Plenty can change from one NFL season to another, but it’s not always for the better. Here’s a recap of prominent fantasy players who switched rosters last season, focusing on those whose circumstances figure to improve (or stay strong) and those who seem likely to see a downturn in production due to their new surroundings.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars (previously with Vikings)
This is reminiscent of when Michael Turner was signed to be Atlanta’s featured back in 2008, after a few years as LaDainian Tomlinson’s understudy. Gerhart, like Turner, is a big back with some agility, who is ready to step out from behind a superstar and be another team’s workhorse, not to mention a fantasy team’s RB2, at worst.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins (previously with Eagles)
The last time a star offensive player for the Eagles abruptly found himself in Washington, Donovan McNabb didn’t work out so well for the Redskins. However, Jackson should be in the prime of his career and ready to haul in a bunch of deep balls from Robert Griffin III. Keep an eye on his recent ankle injury, however.
Ben Tate, RB, Browns (previously with Texans)
Tate should have the edge on rookie Terrence West to become Cleveland’s top back, which could translate to good fantasy production as the Browns want to have a run-heavy offense. That offense will be coordinated by Kyle Shanahan, whose zone-blocking scheme is familiar to Tate from his years in Houston.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants (previously with Raiders)
Something of a late bloomer, Jennings made his first consistent impact last season at age 28, in eight starts with Oakland. Now he gets to start for the Giants all season long, and has a little less competition for touches in the wake of David Wilson’s career-ending neck injury.
Golden Tate, WR, Lions (previously with Seahawks)
Detroit has been searching for a No. 2 wide receiver to complement Calvin Johnson seemingly forever, but it may have finally gotten the right guy. Tate was never really given a chance to post big numbers in Seattle’s conservative offense, but he demonstrated a high skill level.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos (previously with Steelers)
He replaces Eric Decker in Denver but probably won’t pick up all of the latter’s 137 targets in 2013, and almost certainly won’t equal Decker’s scoring prowess, as the smaller Sanders is more of an underneath threat. Still, a role catching passes from Peyton Manning has Sanders in the WR3/WR4 mix.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Raiders (previously with Jaguars)
MoJo led the NFL in rushing in 2011, broke his foot in 2012 and was a shell of his former self last season, causing Jacksonville to jettison the eight-year veteran. Jones-Drew will get a chance to re-establish himself in Oakland, as long as he can regain some of his former explosiveness.
Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles (previously with Saints)
New Orleans traded away this diminutive 31-year old for a mere fifth-round pick, which doesn’t sound encouraging. But Philadelphia went out of its way to acquire him, then traded away a younger running back, Bryce Brown, the team thought was a worse fit for its offense, so clearly it has plans for Sproles.
Chris Johnson, RB, Jets (previously with Titans)
Tennessee didn’t just cut Johnson to save some money; he posted a poor, career-low per-carry average (3.9) in 2013 and the team reportedly didn’t like his work ethic. So it’s likely that the huge-play machine we saw in 2009 is gone for good, and he’ll be sharing carries with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, Colts (previously with Giants)
Nicks failed to find the end zone (to go with 896 receiving yards) in a contract year with New York last season, leading to a one-year, “prove it” pact with Indy. Now reports have the Colts unhappy with Nick’s conditioning, making the receiver a shaky WR3 candidate.
Steve Smith, WR, Ravens (previously with Panthers)
After a couple of rejuvenated seasons following Cam Newton’s arrival in Carolina, Smith’s yards per reception plummeted last season, and it is fair to wonder a) what Smith has left in the tank, and b) how many opportunities to shine Baltimore’s offense will afford him.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Dolphins (previously with Broncos)
From being on the roster bubble in Denver to finishing as the No. 4 fantasy running back overall, Moreno’s 2013 was one magic carpet ride. Now, 2014 is off to more of a throw-rug start, with Moreno moving from Peyton’s main man to a committee role in Miami, where he is already hampered by knee surgery.
James Jones, WR, Raiders (previously with Packers)
Over seven seasons in Green Bay, Jones never really stood out from, well, the pack, but just being one of Aaron Rodgers’s targets meant good things in fantasy. Now reports have Jones also struggling to attain top-dog status in Oakland, which is decidedly more worrisome.
Stevie Johnson, WR, 49ers (previously with Bills)
Johnson was the leading receiver for Buffalo between 2010 and 2012, and his 597 yards in 2013 was nearly enough to do the trick again during a lousy season for the whole offense. He almost certainly won’t be a threat to lead the Niners in receiving, as he projects to be their fourth option.
Eric Decker, WR, Jets (previously with Broncos)
Going from a record-setting offense that racked up 55 touchdown passes to one that managed a pathetic 13 last season sounds like a recipe for a dramatic downturn in Decker’s stats. However, there are reasons for optimism, such as Geno Smith’s likely improvement and the possibility that Decker is actually really good.
Other fantasy-relevant players who changed teams this offseason
Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Titans (previously with Chiefs)
Donald Brown, RB, Chargers (previously with Colts)
Miles Austin, WR, Browns (previously with Cowboys)
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Panthers (previously with Steelers)
Andre Brown, RB, Texans (previously with Giants)
Kenny Britt, WR, Rams (previously with Titans)
Josh McCown, QB, Buccaneers (previously with Bears)
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Texans (previously with Titans)
Matt Schaub, QB, Raiders (previously with Texans)
Michael Vick, QB, Jets (previously with Eagles)