“Sauer Notes” Vacation Homes: Free Agent Wide Receivers
Every offseason, the NFL is filled with player movement, and the excitement builds from the new players joining your favorite team. These changes do not only change the landscape of the team they departed from and joined; nevertheless, it changes the scope in which we drafted these players in fantasy from the year prior. As the league shifts to a heavier passing attack, wide receivers have become more of a commodity in the fantasy realm. The days of fantasy enthusiasts trying to land two stud running backs in the early rounds is a strategy of the past. Anchoring your squad with a foundation of two WR, and filling in the scaffolding with value WR throughout the draft seems to be the most advantageous way to build your team. As the three-down running back seems to be few and far between in the current NFL atmosphere, grabbing a plethora of committee type backs in the middle and late rounds opens up more value to be had in the early rounds. Value can be sought after in players that have found themselves on new teams, as well as players bolstering new opportunities by losing teammates to free-agency or trades. We will be checking out some players settling in to their new vacation homes, and discussing whether or not their change in scenery is positive or negative relative to their past fantasy production.
Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City Chiefs
After missing the entire 2013 season due to injury, Jeremy Maclin came back in 2014 with a stellar performance. After tearing his ACL, and not being able to reach a long-term contract with the Eagles, Maclin signed a one-year deal for the 2014 season. Although Maclin said before the 2014 season, “I do not have to prove anything, I just have to play football,” he hoped his play would be the catalyst to inking a long-term deal with the Eagles. Maclin ended up having his best year as a pro in 2014 finishing with a stat line of 85/1,318(15.5YPC)/10. Chip Kelly and the Eagles felt that they wanted to resign Maclin, but not at any cost. Maclin, who in 2014 finished as the 9th best fantasy WR, had a career mean of 69 catches and seven touchdowns with the Eagles.
In the offseason, Maclin scored himself the 5-year deal he was looking for, with none other than good ole buddy Andy Reid. It seems though, that moving into this vacation home for the next 5 years, may come at the expense of some production opportunities for Maclin.
In comparing some of the numbers between the Chiefs and Eagles offensive statistics of 2014, we see a pretty large juxtaposition in terms of their passing totals. The first stat we can look at is that Maclin had ten more touchdowns than any other WR on the Chiefs team of 2014. In case you do not remember, the Chiefs had zero, yeah that’s right ZERO, touchdowns for the WR corps last year. The dynamic offense under Kelly in Philly averaged 272.2 pass yards (6th in the league) per game, and the lack-luster Chiefs offense average 198.9 pass yards (29th in the league).
Maclin will be taking over Dwayne Bowe’s role in the offense, who stepped foot to Cleveland to rejuvenate his career. All joking aside, Bowe finished with a stat line of 60/454 (12.6YPC)/0 in 2014, which was similar to the seasons averages he put up with Alex Smith playing quarterback at 58/714/3. Bringing in Maclin, force-feed Charles the ball whether it be on the ground or through the air. Maclin was ultra effective getting down the field for long passes in the 2014 season with the Eagles. On the other hand, Alex Smith and the game manager that he is, only completed eight out of 24 passes that were 20 plus yards down the field.
Changing his green jersey to a red one, may be similar to his fantasy production, green meaning go, and red meaning stop. This change is not a ringing endorsement for Maclin and his fantasy production this season, nor is it a premature eulogy either. He is currently ranked about 27th at WR, and has an overall ADP of 65. This is a fair judgement as he will most likely be a WR two or three with very little upside with Alex Smith at the helm.
VACATION GRADE: 5 star suite downgraded to 3 star motel
Andre Johnson, Indianapolis Colts
Andre Johnson looks to become fantasy relevant again as he signed a 3-year, 21 million dollar contract with the Colts this offseason. As he looks to barge his way back to WR one or two type production on fantasy teams this year, he finds himself in an opportunistic atmosphere in Indy, where he will be catching balls from Andrew Luck.
This year we will not have to worry about Fitzpatrick, Keenum, Mallett, or Savage throwing Johnson the football. Johnson adds to the other bevy of talent the Colts brought in for the 2015 season, as they try to supplant the Patriots and others as the AFC’s best team. Already owning the top passing attack from 2014 at 305.9 yards per game, the Colts added the likes of Phillip Dorsett via the draft, Frank Gore to help the rushing attack, and the aforementioned Johnson. This adds to an already primed receiving core of breakout star T.Y Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
Luck has all the talent in the world to feed all these players the football. He does not focus on one player and try to force them the ball, rather who ever happens to be open on any given play. Even with a methodology like this, are there simply too many mouths to feed in this offense now? Johnson, turning 34 in July, is he getting too old to make a sufficient enough impact on the field? At 32, Reggie Wayne, finished with a stat line of 106/1,355/5 in 2012. We all know that Andre has never been a huge touchdown machine, but I was surprised to see that he never even broke double digits in his illustrious twelve-year career in Houston.
Projecting Johnson’s production for the 2015 season may be somewhat difficult due to all of the offensive additions the Colts made. But looking back at the stat lines for their top two WR in 2014 may give us an idea of what we can expect. T.Y Hilton finished the season with 82/1,345 (16.9 YPC)/7. Reggie Wayne ended the season with 64/779 (12.2 YPC)/2. Coach Chuck Pagano already has stated that Luck and Johnson are already clicking in camp this offseason. This usually is a solid precursor to formulated chemistry throughout the season.
Johnson is currently being drafted as the 19th best WR in mock drafts and 47th overall. He could return to fantasy relevance this season, but with the already copious amounts of established targets in Indy, it will be interesting to see where Johnson is on Luck’s pecking order. Being drafted around former teammate Deandre Hopkins, and second year player Brandin Cooks, I would not be opposed to taking Johnson around his current ADP. He offers some safety being an established WR with a stable quarterback, but does not offer the immense upside of the players like Hopkins or Cooks.
VACATION GRADE: The Inn on the off ramp upgraded to the all-inclusive resort.
Brandon Marshall, New York Jets
Brandon Marshall, who was hampered by injury in the 2014 season, looks to bounce back after being traded to the Jets. Marshall who is now on his fourth team since his rookie year in 2006, looks to assist the passing attack which was worst in the league averaging a mere 184.1 yards per game.
When you think it could not get much worse than Jay Cutler, Marshall will now be fetching passes from Geno Smith. The only WR serviceable in the Jets passing attack in 2014 was Eric Decker who finished with a 74/962 (13.0 YPC)/5 stat line. Coming from a Chicago offense that averaged 237.0 pass yards, above the leagues average, to the dead-last passing attack may be transcendent of a tough transition in terms of fantasy production.
In a recent interview done by CBS New York, Marshall said, “I really feel like I’m better now than I’ve ever been. I feel great. Now, I’m starting to see the game differently, being older and having a lot of experience. Having all of that working for me and going up against those guys every single day, I’m excited about doing my job this year.” Now this may be true, his production all comes down to what Geno Smith can do in terms of his development. Smith has not been impressive in his early NFL career, but being thrown in the fire his first year, alongside having possibly the worst offensive weapons of any roster may have hampered him. In 2015, he will have the newly acquired Marshall, Devin Smith the speedster out of Ohio State, and last years main target Eric Decker. If there was any time the Jets had a roster solid enough for Geno to show improvement, it would be this year.
Using fantasypros.com for all of the ADP rankings heading into the 2015 season, we see Marshall sitting at 21st among WR, and 50th overall. We should not expect WR one numbers like we’ve seen in the past. If we remember his down seasons in 2010-2011, he dealt with inconsistent quarterback play down in Miami. We can foreshadow that we will see some inconsistent quarterback play to say the least with Geno Smith. In Miami, Marshall was also the clear-cut number one target, whereas, now he finds himself alongside Eric Decker and remains to be seen if he stays Geno’s go-to guy.
Marshall can be a viable option in the mid-rounds, but if Geno Smith plays like he has throughout his short NFL career, this pick can fall flat on its face. Be very careful in taking Marshall, and do not take him too high with the expectations of WR one type numbers.
VACATION GRADE: Four star villa downgraded to Mexican favela.
Dwayne Bowe– Landing in Cleveland, can Josh Gordon stay on the field? Will Manziel stay out of rehab? Cleveland looking like another basement season in the AFC offensively. They will be chucking the ball around at the end of games, accumulating some garbage time stats.
Current WR ADP 63, draft higher if you’re seeking upside
Michael Crabtree- Not moving too far to Oakland from San Fran, with his production not moving too much as well. The Oakland offense should be better this year with Amari Cooper and second-year QB Derek Carr. If Crabtree stays healthy, he can carve out a role in this offense over players like Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, and Kenbrell Thompkins.
Current WR ADP 61, justified position
Torrey Smith- following former Raven Boldin to the 49ers. He is super inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. The 49ers passing attack can be anemic at times, which will not bode will in terms of becoming more consistent. Never was a number one WR, and will not become one in this offense.
Current WR ADP 42, draft lower
Stay tuned for the article next week on how some wide receivers are emerging by the means of other players leaving, and opening up huge opportunities to be had.
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