Adam Levitan

Fantasy Fallout

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Free Agency Losers

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Last week, I hit on players that benefitted most from moves made in free agency. Now we get to the guys that lost.

There are still a few big matzoh balls out there. Knowshon Moreno’s market may have bottomed out so deeply that he comes crawling back to the Broncos, crushing Montee Ball’s value. Maurice Jones-Drew has tons more name than game, but he’ll be a threat for 150 touches no matter where he lands. And Jermichael Finley can certainly shake up a depth chart if his neck is right.

But for the most part, free agency is creeping toward a halt. The fantasy losers:

1. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
The daggers are coming fast and furious at Cam Newton right now. Let’s start with the offensive line.

Jordan Gross, PFF’s No. 3 left tackle last season, has retired. Travelle Wharton, PFF’s No. 5 guard last season, remains an unsigned free agent. Backup G/C Geoff Hangartner has retired. If the season started today, the projected offensive line is a rag-tag group of Byron Bell at left tackle, Garry Williams at right tackle, Amini Silatolu and Edmund Kugbila at the guard spots and Ryan Kalil at center.

Bell was PFF’s No. 52 tackle last year while playing on the right side and figures to struggle even more on the left side. Williams is former UDFA with 21 career starts in five seasons. Silatolu and Kugbila are youngsters coming off serious injuries. Kalil is the only sure thing. It's arguably the worst unit in the NFL.

OK, now let’s get to the receiving corps. This was a sub-par unit a year ago with declining Steve Smith and underperforming Brandon LaFell leading the way. Now those two are gone, as well as speedster Ted Ginn. The Panthers failed to truly address the position in free agency, only adding 32-year-old (in June) Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood to Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King. It’s a room devoid of playmakers.

The third negative for Newton in free agency is significant defensive improvements around the NFC South. The Saints added Jairus Byrd to pair with Kenny Vaccaro at the safety spot. The Bucs scooped up Michael Johnson, Clinton McDonald and a Revis replacement in Alterraun Verner. The Falcons added size with Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai.

Lastly, Newton underwent ankle surgery to repair a ligament issue that’s bothered him since Auburn. He’s been slapped with a four-month rehab timetable, meaning he’ll miss offseason workouts with his new “toys.”  

2. Eric Decker, WR, Jets
In 2011, Eric Decker totaled 44 catches for 612 yards with eight touchdowns as an every-down wideout. In the two seasons since then, he’s averaged 86.0 catches for 1176.0 yards and 12.0 touchdowns.

Did Decker suddenly turn into Jerry Rice, raising his level of play to never-seen-before levels? Of course not. The difference was in Kyle Orton/Tim Tebow vs. Peyton Manning.

Now the money has taken Decker to New York, where his quarterback will be either Michael Vick or Geno Smith. He goes from an offense that ranked second in the league to pass attempts to one that ranked 29th. He’ll go from single coverage on virtually every play to the apple of defenses’ eyes. He’ll also face a division that has Darrelle Revis, Brent Grimes and Stephon Gilmore at the cornerback spot.

So Decker’s numbers are going to drop off significantly, and it’s not because he stinks. It’s just because he’s going from Frank Lloyd Wright to Art Vandelay at the quarterback position.

3. James Jones, WR, Raiders
Drop-prone throughout the early part of his career, Jones eventually developed into a reliable, play-making outside receiver. He had a total of just five drops over the last two seasons while amassing 123 catches, 1,601 yards and 17 touchdowns.

But with Jones turning 30 on Monday and Mike McCarthy very high on Jarrett Boykin, the Packers decided to move on. And therefore, we have the rare instance where a player can go from a No. 3 wideout to a No. 1 wideout and actually lose fantasy value.

That’s what happens when you go from Aaron Rodgers to Matt Schaub. It’s not quite as severe as Eric Decker’s Peyton Manning to Vick/Geno, but Jones isn’t as good as Decker.

4. Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Over the last three seasons, Darren Sproles and Lance Moore have combined to catch 386 of Drew Brees’ 1,336 completions (28.8 percent). The cap-strapped Saints traded away Sproles and released Moore. Coach Sean Payton has already said that Marques Colston’s foot issue is going to nag him throughout the upcoming season.

So Brees will be breaking in some new go-to guys behind Jimmy Graham. We’re talking about Kenny Stills, Nick Toon and Travaris Cadet. That’s certainly a concern, but the change in personnel – which suggests a shift in offensive philosophy – is a bigger worry.

By choosing Pierre Thomas over Sproles and keeping two power backs in Mark Ingram/Khiry Robinson, the Saints are suggesting a more traditional, ball-control approach.

“Possessing the ball means something to the defense – it means snaps taken away,” Payton said.

So Brees has both weapons concerns and a projection for a decline in attempts.

5. Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, Patriots
Given the massive amount of scouting that goes on at the college level (especially at the skill positions), perhaps we really shouldn’t be disappointed with former undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins’ second season. Yes, he played on 988 snaps with Tom Brady and ended up with an unusable 32-466-4 line. But maybe he’s just not good enough.

The Patriots seem to feel the same way, as they re-signed Julian Edelman and brought in Brandon LaFell with a $3 million signing bonus. Those two plus Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Matt Slater (special teams) are all locks to make the 53-man roster. That leaves Thompkins to battle Josh Boyce for one roster spot. Kenbrell’s Dynasty value is sinking toward the bottom.


HONORABLE MENTION

Da’Rick Rogers – Won’t get a chance to step up now that Hakeem Nicks is in town.
Ryan Griffin – For a fleeting moment, it looked like the Texans were ready to ride with Griffin as their every-down tight end. Then they re-signed Garrett Graham.
Tim Wright – We knew the new regime wouldn’t show a ton of faith in Wright. Brandon Myers was added to the room.
Geno Smith – If there’s really a fair competition at camp, Michael Vick will run circles around Smith.
Mike GlennonLovie Smith has already named newly signed Josh McCown his starter.



Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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