Impact of Players Changing Teams: AFC (Fantasy Football)

by Jody Smith | @JodySmithNFL | Featured Writer
May 31, 2018

Buffalo’s underwhelming offensive talent doesn’t give A.J. McCarron much upside

The growing popularity of fantasy football has helped lead to the booming global success of professional football, and the NFL has widely embraced this new source of attention and revenue. Attend any NFL stadium or even watching on television and the impact fantasy football has had on the game is apparent.

As the NFL game has progressed with the times, fantasy football is constantly evolving and adapting to appeal to a broader audience. One of the similarities that both real and fantasy football have is that the players are always on the move, seeking better opportunities to increase playing time, salary, or to win an elusive championship.

With so many new faces in new places, it’s important for fantasy football fans to keep up with how those changes can impact the upcoming season. Here are some of the fantasy-relevant free agents that landed on new teams in the AFC and what we can expect from them in the 2018 season.

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Quarterbacks

Case Keenum (DEN)
After compiling what was easily the best numbers of his career with Minnesota last season, Keenum cashed in with Denver, signing a two-year, $36 million deal. The Broncos are a defense-first squad, but have some solid offensive pieces in place, including a pair of excellent starting wideouts in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Perhaps the best news for Keenum’s fantasy prospects is that John Elway did not spend any significant draft capital on a future quarterback, so Keenum is locked into at least one year, and likely two, as the club’s starter. Keenum was solid for the Vikings and fantasy owners last season, finishing the year as the QB14, which is probably the peak of his value. The incredible depth of the quarterback position precludes Keenum from being considered a starter, but he’s a solid weekly streamer or QB2.

A.J. McCarron (BUF)
Unlike Case Keenum, A.J. McCarron is now considered a stop-gap after the Bills traded up to select Josh Allen to groom as the team’s franchise signal-caller. McCarron inked a two-year deal for just $10 million but is likely to remain Buffalo’s starter for at least this year as Josh Allen is expected to be given plenty of much-needed time to develop. McCarron flashed some NFL ability in 2015 but is still unproven as a starter.

The Bills have one of the least talented receiving corps in football and overall are shaping up to be one of the lesser offenses of 2018. McCarron doesn’t offer a lot of upside in Buffalo and should be viewed in the QB25-30 range, making him an unwise option in fantasy leagues.

Teddy Bridgewater (NYJ)
The 25-year-old former first-round pick suffered a devastating knee injury before the 2016 NFL season and finally made his way back to the football field last season, seeing action for the Vikings in Week 15. Bridgewater signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Jets and has started to look healthy and strong in OTAs. With New York using the No. 3 pick on Sam Darnold and also re-signing Josh McCown, Bridgewater isn’t likely to make an impact with the Jets this season, but his trade value is on the rise and he could make an impact as a QB2 if he winds up starting for a team in 2018.

Brock Osweiler (MIA)
It was a bit of a surprise when the 2018 NFL Draft came and went without the Dolphins addressing the quarterback position. Tannehill missed the entire 2017 season and will be 30 on when this season starts. That tells us that Tannehill has at least one more season under center for Miami and Osweiler will be his direct backup. Tannehill also missed three starts in 2016, so there’s a solid chance we may see Osweiler playing for the Dolphins, but he’s well off the fantasy radar.

Other notable AFC QBs in new places: Matt Barkley (CIN), Blaine Gabbert (TEN), Drew Stanton (CLE), Chad Henne (KC), Geno Smith (LAC), Joe Webb (HOU)

Running Backs

Dion Lewis (TEN)
The Titans brought in Matt LaFleur to be the offensive coordinator and play-caller, and that bodes very well for Lewis’s 2018 fantasy prospects. LeFleur resurrected the Rams’ offense last season and has an underrated skill-position group to work with in Tennessee. Lewis played more than 50-percent of New England’s snaps just three times last season, yet still managed to finish as the RB12 in standard and RB15 in PPR-scoring leagues. He’s an excellent pass-catcher and underrated option in short-yardage. I firmly believe that Lewis will lead the Titans backfield in touches, outscore Derrick Henry, and be one of the top mid-round values fantasy drafters should be targeting in 2018.

Carlos Hyde (CLE)
Hyde has a solid all-around skill-set and was looking like a solid Isaiah Crowell replacement until the Browns complicated things by adding No. 35 pick Nick Chubb to the mix. Hyde is a solid pass-catcher, but is likely to cede most of that work to Duke Johnson, while Chubb is going to earn touches on first- and second-down, with the possibility of taking over as the lead running back as the season progresses. It’s hard to see Hyde earning enough touches to justify his current ADP, so he looks like a talented, but overvalued back to avoid.

Isaiah Crowell (NYJ)
By the time fantasy draft season arrived last year, Crowell’s inflated ADP had made him a player to avoid, and he ended up finishing as the RB30 in standard leagues. In 2018, we could have the opposite, as Crowell is being avoided by early drafters who undoubtedly were burned last season. Still just 25, Crowell has flashed solid pass-catching and short-yardage ability and might end up being a solid RB3 that can now be acquired in the eighth or ninth round in standard, 12-team drafts.

Doug Martin (OAK)
Martin has been miserable since his fantastic 2015 season, running for a paltry 2.9 yards-per-tote in consecutive years for Tampa before being cast off to the Wayward Home for Washed-up NFL Players in Oakland. Recent reports have suggested that Martin could challenge 32-year-old starter Marshawn Lynch for carries, but Martin fared so poorly in Tampa that it’s hard to envision that happening, plus the Raiders have talented, and under-utilized, change-of-pace backfield options already in place. Martin is little more than a late-round handcuff for Lynch owners.

Frank Gore (MIA)
Now 35 years old, Gore returned home to Miami to wind down his NFL career and was looking like a potential contributor behind Kenyan Drake, but the Dolphins continue to be linked to DeMarco Murray. This doesn’t bode well for Gore’s final season, as he’s coming off of a career-worst 3.7 yards-per-carry and struggled in short-yardage situations. Granted, that was with an anemic Indianapolis team, but it’s going to be difficult for Gore to be fantasy-relevant as the third running back for a Miami team that many project to compete for the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Other notable RBs with new teams in the AFC: Chris Ivory (BUF), Jeremy Hill (NE), Damien Williams (KC), Thomas Rawls (NYJ), Kerwynn Williams (KC)

Wide Receivers

Jarvis Landry (CLE)
Landry averaged 106 receptions annually over the past three seasons in Miami but has no chance of approaching those lofty numbers in Cleveland with Tyrod Taylor under center. The fantasy community as a whole seems to understand this, as Landry is regularly sliding into the fifth round of early drafts. Still, he’s likely to continue to see plenty of targets underneath, making him a reliable weekly PPR option without an inflated ADP.

Sammy Watkins (KC)
After a solid one-year stint in Los Angeles, Watkins signed a three-year, $48 million deal with the Chiefs, giving Kansas City a pair of speedy outside deep threats to match up with strong-armed new starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Watkins was incredibly efficient last season, scoring eight touchdowns on only 39 grabs, averaging over 15 yards-per-catch, and boasting the highest number of targets in the league without committing a drop. If Watkins can see an uptick in targets, he should wind up as a WR2, with weekly WR1 potential.

Michael Crabtree (BAL)
Each year, Crabtree seems to exceed his ADP value, and while he’s unlikely to surpass 1,000 receiving yards once again with Joe Flacco as his quarterback, Crabtree has a decent chance at the eight touchdown receptions he’s made in back-to-back seasons. He’s easily the WR1 in Baltimore and should once again wind up as a substantial value in the mid-to-late rounds of most fantasy drafts.

Jordy Nelson (OAK)
It’s hard to fault Nelson for having a meager 2017 season. After all, Bretty Hundley saw action in 11 of Green Bay’s games. Nelson looked just fine when Aaron Rodgers opened the slate before becoming irrelevant under Hundley’s watch and ultimately winding up in Oakland. The problem is, Nelson has been on a three-year decline and at 33, has lost some speed. It’s also a steep decline from Rodgers to Derek Carr, so expecting Nelson to recapture his 2014-2016 form isn’t going to happen, but he might wind up as a decent WR3 for the Raiders.

Danny Amendola (MIA)
Amendola is the favorite to occupy the slot role that was abandoned by Jarvis Landry, and that should lead to a ton of targets, making Amendola one of my most highly-coveted late-round sleepers in PPR drafts. Even if Amendola only puts up 50-percent of Landry’s 2017 figures, he’d still wind up with 130 PPR points, which would have qualified as the WR50 last season. DeVante Parker was the WR50 last year and is going about six rounds earlier than Amendola’s current ADP.

John Brown (BAL)
Baltimore’s anemic passing attack won’t bode well for Brown’s prospects at turning around what has been a two-year decline. He’s got some ability and can be a decent option on your bench, but Brown isn’t the sort of player you want to depend on.

Donte Moncrief (JAC)
Moncrief has a decent nose for the end-zone but Jacksonville’s receiving corps is tough to project this early into the season. If Moncrief looks assured of being the team’s No. 2 wideout, he’s got some week-to-week appeal, but will never be a dependable weekly option in Jacksonville’s run-first attack.

Jordan Matthews (NE)
An interesting name to remember as your draft winds down, Matthews made a name for himself as a big slot receiver and is still just 25 years old. While the Patriots are seemingly loaded with more traditional slot receivers, Matthews has size and could be the next great resurrection project for Bill Belichick.

He’s also been injury prone and signed for just one-year and $1 million, so Matthews could easily be cut. Keep an eye on how the Patriots use their receivers in training camp to see if Matthews looks like he can win a role.

Albert Wilson (MIA)
Wilson signed a surprising three-year $24 million contract with Miami, which seems awfully steep for a guy who has never exceeded 42 receptions, 554 yards, or scored more than three touchdowns. Wilson was on the field plenty for the Chiefs, exceeding a 90-percent snap share in four of the team’s final five regular season games. We’ve already hit on the Dolphins lowly expectations this season, so it’s hard to expect a team projected to finish in the bottom-third of the league to have the kind of offense that can support multiple quality wideouts.

Terrelle Pryor (NYJ)
2017 was a disaster for Pryor, who found himself benched and caught just 20 passes for Washington. Like Miami, the Jets are rebuilding, so don’t expect Pryor to have any significant fantasy impact in 2018.

Other notable WRs to join new AFC teams: Ryan Grant (IND), Andre Roberts (NYJ), Michael Campanaro, Jeff Janis (CLE)

Tight Ends

Austin Seferian-Jenkins (JAC)
Block-first tight end Marcedes Lewis actually led the Jaguars with five touchdown grabs last season. With Lewis now plying his trade in Green Bay, ASJ will take over as the starting tight end in Jacksonville. Lewis spent most of his time as an in-line blocker, but Seferian-Jenkins is a much more established downfield threat who should add a new wrinkle to the Jaguars’ passing attack. He’s a solid TE2 or streaming target.

Eric Ebron (IND)
The Lions finally gave up on Ebron, who was dumped this offseason and quickly signed by the Colts. Indianapolis already has Jack Doyle at tight end, but it wouldn’t be the first time the Colts have used a lot of two tight end ’12’ sets in their offense. This could especially be prominent in 2018 as Indy’s receiving corps is very young and inexperienced. Like most of the Colts’ skill-position fantasy options, Ebron’s value will be determined by the status of QB Andrew Luck.

Virgil Green (LAC)
Green was mostly used as an in-line blocker in Denver, but the recent season-ending injury to Hunter Henry could change that. As a receiver, Green is completely unproven, having never exceeded 22 receptions, 237 yards or scored more than one touchdown in any of his seven seasons with the Broncos. Still, opportunity reigns supreme, and if the Chargers don’t re-sign Antonio Gates or bring in another established pass-catching veteran tight end, Green could be worth a final round gamble.

Other TEs to join new AFC teams: Niles Paul (JAC), Darren Fells (CLE), Derek Carrier (OAK)

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Jody Smith is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jody, check out his archive and follow him @JodySmithNFL.

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