve covered all the major transactions, but there were also a number of lower priority moves with potential to impact the fantasy landscape.
At the quarterback position, the only deeper player of note is Mark Sanchez, who re-signed with the Eagles inking a two-year deal worth $9 million. While Sanchez is clearly the backup, he’s still a player to keep in mind in 2015, especially given Sam Bradford’s injury history. From Week 9 on last season, Sanchez was the No. 12 fantasy quarterback while filling in for Nick Foles.
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It should also be mentioned that Jake Locker decided to retire after four years in the NFL. Locker entered the league with a lot of promise, but his skills never materialized in the way his dynasty owners had hoped. The rumor mill suggests Locker may try his hand at baseball.
We did have several lower priority signings for fantasy purposes at the running back position. Dan Herron, Bilal Powell, Antone Smith, Matt Asiata and Fozzy Whittaker all re-upped with their respective teams.
Herron proved an unlikely fantasy asset down the stretch for the Colts, vastly outperforming Trent Richardson (who was released last week). While Herron’s play is encouraging, ESPN reported back in January that Indy views Herron more as a backup. Don’t expect Herron to get the workload in 2015 that we saw out of him down the stretch last season.
Powell’s stock seemed to be on the rise as free agency approached, so it was a bit surprising to see him sign a one-year deal with the Jets. With Chris Ivory still in house, Powell’s best-case scenario would be as a change-of-pace back. Barring injury, he’s off the fantasy radar in all but the deepest dynasty leagues.
The Falcons didn’t let big-play specialist, Smith, leave town. While many in fantasy circles had never heard of Smith until this past season, he’s actually 29 years old and will turn 30 at the beginning of the season. He’s also coming off a broken leg. Smith’s homerun hitting ability is intriguing, but there’s a tad too many check marks in the “con” column to get too overly excited about Smith’s 2015 prospects.
Minnesota likely didn’t anticipate giving Asiata 164 caries in 2014, but that’s exactly what happened following the Adrian Peterson debacle. Asiata is more of a fullback type who seeks contact. While his approach only resulted in 3.5 yards per carry, he did manage to find the end zone nine times as a rusher and once as a receiver. With the Peterson situation far from resolved, the chance remains that we could see more of Asiata in 2015. He’s not someone you’re going to look at on draft day, but Asiata’s ability to find the end zone gives him fantasy relevance if he’s not relegated to a backup role.
Whittaker’s re-signing in Carolina carries perhaps the least fantasy significance of this bunch. Last season, he saw just 87 snaps, and was well off the fantasy radar. However, his previous running mate DeAngelo Williams could have some fantasy relevance this season after signing with the Steelers. Le’Veon Bell is unquestionably the top fantasy option this upcoming season, but his potential suspension to open the season could thrust Williams into a starting role for the first 2-4 games. This is certainly a situation worth monitoring as the offseason progresses.
The wide receiver position is perhaps as deep as it ever has been for fantasy purposes, and we covered most of the signings already. For those in ultra-deep leagues, we saw Cole Beasley and Ricardo Lockette re-sign with their respective teams, while Brian Hartline inked a deal with the Browns and Harry Douglas signed with Tennessee.
At best, Beasley is the fourth or fifth receiver for the Cowboys, as the undersized receiver averaged just 3.5 targets per game last season. That number isn’t likely to increase with the same cast returning for Dallas in 2015.
Lockette played only a situational role for the receiver-thin Seahawks last season, but his role expanded in the playoffs following Paul Richardson’s injury. He’s likely to open the season well off the fantasy radar, and should see a chunk of his work as a special teamer.
We can’t say the same thing about Hartline, who joins a Browns team still reeling from the fallout of Josh Gordon’s latest suspension. With an extremely thin depth chart in Cleveland, Hartline would appear to be the No. 1 option and stands to have WR3 value if things stick.
Douglas also enters a less than ideal offense without much depth at the receiver position. However, unlike Hartline, we can’t just pencil Douglas in as a starter. With Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter already in-house, Douglas is likely to be the third receiver in three-wide sets. Without any injuries, that’s not enough to give Douglas fantasy value, especially with Zach Mettenberger at quarterback.
At tight end, there were just two lower priority signings that could potentially end up being significant given the lack of depth at the position for fantasy purposes. Larry Donnell signed a one-year deal with the Giants, and Owen Daniels followed Gary Kubiak to Denver.
Though it’s a stretch to call 63 catches for 623 yards and six scores a “breakout” season, Donnell’s 2014 campaign was certainly a pleasant surprise. His production was strong enough to place him in the back end of the TE1s, though his play on the field, especially as a run blocker, was often less than ideal. Still, the Giants have publicly endorsed Donnell and view him as a potential star. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Ben McAdoo’s offense, but it’s fair to view Donnell as a risk/reward TE2.
The prognosis is even better for Daniels, who gets paired up with the best quarterback he’s played with in his pro career. We’ve seen in the past how Peyton Manning can make even marginal talents at the tight end position into strong fantasy options. That being said, Daniels is on the wrong side of 30 and doesn’t offer the fantasy ceiling of Julius Thomas. Still, it’s more than fair to position Daniels as a back-end TE1 with sleeper appeal in 2015.
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Assistant Managing Editor and resident IDP maven of PFF Fantasy.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.