Although free agency isn’t completely in the books, nearly all of the big-name fantasy contributors have found a new home. Today, I’ll take a look at the biggest risers and fallers at each of the key offensive fantasy positions.
Pre-Free Agency Dynasty Rankings: Quarterback – Running Back – Wide Receiver – Tight End
The '+/-' shown is the player's change in ranking since our pre-free agency dynasty rankings were released.
Notable Riser: Drew Stanton – Cardinals – Ranking: 27 (+21)
The Arizona offense was all but a fantasy wasteland in 2012. Kevin Kolb couldn’t stay healthy and we witnessed some awful quarterback play from John Skelton and Ryan Lindley. Stanton doesn’t appear to be much of an upgrade, but new head coach Bruce Arians worked with him in Indianapolis last season and appears genuinely convinced he can lead the offense for the short-term. The ceiling here isn’t very high, but it’s possible the former second-round pick can surprise in his first real chance at a starting gig. It will help that the offense around him is improving, with Michael Floyd emerging opposite Larry Fitzgerald, and Rob Housler quickly becoming a pass-catching force out of the tight end position.
Stanton is nearing 29, has yet to emerge despite six years in the league, and is operating in an offense that doesn’t figure to score many points. He’s far from a franchise player, but makes for a sneaky short-term QB2 sleeper.
Other risers: Jason Campbell (+17), Brian Hoyer (+20), David Garrard (+14), Chase Daniel (+18)
Notable Faller: Kevin Kolb – Free Agent – Ranking: 42 (-14)
Sticking with the Arizona theme, Kolb took the biggest hit in dynasty value as a result of free agency. The Cardinals added Drew Stanton and retained Brian Hoyer at the quarterback position. To make room, Kolb was cut loose. The oft-injured Kolb has been connected to the Jets, which would likely be his best avenue to a starting job. The Raiders could also be interested if they cut Carson Palmer loose. Either way, neither offense figures to be very good, and Kolb wouldn’t be looked at as a long-term solution.
Fragile, without a team, and approaching age-29, Kolb’s dynasty prospects are quickly on the decline.
Other fallers: Terrelle Pryor (-10), Matt Moore (-11), Colt McCoy (-12), Joe Webb (-14)
Notable Riser: DuJuan Harris – Packers – Ranking: 38 (+22)
Prior to free agency, it appeared the Packers had a great chance at acquiring Steven Jackson. That, of course, didn’t pan out, which leaves Harris in position to carry a significant workload during, at least, the 2013 season. The Packers could still add a veteran (Ahmad Bradshaw?), and are sure to address the position during the draft, but, at least for now, Harris is the team’s lead back. Green Bay does quite a bit of their offensive damage through the air, but 15 or so touches in one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses would easily put Harris on the RB2 radar.
Harris figures to be a short-term lead back option for the Packers, but there’s breakout potential here after some strong play in 2012. He makes for a strong pre-hype buy-low option.
Other risers: Rashard Mendenhall (+14), Mike Goodson (+21), Justin Forsett (+15), Jonathan Dwyer (+9)
Notable Faller: Ryan Williams – Cardinals – Ranking: 42 (-16)
The Cardinals’ offense is becoming a theme. Arians is on record as being a coach that prefers to rely on one feature back. He has a history with Rashard Mendenhall from his days with the Steelers, and wouldn’t have backed the signing had he not liked him. Both Williams and Mendenhall have lengthy injury resumes, but age (22 and 25, respectively) and talent (first and second round picks, respectively) are on their side. Mendenhall should be fully recovered from a 2011 torn ACL and is a proven lead back at the NFL level. He has the leg up for feature back duties in 2013.
Williams figures to enter 2013 second on the Arizona depth chart, but he’ll get a chance to compete for the job, and is still very young. His dynasty prospects have clearly taken a hit, but it’s not the worst time to try and buy low. He still makes for a fine roster stash.
Other fallers: Beanie Wells (-10), Mikel Leshoure (-14), Joique Bell (-10), Jonathan Stewart (-7), Chris Ivory (-9
Notable Riser: Danny Amendola – Patriots – Ranking: 23 (+21)
With Wes Welker off to Denver, the Patriots quickly replaced him with Amendola. Both wideouts have made their careers on underneath routes, consistently ranking near the league basement in average depth of target, and among the leaders in catch rate. Amendola doesn’t figure to match the exorbitant amount of targets Welker enjoyed during his tenure (especially considering Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez barely played together in 2012), but he shouldn’t be terribly far behind. The New England passing game is built around the 0-to-9-yard range, which is where Amendola will spend most of his time.
Still only 27 and signed to a five-year deal, Amendola’s dynasty arrow is pointing straight up. At 5’11/188 and with a history of missing games due to injury, durability is all that keeps Amendola from ranking as a borderline WR1.
Other risers: Nate Burleson (+29), Jarius Wright (+30), Brandon Gibson (+36), LaVon Brazill (+11)
Notable Faller: Eric Decker – Broncos – Ranking: 26 (-7)
The acquisition of Wes Welker is certain to have negative consequences for Decker. After a breakout 2012 campaign in which he entered the WR1 redraft and dynasty conversation, Decker drops to third in line for targets in the Denver offense. The good news is that Peyton Manning is under center, the team will utilize a ton of three-wide sets, and there will be plenty touchdowns to go around. The bad news from a dynasty perspective is that Welker is locked up for two years and Manning is closing in on retirement at age 37.
Only 26, Decker still makes for a strong WR3 in dynasty, but he’s no longer a borderline WR1 after the team’s acquisition of Welker.
Other fallers: Brian Hartline (-7), Brandon Lloyd (-14), Jon Baldwin (-14), Sidney Rice (-6), Davone Bess (-12)
Notable Riser: James Casey – Eagles – Ranking: 31 (+12)
Prior to free agency, I was pessimistic that Casey would land a significant role as a pass-catcher on his new team. Although I feel his upside remains capped, Casey has a much better shot at fantasy relevance in Philadelphia than he did with Houston. First of all, it’s been made clear that Casey will focus on tight end, which is a switch from his gig as the Texans’ primary fullback. Next, coach Chip Kelly has already compared Casey’s impending role to that of Aaron Hernandez. The Eagles’ offense won’t be nearly as effective as that of the Patriots, but a role in the Hernandez ballpark would put Casey on the TE2 radar. Additionally, although he and incumbent Brent Celek will work in tandem, it’s probable that Celek will block the path to snaps, and thus additional targets.
The Eagles figure to utilize a run-first offense and have plenty of mouths to feed in LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin. That figures to put a TE2 ceiling on Casey, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he ends up as Michael Vick’s top target out of the slot.
Other risers: Tony Gonzalez (+5), Delanie Walker (+4), Julius Thomas (+4)
Notable Faller: Lance Kendricks – Rams – Ranking: 36 (-4)
By locking up Jared Cook on a five-year, $35.11 million contract, the Rams’ front office all but acknowledged that Lance Kendricks is not the team’s long-term every-down tight end. A second-round pick in 2011, Kendricks has not emerged as much of a receiving force in two years at the pro level. He’s a competent blocker, which will keep him on the field in two-tight end sets – a package St. Louis figures to use often considering an underwhelming group of wide receivers.
Kendricks is only 25, but as long as Cook is healthy, his best case scenario is a target or three-per-game and a handful of touchdowns over a full season. At least for the next few years, he’s not even on the TE2 radar.
Other fallers: Scott Chandler (-7), Anthony Fasano (-4), Michael Egnew (-13)