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Fantasy Football 2016: New Faces in New Places

The NFL offseason is full of surprises. I take an in-depth look at some of the big name offensive players that will be playing for new organizations this season and discuss how it impacts their fantasy outlook.

Former Dolphins' RB Lamar Miller celebrates after scoring against his new team for 2016, the Houston Texans
Former Dolphins' RB Lamar Miller celebrates after scoring against his new team for 2016, the Houston Texans
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With a boatload of meaningful free agent signings already in the books, the fantasy football landscape will undoubtedly be altered in 2016.  While changes of scenery will enhance some players' fantasy values, others will be hindered with different roles and supporting cast.  Yes, there are still a few notable players that have yet to decide on a fresh landing spot (Arian Foster and Colin Kaepernick among others), but most of the major moves have occurred by now.  Let's take a look at some players on the offensive side of the ball that will be wearing new uniforms this season, as I highlight the fantasy football implications of several offseason acquisitions.


Lamar Miller (RB): Houston Texans

The Texans finally cut ties with the injury-prone Arian Foster, and were in need of a replacement workhorse.  Interestingly enough, the man they got was never fully let off his leash by his former team, but certainly seemed capable of handling a larger workload.  The ex-Dolphin speedster, Lamar Miller, was signed by the Texans on the same day they reeled in Brock Osweiler, completing what will be a new-look attack down in Houston.  Lamar Miller is an elusive, durable, and effective overall running back that was underused in Miami, and I assume HC Bill O'Brien realizes that.  Believe it or not, Lamar Miller finished last year as the sixth overall RB in standard leagues, so a major jump in production may not be certain.  However, there is a chance that Miller explodes in 2016.  His 194 carries were criminally low, especially when compared to AP's whopping 327 carries.  Assuming Miller stays healthy and handles a full workload this season, I think his floor is a low-end RB1, while his ceiling is frightening.  I'm thinking he has a chance to finish as a top 3 RB this year, especially since he's come so close to cracking the top 5, even with absurdly limited touches.  I wouldn't pass him up in the early second round of your draft, regardless of scoring format, as he fits the mold of a dynamic pass-catcher as well.

Matt Forte (RB): New York Jets

Seemingly able to fit into any NFL system, Matt Forte had multiple landing spot possibilities this offseason.  Ultimately, he followed his ex-Bears teammate Brandon Marshall to New York, where he'll be wearing green and white for the 2016 season.  Forte is entering the dreaded 30 year old season for NFL running backs, but he was still averaging 4.0 yards per carry over the last two seasons combined, showing his effectiveness as of late.  Still, he missed 3 games last year, after only missing 5 games during his first seven seasons.  While I wouldn't classify him as an injury risk, his slightly declining performance paired with his recent bumps and bruises has me worried about durability in terms of a full season.  With the Jets losing Chris Ivory and re-signing third down back Bilal Powell, Forte is expected to carry the load for the Jets.  This means double digit carries every game with the chance of goal line work on a fast-paced Jets offense.  His QB this season is still a mystery, but assuming the Jets can lock up Fitzmagic or another solid option, Forte should be able to provide safe RB2 fantasy numbers.  And much like Ivory in 2015, if his workload remains heavy, he'll have a few RB1-worthy weeks in him.  The main concern, again, is that his age and tread on the tires could result in deteriorating play down the stretch.

Demarco Murray (RB): Tennessee Titans

After being one the league's most dominant rushers in 2014, Murray flopped during his stay in Philly.  He was repeatedly hit in the backfield, struggled to make people miss, and was outperformed by his backups.  Some of this can be blamed on the system he was in, which clearly didn't utilize his downhill running style, but Murray himself deserves a decent amount of the blame.  Regardless, he's a Tennessee Titan in 2016, and I actually have higher expectations than most.  This Titans offense has a ton of young talent to build around, and getting a veteran RB like Demarco behind Marcus Mariota is a major upgrade from Antonio Andrews, who some desperate fantasy owners were forced to use at times last season.  Murray may not be a top-tier RB1 like his days with Dallas, but I envision him getting 15-20 touches per game with definite goal line totes.  With recent protection issues, it wouldn't surprise me if the Titans address their O-line in the draft for both Mariota and Murray's wellbeing...  While many owners will shy away from him earlier in drafts due to his age and ineffectiveness last year, I see Demarco Murray as a safe RB2 while he's healthy.  He's also bound to sprinkle in a few solid RB1 weeks, similar to Forte.

Chris Ivory (RB): Jacksonville Jaguars

One of the most intriguing signings of the offseason was Chris Ivory to the Jaguars.  If the Jags didn't have a promising young runner in T.J. Yeldon, I would probably be ecstatic about the move, as I'm a big fan of Ivory's running style.  He hits the hole hard and punishes defenders, but also has breakaway speed in the open field.  He does usually experience a few minor injuries during the course of the NFL season, but when you consider his running style, Ivory is relatively sturdy.  As it stands now, we're not sure just how the Jags will divvy up the carries out of the backfield, but something near a 50-50 split seems reasonable.  I can see Ivory as the early down thumper, and someone who might get more carries as the game goes on.  He can wear defenses out, and he'll probably get the first crack at goal line carries.  Still, with Yeldon healthy and in the mix, I can't see either Jacksonville RB getting more than 10-15 touches per game, unless one catches fire.  I'd prefer Ivory to Yeldon if I had to choose a side of the coin, but he's more of a flex or RB3 option that you take a stab at in the middle rounds of your draft.  In reality, the Jags have a great backfield duo.  In fantasy, we call that a headache.

Alfred Morris (RB): Dallas Cowboys

With the Cowboys' backfield a bit dry on depth, they were in line to beef up their committee either through free agency or the draft.  While drafting a young running back in April certainly isn't a bad idea, and remains very possible, Dallas chose to go out and sign former Washington RB Alfred Morris to a 2-year contract.  Although, by signing Morris, the Cowboys didn't exactly get a young, dynamic runner who is going to slide atop the depth chart right away.  In fact, Jerry Jones says that McFadden, who is coming off a rejuvenated season in which he averaged 4.6 YPC with 1400+ scrimmage yards, will remain the team's starting running back.  However, we know that DMC is anything but durable, regardless of his healthy 2015.  Still, when I look at Morris and his recent decline, I'll admit I'm a bit worried.  His 751 rushing yards, career low 3.7 YPC, and single TD on the year all have me a bit skeptical to say the least.  Then there's this: Did you know that Alf actually has the most carries in the NFL over the past four seasons?  If all goes well, I could see Alf and DMC in a relatively even timeshare, with Morris coming out on pretty much all passing downs.  A preseason injury to McFadden would catapult Morris to the top spot by default, making him a great bounce-back candidate behind that offensive line and an RB2 at minimum.  But at this stage, I'm taking the cautious approach on Morris in terms of fantasy production.  While he should improve his YPC in Dallas, I would say he's no better than a dicey RB3 pick when draft season approaches.

Marvin Jones (WR): Detroit Lions

The wide receivers in this year's free agency market were underwhelming in comparison to running backs, but Marvin Jones sits atop the rankings for the position.  Jones has been nothing more than a #2 option beside A.J. Green in Cincinnati, but he was very effective in that role.  He had over 800 yards last season but only hauled in 4 touchdowns, which was strange, since Jones caught 10 touchdowns back in 2013.  Only 26 years old with plenty of talent, he'll now be heading to Detroit to do his best Calvin Johnson impersonation.  While that might be not possible, Jones is expected to be the Lions' top wideout nonetheless.  Across from Golden Tate, who best serves as a shifty second option, Marvin Jones should find himself catching a lot of balls from Matthew Stafford.  He's shown that he can be a red zone threat, and Detroit is definitely expecting big things from him, but it will take more than one man to reproduce Megatron's impact.  I see Jones as a solid WR3 from the get-go, with potential to be a WR2 if things go according to plan.

Travis Benjamin (WR): San Diego Chargers

One of the many players the Browns lost that they couldn't really afford to lose was WR Travis Benjamin.  Playing an important role for Cleveland this past season, Benjamin racked up nearly 1000 yards on a pitiful offense while hauling in 5 touchdowns.  With a much more competent signal-caller in Philip Rivers, he will be a much happier campier out in sunny San Diego.  With Keenan Allen entrenched as the Bolts' top WR option, Benjamin will be looking to inch ahead of Stevie Johnson for the #2 spot.  I believe he'll win the job, meaning that he'll see a steady amount of targets on a weekly basis.  He's known to be a one-trick pony who wins with go-routes down the field, but Benjamin actually showed decent hands while catching 68 balls last year.  With Rivers throwing to him, and Allen drawing coverage to his own side of the field, I can see Travis Benjamin putting up decent numbers in his first year with the Chargers.  Whereas last season he was a risky boom-or-bust WR3, he looks to be a safe WR3 if he can definitively win the second receiver job for SD in 2016.

Rishard Matthews (WR): Tennessee Titans

On pace for 963 yards as the second receiving option in Miami, the 26 year old Rishard Matthews had himself a breakout season in 2015.  While Miami was open to bringing him back for this year, the Titans ultimately sealed the deal and signed him to a 3-year deal that will pair him with talented wideouts Dorial Green-Beckham and Kendall Wright.  In addition to the young WR corps in Tennessee, the Titans also has a stud TE in Delanie Walker.  All of these weapons should be of great value to sophomore QB Marcus Mariota, who is coming off a promising rookie season himself.  The reason I mention all of these offensive parts is because the newly acquired Matthews will have plenty of competition for targets, but he should settle in and have some decent fantasy value in 2016.  He's more polished as an outside receiver than DGB (with much less upside, however), and Kendall Wright strictly mans the slot position.  All in all, I think the Matthews signing was a wise move by the Titans in terms of developing their offense, but I don't think he comes to Tennessee and puts up overly impressive fantasy stats.  Still, similar to the aforementioned wideouts above, I believe Rishard Matthews can maintain WR3 value this season.  His odds of approaching WR2 territory are fairly slim, barring an injury or suspension to DGB, who Mariota built some nice chemistry with last season.

Chris Hogan (WR): New England Patriots

Let me start by saying the least notable name on my list of wide receivers has a legitimate chance to be the best of the bunch this season.  In a sneaky move that could send WR Danny Amendola packing, the Patriots went and signed restricted free agent Chris Hogan, coming over from Rex Ryan's Bills.  Hogan is a bigger receiver than his smooth gameplay shows, coming in at 6'1" with 4.5 wheels.  He can play inside and outside, and will likely become New England's second wideout in 2016.  He should be an ideal fit for New England's methodical short passing game, although he'll have Gronk, Bennett, Edelman, and a running back stable to compete with for targets.  Still, the passing game in NE is voluminous enough for Hogan to have a breakout year.  If Amendola is let go, I see Monmouth product Chris Hogan as a surefire WR3 to start the season simply based on his probable role in the Pats offense.  Oh, and Tom Brady is his QB.

Martellus Bennett (TE): New England Patriots

One of the bigger offseason trades up to this point is the Patriots acquiring the oft-disgruntled Martellus Bennett, formerly of the Chicago Bears.  Bennett is coming off a lost season, where he failed to eclipse 500 receiving yards in 11 healthy contests.  He will be a prime bounce-back candidate this season in Foxboro with Tom Brady slinging him the ball in 2-TE sets.  Opposite the mammoth that is Rob Gronkowski, Bennett will undoubtedly be playing a different role than in past seasons with Chicago.  He'll be going from the obvious top tight end on his squad, to playing second-fiddle to Gronk in New England's complex offense.  Still only 29 years of age, Marty B has definite fantasy appeal.  Before Aaron Hernandez got drowned in legal issues, he was a fantasy force on the Patriots.  While Bennett may not be the same player as he was, this is simply evidence that the Pats can provide two TE1s for fantasy purposes.  I expect Bennett to be a lower-yardage, higher-efficiency option in 2016, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him being ranked inside the top 10 at his position for most weeks.

Ladarius Green (TE): Pittsburgh Steelers

The offseason tight end signing with the most upside in 2016 goes to the Steelers and Ladarius Green, who is coming over from San Diego to team up with Big Ben.  Green, annually buried behind Antonio Gates on the depth chart, has shown brilliant flashes in his limited NFL starts.  Now he has some big shoes to fill in Pittsburgh's dynamic offense, as longtime TE Heath Miller is heading into retirement.  While he isn't the proven commodity that Heath was, Ladarius Green is actually a solid, all-around tight end.  First used for his blocking abilities in SD, Green quickly showed tremendous athleticism as well, which shouldn't have been too surprising after the 6'6" frame ran a freakish 4.56 forty back in 2012 at the NFL combine.  Now, he is the uncontested top tight end on Pittsburgh's depth chart, and he's stepping into a high-flying offensive attack for 2016.  With Martavis Bryant getting hit with a 365-day suspension, there will certainly be targets to disperse on offense.  In a shallow position, it wouldn't be crazy to immediately throw Green into your top 10 at the TE spot.  In fact, I wouldn't be able to provide you with enough reasoning to doubt he has top 5 potential.

Coby Fleener (TE): New Orleans Saints

It's not often you feel the need to talk about Coby Fleener.  Judging by his time in Indianapolis, he's an athletic, yet underwhelming, pass-catcher that was forced to split time with Dwayne Allen.  Well, he'll now be moving on to New Orleans, where he'll catch passes from Drew Brees.  Coming off a year where he failed to surpass 500 receiving yards and caught only 3 touchdowns, there doesn't seem like much to be excited about.  Yet, there are plenty of reasons that Fleener could be a reliable fantasy option in 2016.  First off, an aging veteran like Benjamin Watson was able to have a fluky, but extremely effective 2015 season, a year in which he celebrated his 35th birthday.  While Watson figures to fall down the rankings this year in Baltimore, his old spot on the depth chart is Fleener's for the taking.  As Drew Brees' top TE, he will undoubtedly improve upon last year's dismal stats, and he is only two seasons removed from racking up nearly 800 yards and 8 touchdowns.  I think Fleener will settle in as a low-end TE1 during fantasy draft season.


Make sure to check out my early bird rankings article from a while back, and head over to Fantasy Galaxy for the updated rankings with more depth.  I'll be constructing some updated rankings early into the month of April, so stay tuned.  Also, feel free to drop a comment below.  That's it for now.