Over the course of the offseason, I will be breaking down the players poised to have the most fantasy impact next year. In this, the first segment, I will be focusing on those players that have changed teams. Sometimes a change of scenery is just what a player needs to have a breakout year, but other times it backfires leading to a drop in numbers. I’ll look at both possibilities.
1. Emmanuel Sanders: Steelers to Broncos This one seems obvious. Pretty much any receiver that is lucky enough to play with Peyton Manning sees a significant boost in their stats. Even Wes Welker, despite missing three games and looking like a concussed zombie in a few more, caught a career high ten touchdowns after swapping out Brady for Manning. Sanders is a healthy guy, playing two consecutive full seasons, which is huge on a Broncos team with Welker who seems like he may be one bad concussion away from retirement. Last year, Sanders had the best season of his young career pulling in six touchdowns and 740 yards. I expect him to pull in about eight touchdowns and 1,000 yards this season.
2. Darren Sproles: Saints to Eagles his is another scenario that feels somewhat obvious. Plug in one of the most explosive guys in the league on a team that lights it up offensively, and obviously you’re going to get results. Right? Maybe, but Sproles will be 31 at the start of the season, and running backs rarely perform well after 30. Since Sproles arrived in New Orleans, his reception numbers have gone down each year. Last year, he increased his carries but decreased his yards per. So why is this is a positive move then? Two names: Chip Kelly and LeSean McCoy. Kelly is better than any coach in the league at creating space for playmakers, and with the departure of DeSean Jackson, there is a lot of room for a small quick playmaker out of the backfield. Also, with McCoy in the backfield, Sproles won’t have to focus on shouldering any significant rushing load. I think Sproles is poised to be a go-to flex fantasy guy. He has the potential for 80 receptions and ten total touchdowns next year. I think realistically, he’s closer to eight TDs because I just don’t see him rushing the ball very much behind McCoy and Bryce Brown.
3. Golden Tate: Seahawks to Lions Tate has great hands and is capable of pulling in some pretty difficult catches. He’s coming from a great Seattle team, but a team where he was often the primary passing target last year due to Percy Harvin’s endless injuries. Placing him opposite Calvin Johnson on a Lions team chock-full of offensive talent is going to help him tremendously. I see his touchdowns staying relatively the same in the 5-7 range with a higher ceiling much more likely than a drop-off on those numbers. The thing I see increasing the most is his consistent contribution. I think he will be catching five balls a game almost guaranteed – making him a big time PPR player, and a solid standard scoring receiver as well.
1. Knowshon Moreno: Broncos to Dolphins Moreno had a huge year last year, but you’re going to have a hard time finding an offensive player on the Broncos who didn’t. Manning’s effect on Moreno was huge. Moreno’s 2013 production is pretty similar to his 2012 numbers when they are projected over a full season. His two years with Manning were the best years of his career. The biggest difference maker for Moreno last year was his health. He played a full sixteen games for the first time since his ’09 rookie season. The Dolphins offensive line is pretty weak especially when compared to the Broncos. Also, Moreno will have to compete with Lamar Miller who will provide a little bit more competition than Montee Ball was able to in Denver. There are many factors leading me to believe that Moreno is due for a steep drop off in production this year in Miami.
2. Darrius Heyward-Bey: Colts to Steelers This one isn’t so much that Heyward-Bey is going to suffer a whole lot from the move. I actually kind of like the move, getting on a proven (albeit declining) team with a history of good speedy targets is a smart move for him. The thing with Heyward-Bey is simply that he isn’t very good. He’s somewhat of a big name because Al Davis reached for him in the ’09 draft after a ridiculous 40 time (4.25). But since joining the league, he’s only found the end zone twelve times in five seasons while topping 500 yards only twice. Granted, he spent his first four years in Oakland, but his worst season since his rookie year was last year on the Colts. If Heyward-Bey was ever going to dazzle anyone, last year would have been the year. He had Andrew Luck at the helm of a playoff team whose only proven receiver had a torn ACL. The gap left by Reggie Wayne was huge and Heyward-Bey had a chance to capitalize on the opportunity, but he didn’t. In my opinion, Pittsburgh is not going to do anything new for Heyward-Bey. Maybe a touchdown or two and 300 yards on the year. Don’t bite at any sleeper noise.
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