Every NFL season brings new opportunity for players who failed in one place but have a chance at a fresh start in their new city. Not everyone capitalizes on moving to a new team, as some players who land huge contracts in free agency relax after getting paid or simply aren’t an ideal fit in their new offenses. We needn’t worry about the misses of the past, though. Right now, while the summer carries a dormant feel with no real news making it’s way through the airwaves, we have plenty of time to analyze and project.
Oh, the possibility.
That’s precisely what a lot of players are thinking as they work toward a productive 2015, and as fantasy football enthusiasts we need to make sure we have a firm grasp on which ones are due for a breakout year with their new surroundings and which are destined to be busts. Today we’re focusing on the breakout candidates that have changed teams and have a shot at paying off big time after disappointing at their prior stops. Let’s get to it:
Note: Players only included after down years/stretches with former teams. No rookies. List isn’t a guarantee for success, but shows players to monitor that are in new cities.
Nick Foles, QB, St. Louis Rams
I’m sorry, but I don’t see why people don’t like Foles. Is he elite? No, but he’s not complete trash, either. He’s just a solid pocket passer with adequate arm strength, decent accuracy and good awareness. He makes questionable decisions, isn’t very mobile and is a tad inconsistent at times. That being said, he’s probably in the top half of the league when it comes to competency at the quarterback position and even if he’s not, he’s damn close. In other words, he sure beats Austin Davis and it’s nice for the Rams to have something close to continuity under center.
Foles isn’t going to blow the place up from any angle, but he’s not going to completely suck and he has enough weapons to matter. I think you can totally get by with Foles as your main fantasy quarterback, provided you nail it everywhere else on your roster. He has the goods to hit 25+ touchdowns and around 4,000 yards. After all, that’s about what he was on pace for when he went down in week 8 last year and that’s about what he got you the year before. He’s pretty much a “what you see is what you get” guy, and for fantasy football, that’s not such a terrible thing.
Sam Bradford, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Another guy people seem to want to die for some reason, Bradford is a more than capable talent in a pretty sweet offensive system. Sure, he’s not really the #1 pick and franchise savior everyone thought he’d be, but he’s a perfectly fine pocket passer that has some mad gamer to him every now and then. Bradford has never been elite from an accuracy perspective and he’s never completely gone off in any one season, but he was starting to show some promise in 2012 and in 2013 his pace was set up to deliver career highs across the board. His biggest issue by far has been shredding his knee up two years in a row, and it seems most people have forgotten just how solid the guy actually is.
If he’s actually healthy and the same guy he was before getting hurt, he’s probably the best pure passer the Eagles have had since Donovan McNabb. That’s a good thing, if you’re keeping score at home. And he’s in a really QB-friendly system with some solid weapons around him. Can he stay healthy? Probably not. But if he does, he’ll be a quarterback streamer’s dream.
C.J. Spiller, RB, New Orleans Saints
Goodness has C.J. Spiller been misused throughout his career. Chan Gailey is seriously the only guy that ever knew how to use this dude right and when used properly he crushed for over 1,700 total yards and eight touchdowns. Using him as a true feature back and grinding him into the ground with 20 runs a game up the middle is not how you use this guy. Spiller has always been lightning in a bottle and while he has the build and strength to do some damage up the middle, he’s always been at his best on the outside and in space. It’s truly astonishing that a guy with his versatility and speed has never topped 43 receptions in a season. Health and Fred Jackson combined to hold him back in Buffalo, but now that he’s in a place full of offensive masterminds like New Orleans, there is real hope for the 27-year old back to finally realize his potential.
This is Reggie Bush reincarnated for Sean Payton and this time he’s going to use him right. Spiller could drown in a sea of injuries, but the Saints want to run the ball and they love using their running backs on short passes to help the ground game (see: Sproles, Darren and Thomas, Pierre). Sproles was a regular 70+ reception guy here and Thomas himself caught 77 passes in 2013. Spiller is going to be a PPR fiend, and then he’ll add around 150 carries to team up with Mark Ingram to give the Saints a fairly deadly one-two punch on the ground. He’s tentatively a Flex play in standard leagues as he has loads of upside, but PPR leagues is where you’ll want him the most.
Reggie Bush, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Another guy people seem to be afraid of in the real world and in fantasy football, Bush still looked plenty spry last year but got banged up a lot and lost out to Joique Bell for some reason. Bush still has some mad game and while he’s no lock to trump the bruising Carlos Hyde in the Bay Area, I find it hard to believe the Niners signed him to just chill out on the sidelines, either. You have to think they have a plan for him and that should make for better production than we saw out of him a year ago. He’s not very young anymore but he still has the explosiveness and natural running ability to be a major asset. It really all depends on his role.
Starting out, I like him more in PPR leagues, but he’s going in round 10 while the unproven Hyde is a fourth round pick, on average. I prefer Hyde of the two, but Bush is one injury away from being a potential stud again. He’s a really nice late-round guy to target to fill out your bench.
Trent Richardson, RB, Oakland Raiders
Ugh. I’m not saying you should draft T-Rich. I really am not. And I never will. But he’s a dude that was once a top-five pick for a good reason. He hasn’t looked like that guy at all over the past two years but if he has a chip on his shoulder and any kind of drive AND Latavius Murray gets hurt or is a bust he has a chance. Adding him just to add him late in drafts isn’t good enough (he’s not even drafted on average), but if you take Murray (who you’ll be spending a 3rd rounder to get. Yikes), his injury history may beg you to take a fellow Raider in case he goes down. That could mean Roy Helu has value but hey, let’s not mince words with words. In other words, I refuse to vouch for this mega sack but I’m going as far as saying, “Hey, Trent Richardson used to be good. Sort of. Now he’s on the Raiders. So, that’s something”.
Darren McFadden, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Run DMC had one awesome year and has otherwise murdered many a fantasy owner with major sacktitude. He’ll surely do it again in Dallas, but there’s something to be said about the lack of true competition and the Boys’ dreamy o-line. Yes, Joseph Randle is in the early lead and he’ll probably mash his way to a DeMarco Murray season JUST CUZ, but McFadden is actually the better, more explosive talent. If he doesn’t break every bone in his body and Randle is more 2013 than 2014, McFadden could be someone to monitor. His round 7 ADP sounds about right, but I’d like him a round or two later if possible.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Cleveland Browns
Dwyane Bowe isn’t wrong when he says that his 0 touchdowns from 2014 isn’t all his fault. He suggested it was more about Kansas City’s system when they got close to the red-zone. It’s true, and he could have thrown Alex Smith’s noodle arm under the bus if he wanted, too. Bowe isn’t completely done yet and he’ll have the role to produce in Cleveland. But Josh McCown is his quarterback and it’s not like Bowe is some young burner who is just bound to crush heads and dominate in 2015.
He plays for the Browns, who are going to run the ball a ton and they face the Bengals, Ravens and Steelers twice each. He has WR2 upside because he used to produce and he has a good role. That offers optimism for him to rebound, but rebounding from nothing in 2014 isn’t really saying much. I think Bowe can still be serviceable but if you’re having dreams of his 15-touchdown season of 2011, you’ve got another thing coming.
Mike Wallace, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Wallace didn’t suck with the Dolphins. He just didn’t blow the door off the hinges like many thought he might after signing for all of the money back in 2013. But Miami should have known better. They signed a burner who could make the big play and little else to a huge contract and they had a quarterback who had a good arm but lacked the deep ball placement needed to connect consistently with 60 Minutes. It didn’t work in South Beach, but a trade to Minnesota could be huge for Wallace. Norv Turner’s system is vertical and can really take advantage of speed and mismatches. Most of what happens going forward depends on the chemistry between Wallace and second-year passer Teddy Bridgewater, but it’s pretty clear there is loads of upside to be had. It doesn’t hurt that Wallace is going against the Bears, Lions and Packers this year, and none of those three are exactly elite against the pass.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders
Never a burner, Crabtree clearly wasn’t the same play-maker after tearing his Achilles two years ago. He was never in the offense or had the quarterback that he probably needed to kill it consistently, but he still obviously suffered a drop-off from his awesome 2012 season. Can he get back to where he was in Oakland? I’m on the fence, but with Amari Cooper taking defenses down the field, I think enough could open up to help Crabtree return to his possession receiver ways. I don’t love his upside, but in PPR leagues he could have a shot at 70 receptions. Healthy and fitting into the system are keys, but Derek Carr has shown enough to make you think it’s possible the Raiders could be ready for a massive leap on offense in 2015. Crabtree could certainly be part of that. That being said, if you’re looking at him as anything more than a WR3 you’re reaching.
Stevie Johnson, WR, San Diego Chargers
It’s more likely than not that Johnson is done, but he showed glimpses of having something left with the 49ers last year and now he could be ready for a rebound in San Diego. Antonio Gates being suspended for the first four games of 2015 helps him, while Malcom Floyd’s health woes could open the door to a bigger role, as well. I’m not enamored with Johnson, but if he still has something left there is a good chance we get to see it this year.
Eddie Royal, WR, Chicago Bears
Another body emerges from the wasteland, as Royal reunites with the only quarterback to ever get him over 62 balls in a season. Royal is just a slot guy, but that’s not such a bad thing when you have big targets like Alshon Jeffery and rookie Kevin White stretching the defense. Royal has past chemistry with Jay Cutler and has picked his game back up over the last two years (15 total scores). He’s not going to leap up any further than a borderline WR2, though, and is probably more safely entrenched as a WR3, at best. There is value to be had here, though, especially in PPR formats.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Miami Dolphins
Cameron busted out as many predicted in 2013, when he hauled in a career high 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven scores. In 15 games. With Brian Hoyer and a bunch of scrubs throwing him passes. Injuries and even worse quarterback play held him back in 2014, but he wisely took his talents to South Beach, where the guy he is replacing, Charles Clay, caught at least 58 balls in each of the past two seasons. A better talent with much more size, length and athleticism, Cameron takes over the middle of the field and commands attention in the red-zone. He’s immediately Miami’s top red-zone option and teams up with Ryan Tannehill, the best passer he’s known thus far in his young career. Cameron is set to blow up this year, and only an injury can stop it.
Owen Daniels, TE, Denver Broncos
Daniels is pretty old and being on a new team could make matters worse. Except, that new team has his old coach running a familiar offense and an all-time great in Peyton Manning throwing passes. Gary Kubiak offenses like tight ends and Peyton Manning likes throwing to them. Julius Thomas and Wes Welker, two security blankets, are gone. Insert an old but reliable Daniels who knows how to run solid routes and catch passes, and there could be some value here. I don’t think he can be a TE1, but if you’re into streaming tight ends, he’s a good guy to target.