New Faces, New Places: Quarterbacks and Runningbacks
New Faces, New Places (QB/RB)
A lot has happened since the league year started at 4 p.m. EST on March 13th. There have been blockbuster trades, predictable relocations, and some surprise NFL signings. We will take a look at how the movers and shakers at each skill position with new homes potentially impact your fantasy squad in 2019. This is part one of a two-part series. Up next will be wide receivers and tight ends.
There were not a lot of big name free agents at the quarterback position this past offseason in the NFL. Some free agent career backups changed zip codes to do the same elsewhere. Teddy Bridgewater passed up a chance to potentially start for the Miami Dolphins to continue to hold a clipboard for Drew Brees in New Orleans. The relevant play callers that relocated are covered below. The end of the section will touch on other notable transactions at the position.
Nick Foles (Jacksonville Jaguars)
The first day of free agency brought us the expected Nick Foles signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Foles left the Philadelphia Eagles and signed a 4-year, $88 million deal. Foles was the biggest name free agent passer on the market and the Jaguars were clearly ready to move on from Blake Bortles. Bortles was released the same day and eventually signed to be the backup for Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams on March 18th. It is a good landing spot for the beleaguered Bortles.
Nick Foles made his money with the playoff prowess he displayed while in Philadelphia. It has been an up and down career for the well-traveled quarterback. Foles has never started more than 11 games in an NFL season. A look at his fantasy ranks from the player data tool at FFS shows that he has never been a top-10 fantasy quarterback.
Nick Foles excelled in Chip Kelly’s offense while with the Eagles in 2013. The Arizona Wildcat grad’s struggles under Jeff Fisher are well documented and honestly expected. Foles may struggle in Jacksonville under offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Foles signing with the Jaguars does not move the fantasy needle for him and with the depth at the position, it is an avoid situation in redrafts.
Joe Flacco (Denver Broncos)
The Denver Broncos traded the 113th overall pick in 2019 to the Baltimore Ravens on March 13th. The Broncos shipped Case Keenum off to Washington just six days later for a swap of late-round picks in 2020. The shift from Keenum to Flacco does not move the needle a ton offensively. Flacco is apparently a stop-gap fill in for Denver. After Senior Bowl week, John Elway is apparently “smitten” with Missouri QB Drew Lock.
A look back at new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello’s history in San Francisco gives us some idea of what we can expect from the Denver passing attack in 2019. We see a pattern if we look at the two seasons he was the quarterback coach in San Francisco under Kyle Shanahan. The QB1 tends to struggle the first couple of weeks, but then gets straightened out and performs at or above average among fantasy points for the position.
This was not necessarily the case as much in 2018, but closer examination reveals that 49ers QB finished at or above league average for 10 of the 16 games they played. Three of the six “down weeks” were against the likes of the Minnesota Vikings, LA Rams, and Chicago Bears. Sub-par performances can be expected in matchups such as those.
Is Flacco Elite?
Flacco is obviously more seasoned than Beathard, Mullens, and Garoppolo. Is he elite? The elite Flacco talk mostly stems from his incredible playoff run in 2012 when the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII. A look at Flacco’s fantasy finish all but dismisses any talk of him truly being an elite quarterback.
With a young and injured receiving corps in Denver, we can expect similar outputs from Flacco in 2019. Draft him only in 2 QB or Super Flex leagues. A full writeup on the Denver Broncos offense can be found here.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Miami Dolphins)
With the departure of Ryan Tannehill, it is now “Fitzmagic” time in South Beach. Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a two year, $11 million deal on March 17th. The journeyman quarterback will be a solid stop-gap in Miami. Fitzpatrick flashed as a fill-in for Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay last year. If we compare the careers of Tannehill and Fitzpatrick since 2012, we see that they essentially are the same player from a fantasy perspective.
Fitzpatrick finished as the QB5 on a point per game basis in 2018 with 20.7 PPG. This was a higher per game average than Andrew Luck (20.4 points per game) and Drew Brees (20.3 points per game). The talent at the skill position is lacking in Miami however. This makes a repeat of the high point per game total much less sustainable in 2019. The Dolphins are certain to select a quarterback having seven picks in the upcoming draft.
We do not really know what type of offense Chad O’Shea will be running. This makes Fitzpatrick a risky proposition for fantasy purposes. With the depth that exists at the quarterback position, Fitzpatrick should be a wait-and-see prospect in 2019. He probably should not be drafted in 10 or 12 team league formats. The breakdown for the entire Miami Dolphins offense can be read here.
Other Notable Quarterback Roster Changes
- Tyrod Taylor signed on to be Philip Rivers backup for the Los Angeles Chargers. Taylor is a competent backup and can be a worthy fill in if Rivers were to miss time with an injury. The deal was for 2 years and $11 million. Avoid in all formats.
- The Miami Dolphins traded Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans on March 15th for a fourth-round pick. Tannehill quickly signed a one year, $2 million deal in Nashville. The former wide receiver can be avoided in redrafts unless Marcus Mariota suffers an injury yet again. The dynasty value is rock-bottom at this point.
- Blaine Gabbert was released by the Titans the same day Tannehill arrived in town. Gabbert went on to sign up to be Jameis Winston’s backup in Tampa Bay on March 27th. The Missouri alumn only has value if there is a Winston injury. Even then it is only because Bruce Arians runs the offense for the Buccaneers. His dynasty value is zero.
- A.J. McCarron is no longer the backup for the Oakland Raiders. McCarron is now backing up Deshaun Watson in Houston. The Alabama product could end up being a good dynasty stash given Watson’s injury history and playing style.
- Former Denver Broncos starting quarterback Trevor Siemian is now QB2 for the New York Jets. Siemian signed a one year, $2 million contract on March 20th to back up Sam Darnold. Very little interest here in any format.
- Sean Mannion is no longer backing up Jared Goff for the Los Angeles Rams. As mentioned before, Blake Bortles now holds that distinction. Mannion is now backing up Kirk Cousins for the Minnesota Vikings. There is little appeal here in any format.
There were a few significant signings at the running back position that came before the start of the new league year. Kareem Hunt signed with the Cleveland Browns on February 11th. Carlos Hyde signing the Kansas City Chiefs on March 9th. Furthermore, the Mike Davis signing with the Chicago Bears and the Frank Gore signing with the Buffalo Bills came on March 11th. Latavius Murray landed with the New Orleans Saints on March 12th. We will highlight all the major running back changes from the offseason and summarize the other notable signings as well.
Le’Veon Bell (New York Jets)
Perhaps one of the best free agent running backs available on the market in the past several years, Le’Veon Bell signed a four year, $52.5 million deal on the first day of free agency. Bell was expected to have many more suitors but the New York Jets ended up ponying up the most cash for the stud running back. You don’t need to be told that Bell is a special talent. Look at the fantasy ranks to reinforce what we already know. The former Pittsburgh Steelers running back is a sure-fire RB1.
There is no reason to waste much more time on Le’Veon Bell other than to note that his RB48 finish in 2015 was due to only playing in six games. It is worth mentioning that Bell has only played in 16 games once (2014) in the five seasons he was active.
Kareem Hunt (Cleveland Browns)
Kareem Hunt signed a one year, $1.1 million contract with the Cleveland Browns on February 11th. Hunt was released by the Kansas City Chiefs on December 3rd, 2018 due to a video of him assaulting a woman being made public. As with Bell, we know the skill set exists to be an RB1. Unlike Bell, Hunt will not have the opportunities in 2019. Hunt will be suspended for the first eight games of the season due to the video mentioned above. Once reinstated, he will have to take over second-year phenom Nick Chubb to become relevant. The point per opportunity for the former Toledo grad rivaled that of young star running back Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints in 2018.
This data can be found courtesy of the opportunity ratio tool on FFS. Hunt will again lack opportunities in 2019 due to the suspension but should still be drafted in all formats and try to buy low in dynasty with the hopes that he stays clean in Cleveland, thus rebuilding his image.
Carlos Hyde (Kansas City Chiefs)
Carlos Hyde found work rather quickly. After being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars on March 8th, Hyde quickly signed with the Chiefs on March 9th. The deal was for one year and $2.8 million. Hyde has bounced around the past few seasons and has not seen much success since his time with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 and 2017. Hyde’s yards per attempt has gone down every year and was only at 3.9 and 3.3 yards per carry the past two season respectively.
Damien Williams appears to be the first team running back in Kansas City for 2019, but Hyde may have been brought in for security. Comparing the combine numbers of the two, it is clear that Williams is the superior athlete and should hold Hyde off for the full-time role in a high-powered offense.
Carlos Hyde should still hold some value in all formats simply due to the fact that he plays in such an up-tempo offense.
Latavius Murray (New Orleans Saints)
Latavius Murray was brought in by the Saints on March 12th, just before Mark Ingram departed to Baltimore (more on him next). Murray has always been long on talent, but short on opportunity. FFStatistics’ own John Hesterman does a great job covering Murray here. Murray will get ample touches filling the Ingram role behind Alvin Kamara in the bayou.
Latavius Murray produced in 2015 when given the opportunity finishing as the RB10 that year. Read John’s article for full in-depth analysis on Murray landing with the Saints.
Mark Ingram (Baltimore Ravens)
Mark Ingram moved out of the shadow of Alvin Kamara in New Orleans to presumably become the lead back in a run-heavy offense for the Baltimore Ravens. Ingram ranked in the top-15 for four straight seasons before dipping down to RB32 in 2018. Ingram had a four-game suspension in addition to Kamara’s presence to account for the steep decline.
The Ravens officially announced Greg Roman as their offensive coordinator in January. In addition to Roman being hired, Alex Collins was released on March 1st, clearing up the backfield a bit in Baltimore. Greg Roman has never had an RB1 finish less than 15th as his years as a coach. Using the coaching history tool at FFS we see the results.
Draft Ingram knowing he can easily get back to his top-15 form from just two years ago in 2017.
Tevin Coleman (San Francisco 49ers)
The San Francisco 49ers surprisingly signed Tevin Coleman on March 13th to a two year, $8.5 million contract. This surprised many because the 49ers were already getting Jerrick McKinnon back from injury and additionally have Matt Brieda on the roster. San Fransico further muddied an already murky backfield. A three-way committee is likely, sapping any true potential stud from emerging in the Kyle Shanahan run offense.
Both backs have hovered around one point per opportunity. Neither has had a chance at a full workload over the course of a full season. Monitor the training camp news and do not forget about Matt Brieda either.
Jordan Howard (Philadelphia Eagles)
The Philadelphia Eagles traded for Jordan Howard on March 28th. A full writeup is available here. Howard burst on to the scene as a rookie out of Indiana when the Bears drafted him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. He finished as the RB10 (PPR) in 2016 despite playing just 15 games. Howard is also the only other running back in the league to eclipse 900 yards rushing in the past three years besides Ezekiel Elliott. That is pretty impressive company. Howard was well above the positional average in all but two weeks in 2016.
It is hard to know how Doug Pederson plans on using Howard. The Eagles have used a running back by committee approach since Pederson replaced Chip Kelly in 2016. The Eagles have not had a running back finish better than fantasy RB24. That was in 2016 and in fact, the highest running back finish in 2017 and 2018 was RB45 and RB42 respectively.
It is likely that Howard will serve as the goal line and short yardage back and will have some value. The hope is that Howard can return to his 2016 form. Time will tell. Draft Howard at the back of your drafts and sell high in dynasty if you can.
Mike Davis (Chicago Bears)
The Chicago Bears signed Mike Davis on March 11th for $6 million over two years. Davis flashed in limited opportunities behind Chris Carson in Seattle last year. The former South Carolina Gamecock averaged 4.99 yards per touch in 2018. Davis finished as the RB6 in Week 4 when Carson missed the game with an injury. The potential to dominate is there when given the chance.
We see Mike Davis averaged more than other running backs in the leagues most weeks even with limited touches. Howard departing opens up touches for Davis unless the Bears draft a running back on April 25th. Davis has value in all formats regardless of Cohen’s presence. The Monsters of the Midway selecting a runner in the draft would be a hit to his value, however.
C.J. Anderson (Detroit Lions)
Anderson revived his career with a late-season run in Los Angeles last year. He was the RB3 in Week 16 and then followed it up with an RB2 showing in Week 17. The caveat here is that Anderson ran behind one of the best run-blocking lines in the NFL and a potent offense. Gurley also sat out Weeks 16 and 17 so Anderson was the feature back. Read the full write up on the Detroit backfield here.
The big back should do well as the Blount replacement working from the goal line and in short-yardage situations. The Lions brought Anderson in on a one-year, $1.5 million contract. That certainly is not feature back money and I do not expect the University of California grad to sniff 10 touches per game. As the chart shows above, Anderson was efficient with his touches, earning .89 points per touch.
Even when Anderson was the feature back in 2017 while in Denver, he still did not provide much consistency on a weekly basis. The full workload did allow Anderson to finish as RB18 with 175.1 points. That’s good for 10.94 points per week.
Anderson may be a wise handcuff for Johnson owners if you are looking to fill a roster spot at the back end of your drafts. CJA does not project to have much more value than that. Remember that the line and the offense in Detroit are far less talented than what Anderson enjoyed while in Los Angeles when he went nuts over a five-week stretch. There is a reason that the journeyman running back was on the street for the Rams to sign him last year.
Other Notable Running Back Roster Changes
- Andre Ellington signed in Tampa Bay as depth behind Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones. Do not draft him anywhere.
- The Buffalo Bills signed Frank Gore to join a crowded backfield in Orchard Park. The deal was worth $2 million for one year. Gore will share duties with LeSean McCoy. It is worth noting that T.J. Yeldon visited the Bills on Tuesday, April 16th. This is a full-blown backfield by committee. McCoy has some standalone value but do not waste too much draft capital on him.
- The New York Jets released Isaiah Crowell on March 14th. On March 28th, Crowell signed with the Oakland Raiders. It was just a one year, $1 million deal suggesting Crowell may not even make the roster. The Raiders are likely to draft a running back with the plethora of picks they hold in the upcoming draft. Ignore Crowell in all formats.
- Ameer Abdullah departed the Motor City to sign with the Minnesota Vikings on March 18th for one year and $810,000. Abdullah has never been a fantasy asset and that continues in Minnesota.
There was a lot of movement at both the quarterback and running back position this offseason. With the draft fast approaching, some of these situations will change so monitor them closely. Next up in this two-part series we break down the wide receiver and tight end positions. Stay tuned. It will be up on FFS soon.