NFL players normally see their fantasy values rise after they sign with new teams during the free-agency period. This column is about the exceptions to that unwritten rule.
A couple of weeks ago, I shined a spotlight on four players whose fantasy values soared after free agency thanks to the teams they signed with and the better situations they were thrust into.
Now it is time to look at the dark side of free agency. This is when players leave decent offensive systems where they had solid scoring opportunities and talented teammates for teams where they probably will not rack up the yardage and the touchdowns they used to.
So here are four NFL players whose fantasy values are falling after free agency:
Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions (RB)
Reggie Bush showed his detractors that he can be an every-down running back during his two-year tenure with the Miami Dolphins. He rushed for over 2,000 yards and added nearly another 600 receiving yards while scoring 15 total touchdowns. And best of all, Bush proved he can be durable by suiting up for 31 out of 32 games.
So you would think now that Bush has signed with the high-flying Detroit Lions that his fantasy value should spike upward, right? Hmm, this looks good on paper, although so did Conan O’Brien replacing Jay Leno.
I keep hearing from people and pundits how signing with Detroit will enhance Bush’s fantasy worth. You know, because he will catch a lot of balls out of the backfield from Matthew Stafford and have more touchdown chances because of Calvin Johnson. It almost sounds logical.
But how short are the memories of these people? Have they forgotten how Bush was fantasy football’s Katherine Heigl—very attractive but generally a box-office bust—during his five seasons with the New Orleans Saints?
Bush never rushed for 600 yards in a season, never scored more than eight touchdowns and was only valuable in PPR leagues because of all the swing passes he snagged. And he was perpetually injured all the time.
Bush signed for multi-millions to give Detroit a tailback with breakaway speed and pass-catching ability. The problem is the Lions have another back, Mikel Leshoure, who is better than Bush at running between the tackles and finding the end zone inside the 10-yard line. So Bush’s touches should drop from what they were in Miami, where his only competition was, uh...Daniel Thomas?
Bush will probably still be halfway decent in PPR leagues in 2013, but considering he is way overdue for an injury and going to a team where he will not be the focal point of the offense, his fantasy value is more questionable than Tony Sparano’s play calls.
Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings (WR)
Aaron Rodgers is known for being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, if not the best. Christian Ponder is known for being the guy who hands the ball off to Adrian Peterson and the one who is married to an attractive ESPN sideline reporter.
And since Rodgers is no longer Greg Jennings’ quarterback and Ponder is, this is the main reason Jennings’ fantasy value is falling.
Jennings probably has a chip on his shoulder the size of B.J. Raji and wants to show the Green Bay Packers they made a mistake in letting him walk. But he is the one who made the mistake not signing with another team like the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos or New England Patriots.
It is not like Jennings is looking at a 600-yard year. Percy Harvin was still able to be a PPR goldmine (when healthy) with Ponder chucking wobbly non-spirals at him. Yet it seems highly unlikely that Jennings will have 1,200 yards and/or 12 touchdowns with Minnesota like he did on a couple of occasions with Green Bay.
If Jennings does not re-injure his groin or knee and spends more time on the field and less in Old Spice commercials, he will likely have 900 to 1,000 yards and say six touchdowns. But with Minnesota’s offense revolving around Peterson and Ponder or Matt Cassel passing to him, Jennings will not be the fantasy force he once was.
Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans (RB)
Going from being a starter to being a backup usually dents a player’s fantasy value like a rear-end collision dents a fender.
Shonn Greene was the top tailback of the New York Jets last season, which is akin to being the most intelligent member of Honey Boo Boo’s family. Yet he was able to pull off the impossible, rushing for 1,063 yards and eight touchdowns while being on an anemic offense. And Greene did so despite barely breaking any tackles.
But Greene will not be a main man anymore. He signed a three-year deal with Tennessee to be Chris Johnson’s understudy, and that job pays about as many dividends as being Lindsay Lohan’s lawyer or Louie C.K.’s stylist.
Johnson has averaged 303 rushing attempts per season over the past four years, so even with his slight build he has been a durable workhorse. In fact, Johnson and Greene had the same amount of carries in 2012—276. The chances they will rush the same amount of times in 2013 is ultra-slim, though. Johnson could get twice as many touches as Greene.
Greene’s best-case scenario is that he gets 10 carries a game and gets the important ones down by the goal line. Is an average of 35 yards per game and a TD every other week okay with fantasy owners? Probably not.
Now instead of Greene being a mid-round pick that could be used as a No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy running back, he has been reduced to a handcuff pick for Johnson owners.
Donnie Avery, Kansas City Chiefs (WR)
I get that Donnie Avery is headed to a team who will be one of the league leaders in pass plays thanks to new head coach Andy Reid’s West Coast offense. The problem is not the offense, it is the quarterback downgrade.
Andrew Luck looks well on his way to becoming the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Meanwhile, Alex Smith is an accurate but conservative quarterback who has never been known for elevating the fantasy value of his wide receivers. Just ask Michael Crabtree owners.
Crabtree was invisible to most eyes during the years Smith was throwing to him in San Francisco. But once Smith was bumped aside in favor of Colin Kaepernick, Crabtree went from a fantasy failure to a fantasy find and now heads into 2013 as a top-15 fantasy receiver.
Avery was a nice comeback story last season as he had 60 receptions for 781 yards. While he was not worth much for fantasy owners except in deep 12- to 16-team leagues, if he stayed in Indianapolis with Luck he could have been poised for possibly an 850-yard, six-TD season in 2013.
Avery is an injury risk, but not more so with the Chiefs (unless he overdoes it with the Kansas City barbecue). The bottom line, though, is that when your quarterback goes from being Luck to Smith, your fantasy value will likely go from decent to mediocre.
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