Here is my take on some of the offseason movement and potential moves in the near future:
The New York Jets officially signed Chris Johnson to a two-year deal
Rex Ryan’s offenses are built around the run game. It’s no surprise the Jets organization were not satisfied with their personnel at the running back position last year. Chris Ivory has a reputation for fragility for good reason: last season was the first year that he played more than 12 games in a season. Part of the reason he never successfully played a 16 game season was the RB rotation in New Orleans, but injuries were also a significant contributing factor. His hard running style puts a beating on the defenders but, over time, he ends up taking a beating too. For that reason, Ivory can never fully be trusted to withstand a full workload over a full season. The other option the Jets relied on last year was the very average Bilal Powell. Rex liked him because he is average to good in all aspects of the game (including pass blocking) but very little is exciting about his game. He is the epitome of an average NFL running back, nothing more, nothing less.
Somehow the Jets finished sixth overall in terms of rushing yards. Considering the duo receiving the work in the backfield, the team way overachieved. Geno Smith’s 366 rushing yards ranked eighth among NFL quarterbacks, which certainly helped their case. Nevertheless, GM John Idzik has decided to slide Powell down the depth chart and bring in the veteran Chris Johnson. Since entering the league in 2008, Johnson has accumulated at least 1,047 rushing yards every season. Johnson’s averages 4.8 yards per carry in his career. Last year marked a career low in YPC (3.9) and was his second lowest rushing yard total. Despite his diminishing output, Johnson has missed just one game in his six year NFL career (and that came during his rookie year). Putting Johnson in a part-time role could be just what he needs to rejuvenate his YPC and look like the CJ2K we all knew and loved. Some backs are better suited for change of pace situations. Last year marked the fifth consecutive season of over 300 touches for a 5’11″, 203 lb. back. It was the sixth consecutive year with at least 294. The declining output seemed to identify the inevitable: a continued workload of that size was going to result in his body breaking down. Now Johnson can just show his speed in flashes while Ivory gets the tough yards. As a whole, the backfield has decent upside because each back has their own distinct running style. In terms of Fantasy, the duo will hurt each other’s value. If I had to pick one, I’d choose Johnson because of his receiving ability and take-it-to-the-house speed, but I would prefer both as RB3s.
Speculating on free agent wide receivers
Most of the main dominoes have fallen this offseason at the wide receiver position. DeSean Jackson, Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks and Golden Tate have all found themselves new homes since the beginning of free agency. In terms of Fantasy radar, Santonio Holmes, Miles Austin and Danario Alexander have the greatest upside. Here is how I foresee each of their situations playing out:
Santonio Holmes – The former Super Bowl MVP has combined for just 100 targets in the past two seasons combined. Just three seasons ago, he received 101 targets in that season alone. How the mighty have fallen. Holmes has played a combined 15 games with 43 receptions since 2011. Still, at 30 years old, he may have a little left in the tank. The best fit for Holmes at this point would be as a team’s third receiver. What team owns two talented wide receivers and would be looking for a compliment? You guessed it: the Chicago Bears. Don’t be surprised if they come knocking on Holmes’ door and sign him for a short, incentive-filled deal to see if they can’t catch lightning in a bottle.
Miles Austin – Fantasy owners know him as “Miles Austin – Q – Hamstring” because if you’ve ever owned him, you have seen that exact excerpt next to his name at some point. Chronic hamstring issues have limited a career that had so much more potential. In 2009, Austin was a relative unknown when he exploded for 10 receptions, 250 yards and three TD. Austin went on to score 11 TD that season and has been overrated and over-drafted ever since.
Last season it seemed many finally came to their senses, as Austin ended up on fantasy waiver wires. His 4.4 PPR fantasy points per game marked the lowest since he was a rookie with a miniscule role. Austin, like Holmes, will enter next season at the ripe age of 30. A great fit for him would be a situation where he would act as the big play threat and wouldn’t see too much exposure to risk another hamstring flare up. If the Lions do not end up trading up for Sammy Watkins, they may come calling for the low risk, decent reward Austin. Other possible landing spots: Arizona, Carolina, Philadelphia and San Diego.
Danario Alexander – Just two seasons ago, Alexander led the whole NFL in yards per target. He had just made a miraculous comeback from his third ACL surgery since his college days at Missouri. At the beginning of 2013, he was set to be the Chargers No. 1 receiver after the breakout year. Unfortunately, he suffered yet another ACL injury, which led to his fourth surgery on the issue. Well surprise, surprise: the recovery process hit a snag and Alexander was set back yet again. In January, Alexander underwent his fifth (I feel like a broken record at this point) ACL surgery to account for the setback. The surgery is expected to delay his return potentially into training camp. As of March, Alexander officially became an unrestricted free agent. If healthy, San Diego could use the help because Malcom Floyd suffered a potentially career ending injury in 2013, and Vincent Brown has an extended injury history himself. If San Diego decides to pass on him, he could end up in Carolina who is hurting for a WR. If not, Bill Belichick does have a history of giving supposed “over-the-hill” type players a chance to rejuvenate their careers…..
- Sidney Rice signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks. Yet again, the Super Bowl champs will rely heavily on the health of Rice and Percy Harvin at the position. The organization will likely look to draft some depth at the position to insure themselves against worst case injury scenarios.
- The newest backup QB for the New York Giants is none other than Josh Freeman. Starter Eli Manning underwent ankle surgery last Thursday and will not be able to run for about six weeks. Clearly, there is potential for bumps along the long road to recovery, which is why the Giants signed a former first-stringer. Reports also surfaced that the Giants have concerns Eli Manning is entering the decline stage of his career. Eli was so terrible last season that if he starts off the 2014 season cold, Freeman may see the field sooner rather than later.
- Profootballtalk reports the Raiders will try to trade Terrelle Pryor by Monday. One part of me wants Pryor to find a starting gig because many owners underrated him due to his lack of accuracy as a passer. Last time I looked, accuracy wasn’t a fantasy category but rushing yards were. Pryor’s 93-yard rushing TD against the Steelers epitomized his season, as he added in only 88 passing yards all game. He flashed big-play potential but could not put it all together. In all likelihood, Pryor will not find a starting gig but rather has a better chance of finding a gimmick role with a solid offense. Do not expect him to hold any Fantasy value next season unless he lands with a horrible team like Jacksonville (or one that would start him).
- Mike Brown re-signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars. He could see a change in fortunes next season if Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater is running the show.
- Last but not least, Rob Gronkowski will “take his time and then more time” in recovering from his latest surgery. Odds are he will not be back in time for Week 1. There is a realistic chance he ends up on the PUP list and misses the first six games. In terms of the Fantasy tight end hierarchy, Julius Thomas catapults up to the No. 2 spot behind Jimmy Graham. Targeting an elite tight end is such an underrated strategy so do not be shy to take the plunge on Thomas in Round 2 or 3 of your Fantasy draft (depending on league size).