Four Players Hit Hard By Free Agency
Earlier this week, Tyler Loechner did an excellent job breaking down different running back who saw their stock rise after free agency. Unfortunately, free agency wasn’t kind to every player’s fantasy football stock.
In this piece I’ll take a look at four players who were hurt the most by this off-season’s player movement. Some players took a dip because their team brought in competition and others saw their supporting cast devolve. Either way, you should look to sell now in dynasty leagues before the market catches up with their new situations.
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Tom Coughlin confirmed that the Giants didn’t pay Shane Vereen $4 million per year to just settle in as a third down back—he has bigger plans for him. Coughlin hinted that the Giants’ best formation might be the 11 personnel grouping with Vereen in the backfield. Based on Vereen’ skill set, he could also take a step forward in the running game after transitioning from the Patriots’ power-based blocking scheme to the Giants’ scheme that features more zone-blocking concepts.
Looking in to the advance metrics here at PFF, Jennings wasn’t very productive on a per-touch basis. He finished in the bottom fourth of all runners in elusive rating and breakaway percentage. These metrics paint a subpar picture of Jennings’ ability to create yards on his own and to make the most of the lane that he is given, respectively.
Jennings’ two best showings in the advanced metrics were in YPPR—yards per route run—and pass blocking efficiency. In both categories, he barely edged out Vereen. Second year back Andre Williams will also compete for snaps. It’s a crowded Giants backfield and Jennings doesn’t excel in one specific area. This leaves his role for 2015 up in the air as we head into the draft.
Robinson’s fantasy stock has gone from 360 to 0 over the last three months. To recap, a January report claimed that Sean Payton had planned to increase Robinson’s role before his Week 7 injury. Two months later, the Saints were forced to release Pierre Thomas amidst salary cap concerns. The Saints remained over the cap by an estimated $20 million, and it seemed unlikely that they would re-sign lead back Mark Ingram. So far, so good for Robinson.
On a per-touch basis, Robinson was exceptional in 2014. He only saw 76 carries and eight receptions in 2014, but he racked up 429 total yards and averaged just fewer than five yards-per-carry and eight yards per-reception. He finished with the third-best elusive rating among all backs with at least 50 carries after forcing 25 total missed tackles and racking up 2.71 Yco/Att—yards after contact per attempt.
Just when it seemed like everything was coming together to lead to a breakout season for Robinson, the Saints cleared cap room and re-signed Ingram. To add insult to injury, they allocated even more cap to the running back position by bringing in C.J. Spiller. We already knew Ingram’s role and Sean Payton made it clear at the NFL Owners’ meetings that Spiller will have a key role in the offense. There is still some hope for dynasty owners as Robinson is set to become a restricted free agent next season. However, you won’t find me buying many shares in a back that is likely to remain in a crowded backfield for up to two more seasons.
Murray might have entered the offseason as a dynasty target due to his strong per-touch numbers in 2014, but it was always wise to remain aware of the Raiders’ ample salary cap space. The Raiders chose to use some of that cap on running backs Roy Helu and Trent Richardson. Helu may have only operated in a third down role in 2014, but he has the per-snap production and raw measureables to take over a lead back role. Although Richardson has failed to produce in recent seasons, the Raiders saw something that others didn’t and decided to pay him nearly $4 million on a two-year deal.
Murray’s size/speed combination has many excited about what he could do with an expanded role, but he may never assume that responsibility. Murray owners can hope that he will be given the first crack at the job, but Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio is preaching and open competition where every back starts fresh. Interestingly enough, Del Rio left out Helu’s name when discussing the starting job. However, despite seeing 42 less carries than Murray, Helu forced 11 more missed tackles and averaged 1.47 more yards after contact per attempt.
The Raiders’ offense carries varying degrees on concern from personnel standpoint at every position surrounding the running backs. In a crowded backfield on an offense that could struggle to stay consistent, Murray’s stock should continue to tumble.
On the surface, swapping Torrey Smith for Michael Crabtree would seem like a big enough move to consider this offseason a success for Kaepernick’s fantasy stock. After all, Kaepernick and Crabtree only connected on a 68/698/4 line over a full 16 games. However, I’m concerned with what Kaepernick lost this offseason.
The departures of Frank Gore and Mike Iupati leave an even bigger question mark for a pass protection unit that allowed 51 sacks in 2014—second most only to rookie Blake Bortles. For the first time since 2011, the 49ers finished outside of PFF’s top ten pass blocking grade overall. Iupati has struggled in pass protection over the last two seasons, but with only the draft ahead of us, there is no guarantee that whoever steps in for him will fare any better. In Gore’s case, the 49ers are losing a player who has finished as one of PFF’s 16 best running backs in pass blocking efficiency every season over the last five years.
Kaepernick still has a ways to go in his development as an NFL quarterback, and the 49ers should look to bolster a pass protection unit that is trending in the wrong direction.
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Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy and he also covers the NFL for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL. You can also add him to your network on Google+ to find all of his past material.