The Fantasy Impact of Recent Roster Moves
One of the most explosive backs in the NFL over the past decade, Williams’ time with Carolina has finally expired. This opens the door for Jonathan Stewart to finally emerge as the team’s lead back. Consider that Stewart and Williams have been competing against each other for snaps since 2008. That’s seven consecutive years of headaches for fantasy owners.
Williams turns 32 in April and is coming off a season in which he managed only 69 carries over eight games and averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per carry. It’s unlikely that Williams will be heavily coveted on the open market, especially with a deep rookie and free agent class, but he does figure to land a situational, early-down role somewhere. There isn’t much fantasy value to be had here.
Stewart turns 28 in March, but has barely eclipsed 1,000 carries in his career. Plagued by injuries and the timeshare in Carolina, Stewart went from 408 carries, 1,984 yards and 21 touchdowns during the 2008-09 seasons to 673 carries, 3,054 yards and 11 scores from 2010-14. The good news is that he held up down the stretch this past season and was easily one of the league’s most-effective runners. He averaged a healthy 4.7 yards per carry and was fantasy’s No. 10 running back during the final five weeks of the season. The Panthers are likely to add a back this offseason, but Stewart is in line for 16-to-18 touches per game in a run-first offense. He’s a quality RB2 option.
Reggie Bush – Released by Lions
In two seasons with the Lions, Bush missed seven of the team’s 33 games and saw his role drop off dramatically this past season. When active in 2013, Bush was on the field for 61 percent of the offensive snaps, handled 60 percent of the designed runs and ran a route on 50 percent of the team’s pass plays. In 2014, those marks fell to 37 percent, 29 percent and 38 percent, respectively. Bush’s 4.0 yards per carry was acceptable, but it’s the lowest we’ve seen from him since 2008. More importantly, his 4.6 yards per target mark was the worst of his career. Bush turns 30 on March 2 and figures to attract attention from teams eyeing a situational passing-down back. He’s likely to flirt with flex appeal in PPR leagues.
Although Bush’s playing time dwindled in 2014, he did still manage to handle the same percentage of the team’s targets (14 percent) when active. That’s good news for Theo Riddick, who is the favorite to step in as Detroit’s primary passing-down back. Detroit called pass on a whopping 84 percent of Riddick’s snaps in 2014. In the five games Bush missed, Riddick racked up 33 targets (6.6 per game) and averaged seven yards per target. The primary difference between Bush and Riddick, however, is the fact that Riddick was rarely used as a rusher. In the aforementioned five games, he only carried the ball 10 times. Albeit on a small sample (26 carries), his 2.6 career YPC is abysmal. With Joique Bell carrying the load and the team likely to add a quality back to the mix, Riddick’s fantasy value will be that of a RB3/Flex in PPR formats. Bell, meanwhile, will push for 300 touches and is a mid-pack RB2 option in all formats.
Chris Johnson – Option declined by Jets
After averaging at least 70 percent of the Titans snaps each of his first six NFL seasons, Johnson was on the field for 37 percent of the Jets plays in 2014. His 4.3 YPC was actually above league average (and up from his 3.9 mark with Tennessee the year before), but he’s set to turn 30 in September. Not unlike Bush and Williams, Johnson is no longer feature back material. His resume figures to land him a backup job, but he’s unlikely to warrant a draft pick come August.
In New York, Chris Ivory currently has complete control of the backfield (Daryl Richardson is the only other tailback on the roster). Quietly one of the better rushers in the league, Ivory turns 27 in March and has a healthy 4.6 YPC on 658 career carries. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Ivory adds very little as a receiver (37 career targets, 24 of which came in 2014) and, without Rex Ryan in charge, the Jets are sure to call a more balanced offense under Chan Gailey. The team will inevitably bring in another running back or two, which will eat into Ivory’s snaps, but he’s a good bet to carry the torch on early downs and at the goal line. Ivory should be targeted as a borderline RB2 in non-PPR leagues.
Donnie Avery – Released by Chiefs – Limited to six games and 23 targets in his last of two seasons with the Chiefs. Set to turn 31 in June, he figures to latch on as a fourth or fifth receiver, but isn’t even worth a roster spot in dynasty formats.
Josh McCown – Released by Buccaneers – Clears the path for the team to select Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in April’s draft. McCown may land a short-term starting gig in a quarterback-needy city, but he’s best-utilized as a backup.
Peyton Hillis – Released by Giants – Just turned 29 and hasn’t played a significant offensive role since 2011. He’ll eye a third-string job on the open market.
Jacoby Jones – Released by Ravens – Plummeted down the Ravens wide receiver depth chart in 2014, but remains a competent/veteran return man. Only 31, he’ll find a return gig, but won’t be on the fantasy radar.
Ted Ginn – Released by Cardinals – In a similar boat to Jones, Ginn fell behind John and Jaron Brown in Arizona. He turns 30 in April and will eye a reserve wideout/return job.
A.J. Jenkins – Waived by Chiefs – The 30th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Jenkins has 18 career receptions for 250 yards. Likely headed to training camp with his third team in four years, Jenkins has the looks of a major bust.
Brandon Bostick – Waived by Packers/claimed by Vikings – Once viewed as a high-ceiling prospect, Bostick didn’t even make it to the new league year with Green Bay after failing to emerge as Jermichael Finley’s replacement in 2014. He’s only 25 (turns 26 in May), however, and heads to Norv Turner’s tight end-friendly offense in Minnesota. He’ll compete with Chase Ford and Rhett Ellison for a roster spot behind Kyle Rudolph.
James Casey – Released by Eagles – Casey never emerged as an offensive weapon in Philadelphia, but he’s already generating plenty of attention on the open market. Look for him to settle in as an H-Back on a team eyeing depth at tight end. He’s unlikely to find much fantasy value as a team’s swiss army knife.