Sometimes, we football fans overreact to free agent signings. The departure of Eric Decker from the Broncos will not have a profound effect on Peyton Manning's performance. The Patriots are not likely to have an elite secondary just because they added Darrelle Revis. Yes, these are factors that we must consider, but it sometimes better to make fantasy judgments about players after the NFL Draft. EJ Manuel's draft stock will now be higher than it was previously now that he will throw to Sammy Watkins, even though the Bills did not sign DeSean Jackson. We will not know the starting lineups for each team for a few months, but we have enough information to make educated guesses about the projections for some players.
1. Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets
The additions of Decker and Chris Johnson certainly will surround Smith with some veteran playmakers, but the Jets also supplied him with some shiny new toys in this year’s draft in the form of tight end Jace Amaro and three other receivers. Amaro should make an immediate impact and provide Smith with a huge target with decent speed and playmaking ability. However, prospective owners should keep in mind the lurking presence of Michael Vick while in drafts.
2. Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
After a somewhat disappointing 2013, Shorts is not likely to please fantasy owners over the course of the 2014 season. Blake Bortles is not expected to start at quarterback in Week 1, so Shorts will still be stuck with Chad Henne for the foreseeable future barring injury. The Jaguars also added receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, who look to leech some targets away immediately. Shorts is still a big-play threat but isn’t likely to produce consistently enough to start in fantasy lineups every week.
3. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
Many expected the converted receiver to take a step forward, but the Miami signal caller produced mediocre surface stats because of a shaky offensive line and below-average receiving targets. New general manager Dennis Hickey tried to address these needs in the draft, selecting tackle Ja’Wuan James and receiver Jarvis Landry. Neither player profiles as a future All-Pro, but almost anybody is an improvement for Tannehill and the Dolphins at this point.
4. Raiders Wide Receivers
James Jones, Denarius Moore, and Rod Streater all have talent, but it is tough to be of WR1 or WR2 status without a decent starting quarterback. It is safe to say that the unsavory combination of Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin did not allow Moore and Streater to self-actualize for the Raiders in 2014. Newcomer Derek Carr appears to be an ideal guy to lead the Oakland huddles, as he is a mobile passer known for his accuracy. For the first time since the days of Rich Gannon, the Raiders might have a quarterback suitable for making his receivers look better.
5. LeVeon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
With below-average efficiency numbers in 2013, according to DVOA, the main appeal to Bell going into this season was the volume. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, the Steelers drafted the speedy Dri Archer, who ESPN Draft Guru Mel Kiper, Jr. compared to Darren Sproles in pre-draft evaluations. As we have already observed from his time in New Orleans, players of his type can be particularly useful in PPR leagues, but their platoon-mates struggle to consistently achieve in standard formats. For now, Bell is relegated to flex status.