Christmas in March.
There is no better way to describe the moment when you realize that the start of NFL Free Agency is here. After going through serious football withdrawal, fans await the unknown. Who will my favorite team sign? Which old faces will see new places? But, most important of all, the best part about free agency is that these questions that are answered.
Fantasy owners rejoice.
It’s hard to do much offseason prep for 2014, seeing as nobody knows how each roster will shape out. Nobody knows who will win position battles. But we will. So, with free agency set to kick off in just hours, let’s take a look at some of the most fantasy friendly free agents in this year’s class.
Alliteration is fun.
Eric Decker, WR
In 2014, we’ll find out just how good Decker is.
After enjoying two seasons with the ageless wonder, Peyton Manning, Decker is now one of the most highly coveted free agents on the market. He’s emerged as a very safe wide receiver in fantasy circles, hauling in a massive 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons combined. Of course, playing on the league’s best offense with the hottest signal caller surely helps, but let’s not get carried away. Decker has immense talent. A big time target in the passing game, Decker has finished as the number eight and number seven fantasy wideout in each of the last two seasons, despite competing for targets in Denver. Now, he has the opportunity to join another team to serve a larger role in the passing game. He is a very good red zone target, standing at a solid 6’3″, but has underrated toughness. He has good upper body strength, and despite an early case of the drops last year, possesses strong hands. Will his numbers regress outside of Denver? Quite possibly, but who’s wouldn’t? Still, Decker caught eight touchdown passes from the likes of Tim Tebow in 2011, finishing as a top-35 wideout, and seeing how few signal callers in the league are worse than Tebow, I’m not too worried.
Preferred landing spot: Colts.
Ben Tate, RB
Barring a disastrous landing spot, it’ll be hard for me to stay away from Tate on draft day. Tate, who won’t be returning with the Texans, is a very, very good running back. He recently stated that he believes he could be an elite level running back, but that remains to be seen. In three seasons with Houston, Tate averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry, and whenever Arian Foster was sidelined with injury, Tate served as a weekly top-15 option at running back. He is a very hard runner that, at age 25, still has plenty of upside. Of course, he too needs to stay healthy. And in 2013, Tate started seven games for the injured Foster, racking up 911 total yards and four scores. He finished as the number 33 overall fantasy back, despite not seeing a consistent volume of work. He will be a surefire number two fantasy back in 2014, assuming he is the starter.
Preferred landing spot: Browns.
Knowshon Moreno, RB
Moreno is the most interesting free agent in this year’s skill position class. Denver could very well bring him back, but they presented him the opportunity to test the market, which he’ll surely do. Moreno was an incredible asset for fantasy owners last year, finishing as the number five back, averaging almost 15 fantasy points per contest. He was a darkhorse for the fantasy MVP award, strictly based on ADP. Running backs in Peyton Manning-led offenses tend to post strong numbers (see Joseph Addai), so many aren’t exactly sure what to think of Knowshon. He’s good, but is he feature back material?
I’m not so sure.
Moreno benefited from being a complementary role player in Denver’s offense, and with the way the passing game is taking over the league, I’m not sure a team that will heavily focus on the run will target him. Instead, he could find himself on a team that has pieces, but is missing a bit more explosiveness out of the backfield. There isn’t a high market for running backs anymore, seeing as the position is rather replaceable. With that being said, he could very well find himself back in Denver if his price remains low, which would make him a top-10 fantasy runner on draft day, while absolutely crushing the hopes and dreams of Montee Ball fans.
Preferred landing spot: Broncos
Hakeem Nicks, WR
It’s a curse.
He can’t stay healthy and has been an absolute headache to own in fantasy over the past two seasons, but I can’t quit you, Hakeem. I just can’t. I mean, the guy has the skill and body to be a top-10 receiver in the league. Good size, speed and arguably the biggest hands in the entire league. However, injuries have hindered his production over the years, though, he was relatively healthy last season, but the Giants were an absolute joke. Nicks played 15 games last year and hauled in (wait for it) zero touchdown passes. But we know what this guy is capable of in a good situation. In 2011 and 2010, Nicks finished as the number 12 and eight fantasy wideout. Of course, Eli Manning wasn’t you know, terrible, back then. Still, if Nicks can stay healthy, which is a big if nowadays, a team could potentially steal a top-10 wideout in free agency this season. I’d be willing to invest in him as a low-end WR2 if he landed in the right destination.
Preferred landing spots: Colts, Ravens, Patriots.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.