Steve Schwarz - NFL Fantasy Analysis Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The opportunity to play is the major factor for rookies entering the NFL, but it also holds major importance for veterans. Veterans changing teams, a.k.a. free agency, is frequently the catalyst for significant production variances, both up and down, in a player's fantasy value.
For this reason, let's look at the player movement that has already taken place and evaluate those changes from a fantasy prospective.
Brian Hoyer, Houston - Hoyer is likely the only free agent signing at the quarterback position which could result in a starting job. He'll still have to beat out Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage, but could be a low-end replacement for fantasy owners. He's going to a team that has one "go-to" receiver in DeAndre Hopkins and a great receiving back in Arian Foster. If Cecil Shorts can stay healthy or the Texans select a top-quality receiver on Draft Day, Hoyer could be a pleasant surprise.
DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia - There is only one way Murray's numbers can go ... down. He posted career numbers last season (1,845 rushing yards, 13 TDs), but the Dallas Cowboys weren't willing to give him the "big dollars," so Murray left for a division rival. After 449 touches in 2014, Murray is going to see less work with the Eagles, despite their up tempo offense, because of the presence of both Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. The move should prolong his career, but significantly reduce his fantasy value in 2015.
Ryan Mathews, Philadelphia - Mathews' fantasy value should take a huge hit in 2015. He goes from being on top of the chart in San Diego (when healthy), to a backup role in Philadelphia. He also can't be the third-down back because of Sproles. His fantasy value is purely as a handcuff for Murray owners.
Reggie Bush, San Francisco - Bush jumped from the Lions to the 49ers in the offseason, but it won't change the fact that he can't be "the guy" anymore. He'll be a third-down and receiving back in San Francisco while Carlos Hyde gets the bulk of the rushing attempts.
Frank Gore, Indianapolis - Gore may have fallen into the perfect situation. After changing his mind about signing with the Eagles, he'll be the starter in Indianapolis. With defenses keying on stopping Andrew Luck and the passing game, Gore should have plenty of open spaces to run. He's still got enough in the tank to be a top-10 running back in 2015 in this high-powered offense.
Darren McFadden, Dallas - McFadden's signing in Dallas is the best news his fantasy owners could get ... at least until they select a stud running back on Day 1 of the draft. DMC leaves the disaster that is Oakland and will practice behind the best offensive line in football. Of course, he'll likely be a backup or hurt or both, so his fantasy value is limited.
C.J. Spiller, New Orleans - Spiller's talents were never fully utilized in Buffalo, but that could change with the Saints. Unfortunately, Mark Ingram should get a majority of the rushing attempts leaving Spiller the scraps and the receiving targets. However, Ingram has played in all 16 games just once in his career so Spiller might still see enough work to be a low-end RB3 or flex.
Dwayne Bowe, Cleveland - In Kansas City Bowe led the worst wide receiving corps in the league. They couldn't score. Not even once in 16 games. The news doesn't get much better in Cleveland where there are question marks at quarterback. Given their current make up in Cleveland, he'll once again be the No. 1 receiver, but his fantasy value is still slowed by the ravages of time and Josh McCown/Johnny Manziel under center.
Harry Douglas, Tennessee - Douglas goes from being a No. 3 receiver in Atlanta with a very good quarterback, to a No. 3 receiver in Tennessee with a question mark under center. Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter should be the starters, so Douglas will once again be the "injury fill-in" and slot receiver in three- wide sets.
Percy Harvin, Buffalo - The kid still has million dollar talent, but a ten- cent head. Can we even call him a kid at 26 years old after six seasons in the NFL? Unless he's matured, he's going to get frustrated in the new run- oriented Bills offense. He's also the second-best receiver on the team behind Sammy Watkins. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Andre Johnson, Indianapolis - Johnson will probably feel like he's gone to heaven. He'll be catching passes from the best young quarterback in football (Luck) and as the No. 2 receiver will have reduced pressure to carry the load. It's a perfect recipe for a bounce-back season.
Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City - Maclin put up career-year numbers last season in Philadelphia, but decided to "go home." He was born in St. Louis, went to college at Missouri and was drafted by Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. He'll pay for that "desire" in reduced statistical production and fantasy value in 2015, so be sure not to overvalue him.
Cecil Shorts, Houston - If healthy, Shorts can be a pretty good No. 2 target and that's what he would be with the Texans. But the question mark at quarterback along with his inability to play an entire 16-game schedule leaves him as a high-risk fantasy option.
Torrey Smith, San Francisco - Smith is the polar opposite of Maclin. He was born in Virginia, went to school in nearby Maryland and played his first four seasons with Baltimore, but he'll play the 2015 season on the west coast with the 49ers. Smith will rejoin former Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin catching passes from Colin Kaepernick. He's leaving a better passing quarterback, but should be able to reproduce his mediocre WR2 numbers for the 49ers.