For my debut Rotoviz article, I want to take a look at NFL free agency and how it may potentially impact player fantasy value and more importantly your teams. This will be a 4 part series calling out 2 players of interest in each installment, and I’m giving you access to my confidential file.
Before I dive in, I’d be remiss not to call out a great article recently written by NFL agent, Jack Bechta. In his article How NFL free agency “really” works, Jack provides a behind-the-scenes look into the overall free agency timeline and the player-agent and team perspectives along the way. It’s not only a very good read, but it’s an exciting reminder that phones are already ringing and calculator buttons are already being abused…
For Part 2 of the series, bang it here.
At this point in his career, Mike Vick has shown his cards to fantasy owners, and we all know what we’re going to get – uncertainty. He’s only tallied 4 seasons in which he started 15 or more games, and we’d have to travel back in time to 2006 to witness it. Over the last two years, Vick has totaled 16 games. While under center, however, he’s averaging almost 18 ppg in spite of his 56.20% career completion percentage. We all know his production comes from his legs and his deep ball. The bottom line – if he’s in the game, he’s in your line-ups as a QB1. Vick can potentially become a draft day steal. You don’t need me to tell you to have another QB on your roster that you can count on for a few games.
Vick’s best case scenario has him landing with a team that has an effective run game that will be able to take some pressure off him as a runner, a nice receiving option or two to help him out when he’s done running around in circles behind the line of scrimmage, and a team that is looking to develop a rookie for the future. The supporting cast of the Minnesota Vikings sure seems to fit this bill, doesn’t it? Their offensive line is good enough to keep Vick healthy and the run game – well – come on…Greg Jennings really came on late in the year with Matt Cassel chucking the ball around, and Cordarrelle Patterson would be a dream for Mike Vick and a dream for your fantasy teams with Vick under center. We know just as well as the Vikings that the answer to their quarterback needs is not on the roster. With Cassel looking to take his lack of talents to the clipboard of another team, Mike Vick actually seems like a great idea for the Vikings.
Al Davis could be sporting a grin from the afterlife by the start of the upcoming season. Nobody fits the mold of an Al Davis type of player more than Mike Vick, and the Oakland Raiders can very well find themselves in a position in which Mike Vick is the starting quarterback for their squad, and the Al Davis implications live on! The Raiders could take Sammy Watkins as the best receiver available at the #5 spot in the draft, and that would leave the team in need of a quarterback. If the Raiders take a quarterback, I’d expect both Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel to already be off the board, leaving the Raiders to draft Blake Bortles. Bortles would be more than an adequate consolation prize and should be a great starter in the NFL for years to come.
The problem is that Bortles doesn’t handle pressure well at this stage of his game, and the Raiders’ offensive line (or lack thereof) would set him up for failure. First round picks are expected to start in this league, but it’s very difficult for rookie quarterbacks to recover from failure (think Blaine Gabbert or David Carr). The Raiders would have a good excuse to let Bortles sit back and learn the speed of the game at the pro-level if Vick is on the team. The problem for Vick if this scenario plays out is no different for him than it would be for Bortles – the offensive line could potentially get him killed. Tony Pashos was the best tackle on the team, but he’s 33, had difficulty staying healthy, and is a free agent this year as well. Vick and potentially a Sammy Watkins and Denarius Moore combination could start out the season as a great trio, but Oakland receivers haven’t been able to stay on the field to date, and consistent fantasy production could become a mirage.
Maurice Jones Drew
Fantasy football owners probably have a special place in their hearts for Maurice Jones-Drew. The Pocket Hercules has made many contributions to the fantasy community, both on the field as a top-tier workhorse running back and as a fantasy football aficionado in his own regard. The question is whether or not the soon-to-be 29 year old has enough tread left on his tires to make an impact for a contending team next year. MJD saw his yards per carry drop from 4.75 in 2012 and 2013 combined to a middling 3.4 as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ sputtering offense didn’t do him any favors. His offensive line earned the worst run blocking Pro Football Focus rating in the league, so I’m going to give this relationship one more chance if he gets a nice hand on the flop. After all, no one ever had a successful relationship without putting in the work.
Every savvy fantasy owner has a good grasp on the concept of buy-low/ sell-high, and that’s no different for NFL GMs as well. What may seem like the most unrealistic option just might be the most logical option when taking into account supply and demand, and the Denver Broncos just might become buyers this off-season. Knowshon Moreno fits the bill as a sell-high commodity, and I’m sure his agent is on the phone making the same case. While his career has been underwhelming, Moreno flashed all-around greatness over the last couple seasons. If you earn the trust of Peyton Manning you earn the trust of GMs around the league. The Broncos likely won’t be able to match the market value, and most are operating under the pretense that Monte Ball stands to benefit the most in the Broncos backfield.
The above is the likely scenario, but something tells me the succulent baby lamb (as Ron Burgundy called him) isn’t satisfied with that outcome. The Broncos just experienced a rout of epic proportions, and that type of loss can’t sit well with anyone. Moreno lost a step after carrying the team on his shoulder far too often. While Ball stepped in and certainly looked like he ran with some determination, he wasn’t trusted completely as a blocker. Ronnie Hillman may be a cut casualty, and while C.J. Anderson is gaining momentum, that backfield taking a step back isn’t going to sit well with Manning especially if he also loses his second best receiving target in Eric Decker.
Maurice Jones Drew is the perfect target for the Broncos: he’s a proven all-around back that can do anything expected of him, he’s going to sign the last contract of his career, and at this stage he may be willing to take home a little less bacon for a chance to make a deep run into the playoffs. If the Broncos say goodbye to Moreno, bringing in MJD would be a perfect buy-low with a better pitch than any other team if Pocket Hercules is in it to win it.
M-J-D joins the J-E-T-S JETS! The New York Jets seemed to be trolling everyone in 2013 after being pegged one of the worst teams in the league. They went into their bye week at 5-4, and it seemed like Rex Ryan had an outside shot at somehow shutting up the critics and securing a playoff spot in the lowly AFC wildcard race. Somehow, both Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell managed to maintain respectable 4+ yards per carry in spite of an offensive line that couldn’t open up run lanes. Regardless of this, the Jets could go out and try to land both a receiver and a running back in an attempt to quickly patch a position of need at receiver and bring in another proven back to be able to continue running the ball as much as possible to ease the pressure on a developing Geno Smith. Ivory has a history of injuries, and MJD would give them the depth to use both Ivory and Powell sparingly.