The introduction of a foreign organism into an entirely new ecosystem can provide a widely mixed and even dangerous outcome. Players who switch teams should be carefully examined because their relocation can provide intriguing fantasy value. Take the Denver Broncos’ free agency pickup of Emmanuel Sanders for example. There were so many questions surrounding this acquisition. How will he fit in this offensive scheme? Will he understand the playbook fast enough? Will he establish chemistry with the QB? These layers of ambiguity only pushes the draft position down and this is where fantasy arbitrage works best.
Emmanuel Sanders became one of the best value picks in last year’s draft. The departure of Eric Decker’s 87 receptions, 1,288 yards, and 11 touchdowns left a huge void for the new Denver receiver to fill. Sanders more than capitalized on this opportunity as he produced 101 receptions, 1,404 yards, 9 touchdowns and finished 7th overall among WRs. Not bad for someone with a 43 ADP and was the 16th pass catcher coming off the board.
Let’s examine the environment that Sanders was being introduced to. Manning and company were coming off a historic regular season performance. They seemingly broke every great offensive record. Denver has been a top 5 team in passing attempts, offensive plays, points scored, passing yards for the past two consecutive years. Most of their offensive pieces were still intact. Sanders was slated to take Eric Decker’s part in the three headed monster that was comprised of Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and Julius Thomas.
More importantly, Sanders was upgrading from Big Ben to an on-the-field offensive coordinator. This was a great situation for any wide receiver to come into. The environment was ripe for Sanders to beat his draft stock. Managers who picked up on some of these signs got a great deal on a WR1.
Like last year, the 2015 offseason transactions have given us a lot to think about. Listed are my top WR transplants from descending ADP order:
Andre Johnson (Colts) – UPGRADE/BUY
The Colts are replacing an old big name wide receiver for an old big name wide receiver named Andre Johnson. Johnson is coming off a lackluster season where he was dethroned as the Texans’ number one wide receiver. He failed to break 1,000 yards, and only managed to grab 3 touchdowns for the season. The math doesn’t look good for Johnson but we have yet to add in his QB situation or lack thereof. Matt Schaub’s display of pick sixes in 2013 ousted him from Houston and left the Texans to scramble to find a quarterback.
The front office came up with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, and Ryan Mallet. Not one name in that cast jumps out as a franchise quarterback and Andre Johnson, who desperately yearned for the playoffs, was obviously frustrated.
Fast forward to the present, Dre is courted by Indy and upgrades to Andrew Luck. This is the biggest jump in QB talent for a player of Johnson’s caliber in a long time. Luck’s maturation into one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks is well documented. In Indy, Johnson will take over the Reggie Wayne role of wide receiver 2. Reports say he will be asked to play primarily slot. This role will fit him perfectly as Johnson is a great possession receiver.
Keep in mind that Wayne was targeted 195 times in Luck’s first year and 116 times last year. Johnson will see his opportunities.
Expect Johnson to be a high floor guy and receive around 140 targets. While this is a dip in his targets, his targets will be better with better throws and with less defensive attention on him. Andrew Luck may be getting a new security blanket. Let’s not forget, at 6’3’’ Johnson is the tallest wide out on the team and will get some love near the end zone. The Dre to Luck connection is by far the best QB-WR tandem on this list. Johnson’s ADP is identical to Sanders from last year sitting at 42.7. Johnson has the best chance of rejuvenating his career and possibly cracking top 12 WR numbers.
Here is the knock on Johnson: He is a 13th year veteran who is on backside of his career. The last three years, Johnson has only averaged 4 touchdowns being the number one WR. Lastly, the Colts have a plethora of weapons, which will limit his ceiling.
Conclusion: While it might take some getting used to seeing Dre in Colts blue, he’s one receiver that I would not shy away from, especially in PPR.
Brandon Marshall (Jets) – DOWNGRADE/SELL
Everybody loves to hate on Jay Cutler. It’s completely justified. However, he’s actually a better fantasy quarterback than most people expect. Cutler threw 18 interceptions last year and still finished as the 12th best quarterback in fantasy last year. It’s easy to inflate these numbers when you have weapons like Brandon Marshall. Marshall, unfortunately, is being moved to the New York Jets.
There are a couple of places in the NFL where wide receivers go to die. The Jets happen to be one of those places.
Let’s put this move in perspective. Last year, the Bears threw 111 more passes, 14 more passing touchdowns, and 846 more yards through the air than the New York Jets. The Jets finished 32nd in passing yards. That’s dead last if you were keeping score.
Geno Smith. Let’s address the poor decision making elephant in the room. Geno Smith has accuracy issues. He isn’t a consistent producer. He’s barely an NFL quarterback. While he hasn’t exactly lit the NFL on fire in his first two years, Smith is quietly improving. Ever so quietly. His completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio has tightened up since he entered the league.
This might have to do with the fact that the Jets have asked a lot less from him in his sophomore year. The new coaching staff will do the same. The Jets have brought in a defensively minded head coach and have built one of the the best defenses on paper. Their montra will be “grind it out”. Offensively, they will deploy a ground-and-pound game to mitigate Smith’s mistakes, especially when they play in a very dominant defensive division.
The quarterback situation here is definitely an exponential downgrade. Let’s face it, Brandon Marshall is being asked to play a supporting role in a bad summer rom-com. Marshall, who was injured a good portion of last year, posted one of his worst years ever. However, outside of last year and his rookie year, Marshall has been the real deal. Discounting these two years, Marshall has averaged 98 receptions, 1248 yards, and 7.8 tds on three different teams.
So does this mean he is QB proof? Not exactly, but here are the positives. He will be the team’s #1 WR and Geno Smith’s go-to target. Although Marshall is getting up there in age, he still has elite size, speed, and hands. Let’s not forget that Geno Smith never has a redzone threat like Marshall. Currently, Marshall is going late fifth round/early sixth round. If Marshall slides further down the draft, there will be an opportunity for fantasy arbitrage, but the current seat that Marshall occupies is too pricey.
There are too many concerns around Geno Smith’s play to justify taking Marshall while there are guys with bigger upside and better consistency left on the board.
Conclusion: Let your league mates roll the dice on this one.