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Steve Schwarz | Archive | Email |  
Staff Writer

Location, Location, Location

Brian Hoyer

Brian Hoyer has the starting spot nailed down in San Francisco, but he doesn't move the fantasy needle.

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees never threw for 3,600 yards or more than 27 touchdowns in five years with the Chargers. DeMarco Murray was an All-Pro in Dallas, a ghost in Philadelphia and a stud in Tennessee. DeAngelo Williams had many solid seasons in Carolina, but was a footnote in 2016 and Matt Forte was a fantasy stud in Chicago and just an “average Joe” in New York.

What caused the huge variation in production?

Location, location, location. (OK, maybe Forte’s was due to old age and overuse). Sometimes a change in location helps a player and sometimes it hinders his progress.

In the case of Brees, he hooked up with head coach and offensive guru Sean Payton and they simply clicked. His average 209.3 passing ypg in San Diego jumped to 309.0 in New Orleans.

Murray ran from the I-formation and behind a great offensive line in Dallas, but wasn’t a fit in Chip Kelly’s up tempo offense in Philadelphia. He immediately returned to form in Tennessee last season.

And Williams was brought to Pittsburgh to be an insurance policy for the Steelers if/when Le’Veon Bell missed games and he did his job … just not often enough for fantasy owners.

Let’s look at those skill position players who changed teams between the end of 2016 and the start of 2017 to see how the move should affect their fantasy totals.


Brian Hoyer, Chicago to San Francisco – Hoyer has never started more than 13 games in a season, nor averaged more than 240 passing yards per game in any season. He has two things going for him in 2017; the quarterback competition is weak and he is familiar with head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The bad news is his starting receiving corps is Pierre Garcon, Jeremy Kerley and Vance McDonald.

Effect of the change in location – minimal. Hoyer is likely to average just under 20 FPts/G which makes him a fantasy backup.

Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay to Chicago – When he signed his three-year $45 million deal in March, Glennon figured to be the “future.” A month later the Bears traded up at the draft to choose Mitchell Trubisky and now Glennon is the bridge to the Bears’ future. Glennon will still likely be the starter for most of the season, but that’s not what he signed on for. With the loss of Alshon Jeffery, his wideouts aren’t very good (Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Markus Wheaton, and Kendall Wright). And even when he had two stars, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans in Tampa, the best he could average was 236 passing yards and 19.3 FPts/G (2014).

Effect of the change in location – A tough early schedule will have him back to holding the clipboard before the season ends. While in the starting lineup he won’t be fantasy-worthy until at least Week 8 when Chicago travels to the Mercedes Benz Superdome for a date with the Saints.

Running Back

Latavius Murray, Oakland to Minnesota – Oops! When Murray signed on the dotted line in March, he was to be the Vikings’ lead back. In April the team “stole” Dalvin Cook in the second round of the draft (No. 41). It was just a couple of days ago that Murray admitted, what we all already knew … that Cook is ahead of him.

Effect of the change in location - Murray is likely to be the short-yardage back and limited to handcuff status.

Mike Gillislee, Buffalo to New England – From the known (backup to LeSean McCoy) to the unknown (a RB in Bill Belichick’s stable). I hate to even guess what Belichick is thinking, but Gillislee figures to get a good portion of LeGarrette Blount’s 163 carries (who signed with Philadelphia). However, with James White, Dion Lewis, and Rex Burkhead also an option for the “evil genius coach” anything is possible.

Effect of the change in location – Gillislee will get more work than he saw as a fill-in for McCoy, but the week-to-week production will be “consistently inconsistent.” He should set a personal mark for touchdowns, but if you draft him buy stock in Bayer aspirin.

Danny Woodhead, San Diego to Baltimore – Joe Flacco threw 672 passes last season (one behind league-leader Brees), but just 156 went to running backs. That percentage should jump with the addition of Woodhead, who has the best hands of any back in the league. In his last two full seasons with the Chargers, he caught 156-of-194 targets or 80 percent. Unfortunately, he’s not going to see much work in the ground game with Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon (four-game suspension) available to carry the ball.

Effect of the change in location – Woodhead had a special relationship with Philip Rivers and it will take time to develop that with Flacco, so expect his numbers to sink a bit.

Other backs previously discussed:

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota to New Orleans

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay to Seattle

Marshawn Lynch, his sofa to Oakland

Wide Receiver

Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland to Washington – Pryor was 12th in targets last season (141), but had less competition for his quarterback’s attention than he will have in Washington. Gary Barnidge (81), running back Duke Johnson (74) and rookie wideout Corey Coleman (73) were next on the list. In Washington, four players had at least 89 targets last season. While two of them, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, are gone, Jamison Crowder should see more work and 2016 No. 1 selection Josh Doctson is ready to be a bigger part of the offense. New OC Matt Cavanaugh hasn’t held that position since 2004, but he has been the Redskins QB coach the past two seasons, therefore we should expect more of the same balance.

Effect of the change in location – Although his targets may dip a little, the improved quarterback play should more than make up for the reduction with a higher catch percentage than last season’s 55 percent. He should also easily surpass last season’s touchdown total (4). Pryor ranked 22nd last season but should crack the top-20 in 2017.

Ted Ginn Jr., Carolina to New Orleans –
Ginn Jr.’s role in Carolina was consistent the past two years with about 95 targets per season for 700-plus yards. Now catching balls from Brees, his catch percentage should increase, but he’ll still be the third option behind Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. Even so, Brees has spread it around fairly evenly with three receivers seeing at least 100 targets the past two seasons.

Effect of the change in location – Ginn’s production should stay consistent and another 700-yard, seven touchdown season is probably a reasonable expectation.

Robert Woods, Buffalo to LA Rams – Woods is likely the most talented receiver the Rams have, but know that the other options are Tavon Austin, rookie Cooper Kupp and Pharoh Cooper. Woods should lead the team in targets and yards, but whether that even makes him a WR2 is certainly debatable.

Effect of the change in location – After sitting behind Sammy Watkins in Buffalo, Woods gets his chance this season, albeit with Jared Goff as his starting quarterback. Consider him your No. 3 receiver with upside if Goff turns out to be the “real deal.”

Other wideouts previously discussed:

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans to New England

DeSean Jackson, Washington to Tampa Bay

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago to Philadelphia

Brandon Marshall, New York Jets to New York Giants

Tight End

Jared Cook, Green Bay to Oakland – I expected more from Clive Walford last season (33-359-3) and obviously so did the Raiders or they wouldn’t have signed Cook. Cook underperformed in Green Bay last season putting up similar numbers (30-377-1) in 10 games (five starts), though he was much improved in the playoffs (18-229-2 in three games).

Effect of the change in location – If he can’t catch enough balls from Aaron Rodgers to make himself fantasy-worthy (the Packers have thrown 12.7 % of their passes to tight end over the past three seasons), what would make us think there will be a drastic increase with Derek Carr? (Raiders averaged 13.9 % of passes to tight ends)

Martellus Bennett, New England to Green Bay – Bennett is going to be one spoiled tight end, catching passes from two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in 2016 and 2017. Be forewarned, however, that the Patriots use of the tight end greatly surpasses other teams. The Pats have averaged 24.9% of their passes to tight ends the past three seasons (whether Rob Gronkowski is healthy or not) and Green Bay is half that.

Effect of the change in location – Given the usage rates, fantasy owners should not expect Bennett to exceed last season’s totals when he finished seventh at his position (113.1 FPts) and 13th with 7.1 FPts/G (of tight ends who played at least eight games).

Julius Thomas, Jacksonville to Miami – His double-digit scoring seasons in Denver are a distant memory. After earning the big paycheck following the 2014 season, he’s done nothing for fantasy owners. Obviously a product of playing with Peyton Manning, Thomas showed little in Jacksonville with just four double-digit games in two seasons (21 games), but will be reunited with his OC, Adam Gase, from his days with the Broncos.

Effect of the change in location – Thomas has a great chance to improve his production in Miami where he should see the majority of snaps if he can stay healthy. Gase has always used his tight ends well and Thomas should see an increase in production, though no one should expect him to be the guy he was in Denver. He ranked 21st last season in FPts/G (5.8), but should be a viable low-end starter this season.

Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.