2014 Free Agency Fantasy Football Recap: Wide Receivers

Hey fantasy friends! As you probably know, free agency started way back in March. However, there are so many players moving around it can get exhausting. Some of them may seem insignificant, but they could still affect your fantasy draft. Look no further, because I’ve got you covered.

Bothering to put a fantasy spin on free agency prior to the NFL draft is like getting married when you’re 20. You might think you’ve got everything figured out, but things change and you’re better off waiting to see what happens. That said, let’s get to it.

If you passed out during Seattle’s manhandling of Denver and then went into a four month coma, don’t worry baby bird! I’ll nurse you back to health with some concise fantasy analysis and a chicken wing inspired hotness scale.

I already covered the FA running backs last week. Now, the wide receivers probably contain the most fantasy football intrigue among free agents this off-season – mainly a few “hot” WR2s and a lot of middle-of-the-draft WR3s.  Don’t let your guard down though, the middle of the draft is where many championships are won!  So, just sit back, relax, and take in the sweet sweet knowledge.

Change Of Scenery

WR Eric Decker (Denver to NY Jets, 5y/$36MM) – Considered by many to be the best FA wideout, I had expectations of him breaking out on a new team. That is, until he packed up his Swammi Swanson Samsonite and moved to New York. While ANY quarterback is a downgrade from Peyton Manning, Geno Smith (or a declining Mike Vick) is a huge downgrade. It’s also important to note that not many teams pass less than the Jets do. Value: [hot] Decker will be lucky to maintain the targets and yardage he got in Denver, and I guarantee he gets fewer TDs in New York. I would still like him on my team at the right price, but he’s dropped from a WR2 to a WR3. Sorry to be Debbie Downer.

WR Julian Edelman (New England, 4y/$17MM) and WR Brandon LaFell (Carolina to New England, 3y/$11MM) – Edelman gets locked up long-term, while LaFell joins a receiving corp full of disappointing young talent and void of any superstars. I expect Brady to spread it around and struggle again this year. Value: [mild] Edelman will have some PPR value again (105 catches last season) but he’s going to be overpriced. LaFell is a waiver pickup at best.

WR Hakeem Nicks (NY Giants to Indianapolis, 1y/$3.5MM) – Reggie Wayne is getting relatively old, so the Colts eased the pain with a receiver that … can’t stay healthy? If Wayne and Nicks are both contributing it might reduce Hilton’s role, but I’m going to assume that at least one of them struggles. I’m still “high on T.Y.” as a WR2. The additional receiving option definitely helps Luck. Value: [medium] Injury problems, anemic yards/game, and almost no TDs: all ways that Nicks has disappointed his fantasy owners recently. Everyone knows he’s talented, but can he time warp back to 2011? The one year deal puts pressure on him to “prove it”. So, if you can get him as your WR3 or WR4 it could really pay off, just make sure you have good depth as insurance.

WR James Jones (Green Bay to Oakland, 3y/$10MM) – Jones leaves Wisconsin for sunny California. This frees up targets for Nelson, Cobb and Jarrett Boykin, but the future for Jones is less certain. He’ll have less WR competition in Oakland, but their QB situation is shaky. Value: [medium] With Schaub (or even Matt McGloin) at the helm, Jones could realistically get 65/900/7. But, that’s about his ceiling. He’s a WR4 that might be waiver fodder after 3 weeks. Though it is nice having some players you aren’t afraid to drop for a trendy waiver add.

WR DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia to Washington, 3y/$24MM) – After weeks of trade talks and gang affiliation rumors, the Eagles finally released Jackson to control his own fate. A few days later he signed with the Redskins. Value: [blazing] He and Garçon have similar skill sets and might compete for targets. However, the two of them will surely thin out defenses, paving the way for huge plays. Though, since the targets might be less consistent than they were in Philly, he’s a low-end WR2 (with Garçon a few spots behind).

WR Steve Smith (Carolina to Baltimore, 3y/$11.5MM) – The Panthers cut the spry veteran and let LaFell & Ginn sign elsewhere, because they have such an overwhelming abundance of talented wide receivers (sarcasm). Seriously, I’m worried about Cam Newton next year. Anyways, after being cut, Smith signed with the Ravens, effectively squashing the sleeper value of Marlon Brown. Value: [medium] I wouldn’t stick a fork in Smith quite yet. Flacco isn’t going to force feed him, but he could be a good bench WR that you occasionally start. Just don’t expect more than WR4 value.

golden tate

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WR Golden Tate (Seattle to Detroit, 5y/$31MM) – Tate managed some respectable numbers in Seattle (64/898/5) despite them being near the bottom of the league in passing attempts and passing yardage. Many analysts are underestimating the huge upgrade to a passing-oriented offense. The only downside is Stafford’s multitude of pass-catching threats (Megatron, Bush, Bell, Ebron, Pettigrew). Value: [hot] There’s a growing list of players that have failed to seize the WR2 role in Detroit, but Tate will buck that trend. He’s a fantasy low-end WR2 candidate, PPR or otherwise. Heaven forbid CJ gets hurt, Tate’s value would then be sky high.

WR Emmanuel Sanders (Pittsburgh to Denver, 3y/$15MM) – With Mike Wallace out of Pittsburgh, Sanders managed an adequate 67/740/6 last season but failed to separate himself from journeyman Jerricho Cotchery. Now he joins a Broncos team loaded on both sides of the ball. Value: [hot] As we saw last year, three receivers (and a tight end) can all succeed with Manning at the helm. But, as Manning’s third or fourth option, Sanders will surely have both big games and some major duds. A low-end WR3 in most leagues, don’t expect him to duplicate Decker’s 2013 season.  Early word out of Bronco’s camp is very positive, but don’t reach for him too early.

WR Andre Johnson – Keep an eye on this one! Nothing has happened yet, but AJ is unhappy and rumors will persist all the way through training camp.

WR Stevie Johnson (Traded from Buffalo to San Francisco) – Stevie’s fantasy production is going to be more dependent on his health than anything else. At 100%, he’s capable of WR3 numbers in this run-heavy offense. Value: [medium] He should be padding your bench, not anchoring your starting lineup. If his recent struggles continue, be prepared to cut him loose.

WR Jerricho Cotchery (Pittsburgh to Carolina, 2y/$5MM) – Carolina is looking devastatingly thin at WR. Kelvin Benjamin was a good draft choice, but he’s raw. Cotchery is their only experienced receiver. Who are you laughing at Pittsburgh? Your only proven receiver is Antonio Brown! Value: [hot] Cotchery will get a lot of targets, but also a lot of defensive attention. Therefore, it’s hard to predict his fantasy stats. I think he’ll have a couple big games and finish with WR3 numbers.

WR Andrew Hawkins (from Cincinnati, 4y/$13.6MM) WR Miles Austin (from Dallas, 1y/$2MM) WR Nate Burleson (from Detroit, 1y/$1MM) and WR Earl Bennett (from Chicago, 1y/$1MM) – Cleveland went crazy adding B-list wide receivers this off-season, but Hawkins is the only one the Browns have committed to long term. If Josh Gordon’s suspension holds up it’s anyone’s guess how the targets shake out. Value: [medium] It will depend on whom Hoyer and Manziel develop chemistry with. I think Bennett will have the least value. Austin has hamstrings made of taffy. Burleson will have some value, but he’s 32 and his abilities are fading. I’m putting my money on Hawkins as a certifiable sleeper.

WR Lance Moore (New Orleans to Pittsburgh, 2y/$3MM) – A perennial “what the heck” pick late in fantasy drafts, his fantasy relevance was on thin ice after being cut by the Saints. Pittsburgh is a great landing spot for him. Cotchery had 10 TDs last season, and Moore could absorb a lot of that production. Value: [medium] Still a “what the heck” pick near the end of your draft with a moderate ceiling. His value will taper off as rookie Martavis Bryant learns the ropes.

WR Kenny Britt (Tennessee to St. Louis, 1y/$1.4MM) – A lot of hypothetical situations here. The Rams are missing a true No. 1 WR, so the opportunity exists. Britt could be their guy. Or, Tavon Austin could take a leap in his professional evolution. Bradford’s job is in jeopardy too. Value: [medium] So many unknowns, but the upside is still there.  A good pick that could pay off, but don’t invest too much. Wait until he falls. He could fizzle out and open up a spot for a bold waiver pickup (which, as I’ve mentioned before, is a good thing).

WR Ted Ginn Jr. (Carolina to Arizona, 3y/$10MM) – It wouldn’t be a WR mass-exodus without Ted Ginn. He leaves the WR wasteland of Carolina and heads to Arizona, filling the small void formerly occupied by Andre Roberts. Value: [mild] He’ll have a hard time being fantasy relevant behind the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Do not draft Ted Ginn Jr., do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

WR Mike Williams (Traded from Tampa Bay to Buffalo) – After a great rookie year Williams has had some inconsistent seasons – being hampered by injuries and off-the-field issues. Now he gets a fresh start competing for targets with youngsters Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins. Tampa Bay was by no means a mecca for QBs, but EJ Manuel leaves a lot to be desired. Value: [mild] Buffalo didn’t have a receiver exceed 700 yds in 2013, which either shows room for a breakout star or says, “good luck being fantasy relevant”. I side with the latter: mediocre QB and too many mouths to feed. Williams will have lackluster yardage with a handful of TDs. Done and done.

Staying Put

WR Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia, 1y/$5.5MM) – The Eagles are giving Maclin another year to try and impress them. Value: [mild] In my book he’s already run out of mulligans. I guess he has potential with Jackson gone, but I’ll let someone else draft him. I’d much rather have Eagles rookie Jordan Matthews.

WR Anquan Boldin (San Francisco, 2y/$12MM) – AB had a nice 85/1179/7 stat line last season. He won’t blow anybody’s doors off, but he’s got some gas left in the tank. Value: [medium] His numbers actually improved when Crabtree returned to the field, but now he has Stevie Johnson to contend with as well – not to mention Father Time. He’s worth a WR3 roster spot.

WR Riley Cooper (Philadelphia, 5y/$22.5MM) – There’s chemistry here with Foles. A decent 47/835/8 stat line last season, but he cooled off down the stretch. Value: [hot] Cooper is a boom or bust WR2, though he became more of a sure thing when Jackson was released. However, I prefer a higher floor when drafting a starting WR. (Then again, I thought Cruz was a safe pick last year.)

WR Jacoby Jones (Baltimore, 4y/$12MM) – Hardly a blip on the radar. Value: [mild] Jones was relevant for a minute. Then the Ravens signed Steve Smith and his fantasy value disappeared like Marty McFly in a Polaroid picture. Moving on…

See Ya Later, Alligator

WR Santonio Holmes (NY Jets, Cut) I debated whether to even put Holmes on this list, which tells you all you need to know.

WR Greg Little (Cleveland to Oakland) It speaks volumes when the Browns don’t need your receiving services.

For the scoop on rookie WRs, check out our NFL draft coverage.

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